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of the mouth as the sh. Hence, in rapid pronunciation, the sounds pens-yon, and ment-yon, are easily exchanged for pene shon and men-shon ; while the pronunciation pointed out by the elements differs by a scarcely perceptible difference from the one in actual use, at the same time that it is more difficult.

Applying ourselves now, with this method of investigation, to an analysis of the elements themselves, we perceive, at once, that they divide themselves into two distinct classes, according as they do or do not involve any action of the vocal organs, properly so called. The class denominated mutes, and by Dr. Rush atonics, from their being destitute of all vocality, includes nine of the elements in the English language. These may be subdivided into those which have some sound, although not properly vocal, and those which have no sound whatever, and serve merely to modify the sound of other elements with which they happen to be combined. This class of elements, the mutes, allow also, as we shall see, of a similar arrangement and classification to that of the vocal elements, and bear striking analogies to them.

Another great distinction, and one that has ever been recognized, is that into vowels and consonants.* A distinction so long and so universally made in all languages, we should at once suppose, must have some ground to rest upon. What that ground is—in what the precise difference consists, is a question to which different, and, perhaps, sometimes absurd answers have been given. It is not strange that some have been led to doubt whether there is any distinction at all that can be defined, from seeing the unsatisfactory attempts to explain wherein it lies. Yet it is irrational to suppose that this general opinion of a distinction should be utterly unfounded in fact. We may reject the definitions, so long current, that a vowel is an element which can be perfectly sounded by itself, and that a consonant requires the aid of a vowel in order to be distinctly uttered; we may question the correctness of the theory which finds the distinc

There are serious objections to these denominations ; and the only reason for retaining them is, that they have been consecrated by long use. Dr. Rush's nomenclature of tonics, subtonics, and atonics, is likewise exceptionable in some respects. Mr. Duponceau calls the two classes organic and in. organic; which, although less significant, is more reconcilable with facts.

tion in the supposed rest of the organs when vowels are enunciated, while consonants demand motion in the organs of speech, although it is firmly believed that, with proper modifications and limitations, it would be difficult to overthrow this theory; we may refuse adhesion to any theory whatever that may be formed to account for the difference, and yet have a firm faith in the reality of the distinction. The fact of such a fundamental distinction, however difficult it may be to describe it, receives a striking confirmation from a foreign and independent source in the experiments of Kratzenstein, Kempelen, Willis, and others. From these experiments, and especially those of Mr. Willis, * it appears that the vowel sounds can be distinctly produced by means of a reed vibrating in open tubes; while no consonant could be attained from


similar contrivance.

But it is believed that we are not compelled to content our selves simply with the fact of a distinction. It has already been intimated that the true distinction may be pointed out; and that it consists in this, that the enunciation of the vowels is independent of any changes in the articulating organs, strictly so called it while the consonants derive their distinctive character from the action of those organs. In proof of this, let the vowel sounds be enunciated in the following manner: let the short u, as heard in but, be first sounded. Then, with no change in the position of the articulating organs, let the other vowels be sounded in succession. It will be found, on trial, that all may be formed while the articulating organs remain in precisely the same position. On the other hand, it will be found impossible to enounce any one of the consonants without bringing some one or other of the articulating organs in contact with some part of the mouth. I

* Cambridge Phil. Trans., vol. JII., part I., p. 231.

† By these are ineant, here, only the lips, the tongue, and the uvula.

| While the above distinction is regarded as the true and exact distinction between the vowels and the consonants, still it may be better for practical purposes to take the safer ground, that a consonant involves a contact of an articulating organ with some part of the mouth, while a vowel may be perfectly enounced without such contact. This is, substantially, Dr. Webster's view. It will be observed that it is by no

If the above experiments on the vowel sounds be repeated, it may be perceived, on close attention, that apparently, by some organism about the larynx, a sensation is produced in the mouth, which seems to indicate that the breath, put into vibration by the chorde vocales, strikes, in different vowels, upon different parts of the cavity of the mouth. Thus, in the element 00, in pool, the breath seems to strike far back in the mouth, or even in the throat; and a vibration may be felt on applying the fingers to the outside of the throat, just above the larynx. In the element e, in mete, the breath seems to strike quite in the fore part of the mouth, and no vibration can be perceived in the throat. We are thus led to form a scale of vowel sounds according to the position at which the vibrating breath strikes the cavity of the mouth; or, to use the language commonly employed to express this fact, according to the place in which the eleinent is formed in the mouth.* Beginning with short u, as heard in but, which is formed farthest back;t we shall have the following order in which the simple vowel sounds used in the English language succeed each other. 1. u as heard in but.

