« PreviousContinue »
CRITICAL PRONOUNCING DICTIONARY,
EXPOSITOR OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE:
BUT WHERE WORDS ARE SUBJECT TO DIFFERENT PRONUNCIATIONS, THE AUTHORITIES OF OU'R
AT LARGE DISPLAYED, AND THE PREFERABLE PRONUNCIATION IS POIN T
To which are PREFIXED 1o.Thawy
TAB SOUNDS OF LETTERS, SYLLABLES, AND WORDS ARE CRITICALLY INVESTIGATED AND SYSTE
TITY, ON THE ACCENT AND QUANTITY OF THE ENGLISH, IS THOROUGHLY EX-
OF A CONSISTENT AND RATIONAL PRONUNCIATION,
FOR AVOIDING THEIR RESPECTIVE PECULIARITIES:
DIRECTIONS TO FOREIGNERS, FOR ACQUIRING A KNOWLEDGE OF THE USE
OF THIS DICTIONARY.
THE WHOLE INTERSPERSED WITH
OBSERVATIONS, ETYMOLOGICAL, CRITICAL, AND GRAMMATICAL.
"Quare, si fieri potest, et verba omnia, et vox, hujus alumnum urbis oleant: ut oratio Romana
planè videatur, non civitate donata" -QUINTILIAN.
TO WHICH IS ANNEXEV
BY JOHN WALKER,
STEREOTYPED BY B. AND J. COLLINS, NEW-YORK.
No. 230, Pearl-street.
FEW subjects bave of late years more employed the pens of every clasg of criticks, than the im provement of the English language. The greatest abilities in the nation have been exerted in rul tivating and reforming it; nor have a thousand minor criticks been wanting to add their mite of amend. ment to their native tongue. Johnson, whose large mind and just taste made him capable of enriching and adorning the Language with original composition, has condescended to the drudgery of disen. tangling, explaining, and arranging it, and left a lasting monument of his ability, labour, and patience: and Dr. Lowth, the politest scholar of the age, has veiled his superiority in his short Introduction to English Grammar. The ponderous folio has gravely vindicated the rights of analogy; and the light ephemeral sheet of news has corrected errors in Grammar as well as in Politicks, by slyly marking them in Italics.
Nor has the improvement stopped here. While Johnson and Lowth have been insensibly opera ting on the orthography and construction of our Language, its pronunciation has not been ne glected. The importance of a consistent and regular pronunciation was too obvious to be over looked; and the want of this consistency and regularity has induced several ingenious men to endeavour at a reformation; who, by exhibiting the irregularities of pronunciation, and pointing out its analogies, have reclaimed some words that were not irrecoverably fixed in a wrong sound, and prevented others from being perverted by ignorance or caprice.
Among those writers who deserve the first praise on this subject, is Mr. Elphinston ; who, in his Principles of the English Language, has reduced the chaos to a system; and, by a deep investiga tion of the analogies of our tongue, has laid the foundation of a just and regular pronunciation. After h
Kenrick contributed a portion of improvement by his Rhetorical Dictionary: in which the words are divided into syllables as they are pronounced, and figures placed over the vowels, to indicate their different sounds. But this gentleman has rendered his Dictionary extremely imperfect, by entirely omitting a great number of words of doubtful and difficult pronunciation those very words for which a Dictionary of this kind would be most consulted.
To him succeeded Mr. Sheridan, who not only divided the words into syllables, and placed figures over the vowels as Dr. Kenrick bad done, but, by spelling these syllables as they are pronounced, seemed to complete the idea of a Pronouncing Dictionary, and to leave but little expectation of future improvement. It must, indeed, be confessed, that Mr. Sheridan's Dictionary is greatly superior to every other that preceded it; and his method of conveying the sound of words, by spelling them as they are pronounced, is highly rational and useful.--But here sincerity obliges me to stop. The numerous instances I have given of impropriety, inconsistency, and want of acquaintance with the analogies of the Language, sufficiently show how imperfect* I think his Dic.. tionary is upon the whole, and what ample room was left for attempting another that might better answer the purpose of a Guide to Pronunciation.
