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The Grammar of English Grammars by Gould Brown

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that among all the treatises heretofore produced no such grammar is found.
"Some superfluities have been expunged, some mistakes have been rectified,
and some obscurities have been cleared; still, however, that all the
grammars used in our different schools, public as well as private, are
disgraced by errors or defects, is a complaint as just as it is frequent
and loud."--_Barrow's Essays_, p. 83.

38. Whether, in what I have been enabled to do, there will be found a
remedy for this complaint, must be referred to the decision of others. Upon
the probability of effecting this, I have been willing to stake some
labour; how much, and with what merit, let the candid and discerning, when
they shall have examined for themselves, judge. It is certain that we have
hitherto had, of our language, no complete grammar. The need of such a work
I suppose to be at this time in no small degree felt, especially by those
who conduct our higher institutions of learning; and my ambition has been
to produce one which might deservedly stand along side of the Port-Royal
Latin and Greek Grammars, or of the Grammaire des Grammaires of Girault Du
Vivier. If this work is unworthy to aspire to such rank, let the patrons of
English literature remember that the achievement of my design is still a
desideratum. We surely have no other book which might, in any sense, have
been called "_the Grammar of English Grammars_;" none, which, either by
excellence, or on account of the particular direction of its criticism,
might take such a name. I have turned the eyes of Grammar, in an especial
manner, upon the conduct of her own household; and if, from this volume,
the reader acquire a more just idea of _the grammar_ which is displayed in
_English grammars_, he will discover at least one reason for the title
which has been bestowed upon the work. Such as the book is, I present it to
the public, without pride, without self-seeking, and without anxiety:
knowing that most of my readers will be interested in estimating it
_justly_; that no true service, freely rendered to learning, can fail of
its end; and that no achievement merits aught with Him who graciously
supplies all ability. The opinions expressed in it have been formed with
candour, and are offered with submission. If in any thing they are
erroneous, there are those who can detect their faults. In the language of
an ancient master, the earnest and assiduous _Despauter_, I invite the
correction of the candid: "Nos quoque, quantumcunque diligentes, cum a
candidis tum a lividis carpemur: a candidis interdum juste; quos oro, ut de
erratis omnibus amice me admoneant--erro nonnunquam quia homo sum."


_New York_, 1836.


Grammar, as an art, is the power of reading, writing, and speaking
correctly. As an acquisition, it is the essential skill of scholarship. As
a study, it is the practical science which teaches the right use of

_An English Grammar_ is a book which professes to explain the nature and
structure of the English language; and to show, on just authority, what is,
and what is not, good English.

ENGLISH GRAMMAR, in itself, is the art of reading, writing, and speaking
the English language correctly. It implies, in the adept, such knowledge as
enables him to avoid improprieties of speech; to correct any errors that
may occur in literary compositions; and to parse, or explain grammatically,
whatsoever is rightly written.

_To read_ is to perceive what is written or printed, so as to understand
the words, and be able to utter them with their proper sounds.

_To write_ is to express words and thoughts by letters, or characters,
made with a pen or other instrument.

_To speak_ is to utter words orally, in order that they may be heard and

Grammar, like every other liberal art, can be properly taught only by a
regular analysis, or systematic elucidation, of its component parts or
principles; and these parts or principles must be made known chiefly by
means of definitions and examples, rules and exercises.

A _perfect definition_ of any thing or class of things is such a
description of it, as distinguishes that entire thing or class from every
thing else, by briefly telling _what it is_.

An _example_ is a particular instance or model, serving to prove or
illustrate some given proposition or truth.

A _rule of grammar_ is some law, more or less general, by which custom
regulates and prescribes the right use of language.

An _exercise_ is some technical performance required of the learner in
order to bring his knowledge and skill into practice.

LANGUAGE, in the primitive sense of the term, embraced only vocal
expression, or human speech uttered by the mouth; but after letters were
invented to represent articulate sounds, language became twofold, _spoken_
and _written_, so that the term, _language_, now signifies, _any series of
sounds or letters formed into words and employed for the expression of

Of the composition of language we have also two kinds, _prose_ and _verse_;
the latter requiring a certain number and variety of syllables in each
line, but the former being free from any such restraint.

The _least parts_ of written language are letters; of spoken language,
syllables; of language significant in each part, words; of language
combining thought, phrases; of language subjoining sense, clauses; of
language cooerdinating sense, members; of language completing sense,

A discourse, or narration, of any length, is but a series of sentences;
which, when written, must be separated by the proper points, that the
meaning and relation of all the words may be quickly and clearly perceived
by the reader, and the whole be uttered as the sense requires.

In extended compositions, a sentence is usually less than a paragraph; a
paragraph, less than a section; a section, less than a chapter; a chapter,
less than a book; a book, less than a volume; and a volume, less than the
entire work.

The common order of _literary division_, then, is; of a large work, into
volumes; of volumes, into books; of books, into chapters; of chapters, into
sections; of sections, into paragraphs; of paragraphs, into sentences; of
sentences, into members; of members, into clauses; of clauses, into
phrases; of phrases, into words; of words, into syllables; of syllables,
into letters.

But it rarely happens that any one work requires the use of all these
divisions; and we often assume some natural distinction and order of parts,
naming each as we find it; and also subdivide into articles, verses,
cantoes, stanzas, and other portions, as the nature of the subject

Grammar is divided into four parts; namely, Orthography, Etymology, Syntax,
and Prosody.

Orthography treats of letters, syllables, separate words, and spelling.

Etymology treats of the different _parts of speech_, with their classes and

Syntax treats of the relation, agreement, government, and arrangement of
words in sentences.

Prosody treats of punctuation, utterance, figures, and versification.


OBS. 1.--In the Introduction to this work, have been taken many views of
the study, or general science, of grammar; many notices of its history,
with sundry criticisms upon its writers or critics; and thus language has
often been presented to the reader's consideration, either as a whole, or
with broader scope than belongs to the teaching of its particular forms. We
come now to the work of _analyzing_ our own tongue, and of laying down
those special rules and principles which should guide us in the use of it,
whether in speech or in writing. The author intends to dissent from other
grammarians no more than they are found to dissent from truth and reason;
nor will he expose their errors further than is necessary for the credit of
the science and the information of the learner. A candid critic can have no
satisfaction merely in finding fault with other men's performances. But the
facts are not to be concealed, that many pretenders to grammar have shown
themselves exceedingly superficial in their knowledge, as well as slovenly
in their practice; and that many vain composers of books have proved
themselves _despisers_ of this study, by the abundance of their
inaccuracies, and the obviousness of their solecisms.

OBS. 2.--Some grammarians have taught that the word _language_ is of much
broader signification, than that which is given to it in the definition
above. I confine it to speech and writing. For the propriety of this
limitation, and against those authors who describe the thing otherwise, I
appeal to the common sense of mankind. One late writer defines it thus:
"LANGUAGE is _any means_ by which one _person_ communicates his _ideas_ to
_another_."--_Sanders's Spelling-Book_, p. 7. The following is the
explanation of an other slack thinker: "One may, by speaking or by writing,
(and sometimes _by motions_,) communicate his thoughts to others. _The
process_ by which this is done, is called LANGUAGE.--_Language_ is _the
expression_ of thought _and feeling_."--_S. W. Clark's Practical Gram._, p.
7. Dr. Webster goes much further, and says, "LANGUAGE, in its most
extensive sense, is the instrument or means of communicating ideas _and
affections_ of the mind _and body_, from one _animal to another_. In this
sense, _brutes possess the power of language_; for by various inarticulate
sounds, they make known their wants, desires, and sufferings."--
_Philosophical Gram._, p. 11; _Improved Gram._, p. 5. This latter
definition the author of that vain book, "_the District School_," has
adopted in his chapter on Grammar. Sheridan, the celebrated actor and
orthoepist, though he seems to confine language to the human species, gives
it such an extension as to make words no necessary part of its essence.
"The first thought," says he, "that would occur to every one, who had not
properly considered the point, is, that language is composed of words. And
yet, this is so far from being an adequate idea of language, that the point
in which most men think its very essence to consist, is not even a
necessary property of language. For language, in its full extent, means,
any way or method whatsoever, by which _all that passes in the mind of one
man_, may be manifested to another."--_Sheridan's Lectures on Elocution_,
p. 129. Again: "I have already _shown_, that words are, in their own
nature, _no essential part of language_, and are only considered so through
custom."--_Ib._ p. 135.

OBS. 3.--According to S. Kirkham's notion, "LANGUAGE, in its most extensive
sense, implies those signs by which _men and brutes_, communicate _to each
other_ their thoughts, affections and desires."--_Kirkham's English Gram._,
p. 16. Again: "_The language of brutes_ consists in the use of those
inarticulate sounds by which they express _their thoughts and
affections_."--_Ib._ To me it seems a shameful abuse of speech, and a vile
descent from the dignity of grammar, to make the voices of "_brutes_" any
part of language, as taken in a literal sense. We might with far more
propriety raise our conceptions of it to the spheres above, and construe
literally the metaphors of David, who ascribes to the starry heavens, both
"_speech_" and "_language_," "_voice_" and "_words_," daily "_uttered_" and
everywhere "_heard_." See _Psalm_ xix.

OBS. 4.--But, strange as it may seem, Kirkham, commencing his instructions
with the foregoing definition of language, proceeds to divide it, agreeably
to this notion, into two sorts, _natural_ and _artificial_; and affirms
that the former "is common both to man and brute," and that the language
which is peculiar to man, the language which consists of _words_, is
altogether an _artificial invention_:[83] thereby contradicting at once a
host of the most celebrated grammarians and philosophers, and that without
appearing to know it. But this is the less strange, since he immediately
forgets his own definition and division of the subject, and as plainly
contradicts himself. Without limiting the term at all, without excluding
his fanciful "_language of brutes_," he says, on the next leaf, "_Language_
is _conventional_, and not only _invented_, but, in its progressive
advancement, _varied for purposes of practical convenience_. Hence it
assumes _any and every form_ which those who make use of it, choose to give
it."--_Kirkham's Gram._, p. 18. This, though scarcely more rational than
his "_natural language of men and brutes_," plainly annihilates that
questionable section of grammatical science, whether brutal or human, by
making all language a thing "_conventional_" and "_invented_." In short, it
leaves no ground at all for any grammatical science of a positive
character, because it resolves all forms of language into the irresponsible
will of those who utter any words, sounds, or noises.

