Page images
PDF
EPUB

If then the genuine sound of the diphthong U, which Mr. D. calls an abortive imitation of the French U, be really not easy for English mouths to execute, after certain letters, with all the aid of the accent superadded, is it at all wonderful, that during the necessary repose of the organs (after the accent), the final syllables of censure, pressure, azure, feature, creature, verdure, nature, fortune, &c. should have assumed those sounds which Walker has assigned to them? Every page of his principles proves, that so far from promoting corruption and vulgarity, he has reluctantly followed the torrent of custom; and, where not too strong to be resisted, has with almost uniform success, interposed the natural barriers of accent and analogy. In his tsh and dzh, following the accent, more of the method than of the madness of language may be discovered. We cannot deny, that in some few instances, he may have mistaken the custom or overstrained the analogy, but as far as relates to the objections of our author, we confidently assert, appealing to the majority of the well educated and polite, the consensus eruditoruin,' the common law of language, recognized on both sides of the Atlantic, that it would now be as impracticable to get rid of the hiss and aspirate in nature, as to change the established pronunciation of nations. Mr. D. must at least controvert line by line, the admirable reasoning on this subject, contained in Walker's principles, before he can induce us to play upon his French flute.-The Roman orator was, we believe, named by his cotemporaries, Kikkero, by ourselves he is properly called Sissero; by the Spaniards, Thithero, and by the Italians Tshitshero. May not we then be sometimes permitted to use our ish, which, in the pronunciation of certain words, has had the sanction of polite usage for a century past, without being stigmatized as barbarous or vulgar, the former of which epithets, our author confesses

is much too soon and too easily applied, when we speak of sounds and of languages that we do not know." But why should he now become a stickler for the powers of particular letters? Has he forgotten his own assertion, that the sounds of our language can never be analysed unless they are as much as possible abstracted from the signs which represent them? The ear alone,' says he, should be listened to, nor suffer itself to be misled by the delusions of another sepse, which was given us for quite a different purpose from that of conveying ideas of sound to the mind.' Our orthoepists have indeed taken the ear for their guide; but have been led to the conclusion, that the pretended unlimited power of certain letters does not belong to them either by right or by custom.

If, according to Quintilian, fuerit penè ridiculum malle sermonem quo locuti sunt homines quàm quo loquantur,' what shall we say of Mr. D's standard, which, as far as we can refer to it, by collating his own statements, has never been sanctioned either by the opinion of a single respectable English critic, or by the practice of any admired speaker at the bar, on the stage, in the pulpit, or in the senate chamber. The standard,' says he, exists only in the language of solemn recitation, in which every sound is distinctly uttered. I have sought in that slow and distinct form of language in which a great number of hearers are to be addressed at the same time, and which necessitates the full articulation of every word and syllable. We must indeed confess that great licenses are taken and allowed in familiar discourse, but the best language of polite and serious conversation, is so perfect a model of English speech, that the orator who deserts its tones, or the poet who renounces its measures, justly incurs the imputation of ignorance or affectation. The artificial and monotonous grandiloquence of the French in solemn declamation or poetic recitation, into which are introduced sounds that have no existence in their colloquial medium, is perfectly disgusting to English ears and habits. Factitious quantities and accents are no more requisite to grace or give effect to the elocution of our players and poets, lawyers and judges, than are buskins, bays, gowns, or wigs, to maintain the dignity of their several professions. The genius of the language,' says Blair, in his Lectures on Eloquence, 'requires the voice to mark the accented syllables by a stronger percussion, and to pass more slightly over the rest. Now after we have learned the proper seat of these accents, it is an important rule to give every word just the same accent in public speaking as in common discourse. Many persons err in this respect. When they speak in public, and with solemnity, they pronounce the syllables in a different manner from what they do at other times. They dwell upon them and protract them. They multiply accents on the same word, from a mistaken notion that it gives gravity and force to their discourse, and adds to the pomp of public declamation. This is one of the greatest faults that can be committed in pronunciation. That almost equal siress upon all syllables which would enable an audience to distinguish between the last of cellar, and seller, and sailor, martyr and barter, and doctor, we confess we have no where heard, except, perhaps, in a foreigner's first lessons in reading; and if our advocate has ever attempted it in pleading, we cannot help thinking his elocution must have disturbed the gravity of the bench. He objects to Walker's monosyllabic denotement of raven, heaven, &c. by ravn, and hevvn, and unquestionably there is a very short vocal sound, distinguishable between the last two consonants; Mr. D. however, although undertaking to give a clear idea of the value of all the sounds existing in the English language,' has left us at a loss to discover to what class this vocal sound belongs. Walker was satisfied to fix its power in the organs, by directing the consonants to be nearly amalgamated; but our author would fix iť in the mental ear.' With equal success might he attempt to employ his acoustic instrument in ascertaining the exact value of the involuntary whisper heard after the words rob, neck, bad, big, look, and sup; which, as Mr. Mitford observes, no voice can make perfect monosyllables. The more we subtilize,' says an ancient sage, the nearer we get to nothing'-and if the important object' of Mr. D's essay, 'to save our language from corruption and barbarism,' can be effected only by such minute decompositions of airy nothings, small hopes, indeed, can be entertained of success.

