About the Delivery Style

Verbal and non-verbal technics


Performance was discussed in rhetoric for centuries, and then it was separated from rhetoric and became a separate discipline. According to classical rhetoricians, delivery is one of the five tasks of the orator. Cornificius discusses eight types of delivery, to which he adds eight types of body movements. In the history of 20th-century Hungarian rhetoric, the field of delivery became almost the sole dominant field after Zoltán Kodály’s 1937 radio lecture (On the deterioration of Hungarian pronunciation). The mode of delivery can be either verbal or non-verbal. Verbal means verbal, realised with words. Non-verbal refers to the vocal, i.e. phonetic, elements accompanying words on the one hand, and body movement or body language on the other. The paper briefly describes the speech errors, discusses pronunciation errors in detail, and provides concrete examples and advice to help improve speaking technique. Understanding the theoretical background is important for the training of speakers and actors.

Keywords: rhetoric, delivery style, pronunciation, verbal, non-verbal, body language, speech impediment, pronunciation error, speech technique, articulatory base, suprasegmental, vocal symbolism


Full text in PDF

What is new about the delivery style? What else can be added when everything has been said and written, and everything has been explained? It has been discussed in rhetoric for centuries; it was finally separated from rhetoric and became a separate discipline, although it did not add significantly to rhetorical knowledge. Therefore, it is worth reviewing what rhetoric has said about delivery style, and then moving on to the present literature. Indeed, in both public speaking and acting training, the focus is on practice, but perhaps it is not superfluous to get acquainted with the theoretical background, at least part of it. (Primarily, I rely on my book Klasszikus magyar rhetorika [Classical Hungarian Rhetoric], Bp., Holnap Kiadó, 2013; however, I also refer to the twenty volumes of the yearly publications of the annual higher education public speaking competitions since 1999, especially the ninth volume: Az előadásmód és a szónoki beszéd, 2008; I would like to refer to Géza Balázs’ study entitled A média nyelvi hatásai).

Delivery style (Greek: hypocrisy, Latin: actio, pronuntiatio) is one of the five tasks of the public speaker; the other tasks are: discovery (inventio), arrangement (dispositio), development or style (elocutio), memory or memorization (memoria) and delivery style (pronuntiatio, actio). The success of a speech depends on a good delivery style; therefore, the ancient rhetoricians considered it the most important task of the speaker: “Demosthenes is said to give this the first place, when he was asked what was the most important in the art of rhetoric, and he also gave the second and third place thereto” (Cicero: A szónokról [De Oratore], 3, 56, 213). There are rhetoric concepts according to which pronunciation is prior to memory, and they might have a good point, because delivery style should be planned; in fact, we should write the text imagining the delivery style in advance. It is not recommended to write down something that you will not be able to express, for example over-complicated sentences.

The perception of delivery style has developed interestingly throughout the history of rhetoric. With the spread of literacy, especially after the invention of printing, it began to lose its importance, and became increasingly neglected in rhetoric. After the extension of rhetoric to the prose genres and the focus on the formulation of the text, it receded even more into the background; in many modern rhetoric, neither memory nor delivery style was included. In the second half of the 20th century, a special situation emerged in our country: delivery style was regarded as an independent discipline, as practically it was replacing rhetoric. (There are some people who still think that rhetoric only includes presentation.) The global expansion of radio and television has created a new situation: it has given rise to secondary orality (Walter Ong’s term); thus, delivery style became important today again. Today, it has developed in the following areas: oral presentation (speech and body language), the form of presentation of written texts, and the form of presentation of electronic texts (e-rhetoric). Oral performance is also the subject of communication studies. In the following, we will discuss oral delivery style (speech and body language), first historically, then we will look at the current situation.

Delivery style in the old rhetoric

The theory behind the first three functions of the speaker was already developed in classical rhetoric, while the methodology of memory and delivery was developed by Hellenistic rhetoric after Aristotle. Aristotle (320 BC) provides a brief summary of what is important to know about delivery style: “Delivery style is related to the volume: how to use it depending on the different emotions, that is when to talk loudly, softly and moderately, and how to use the different pitches, high, low and medium, and in what rhythm you should speak depending on the different emotions. This is because we focus on three things: volume, harmony, and rhythm. Almost always, those who have these skills are the ones who take the prizes in the various competitions. And just as nowadays actors are more successful than poets, the same applies to political meetings, because of the imperfection of the forms of government” (Rétorika, 1403b). Aristotle therefore believed that the content of political meetings should be of primary importance, whereas those will succeed – because of the imperfection of the forms of government – who deliver their message effectively.

The Roman Cornificius in his book Herenniusnak ajánlott retorika (Rhetoric for Herennius) deals in detail with delivery style (‘80s BC, still used as a textbook in the 19th century): “since no one has ever written on this subject seriously – everyone agreed that it was almost impossible to write clearly about tone of voice, facial expression and gesture, since all this is sensory – and since the development of performing skills is very much a desirable part of speaking, the whole question should be examined very carefully” (3, 11, 19). He notes that the two most important elements of delivery style are tone of voice and body language. Three elements of tone of voice: vocal pitch, volume and voice bending. To maintain volume in the speech, the introduction should be calm and restrained. Do not talk loudly all the time; instead, conversational tone of voice shall be used. Do not use loud exclamations. Insert longer pauses, as breathing refreshes the voice. However, at the end of the speech, speak in one breath, without interruption. (Musical works, arias, often start in a slow, restrained manner, and then increase in tempo and volume at the end.) Based on the bending of the voice, Cornificius identifies conversational, argumentative, and sublime tones:

The conversational tone is relaxed and close to everyday speech. The argumentative tone is sharp; it is used to prove and disprove. Sublime tone makes the listener feel anger or pity. Conversational tone has four types: serious, explanatory, narrative, joking. Serious tone is dignified and restrained. The person with explanatory tone explains in a restrained voice how it may or may not have happened. The person with narrative tone tells the story as it happened or could have happened. The person with joking tone, for some reason, makes you laugh moderately and kindly. Argumentative tone can be continuous or interrupted. A constant argumentative tone is a fast-paced and loud way of presenting. The interrupted argumentative tone is often interrupted by short pauses between sharply articulated speeches. Sublime tone can be encouraging and moving. The tone of voice is encouraging, which, by exaggerating a sin, makes the listener angry. The tone is moving when the listener feels pity by exaggerating the unpleasantness (3, 13, 23–24).

Cornificius specifies eight delivery styles (3, 14, 24-25), since there are three types of tone based on pitch bending, and these three are divided into eight sub-types. Then, he determines the body language: “Body language is a certain control of gesture and facial expression; it makes the message more believable. The face shall reflect prudence and vigour; but there shall be no striking grace in the manner of our gestures, nor any abruptness, so that we may not be mistaken for actors or craftsmen.” He associates eight different body language movements with the eight different intonations (3, 15, 26‒27). Cornificius was aware that he was undertaking a pioneering and difficult task, but he considered it important because “good delivery style enables us to be seen to speak from the heart” (2, 115–116). Honesty (or the impression of honesty) is the most powerful emotional effect.

In short:

Today, there is no better classification than the one of Cornificius, as it is concise and clear. There is no point in fragmenting it further because the nuances are endless; each speaker has a different personality. In the present literature, there are several detailed classifications, but they do not add anything to the point.