OBS. 5.--Nor is this gentleman more fortunate in his explanation of what
may really be called language. On one page, he says, "_Spoken language_ or
_speech_, is made up of articulate sounds uttered by the human
voice."--_Kirkham's Gram._, p. 17. On the next, "The most important use of
_that faculty called speech_, is, to convey our thoughts to
others."--_Ib._, p. 18. Thus the grammarian who, in the same short
paragraph, seems to "defy the ingenuity of man to give his words any other
meaning than that which he himself intends _them to express_," (_Ib._, p.
19,) either writes so badly as to make any ordinary false syntax appear
trivial, or actually conceives man to be the inventor of one of his own
_faculties_. Nay, docs he not make man the contriver of that "natural
language" which he possesses "in common with the brutes?" a language "_The
meaning of which_," he says, "_all the different animals perfectly
understand_?"--See his _Gram._, p. 16. And if this notion again be true,
does it not follow, that a horse knows perfectly well what horned cattle
mean by their bellowing, or a flock of geese by their gabbling? I should
not have noticed these things, had not the book which teaches them, been
made popular by _a thousand_ imposing attestations to its excellence and
accuracy. For grammar has nothing at all to do with inarticulate voices, or
the imaginary languages of _brutes_. It is scope enough for one science to
explain all the languages, dialects, and speeches, that lay claim to
_reason_. We need not enlarge the field, by descending

"To beasts, whom[84] God on their creation-day
Created mute to all articulate sound."--_Milton_.[85]



ORTHOGRAPHY treats of letters, syllables, separate words, and spelling.


A _Letter_ is an alphabetic character, which commonly represents some
elementary sound of the human voice, some element of speech.

An elementary sound of the human voice, or an element of speech, is one of
the simple sounds which compose a spoken language. The sound of a letter is
commonly called its _power_: when any letter of a word is not sounded, it
is said to be _silent_ or _mute._ The letters in the English alphabet, are
twenty-six; the simple or primary sounds which they represent, are about
thirty-six or thirty-seven.

A knowledge of the letters consists in an acquaintance with these _four
sorts of things_; their _names_, their _classes_, their _powers_, and their

The letters are written, or printed, or painted, or engraved, or embossed,
in an infinite variety of shapes and sizes; and yet are always _the same_,
because their essential properties do not change, and their names, classes,
and powers, are mostly permanent.

The following are some of the different sorts of types, or styles of
letters, with which every reader should be early acquainted:--

1. The Roman: A a, B b, C c, D d, E e, F f, G g, H h, I i, J j, K k, L l, M
m, N n, o, P p, Q q, R r, S s, T t, U u, V v, W w, X x, Y y, Z z.

2. The Italic: _A a, B b, C c, D d, E e, F f, G g, H h, I i, J j, K k, L l,
M m, N n, o, P p, Q q, R r, S s, T t, U u, V v, W w, X x, Y y, Z z._

3. The Script: [Script: A a, B b, C c, D d, E e, F f, G g, H h, I i, J j, K
k, L l, M m, N n, o, P p, Q q, R r, S s, T t, U u, V v, W w, X x, Y y, Z

4. The Old English: [Old English: A a, B b, C c, D d, E e, F f, G g, H h, I
i, J j, K k, L l, M m, N n, o, P p, Q q, R r, S s, T t, U u, V v, W w, X x,
Y y, Z z.]


OBS. 1.--A letter _consists_ not in the figure only, or in the power only,
but in the figure and power united; as an ambassador consists not in the
man only, or in the commission only, but in the man commissioned. The
figure and the power, therefore, are necessary to constitute the letter;
and a name is as necessary, to call it by, teach it, or tell what it is.
The _class_ of a letter is determined by the nature of its power, or sound;
as the ambassador is plenipotentiary or otherwise, according to the extent
of his commission. To all but the deaf and dumb, written language is the
representative of that which is spoken; so that, in the view of people in
general, the powers of the letters are habitually identified with their
sounds, and are conceived to be nothing else. Hence any given sound, or
modification of sound, which all men can produce at pleasure, when
arbitrarily associated with a written sign, or conventional character,
constitutes what is called _a letter_. Thus we may produce the sounds of
_a, e, o_, then, by a particular compression of the organs of utterance,
modify them all, into _ba, be, bo_, or _fa, fe, fo_; and we shall see that
_a, e_, and _o_, are letters of one sort, and _b_ and _f_ of an other. By
_elementary_ or _articulate_ sounds,[86] then, we mean not only the simple
tones of the voice itself, but the modifying stops and turns which are
given them in speech, and marked by letters: the real voices constituting
vowels; and their modifications, consonants.

OBS. 2.--A mere mark to which no sound or power is ever given, cannot be a
letter; though it may, like the marks used for punctuation, deserve a name
and a place in grammar. Commas, semicolons, and the like, represent
_silence_, rather than sounds, and are therefore not letters. Nor are the
Arabic figures, which represent entire _words_, nor again any symbols
standing for _things_, (as the astronomic marks for the sun, the moon, the
planets,) to be confounded with letters; because the representative of any
word or number, of any name or thing, differs widely in its power, from the
sign of a simple elementary sound: i. e., from any constituent _part_ of a
written word. The first letter of a word or name does indeed sometimes
stand for the whole, and is still a letter; but it is so, as being the
first element of the word, and not as being the representative of the

OBS. 3.--In their definitions of vowels and consonants, many grammarians
have resolved letters into _sounds only_; as, "A Vowel is an articulate
_sound_," &c.--"A Consonant is an articulate _sound_," &c.--_L. Murray's
Gram._, p. 7. But this confounding of the visible signs with the things
which they signify, is very far from being a true account of either.
Besides, letters combined are capable of a certain mysterious power which
is independent of all sound, though speech, doubtless, is what they
properly represent. In practice, almost all the letters may occasionally
happen to be _silent_; yet are they not, in these cases, necessarily
useless. The deaf and dumb also, to whom none of the letters express or
represent sounds, may be taught to read and write understandingly. They
even learn in some way to distinguish the accented from the unaccented
syllables, and to have some notion of _quantity_, or of something else
equivalent to it; for some of them, it is said, can compose verses
according to the rules of prosody. Hence it would appear, that the powers
of the letters are not, of necessity, identified with their sounds; the
things being in some respect distinguishable, though the terms are commonly
taken as synonymous. The fact is, that a word, whether spoken or written,
is of itself _significant_, whether its corresponding form be known or not.
Hence, in the one form, it may be perfectly intelligible to the illiterate,
and in the other, to the educated deaf and dumb; while, to the learned who
hear and speak, either form immediately suggests the other, with the
meaning common to both.

OBS. 4.--Our knowledge of letters rises no higher than to the forms used by
the ancient Hebrews and Phoenicians. Moses is supposed to have written in
characters which were nearly the same as those called Samaritan, but his
writings have come to us in an alphabet more beautiful and regular, called
the Chaldee or Chaldaic, which is said to have been made by Ezra the
scribe, when he wrote out a new copy of the law, after the rebuilding of
the temple. Cadmus carried the Phoenician alphabet into Greece, where it
was subsequently altered and enlarged. The small letters were not invented
till about the seventh century of our era. The Latins, or Romans, derived
most of their capitals from the Greeks; but their small letters, if they
had any, were made afterwards among themselves. This alphabet underwent
various changes, and received very great improvements, before it became
that beautiful series of characters which we now use, under the name of
_Roman letters_. Indeed these particular forms, which are now justly
preferred by many nations, are said to have been adopted after the
invention of printing. "The Roman letters were first used by Sweynheim and
Pannartz, printers who settled at Rome, in 1467. The earliest work printed
wholly in this character in England, is said to have been Lily's or Paul's
Accidence, printed by Richard Pinson, 1518. The Italic letters were
invented by Aldus Manutius at Rome, towards the close of the fifteenth
century, and were first used in an edition of Virgil, in
1501."--_Constables Miscellany_, Vol. xx, p. 147. The Saxon alphabet was
mostly Roman. Not more than one quarter of the letters have other forms.
But the changes, though few, give to a printed page a very different
appearance. Under William the Conqueror, this alphabet was superseded by
the modern Gothic, Old English, or Black letter; which, in its turn,
happily gave place to the present Roman. The Germans still use a type
similar to the Old English, but not so heavy.

OBS. 5.--I have suggested that a true knowledge of the letters implies an
acquaintance with their _names_, their _classes_, their _powers_, and their
_forms_. Under these four heads, therefore, I shall briefly present what
seems most worthy of the learner's attention at first, and shall reserve
for the appendix a more particular account of these important elements. The
most common and the most useful things are not those about which we are in
general most inquisitive. Hence many, who think themselves sufficiently
acquainted with the letters, do in fact know but very little about them. If
a person is able to read some easy book, he is apt to suppose he has no
more to learn respecting the letters; or he neglects the minute study of
these elements, because he sees what words they make, and can amuse himself
with stories of things more interesting. But merely to understand common
English, is a very small qualification for him who aspires to scholarship,
and especially for a _teacher_. For one may do this, and even be a great
reader, without ever being able to name the letters properly, or to
pronounce such syllables as _ca, ce, ci, co, cu, cy_, without getting half
of them wrong. No one can ever teach an art more perfectly than he has
learned it; and if we neglect the _elements_ of grammar, our attainments
must needs be proportionately unsettled and superficial.

I. NAMES OF THE LETTERS. The _names_ of the letters, as now commonly spoken
and written in English, are _A, Bee, Cee, Dee, E, Eff, Gee, Aitch, I, Jay,
Kay, Ell, Em, En, O, Pee, Kue, Ar, Ess, Tee, U, Vee, Double-u, Ex, Wy,


OBS. 1.--With the learning and application of these names, our literary
education begins; with a continual rehearsal of them in spelling, it is for
a long time carried on; nor can we ever dispense with them, but by
substituting others, or by ceasing to mention the things thus named. What
is obviously indispensable, needs no proof of its importance. But I know
not whether it has ever been noticed, that these names, like those of the
days of the week, are worthy of particular distinction, for their own
nature. They are words of a very peculiar kind, being nouns that are at
once _both proper and common_. For, in respect to rank, character, and
design, each letter is a thing strictly individual and identical--that is,
it is ever one and the same; yet, in an other respect, it is a
comprehensive sort, embracing individuals both various and numberless. Thus
every B is a _b_, make it as you will; and can be nothing else than that
same letter b, though you make it in a thousand different fashions, and
multiply it after each pattern innumerably. Here, then, we see
individuality combined at once with great diversity, and infinite
multiplicity; and it is _to this combination_, that letters owe their
wonderful power of transmitting thought. Their _names_, therefore, should
always be written with capitals, as proper nouns, at least in the singular
number; and should form the plural regularly, as ordinary appellatives.
Thus: (if we adopt the names now most generally used in English schools:)
_A, Aes; Bee, Bees; Cee, Cees; Dee, Dees; E, Ees; Eff, Effs; Gee, Gees;
Aitch, Aitches; I, Ies; Jay, Jays; Kay, Kays; Ell, Ells; Em, Ems; En, Ens;
O, Oes; Pee, Pees; Kue, Kues; Ar, Ars; Ess, Esses; Tee, Tees; U, Ues; Vee,
Vees; Double-u, Double-ues; Ex, Exes; Wy, Wies; Zee, Zees._

