« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
or permanent recovery; but he kept on labouring, even beyond his ability, until he was arrested by the near approach of death. In the prospect of his departure, he evinced great Christian dignity and composure and trust, and was attentive even to the minutest courtesies of life, to his very last hour. He died on the 11th of January, 1817, and his funeral was attended, three days after, with every demonstration of public and private respect.
Dr. Dwight's printed works are among the most valuable which his generation has produced. His System of Theology has, for many years, been more widely extended both in this country and in Great Britain, than any other system, either ancient or modern. The style of its orthodoxy is Calvinistic, but not in the extreme form. The work containing the record of his observations on the successive journeys he took in New England and New York, is full of instructive and amusing incident, though he has shown himself perhaps sometimes rather credulous in respect of facts. The two volumes of his posthumous sermons, together with the occasional discourses which he published during his life, are fine specimens of that kind of composition. Though his chief merit was by no means that of a poet, he wrote considerable poetry during his life, and some of it has received high commendation on both sides of the Atlantic. His principal poetical works are the "Conquest of Canaan," and "Greenfield Hill."
It is now universally conceded that Dr. Dwight was among the most gifted and splendid minds that have adorned the American pulpit. He had a fine commanding person, a voice of great compass and melody, a countenance radiant with intelligence, and a manner absolutely majestic. There was not much variety in his tones in the pulpit, and yet he sometimes held his audience as by a spell. His sermons, in his latter years, when we knew him, were always written, and somewhat closely read, and accompanied with little or no gesture; but he contrived to make himself powerfully felt by his hearers, notwithstanding. His prayers ordinarily were a repetition of the same thoughts in nearly the same language; but on extraordinary occasions, not a vestige of any thing like form could be detected. As the president of a college, he is acknowledged to have accomplished more than almost any other man who has occupied a similar station. The witnesses to his ability and fidelity, his dignified independence and conscientious adherence to right in every thing, are found every where, and in every profession and occupation. New England will always reckon him among the most illustrious of her sons.
(For the Register.)
THE PHONETIC REFORM.*
IN adapting an alphabet to any language, the theory of the proceeding is very simple. First, we must analyze the language, to determine the elementary sounds by which its various words are made up; next, we must assign to each of these elements an arbitrary mark, called a letter, which we agree shall always stand as the representative of the sound to which it is assigned. The table of these elements forms the only consistent alphabet; by the aid of which, the reduction of the language to writing, and the consequent power of reading, are readily accomplished. For, great as is the number of words in a language, the number of its elementary sounds is but few, scarcely ever exceeding forty. The labour of learning to associate the forty marks with the forty sounds, and vice versa, is very trifling, and when we have succeeded in this, spelling is but the arrangement of these letters in the order in which the sounds they represent occur in any word; reading but the utterance of the sounds in the order of their representative letters.
We may illustrate this theory, of the formation and office of an alphabet, in the following manner. If we pronounce the words say, nay, ode, we perceive in the beginning of each elementary sounds. which are represented in the received alphabet by the marks s, n, o. For reasons to be presently manifest, let us replace these marks by others; and let †, §, T, represent the sounds in question. Of course, then, all words, English or foreign, containing no other elementary sounds than these, may be spelled by the marks at our command. For example, the words oh, own, no, known, sew, snow, sown, will be symbolized, if we have respect to their sounds alone, by ¶, ¶ §, § ¶, § ¶ §, † ¶, † § ¶, † ¶ §.
We have mentioned that the elementary sounds with which we have been dealing, are represented in the received alphabet by s, n, o. In theory, therefore, the above words should be spelled, o, on, no, non, so, sno, son; but the actual spelling is, save in one instance, widely different. We have the sound o represented by the four signs oh, ow, ew,
* In nothing, perhaps, is the progressive spirit of the age more distinctly marked, than in the new and ingenious phonetic system, which boldly proposes to abandon the present alphabet and modes of writing and printing the English language.
We are indebted for the present article on the subject, to a literary friend of this city, who is a zealous advocate of the proposed "reform," and which he has clearly and forcibly exhibited.
Without expressing any opinion of our own on the propriety of the whole change as contemplated, we have no doubt our readers will see with us much in the system that is capable of useful application, and will peruse with pleasure the interesting and spirited sketch and vindication of the new art by our correspondent.—ED.
o; while the sign o represents its own sound and three others besides, in the words no, on, non, son.
The reader will now be prepared for the statement that the alphabet in use for representing the English language is thoroughly unphilosophical, since it provides no signs for recognised elementary sounds, and different signs for the same elementary sounds. Our language contains thirty-four elements, and requires, therefore, so many letters in its alphabet. In fact, there are provided for the purpose only twentysix, two of which (c, q,) are superfluous, and four (j, x, i, u,) are compounds, leaving but twenty elementary letters. For the representation of the fourteen sounds thus unprovided for, all sorts of expedients have been adopted, except the manifest one of selecting new letters. Thus the simple vowel element heard in the word do, (for which o is a very false representative,) is expressed in twenty-nine different ways; as in Reuben, galleon, Buccleugh, brew, brewed, rheum, rhubarb, do, shoe, move, manoeuvre, too, moved, soup, bouse, through, Brougham, rendezvous, surtout, billetdoux, Cowper, ruling, true, rule, bruising, bruise, Hulme, two, who. Again, the simple consonant element heard in the beginning of the word sure is expressed in twelve different ways, in the words chaise, special, pshaw, sugar, schedule, conscious, shall, wished, Assheton, cession, motion, fuchsia.
