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and self-assurance; because it brings, instead of the bondage of dead arbitrary rules of style, the freedom of the reason that underlies them. All rules of style are based on laws of discourse interpretation — on the necessary activity of the mind in realizing thought from language. Yet they are too often studied as the arbitrary, abstract dicta of the rhetorician, and in such
short word is better than a long one ; that a Saxon word is better than a foreign one; yet to follow these rules rather than the principles underlying them would frequently lead to serious error, and thus impede rather than help the writer.
Language interpretation involves the activity of all the faculties, — sense-perception, memory, imagination, judgment, and reason; and also feeling and volition.
The specific forms of these activities through which language becomes clear, strong, and beautiful is determined by the nature of the language to be interpreted. This nature has a threefold aspect :
First, language may be viewed as a material thing, without reference to its content. As such it must be apprehended through sense-perception. The body, or vehicle, of thought must be matter of observation before it can have significance ; and this through the eye and ear, and most prominently the latter. Through this act of sense-perception certain language qualities are conducive to clearness, energy, or elegance; and frequently of all at once.
Second, but language would not be language without expressing thought. And first it bears a direct rela
tion to thought, which relation is twofold. There is the direct back-and-forth relation of words and phrases to the ideas expressed, and also the relation of the language parts to the organization of the ideas in the thought. This twofold direct relation of language to thought requires certain specific forms of interpreting activities — of memory, imagination, and judgment. It is in and through these activities that the writer makes his language efficient — clear, forcible, and beautiful.
Third, language not only bears a direct relation to the thought in discourse, but also an indirect relation. The thing directly expressed is a means, or language, for expressing something else. When Lowell speaks of opening the portals of the future with the blood-rusted key of the past, the objects presented by the words “portals” and “blood-rusted key” are not the objects of consideration, but only a more effective statement than could be secured by direct language. This indirect relation of language to thought requires peculiar interpreting activities, chiefly in the form of the creative imagination and the intuitive reason. The direct relation of language form to thought constitutes literal language; while the indirect relation constitutes figurative language. Through figurative language, in addressing the creative power of the mind, language reaches its highest power of efficiency.
LANGUAGE AS AN O
T OF PERCEPTION.
Language as a mere object of perception must be such as not to arrest the attention in an act of senseperception, and, with this negative mark, it may be such as to impress the thought or please the taste. The composer must take full advantage of these acts of sense-perception in order to secure the three phases of effective utterance.
To this end his language must be (1) Correct, (2) Distinct, (3) Brief, (4) Euphonious, (5) Harmonious, and (6) Rhythmical.
Correctness. — Misspelled words, not only by diversion of attention through the eye, but by the train of thought they suggest, are distracting. For the same reason typographical errors should be avoided.
The correct pronunciation of a word attracts no attention ; at least, should not. In fact, the test of a speaker's pronunciation is that an educated audience do not notice how the words are pronounced. Any affectation or seeming effort to be correct is distracting to the hearer. Economy of effort in the process of interpretation is the reason for a uniform standard of pronunciation, as set forth in the dictionary. Ideas which now pass freely from mind to mind would be clogged in their passage by a multiplicity of strange forms for the same meaning. Accordingly, the speaker who aspires to effective utterance should see to it that he has a faultless pronunciation.
Distinctness. — It requires an extra amount of effort to perceive a word that is not clearly written in itself or made to stand out distinctly from others. This may not be a question of style, for it lies beyond the control of the writer ; but if the printed discourse is to have its full effect, the size and clearness of the type, the distance between the words, the length of the lines, and the distance between them must be such as to reduce to the minimum the attention required to see the words.
For the same reason words should be distinctly enunciated. Enunciation is that quality of pronunciation which gives to the word its distinct individuality. It is that quality which causes the word to go into the mind and relieve the hearer from any effort to distinguish and seize upon it. In proportion to the effort required to catch the words of a speaker when they are run together, or when the features of each are not brought out, or when the words are not sent with sufficient force for the ear to catch them without effort, does the interpreter fail to receive fully the contained idea, his energy having been wasted in seizing the words instead of the ideas.
Brevity. — Large words so envelop the idea that the mind is absorbed before reaching the content. Often a reader or speaker pronounces well-chosen words so as to bury the sense in a large rolling volume of sound. This both obscures the idea and offends the taste.
A long word, besides requiring more effort simply because of its length, may require a process of analysis into syllables to distinguish it from other long words which it closely resembles. When, however, one long word takes the place of several short ones, the use of the long word favors economy of attention. Short words economize also the effort of the composer, and are thus accompanied by a sense of freedom and beauty. The smaller and simpler the instrument which does a given piece of work, the greater our admiration for it.
Passing to the sentence we find the thought enveloped in a form which must be perceived part by part. Whatever is unnecessary in this form occasions a waste of effort on the part of the recipient of the thought. The compression of the bulk without lessening the weight of the content enables the composer to send the message with such precision and effect that the hearer is unconscious of effort to receive it. Just as words with the fewest letters and syllables reserve the full energy of the mind for the appropriation of the idea, so a sentence with the fewest words for a given thought does not divert the power of the mind into the channel of sense-perception, which should be reserved for the full realization of thought. Therefore, the sentence, for the sake of clearness, should contain the fewest words consistent with the other requirements of sentential structure. And as secondary qualities energy and elegance are secured through such brevity.
As in words and sentences, so in discourse taken as a whole ; the shorter in proportion to the content the greater is the economy of sense-perception. The composer's problem is to compress the bulk without diminishing the weight. Lowell says that Shakespeare squeezes meaning into a phrase with an hydraulic press. This should be the composer's effort in the entire discourse. This, however, is limited by the strength of the interpreter to appropriate concentrated food. Yet one must not speak an infinite deal of nothing which