Cicero discusses delivery style in two sections: at the end of his third book, De oratore (On the Orator), and briefly in the Orator in two pages, discussing it in terms of the perfect orator. He considers delivery style to be the most important of the five functions of the orator: “in oratory, delivery style has to be the only dominant function”. The importance of the delivery style is based on psychological grounds. Facial expressions (voltus), sounds (sonus) and gestures (gestus) reflect the movements of the soul. He illustrates the emotions with examples taken from tragedies: anger, pity, fear, emotion, joy, sadness; and he emphasizes that each one corresponds to a different tone and a different intonation. He says action is truly the body’s speech (est enim actio quasi sermo corporis). He emphasises the role of the face and the eyes, since the whole performance depends on the soul, and the eyes are the mirror of the soul; this is the only sense organ that can express all the emotions of the soul. Words affect those who understand them but the gaze affects everyone. Modern cinema is a perfect example of this: for example, Pasolini’s famous film, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, which relies on the effect of the gaze. Furthermore, body language has become one of the key elements of modern communication studies and is also used in the titles of books (Pease, Allan 1989).

In the publication of Quintilian titled Institutes of Oratory (Institutio oratoria, around 90th A.D.), Quintilian deals with delivery style in about forty pages (4, 118–121). He presupposes that in Latin there are two names for delivery style: pronuntiatio and actio. Both can be used, the former is named after the pronunciation, the latter after the action. He observes that “there is a wonderful power and authority in delivery style”, and nothing proves this better than the fact that sometimes the only thing that matters is not what we say, but how we say it (11, 3, 1–2). It is primarily about tone, action is secondary, but he notes that the two must be in harmony. Clear pronunciation is essential: words must be pronounced completely, the last syllables may not be neglected; however, it produces an unpleasant impression to pronounce each sound separately: blends must be considered. He describes the appropriate delivery style at length. Action shall be in harmony with the tone. He gives detailed description of the orator’s appropriate and attractive appearance, clothing, hair, head posture, hand, and finger movements. He pays particular attention to correcting incorrect movements, for example, the orator should not slap their own back, lean back over their own shoulder, constantly beat their hips, or run around while speaking. Quintilian agrees that the face, especially the eyes, plays the decisive role. He also explains how to deliver certain parts of the oration. The introduction must be calm and simple, the narration can be more dynamic, and the proof shall be performed in the most varied way. The tone of the digression should be soft and calm. The ending should be the most careful because it should make the audience and the judges feel pity or hatred. He finally stresses that every orator has their own personality, therefore everyone should study themselves, find out their own secret: what makes them successful, and they should develop it. But they should be moderate in everything because they are not an actor, but an orator, that is, they should not imitate, but reveal and convey the truth (11, 3, 161–184).

A highly influential book on delivery style was written by the British Gilbert Austin in Chironomia [Greek: kheir ‘hand’]. It was published in 1806 and was used for a century afterwards to teach body language (it has been reprinted). He developed a marking system and illustrated every movement with drawings, which made him famous and unique. It includes the following: voice, eye contact, gestures, public speaking, recitation, public speaking, acting, pantomime, recording of gestures; positioning of feet, lower limbs; positioning, movement and raising of the arm; positioning and movement of the hand; head, eyes, shoulders, and body; frequency, rhythm, timing, and classification of gestures. His system has a cosmological basis: human nature is subject to the same laws as the universe, and since there is a rational order in the universe, a rational order must be followed in delivery style. Its marking system applies also to the speed and slowness of gestures, to the strengthening and weakening thereof, to the increasing and weakening of the volume of sound, etc., and it also includes texts with markings (poems, drama set).

Delivery style in the second half of the 20th century

Delivery style has a wide literature in Hungary. In his large-scale rhetoric (A prózai művek elmélete, 1879), Ferenc Acsay focused much on delivery style, considering the growing research in phonetics. In the history of 20th-century rhetoric, delivery style became almost the only dominant field, after Zoltán Kodály’s alarm in 1937: Deterioration of Hungarian pronunciation. Kodály explained that pronunciation is a problem of grammatical correctness because grammar has elements that cannot be recorded in writing but can only be understood by hearing. These elements of live speech are subject to the speaker’s arbitrary, partly because the rules of correct pronunciation are not collected, and partly because there are musical elements that require a high level of listening skills to be appreciated. The problem arises from several factors: the total lack of education, the spread of foreign languages, and musical works translated from foreign languages that spread a melody opposite to the natural melody of our language. He listed some typical mistakes, such as shortened duration; we need to understand that duration is maintained in unstressed syllables (equal intensity of syllables is a basic law of Hungarian); sharp, nasal tone; and unfamiliar intonation. Kodály referred to the psychological cause of the deterioration of pronunciation: among Western nations, speech is a form of commitment to the nation; speech deteriorates where there is a weak sense of national consciousness and responsibility; knowledge of foreign languages is more important than knowledge of the mother tongue. He summarised the tasks as follows: there is a need for a pronunciation dictionary that includes the rules and identifies mistakes; a standard for written pronunciation should be developed and made compulsory everywhere; teachers should speak correctly, and students with best pronunciation should be rewarded in schools; parents should be informed about that it is sufficient to start learning a foreign language at the age of ten, when the articulation and perception base of the mother tongue has already been developed; and more attention should be paid to correct pronunciation on the radio.

As a result of Kodály’s words, academic pronunciation competitions were launched in 1942 and have been held annually ever since. Lajos Lőrincze, who later became a leader of the language movement, won the first competition, and his radio show called “Édes anyanyelvünk” were very popular. In the academic pronunciation competitions Kodály was always the chairman, and he always preferred the dialect speakers, Lőrincze also spoke with an open voice, in Transdanubian style. Kodály and his vice-chairman Géza Bárczi also demanded the pronunciation of the closed ë sound; they even wanted to incorporate it into the colloquial vowel system. Nowadays the Bárczi Foundation is engaged in the recognition of the closed ë vowel; they have publications on its marking and have published a pronunciation dictionary (Buvári 2001).

Speech education was encouraged by the pronunciation conference in Eger in 1965 (the second one was organized in 2005), the Kazinczy Prize (1960) founded by the actress Blanka Péchy and the Kazinczy spelling competitions (from 1966, for trainee teachers from 1973) and the annual “Édes anyanyelvünk” language competitions for secondary school students (from 1973).

Blanka Péchy also wrote an impressive book entitled Beszélni nehéz (1974). She focuses on issues related to grammatical correctness and pronunciation and has drawn attention to the problems of indicative intonation. (Thanks to her book, a radio and television program hosted by László Deme was called Beszélni nehéz!, and study clubs of the same name were also organized in schools.) Blanka Péchy’s theory is still valid today:

The language of the mainly peasant grandparents has a clear pronunciation, even rhythm and a smooth intonation. Their pronounced words have a solid backbone, melody, and music.

The pronunciation of their sons and daughters is less clear. The rhythm is faster, the pace is variable. Nowadays, there are some similar emphasis mistakes; however, the word still has body, the language is powerful, so it is not difficult to understand.

In the awkward sentences of the grandchildren, there are plenty of misspelled words. Vowels are missing, syllables are overlapping. Even though the great-grandchildren answer the reporter’s questions with remarkable confidence, understanding their rambling is not an easy task (92–93). […] Teachers and professional speakers will have the honour and duty of spreading and preserving a common pronunciation (94).

In this period, many excellent books on speech were written, which are still worth studying today, and are full of good practices (see the list in Adamikné 2013, 543). Language experts have not taken two factors into account. First: in 1978, word-by-word reading was introduced in schools, which prioritizes silent reading and comprehension is checked by means of worksheets; this method, imported from America and claimed to be modern, has marginalized the teaching of reading-out-loud and oral reading in general. Word-by-word reading may have failed, but some of its routines are still used. Excessive use of workbooks and worksheets has resulted in poor oral answers; there is hardly any memorization. Second: in the great freedom after the change of regime, public forums – radio and television – have been dominated by bad speakers, allowing young people to conclude that bad speech can also be used to succeed. There is no role model for young people like Imre Sinkovics or Lajos Básti, Eszter Tamási, Marika Takács or Ferenc Bőzsöny.

