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THE ART OF SPEAKING
Rhetoric, or the art of speaking, is, in Plato's language, the government of the souls of men; and her chief business is to address the affections and passions, which are as it were the strings and keys to the soul, and require a skillful and careful touch to be played on as they should be. - PLUTARCH.
1. Rhetoric. The ancient Greeks tempered their life by heeding that famous maxim "Do nothing too much." If, for example, they were building a temple, they refrained from making one part out of proportion to another, or from putting ornament where it should not be, or from trying to make marble express more than it was capable of expressing.
In their language, too, they observed the same rule of symmetry and simplicity. They sought the most appropriate expression for their thought, that the thought might not be disfigured by the words. They felt that words, however beautiful or effective, if ill chosen or ill placed, were like misused marble, inharmonious and uncouth.
If we would attain the art of speaking, or the government of the souls of men, we also should study the nature, uses, and arrangement of words. "Vulgar, coarse, and ill-chosen words", says Lord Chesterfield, in a letter to his son, "will deform the best thoughts, as much as rags and dirt will the best figure." (Exercises I, II, §§ 546, 547.)
WORD, SENTENCE, PHRASE, CLAUSE
POLONIUS. What dost thou read, my lord?
2. Word, idea. A word represents the mental picture, or idea, of a person or thing, and serves to recall that picture. For example, the word Edwin recalls to the mind the picture of a person; the word write recalls the picture of an action.
3. Thought, sentence. By properly grouping words, as in Edwin writes, we can say something about a person or thing, and thus express a thought. A group of words expressing a thought is called a sentence.
4. Subject and predicate. A sentence consists of two parts, called the subject and the predicate. The subject (as, Edwin) names the person or thing spoken of; the predicate (as, writes) says something about the subject.
NOTE. A group of words like the beautiful blue Danube is not a sentence; for although it may suggest a thought, it does not express one, since it does not contain both a subject and a predicate. Nor is before he thinks a sentence, although it contains both a subject and a predicate; see §§ 7 and 8. But in connected speech or writing, if the context supplies the words needed to complete the thought, either the beautiful blue Danube or before he thinks may be an elliptical sentence. Study § 347.
5. Parts of speech. In the sentence Edwin writes there are two kinds of words, each of which has its own use. In the English language there are eight kinds of words. Since each kind forms a part of the language, the eight kinds are grouped in eight classes, called the parts of speech. The eight parts
of speech are the noun, pronoun, adjective, verb, adverb, preposition, conjunction, and interjection (§§ 10-319).
6. Phrase. In the sentence Edwin writes each part of speech is a single word. But instead of using a single word, we may use a group of words as a part of speech. Instead of Edwin we may use Edwin Grey; and instead of writes we may use is writing. A group of words used as a part of speech, but not containing both a subject and a predicate, is called a phrase: Edwin Grey; is writing.
Again, we may say Edwin writes thoughtlessly, or Edwin writes without thinking. In the first sentence the word thoughtlessly is another part of speech. It suggests the way in which Edwin writes. In the second sentence the phrase without thinking is used instead of the single word thoughtlessly.
7. Clause. We may also say Edwin writes before he thinks. In this sentence the group of words before he thinks is used instead of the single word thoughtlessly. But this group of words is not a phrase (like without thinking), because it contains both a subject (he) and a predicate (thinks). Such a group of words is called a clause. (A clause is but a part of a sentence, and the name should not be given to a sentence as a whole.)
8. Principal clause; subordinate clause. In the sentence Edwin writes before he thinks the group of words Edwin writes is also a clause; for it contains both a subject and a predicate. But this clause would make sense by itself, and might stand alone; hence it is called a principal clause. The clause before he thinks would not make sense by itself; it depends on the principal clause, Edwin writes; hence it is called a subordinate clause. A principal clause is a clause which may stand alone as a sentence: Edwin writes. A subordinate clause is a clause which depends on a principal clause: before he thinks (§§ 329-332). Study § 347. (Exercise III, § 548.)