7. i in pin. 2. oo in pool.

8. a in fat. 3. o in bone.

9. a in take. 4. a in all.

10. e in pet. 5. i in pine.

11. e in mete. 6. a in father. means maintained that a vowel cannot be sounded when there is a contact between some parts of the mouth. It is only maintained that a vowel is independent of this, while a consonant cannot possibly be formed without it. Even the consonant r, the experimentum crucis with those who deny the distinction, cannot be formed without bringing the sides of the back part of the tongue into contact with the teeth, or upper gums. Much less can the other semi-vowel, l, be formed with. out such contact.

The opinion, not uncommon, that the sound itself, the vocality, is originated in the mouth--that the breath issuing from the larynx is first vocalized in the mouth, is too palpably erroneous to need any refutation. Yet the language used in the text seems to sanction it; and it seems not wholly superfluous to add this caution against such a misconstruction.

† Although we may, on some grounds, justify ourselves in thus ranking the short u as formed farthest back in the mouth, Paa

These results are, in the main, confirmed by the experiments of Mr. Willis. He discovered that, on causing a metallic reed set in a plate lined with leather to vibrate in an open glass tube, a perfect vowel-sound was produced, which was always the same with the same length of tube; and varied with the length of the tube. On applying a tube which, in respect to the distance from the reed to the end, could be lengthened or shortened at pleasure, the vowel sounds, denoted in the combinations expressed in the following table, required respectively the length of tube indicated by the figures, which denote inches and decimals of an inch, written against them. See 0.38

Paw 3.05
Pet 0.6

Nought 3.8
Pay 1.

No 4.7


indefinite.* Part 2.2

Boots Mr. Willis found that a particular vowel was uniformly connected with a given length of tube, whatever might be its diameter, and that the sounds recurred invariably in the same order.

We cannot resist the temptation to break in here and interpose the following queries :

i. Do not these experiments give some sanction to the vague popular notion that the vowel elements are, in some way, associated with pitch ?

2. Do they not furnish another argument entirely independent of that before advanced, derived from the openness of the tube, in proof of the reality of the distinction between vowels and consonants ?--the tube never giving a consonant, but only vowel sounds.

3. Do they not show that the vowel sounds, in this respect also totally unlike the consonants, run into one another and yet several distinct considerations lead us to the opinion that it should, in a strict arrangement, be placed by itself. Certainly it seems distinguished from all the other vowels by this peculiarity, that no movement can be detected in the throat similar to that which attends the formation of the others. The voice appears to come forth directly from the larynx, and not to be afterwards in the least modified. With some propriety it may thus be regarded as the primitive element, and the others as mere modifications of it.

* Cam. Phil. Trans., Vol. III., p. 243.

are, therefore, extremely liable to be confounded? The sliding tube, as it is gradually lengthened, gives successively, at determinate distances, the different rowels. Why did the experimenter stop just here, and not there? What was the character of the sound produced at the intermediate distances ? Were they vowels ? If so, What?

4. Do they not show also that, while the vowel sounds actually in use in different languages, in different provinces, by different individuals, may greatly vary,—the Italian a, for instance, as heard in father, vibrating between the broad a in all and the short a in fat, in the speech of different nations, in different dialects the number of vowel elements possible in a given language is indefinite ? the only limitations to the multiplication of them being the distance between the extremes, say the short u in but, and the long e in mete, and the indistinctness arising from a too near approximation of one to another. Certainly, if we suppose this first limitation of distance to be represented by a straight line, the two extremes of which shall be short u and long e, the points which may be taken in that line at which a vowel shall be formed, are, strictly speaking, unlimited. In fact, we find different languages, different dialects, different individuals even speaking the same dialect, stopping at different points in this line; and producing, thus, so many different vowels.

5. Do not these considerations join with comparative philology, in proving beyond all doubt, the absurdity of the opinion by some strenuously maintained, that the vowels are the essence of a word--constitute its frame, while the consonants are only its flesh-its form and accidental dress.

We return to the arrangement of the vowels. Confirmed as we are by the experiments of Mr. Willis, we think we are warranted in assuming the order in which we have placed them to be correct. The importance of a knowledge of this order may be seen in its bearings, not only on orthoëpy, but still more on etymology and comparative philology. It seems to us that some most absurd conclusions in philological investigations have originated from an ignorance of these

phonological truths.* In in

So broad an assertion as this might seem to require the adduction of some facts in substantiation. But it is deemed sufficient to refer to the simple fact that, by some philologists of note, the relation of the vowel elements or sounds to one another, seems to have been disregarded altogether. What

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