OBS. 2.--The names of the letters, as expressed in the modern languages,
are mostly framed _with reference_ to their powers, or sounds. Yet is there
in English no letter of which the name is always identical with its power:
for _A, E, I, O_, and _U_, are the only letters which can name themselves,
and all these have other sounds than those which their names express. The
simple powers of the other letters are so manifestly insufficient to form
any name, and so palpable is the difference between the nature and the name
of each, that did we not know how education has been trifled with, it would
be hard to believe even Murray, when he says, "They are frequently
confounded by writers on grammar. Observations and reasonings on the
_name_, are often applied to explain the _nature_ of a consonant; and by
this means the student is led into error and perplexity."--_L. Murray's
Gram._, 8vo, p. 8. The confounding of names with the things for which they
stand, implies, unquestionably, great carelessness in the use of speech,
and great indistinctness of apprehension in respect to things; yet so
common is this error, that Murray himself has many times fallen into
it.[87] Let the learner therefore be on his guard, remembering that
grammar, both in its study and in its practice, requires the constant
exercise of a rational discernment. Those letters which name themselves,
take for their names those sounds which they usually represent at the end
of an accented syllable; thus the names, _A, E, I, O, U_, are uttered with
the sounds given to the same letters in the first syllables of the other
names, _Abel, Enoch, Isaac, Obed, Urim_; or in the first syllables of the
common words, _paper, penal, pilot, potent, pupil_. The other letters, most
of which can never be perfectly sounded alone, have names in which their
powers are combined with other sounds more vocal; as, _Bee, Cee, Dee,--Ell,
Em, En,--Jay, Kay, Kue_. But in this respect the terms _Aitch_ and
_Double-u_ are irregular; because they have no obvious reference to the
powers of the letters thus named.

OBS. 3.--Letters, like all other things, must be learned and spoken of _by
their names_; nor can they be spoken of otherwise; yet, as the simple
characters are better known and more easily exhibited than their written
names, the former are often substituted for the latter, and are read as the
words for which they are assumed. Hence the orthography of these words has
hitherto been left too much to mere fancy or caprice. Our dictionaries, by
a strange oversight or negligence, do not recognize them as words; and
writers have in general spelled them with very little regard to either
authority or analogy. What they are, or ought to be, has therefore been
treated as a trifling question: and, what is still more surprising, several
authors of spelling-books make no mention at all of them; while others,
here at the very threshold of instruction, teach falsely--giving "_he_" for
_Aitch_, "_er_" for _Ar_, "_oo_" or "_uu_" for _Double-u_, "_ye_" for _Wy_,
and writing almost all the rest improperly. So that many persons who think
themselves well educated, would be greatly puzzled to name on paper these
simple elements of all learning. Nay, there can be found a hundred men who
can readily write the alphabetic names which were in use two or three
thousand years ago in Greece or Palestine, for one who can do the same
thing with propriety, respecting those which we now employ so constantly in
English:[88] and yet the words themselves are as familiar to every
school-boy's lips as are the characters to his eye. This fact may help to
convince us, that _the grammar_ of our language has never yet been
sufficiently taught. Among all the particulars which constitute this
subject, there are none which better deserve to be everywhere known, by
proper and determinate names, than these prime elements of all written

OBS. 4.--Should it happen to be asked a hundred lustrums hence, what were
the names of the letters in "the Augustan age of English literature," or in
the days of William the Fourth and Andrew Jackson, I fear the learned of
that day will be as much at a loss for an answer, as would most of our
college tutors now, were they asked, by what series of names the Roman
youth were taught to spell. Might not Quintilian or Varro have obliged
many, by recording these? As it is, we are indebted to Priscian, a
grammarian of the sixth century, for almost all we know about them. But
even the information which may be had, on this point, has been strangely
overlooked by our common Latin grammarians.[89] What, but the greater care
of earlier writers, has made the Greek names better known or more important
than the Latin? In every nation that is not totally illiterate, custom must
have established for the letters a certain set of names, which are _the
only true ones_, and which are of course to be preferred to such as are
local or unauthorized. In this, however, as in other things, use may
sometimes vary, and possibly improve; but when its decisions are clear, no
feeble reason should be allowed to disturb them. Every parent, therefore,
who would have his children instructed to read and write the English
language, should see that in the first place they learn to name the letters
as they are commonly named in English. A Scotch gentleman of good education
informs me, that the names of the letters, as he first learned them in a
school in his own country, were these: "A, Ib, Ec, Id, E, Iff, Ig, Ich, I,
Ij, Ik, Ill, Im, In, O, Ip, Kue, Ir, Iss, It, U, Iv, Double-u, Ix, Wy, Iz;"
but that in the same school the English names are now used. It is to be
hoped, that all teachers will in time abandon every such local usage, and
name the letters _as they ought to be named_; and that the day will come,
in which the regular English _orthography_ of these terms, shall be
steadily preferred, ignorance of it be thought a disgrace, and the makers
of school-books feel no longer at liberty to alter names that are a
thousand times better known than their own.

OBS. 5.--It is not in respect to their _orthography_ alone, that these
first words in literature demand inquiry and reflection: the
_pronunciation_ of some of them has often been taught erroneously, and,
with respect to three or four of them, some writers have attempted to make
an entire change from the customary forms which I have recorded. Whether
the name of the first letter should be pronounced "_Aye_," as it is in
England, "_Ah_," as it is in Ireland, or "_Aw_," as it is in Scotland, is a
question which Walker has largely discussed, and clearly decided in favour
of the first sound; and this decision accords with the universal practice
of the schools in America. It is remarkable that this able critic, though
he treated minutely of the letters, naming them all in the outset of his
"Principles" subsequently neglected the names of them all, except the first
and the last. Of _Zee_, (which has also been called _Zed, Zad, Izzard,
Uzzard, Izzet_, and _Iz_,)[90] he says, "Its common name is _izzard_, which
Dr. Johnson explains into _s hard_; if, however, this is the meaning, it is
a gross misnomer; for the _z_ is not the hard, but the soft _s_;[91] but as
it has a less sharp, and therefore not so audible a sound, it is not
impossible _but_ it may mean _s surd_. _Zed_, borrowed from the French, is
the more fashionable name of this letter; but, in my opinion, _not to be
admitted, because the names of the letters ought to have no
diversity._"--_Walker's Principles_, No. 483. It is true, the name of a
letter ought to be one, and in no respect diverse; but where diversity has
already obtained, and become firmly rooted in custom, is it to be obviated
by insisting upon what is old-fashioned, awkward, and inconvenient? Shall
the better usage give place to the worse? Uniformity cannot be so reached.
In this country, both _Zed_ and _Izzard_, as well as the worse forms _Zad_
and _Uzzard_, are now fairly superseded by the softer and better term
_Zee_; and whoever will spell aloud, with each of these names, a few such
words as _dizzy, mizzen, gizzard_, may easily perceive why none of the
former can ever be brought again into use. The other two, _Iz_ and _Izzet_,
being localisms, and not authorized English, I give up all six; _Zed_ to
the French, and the rest to oblivion.

OBS. 6.--By way of apology for noticing the name of the first letter,
Walker observes, "If a diversity of names to vowels did not confound us in
our spelling, or declaring to each other the component letters of a word,
it would be entirely needless to enter into _so trifling a question_ as the
mere name of a letter; but when we find ourselves unable to convey signs to
each other on account of this diversity of names, and that words themselves
are endangered by an improper utterance of their component parts, it seems
highly incumbent on us to attempt a uniformity in this point, which,
insignificant as it may seem, is undoubtedly the foundation of a just and
regular pronunciation."--_Dict., under A_. If diversity in this matter is
so perplexing, what shall we say to those who are attempting innovations
without assigning reasons, or even pretending authority? and if a knowledge
of these names is the basis of a just pronunciation, what shall we think of
him who will take no pains to ascertain how he ought to speak and write
them? He who pretends to teach the proper fashion of speaking and writing,
cannot deal honestly, if ever he silently prefer a suggested improvement,
to any established and undisturbed usage of the language; for, in grammar,
no individual authority can be a counterpoise to general custom. The best
usage can never be that which is little known, nor can it be well
ascertained and taught by him who knows little. Inquisitive minds are ever
curious to learn the nature, origin, and causes of things; and that
instruction is the most useful, which is best calculated to gratify this
rational curiosity. This is my apology for dwelling so long upon the
present topic.

OBS. 7.--The names originally given to the letters were not mere notations
of sound, intended solely to express or make known the powers of the
several characters then in use; nor ought even the modern names of our
present letters, though formed with special reference to their sounds, to
be considered such. Expressions of mere sound, such as the notations in a
pronouncing dictionary, having no reference to what is meant by the sound,
do not constitute words at all; because they are not those acknowledged
signs to which a meaning has been attached, and are consequently without
that significance which is an essential property of words. But, in every
language, there must be a series of sounds by which the alphabetical
characters are commonly known in speech; and which, as they are the
acknowledged names of these particular objects, must be entitled to a place
among _the words_ of the language. It is a great error to judge otherwise;
and a greater to make it a "trifling question" in grammar, whether a given
letter shall be called by one name or by an other. Who shall say that
_Daleth, Delta_, and _Dee_, are not three _real words_, each equally
important in the language to which it properly belongs? Such names have
always been in use wherever literature has been cultivated; and as the
forms and powers of the letters have been changed by the nations, and have
become different in different languages, there has necessarily followed a
change of the names. For, whatever inconvenience scholars may find in the
diversity which has thence arisen, to name these elements in a set of
foreign terms, inconsistent with the genius of the language to be learned,
would surely be attended with a tenfold greater. We derived our letters,
and their names too, from the Romans; but this is no good reason why the
latter should be spelled and pronounced as we suppose they were spelled and
pronounced in Rome.

OBS. 8.--The names of the twenty-two letters in Hebrew, are, without
dispute, proper _words_; for they are not only significant of the letters
thus named, but have in general, if not in every instance, some other
meaning in that language. Thus the mysterious ciphers which the English
reader meets with, and wonders over, as he reads the 119th Psalm, may be
resolved, according to some of the Hebrew grammars, as follows:--

[Hebrew: Aleph] Aleph, A, an ox, or a leader; [Hebrew: Beth] Beth, Bee,
house; [Hebrew: Gimel] Gimel, Gee, a camel; [Hebrew: Dalet] Daleth, Dee, a
door; [Hebrew: he] He, E, she, or behold; [Hebrew: vav] Vau, U, a hook, or
a nail; [Hebrew: zajin] Zain, Zee, armour; [Hebrew: het] Cheth, or Heth,
Aitch, a hedge; [Hebrew: tet] Teth, Tee, a serpent, or a scroll; [Hebrew:
jod] Jod, or Yod, I, or Wy, a hand shut; [Hebrew: kaf] Caph, Cee, a
hollow hand, or a cup; [Hebrew: lamed] Lamed, Ell, an ox-goad; [Hebrew:
mem] Mem, Em, a stain, or spot; [Hebrew: nun] Nun, En, a fish, or a snake;
[Hebrew: samekh] Samech, Ess, a basis, or support; [Hebrew: ayin] Ain, or
Oin, O, an eye, or a well; [Hebrew: pe] Pe, Pee, a lip, or mouth; [Hebrew:
tsadi] Tzaddi, or Tsadhe, Tee-zee, (i. e. tz, or ts,) a hunter's pole;
[Hebrew: qof] Koph, Kue, or Kay, an ape; [Hebrew: resh] Resch, or Resh,
Ar, a head; [Hebrew: shin] Schin, or Sin, Ess-aitch, or Ess, a tooth;
[Hebrew: tav] Tau, or Thau, Tee, or Tee-aitch, a cross, or mark.

