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human voice, with a view to the formation of a system of just ELOCUTION, and to the discovery of the true means for removing IMPEDIMENTS OF SPEECH IN STAMMERERS. How far he has succeeded in his attempt, is not for him to say. His system is the result of his own reflection and experience; and, as it is founded in philosophy, it is the only the system. The following pages contain the mere outlines of the system. The work itself will be presented to the public as soon as the author's other labours will permit.
Stammering or stuttering is a hesitation or interruption of speech, and is usually attended with more or less distortion of feature. This affection presents itself under a variety of forms; but my limits will not allow me to give a particular description of them. I will notice only the most striking.
In some cases, the stammerer makes an effort to speak, and all his breath is expelled without producing vocality; in others, the lips are spasmodically closed: -- these two forms often occur in the same case. Sometimes the stammerer, while speaking or reading, loses all power over the vocal organs, and remains some moments with his mouth open, before he can recover sufficient energy to proceed. In many cases, the stammerer repeats the word immediately preceding the one he is attempting to pronounce, or he repeats, in a rapid manner, the first element, or the first syllable, of the difficult word.
CAUSES. - The predisposing causes are nervous irritability and delicacy of constitution.
The most usual exciting causes are diffidence, embarrassment, a fear of not being successful when about to make an effort to speak, an attempt to speak faster than the vocal organs can assume the proper positions for utterance. Two or more of these causes often occur in the same case. Sometimes the habit of stammering is
acquired by imitation.
The proximate cause of stammering is a spasmodic action of the muscles of speech. PROGNOSIS. The probability of a cure depends upon the following circumstances: If the stammerer has a cheerful disposition, is distinguished for energy of mind and decision of character, can appreciate the variations of pitch in speech and song, or, in other words, has an ear for music and a taste for elocution, the prognosis is favourable. But if he is of a nervous temperament, subject to melancholy, irresolute of purpose, incapable of imitation in speaking and singing, the prognosis is unfavourable.
TREATMENT. -The stammerer should be impressed with the importance, nay, necessity, of giving exclusive attention to the subject; and he should not be allowed to converse with any one till
he can speak without stammering. These rules cannot be too strongly enforced. I am fully persuaded of this from my own experience. Several stammerers, who have placed themselves under my care, taking but two or three lessons a week, and attending to their usual avocations, have left me disappointed; while those who have given undivided attention to the subject, have been entirely relieved. True, many are more or less benefited even by occasionally taking a lesson; but it is very difficult, by any irregular course, to effect a radical cure. The habit of stammering should be arrested at once; for, while it is continued, how is it possible that the habit of speaking correctly can be established?
Great pains should be taken to inspire the stammerer with confidence. He should be convinced that his success depends mainly upon his own exertions: that he must pursue the various exercises assigned him with indefatigable zeal, with untiring industry; that he has the same organs of speech as other people, and nothing is necessary to enable him to use them as well, but a conviction in his ability to do so. To think that one can do, gives almost the ability to accomplish-but to think that one cannot do, virtually takes away the ability to do, even where it is ample.
Stammering is often continued by the subordinate estimation which the stammerer puts upon himself. He is too apt to consider those around him giants, and himself a dwarf. As this estimation of himself serves to perpetuate his disease, it is clear that its remedy must be found in making himself equal to any: if this mental classification into giants and dwarfs must take place, let the stammerers make themselves the giants, and those around them the dwarfs.
The teacher should study the disposition of his pupil: he should persuade him to banish from his mind all melancholy thoughtsin short, he should do every thing in his power to render his pupil cheerful and happy.
Various athletic exercises should be resorted to daily, to invigorate all the muscles of voluntary motion, and diminish nervous irritability. In some cases it may be necessary to have recourse to tonics, anti-spasmodics, bathing in salt water, frictions over the whole surface of the body, &c., &c. Electricity may be used with advantage as a tonic, and also as a means of interrupting the spasm of the vocal organs.
The vocal treatment is deduced from the following circumstances:
1. An ability to sing.
2. An ability to speak when alone:
3. And if the stammerer must speak before an audience, the smaller the audience and the farther he is removed from it, the better.
4. An ability to speak amidst a noise that is sufficient to render the human voice nearly or quite inaudible.
5. An ability to speak better in the dark than in the light.
6. An ability to speak in a measured manner.
7. An ability to speak in a drawling manner.
8. An ability to speak with the mouth more or less distorted. 9. An ability to speak in any key, either higher or lower than that in which the stammerer usually converses.
10. An ability to speak with a halloo.
11. An ability to speak when the attention is divided or arrested by some object or circumstance more or less irrelevant to the subject.
12. An ability to speak in concert or simultaneously. Every one who has learned to sing, knows how much easier it is to sing in concert than alone. All the exercises, therefore, for the cure of stammering, should, at first, be conducted in concert.
