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Mons. JOURDAIN. Apprenez-moi l'orthographe.
M. Jourdain. Apres, vous m'apprendrez l'almanach pour savoir quand il y a de la lune, et quand il n'y en a point.
M. Jourdain. R, R, Ra; R, R, R, R, Ra. Cela est vrai. Ah! l'habile homme que vous êtes ! et que j'ai perdu de temps ! R, R, R, Ra. LE MAITRE DE PHIL. Je vous expliquerai a fond toutes ces curiosités.
MOLIERE: L: BOURGEOIS GRXTILHOMME.
In a former number I spoke of the confusion prevalent in the orthog. raphy and pronunciation of our language. Is there any possibility of remedying this confusion ? Yes. There is a physical possibility, linked, I fear, with a moral impossibility. And excuse me if I dwell awhile on a distant and questionable possibility, as feasible however, and as near, I am afraid, as the realization of the hopes indulged by some ardent philanthropists, who think they now see the day when the nations shall learn war no more.'
That confusion will cease at the appearance of some great philologi. cal Bacon, whose practical spirit will be guided by inductive reasoning to the first principles of phonological writing, and whose sweeping syn. thesis will bring the discordant elements of our orthographical chaos under the dominion of uniform and universal laws. Or perhaps it will vanish on the decision of some venerable lingual synod, like that learned assembly which put forth our matchless version of the Bible.
Such an assembly convening from all quarters of Englishdom, and sacrificing their local jealousies on the altar of the public good, will command respect by their disciplined learning, confidence by their impartial deliberations, and obedience by their final and entire unanimity. Such a convention will ordain changes far more radical than those proposed by Grimke, which, although mostly as rational as they were beneficial, were nevertheless rejected. The improvements adopted by Webster, few in number and projected on a narrow scale, yet as numerous and extensive as the temper of the times would bear, that convention will carry through every portion of the hideous and thorny wilderness. I will now predict some of their enactments. The prophecy will be
but a rude sketch ; because, as a schoolman might say, why expend labor and strength on what is in posse' as if it were in esse ? The edifice, though founded, as I believe, on an indestructible basis, is as yet a mere .castle in the air;' and since it may never descend from its cloudy perch to rest among the actual dwellings of men, why elaborate the embellishments, or take even a minutely faithful model of the plan? I will therefore present some leading features, accompanying them by a few words of illustration and defence.
Their first enactment will be a declaration of independence, a total renunciation of allegiance on the part of the English language to any foreign tongue. It will decree that all slips from ancient or modern nurseries, on being transplanted into our garden, shall be trimmed to a perfect resemblance in form with their new brethren.' The Greeks and Romans in deriving words from each other usually adapted those derivatives to the genius of their respective tongues. Many modern nations have naturalized terms from the Greek and Latin in the same rational manner. The Italians and Spanish spell all words derived from the Greek in o with an f, which is its exact equivalent. Thus: filosofia. And why do not we write “filosofy,' with a little more of visible goodsense, and a little less parade of learning ? (I say nothing at present of the useless y,' which is also dropped by those nations.) Why do we endenizen “phthisis' in a dress so absurd in itself, and so utterly antiEnglish? Why not, like the Spanish, spell it tisis? Or if we wish to write and pronounce it thisis, why not be consistent enough in its deri. vative phthisical,' to write and pronounce it thisical ? I forbear to multiply instances. It is a sickening task.
Again; the continental nations, in borrowing expressions from one another, generally accommodate them to the orthography of their several languages. For example: the French 'adieu' and the Spanisha Dios,' were doubtless taken from the Italian ó addio,' and so altered as to present a self-evident sense to the eye of the French or Spanish reader. But the English adopt the French adieu unchanged, and thereby occasion a new anomaly in the language - that most senseless thing, a triphthong in ieu, pronounced exactly like the single vowel u. If we wish the acquaintance of adieu,' the cold and polished stranger, to the exclusion of our own expressive ' farewell' and tender "good-bye,' why not write adu? This specimen will enable the reader to discover others for himself. • Ex uno disce omnes.' In other examples we have, in. deed, altered the original orthography, but, ever studious of absurdity, we have made them still more preposterous than we found them. Thus, in Anglicising the French vue and revue, we have represented the plain ue by the ridiculous iew, as view, review.