Colloquial Hungarian pronunciation

Delivery style can be verbal or non-verbal. Verbal refers to something that is expressed verbally, in words. Non-verbal refers to both the vocal (sound) elements that accompany words and body motion or body language. 7% of spoken text or communication is verbal, 38% is vocal and 55% is body language, which are not irrelevant elements: they are more efficient than verbality in expressing emotions. This fact supports the conclusion of the ancient orators that the most important aspect is delivery style, and that the orators in ancient times and later were very interested in body language.

The vocal elements of non-verbal communication include the formation of particular sounds and sound connections, as well as the suprasegmental elements associated with the formation of sounds.

The formation of colloquial (common Hungarian) sounds depends on the articulation base. Articulation base refers to the specific operational sequence by which spoken speech is produced. Articulation base is language specific. This means that speakers of the same language have approximately the same articulation base; the speech organs of a Russian, an English or a Hungarian speaker work differently. (The perception base is parallel to the articulation base. Both are gradually established during the biological development of the individual, around the age of ten.)

The characteristics of the Hungarian articulation base are the following: 1. Hungarian vowels are formed as full vowels and are not pronounced as reduced or mumbled vowels. Fully formed vowels shall also be pronounced in unstressed syllables and on word endings. 2. Our vowels are formed orally; nasal articulation is not common in Hungarian. 3. It is typical to maintain the length of the speech sounds, the short-long opposition. 4. Voiceless-voiced oppositions of consonants are typical. 5. Different sound laws apply in pronunciation: vowel harmony, vowel and consonant alignment, consonant divergence, consonant blending, consonant shortening, consonant elimination. 6. The core of a syllable is always a vowel. 7. The emphasis is fixed and always on the first syllable of the word. 8. The intonation is basically descending. The articulatory base and the pronunciation (linguistic) norm are closely related. In the field of speaking, there is also a common agreement, a norm to which we adapt our speech and according to which we consider a phenomenon to be correct or incorrect, even though the Hungarian pronunciation norm is not included in rules such as the BBC norm in English or Bühnensprache (stage speech) in German. They have a pronunciation dictionary (Fekete 1995); the material for the upcoming pronunciation handbook is contained in László Elekfi–Imre Wacha’s book entitled Az értelmes beszéd hangzása (with a detailed bibliography). Speech and language books and textbooks are also aligned with the pronunciation norm. Dialects have their own norm, and pronunciation in dialect is not a mistake, but an adaptation to the dialect norm. Recently, everyone is more lenient to it in public speaking; we encourage everyone to preserve the dialectic style of their language, for example, by not abandoning the closed ë.

The suprasegmental factors include emphasis, intonation, speech pace, rhythm, pause, junction (boundary mark, that is, sound binding at the word boundary), volume, tone of voice. They come together in the speech process and are related to each other. The stressed part, for example, is not only stressed more, but also said in a higher pitch, slower, with a pause before it. Indeed, in a particular situation, one factor may be more important than the others. Suprasegmental factors can have endless varieties. The sound effect is increased by the various functions of the extra-linguistic vocalizations (described by András O. Vértes): humming, coughing, throat clearing, sighing. When humming, we form an h sound and a consonant, which can be used to express affirmation, negation, amazement, astonishment. Sneezing refers to a joking, mocking expression of “that’s right” or its opposite. Throat clearing is for attention but can also express displeasure. Partial sound-making gestures also play a role, sometimes – when it is not appropriate to interrupt, but we want to speak – we take a deep breath. Sighing, laughing, breathing, panting, sighing, crying also have an expressive function. Even silence has its role: it can be an expression of disrespect. The visual elements of articulation, that is, the sight of articulation, also has an impact. We all know the labial articulation of talking in offhand, arrogant tones. Ancient sign of aggression is offhand talk (see in detail A. Jászó Anna 2004, the chapter on phonetics provides thorough and illustrative information on the phonetic-phonological basics.)

Professional speakers, orators and actors must follow the pronunciation norm; however, to have an emotional impact, they must take advantage of the expressiveness and expressive power of speech sounds and tones. The sound of human speech directly affects us: think how much we can be affected by a pleasant tone of voice, and how repulsive a shouting or even a shrill voice can be. An orator has half success if he has a beautiful, rich organ.

Expressiveness of speech and emotions are closely related. András O. Vértes spent decades gathering data to prove that there is a correlation between the emotional deterioration we experience and the graying of the speech sound. In the writing of Kálmán Mikszáth titled Országgyűlési karcolatok of 1892, he describes the orator’s voice in numerous ways: thin, whimpering; beautiful, but quiet, clouded; ringing silver; low; singing; rasping; beautiful, pleasant, oleaginous; beautifully soft; loud stentorian; booming, shrill; frightening; trembling; etc. the emotions of the former representatives, together with their views, could range widely (Vértes O. András 1987). Intonation has also become more monotonous. The rhythm of the language has also been more important: formerly, our great orators also paid attention to prose rhythm.

It is highly challenging to determine what tone of voice is best for an orator, obviously the one that suits his personality, the occasion, the subject, the audience. Each of our major orators of the reform era spoke in a different way, and all of them made an impact: Pál Felsőbüki Nagy pronounced the words with a Transdanubian style, but with expressive and varied facial expressions; the audience was impressed by Wesselényi’s powerful speeches; Kölcsey spoke simply, beginning his speeches in a low, deep, almost tearful voice, and the hall was in silence; Széchenyi used a conversational tone in his speeches with a lot of improvisation; Eötvös spoke in a convincing, gentle voice, but his speeches were somewhat dry; Kossuth’s speeches were characterized by pure Hungarianism, musicality, his beautiful, ringing voice, his appearance, everyone was impressed by his masterly perfected articulation (Adamik-A. Jászó-Aczél: Retorika, 2004, 181–184). His famous speech in Szeged delivered on 4 October 1848 was enhanced by the fact that he said it with his hand raised to the sky, and the crowd did the same: “I swear by God the Almighty, who protects justice and punishes the traitor, I swear that I will not let the freedom of our country be taken away until I am bleeding. I swear that I will defend our country until I can raise my arms. So help me and bless me, God of the Hungarians.”

The meaning expressed by sound is called sound symbolism. By itself, a sound has no meaning, but the accumulation of a particular sound can imply a meaning, for example r can suggest militancy, while l refers to softness. Voice stylistics deals with the expressiveness of speech tones. The aesthetic effect of the sounds – their consonance (euphony) and dissonance (cacophony) – varies from language to language and from period to period (see the stylistic chapter of Klasszikus magyar retorika, 417).

Body language

Body language or non-verbal communication consists of 1. cultural signs and emblems (body stylization, dress, use of tools); 2. position and territoriality (for the speaker, the assessment of the space in which he or she is speaking); 3. facial expressions or facial play (the communicative function of the eyes, mouth, and eyebrow line); 4. gestures and posture; 5. touch.

Functions of non-verbal signals: 1. managing and regulating social interactions; 2. presenting yourself (communicating information about your personality); 3. communicating emotional state and 4. communicating attitudes towards others; 5. controlling channel, that is, indicating the beginning and end of a statement or the transition between words and speech.

