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ginal pronunciation was soon impaired, yet a trace of their native sound followed them for a long time, just as happens in like cases in our own day. The French accentuation would remain after every other tinge of their origin had faded out. In course of time they were so completely familiarised, that their origin was lost sight of, and then they insensibly slid into an English pronunciation. The spelling would sometimes follow all these changes, but in other cases the habit of writing was too strongly fixed.
The modern French words bouquet, trait, familiar as they are among us, still keep their French form and French pronunciation
The Old French word honour appeared in English as honure in Layamon and then as honour in Chaucer, and in both cases it was accented after the French manner on the last syllable. But now that the accent has moved forward to the first syllable, there is a tendency to abolish the traces of French orthography
The adjective honourable is anglicised in the titular use of the word, when it is written Honorable; and there are some authors who now omit the u in the substantive and adjective alike, and upon all occasions. The American writers are conspicuous for their disposition to reject these traces of early French influence.
155. In reading early English poets, if we wish to catch the music as well as the sense, we must bear in mind the difference of pronunciation; and that difference is for the most part a matter of Old French.
The tendency of the French nation is the reverse of ours in the matter of accentuation. They are disposed to throw the accent on the close of a word; we always try to get it as near the beginning as possible. There is a large body of. French words in our language which have at length yielded
to the influences by which they are surrounded, and have come to be pronounced as English-born words. The same words were for centuries accented in the French manner, and these are especially the ones we ought to attend to, if we would wish not to stumble at the rhythm of our early poets. Chaucer has aventure
vísage Long after Chaucer this French influence continued to be felt in our language. Even so late as Milton considerable traces of it are found in his rhythms. For example, he accents aspect on the last syllable, as in Paradise Lost, vi. 450:
His words here ended, but his meek aspect
Silent yet spake, and breath'd immortal love. The word contest is accentuated by Milton as contést. Paradise Lost, iv. 872 :
Not likely to part hence without contést. Again, in the last line of the Ninth Book :
And of their vain contest appeared no end. 156. The case of the word contrary is interesting, especially as we are told in Walker's Pronouncing Dictionary that the accent of this word is invariably placed on the first syllable by all correct speakers, and as constantly removed to the second by the illiterate and vulgar. These are rather hard terms to apply to the really time-honoured and classical pronunciation of contráry; yet Walker did but express the current judgment of the polite society of his and of our day. We find it in Shakspeare, Romeo and Juliet, i. 5
You must contráry me, marry 'tis time. And Spenser, Faery Queene, ii. 2. 24, where I will quote the whole stave for the sake of its beauty :
As a tall ship tossed in troublous seas
And, with her brest breaking the fomy wave,
Does ride on both their backs, and faire herself doth save. And Milton in Samson Agonistes, 972:
Fame, if not double-fac'd, is double-mouth'd,
And with contráry blast proclaims most deeds. 157. Although the disposition of our language is to throw the accent back, yet we are far from having divested ourselves of words accented on the last syllable.
There are a certain number of cases in which this constitutes a useful distinction, when the same word acts two parts. Such is the case of humáne and húman; of augsíst and the month of August, which is the selfsame word. Sometimes the accent marks the distinction between the verb and the noun : thus we say to rebél, to recórd; but a rébel a récord. When the lawyers speak of a record (substantively), they merely preserve the original French pronunciation, and thereby remind us that the distinction last indicated is a pure English invention. We have many borrowed words to which we have given a domestic character by setting them to a music of our own.
But independently of the instances in which the accent on the last syllable is of manifest utility, there are others naturally accented in the same manner, in which there seems
to be no disposition to introduce a change. Examples:polite, urbane, jocose, divine, complete.
158. In the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries, it was a trick and fashion of the times to lengthen words by the addition of an e, a silent e-final.
A great number of these final e's have been abolished, others have been utilised, as observed in 159 ; but these fashions mostly leave their traces in unconsidered relics. Such is the e at the end of therefore, which has no as expressive of sound, and which exerts a delusive effect on the sense, making the word look as if it were a compound of fore, like before, instead of with for, which is the fact; and for this reason some American books now print therefor.
159. In the case of this e-subscript, that which had originally been nothing more than a trick or fashion of the times came to have a definite signification assigned to it. In the fifteenth century it was a mere Frenchism, a fashion and nothing more. But by the end of the sixteenth century it came to be regarded as a grammatical sign that the proper vowel of the syllable was long! Against this orthographical idiom the Scotch grammarian, Alexander Hume, who dedicated his book to King James I, stoutly protested :
We use alsoe, almost at the end of everie word, to wryte an idle e. This sum defend not to be idle, because it affectes the voual before the consonant, the sound quherof many tymes alteres the signification; as, hop is altero tantum pede saltare; hope is sperare: fir, abies ; fyre, ignis: a fin, pinna ; fine, probatus: bid, jubere ; bide, manere: with many moe. It is true that the sound of the voual befoer the consonant many tymes doth change the signification; but it is as untrue that the voual e behind the consonant doth change the sound of the voual before it. A voual devyded from a voual be a consonant can be noe possible means return thorough the consonant into the former voual. Consonantes betuene vouales are lyke partition walles'
i To indicate the subservient use of this letter, I have (for want of a better expression) borrowed from a somewhat analogous thing in Greek grammar the term e-subscript.
betuen roomnes. Nothing can change the sound of a voual but an other voual coalescing with it into one sound. . To illustrat this be the same exemples, saltare is to hop; sperare is to hoep; abies is fir; ignis fyr ; or, if you will, fier : jubere is bid; manere byd or bied.--Of the Orthographie, &c., p. 21.
160. The fifteenth century is the period in which we adopted the French combination gu to express the retention of the hard G-sound before e or i. Chaucer has guerdon, which is a French word; but he did not apply this spelling to words of English origin, such as, guess, guest, guild, guilt. These in Chaucer are written without the u. Mr. Toulmin Smith spells gild throughout his book entitled' English Gilds.
In language we have an abnormal French spelling, which lost its footing with them, but established itself with us. Here the u has acquired a consonantal value as a consequence of the orthography. In Chaucer it is langage, but in the Promptorium (1440) we read 'Langage or langwage.' (168.)
The form of tongue has been altered (119) through French imitation, probably by the attraction of French langue.
Divers incidental variations. 161, Another fashion was the doubling of consonants, as in the case of ck. any of these remained to late date; and there are some few archaisms of this sort which have only just been disused. Such are poetick, ascetick, politick, catholick, instead of poetic, ascetic, politic, catholic. This was the constant orthography of Dr. Johnson: 'The next year (1713), in which Cato came upon the stage, was the grand climacterick of Addison's reputation. When such exuberances are dismissed, it is quite usual to make an exception in favour of Proper names. There are very good and practical reasons why these should affect a spelling somewhat removed from the common habits of the lan