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the English church. A like division of pronunciation may possibly have existed in this island before the Conquest. Or the chirt may have been still more partial than this; it may have had but an obscure and disowned existence (like the sh sound as a substitute for the ch in Germany); and the French influence may have fostered it by a natural affinity, and given it a permanent place in the English language.
149. Analogous to the use of t before the ch (anciently c) is the putting a d before an ancient g. Thus we have the forms hedge hege, wedge wecg, ridge hrycg, sledge slecge.
The form knowledge (323), and the rejected form oblidge (173), are but confused assimilations.
150. Saxon words beginning with sc are in modern English often spelt sh:
In some words, however, the Saxon sc is preserved, as scale (of a balance), scar, score, scot, scrub, and scypen cattleshed. In some cases, it is now written sk as in skin, skittle, skulk. In one instance it is written sch where nothing but the simple sc is heard, as school. This is probably a Grecism.
The English is more sibilant than the Anglo-Saxon was, and the change of sc to sh has contributed to this effect. The sibilancy of our language is a European proverb. Undoubtedly our whole stock is sibilant, and the Mæsogothic itself most of all. The Saxon was one of the least sibilant of the family, as the lists above (10 and 12) sufficiently indicate. Our modern access of sibilancy has been due entirely to French contact. Besides our native sibilants, which had been reduced below average proportions, we accepted all those of the French, which were many. That language is eminently sibilant now to the eye, though not to the ear. It is by the silence of their finals that our old neighbour is in a position to smile at the susurration of the English language. Apart from the French influence, we were less sibilant than either the French or the German.
151. One of the earliest changes was the quiescence of the old guttural-aspirate H. This produced more than one set of modifications in spelling.
The habit of writing wh instead of the old hw was one of these. It seems that the decaying sound of the guttural gave the w-sound more prominence to the ear, and that accordingly the w was put before the h in writing. This alteration had the more effect on the appearance of the language, because many of the words so spelt are among the commonest and most frequently recurring. The following are some of the more conspicuous examples : Hwa who
Hwit white The modern result is this, that the syllable which was pronounced from the throat (guttural), is now pronounced mainly on the lips (aspirate-labial). The Scotch retained the guttural much longer; and indeed it is still audible in Scotland. And they wrote as well as pronounced gutturally: thus, quha, quhilk, quhat. Alexander Hume thus recounts a dispute he had with some Southrons on the point :
To clere this point, and alsoe to reform an errour bred in the south, and pow usurped be our ignorant printeres, I wil tel quhat besel my self quhen I was in the south with a special gud frende of myne. Ther rease, upon sum accident, quhither quho, quhen, quhat, etc., should be symbolised with q or w, a hoat disputation betuene him and me. After manie conflictes (for we oft encountered), we met be chance, in the citie of Baeth, with a Doctour of divinitie of both our acquentance. He invited us to denner. At table my antagonist, to bring the question on foot amangs his awn condisciples, began that I was becum an heretick, and the doctour spering how, ansuered that I denyed quho to be spelled with a w, but with qu.
Be quhat reason? quod the doctour. Here, I beginning to lay my grundes of labial, dental, and guttural soundes and symboles, he snapped me on this hand and he on that, that the doctour had mikle a doe to win me roome for a syllogisme. Then (said I) a labial letter can not symboliz a guttural syllab. But w is a labial letter, quho a guttural sound. And therfoer w can not symboliz quho, nor noe syllab of that nature. Here the doctour staying them again (for al barked at ones), the proposition, said he, I understand ; the assumption is Scottish, and the conclusion false. Quherat al laughed, as if I had bene dryven from all replye, and I fretted to see a frivolouse jest goe for a solid ansuer.-Of the Orthographie, &c., p. 18.
The Scotchman was right. And the Southrons might thank the Scotch for having preserved a fine trait of English pronunciation, yea they might even endeavour by culture and education to recover the true and masculine utterance of what, which, where; when, while.
152. To the same cause must be attributed the motive for changing the spelling of liht, mint, niht, siht, to light, might, night, sight.
Probably the g was prefixed to the h in order to insist on the h being uttered as a guttural. If so, it has failed. The guttural writing remains as a historical monument, but the sound is no longer heard except in Scotland and the conterminous parts of England.
After gh had become quiescent, it was liable to be employed carelessly or arbitrarily. For example, Spenser wrote the adjective white in the following unrecognisable manner, whight:
His Belphebe was clad All in a silken camus lilly whight.--Faery Queene, ii. 3. 26. In Ralegh's letters we repeatedly find zuright write ; so also spright was written instead of sprite; and although it is now obsolete, yet its derivative sprightly is still in use. Spight for spite, in Spenser, quoted below (156), may seem to have more right to the guttural, as it is from despectare.
153. Likewise Saxon H-final has become gh, as burh burgh and borough, slôh slough, þruh trough. But the case of ugh must be noticed apart. Sometimes it sounds like simple u or w; as in plough, through, daughter, slaughter. In other cases it sounds like f; as cough, enough, rough, laughter. In dough, though it is quiescent. The same variety occurs in local and family names. In some parts of England the name Waugh is pronounced as Waw, and in others as Waff.
Opinions differ about the f sound : chough, cough, enough, laughter, rough, slough (of a snake), tough, trough. Some have thought that this pronunciation may have risen from interpreting the u as f, as lieutenant becomes "leftenant.' But this hardly gives an adequate explanation, inasmuch as it applies only within the pale of literature, whereas some of the strongest examples rise outside. Indeed it would seem that there is hardly any of these ugh words, that has not had the f sound at some time or in some locality. The Northern Farmer' says thruf for through; and in Mrs. Trimmer's Robins, chap. vi., though receives a. like treatment; for Joe the gardener says, 'No, Miss Harriet; but I have something to tell you that will please you as much as tho'f I had!'
The following quotation from Surrey seems to indicate that taught in his time might be pronounced as 'toft':
Farewell! thou hast me taught,
1 This will not be found in all editions, because such rude things are deemed objectionable by modern educationists; and Mis. Trimmer is ex. purgated.
At Ilkley, near Leeds, slaughter may be heard pronounced like laughter; and John Bunyan could pronounce daughter as 'dafter ':
Despondency, good man, is coming after,
And so is also Much-afraid, his daughter. With these facts before us, it seems plain we must acknowledge that the gh itself does sound as f; the guttural has undergone transition to the labial.
There is one word of this group whose pronunciation is not yet uniformly established in the public reading of Scripture), and that is the word draught. The colloquial pronunciation is now draft,' but in Dryden we find the other sound:
Better to hunt the fields for health unbought,
Than fee the doctor for a nauseous draught. The gh with which we have been now dealing is a domestic product: there is yet another gh, and the notice of it shall close this division, which has been occupied with the modifications that befell the old Saxon spelling.
Initial gh as equivalent to G (hard) or French Gu, is an Italian affectation, and for the most part a toy of the Elizabethan period : a-ghast, ghastly, gherkin, ghost (gost in Chaucer, Prol. 205). The word which we now write guess is in Spenser ghess.
Orthography of the French Element. 154. If we now leave the Saxon and notice the French words that entered largely into our language in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, there are two general observations to be made concerning them: 1. They take their orthography from the French of the time, and therefore the Old French is their standard of comparison. 2. They were at first pronounced as French words; and although the ori