Types of non-verbal signals: 1. emotional expression, 2. illustration, 3. regulation, 4. emblems or clear signs that can only be interpreted in one way, 5. adaptation expressing the relation to the message. Business management manuals and codes of protocol often deal with appearance. Body language is exhaustively covered in communication textbooks, for example by Allan Pease. Imre Wacha in his book entitled Nem csak szóból ért az ember. A nonverbális kommunikáció eszköztára [Tools of non-verbal communication] (Tinta 2011), he explains non-verbal tools in detail.

The publications referred to above are extensive, covering all aspects of communication. Rhetorical situations are more limited in scope and more specific than communicative situations; therefore, rhetoric does not use everything that communication researchers have discovered, only what is relevant to the rhetorical situation. It is also important for the orator to evaluate space, emblems, appearance, dress, hair, appearance, hand gestures and foot placement are all important, this is why Quintilian and Gilbert Austin discussed them in such detail. Yet gestures are the most important, the most expressive, and they are the most likely to grab the attention of the audience and influence their emotions.

Benedek Szitás deals with the most details of the gestures of the oratorical speech in his legal rhetoric (1977, 107–123); among others he writes the following.

The orator enters the room with his heart racing, and with trembling knees as he walks up to the podium and stops.

How should the orator stand?

It is incorrect for the orator to stand disciplined, to spread his legs, to sway, to lean, to wiggle, to beat his feet, to toddle, to shuffle, to walk up and down, to clay his or her knees, to twist his or her hands back and forth, etc.; it is important that the standing should never create a sense of fear.

The orator should stand correctly in a relaxed posture. The weight should be on one leg. The body thus will have a light curve, like the contrapposto position known from classical sculpture. Of course, the orator must avoid a posture like a badly done question mark. Sometimes the weight must be shifted unnoticeably to the other foot, otherwise the orator becomes rigid, and the audience becomes bored of watching the orator who stands in front of them as if he or she had been pinned there.

Walking is only allowed where there is no podium and there is enough space, otherwise the orator will only toddle “two to the right, two to the left” instead of walking. A relaxed, confident walk can make the relationship between orator and audience more relaxed and direct.

Once the orator has properly stood, he or she shall look at the audience. His or her eyes shall express not fear, but confidence. The eyes and the mimic should always be in harmony, “because just as the face is the mirror of the soul, so the eyes are the lamp of the soul” (Cicero: Selected Works, 197). The eyes should always be on the audience, not looking with a glassy eye into the void, but nor should they be constantly fixed on the void. The orator should not look at one person all the time, because the speech is for the whole audience, so always look at someone else, always change your gaze. – Reading aloud is inappropriate because then the orator’s eyes are always on the notes, and thus the eye contact with the audience gets lost.

Facial expressions are not particularly important, but during speech, the face should have a natural expression.

The biggest problem is, what should the orator do with the hands? – If they lean on the table, their hand might get stuck there and they won’t be able to do anything else for the rest of their speech. The posture will be kind of hunchbacked. If the orator does not lean on the table, he or she should avoid constantly stroking the table. This is also a bad habit. The orator’s hand is not a dust mop. The orator should not make stereotypical gestures, rattle his or her keychain, crumple his or her handkerchief, crush his or her ballpoint pen, or grip his or her cigarette. He or she shall not put his or her hands in their pockets – it is impolite and disrespectful. Hands on the hips is more suitable for folk dancing than for the orator’s podium. No wild, inappropriate waving shall be allowed.

If the orator is not good at gesticulation, he or she should remain still – this is worth more than bad gestures.

After that, we might ask the question: what is a good gesture? – What is the function of a gesture at all?

Gestures, rhetorical gestures, are a means of better expression of thoughts and emotions as a completion of the message. […]

Before reviewing the types of gesture, we should talk about what makes a gesture attractive. “Gesture is beautiful if it has a calm beginning, a continuous progression, and an elaborated ending, and it is also in harmony with the content of the speech and the facial expression of the orator. The hand’s function is, first of all, to give the line of the beautiful gesture” (Cicero, 36).

Gestures can be expressive if the orator dares to move his or her elbows away from the body. The gesture expressed with elbows pressed to the sides of the body is meaningless, almost unnoticeable. That is why it is said that the shy orator’s courage goes to his or her elbows.

Therefore, gesture shall be usually made at chest and shoulder height, to make it more obvious. Only upward gestures can reach higher.

The face of the orator must never be hidden by the gesture. The hand in front of the face both breaks the sound and prevents the audience from seeing the facial expression and the gaze.

Gesture shall be held for a while because it is not only to be noticed, but also to be understood, to be interpreted. The slightly prolonged gesture makes the orator feel more secure. When an orator uses hectic gestures, it is like trying to catch flies while flying. Hectic gesture makes the audience feel like they shall think in a hurry, while unnecessarily slowed gesture makes them feel like they are posing.

If both hands are used simultaneously, the hands should not make the same gesture at the same time. […] Just look at a conductor! The right hand provides the beat, the left hand gives the colour, the dynamics. He rarely conducts with both arms. – The orator is the conductor of the audience’s attention. Thus, the hands move slightly asynchronously, in “late reaction” compared to each other. This can make the gestures more diversified and expressive.

Relatively speaking, it is easier to tell what the speaker should not do than what they should do. Indeed, body language depends on the personality of the individual, but it also depends on the characteristics of the person’s nation and native language. Body language changes from culture to culture, and even from historical times: nowadays, there is a tendency towards simplicity in all areas (architecture, fashion, speech); orators prefer to speak in a simplified style, and their gestures are more restrained. The use of gestures also depends on the speech type: there is no need for special body language in a funeral oration, but in a political speech; but this again depends on the orator’s personality, the content, and the audience. It is also often recommended that if the orator is unable to use expressive gestures, it is better to do nothing.

Gestures can be classified in several ways. They are often classified as intellectual and emotional gestures: intellectual gestures are more explanatory, such as the Fénelon gesture (named after the French writer of the 18th century); while emotional gestures are more impulsive. Benedek Szitás classifies the gestures according to the five types of sentences, taking as a basis the main intention (in pragmatic terms: speech act) expressed by the five types of sentences: the typical gestures of stating, questioning, exclaiming, requesting, wishing, and there are many variations and shadings within these five types. It is also difficult to classify them in groups because gestures merge together (see Adamik–Jászó–Aczél, 203–208). Klasszikus magyar retorika (Classical Hungarian rhetoric) describes the following gestures: pointing gestures, summarizing listing, and proving, explaining gestures, expressing opposition and negation, questioning gestures, gestures of exclamation and indignation, exhortation, rejection, and gestures expressing emotion (462–463).

In conclusion, it should be highlighted that word and gesture are dependent on each other; Shakespeare expressed this relationship most clearly when he wrote the following instruction to the First Actor in Hamlet: “The action should be adapted to the word, the word to the action, taking particular care not to offend the modesty of nature” (cited by Benedek Szitás 2009).

The point is to create and maintain balance, as Hamlet warns the actors (Shakespeare: Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 2):

Hamlet Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue; but if you mouth it, as many of our players do, I had as live the town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently; for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, whirlwind of your passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. O, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious, periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, (who for the most part are) capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb shows and noise. I would have such a fellow whipped for o’erdoing Termagant. It out-Herods Herod. Pray you, avoid it.

Player I warrant your Honor.

