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ACCENT, RHYTHM and EMPHASIS, are often considered synonymous; let us try to explain the difference.

In all languages, whether in long words or in clusters of short ones, some syllables are rendered more prominent than others by being uttered louder, and these louder syllables are preceded and followed by at least one and not more than two weaker sounding syllables. The loud syllable is said to be accented, and the less loud one, unaccented. The human ear is not satisfied without this alternation of loud and less loud, —accented and unaccented syllables, and the vocal organs utter them with greater ease than if all the syllables had to be spoken with equal strength; as for example in'-com-pat'-i-bil'-ity, in'-com-pre-hen'-si-bil'-ity.

ACCENT, from its universality, seems to be a necessary condition of language. It is euphonic, and has little to do with the meaning of words. We accent a part of all words of two or more syllables, whatever the language may be, and whether we know the meaning or not. We may accent the right or the wrong syllable, but we are sure to accent one.

"Some phoneticians distinguish the long from the stopped or short vowel by saying, that in the case of the stopped or short vowel the following consonant is accented, but in the case of the long vowel, the vowel sound itself is accented. These words do not admit of a strict interpretation. It is only vocal breath which can be accented,—only that fragment of voice which constitutes a syllable, that can be more or less loudly spoken. We have, therefore, properly speaking, neither accented vowels nor accented consonants, but only accented syllables."-A. J. ELLIS.

An accented syllable accompanied by its one or two unaccented ones, may be called a foot, and is equivalent to

a two or three-crotchet bar in music. A pleasing succession of these feet, either in prose or verse, constitutes RHYTHM, though the term is almost exclusively used in reference to the latter. The isolated word stranger is accented on the first syllable, and if it were an unknown foreign word we should also accent one or the other of its syllables. The same word forms part of the Rhythm of the following lines:

O stranger, dearest stranger, listen to me;

A stranger meeting ne'er was known than this.

EMPHASIS is distinguished from accent by this-that while the latter has reference only to the euphony, or agreeable sound of words, the former has to do solely with their meaning. Accent affects only a syllable, but emphasis affects the whole word, accented and unaccented syllables together, by bringing it into greater prominence in the sentence, and this is generally done by lengthening or dwelling upon the whole word, as - "WHO is that man ?" "I can't tell you; he is a STRANGER to me.' Here the words who and stranger are emphatic. If we wish merely to pronounce a word correctly, we use accent, but if we wish to call attention to its meaning we use emphasis.

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The orthography of most words is not affected by the place of the accent, and we can only write con'duct, conduct', trans'fer, transfer, au'gust, august', in the same manner. The following rules respecting the place of the accent will be found more applicable to instruction in reading than in spelling.

Grammarians speak of the primary or loudest accent, and the secondary or less loud accent, but if the euphonic law, previously mentioned, be correct, that the ear requires one syllable in every two or three, to be louder than the others, the several accents in a long word will be equally strong, as in in'visi-bil'ity, hem'i-spherical, com'pli-men'tary, dis'ciplinaʼrian, meta-morphosis. In all these words the last accent is said to be the primary, and the other the secondary or subordinate one. It would be more correct to call it the fixed accent, for, its place being known, all the other accents fall upon the proper syllables almost as a matter of course.


The fixed accent will always fall on the syllable immediately preceding the affix -tion or -sion, as ab'errátion, adhésion, collision, devótion, confusion. Also, on the syllable immediately preceding the terminations, -ceous, cious, -tious, -geous, -gious, -rious, as :-farina'ceous, malicious, nutritious, courageous, contagious, victorious. Also on the syllable immediately preceding the terminations, -cial, -tial, -ical, -rial, nial, sial, -sional, -tional; as commercial, peniten'tial, historical, pictorial, ceremonial, confessional, disproportional. This rule has no exception, and applies to a very large number of words.

The first syllable of the termination -bility, always bears the fixed accent, as :-am'iability, credibility, vulnerability, in'corruptibility, pos'sibil'ity. Also, the first syllable of the terminations -mental, -mentally, as, in'strumental, fun'damentally. There is no exception to this rule.

The terminations -ful, fully, -less, -lessly, -ish, -ishly, -ant, -antly, -ous, -ously, -some, -somely, -able, -ably, &c., have the fixed accent on the syllable immediately preceding, or on the syllable next but one preceding, but no certain rules can be laid down for them.