The last writer on this subject is Mr. Nares, who, in his Elements of Orthoepy, has shown a clearness of method and an extent of observation which deserve the highest encomiums. His preface alone proves him an elegari writer, as well as a philosophical observer of Language: and his Alphabetical Index, referring near five thousand words to the rules for pronouncing them, is a new and useful method of treating the subject: but he seems, on many occasions, to have mistaken the best usage, and to have paid too little attention to the first principles of pronunciation.
Thus I have ventured to give my opinion of my rivals and competitors, and I hope without envy or self-conceit. Perhaps it would have been policy in me to have been silent on this head, for fear of putting the publick in mind that others have written on the subject as well as myself: but this is a narrow policy, which, under the colour of tenderness to others, is calculated to raise ourselves at their expense. A writer, who is conscious he deserves the attention of the Publick, (and unless he is thus conscious he ought not to write,) must not only wish to be compared with those who havo gone before bim, but will promote the comparison, by informing his ieaders what others have done, and on what he founds his pretensions to a preference; and if this be done with fairness and without acrimony, it can be no more inconsistent with modesty, than it is with honesty and plain dealing.
The work I have to offer on the subject has, I hope, added something to the publick stock; it not only exbibits the principles of pronunciation on a more extensive plan than others have done, divides the words into syllables, and marks the sounds of the vowels like Dr. Kenrick, spells tho words as they are pronounced like Mr. Sheridan, and directs the inspector to the rule by the word like Mr. Nares , but, where words are subject to different pronunciations, it shows the reasons from analogy for each, produces authorities for one side and the other, and points out the pronunciation which is preferable. In short, I have endeavoured to unite the science of Mr. Elphinst lig the ipethod of Mr. Nares, and the general utility of Mr. Sheridan; and, to add to these advar ko ges, have given critical observations on such words as are subject to a diversity of pronunciation, and bave invited the inspector to decide according to analogy and the best usage
But to all works of this kind there lies a formidable objection : which is, that the pronunciation of a Language is necessarily indefinite and fugitive, and that all endeavours to delineate or settle Hare in vain. Dr. Johnson, in his Grammar, prefixed to his Dictionary, says: “ Most of the
*Bee Principles, No. 124, 128, 129, 396, 454, 462, 479, 480, 550 ; and the words Assume Collece Coxetaus, Donartre fimhomera, Satiety, fc. and the inseparable preposition Dis.
"writers of English Gramran have given long tables of words pronowicand otherwise than they on
written; and secm not suficiently to have considered, that, of English as of all living tongues,
there is a double pronunciation one, cursory and colloquial; the other, regular and solemn “ The cursory pronunciation is always vague and uncertain, being made different in different " mouths, by negligence, unskilfulness, or affectation. The solemn pronunciativn, though by no " means iminutable and permanent, is yet always less remote from the orthography, and less liable " to capricious innovation. They have, however, generally formed their tables according to the ! cursory speech of those with whom they happened to converse, and, concluding that the whole "nation coinbines to vitiate language in one manner, have often established the jargon of the low" est of the people as the model of speech. For pronunciation, the best general rule is, to consider "those as the most elegant speakers, who deviate least from the written words."