These English names of the Hebrew letters are written with much less
uniformity than those of the Greek, because there has been more dispute
respecting their powers. This is directly contrary to what one would have
expected; since the Hebrew names are words originally significant of other
things than the letters, and the Greek are not. The original pronunciation
of both languages is admitted to be lost, or involved in so much obscurity
that little can be positively affirmed about it; and yet, where least was
known, grammarians have produced the most diversity; aiming at disputed
sounds in the one case, but generally preferring a correspondence of
letters in the other.

OBS. 9.--The word _alphabet_ is derived from the first two names in the
following series. The Greek letters are twenty-four; which are formed,
named, and sounded, thus:--

[Greek: A a], Alpha, a; [Greek: B, b], Beta, b; [Greek: G g], Gamma, g
hard; [Greek: D d], Delta, d; [Greek: E e], Epsilon, e short; [Greek: Z z],
Zeta, z; [Greek: AE ae], Eta, e long; [Greek: TH Th th], Theta, th; [Greek: I
i], Iota, i; [Greek K k], Kappa, k; [Greek: L l], Lambda, l; [Greek: M m],
Mu, m; [Greek: N n], Nu, n; [Greek: X x], Xi, x; [Greek: O o], Omicron, o
short; [Greek: P p], Pi, p; [Greek: R r] Rho, r; [Greek: S s s], Sigma, s;
[Greek: T t], Tau, t; [Greek: Y y], Upsilon, u; [Greek: PH ph], Phi, ph;
[Greek: CH ch], Chi, ch; [Greek: PS ps], Psi, ps; [Greek: O o], Omega, o

Of these names, our English dictionaries explain the first and the last;
and Webster has defined _Iota_, and _Zeta_, but without reference to the
meaning of the former in Greek. _Beta, Delta, Lambda_, and perhaps some
others, are also found in the etymologies or definitions of Johnson and
Webster, both of whom spell the word _Lambda_ and its derivative
_lambdoidal_ without the silent _b_, which is commonly, if not always,
inserted by the authors of our Greek grammars, and which Worcester, more
properly, retains.

OBS. 10.--The reader will observe that the foregoing names, whether Greek
or Hebrew, are in general much less simple than those which our letters now
bear; and if he has ever attempted to spell aloud in either of those
languages, he cannot but be sensible of the great advantage which was
gained when to each letter there was given a short name, expressive, as
ours mostly are, of its ordinary power. This improvement appears to have
been introduced by the Romans, whose names for the letters were even more
simple than our own. But so negligent in respect to them have been the
Latin grammarians, both ancient and modern, that few even of the learned
can tell what they really were in that language; or how they differed,
either in orthography or sound, from those of the English or the French,
the Hebrew or the Greek. Most of them, however, may yet be ascertained from
Priscian, and some others of note among the ancient philologists; so that
by taking from later authors the names of those letters which were not used
in old times, we can still furnish an entire list, concerning the accuracy
of which there is not much room to dispute. It is probable that in the
ancient pronunciation of Latin, _a_ was commonly sounded as in _father_;
_e_ like the English _a_; _i_ mostly like _e_ long; _y_ like _i_ short; _c_
generally and _g_ always hard, as in _come_ and _go_. But, as the original,
native, or just pronunciation of a language is not necessary to an
understanding of it when written, the existing nations have severally, in a
great measure, accommodated themselves, in their manner of reading this and
other ancient tongues.

OBS. 11.--As the Latin language is now printed, its
letters are twenty-five. Like the French, it has all that belong to the
English alphabet, except the _Double-u_. But, till the first Punic war, the
Romans wrote C for G, and doubtless gave it the power as well as the place
of the Gamma or Gimel. It then seems to have slid into K; but they used it
also for S, as we do now. The ancient Saxons, generally pronounced C as K,
but sometimes as Ch. Their G was either guttural, or like our Y. In some of
the early English grammars the name of the latter is written _Ghee_. The
letter F, when first invented, was called, from its shape, Digamma, and
afterwards Ef. J, when it was first distinguished from I, was called by the
Hebrew name Jod, and afterwards Je. V, when first distinguished from U, was
called Vau, then Va, then Ve. Y, when the Romans first borrowed it from the
Greeks, was called Ypsilon; and Z, from the same source, was called Zeta;
and, as these two letters were used only in words of Greek origin, I know
not whether they ever received from the Romans any shorter names. In
Schneider's Latin Grammar, the letters are named in the following manner;
except Je and Ve, which are omitted by this author: "A, Be, Ce, De, E, Ef,
Ge, Ha, I, [Je,] Ka, El, Em, En, O, Pe, Cu, Er, Es, Te, U, [Ve,] Ix,
Ypsilon, Zeta." And this I suppose to be the most proper way of writing
their names _in Latin_, unless we have sufficient authority for shortening
Ypsilon into Y, sounded as short _i_, and for changing Zeta into Ez.

OBS. 12.--In many, if not in all languages, the five vowels, A, E, I, O, U,
name themselves; but they name themselves differently to the ear, according
to the different ways of uttering them in different languages. And as the
name of a consonant necessarily requires one or more vowels, that also may
be affected in the same manner. But in every language there should be a
known way both of writing and of speaking every name in the series; and
that, if there is nothing to hinder, should be made conformable to _the
genius of the language_. I do not say that the names above can be regularly
declined in Latin; but in English it is as easy to speak of two Dees as of
two trees, of two Kays as of two days, of two Exes as of two foxes, of two
Effs as of two skiffs; and there ought to be no more difficulty about the
correct way of writing the word in the one case, than in the other. In Dr.
Sam. Prat's Latin Grammar, (an elaborate octavo, all Latin, published in
London, 1722,) nine of the consonants are reckoned mutes; b, c, d, g, p, q,
t, j, and v; and eight, semivowels; f, l, m, n, r, s, x, z. "All the
mutes," says this author, "are named by placing _e_ after them; as, be, ce,
de, ge, except _q_, which ends in _u_." See p. 8. "The semivowels,
beginning with _e_, end in themselves; as, ef, _ach_, el, em, en, er, es,
_ex_, (or, as Priscian will have it, _ix_,) _eds_." See p. 9. This mostly
accords with the names given in the preceding paragraph; and so far as it
does not, I judge the author to be wrong. The reader will observe that the
Doctor's explanation is neither very exact nor quite complete: K is a mute
which is not enumerated, and the rule would make the name of it _Ke_, and
not _Ka_;--H is not one of his eight semivowels, nor does the name Ach
accord with his rule or seem like a Latin word;--the name of Z, according
to his principle, would be _Ez_ and not "_Eds_," although the latter may
better indicate the _sound_ which was then given to this letter.

OBS. 13.--If the history of these names exhibits diversity, so does that of
almost all other terms; and yet there is some way of writing every word
with correctness, and correctness tends to permanence. But Time, that
establishes authority, destroys it also, when he fairly sanctions newer
customs. To all names worthy to be known, it is natural to wish a perpetual
uniformity; but if any one thinks the variableness of these to be peculiar,
let him open the English Bible of the fourteenth century, and read a few
verses, observing the names. For instance: "Forsothe whanne _Eroude_ was to
bringynge forth hym, in that nigt _Petir_ was slepynge bitwixe tweyno
knytis."--_Dedis_, (i. e., _Acts_,) xii, 6. "_Crist Ihesu_ that is to
demynge the quyke and deed."--_2 Tim._, iv, 1. Since this was written for
English, our language has changed much, and at the same time acquired, by
means of the press, some aids to stability. I have recorded above the
_true_ names of the letters, as they are now used, with something of their
history; and if there could be in human works any thing unchangeable, I
should wish, (with due deference to all schemers and fault-finders,) that
these names might remain the same forever.

OBS. 14.--If any change is desirable in our present names of the letters,
it is that we may have a shorter and simpler term in stead of _Double-u_.
But can we change this well known name? I imagine it would be about as easy
to change _Alpha, Upsilon, or Omega_; and perhaps it would be as useful.
Let Dr. Webster, or any defender of his spelling, try it. He never named
the _English_ letters rightly; long ago discarded the term _Double-u_; and
is not yet tired of his experiment with "_oo_;" but thinks still to make
the vowel sound of this letter its name. Yet he writes his new name wrong;
has no authority for it but his own; and is, most certainly, reprehensible
for the _innovation_.[92] If W is to be named as a vowel, it ought to _name
itself_, as other vowels do, and not to take _two Oes_ for its written
name. Who that knows what it is, to name a letter, can think of naming _w_
by double _o_? That it is possible for an ingenious man to misconceive this
simple affair of naming the letters, may appear not only from the foregoing
instance, but from the following quotation: "Among the thousand
mismanagements of literary instruction, there is at the outset in the
hornbook, _the pretence to represent elementary sounds_ by syllables
composed of two or more elements; as, _Be, Kay, Zed, Double-u_, and
_Aitch_. These words are used in infancy, and through life, as _simple
elements_ in the process of synthetic spelling. If the definition of a
_consonant_ was made by the master from the practice of the child, it might
suggest pity for the pedagogue, but should not make us forget the realities
of nature."--_Dr. Push, on the Philosophy of the Human Voice_, p. 52. This
is a strange allegation to come from such a source. If I bid a boy spell
the word _why_, he says, "Double-u, Aitch, Wy, _hwi_;" and knows that he
has spelled and pronounced the word correctly. But if he conceives that the
five syllables which form the three words, _Double-u_, and _Aitch_, and
_Wy_, are the three simple sounds which he utters in pronouncing the word
_why_, it is not because the hornbook, or the teacher of the hornbook, ever
made any such blunder or "pretence;" but because, like some great
philosophers, he is capable of misconceiving very plain things. Suppose he
should take it into his head to follow Dr. Webster's books, and to say,
"Oo, he, ye, _hwi_;" who, but these doctors, would imagine, that such
spelling was supported either by "the realities of nature," or by the
authority of custom? I shall retain both the old "definition of a
consonant," and the usual names of the letters, notwithstanding the
contemptuous pity it may excite in the minds of _such_ critics.