Hamlet Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion be your tutor. Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance, that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature. For anything so o’erdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature, to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure. Now this overdone or come tardy off, though it makes the unskilful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve, the censure of the which one must in your allowance o’erweigh a whole theater of others. O, there be players that I have seen play and heard others praise (and that highly), not to speak it profanely, that, neither having th’ accent of Christians nor the gait of Christian, pagan, nor man, have so strutted and bellowed that I have thought some of nature’s journeymen had made men, and not made them well, they imitated humanity so abominably.

Player I hope we have reformed that indifferently with us, (sir).

Hamlet O, reform it altogether! And let those that play your clowns speak no more than is set down for them, for there be of them that will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh too, though in the meantime some necessary question of the play be then to be considered. That’s villainous and shows a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it. Go make you ready.

Before discussing the development of speaking technique, speech impediments shall be mentioned (they should not occur at this level), and pronunciation errors shall be presented, along with some useful tips for a proper and effective delivery style.

About the speech impediment in brief

A speech impediment is a significant deviation from the pronunciation norms of both the speaker and the speaking community. Speech impediments belong to the class of speech disorders. A speech impediment is a disorder of speaking ability, such as aphasia, which is the partial or total loss of the ability to speak, and dysphasia, which is the failure to develop the ability to speak. Speech impediments shall be corrected by a speech and language therapist. The articulation base is developed by the end of childhood; therefore, it is difficult to correct speech impediments from adolescence onwards, but it is not hopeless. Indifference in society is also a problem: people unfortunately do not care about correcting speech and pronunciation errors, and the media often show announcers with poor speaking skills, and it is feared that people will get used to incorrect, sloppy speech and see it as an example to follow.

Speech impediments are the following: 1. voice production errors (dysphonia, compressed voice, deep voice), 2. voice production errors (lisping, nasalization), 3. speech continuity disorders (babbling, stuttering, stammering, popping). They are not dealt with because they do not occur at this level, although we may hear a slight burring, hissing, nasalization, stammering that stretches all the sounds or popping that shortens everything.

Pronunciation errors

A pronunciation error is a minor deviation from the community’s pronunciation norm, but not a speech impediment. Speech impairments and pronunciation errors are sometimes difficult to separate, especially in the case of lisping. Public speakers are usually not very speech impaired; however, they are more likely to have different types of pronunciation errors, and therefore it is necessary to deal with pronunciation errors in more detail. They can be improved in any case, so they need to be brought to attention.

Over the last century, the Hungarian speech has become more monotonous. This is explained by psychological factors, by emotional constriction. Symptoms are extremely different: either uncharacteristic, quiet, husky mumbling, speech without intonation, or loud, violent shouting, sometimes shock-like sounds. Both are monotonous in their own way and affect the clarity of speech. Very few people can speak loudly and clearly; however, they modulate and change their voice with great flexibility. There have been significant changes in speech in the following areas: the pace of speech has accelerated; the written form affects pronunciation, resulting in letter skipping; closed-mouth speech has become very common, and in such speech the formation of almost all sounds is distorted, making them difficult to understand; there are also problems with speech sounds; recently there have been many problems with emphasis and the formation of melodies in sentences.

There is a striking change in the speech pace. This may be because our language has become more and more dominated by analytical structures (subordinate clauses), phrases and long words. The resulting slowdown is instinctively balanced by a faster speech pace. Acceleration is not a reflection of our fast-paced age. However, the fast pace of the commercials and sometimes the presenters probably has an impact. There may also be an ethical issue behind this problem: the speaker with turbo speed does not consider their partner and does not care whether they are understood. Rapid speech is also harmful because sounds are lost and shortened, not only the tempo but also the sound production is distorted.

Speaking according to spelling means that the speaker says tudja, útja instead of [tuggya], [úttya], so they do not apply the sound laws in pronunciation, they speak according to the spelling. In some cases, the pronunciation is close to the spelling. The lj sounds should be pronounced jj according to the complete assimilation, although nowadays both solutions are accepted: [éjjen] or [éljen]. It is also the case in one kind of fusion: [eccer] or [etyszer]. This means that the handwriting is constantly influencing the pronunciation; however, it is also true that pronunciation variations are sometimes stylistic variations. The folk poem should start as follows: [eccer] egy királyfi mit gondolt magában… (Allegedly the writer Lajos Nagy said the following while playing chess: eccer élünk, eccer élünk, egy parasztot lecerélünk.)

It is also difficult to understand the speech with a closed mouth. External signs of such a speaker can also be recognised: hardly opened lips, rigid or sluggish jaw movements. In such speech, the sounds are also shortened, the r is not clear, and the formation of rustling and hissing sounds slips forward, the intonation becomes monotonous. Closed-mouth speech can be improved. Based on our observations, speech is more open during free speech than during reading; therefore, recitation and memorization are very important. However, the problem is more complicated: it is closely associated with communication etiquette, eye contact, polite posture, and behaviour in general.

There may be several variations in the formation of speech sounds. In the case of vowels, the vowels produced in middle tongue position may be pronounced more closed or more open, so we can hear szíp instead of szép, or baland instead of bolond. There is also an á sound that bends into é, which was formerly called “rikkancs-á” or “kalauz-á”: újsééég. Some people pronounce a labial, short á sound instead of the typical Hungarian a sound. The most common is the labialized, a-like pronunciation of e. It was formerly called Böbe baba’s e sound after the speaking style of the television character. Indeed, this is often heard in the speech of young girls these days. There are several problems with the production of consonants. The voiceless pronunciation of voiced consonants is a serious mistake, as it destroys one of the characteristics of our language, the voiced-voiceless opposition. Open nasal speech also contradicts the nature of our language. Unfortunately, many people find it beautiful, maybe because of the influence of American English on the one hand, and a particular style of singing on the other. Some presenters also have a nasal sound, though to a slight extent. The s and sz sounds in many people’s speech are whispered, hissed, and whistled because of the closed mouth. The most annoying is the blurring of the r sound: due to the poor articulation, speakers hardly roll it, especially when it comes between two vowels, but it remains with consonants: epres, trombita. The pronunciation of the voiceless plosives p, t, k with the letter h is unusual, but it does occur: khérem, thélen. There is a more recent phenomenon of v being formed with two lips between two vowels (like the pronunciation of English w): Éwa, and the weakening of the strongly pronounced plosive vowel g, also between two vowels: iγen. This may also be the result of poor articulation.

The major problem in the formation of speech sounds results from length errors, which also damage the character of our language, since it is characterized by the role of the long-short opposition to distinguish meaning: kor ↔ kór, szál ↔ száll. The most delicate vowel lengths are í, ú, ű, because among our long vowels, the ones produced with the upper position of the tongue are the shortest in absolute length. To make it more complicated, they are always short [ut, kut, buza, irás] in most of the Transdanubian region, and long in the eastern part of the country, where they are not in the colloquial language [lúdas, íge, hívatal]. In the capital, the duration of the vowels produced with the upper position of the tongue is highly inconsistent, and care should be taken to ensure the length of the following words: cím, díj, csík, íz, hús, húsos, húg, húga, szín, színes, színész, szív, szíves, tíz, tízes, húsz, húszas, vízi, vízilabda, tűzi. However, the short pronunciation of the other long vowels is becoming more common, making many people’s speech rhythmless and jumpy. The shortening of long consonants is also disturbing: viszonthalásra – it is often said on TV. Unnecessary consonant stretching is also incorrect [ellem, jappán]. By stretching the consonant between two vowels, the first vowel is shortened: [nyillik, mullik, rolla]. This type of stretching is sometimes considered to be a mannerism: [hössök, közzönség].