Without any derogation from the character of Dr. Johnson, it may be asserted, that in these ob. scrvations we do not perceive that justness and accuracy of thinking for which he is so remarkable. It would be doing great injustice to him, to suppose that lie meant to exclude all possibility of conveying the actual pronunciation of many words that depart manifestly from their orthography, or of those that are written alike, and pronounced differently, and inversely. He has marked these differences with great propriety himself, in many places of his Dictionary; and it is to be regretted that he did not extend these remarks farther. It is impossible, therefore, he could suppose, that because the almost imperceptible glances of colloquial pronunciation were not to be caught and described by the pen, that the very perceptible difference between the initial accented syllables of money and monilor, or the final unaccented syllables of finite and infinite, could not be sufficiently marked upon paper. Cannot we show that cellar, a vault, and seller one who sells, have exactly the same sound ? or that the monosyllable full, and the first syllable of fulminate, are sounded different. ly, because there are some words in which solemnity will authorize a different shade of pronuncia. tion from familiarity? Besides, that colloquial pronunciation which is perfect, is so much the language of solemn speaking, that, perhaps, there is no more difference than between the same picture painted to be viewed near and at a distance. The symmetry in both is exactly the same; and the distinction lics only in the colouring. The English Language, in this respect, seems to have a great superiority over the French, which pronounces many letters in the poetic and solemn style that are wholly silent in the prosaic and familiar. But if a solemn and familiar,pronunciation really exists in our language, is it not the business of a grammarian to mark both? And if he cannot point out the precise sound of unaccented syllables, (for these only are liable to obscurity,) he may, at least, give those sounds which approach the nearest, and by this means become a little more useful than those who so liberally leave every thing to the ear and taste of the speaker
The truth is, Dr. Johnson seems to have had a confused idea of the distinctness and indistinctness with wlucht, 01 solemn or familiar Occasions, we sometimes pronounce the unaccented vowels; and with respect to these, it must be owned, that his remarks are not entirely without foundation. The English Language, with respect to its pronunciation, is evidently divisible into accented and unac. cented sounds. The accenied syllables, by being pronounced with greater force than the unaccented, have :heir vowels as clearly and distinctly sounded as any given note «in musick; whilo tue unaccented vowels, for want of the stress, are apt to slide into an obscurity of sound, which, though sufficiently distinguishable to the ear, cannot be so definitely marked out to the eye by other sounds as those vowels that are under the accent. Thus some of the vowels, when neither under the accent, nor closed by a consonant, have a longer or a shorter, an opener or a closer sound, according to the solemnity or familiarity, the deliberation or rapidity of our delivery. This will be perceived in the sound of the e in emotion, * of the o in obedience, and of the u in monument. In che hasty pronunciation of common speaking, the e in emotion is often shortened, as if spelt im-mofion; the o in obedience shortened and obscured, as if written ub-be-de-ence; and the u in monument, changed into e, as if written mon-ne-ment ; while the deliberate and elegant sound of these vowels is the long open sound they have, when the accent is on them in equal, over, and unit; but a when inaccented, seems to have no such diversity; it has generally a short obscure sound, whether endiag a syllable, or closed by a consonant. Thus the a in able has its definite and distinct sound; but the same letter in tolerublet goes into an obscure indefinite sound approaching the short u; nor can any solemnity or deliberation give it the long open sound it has in the first word. Thus, by distinguishing vowels into their accented and unaccented sounds, we are enabled to see clearly What Dr. Johnson saw but obscurely; and by this distinction entirely to obviate the objection.
Equally indefinite and uncertain is his general rule, that those are to be considered as the most elegant speakers who deviate least from the written words. is certain, V vhere custom this ought to take place; and if the whole body of respectable English speakers were equally dia vided in their pronunciation of the word busi, one half pronouncing it bew-ze,t and the other half biz-ze, that the former ought to be accounted the most elegant speakers, but till this is the case, the latter pronunciation, though a gross deviation from orthography, will still be esteemed the most elegant. Dr. Johnson's general rule, therefore, can only take place where custom has not plainly decided; but, unfortunately for the English Language, its orthography and pronunciation are so widely different, that Dr. Watts and Dr. Jones lay it down as a maxim in their Treatises on Spell. ing, that all words which can be sounded different ways, must be written according to that sound which is most distant from the true pronunciation; and consequently, in such a Language, a Pro nouncing Dictionary must be of essential use.