Now, can any valid objection be urged against the expression of alien words in an orthography strictly accordant with the ancient and legitimate terminations and forms of our language? What is the conceivable advantage of retaining the original spelling? Do we wish to preserve legible marks by which the etymologist may at a glance discover the origin of every word ? Cui bono? If this be a desirable object let us pursue the attainment of it consistently, not only through those words derived from the Greek, the Latin, and the modern tongues, but also
through those which sprung from the kindred, but half-extinct and wholly altered dialects of ancient northern Europe. Let us go back to the orthography of words as found in Drayton, Gower, and Robert of Gloucester, to show more visibly the manner of their growth from their Saxon roots. As we must rectify point' into ó punct,' to display its derivation from the Latin“ pungere,' and defeat' into.defaite,' to show its propagation from the French defaire,' so 'net,’ (any thing knitted,) we must write ' knet;' and 'farthing (the fourth part,) we must spell
fourthing.' We must carry through the same revolutionary process with all those ordinary words which the searching analysis of Horne Tooke has always so acutely, and in general, so successfully dissected. We must even remodel the orthography of the foreign languages, from which we borrow, because in those languages also Fashion, the great Disorganizer, has often neglected to spelĩ the derivative correspondently to its primitive. But I cannot see why we are to make our language a grand etymological dictionary, either to display or to rectify the errors and irregularities of other tongues. And if we cannot carry the system through, why commence it at all? What is the object of dressing our foreign derivatives in such a manner as to display their birth and kin. dred? Why keep them bundled in the swaddling-clothes of their cradle? To spell a word awkwardly or laboriously in order to preserve the marks of its origin is about as rational as it would be to cumber an elegant steam-ship with all the antiquated contrivances of fifty years since, in order that it might bear about a legible record of its experimental days. All we need is good, explicit
, convenient expressions, systematically arranged. Their nativity, travels, and mutations belong to philological history, and have nothing to do with our daily use.
But etymology is of vast importance in fixing the true uses and proprieties of language.' Granted. Then let the lexicographer show the origin and subsequent changes of a word with its primary and secondary applications; and if the present mode of use be incorrect, let him strive to turn the tide of custom. Let the English student note those de. rivations and explications, and let both him and his teacher spell and pronounce the word as the laws of our English idiom, aided by a little common sense, direct. The unlearned will know nothing of the sources of the words they employ, spell them as you will; and the learned, I take it, will recognize them, even though they be rationally clad. The Greek scholar will easily detect the expressions drawn from that most beautiful of tongues, whether they be disguised in French, or German, or Italian robes; and the mere English reader will be made never the wiser, though you not only spell them in the Greek mode, but print them in the Greek character.
The advantage to etymology then is nothing, while the inconveniences to orthography are great, arising from the adoption of the foreign spelling with the foreign word. Greek and Latin derivatives moreover have already varied very far from their original orthography to accommodate themselves to our language, and why not carry out the change to the point recommended by reason and convenience ? If we have so far altered the Greek. paidagogos' as to write it pedagogue,' why not extend the change and spell it, as it should be, 'pedagog?" It cannot be
pretended that the silent ue is in any manner a representative of the terminal os, nor is it employed to lengthen the syllable. Why not cut off the useless tail ? While the Greek character y is less similar in form to its duplex representative “ph' than it is to •fi' why not adopt the latter, its equivalent in sound, and occupying but half the space ? As our Saxon organs cannot pronounce the Greek x (ch) differently from k or c hard, why not always represent it by one of those letters ?
This enactment, intended to bring all resident foreigners under the dominion of our own revised laws, I think I have irrefutably shown to be rational. It would abbreviate and classify large numbers of words, now so inconvenient, irregular and unsightly. No one can oppose so happy an economy but some classic pedant who sees no beauty in the ancients, except because they are ancient; or some antiquarian biblio. maniac, who would become a proselyte to a pseudo-gospel could he find it printed on wooden-block in black-letter characters.
The second enactment, connected with and analogous to the first, will be that all words springing from the same root and being of the same class, shall be spelled in a uniform manner.' Then our language will no longer exhibit the unlearned absurdity, sanctioned by immemorial custom, of terminating indiscriminately in cede or ceed the words concede,' proceed, “recede,' succeed ;' all directly from the same Latin verb cedere,' to give place. Other examples are conceit,' receipt,' • recipe;' all from capere,' to take ; cord,' chord,' accord,'
monochord ;' all akin in their ground significations, and all indisputably derived from the Greek yopdn.'