The letters are divided into two general classes, _vowels_ and

A _vowel_ is a letter which forms a perfect sound when uttered alone; as,
_a, e, o_.

A _consonant_ is a letter which cannot be perfectly uttered till joined to
a vowel; as, _b, c, d_.[93]

The vowels are _a, e, i, o, u_, and sometimes _w_ and _y._ All the other
letters are consonants.

_W_ or _y_ is called a consonant when it precedes a vowel heard in the same
syllable; as in _wine, twine, whine; ye, yet, youth_: in all other cases,
these letters are vowels; as in _Yssel, Ystadt, yttria; newly, dewy,


The consonants are divided, with respect to their powers, into _semivowels_
and _mutes._

A _semivowel_ is a consonant which can be imperfectly sounded without a
vowel, so that at the end of a syllable its sound may be protracted; as,
_l, n, z_, in _al, an, az._

A _mute_ is a consonant which cannot be sounded at all without a vowel, and
which at the end of a syllable suddenly stops the breath; as, _k, p, t_, in
_ak, ap, at._

The semivowels are, _f, h, j, l, m, n, r, s, v, w, x, y, z_, and _c_ and
_g_ soft: but _w_ or _y_ at the end of a syllable, is a vowel; and the
sound of _c, f, g, h, j, s_, or _x_, can be protracted only as an
_aspirate_, or strong breath.

Four of the semivowels,--_l, m, n_, and _r_,--are termed _liquids_, on
account of the fluency of their sounds; and four others,--_v, w, y_, and
_z_,--are likewise more vocal than the aspirates.

The mutes are eight;--_b, d, k, p, q, t_, and _c_ and _g_ hard: three of
these,--_k, q_, and _c_ hard,--sound exactly alike: _b, d_, and _g_ hard,
stop the voice less suddenly than the rest.


OBS. 1.--The foregoing division of the letters is of very
great antiquity, and, in respect to its principal features sanctioned by
almost universal authority; yet if we examine it minutely, either with
reference to the various opinions of the learned, or with regard to the
essential differences among the things of which it speaks, it will not
perhaps be found in all respects indisputably certain. It will however be
of use, as a basis for some subsequent rules, and as a means of calling the
attention of the learner to the manner in which he utters the sounds of the
letters. A knowledge of about three dozen different elementary sounds is
implied in the faculty of speech. The power of producing these sounds with
distinctness, and of adapting them to the purposes for which language is
used, constitutes perfection of utterance. Had we a perfect alphabet,
consisting of one symbol, and only one, for each elementary sound; and a
perfect method of spelling, freed from silent letters, and precisely
adjusted to the most correct pronunciation of words; the process of
learning to read would doubtless be greatly facilitated. And yet any
attempt toward such a reformation, any change short of the introduction of
some entirely new mode of writing, would be both unwise and impracticable.
It would involve our laws and literature in utter confusion, because
pronunciation is the least permanent part of language; and if the
orthography of words were conformed entirely to this standard, their origin
and meaning would, in many instances, be soon lost. We must therefore
content ourselves to learn languages as they are, and to make the best use
we can of our present imperfect system of alphabetic characters; and we may
be the better satisfied to do this, because the deficiencies and
redundancies of this alphabet are not yet so well ascertained, as to make
it certain what a perfect one would be.

OBS. 2.--In order to have a right understanding of the letters, it is
necessary to enumerate, as accurately as we can, the elementary _sounds_ of
the language; and to attend carefully to the manner in which these sounds
are enunciated, as well as to the characters by which they are represented.
The most unconcerned observer cannot but perceive that there are certain
differences in the sounds, as well as in the shapes, of the letters; and
yet under what heads they ought severally to be classed, or how many of
them will fall under some particular name, it may occasionally puzzle a
philosopher to tell. The student must consider what is proposed or asked,
use his own senses, and judge for himself. With our lower-case alphabet
before him, he can tell by his own eye, which are the long letters, and
which the short ones; so let him learn by his own ear, which are the
vowels, and which, the consonants. The processes are alike simple; and, if
he be neither blind nor deaf, he can do both about equally well. Thus he
may know for a certainty, that _a_ is a short letter, and _b_ a long one;
the former a vowel, the latter a consonant: and so of others. Yet as he may
doubt whether _t_ is a long letter or a short one, so he may be puzzled to
say whether _w_ and _y_, as heard in _we_ and _ye_, are vowels or
consonants: but neither of these difficulties should impair his confidence
in any of his other decisions. If he attain by observation and practice a
clear and perfect pronunciation of the letters, he will be able to class
them for himself with as much accuracy as he will find in books.

OBS. 3.--Grammarians have generally agreed that every letter is either a
vowel or a consonant; and also that there are among the latter some
semivowels, some mutes, some aspirates, some liquids, some sharps, some
flats, some labials, some dentals, some nasals, some palatals, and perhaps
yet other species; but in enumerating the letters which belong to these
several classes, they disagree so much as to make it no easy matter to
ascertain what particular classification is best supported by their
authority. I have adopted what I conceive to be the best authorized, and at
the same time the most intelligible. He that dislikes the scheme, may do
better, if he can. But let him with modesty determine what sort of
discoveries may render our ancient authorities questionable. Aristotle,
three hundred and thirty years before Christ, divided the Greek letters
into _vowels, semivowels_, and _mutes_, and declared that no syllable could
be formed without a vowel. In the opinion of some neoterics, it has been
reserved to our age, to detect the fallacy of this. But I would fain
believe that the Stagirite knew as well what he was saying, as did Dr.
James Rush, when, in 1827, he declared the doctrine of vowels and
consonants to be "a misrepresentation." The latter philosopher resolves the
letters into "_tonics, subtonics_, and _atonics_;" and avers that
"consonants alone may form syllables." Indeed, I cannot but think the
ancient doctrine better. For, to say that "consonants alone may form
syllables," is as much as to say that consonants are not consonants, but
vowels! To be consistent, the attempters of this reformation should never
speak of vowels or consonants, semivowels or mutes; because they judge the
terms inappropriate, and the classification absurd. They should therefore
adhere strictly to their "tonics, subtonics, and atonics;" which classes,
though apparently the same as vowels, semivowels, and mutes, are better
adapted to their new and peculiar division of these elements. Thus, by
reforming both language and philosophy at once, they may make what they
will of either!

OBS. 4.--Some teach that _w_ and _y_ are always vowels: conceiving the
former to be equivalent to _oo_, and the latter to _i_ or _e_. Dr. Lowth
says, "_Y_ is always a vowel," and "_W_ is either a vowel or a diphthong."
Dr. Webster supposes _w_ to be always "a vowel, a simple sound;" but admits
that, "At the beginning of words, _y_ is called an _articulation_ or
_consonant_, and _with some propriety perhaps_, as it brings the root of
the tongue in close contact with the lower part of the palate, and nearly
in the position to which the close _g_ brings it."--_American Dict.,
Octavo_. But I follow Wallis, Brightland, Johnson, Walker, Murray,
Worcester, and others, in considering both of them sometimes vowels and
sometimes consonants. They are consonants at the beginning of words in
English, because their sounds take the article _a_, and not _an_, before
them; as, _a wall, a yard_, and not, _an wall, an yard_. But _oo_ or the
sound of _e_, requires _an_, and not _a_; as, _an eel, an oozy bog_.[94] At
the end of a syllable we know they are vowels; but at the beginning, they
are so squeezed in their pronunciation, as to follow a vowel without any
hiatus, or difficulty of utterance; as, "_O worthy youth! so young, so

OBS. 5.--Murray's rule, "_W_ and _y_ are consonants when they begin a word
or syllable, but in every other situation they are vowels," which is found
in Comly's book, _Kirkham's_, Merchant's, Ingersoll's, Fisk's. Hart's,
Hiley's, Alger's, Bullions's, Pond's, S. Putnam's, Weld's, and in sundry
other grammars, is favourable to my doctrine, but too badly conceived to be
quoted here as authority. It _undesignedly_ makes _w_ a consonant in
_wine_, and a vowel in _twine_; and _y_ a consonant when it _forms_ a
syllable, as in _dewy_: for a letter that _forms_ a syllable, "begins" it.
But _Kirkham_ has lately learned his letters anew; and, supposing he had
Dr. Rush on his side, has philosophically taken their names for their
sounds. He now calls _y_ a "_diphthong_." But he is wrong here by his own
showing: he should rather have called it a _triphthong_. He says, "By
pronouncing in a very deliberate and perfectly natural manner, the letter
_y_, (which is a _diphthong_,) the _unpractised_ student will perceive,
that the sound produced, is compound; being formed, at its opening, of the
obscure sound of _oo_ as heard in _oo_-ze, which sound rapidly slides into
that of _i_, and then advances to that of _ee_ as heard in _e_-ve, _and_ on
which it gradually passes off into silence."--_Kirkham's Elocution_, p. 75.
Thus the "unpractised student" is taught that _b-y_ spells _bwy_; or, if
pronounced "very deliberately, _boo-i-ee_!" Nay, this grammatist makes _b_,
not a labial mute, as Walker, Webster, Cobb, and others, have called it,
but a nasal subtonic, or semivowel. He delights in protracting its
"guttural murmur;" perhaps, in assuming its name for its sound; and, having
proved, that "consonants are capable of forming syllables," finds no
difficulty in mouthing this little monosyllable _by_ into _b-oo-i-ee!_ In
this way, it is the easiest thing in the world, for such a man to outface
Aristotle, or any other divider of the letters; for he _makes_ the sounds
by which he judges. "Boy," says the teacher of Kirkham's Elocution,
"describe the protracted sound of _y_."--_Kirkham's Elocution_, p. 110. The
pupil may answer, "That letter, sir, has no longer or more complex sound,
than what is heard in the word _eye_, or in the vowel _i_; but the book
which I study, describes it otherwise. I know not whether I can make you
understand it, but I will _tr-oo-i-ee_." If the word _try_, which the
author uses as an example, does not exhibit his "protracted sound of _y_,"
there is no word that does: the sound is a mere fiction, originating in
strange ignorance.