But still it may be objected to such an undertaking that the fluctuation of pronunciation is so great as to render all attempts to settle it useless. What will it avail us, it may be said, to know the pronunciation of the present day, if, in a few years, it will be allered? And how are we to know even what the present pronunciation is, when the same words are often differently pronounced by different speakers, and those perhaps of equal numbers and reputation? To this it may be an. sivered, that the fluctuation of our language, with respect to its pronunciation, seeins to have been greatly exaggerated. Except a very few single words which are generally noticed in the following
See the words Collect, Command. Despatch, Domestick, Efface, Ocaso. 1 Principles, No. 83, 545. t Principles, No. 178.
The old and new 'Arêts, with all the various dialects, must have occasioned infinite irregularity in the prouinclatta of the Greek tongue; and if we may judge of the Lain progunciation by the ancient inscriptions, it was little less va vious ard irregular than the Greek. Aulus Gellius tells us, that Nigidius, a gramruar in who lived a little more thar. o centary before him, accented the first syllable of Valeri; bus, says he, si quis nups Valerium appellans in casu v
sanii secuperum id praxeptuin igidii acuerit primam iron abrit quin ridicarur." W oever now should place the Dictionary, and the words where e comes before r, followed by another consonant, as merchants service, &c. the pronunciation of the language is probably in the same state in which it was a cen tury ago, and had the same attention been then paid to it as now, it is not likely even that change would have happened. The same may be observed of those words which are differently pronounced Dy different speakers: if the analogies of the language had been better understood, it is scarcely conceivable that so many words in polite usage would have a diversity of pronunciation, which is at once so ridiculous and embarrassing; nay, perhaps it may be with confidence asserted, that if the analogies of the language were sufficiently known and so near at hand as to be applicable on inspection to every word, that not only many words which are wavering between contrary usages Fould be settled in their true sound, but that many words, which are fixed by custom to an im proper pronunciation, would by degrees grow regular and analogical, and those which are so al. ready would be secured in their purity, by a knowledge nf their regularity and analogy.
But the utility of a work of this kind is not confined to those parts of language where the impro. prietv is gross and palpable: besides such imperfections in pronunciation as disgu t every ear not accustomed to them, there are a thousand insensible leviations, in the more minute parts of lan guage, as the unaccented syllables may be called, which do not strike the ear so forcibly as to mark any direct impropriety in particular words, but occasion only such a general imperfection as gives a bad impression upon the whole. Speakers with these imperfections pass very well in cominon con. versation; but when they are required to pronounce with emphasis, ang for that purpose to be more distinct and definite in their utterance, here their ear fails tht m; they have been accustomed only to loose cursory speaking, and, for want of firmness of pronunciation, are like those painters who draw the muscular exertions of the human body without any knowledge of anatomy. This is one reason, per. haps, why we find the elocution of so few people agreeable when they read or speak to an while so few ofsend us by their utterance in common conversation. A thousand faults lie concealed in a miniature, which a microscope brings to view ; and it is only by pronouncing on a larger scale, as publick speaking may be called, that we prove the propriety of our elocution. As therefore, there are certain deviations from analogy which are not at any rate tolerable, there are others which only, as it were fumish the pronunciation, and make it less brilliant and agreeable. There are few who have turned their thoughts on this subject, without observing that they sometimes pronounce the same word or syllable in a different manner': and as neither of these manners offend the ear, they are at a loss to which they shall give the preference; but as one must necessarily be more agreeabl analogy of the language than the other, a display of these analogies, in a Dicionary of this kind, will immediately remove this uncertainty ; and in this view of the variety we shall discover a fitness in one mode of speaking, which wi'l give a firmness and security to our pronunciation, from a confidence that it is founded on reason, and the general tendency of the language. See Principles, No 630, 547, 551, &c.