Two syllable verbs commencing with the prefixes ad, ac, al, an, af, ap, ar, as, at (all of which are synonymous, the change of consonant being merely euphonic), have the accent on the last syllable; as, adhere', account', allude', announce', affright', appoint', arrest', assume', attend'. Also, when they commence with ef, ex, e, em, es; as, efface', excite', emit', embalm', essay'.

Of the compound prefixes, un'ac-, un'pro-, in'con-, uni-, the first syllable generally bears an accent, as, un'accountable, un'provi'ded, in'conve'nient, u'niver'sal.

The root word, which has been a monosyllable, almost always bears an accent; as, conform'ably, distaste'fully, unchange'able, bri'bery, crim'inal.


A SYLLABLE is such a collection of the elementary sounds of speech as shall have, when uttered, the effect of a single beat on the ear. We pronounce the long vowel ē as a syllable in evil, but we can add several sounds to this without destroying the unity of the syllable, as ee, eat, eats, seats, bleats, streets. A syllable can contain only one vowel sound or a diphthong, but, as shown above, may contain from one to five consonants. The average number of sounds to a syllable in English, is one vowel and 1.65 consonant sounds, total 2-65; but, as many sounds are represented by digraphs, and syllables sometimes contain silent letters, the average number of letters in a syllable always exceeds the sounds, and is 3.1.

The average number of syllables to a word in the literary English of 1860 is 1.46. In the authorised version of the New Testament, the words are principally of Anglo-Saxon derivation, and consequently are short, containing only 1.28 syllables to each word; while the writings of Dr. Johnson and Macaulay, which contain more Latin and Greek derived words, have an average of 1.58 syllables to each word.

In the division of words in speaking, every syllable, as a rule, begins with a consonant, but the division into syllables in writing is very different, as the root of a word has to be shown apart from its prefixes and affixes, and Etymological reasons also affect the division. A practical acquaintance with this subject is very necessary, in order to be able to divide words correctly at the end of a line, when, for want of space, one or more syllables must be carried over to the beginning of the next line. The following rules are observed, in this case, by the best writers.

1. Never separate the letters of a digraph. The following words are therefore wrongly divided:-sop-hist, teac

her, moons-hine, scre-aming, sno-wy, sin-ger (who sings.) Ng in fin-ger is not a digraph.

2. Never divide words of one syllable, as strength, twel-fth.

If writing the word a little closer would not suffice to

get it all in at the end of a line, carry the whole word forward to the following line.

3. Divide compound words into their component parts, as lamp-post, pen-knife, book-seller, ice-house, cream-jug. 4. Keep the root whole in derivatives, as touch-ing, preach-er, lov-est, mis-lead, re-mark, power-ful, harm-less.

5. Divide generally according to pronunciation. If a short accented vowel sound is succeeded by only one consonant, annex the consonant to the vowel to show that it is short; as, lam-ent-able, pref-er-able, mis-erable, ed-it-or, el-e-vate. On the other hand, if the vowel, whether accented or unaccented, have its long or alphabetic name sound, the consonant after it belongs to the following syllable, and we divide the words thus:-Be-tray, de-tain, de-stroy, de-throne, i-de-al, u-ni-ted, mo-ment, ma-ker.

6. The pronunciation requires that the c, s, or t shall never be separated from the terminations cial, cian, cious, sial, sion, tial, tion, tious, which form single syllables commencing with the sound sh; as, com-mer-cial, mu-sician, sa-ga-cious, ambro-sial, a-ver-sion, es-sen-tial, proba-tion, nu-tri-tious. When in the terminations -tial and -tion, the t has the sound of t or ch instead of sh, that letter is then detached and annexed to the foregoing syllable, as ce-lest-ial, com-bust-ion, best-ial, exhaust-ion, thus corroborating the foregoing rule, "To divide generally according to pronunciation."

7. Two vowel letters coming together, if they do not make a

diphthong or digraph, but are separately sounded,

must be parted in dividing the syllables, as A-cha'-i-a, A-o-ni-an, a-e'ri-al, i-o'ta, co-equal.

8. Where a consonant letter is doubled, one must be taken to

each syllable, as bet-ter, can-non, hap-py, rob-ber-y, sum-mer, dag-ger, suf-fer, rud-der, mer-ry.

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