Stammering may be considered a fault in elocution, the result of defective education, and is confirmed by habit. If children were properly instructed in speaking and reading, this affection of the vocal organs would, probably, seldom or never occur. Hence, no mode of treatment that is not founded in just elocution or the correct exercise of the organs of speech for the purposes of vocal expression, can be relied on. This must appear obvious to every intelligent and reflecting mind. The stammerer must be taught how to give language the pitch, time, and force which the sense requires. To effect this, his muscles of speech, which have long been refractory, must be trained till they are brought under the control of volition, and like a well-marshalled troop of soldiers, made to act in harmonious concert.
Oral language may be resolved into certain sounds which are its elements. Now there are certain positions of the organs of speech more favourable than others for the production of the elements. The stammerer should be made thoroughly acquainted with these positions, and, in connexion with them, should be required to exercise his voice in the most energetic manner upon all the elements. singly, till he can utter them without hesitation. He should also utter them in various combinations, not only according to the laws of syllabication, but in every irregular way. The vowels should be exploded from the throat with great force; and they should be sung, as well as pronounced with the rising and falling inflection, through every interval of pitch within the compass of the voice.
The pupil should be drilled in various exercises whose highest peculiarity is time and force. Time may be measured by means of the Metronome, by beating with the hand, and by marching.*
* Also by beating with the dumb-bells.
Pitch, time, and force, are the elements of expression, and a proper combination of them in reading and speaking, constitutes good elocution. When, therefore, the stammerer becomes master of these elements, as well as the elements of the language, he may commence speaking and reading. In his first attempts at conversation, both teacher and pupil should speak in a deliberate manner, with a full, firm tone of voice, and in a very low pitch.
The stammerer should now commit to memory a short piece which requires to be spoken with explosive force; for example, "Satan's speech to his legions." The members of the class should stand at a sufficient distance from each other to prevent their hands coming in contact when their arms are extended. They should then pronounce the speech in concert, after the teacher, and accompany it with appropriate gesticulation. It should be repeated again and again, till each pupil can give it proper expression, both as regards voice and gesture. Each pupil should then, in turn, take the place of the teacher and give out the speech to the class. To prevent the pupil's stammering, while he is performing the teacher's part, the teacher himself should play an accompaniment on the violoncello, violin, organ, drum, or some other instrument. At first the notes should be made very loud; but if the effort of the pupil, standing out of the class, is likely to be successful, they should gradually be made softer and softer, and, finally, the accompaniment omitted altogether. This piece should be pronounced alternately with one which requires to be spoken with long quantity and in a low pitch, as "Ossian's Address to the Sun."
When the pupil has mastered these two kinds of reading, he may take up dignified dialogue, and, lastly, conversational pieces. He should drawl out difficult words, which are generally those having short vowels preceded by labials, dentals, and gutturals.
In very bad cases of stammering, the pupil should first sing the words, then drawl them, then pronounce them with very long quantity, and thus gradually approximate to common speaking.
As soon as the pupils can speak without stammering, they should recite singly in a very large room, or in the open air, at a distance from the audience, which, at first, should consist of the members of the class only. A few visiters should be occasionally introduced, and the number should be gradually increased. In this way the stammerer will soon acquire sufficient confidence to speak before a large assembly. In some cases it may be expedient for the stammerer to recite before an audience in a dark room; but as he acquires confidence, light should be gradually admitted.
Stammerers, instead of speaking immediately after inspiration, as they should do, often attempt to speak immediately after expiration, when, of course, they have no power to speak. The lungs, like a bellows, perform their part in the process of speaking, best, when plentifully supplied with air. This is an important fact, and should
be remembered, not only by stammerers, but also by those who have occasion to read or speak in public. Loud speaking, long-continued, with the lungs but partially distended, is very injurious to these organs it is apt to occasion a spitting of blood, which is not unfrequently a precursor of pulmonary consumption. But loud speaking, with proper management of the breath, is a healthful exercise: besides strengthening the muscles which it calls into action, it promotes the decarbonization of the blood, and, consequently, exerts a salutary influence on the system generally. [See additional remarks, in Appendix at the end of the volume, where will be found an account of the new surgical operation for the radical cure of stammering, which has been performed, with more or less success, both in Europe and in this country.]
ITCH is the degree of the elevation of sounds.
As pitch regards the elevation of sounds, it respects their acuteness and gravity. I use the term pitch in its widest signification. In the science of music, it is used not only in the sense in which I employ it, but it also has a special application: in the latter, it is applied to the medium note, the regulating note to which instruments are brought by the act of tuning. When applied in this sense, it is termed concert-pitch. The note which has been adopted, by common consent, as the pitch-note, is A, the open note of the second string of the violin: it is written in the second space of the treble staff.
A lax division of pitch is into high and low; in other words, into acute and grave; (those notes being called high, or acute, which are above the natural pitch of the voice; and those low, or grave, which are below it).
Strictly speaking, the application of high and low, to pitch, is without philosophic foundation: it has originated, not from any