So, according to the colloquial norm, the following words should be pronounced with a short consonant in the middle: elem, köpeny, kopaszt, hegeszt, bakancs, szőlő, szalag, vajon, héja, lője, utána, minél (but: mennél); the s-sz personal pronoun of the second person singular should always be written short, even though it is often pronounced long: hallasz (but: jössz). Only in the following cases is the consonant pronounced lengthened differently from the written form: lesz, kisebb, egy (egyes, egyelőre, but short in words egyenlőre, egyetem); dz (edzi, bodza, madzag) and dzs (in the verb bridzsel, it is pronounced similarly to the conjugated noun: briddzsel játszik) between two vowels are always long.

Long consonants cannot be next to consonants in the pronunciation, thus in the following words, we pronounce long consonants short: jobbra, sokallta, arccal. Half-length or long pronunciations of shortened consonants are considered as letter skipping.

Emphasis errors can cause a lot of problems, therefore these need to be dealt with in a little more detail. Emphasis means that certain syllables are stressed more than others. In the text, there are stressed and unstressed syllables compared to each other. There are three types of emphasis: historical or traditional emphasis, emotional emphasis and conceptual or logical emphasis.

Historical emphasis is fixed and free. In the languages with a fixed emphasis, the emphasis is always on a particular syllable of the word: in Hungarian, the first syllable is stressed, in French the last, in Polish the penultimate. In the languages with free emphasis, there is no specific place for the emphasis, such as Russian, English. This means that in Hungarian, when we emphasize a word, we should always put the emphasis on the first syllable, the first syllable of the verb, and the first syllable of the compound word. There is a new phenomenon of shifting emphasis: many people – even professional speakers – shift their emphasis backwards: felszólal, összetartozik, Magyarországon; emphasizing suffixes is an even more serious mistake (in addition, it also has a more elevated, singing intonation): parlamentben, repülővel. It may happen. Emotional emphasis differs from historical emphasis, exceptionally: megőrülök. Conceptual or logical emphasis can be used in oppositions: nem tizenegy, hanem tizenkét forintban kerül. These are reasonable differences; the historical emphasis on the Hungarian language should not be changed. Not only because it causes comprehension problems, but also because it is more disturbing to the listener if there are pronunciation irregularities than grammatical ones, for example, bad pronunciation is more disturbing than bad agreement.

A word may lose its phonetic independence in coherent speech, and its emphasis. We do not speak isolated words, but sentences. Part is a word or group of words that is pronounced without a pause, and pronounced as a whole, with one stress. In the part, the words are not stressed; the stress is on the first word of the part: Az | üzletbe megyek, | kenyeret veszek. The strongest section emphasis is called the sentence emphasis: A szép zenét | gyakran hallgatjuk. A sentence without sentence emphasis is called an unstressed sentence. Emphasizing rules are not easy to specify, because emphasis depends on the meaning of the sentence, on the actual phrasing. It is against emphasizing rules if the speaker does not emphasize anything or emphasizes everything: both mistakes lead to monotony and make understanding difficult.

However, some emphasizing rules can be specified. The emphasis does not usually depend on the part of speech; however, there are always stressed and always unstressed words. Interrogative pronouns, interrogative adverbs, negatives, prohibitives and interjections are stressed. In general, article, pronouns, singular (unpaired) conjunctions and prefixes are unstressed. Emphasis does not depend on the phrase at all, but some phrases are subject to stressing rules, such as the adverb. Distinctive adjective is stressed: fontos kérdés, első osztály. Descriptive adjective is not stressed: megállék a kanyargó Tiszánál, kis Túr. Associated adjectives are stressed separately – just like listings in general – i.e.: szép, nagy hal, or if the first adjective applies only to the second adjective: borongó őszi nap; vagy ha az első jelző csak a második jelzőre vonatkozik: fekete kalapos nő. The explanatory phrase is always stressed: Itt van Jóska, a testvérem.

In the text, always the new communication is stressed (in the terms of speech act theory: the rheme is stressed, the theme is unstressed).

Intonation means the fluctuation of the musical height of the speech sounds during speech. While speaking, the vocal cords vibrate when vowels and consonants are formed. The faster the vocal cords vibrate, the higher the pitch is (the same happens at higher volume and pressure because the vocal cords are more tense: this phenomenon forms the basis of the relationship between emphasis and intonation). Factors of intonation are the following: pitch, interval, and tone.

Pitch is the average level of the speaking sounds. For each language, it cannot be defined as an absolute musical vocal pitch, but only in relation to everybody’s individual pitch. Men speak in a lower pitch, while women and children speak in a higher pitch. Pitch also depends on the personality and mood of the individual: serious people speak in a lower pitch than happy people. Thus, if the speaking voice has a relatively constant pitch for a certain period of time, it can have different pitches: high, medium and low. Intervals are related to pitch: a happier mood is associated with larger intervals, a sad mood with smaller ones, with a monotone character.

Tone refers to the the direction in which the pitch changes. It may vary from language to language and even from dialect to dialect. Tone may have three directions: rising, descending, steady or floating. Suddenly descending intonations are called falling tones, suddenly increasing intonations are called rising intonations. For descending and increasing tones the intervals are small, for falling and rising tones they are large. Tone can be achieved in all three pitches.

The important linguistic role of intonation is to make a sentence cohesive. In Hungarian, the intonation of the sentence is slightly descending. Only the melody of the open-ended question without the question word vajon, -e is rising-falling, because this is what distinguishes it from the declarative sentence: Elolvastad az esszét. (falling) Elolvastad az esszét? (rising-falling) But if there is an interrogative word in the sentence, it has a descending intonation: Elolvastad-e az esszét? Open-ended questions, of course, have a descending intonation: Mit olvastál tegnap? Mannerism means the rising-falling intonation of an open-ended question, and mannerism or strangeness means any intonation that is fluctuating, rising, or falling at the end of a sentence.

Stress and pronunciation serve to distinguish between the subject and the possessive adjective not marked with a suffix. In the first sentence, the newspaper name is the subject, followed by a pause, and then the predicate structure: A Magyar Nemzet | kulturális mellékletében beszámol az új könyvekről. The possessive adjective shall be combined with the possessive word: A Magyar Nemzet kulturális mellékletében | olvashatunk az új könyvekről.

Using tone, intervals, intonation, pitch, hard or soft tone of voice, pace of speech, we can express emotions, moods, create a speaking style; therefore, they are very important expressive tools.

There are two problems that must be highlighted. We often hear on TV or radio a mannerism: the speaker emphasizes the suffixes, and the emphasis is associated with a slight rise in the intonation. The other problem is squeaking. This strange phenomenon was described by Géza Ferenczy in the 1960s (1962). At the end of the sentence, the speaker drops the intonation, lowers the larynx, and makes a squeaky sound. The vocal cords do not close completely, creating small noises. According to Ferenczy, this is typical of intellectual women’s speech, and it expresses self-importance. We often hear it in the speeches of both the presenters and the interviewees.

Pauses are essential parts of the speech process. Speech is a continuous sequence of sounds and pauses. Pause can be a sequence break in the signal sequence, an information carrier. Pauses can be of different types, and may be independent of the speaker’s will, or dependent on it. Breathing pauses are independent of the speaker’s will. During the pause, speech is heard and interpreted, that is, it is processed, therefore, it is also a very important factor for perception. Hesitation pauses occur when the line of thoughts stops or takes a new turn. Sometimes hesitation pauses are filled with the speaker’s sounds (e.g., ums) or with filler words, which are also annoying in normal speech and should be avoided in public speech. Pause may also depend on the will of the speaker, for example, if the speaker wants to draw their partner’s attention to something, he or she may use dramatic pause. It is also often used by orators, but is not recommended to make it too long, because the audience may think that the orator has forgotten their speech, and it can also be mannered, especially if the orator pretends to have “great” ideas. The pause is also part of the rhythm, as in poetry or music, and can be used to say different shapes.

