By Pam Marshalla

Q: I was interested in gaining some additional information on elocution as you discussed in a recent seminar.

“Elocution” refers to diction, pronunciation, and enunciation.

“Elocution is the proper and graceful management of the voice, the countenance, and gesture in speaking”

– Marcus Tullius Cicero, 106 – 43 BC

Elocution is about speaking a little louder, speaking up, speaking out, holding the head up while speaking, looking others in the eye, using polite language, and engaging the listener. Elocution also concerns making fully resonant vowels, diphthongs, glides and nasals, as well as crisp fricatives and affricates. Elocution regards using the voice well, with correct habitual pitch, and slightly dramatic intonation.

Elocution pre-dates the profession of speech-language pathology. The elocutionists came about in the 1800’s, and they worked primarily with adults: actors, singers, teachers, lawyers, politicians, and the clergy.

Once the International Phonetic Alphabet came along (1880’s), elocutionists and phoneticians began to focus more on phonemes (consonants and vowels) and less on the general process of pronunciation.

I don’t think anyone has written on elocution itself as a single topic since the 1800’s. However, most textbooks on articulation published between 1930 and 1960 included excellent information on both pronunciation and phonemes.

For more information about the elocutionists, go to the articles written by Judy Duchan.

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