ACCENT. This term is often used with a very wide meaning ; as when we say that a person has ' a Scotch accent,' in which ease it denotes all that distinguishes the Scotch from the English pronunciation. We here confine the word, in the first place, to mean those peculiarities of sound for which grammarians have invented the marks called accents ; and we naturally must have a principal reference to the Hebrew and the Greek languages. Secondly, we exclude the consideration of such a use of accentual marks (so called) as prevails in the French language ; in which they merely denote a certain change in the quality of a sound attributed to a vowel or diphthong. It is evident that had a sufficient number of alphabetical vowels been in vented, the accents (in such a sense) would have been superseded. While the Hebrew and Greek languages are here our chief end, yet in order to pass from the known to the unknown, we shall throughout refer to our own tongue as the best source of illustration. In this respect, we un doubtedly overstep the proper limits of a Biblical Cyclopedia; but we are in a manner constrained so to do, since the whole subject is misrepresented or very defectively explained in most English gram mars : and if we abstained from this full exposition, many readers would most probably, after all, mis understand our meaning.
Even after the word accent has been thus limited, there is an ambiguity in the term ; it has still a double sense, according to which we name it either oratorical or vocabular. By the latter, we mean the accent which a word in isolation receives ; for in stance, if we read in a vocabulary: while by oratori cal accent we understand that which words actually have when read aloud or spoken as parts of a sentence.
The Greek men of letters, who, after the Ma cedonian kingdoms had taken their final form, in vented accentual marks to assist foreigners in learn ing their language, have (with a single uniform exception) been satisfied to indicate the vocabular accent : but the Hebrew grammarians aimed, when the pronunciation of the old tongue was in danger of being forgotten, at indicating by marks the tra ditional inflections of the voice with which the Scriptures were to be read aloud in the synagogues.
In consequence, they have introduced a very com plicated system of accentuation to direct the reader. Some of their accents (so called) are in fact, stops, others syntactical notes, which served also as guides to the voice in chanting.
In intelligent reading or speaking, the vocal organs execute numerous intonations which we hale no method of representing on paper ; espe cially such as are called inflections or slides by teachers of elocution : but on these a book might be written ; and we can here only say, that the Masoretic accentuation of the Hebrew appears to have struggled to depict the rhythm of sentences ; and the more progress has been made towards a living perception of the language, the higher is the testimony borne by the learned to the success which this rather cumbrous system has attained. The rhythm, indeed, was probably a sort of chant ; since to this day the Scriptures are so recited by the Jews, as also the Koran by the Arabs or Turks : nay, in Turkish, the same verb (oqumay) signifies to sing and to read. But this chant by no means attains the sharp discontinuity of European singing ; on the contrary the voice slides from note to note. Monotonous as the whole sounds, a deeper study of the expression intended might probably lead to a fuller understanding of the Masoretic accents.
Wherein the accent consists.—In ordinary Euro pean words, one syllable is pronounced with a peculiar stress of the voice ; and is then said to be accented. In our own language, the most obvious accompaniment of this stress on the syllable is a greater clearness of sound in the vowel ; insomuch that a my short vowel cannot take the primary accent in English. Nevertheless, it is very far from the truth, that accented vowels and syllables are necessarily long, or longer than the unaccented in the same word; of which we shall speak afterwards. In illustration, however, of the loss of clearness in a vowel, occasioned by a loss of accent, we may compare a contest with to contest; equal with equality; in which the syllables con, gild, are sounded with a very obscure vowel when unac cented.