Punctuation marks also indicate breaks (full stops, semicolons, question marks, exclamation marks, dashes, and parentheses). The comma also serves this purpose, although we do not pause at every comma: Olyan, mint a rózsa. If we take a pause at the comma, we float the intonation, but shall not raise it. The inserted phrase is separated by intonation and/or a pause; this comma use should be “heard”: Az az ember, | aki tegnap járt itt, | hozta a virágot. Homonymous structures are broken up not only by emphasis and intonation, but also by pauses: the structure három, negyed négy felé broken up with a pause has a different meaning than the structure háromnegyed négy felé with a single emphasis.

Improving speaking technique

Speaking technique means the development of pronunciation, speaking training and pedagogical activity supporting delivery style. Its fields include breathing, sound production, suprasegmental production, text formation. But first, we should learn to listen! Our articulation base and the perception base are associated: we hear what we pronounce. If you do not pronounce the closed ë, you do not hear it; if you do not pronounce long vowels, you do not hear them; the situation is similar with speech impediments and pronunciation errors: they are not noticed by incorrectly speaking speakers, and in many cases, they are not even known. Therefore, a teacher who wants to improve speaking technique must first learn to “listen”; it is recommended to record and play back the students’ speech.

Orators have always been aware of the importance of speaking technique. Let’s take the example of Demosthenes. His voice was weak, his pronunciation was unclear, his breathing was interrupted, and this broke his complicated sentences, thus breaking his thoughts. He achieved the perfection that Cicero also appreciated through persistent and deliberate practice. Cornificius realized that talent is essential, but there is always a need for improvement: “Vocal pitch is primarily a gift of birth; it is enhanced to some extent, but mostly preserved by training. Volume is primarily the result of training; it can be somewhat improved, but most importantly preserved, by imitative practice. Vocal flexibility, that is, the ability to change your voice while speaking at will, is best developed through oratory practice. Therefore, regarding the vocal pitch and partly also the volume, since one is a gift of birth and the other the result of training, it is only worth saying that we should learn the technique from those who are skilled in this field.” (3, 11, 19–20). The professionals who were responsible for the orator’s voice and throat were called phónaszkoi in Greek, phonasci in Latin. There was an orator who had four laryngologists. In ancient times, there were no sound systems, therefore it was necessary to improve delivery style and speech techniques. Nowadays, the microphone substitutes for the volume, although in many areas effective, educated communication is needed, especially for actors, teachers, and presenters, as well as politicians. For this reason, speaking techniques and voice training are introduced in drama schools and studios, in teacher trainings and communication courses. Foniater specialists are responsible for the treatment of the larynx and the vocal cords therein and should be consulted with special problems (such as phonasthenia). Improving speaking technique consists of the following components.

  1. Breathing techniques are the basis. We distinguish between silent breathing and speaking breathing, depending on the purpose of the air that is inhaled and exhaled. Silent breathing is done through the nose, inhalation and exhalation duration are almost the same, and the average air flow in and out is 500 cm3. When inhaling, the inhalation is done more through the mouth; the inhalation is short and fast; the exhalation is long and slow. In addition, there is also technical breathing, which is used, for example, by actors, singers, and brass musicians. It is developed to reduce the inhalation time and increase the exhalation time, trying to achieve twice to three times the usual intake of 1000-1500 cm3 of air. Technical breathing can be developed through years of practice, by conscious and later automated increase of diaphragm muscle function, thereby increasing capacity. Relaxed muscle work is very important, it is not possible to develop speaking technique with strained muscles. Breathing is associated with the logical structuring of the text. Larger pauses and basic breathing should be taken at the boundaries of large unity of thought. We should take a pause, with more air, when we want to attract the attention of the audience. It is not allowed to break intellectual units that belong together by taking air; we must be careful not to run out of air where we should not.
  2. Sound triggering can be hard, medium, or soft. Speaking with a light, open articulation depends on a medium sound triggering. It is important to avoid the two extremes: a hard, aggressive sound triggering exhausts the vocal organs, especially the vocal cords; a soft sound triggering with h sound wastes air and makes the speaker prematurely out of breath. Of course, both hard and soft sound triggering can have an expressive role.
  3. Clear articulation meeting the norm of the Hungarian articulation base is an important factor of the delivery style. Zoltán Kodály believed that the strongly formed consonant r is the key to Hungarian articulation; if the articulation of r is poor – produced with only one roll instead of two or three – then the formation of the other sounds is also weak. Similarly, it is important to form á in a reasonably open way, and the openness of the other vowels depends on its openness. The goal is to achieve an open and clear (far-reaching) articulation. For speech technique, it is important to adjust these two sounds and then the others, and to correct speech and pronunciation errors, which should always be done by developing the correct sound; speech impediments should be corrected by a speech therapist. The incorrect pronunciation of the rustling (s, zs, cs, dzs) and hissing (s, z, c, dz) consonants, often with a strident sound, is a common problem. In some cases, it may help to practise the following vowels with deep vowels: sa, sá, as, ás (because of the law of alignment, the formation of rustling and hissing consonants slips backwards). Therefore, the words should be pronounced precisely, with good timing, audibly, but not in a fragmented way, not stretching out each vowel, or making each vowel – even the é and the á – short, popping.
  4. Supra-segmental factors are the following: emphasis, intonation, rhythm, pacing, pause, punctuation (border mark, we do not say this: a zanyám, a züllői úti fák), volume, tone of voice. (Their common name comes from the fact that they are above (in Latin: supra) the segments, that is, language units, and do not belong to any segment.) The speaker should also adapt to the pronunciation norms and the articulation base of the Hungarian language; however, these factors basically influence the delivery style and depend on many circumstances: interpretation, emotion. Clear sound production forms the basis, and the character of speech is defined by the supra-segmental factors.

The following publications offer good exercises in speaking techniques: Sándor Fischer: A beszéd művészete, Gondolat, 1966; Fischer Sándor: Retorika, Kossuth, 1975; Sándor Hernádi: Beszédművelés, Tankönyvkiadó, 1976; Imre Montágh: Tiszta beszéd. Beszédtechnikai gyakorlatok, Népművelési Propaganda Iroda, 1977; Imre Montágh: Figyelem vagy fegyelem?! Az előadói magatartás, Kossuth, 1986; Imre Montágh: Nyelvművesség. A beszéd művészete, Múzsák, 1989; Lajos Horváth: Tiszta beszéd. Balassi, 2008; Thoroczkay Miklósné: Beszédtechnikai gyakorlókönyv, Holnap, 2011. The volumes of the Old-new rhetoric series have been published annually since the first Kossuth oratory competition in 1999, and include the competition speeches, the winners with analysis, studies, and the best speech of the year. They are actually very informative. I cite the last one: A jövendő tükre. Retorika a gyakorlatban – Gyakorlat a retorikában. Ed. Tamás Lózsi és Zsombor Tóth M. Bp., MNYKNT – ELTE, 2021.