The correct pronunciation of a language,' says he cannot be preserved, unless it is precisely fixed and ascertained, and that cannot be done unless all its component sounds are accurately known and clearly distinguished from each other. I have, therefore, endeavoured to analyse and distinguish by the ear only, all the various sounds which enter into the composition of the English oral language, to discriminate between those which habit and the opinions of masters, and above all, the errors produced by an imperfect alphabet, have taught us to consider as similar, although in fact different, and on the other hand to couple again together, those which differ only from each other in point of quantity or duration of utterance, but have been hitherto supposed to differ more essentially.'

We are really impatient to exhibit, without trespassing further on the reader's attention, some of the discoveries which our author has made, after expatiating in the boundless regions of ethereal sound: but the means he has adopted of conveying his results to the mental ear through the organs of sight,' must first be explained; and here the powers of our poor and despised alphabet are found to be indispensable.

• Although I have not found it an easy task,' says Mr. D. “to complete this analysis, a much greater difficulty still remained, which was to convey the result. I had no other instrument but the English alphabet, which is not only inadequate, but deceptive. How could I convey the idea of a particular sound but by means of the letter or letters which have been used to represent it? and how, when a particular sound (as is often the case), has no particular character or characters affixed to it? There was no possible way of getting over this difficulty but by devising a new instrument in lieu of alphabetical signs; but what instrument could I find that was not at least composed of those ireacherous and insufficient elements. After much reflection and deliberation, I have at last determined upon the following mode, of the imperfection of which, I am fully sensible, but it is not in my power to devise a better.

• Instead of representing sounds in the first instance by alphabetical characters, I have affixed to them proper names, each of which contains the particular sound which it is intended to designate. Thus, “ Aulifis the name of the vowel sound of its first syllable; Bee is that of the consonant with which it begins, &c. That the application of each name may be clearly understood, I subjoin to it the various letters and combinations of letters, by which each sound is expressed in the English language, exemplified by words in which they are found, and the pronunciation of which is, as much as possible, fixed and determined; and lastly, I distinguish between the different modes of expressing vocal sounds, according to their quantity, showing the various characters by which they are represented to the eye when long and when short.

Thus Í have, as much as possible, abstracted the idea of each sound from that of any particular character or set of characters, by fixing it, in the first instance, upon a proper name, and explaining it afterwards, by a variety of alphabetical signs, so as not necessarily to connect it with one more than another. If I succeed in my endeavour, which is to give a clear idea of the value of all the sounds existing in the English language, nothing will be 80 easy afterwards, as to affix signs to them, and an auxiliary table of characters, to be used only as an instrument by which to compare, fix, and ascertain the pronunciation of words, and as a key to pronouncing dictionaries, in lieu of the insufficient letters and figures that have hitherto been used.'— To our unphilosophical comprehension, this appears a very circuitous mode of conveyance. If the sounds to be learned, exist in certain words, why must we invent new ones, which, had they, perchance, already formed a part of our language, must have been rejected by the phonologist, as being composed of treacherous and delusive materials?

· Such solemn trifling,' to use an expression of our author, applied to certain grammarians,' is of no use whatever for the advancement of science. Let the names of things remain as they are, and let rather oud. studies be applied to the things themselves,' VOL. XIV.

5

Omitting a chapter of details, relating principally to the construction of a phonological alphabet, which may be more interesting to our au. thor's proselytes than it is to ourselves, who believe that the formation of between thirty and forty new signs, to be known by as many new names, and applied to our written language, without having recourse to any of the usual arts of English notation, will be a work of much greater difficulty and complexity than the ingenious projector imagines, we proceed to lay before our readers a brief sketch of Mr. D's analysis.

• I have not been able,' says he, to discover in the English language, more than twenty-nine pure, elementary sounds, of which seven are vocal, twenty-one organic, or consonant, and two are aspirations or spirits. I reckon seven pure, simple, elementary vocal sounds, to which I have given the arbitrary names Aulif, Arpeth, Airish, Azim, Elim, Oreb, Oomin, each name designating the vowel sound of its first syllable-I have thought proper to distinguish the quantity, and to separate the long pronunciation of each sound from the short one.

• The first vocal sound, Aulif, is variously represented in the orthog. raphy of the English language, according to its quantity. When long, it is represented by the following letters and combinations of letters.

