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On Spelling-reform.

186. Alphabetic writing is essentially phonetic. It was the result of a sifting process which was conducted with little conscious design, by which all the other suggestions of picturewriting were gradually eliminated, and each figure was brought to represent one of the simple sounds obtained by the analysis of articulate speech. The historical development of Letters tells us what their essence and function is—viz. The expression of the Sound of words. Spelling is the counterpart of pronunciation. But there is a law at work to dissever this natural affinity. Pronunciation is ever insensibly on the move, while spelling grows more and more stationary. The agitation for spelling-reform which appears in cultivated nations from time to time, aims at restoring the harmony between these two.

Among the Romans—a people eminently endowed with the philological sense—there were some attempts of this kind, one of which is of historical notoriety. The emperor Claudius was a phonetic reformer, and he wrote a book on the subject while in the obscurity of his early life. Three letters as a first instalment of reform he forced into use when he was emperor, but they were neglected after his time and forgotten. Yet two of the three have been quietly resumed by a late posterity. These represented I and U consonants as distinct from the cognate vowels. In the seventeenth century the European press gave these powers to the forms J and V. Claudius was not however the first to direct attention to the inadequacy of the Roman alphabet. Verrius Flaccus had made a memorable proposal with regard to the letter M. At the end of Latin words it was indistinctly heard, and therefore he proposed to cut the letter in two, and write only half of it in such positions—thus, N.

187. During the last three centuries many proposals for spelling-reform have been made in this country and in America. Among the reformers we find distinguished names".

1 Sir John Cheke, 1540 (Strype's Life). John Hart, 1569: “An Orthographie conteyning the due order and reason howe to write or painte thimage But for practical results, the first was Noah Webster. In his Dictionary, 1828, he spelt traveler, worshiped, savor, honor, center, and these were widely adopted in American literature, especially the ejection of the French u from the termination -our. But he was an etymological as well as a phonetic reformer. And when he proceeded to write bridegoom, sesher, for bridegroom, seasher, his public declined to follow him, and he retraced his steps.

Julius Hare and Connop Thirlwall in their joint translation of Niehbuhr's History made some reforms, partly phonetic, partly etymological; such as sorein, sovran, stretchi. Thirlwall returned to the customary spelling in his History of Greece 1835; but he covered his retreat with an overloaded invective at English prejudice, which has since been quoted oftener than his wisest sentences.

A strictly phonetic spelling-reform requires that we should have a separate character for every separate sound, and that no character should ever stand for any but its own particular sound. One such system has acquired the consistency which a working experience alone can give. Mr. Pitman's phonetic alphabet has been tested by thirty years of practical work, in printing books large and small, as well as in the continuous appearance of the Phonetic /ournal, which is now in its thirty-sixth year. In this system the Roman alphabet is adopted as far as it goes, and new forms are added for the digraphs which, like th, sh, represent simple sounds. The place of publication is Bath, but the movement first took a practical shape in Birmingham, where in 1843 Mr. Thomas Wright Hill originated a Phonetic Fund to meet the necessary sacrifices of such an experiment. Mr. Hill was the father of Matthew Davenport Hill, Q.C., and of Sir Rowland Hill, and of three other distinguished sons. After the meeting of 1843, Mr. Ellis helped Mr. Pitman in the formation of the new characters, and from that year to the present the system has been in operation. The alphabet

of manne's voice, moste like to the life or nature.” Bishop Wilkins, 1668. Benjamin Franklin, 1768. William Pelham, Boston, U.S. 1808, printed ‘Rasselas’ phonetically. Abner Kneeland, Philadelphia, 1825. Rev. W. Beardsley, St. Louis, 1841. Andrew Comstock, Philadelphia, 1846. John S. Pulsifer, Orswigsburg, Pennsylvania, 1848. Alexander Melville Bell, London, 1865.

which has thus been produced consists of thirty-eight characters, which are arranged below according to Mr. Pitman's distribution. The quotations which are given in illustration are taken from the Phonetic /ournal, 1862 and 1864.

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“We cannot tell as yet what language is. It may be a production of nature, a work of human art, or a Divine gift. But to whatever sphere it belongs, it would seem to stand unsurpassed—nay unequalled in it—by anything else.

“The science of language is a science of very modern date. We cannot trace its lineage much beyond the beginning of our century, and it is scarcely received as yet on a footing of equality by the elder branches . learning. Its very name is still unsettled, and the various titles that have been given to it in England, France, and Germany, are so vague and varying that they have led to the most confused ideas among the public at large as to the real objects of this new science. We hear it spoken of as Comparative Philology, Scientific Etymology, Phonology, and Glossology. In France it has received the convenient, but somewhat barbarous name of Linguistique. I myself prefer the simple designation of the Science of Language, though in these days of high-sounding titles, this plain name will i; meet with general acceptance.” – Mār Müller's Lectures on the Science of Language, (First Series,) 1861.

“I feel convinced of the truth and reasonableness of the principles on which the Phonetic Reform rests, . . . . and though Mr Pitman may not live

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to see the results of his persevering and disinterested exertions, it requires no prophetic power to perceive that what at present is pooh-poohed by the many, will make its way in the end, unless met by arguments stronger than those hitherto levelled at the Fonetic Nuz. One argument which might be supposed to weigh with the student of language, namely, the obscuration of the etymological structure of words, I cannot consider very formidable. The pronunciation of languages changes according to fixed laws, the spelling is changed in the most arbitrary manner, so, that if our spelling followed the pronunciation of words, it would in reality be a greater help to the critical student of language than the present uncertain and unscientific mode of writing.”—Maa. Müller's Lectures on the Science of Language, (Second Series,) 1863.

To offer an estimate of the merits of this phonetic alphabet

would be out of place here. It puts forward a claim to supersede that now in use by right of superior and universal fitness. This claim seems likely to be tested by a variety of practical experiments; for example, it has been used for printing three of the Gospels, Genesis, the Psalms, and the Acts in the Mikmak language, that of the natives of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, under the direction of the Bible Society. The friends and promoters of this alphabet say that it is soon caught by savages abroad and by children at home; and that for the education of our own people it provides the quickest and best means of learning to read the ordinary print. All this will have to be established by a slow probation; and the supporters of the system seem resolved to sustain the trial. Meanwhile, I will point out an

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