The Twofold Fundamental Law Of Rhythm And Accentuation; Or, The Relation Of The Rhythmical To The Logical Principle Of The Melody Of Human Speech -- By: Charles M. Mead

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 024:93 (Jan 1867)
Article: The Twofold Fundamental Law Of Rhythm And Accentuation; Or, The Relation Of The Rhythmical To The Logical Principle Of The Melody Of Human Speech
Author: Charles M. Mead


The Twofold Fundamental Law Of Rhythm And
Accentuation; Or, The Relation Of The Rhythmical To The
Logical Principle Of The Melody Of Human Speech

Rev. Charles M. Mead

The investigations hitherto made in regard to the principle of Hebrew accentuation — growing out of the conviction that the cantillation now practised in the Jewish synagogues does not correctly represent it, and that its real significance can not be chiefly musical — have established the fact that the main principle underlying this accentuation must be a logical one, a division according to the sense, but that in connection with this there is also a phonetic or musical element, belonging to the sphere of modulation, which is not to be overlooked. But the significance and extent of the latter element and its relation to the first were not clear, and continued to be a subject of controversy. Years ago I deduced this element from the nature of rhythm, and sought to find in it the higher principle in which logic and phonetics meet together.1 But in order to a clear understanding of the subject, and a

definitive settlement of the long-disputed question, relating, as it does, to so difficult and remote a department of philology and anthropology, great clearness and distinctness of ideas is necessary; and in order to gain this, a more minute and exhaustive discussion is required than I was then able to give. First of all, we must find the law of nature out of which the phonetico-musical, or physical, element in human speech proceeds, in order to gain an understanding of its relation to the logical principle of speech, and of the co-operation of both elements in the rhythm and accent of melodious language. To this end we proceed first to examine more particularly accent, in which the phenomena in question most clearly come to view.

Accent or tone is, as all know, that emphasis or stress (τονος), i.e. that raising of the voice, by which one part of the discourse—one syllable or word—is raised above the others and distinguished as the chief syllable or chief word. It is the simple and wonderful means by which the mind (whose business it is in general to penetrate and illuminate the vast quantity and multitudinous forms of matter, and thus to simplify them and assimilate them to itself) points out and enforces that, in a series of words and sentences, which for its purpose is most essential; that in which the chief idea, and so the unity, of the whole series lies. It describes to the ear the course of the mind above the discourse, and its several strokes are, as it were, the audible footsteps of the mind’s march....

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