To render still more clear the unphilosophical manner in which the English language is represented, we shall give a table, the first column of which contains all the separate sounds which are heard as elements in our speech, and also certain compound sounds, (the dipthongs, and j, ch,) which it is found convenient to classify with the simple elements. The sounds thus enumerated (which are heard in the Italic letters of the words cited,) are the true English alphabet, and each should have its separate sign always to be used for, and always representing, the sound to which it is adapted. In the second column, as a contrast to this simple principle, "one sound, one sign," we record the number of ways by which, in practical spelling, the sound is represented.
We have here, then, to represent forty elements, as many as six hundred and fourteen symbolizations, or fifteen and a third, on the average, to each element! But this is not all. The combinations selected to express simple sounds are no more stable in the performance of this function than the single letters themselves. If the digraph sh were always to express the elementary sound which it does in shun, we might accept this as a satisfactory, though a singular, arrangement; but four other meanings have been assigned to it, as in dishonor, mishap, threshold, Masham (Masam.) Again, ea has not always the sound it has in heart, but various others, as in heal, great, head, react, create, while in beau, beauty, Beaucham (Beecham,) and beaufin (biffin,) it is impossible to say what office the digraph performs. A table showing the various effects of combinations of this kind cannot be readily inserted here. Were there space to do so, we should discover that there are two-hundred and twenty-nine combinations having, in the whole, six hundred and four different meanings, or an average of two and two-thirds to each.
The mathematical inference from these numerical statistics is startling, but fully borne out by experience; namely, that no set of rules can be framed for determining the pronunciation of an English word from its present spelling, or the present spelling of an English word from its pronunciation. No word is so simple as not to foil us. Suppose us to hear the word say for the first time, and to be called upon to spell it by the aid of the alphabet, or the so-called analogies of spelling. The alphabet would point out sa as proper, but the dictionaries would not allow of it. The analogies will leave us to select between nineteen ways of representation for the consonant sound, and thirtyfour for the vowel, (see the above table,) giving nineteen times thirtyfour or six hundred and forty-six spellings, for this simple word of two sounds. When, at last, we turn to the dictionary for authority, we should as soon expect to find the spelling sseeighe (from the analogy of hissed and weighed,) as that of say. But reverse the question. Given the spelling, required the pronunciation. Referring to analogies, we should find that the letter s has given to it five different values; a, 8; y, 5; ay, 4; giving 5 × 8 × 5 × 4, or eight hundred possible pronunciations!
This poverty and instability of the received alphabet, this lawlessness in spelling, this uncertainty of pronunciation, have long been submitted to as an evil, to be condemned by the reflecting, and sported with by the witty, but not to be remedied. We have been content to acquire the ability to read and spell, by treasuring in the memory the symbolization of each separate word in the language for itself;-a stupendous effort, which few ever wholly accomplish,-in which the educated, after years of labour, are only partially successful, and which the great body of our race renounce in despair. On this last point, the statistics of ignorance leave us no room to doubt. "England and
Wales," says the British Quarterly Review, "with their sixteen millions of people, contain nearly eight millions unable to write their name, and not less than five millions unable to read their mother tongue. If we deduct two millions for persons disqualified from learning by tender age, or imbecility, the numbers are reduced, respectively, to six and three millions. The British Registrar General's report for 1846, shows that, of those who signed the marriage register in that year, one woman in two, and one man in three signed with their marks. In the U. S. it appears by the Census of 1840, that one person in thirteen of the adult white population, above twenty, is unable to read or write. Nor is the probability to be passed without notice that these statistics greatly understate the real amount of ignorance. Shame would lead many to prevaricate rather than confess themselves "illiterate;" while others, and a large number, would be shown, by a more strict examination than the census-taker is able to make, to have claimed a knowledge altogether useless for any practical purpose; their reading, perhaps, averaging a word a minute, their writing being illegible.
For evils so serious, there is a simple remedy. Give to the English language a rational alphabet, containing a letter for every elementary sound; give, in other words, a phonetic alphabet, and the highways of knowledge, reading and writing, are opened to all, in from twenty to eighty hours of application, and the education of the poor becomes possible and certain. Nor is this all. The English language, from the simplicity of its grammatical structure, and from its strength, copiousness and variety, is the admiration of the scholar, and the pride of those to whom it is the mother tongue. That it should be more widely diffused, so as to become the acknowledged medium of international communication, as it were the universal language, is surely no unpatriotic desire. Considering the wide-spread commerce of the Anglo-Saxon race, such a desire might readily be consummated, were their language rationally represented; but, never, while the present repelling system of orthography is retained.
But the phonetic reform, the necessity of which we have so faintly pictured, has already been commenced. About ten years since, Mr. Isaac Pitman, an Englishman, published a method of shorthand, founded on a Phonetic alphabet. A more perfect system of writing than this can hardly be conceived. Based on the truest philosophy, and elaborated by a mind of extraordinary inventive power, Phonography (for such it is named,) is an art by which we are enabled, after a moderate amount of application, to write with the rapidity of speech what may be read with the ease of print; thus adapting itself, not merely to the wants of reporters, as a class, but to the great body of the intelligent community. The system has found great favour with the public. The sale of the elementary phonographic works has gone on steadily increasing, since the art was promulgated, and has now reached to sixty thousand copies per annum in Great Britain and America. Four monthly