OBS. 6.--In the large print above, I have explained the principal classes
of the letters, but not all that are spoken of in books. It is proper to
inform the learner that the _sharp_ consonants are _t_, and all others
after which our contracted preterits and participles require that _d_
should be sounded like _t_; as in the words faced, reached, stuffed,
laughed, triumphed, croaked, cracked, houghed, reaped, nipped, piqued,
missed, wished, earthed, betrothed, fixed. The _flat_ or _smooth_
consonants are _d_, and all others with which the proper sound of _d_ may
be united; as in the words, daubed, judged, hugged, thronged, sealed,
filled, aimed, crammed, pained, planned, feared, marred, soothed, loved,
dozed, buzzed. The _labials_ are those consonants which are articulated
chiefly by the lips; among which, Dr. Webster reckons _b, f, m, p_, and
_v_. But Dr. Rush says, _b_ and _m_ are nasals, the latter, "purely nasal."
[95] The _dentals_ are those consonants which are referred to the teeth;
the _nasals_ are those which are affected by the nose; and the _palatals_
are those which compress the palate, as _k_ and hard _g_. But these
last-named classes are not of much importance; nor have I thought it worth
while to notice _minutely_ the opinions of writers respecting the others,
as whether _h_ is a semivowel, or a mute, or neither.

OBS. 7.--The Cherokee alphabet, which was invented in 1821, by See-quo-yah,
or George Guess, an ingenious but wholly illiterate Indian, contains
eighty-five letters, or characters. But the sounds of the language are much
fewer than ours; for the characters represent, not simple tones and
articulations, but _syllabic sounds_, and this number is said to be
sufficient to denote them all. But the different syllabic sounds in our
language amount to some thousands. I suppose, from the account, that
_See-quo-yah_ writes his name, in his own language, with three letters; and
that characters so used, would not require, and probably would not admit,
such a division as that of vowels and consonants. One of the Cherokees, in
a letter to the American Lyceum, states, that a knowledge of this mode of
writing is so easily acquired, that one who understands and speaks the
language, "can learn to read in a day; and, indeed," continues the writer,
"I have known some to acquire the art in a single evening. It is only
necessary to learn the different sounds of the characters, to be enabled to
read at once. In the English language, we must not only first learn the
letters, but to spell, before reading; but in Cherokee, all that is
required, is, to learn the letters; for they have _syllabic sounds_, and by
connecting different ones together, a word is formed: in which there is no
art. All who understand the language can do so, and both read and write, so
soon as they can learn to trace with their fingers the forms of the
characters. I suppose that more than one half of the Cherokees can read
their own language, and are thereby enabled to acquire much valuable
information, with which they otherwise would never have been blessed."--_W.
S. Coodey_, 1831.

OBS. 8.--From the foregoing account, it would appear that the Cherokee
language is a very peculiar one: its words must either be very few, or the
proportion of polysyllables very great. The characters used in China and
Japan, stand severally for _words_; and their number is said to be not less
than seventy thousand; so that the study of a whole life is scarcely
sufficient to make a man thoroughly master of them. Syllabic writing is
represented by Dr. Blair as a great improvement upon the Chinese method,
and yet as being far inferior to that which is properly _alphabetic_, like
ours. "The first step, in this new progress," says he, "was the invention
of an alphabet of syllables, which probably preceded the invention of an
alphabet of letters, among some of the ancient nations; and which is said
to be retained to this day, in Ethiopia, and some countries of India. By
fixing upon a particular mark, or character, for every syllable in the
language, the number of characters, necessary to be used in writing, was
reduced within a much smaller compass than the number of words in the
language. Still, however, the number of characters was great; and must have
continued to render both reading and writing very laborious arts. Till, at
last, some happy genius arose, and tracing the sounds made by the human
voice, to their most simple elements, reduced them to a very few _vowels
and consonants_; and, by affixing to each of these, the signs which we now
call letters, taught men how, by their combinations, to put in writing all
the different words, or combinations of sound, which they employed in
speech. By being reduced to this simplicity, the art of writing was brought
to its highest state of perfection; and, in this state, we now enjoy it in
all the countries of Europe."--_Blair's Rhetoric_, Lect. VII, p. 68.

OBS. 9.--All certain knowledge of the sounds given to the letters by Moses
and the prophets having been long ago lost, a strange dispute has arisen,
and been carried on for centuries, concerning this question, "Whether the
Hebrew letters are, or are not, _all consonants_:" the vowels being
supposed by some to be suppressed and understood; and not written, except
by _points_ of comparatively late invention. The discussion of such a
question does not properly belong to English grammar; but, on account of
its curiosity, as well as of its analogy to some of our present disputes, I
mention it. Dr. Charles Wilson says, "After we have sufficiently known the
figures and names of the letters, the next step is, to learn to enunciate
or to pronounce them, so as to produce articulate sounds. On this subject,
which appears at first sight very plain and simple, numberless contentions
and varieties of opinion meet us at the threshold. From the earliest period
of the invention of written characters to represent human language, however
more or less remote that time may be, it seems absolutely certain, that the
distinction of letters into _vowels and consonants_ must have obtained. All
the speculations of the Greek grammarians assume this as a first
principle." Again: "I beg leave only to premise this observation, that I
absolutely and unequivocally deny the position, that all the letters of the
Hebrew alphabet are consonants; and, after the most careful and minute
inquiry, give it as my opinion, that of the twenty-two letters of which the
Hebrew alphabet consists, five are vowels and seventeen are consonants. The
five vowels by name are, Aleph, He, Vau, Yod, and Ain."--_Wilson's Heb.
Gram._, pp. 6 and 8.


The powers of the letters are properly those elementary sounds which their
figures are used to represent; but letters formed into words, are capable
of communicating thought independently of sound. The simple elementary
sounds of any language are few, commonly not more than _thirty-six_;[96]
but they may be variously _combined_, so as to form words innumerable.
Different vowel sounds, or vocal elements, are produced by opening the
mouth differently, and placing the tongue in a peculiar manner for each;
but the voice may vary in loudness, pitch, or time, and still utter the
same vowel power.

The _vowel sounds_ which form the basis of the English language, and which
ought therefore to be perfectly familiar to every one who speaks it, are
those which are heard at the beginning of the words, _ate, at, ah, all,
eel, ell, isle, ill, old, on, ooze, use, us_, and that of _u_ in _bull_.

In the formation of syllables, some of these fourteen primary sounds may be
joined together, as in _ay, oil, out, owl_; and all of them may be preceded
or followed by certain motions and positions of the lips and tongue, which
will severally convert them into other terms in speech. Thus the same
essential sounds may be changed into a new series of words by an _f_; as,
_fate, fat, far, fall, feel, fell, file, fill, fold, fond, fool, fuse,
fuss, full_. Again, into as many more with a _p_; as, _pate, pat, par,
pall, peel, pell, pile, pill, pole, pond, pool, pule, purl, pull_. Each of
the vowel sounds may be variously expressed by letters. About half of them
are sometimes words: the rest are seldom, if ever, used alone even to form
syllables. But the reader may easily learn to utter them all, separately,
according to the foregoing series. Let us note them as plainly as possible:
eigh, ~a, ah, awe, =eh, ~e, eye, ~i, oh, ~o, oo, yew, ~u, u. Thus the eight
long sounds, _eigh, ah, awe, eh, eye, oh, ooh, yew_, are, or may be, words;
but the six less vocal, called the short vowel sounds, as in _at, et, it,
ot, ut, put_, are commonly heard only in connexion with consonants; except
the first, which is perhaps the most frequent sound of the vowel A or
_a_--a sound sometimes given to the word _a_, perhaps most generally; as in
the phrase, "twice _~a_ day."

The simple _consonant sounds_ in English are twenty-two: they are marked by
_b, d, f, g hard, h, k, l, m, n, ng, p, r, s, sh, t, th sharp, th flat, v,
w, y, z_, and _zh_. But _zh_ is written only to show the sound of other
letters; as of _s_ in _pleasure_, or _z_ in _azure_.

All these sounds are heard distinctly in the following words: _buy, die,
fie, guy, high, kie, lie, my, nigh, eying, pie, rye, sigh, shy, tie, thigh,
thy, vie, we, ye, zebra, seizure_. Again: most of them may be repeated in
the same word, if not in the same syllable; as in _bibber, diddle, fifty,
giggle, high-hung, cackle, lily, mimic, ninny, singing, pippin, mirror,
hissest, flesh-brush, tittle, thinketh, thither, vivid, witwal, union,[97]
dizzies, vision_.

With us, the consonants J and X represent, not simple, but complex sounds:
hence they are never doubled. J is equivalent to _dzh_; and X, either to
_ks_ or to _gz_. The former ends no English word, and the latter begins
none. To the initial X of foreign words, we always give the simple sound of
Z; as in _Xerxes, xebec_.

The consonants C and Q have no sounds peculiar to themselves. Q has always
the power of _k_. C is hard, like _k_, before _a, o_, and _u_; and soft,
like _s_, before _e, i_, and _y_: thus the syllables, _ca, ce, ci, co, cu,
cy_, are pronounced, _ka, se, si, ko, ku, sy_. _S_ before _c_ preserves the
former sound, but coalesces with the latter; hence the syllables, _sca,
sce, sci, sco, scu, scy_, are sounded, _ska, se, si, sko, sku, sy_. _Ce_
and _ci_ have sometimes the sound of _sh_; as in _ocean, social_. _Ch_
commonly represents the compound sound of _tsh_; as in _church_.

G, as well as C, has different sounds before different vowels. G is always
hard, or guttural, before _a, o_, and _u_; and generally soft, like _j_,
before _e, i_, or _y_: thus the syllables, _ga, ge, gi, go, gu, gy_, are
pronounced _ga, je, ji, go, gu, jy_.

The possible combinations and mutations of the twenty-six letters of our
alphabet, are many millions of millions. But those clusters which are
unpronounceable, are useless. Of such as may be easily uttered, there are
more than enough for all the purposes of useful writing, or the recording
of speech.

Thus it is, that from principles so few and simple as about six or seven
and thirty plain elementary sounds, represented by characters still fewer,
we derive such a variety of oral and written signs, as may suffice to
explain or record all the sentiments and transactions of all men in all


OBS. 1.--A knowledge of sounds can be acquired, in the first
instance, only by the ear. No description of the manner of their
production, or of the differences which distinguish them, can be at all
intelligible to him who has not already, by the sense of hearing, acquired
a knowledge of both. What I here say of the sounds of the letters, must of
course be addressed to those persons only who are able both to speak and to
read English. Why then attempt instruction by a method which both ignorance
and knowledge on the part of the pupil, must alike render useless? I have
supposed some readers to have such an acquaintance with the powers of the
letters, as is but loose and imperfect; sufficient for the accurate
pronunciation of some words or syllables, but leaving them liable to
mistakes in others; extending perhaps to all the sounds of the language,
but not to a ready analysis or enumeration of them. Such persons may profit
by a written description of the powers of the letters, though no such
description can equal the clear impression of the living voice. Teachers,
too, whose business it is to aid the articulation of the young, and, by a
patient inculcation of elementary principles, to lay the foundation of an
accurate pronunciation, may derive some assistance from any notation of
these principles, which will help their memory, or that of the learner. The
connexion between letters and sounds is altogether _arbitrary_; but a few
positions, being assumed and made known, in respect to some characters,
become easy standards for further instruction in respect to others of
similar sound.