Appended to this second enactment will be a recommendation that in the adoption of new words English writers, whenever practicable, shall take them immediately from Latin, and not mediately through the French — because the French is but an imperfect offshoot from that elder tongue; a comparatively meagre dialect; the child of yesterday; inferior in structure, barbarous in tones, and bounded in diffusion, while the Latin is not only more regular and complete in its forms, and more magnificent, melodious and flowing in its utterance, but is, in the words of its own lyric poet, “ monumentum ære perennius;' a stereotyped and universal language, unchanged by time, uncircumscribed in space.
The third enactment will discharge all supernumeraries from the English alphabet. Each letter shall perform its own appointed duties, and all sinecures shall be abolished. C soft shall be supplanted by his hissing brother S, and C hard shall always be a substitute for the idle dignitary K. G shall no longer be a pluralist, but one half of his duties shall be discharged by the neglected I. Z shall relieve the overbusied $ of his incessant toils. The Grecian Y shall be thrust back among the consonants, where he belongs, and shall be made to perform only the functions of the German J. In every other capacity his place shall be supplied by the equivalent I or E. After replacing the Siamese monster PH by the legitimate F, they will substitute the greek 8 (theta) for the sound of th in think, and the old Saxon Đ, or y, for the sound of th in this. The sound of the preposterous wh — truly and literally preposterous; for the cart is before the horse they will express by a single character representing hw; for instance, by the Næso
Gothic O. Wherever wh sounds like a simple h, they will of course write it a a simple h. All Greek words in ch will be written with c alone. The two sounds expressed by ch in church, and by sh, si, cio, tio, etc., as in shop, mission, vicious, propitious, etc., will have two distinct and simple characters to represent them respectively; as also the ringing intonation ng will be expressed by a single letter. These changes will not require much invention or skill. The simplicity and regularity resulting from them I pause not to illustrate. They are obvious at a glance.
In the fourth place, if they cannot succeed in abolishing ancient usage so far, as like the Germans, to appropriate to each vowel but one unvarying sound, they will, at least, imitate the Italians in banishing all silent letters. This enactment will obviate the idle necessity of employing three letters where two would answer the purpose equally well. Its result would be to relieve every writer of one third of the labor now requisite in papering his thoughts; and in print it would effect a large economy in size and price, by reducing every octavo to a duodecimo. The only silent letter left would perhaps be e, as used to distinguish a long from a short syllable, as 'fate,'• fat.' But I will say more on this point under the next head.
After the utility of the above enactments shall have been tested by experience, they will promulge a fifth, which will be but a consequence and extension of the fourth, or rather the condensed spirit of them all. It will decree that all syllables sounded alike shall be spelled alike, and reversely, that the spelling of every word shall correspond exactly with its sound.' This one sweeping law would at once render our orthography as regular and simple in its classification as is the nomenclature of botany or mineralogy. We should then behold in our orthoëpy that philosophical consistency which should reign in every rational science. The spelling of a word would be an infallible index to its pronunciation, and a disputed point might instantly be settled by a reference to its class, and an appeal to admitted and universal laws. At present a reference to classes and rules is utterly futile, since the anomalies outnumber all computation, and the appeal to custom will receive but an ambiguous or contradictory response.
As preliminary to a brief illustration of the change suggested, I will speak of our vowels. We have in the English language but seventeen vowel-sounds : four of a and o; two of e and i ; three of u, and the two compound sounds oi and ou. The sound of a in. fall,' and of o in for are so nearly identical that they may be called one; thus reducing the number to sixteen. In respect to the long and short sounds of a, e, i, o, and u, their distinction may be made visible to the eye by one of four plans:
First: The long vowel shall always be followed by a silent 'fate,' meet,' and the short vowel by a single consonant, as 'fat,'met.' The objection is that in many polysyllables the silent e must be followed by another e, to indicate the long sound of a ; as · hateer ; since the a in hater would be short.
Secondly: The long vowel being followed by one consonant, the short vowel may always be followed by two; as hat' (i. e. 'hate') met' (i.