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We may separate in our minds between the mere brute sound necessary to speech, and that musical tone which more or less blends with it according to the temper and quality of the voice and its companion mind. The latter is a sovereign agency in the illustration and formation and development of language, and this is the Sound of which the present chapter treats!
1. OF SOUND AS AN ILLUSTRATIVE AGENCY.
616. The modulatory accompaniment of speech is not unworthy of comparison with music, although it is far more restricted in the range of its elevations and depressions. If its ups and downs are altogether on a smaller scale, if its motions are more subdued and less brilliant, yet, on the other hand, it has an advantage in the wider extent of its province, and its greater faculty of diversification. Music is the exponent of emotion only; it cannot be said to have any share in the expression or illustration of thought intellectual. Now speech-tones are in force over the whole area of human cognisance and feeling; they are coincident with the whole extent of meaning. They are expressly the illustration of Meaning, and they accompany all that is said.
As music is made of two elements, time and tune, so also is the modulation of speech. Time is expressed in quantity; and tune, or rather tone (which is the rudiment of tune), is embodied in accent. Our grammatical systems now take little heed of quantity, except as a poetical regulator in classical literature. The poetry of the classics was measured by quantity; that of the moderns is measured by accent.
1 'La parole est un bruit où le chant est renfermé.'-Grétry, ap. C. Patmore, English Metrical Luw (1878), p. 29.
The period at which quantity was consciously and studiously observed as an element of ordinary speech must have been very remote. Perhaps we may even venture speculatively to regard quantity as the speech-note of that primitive period before the rise of flexion, when language was (as it still is in some respectable nations) monosyllabic or agglutinative. We know from a thousand experiences how conservative poetry is, and we may reasonably imagine that the quantitive measure of Greek poetry had descended with a continuous stream of song from high antiquity. With the decay of the Roman empire it ceased to be a regulative principle even in poetry, and from that time accent has been foremost, as it had previously been in the background. We must not suppose the principle of quantity to be extinct; but it is no longer formulated; it is absorbed into that general swelling and flowing movement of language which is known under the somewhat vague name of Rhythm.
617. Leaving quantity then, we proceed to consider the illustrative value of accent.
In the first place, accent appears as the ally and colleague of sense in the structure of words. In the first order of compounds we have to do with words like the following: -ash-house, bake-house, brew-house, wood-house. In these words the accent is on the predicate. That is to say,
the stress of sound falls on that member of the word which contains the assertion and bears the burden of the meaning. That which is asserted in those words is not house, but ash, bake, brew, wood. House is the subject or thing spoken of, and that which is asserted concerning it is contained in the word prefixed. And this word or syllable is signalised, as with a flag, by having the accent upon it.
There is a difference between good man and goodman. The difference in the sense ought to be rendered by a distinction in the sound. Good man is a spondee: goodman is a trochee. Randle Cotgrave (1611), under the word “Maistre,' says, towards the close of his definition
Also, a title of honour (such as it is) belonging to all artificers, and tradesmen ; whence Maistre Pierre, Maistre Jehan, &c.; which we giue not so generally but qualifie the meaner sort of them (especially in countrey townes) with the title of Goodman (too good for many).
This illustration is useful for the understanding of Matthew xx. II, the goodman of the house'; where the Genevan of 1560 had 'the master of the house. It is not always that we hear this word properly pronounced in church; and our Bibles, from 1611 down nearly to our own time, appear to have printed it in two words. But in the modern prints of the last thirty years this has been set right, and it may be hoped that the true vocal rendering will also be restored by and by 1
Just in the same manner chapman has the accent on the first syllable. The meaning of this word is a man engaged in CEAP merchandise. It is of the same family of words as Cheapside, which means market-side. ' It occurs in another form in Chippenham, Chipping Norton, Chipping Ongar, and Copenhagen. It is still the standard word in German for a merchant, Raufmann. But when the French word merchant had occupied the foremost place in English, the native word chapman fell into homelier use. This may be seen in
! The fact is, the early printers did not attend to these minutiæ. rule they left such matters to the intelligence of the reader. In the First Folio of Shakspeare, Love's Labour's Lost, i. 1. 289, it is printed, 'Ile lay my head to any good man's hat,' where, plainly, the meaning is goodman's hat,' as suggested in the Cambridge edition. And it is astonishing to find that such a critic as Capell should have proposed to correct as follows:• I'll lay my head to any man's good hat,' prosaically deeming that for the purpose of the wager the goodness of the hat was of more importance than that of its wearer.
the following quotation, which exhibits also the accentuation of the word on its first or determining syllable :
Beauty is bought by iudgement of the eye,
Loues Labour's lost, ii. 1. 15. 618. Considering the relation of thought which exists between the two parts of a compound, it is plain that there is a harmony between the sense and the sound, when the specific and predicative part of the compound is distinguished in the accentuation. We have hitherto noticed only the instance of a compound consisting of two monosyllabic words, as goodman, chapman, blackbird. But where the first element of the compound has more than one syllable, there we find a secondary accent rests upon the after, or generic part; or, if it cannot be said to have an accent, it recovers its full tone, as water-course. Sometimes we fall in with a triple compound, with its three storeys or stages of accentuation forming a little cascade of gradations, as Spenser's holywater-sprinckle in the following lines :
She always smyld, and in her hand did hold
With which she sprinckled favours manifold. The habit of putting the specific or predicative part of a compound first, and the habit which leads us to throw our accents back on the former part of a long word, are apparently related habits, presenting an example of harmonious action between the intelligence and the sentiency of the mind.
619. Even when the reasons arising from the structure of a word are no longer present, there is a tendency to pursue the track which habit has created, and to throw the accent back. Many a word of French origin has thrown its accent back according to this English principle of accentuation.
The French word revenue is a monument of this action. Two pronunciations of this word are recognised, namely revenue in the French manner, and révenue in the English
The latter is now almost universal, but the former is not extinct. In the following quotation from Shakspeare we may trace both of these pronunciations, for while the word is spelt as if for the French pronunciation, the metre requires the English accentuation:
Towards our assistance, we do seize to us
Richard II, ii. 1. 161.
Many a word has had its accent moved a syllable further pack within the period of the last generation. The protest of the poet Rogers has often been quoted, — Contemplate, said he, 'is bad enough, but bálcony makes me sick. Nowa-days contemplate is the usual pronunciation. It was already so accentuated by Wordsworth.
The good and evil are our own: and we
The Excursion, Bk. V.
When I contemplate all alorie. In Memoriam, lxxxii.
Enid (1859), p. 29. The pronunciation of bálcony, which seemed such an abomination to Rogers, is now the only pronunciation extant. The modern reader of John Gilpin, if he reads with his ear as well as his eye, is absolutely taken aback when he comes upon balcóny in the following verse :
At Edmonton, his loving wife
From the balcony spied
To see how he did ride.