1. By a in all, altar, alter.
2. By al in walk, talk, chalk.
3. By au in author, autumn.
4. By augh in aught, naughty.
5. By aul in baulk, caulk.
6. By aw in raw, saw, awkward, awful.
7. By awe in awe.
8. By o in fortune, mortal, orchard.
9. By ough in ought, thought.

- When short it is represented
1. By a in qualify, quality, equality.
2. By au in authority, autumnal, austere.
3. By o in God, pot, not, olive, rosin, osler.
4. By oa in broad, groat.
5. By ou in cough, trough.'

This is certainly a striking exemplification of the acknowledged irregularity of our written language; but let us ask our readers, whether, after having carefully articulated the first list of words, they are able to form any more precise idea of the long vocal sound, which is to be fixed in their ear and organs, than Walker gives them by referring to the sound of á in fall, and its equivalent, the sound of ò in nor, which Mr. Nares explains still more comprehensively, as the sound of a followed by ll, in every monosyllable in our language, except shall:-or whether the second list, expressive of the short sound of Aulif, be more satisfactory than Walker's ô in not? If Mr. Duponceau confines himself,' as he assures us he does (except, perhaps, in a few instances), to words and syllables, the quantity of which does not admit of doubt, but is generally admitted to be long or short, one example of each, must be as good as a thousand, and infinitely preferable to the numerous instances given by him, unless he be better prepared, monstrare viam erranti;' than the following note, upon his example not, would indicate.

• Mr. Walker,' he says, " distinguishes between the pronunciation of the vowel o in nor, and in not; the first he represents by Ò, and the last by ô. I acknowledge I cannot find any difference between these two sounds: to my ear they appear exactly alike. To our ear there is the same difference between nor and not, as between naughty and knotty; and our American readers will, we imagine, be no less astonished than ourselves, to find the o in fortune, admitted among Mr. D's long sounds of Aulif, while o in nor is excluded. The of Walker seems to have been a stumbling-block to our author, from the beginning of his discus. sion; and we cannot help thinking, that he still labours, in soine degree, under the same disability to sound it properly, as he informs us his countryman generally do, to sounding å. The English alphabet,' says he,' has no powers to express the French sound of the vowel a in car and par, nor can the French alphabet represent the short sound of the English a in hat, fat, a sound which, however to us it may appear sim ple, a Frenchman cannot utter without difficulty.'

Among the exemplifications of Aulif, we notice only three unaccented or unemphasized syllables. The term accent implying a comparison be. tween the sounds of syllables, uttered with different degrees of force, cannot, with strict propriety, apply to monosyllables; but as every mo. nosyllable emphatically pronounced by itself, has the same sound which it would have if forming the accented part of a polysyllable, we must consider every monosyllabic example of our author as accented, unless otherwise explained by him, namely, the first in authority, autumnal and austere, and why au in these words should appear among the short sounds, particularly when tried by Mr. D's standard of solemn recitation, we cannot conceive. In laurel, laudanum, and cauliflower, the English orthoepists have recognized the short sound corresponding with o in not. But our author's instances, if deliberately pronounced, should be among the long sounds; if rapidly, among the indistinct ones. The second vocal sound called Arpeth, corresponds, when long, with Walker's long sound a in far, and when short, with his short sound a in fat. The former cuincidence appears in every instance, the latter in two only, man and carry-between which and their associates, herd, learn, fir, sir, third and bird, merchant and terrible, we can discover no resemblance, nor can we do it between the first syllables of merchant and terrible; in the last of which words, the redı:plication of the r, causes ter to rhyme with the first syllable in merry, which the reader will find among Mr. D's exemplifications of the third sound.

In his explanatory notes, Mr. D. asserts, that Walker's mer-tshant, and Sheridan's antiquated mar.tshant, contain the same sounds, differing only in quantity, and that the a in bard, and i in bird, have a like affinity. • To bring this to a sure test,' says he, let the word bard be articulated, let its vowel sound a be prolonged, and then suddenly shortened, it will end with the sound of i in bird, thus, bā-ā-ū-ird.' Credimus quia impossibile est. We reluctantly confess we can discover nothing of utility in this infallible test, so different from that by which our author directed us to try the likeness between āll and hollow. By lengthening the o in hölloqu, our organs produced hall-ow, or by shortening the a in čll, produced oll. But to lengthen a sound already long, in order to arrive at a short one, is a refinement in phonological acoustics, which, with all our admiration for Mr. D's ingenuity, we cannot adopt. By the same rule, both the o in lord, or the oa in board, might end in ird, and so prove to be, likewise, the long sound of i in bird. In pronouncing rd, our author encounters again the dense atmosphere of thc letter r, which, as we

« PreviousContinue »