OBS. 2.--The importance of being instructed at an early age, to pronounce
with distinctness and facility all the elementary sounds of one's native
language, has been so frequently urged, and is so obvious in itself, that
none but those who have been themselves neglected, will be likely to
disregard the claims of their children in this respect.[98] But surely an
accurate knowledge of the ordinary powers of the letters would be vastly
more common, were there not much hereditary negligence respecting the
manner in which these important rudiments are learned. The utterance of the
illiterate may exhibit wit and native talent, but it is always more or less
barbarous, because it is not aided by a knowledge of orthography. For
pronunciation and orthography, however they may seem, in our language
especially, to be often at variance, are certainly correlative: a true
knowledge of either tends to the preservation of both. Each of the letters
represents some one or more of the elementary sounds, exclusive of the
rest; and each of the elementary sounds, though several of them are
occasionally transferred, has some one or two letters to which it most
properly or most frequently belongs. But borrowed, as our language has
been, from a great variety of sources, to which it is desirable ever to
retain the means of tracing it, there is certainly much apparent lack of
correspondence between its oral and its written form. Still the
discrepancies are few, when compared with the instances of exact
conformity; and, if they are, as I suppose they are, unavoidable, it is as
useless to complain of the trouble they occasion, as it is to think of
forcing a reconciliation. The wranglers in this controversy, can never
agree among themselves, whether orthography shall conform to pronunciation,
or pronunciation to orthography. Nor does any one of them well know how our
language would either sound or look, were he himself appointed sole arbiter
of all variances between our spelling and our speech.

OBS. 3.--"Language," says Dr. Rush, "was long ago analyzed into its
alphabetic elements. Wherever this analysis is known, the art of teaching
language has, with the best success, been conducted upon the rudimental
method." * * * "The art of reading consists in having all the vocal
elements under complete command, that they may be properly applied, for the
vivid and elegant delineation of the sense and sentiment of
discourse."--_Philosophy of the Voice_, p. 346. Again, of "the
pronunciation of the alphabetic elements," he says, "The least deviation
_from the assumed standard_ converts the listener into the critic; and I am
surely speaking within bounds when I say, that for every miscalled element
in discourse, ten succeeding words are lost to the greater part of an
audience."--_Ibid._, p. 350. These quotations plainly imply both the
practicability and the importance of teaching the pronunciation of our
language analytically by means of its present orthography, and agreeably to
the standard assumed by the grammarians. The first of them affirms that it
has been done, "with the best success," according to some ancient method of
dividing the letters and explaining their sounds. And yet, both before and
afterwards, we find this same author complaining of our alphabet and its
subdivisions, as if sense or philosophy must utterly repudiate both; and of
our orthography, as if a ploughman might teach us to spell better: and, at
the same time, he speaks of softening his censure through modesty. "The
deficiencies, redundancies, and confusion, of the system of alphabetic
characters in this language, prevent the adoption of its subdivisions in
this essay."--_Ib._, p. 52. Of the specific sounds given to the letters, he
says, "The first of these matters is under the rule of every body, and
therefore is very properly to be excluded from the discussions of that
philosophy which desires to be effectual in its instruction. How can we
hope to establish a system of elemental pronunciation in a language, when
great masters in criticism condemn at once every attempt, in so simple and
useful a labour as the correction of its orthography!"--P. 256. Again: "I
_deprecate noticing_ the faults of speakers, in the pronunciation of the
alphabetic elements. It is better for criticism to be modest on this point,
till it has the sense or independence to make our alphabet and its uses,
look more like the work of what is called--wise and transcendent humanity:
till the pardonable variety of pronunciation, and the _true spelling by
the vulgar_, have satirized into reformation that pen-craft which keeps up
the troubles of orthography for no other purpose, as one can divine, than
to boast of a very questionable merit as a criterion of education."--_Ib._,
p. 383.

OBS. 4.--How far these views are compatible, the reader will judge. And it
is hoped he will excuse the length of the extracts, from a consideration of
the fact, that a great master of the "pen-craft" here ridiculed, a noted
stickler for needless Kays and Ues, now commonly rejected, while he boasts
that his grammar, which he mostly copied from Murray's, is teaching the old
explanation of the alphabetic elements to "more than one hundred thousand
children and youth," is also vending under his own name an abstract of the
new scheme of "_tonicks, subtonicks_, and _atonicks_;" and, in one breath,
bestowing superlative praise on both, in order, as it would seem, to
monopolize all inconsistency. "Among those who have successfully laboured
in the philological field, _Mr. Lindley Murray_ stands forth in bold
relief, as undeniably at the head of the list."--_Kirkham's Elocution_, p.
12. "The modern candidate for oratorical fame, stands on very different,
and far more advantageous, ground, than that occupied by the young and
aspiring Athenian; especially since a _correct analysis of the vocal
organs_, and a faithful record of their operations, have been given to the
world by _Dr. James Rush_, of Philadelphia--a name that will _outlive_ the
unquarried marble of our mountains."--_Ibid._, p. 29. "But what is to be
said when presumption pushes itself into the front ranks of elocution, and
thoughtless friends undertake to support it? The fraud must go on, till
presumption quarrels, as often happens, with its own friends, or with
itself, and thus dissolves the spell of its merits."--_Rush, on the Voice_,
p. 405.

OBS. 5.--The question respecting the _number_ of simple or elementary
sounds in our language, presents a remarkable puzzle: and it is idle, if
not ridiculous, for any man to declaim about the imperfection of our
alphabet and orthography, who does not show himself able to solve it. All
these sounds may easily be written in a plain sentence of three or four
lines upon almost any subject; and every one who can read, is familiar with
them all, and with all the letters. Now it is either easy _to count_ them,
or it is difficult. If difficult, wherein does the difficulty lie? and how
shall he who knows not what and how many they are, think himself capable of
reforming our system of their alphabetic signs? If easy, why do so few
pretend to know their number? and of those who do pretend to this
knowledge, why are there so few that agree? A certain verse in the seventh
chapter of Ezra, has been said to contain all the letters. It however
contains no _j_; and, with respect to the sounds, it lacks that of _f_,
that of _th sharp_, and that of _u_ in _bull_. I will suggest a few
additional words for these; and then both all the letters, and all the
sounds, of the English language, will be found in the example; and most of
them, many times over: "'And I, even I, Artaxerxes, the king, do make a
decree to all the treasurers' who 'are beyond the river, that whatsoever
Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require
of you, it be done speedily' and faithfully, according to that which he
shall enjoin." Some letters, and some sounds, are here used much more
frequently than others; but, on an average, we have, in this short passage,
each sound five times, and each letter eight. How often, then, does a man
speak all the elements of his language, who reads well but one hour!

OBS. 6.--Of the number of elementary sounds in our language, different
orthoepists report differently; because they cannot always agree among
themselves, wherein the identity or the simplicity, the sameness or the
singleness, even of well-known sounds, consists; or because, if each is
allowed to determine these points for himself, no one of them adheres
strictly to his own decision. They may also, each for himself, have some
peculiar way of utterance, which will confound some sounds which other men
distinguish, or distinguish some which other men confound. For, as a man
may write a very bad hand which shall still be legible, so he may utter
many sounds improperly and still be understood. One may, in this way, make
out a scheme of the alphabetic elements, which shall be true of his own
pronunciation, and yet have obvious faults when tried by the best usage of
English speech. It is desirable not to multiply these sounds beyond the
number which a correct and elegant pronunciation of the language obviously
requires. And what that number is, it seems to me not very difficult to
ascertain; at least, I think we may fix it with sufficient accuracy for all
practical purposes. But let it be remembered, that all who have hitherto
attempted the enumeration, have deviated more or less from their own
decisions concerning either the simplicity or the identity of sounds; but,
most commonly, it appears to have been thought expedient to admit some
exceptions concerning both. Thus the long or diphthongal sounds of _I_ and
_U_, are admitted by some, and excluded by others; the sound of _j_, or
soft _g_, is reckoned as simple by some, and rejected as compound by
others; so a part, if not all, of what are called the long and the short
vowels, as heard in _ale_ and _ell, arm_ and _am, all_ and _on, isle_ or
_eel_ and _ill, tone_ and _tun, pule_ or _pool_ and _pull_, have been
declared essentially the same by some, and essentially different by others.
Were we to recognize as elementary, no sounds but such as are
unquestionably simple in themselves, and indisputably different in quality
from all others, we should not have more sounds than letters: and this is a
proof that we have characters enough, though the sounds are perhaps badly
distributed among them.

OBS. 7.--I have enumerated _thirty-six_ well known sounds, which, in
compliance with general custom, and for convenience in teaching. I choose
to regard as the oral elements of our language. There may be found some
reputable authority for adding four or five more, and other authority as
reputable, for striking from the list seven or eight of those already
mentioned. For the sake of the general principle, which we always regard in
writing, a principle of universal grammar, _that there can be no
syllable without a vowel_, I am inclined to teach, with Brightland, Dr.
Johnson, L. Murray, and others, that, in English, as in French, there is
given to the vowel _e_ a certain very obscure sound which approaches, but
amounts not to an absolute suppression, though it is commonly so regarded
by the writers of dictionaries. It may be exemplified in the words _oven,
shovel, able_;[99] or in the unemphatic article _the_ before a consonant,
as in the sentence, "Take the nearest:" we do not hear it as "_thee
nearest_," nor as "_then carest_," but more obscurely. There is also a
feeble sound of _i_ or _y_ unaccented, which is equivalent to _ee_ uttered
feebly, as in the word _diversity_. This is the most common sound of _i_
and of _y_. The vulgar are apt to let it fall into the more obscure sound
of short _u_. As elegance of utterance depends much upon the preservation
of this sound from such obtuseness, perhaps Walker and others have done
well to mark it as _e_ in _me_; though some suppose it to be peculiar, and
others identify it with the short _i_ in _fit_. Thirdly, a distinction is
made by some writers, between the vowel sounds heard in _hate_ and _bear_,
which Sheridan and Walker consider to be the same. The apparent difference
may perhaps result from the following consonant _r_, which is apt to affect
the sound of the vowel which precedes it. Such words as _bear, care, dare,
careful, parent_, are very liable to be corrupted in pronunciation, by too
broad a sound of the _a_; and, as the multiplication of needless
distinctions should be avoided, I do not approve of adding an other sound
to a vowel which has already quite too many. Worcester, however, in his new
Dictionary, and Wells, in his new Grammar, give to the vowel A _six_ or
_seven_ sounds in lieu of _four_; and Dr. Mandeville, in his Course of
Reading, says, "_A_ has _eight_ sounds."--P. 9.