  • Acsay Ferenc. 1879. A prózai művek elmélete. Budapest: Kókai Kiadó.
  • Adamikné Jászó Anna. 2013. Klasszikus magyar retorika. Budapest: Holnap Kiadó.
  • Adamik Tamás–A. Jászó Anna–Aczél Petra 2004. Retorika. Osiris tankönyvek, Budapest: Holnap Kiadó.
  • A. Jászó Anna ed. 2004. A magyar nyelv könyve. Hetedik, átdolgozott és bővített kiadás. Budapest: Trezor Kiadó.
  • A. Jászó Anna ed. 2008. Az előadásmód és a szónoki beszéd. Budapest: Trezor Kiadó.
  • Balázs Géza. 2000a. Médianorma. A nyilvános megszólalás esztétikája. Budapest: Magyar Rádió Részvénytársaság Oktatási Osztálya.
  • Balázs Géza. 2000b. Médianyelv. Az igényes sajtó/média nyelve. Budapest: Magyar Rádió Részvénytársaság Oktatási Osztálya.
  • Balázs Géza. 2000c. Lehetséges nyelvi szabványok. Budapest: A–Z Kiadó.
  • Balázs Géza. 2008. „A média nyelvi hatásai.” 43–57. In Az előadásmód és a szónoki beszéd, ed. A. Jászó Anna. Budapest: Trezor Kiadó.
  • Balázs Géza. 2017a. „A média nyelvi normája: hagyjuk vagy fejlesszük?” 23–29. In Sajtónyelv – médianyelv, ed. Balázs–H. Varga. Budapest: Hungarovox.
  • Balázs Géza. 2017b. „Médianyelvi stílusok.” 53–56. In Sajtónyelv – médianyelv, ed. Balázs–H. Varga. Budapest: Hungarovox.
  • Buvári Márta. 2001. Kiejtési szótár és útmutató 15 magánhangzóval. Budapest: Bárczi Géza Értékőrző Kiejtési Alapítvány.
  • Elekfi László–Wacha Imre. (é. n. [2004]) Az értelmes beszéd hangzása. Mondatfonetika kitekintéssel a szövegfonetikára. Budapest: Szemimpex Kiadó.
  • Fekete László. 1995. Kiejtési szótár. Budapest: Nemzeti Tankönyvkiadó.
  • Fekete László. 2016. Magyar kiejtési nagyszótár. A 20-21. századi magyar köznyelvi kiejtés szótára. I–II. Budapest: Püski Kiadó.
  • Ferenczy Géza. 1962. „Egy terjedő kiejtési hiba: a »nyekergés«.” In Magyar Nyelvőr 86: 17–24).
  • Pease, Allan. 1989. Testbeszéd. Gondolatolvasás gesztusokból. Budapest: Park Kiadó.
  • Péchy Blanka. 1974. Beszélni nehéz. Budapest: Magvető Kiadó.
  • Szitás Benedek. 1977. A védőbeszéd. Budapest: Országos Ügyvédi Tanács.
  • Szitás Benedek. 2009. „A gesztus szerepe a szónoki előadásban.” 17–25. In A testbeszéd és a szónoklat, ed. A. Jászó Anna. Budapest: Trezor Kiadó.
  • Vértes O. András. 1987. Érzelmi világunk és a nyelv történeti változásának kölcsönhatása. Budapest: Magyar Nyelvtudományi Társaság. (A Magyar Nyelvtudományi Társaság Kiadványai, 179.)
Back to homepage

Related content

Greetings to the Reader

Zsolt Antal
Full text in PDF The “new rhetoric” is the blanket term that best describes the writings in this issue of Uránia. The new rhetoric can embrace all public speaking processes, such as public and artistic appearances, oral lore transmission, creativity, artistic expression, dramatic language, media language, TikTok or elevator speech, to highlight only the most important and interesting keywords from these writings. The studies, essays, book reviews and interview are closely related to the University of Theatre and Film Arts’ research in and teaching about the theory of art; and to the university’s mission to promote a high-quality performing arts culture. In her introductory essay, Anna Adamikné Jászó, a prominent figure in the revival and relaunch of rhetoric in Hungary, presents the characteristics of delivery. Delivery was discussed in rhetorics for centuries before it was separated from rhetoric and became a separate discipline. After Zoltán Kodály’s radio lecture in 1937 (On the deterioration of Hungarian pronunciation), delivery became virtually the exclusive field of study. The paper describes speech disorders, discusses pronunciation errors in detail, and offers specific examples and advice on improving speaking techniques. It criticises sight-reading (the whole-word approach) for undermining the culture of speech, the overuse of workbooks and worksheets, and misses positive role models in theatre and media. When appearing in public, anxiety may have a destructive effect on performance. Gergely Kisházy discusses the typical phenomena of this in his study: atypical speech sounds, speech positions, breathing sounds, sighing sounds, yawning sounds, nasal sounds, whispering sounds, dry mouth sounds, croaking sounds, coughing sounds, stomach sounds, belching sounds, hiccup sounds, sneezing sounds, laughing sounds… and gives advice on how to hide the symptoms of stress and reduce stage fright using suggestive communication. Géza Balázs gives an overview of the theory and practice of rhetoric as well as the speech training of actors and radio presenters in Hungary. He also draws attention to the underemphasised individuality of speech (idiolect) and to the expectations of public language use, speech on stage and in the media. In 1999, the national Kossuth Oratory Competition was launched at the initiative of Anna Adamikné Jászó. The aim of the competition is to foster and develop the use of the Hungarian mother tongue and the culture of speech, and not least to think together about rhetoric. With the help of the Petőfi Cultural Agency, the competition has been fundamentally renewed as from 2022, adding a TikTok or elevator speech in the online round and a debate culture task in the final at the National Theatre. In his paper, Ádám Pölcz, the main organiser of the competitions today, reviews the history of this oratory competition and the principles behind its renewal, giving advice to those preparing for the competition. The rest of the articles in this issue are related to rhetoric in a broader sense. Creativity and innovation could be the key words of connection in these writings. In his contribution, Zsolt Antal presents the Norwegian media model, which serves as a model for Europe in that, by adapting to the changes in social communication brought about by the information revolution and social networks, it successfully integrated global, profit-oriented social networks into the public service media system. Through this, Norway ensures that the public service media, which is very popular in the country, will continue to operate and survive as the best way to foster the mother tongue and national culture. The essay by Richard Gough examines the impact of Edward Gordon Craig and Eugenio Barba on the global performing arts scene. The schools they founded as realms of transformative discovery and creativity transcend cultural boundaries and continents. Linked to this is the review by András Timár of Eugenio Barba and Nicola Savarese’s The Five Continents of Theatre, which will be published for the 10th Theatre Olympics in Hungary in 2023. Instead of a linear-causal approach, the book uses a unique method to portray the history of the theatre in the world in an easy-to-read, mosaic-like way. In his essay Gábor Viktor Kozma explores Suzuki Tadashi’s unique theatrical thinking, with a special focus on his insights on the body and space. Creativity is the keyword of Ildikó Tamás, ethnographer and linguist, in her new book “Give me Net!” – Language, Imagery and Creativity in Children’s and Students’ Folklore. Géza Balázs recommends the book to all those who wish to know and understand the art of language in more depth. Zsolt Antal, Editor-in-Chief
Read more

How to prepare for the Kossuth Rhetoric Contest?

Ádám Pölcz
Abstract The aim of this study is to introduce the new genres of the renewed Kossuth Rhetoric Contest and to give theoretical and practical advice to those preparing for the contest on how to create a rhetorical presence. In this paper we briefly review the history of the rhetoric contest, the principles of its renewal, the classical and modern interpretation of rhetoric, and the importance of the debate culture. The theoretical background of the new genres (online video, debate) will be discussed in more detail. Keywords: speech contest, social media platform, presence, rhetoric, dialectics 10.56044/UA.2022.2.4.eng Full text in PDF
Read more