But, alas! reasoning on language, however well founded, may be all overturned by a single quo. ation from Horace :
usus, Quiem penes arbitrium est, et jus et norma loquendi.” This, it must be owned, is a succinct way of ending the controversy; and, by virtue of this argu. ment, we may become criticks in language, without the trouble of studying it: not that I would be thought, in the most distant manner, to deny that Custom is the sovereign arbiter of language ; far from it. I acknowledge its authority, and know there is no appeal from it. I wish only to dispute, where this arbiter has not decided; for, if once Custom speak out, however absurdly, I sincerely acquiesce in its sentence.
But what is this custom to which we must so implicitly submit? Is it the usage of the multitude of speakers, whether good or bad? This has never been asserted by the most sanguine abettors of its authority. Is it the usage of the studious in schools and colleges, with those of the learned profession
eir elevated birth or station, give laws to the refinements and elegancies of a court ? To confine propriety to the latter, which is too often the case, seems an injury to the former; who, from their very profession, appear to have a natural right to a share, at least, in the legislation of language, if not to an absolute sovereignty. The polished attendants on a throne are as apt to depart from simplicity in language, as in dress and manners; and novelty, instead of custom, is too often the jus et norma loquendi of a court.
Perhaps an attentive observation will lead us to conclude, that the usage which ought to direct us, is neither of these we have been enumerating, taken singly, but a sort of compound ratio of all three. Neither a finical pronunciation of the court, nor a pedantic Græcisni of the schools, will be denominated respectable usage, till a certain number of the general mass of speakers have acknowledged them; nor will a multitude of common speakers authorize any pronunciation which is reprobated by the learned and polite..
accent on the first syllable of Valerius, when a vocative case, according to the precept of Nigidius, would set every wwdy a laughing. Even that highly polished language the French, if we may believe a writer in the Encyclopédie, is little less irregular in this respect than our own.
"Il est arrive," says be, “ par les alterations qui se succedent rapidement dans la manière de prononcer, et les corrections qui s'introduisent lentement dans la manière d'écrire, que la prononciation et l'écriture ne marchest point enisemble, et que quoiqu'il y ait chez les peuples les plus policés de 'Europe, des sociétés d'hommes de lettres chargés do les modérer, de les accorder, et de les rapprocher de la même ligne, elles se trouvent enfin à une distance inconceva. ble : ensorte que de deux choses dont l'une n'a été imaginée dans son origine, que pour représenter fidelemnect l'autre, celle-ci ne differe guère moins de celle-là, que la portrait de la même personne peinte dans deux ages très éloignés. Enfin l'inconvénient s'est accru à un tel excès qu'on n'ose plus y remédier. On prononce une langue, on écrit une aus tre; et l'on s'accoutune tellement pendant le reste de la vie à cette bizarrerie qui a fait verser tant de larmes dang Sepsance, que si l'on renonçoit à sa mauvaise orthographie pour une plus voisine de la prononciation, on ne reconnct troit plus la langue parlée sous cette nouvelle combinaison de caractères. S'il y en a qui ne pourroierit se succeder said une grande fatigue pour l'organe, ou ils ne se rencontrent point, ou ils ne durent pas. Ds sont écbappes de la langue par l'euphonie, cette loi puissante, qui agit continuellement et universellement sans égard pour l'étymologie et ses dé lenseurs, et qui tend sans intermission à amener des eres qui ont les vêmes organes, le même id!ôme, les même souvemens prescrits, d-peu-près à la même prononciation. Les causes dont l'action n'est point interrompue, devien bent toujours les plus fortes avec les tems, quelques foibles qu'elles soient en elles-mêmes, et il n'y a presque pas un seule voyelle, une seule diphthcngue, une seule consonne dont la valeur soit tellement constante, que l'euphonie n'eu puisse disposer, soit en altérant le son, soit en le supprimant."
I shall not decide upon the justness of these complaints, but must observe that a worse picture could scarcely be drawn of the English, or the most barbarous languaye of Europe. Indeed a degree of versatility seems involver the very nature of language, and is one of those evils left by Providence for man to correct. a love of order, and the ulity of regularity, will always incline him to confine ihly versatility within as narrow bounds as possible