OBS. 8.--Sheridan made the elements of his oratory _twenty-eight_. Jones
followed him implicitly, and adopted the same number.[100] Walker
recognized several more, but I know not whether he has anywhere told us
_how many there are_. Lindley Murray enumerates _thirty-six_, and the same
thirty-six that are given in the main text above. The eight sounds not
counted by Sheridan are these: 1. The Italian _a_, as in _far, father_,
which he reckoned but a lengthening of the _a_ in _hat_; 2. The short _o_,
as in _hot_, which he supposed to be but a shortening of the _a_ in _hall_;
3. The diphthongal _i_, as in _isle_, which he thought but a quicker union
of the sounds of the diphthong _oi_, but which, in my opinion, is rather a
very quick union of the sounds _ah_ and _ee_ into _ay, I_;[101] 4. The long
_u_, which is acknowledged to be equal to _yu_ or _yew_, though perhaps a
little different from _you_ or _yoo_,[102] the sound given it by Walker; 5.
The _u_ heard in _pull_, which he considered but a shortening of _oo_; 6.
The consonant _w_, which he conceived to be always a vowel, and equivalent
to _oo_; 7. The consonant _y_, which he made equal to a short _ee_; 8. The
consonant _h_, which he declared to be no letter, but a mere breathing, In
all other respects, his scheme of the alphabetic elements agrees with that
which is adopted in this work, and which is now most commonly taught.

OBS. 9.--The effect of _Quantity_ in the prolation of the vowels, is a
matter with which every reader ought to be experimentally acquainted.
_Quantity_ is simply the _time_ of utterance, whether long or short. It is
commonly spoken of with reference to _syllables_, because it belongs
severally to all the distinct or numerable impulses of the voice, and to
these only; but, as vowels or diphthongs may be uttered alone, the notion
of quantity is of course as applicable to them, as to any of the more
complex sounds in which consonants are joined with them. All sounds imply
time; because they are the transient effects of certain percussions which
temporarily agitate the air, an element that tends to silence. When mighty
winds have swept over sea and land, and the voice of the _Ocean_ is raised,
he speaks to the towering cliffs in the deep tones of a _long_ quantity;
the rolling billows, as they meet the shore, pronounce the long-drawn
syllables of his majestic elocution. But see him again in gentler mood;
stand upon the beach and listen to the rippling of his more frequent waves:
he will teach you _short_ quantity, as well as long. In common parlance, to
avoid tediousness, to save time, and to adapt language to circumstances, we
usually utter words with great rapidity, and in comparatively short
quantity. But in oratory, and sometimes in ordinary reading, those sounds
which are best fitted to fill and gratify the ear, should be sensibly
protracted, especially in emphatic words; and even the shortest syllable,
must be so lengthened as to be uttered with perfect clearness: otherwise
the performance will be judged defective.

OBS. 10.--Some of the vowels are usually uttered in longer time than
others; but whether the former are naturally long, and the latter naturally
short, may be doubted: the common opinion is, that they are. But one author
at least denies it; and says, "We must explode the pretended natural
epithets _short_ and _long_ given to our vowels, independent on accent: and
we must observe that our silent _e_ final lengthens not its syllable,
unless the preceding vowel be accented."--_Mackintosh's Essay on E. Gram._,
p. 232. The distinction of long and short vowels which has generally
obtained, and the correspondences which some writers have laboured to
establish between them, have always been to me sources of much
embarrassment. It would appear, that in one or two instances, sounds that
differ only in length, or time, are commonly recognized as different
elements; and that grammarians and orthoepists, perceiving this, have
attempted to carry out the analogy, and to find among what they call the
long vowels a parent sound for each of the short ones. In doing this, they
have either neglected to consult the ear, or have not chosen to abide by
its verdict. I suppose the vowels heard in _pull_ and _pool_ would be
necessarily identified, if the former were protracted or the latter
shortened; and perhaps there would be a like coalescence of those heard in
_of_ and _all_, were they tried in the same way, though I am not sure of
it. In protracting the _e_ in _met_, and the _i_ in _ship_, ignorance or
carelessness might perhaps, with the help of our orthoepists, convert the
former word into _mate_ and the latter into _sheep_; and, as this would
breed confusion in the language, the avoiding of the similarity may perhaps
be a sufficient reason for confining these two sounds of _e_ and _i_, to
that short quantity in which they cannot be mistaken. But to suppose, as
some do, that the protraction of _u_ in _tun_ would identify it with the
_o_ in _tone_, surpasses any notion I have of what stupidity may
misconceive. With one or two exceptions, therefore, it appears to me that
each of the pure vowel sounds is of such a nature, that it may be readily
recognized by its own peculiar quality or tone, though it be made as long
or as short as it is possible for any sound of the human voice to be. It is
manifest that each of the vowel sounds heard in _ate, at, arm, all, eel,
old, ooze, us_, may be protracted to the entire extent of a full breath
slowly expended, and still be precisely the same one simple sound;[103]
and, on the contrary, that all but one may be shortened to the very minimum
of vocality, and still be severally known without danger of mistake. The
prolation of a pure vowel places the organs of utterance in that particular
position which the sound of the letter requires, and then _holds them
unmoved_ till we have given to it all the length we choose.

OBS. 11.--In treating of the quantity and quality of the vowels, Walker
says, "The first distinction of sound that seems to obtrude itself upon us
when we utter the vowels, is a long and a short sound, according to the
greater or less duration of time taken up in pronouncing them. This
distinction is so obvious as to have been adopted in all languages, and is
that to which we annex _clearer ideas than to any other_; and though the
short sounds of some vowels have not in our language been classed with
sufficient accuracy with their parent long ones, yet this has bred but
little confusion, as vowels long and short are always sufficiently
distinguishable."--_Principles_, No. 63. Again: "But though the terms long
and short, as applied to vowels, are pretty generally understood, an
accurate ear will easily perceive that these terms do not always mean the
long and short sounds of the respective vowels to which they are applied;
for, if we choose to be directed by the ear, in denominating vowels long or
short, we must certainly give these appellations to those sounds only which
have _exactly the same radical tone_, and differ only in the long or short
emission of that tone."--_Ib._, No. 66. He then proceeds to state his
opinion that the vowel sounds heard in the following words are thus
correspondent: _tame, them; car, carry; wall, want; dawn, gone; theme, him;
tone_, nearly _tun; pool, pull_. As to the long sounds of _i_ or _y_, and
of _u_, these two being diphthongal, he supposes the short sound of each to
be no other than the short sound of its latter element _ee_ or _oo_. Now to
me most of this is exceedingly unsatisfactory; and I have shown why.

OBS. 12.--If men's notions of the length and shortness of vowels are the
clearest ideas they have in relation to the elements of speech, how comes
it to pass that of all the disputable points in grammar, this is the most
perplexed with contrarieties of opinion? In coming before the world as an
author, no man intends to place himself clearly in the wrong; yet, on the
simple powers of the letters, we have volumes of irreconcilable doctrines.
A great connoisseur in things of this sort, who professes to have been long
"in the habit of listening to sounds of every description, and that with
more than ordinary attention," declares in a recent and expensive work,
that "in every language we find the vowels _incorrectly classed_"; and, in
order to give to "the simple elements of English utterance" a better
explanation than others have furnished, he devotes to a new analysis of our
alphabet the ample space of twenty octavo pages, besides having several
chapters on subjects connected with it. And what do his twenty pages amount
to? I will give the substance of them in ten lines, and the reader may
judge. He does not tell us _how many_ elementary sounds there are; but,
professing to arrange the vowels, long and short, "in the order in which
they are naturally found," as well as to show of the consonants that the
mutes and liquids form correspondents in regular pairs, he presents a
scheme which I abbreviate as follows. VOWELS: 1. _A_, as in _=all_ and
_wh~at_, or _o_, as in _orifice_ and _n~ot_; 2. _U--=urn_ and _h~ut_, or
_l=ove_ and _c~ome_; 3. _O--v=ote_ and _ech~o_; 4. _A--=ah_ and _h~at_; 5.
_A--h=azy_, no short sound; 6. _E--=e=el_ and _it_; 7. _E--m=ercy_ and
_m~et_; 8. _O--pr=ove_ and _ad~o_; 9. _OO--t=o=ol_ and _f~o~ot_; 10.
_W--vo=w_ and _la~w_; 11. _Y_--(like the first _e_--) _s=yntax_ and
_dut~y_. DIPHTHONGS: 1. _I_--as _ah-ee_; 2. _U_--as _ee-oo_; 3. _OU_--as
_au-oo_. CONSONANTS: 1. Mutes,--_c_ or _s, f, h, k_ or _q, p, t, th sharp,
sh_; 2. Liquids,--_l_, which has no corresponding mute, and _z, v, r, ng,
m, n, th flat_ and _j_, which severally correspond to the eight mutes in
their order; 3. Subliquids,--_g hard, b_, and _d_. See "Music of Nature,"
by _William Gardiner_, p. 480, and after.

OBS. 13.--Dr. Rush comes to the explanation of the powers of the letters as
the confident first revealer of nature's management and wisdom; and hopes
to have laid the foundation of a system of instruction in reading and
oratory, which, if adopted and perfected, "will beget a similarity of
opinion and practice," and "be found to possess an excellence which must
grow into sure and irreversible favour."--_Phil. of the Voice_, p. 404. "We
have been willing," he says, "_to believe, on faith alone_, that nature is
wise in the contrivance of speech. Let us now show, by our works of
analysis, how she manages the _simple elements_ of the voice, in the
production of their unbounded combinations."--_Ibid._, p. 44. Again: "Every
one, with peculiar self-satisfaction, thinks he reads well, and yet all
read differently: there is, however, _but one mode_ of reading
well."--_Ib._, p. 403. That one mode, some say, his philosophy alone
teaches. Of that, others may judge. I shall only notice here what seems to
be his fundamental position, that, on all the vocal elements of language,
nature has stamped duplicity. To establish this extraordinary doctrine, he
first attempts to prove, that "the letter _a_, as heard in the word _day_,"
combines two distinguishable yet inseparable sounds; that it is a compound
of what he calls, with reference to vowels and syllables in general, "the
radical and the vanishing movement of the voice,"--a single and indivisible
element in which "two sounds are heard continuously successive," the sounds
of _a_ and _e_ as in _ale_ and _eve_. He does not know that some
grammarians have contended that _ay_ in _day_ is a proper diphthong, in
which both the vowels are heard; but, so pronouncing it himself, infers
from the experiment, that there is no simpler sound of the vowel a. If this
inference is not wrong, the word _shape_ is to be pronounced _sha-epe_;
and, in like manner, a multitude of other words will acquire a new element
not commonly heard in them.

OBS. 14.--But the doctrine stops not here. The philosopher examines, in
some similar way, the other simple vowel sounds, and finds a beginning and
an end, a base and an apex, a radical and a vanishing movement, to them
all; and imagines a sufficient warrant from nature to divide them all "into
two parts," and to convert most of them into diphthongs, as well as to
include all diphthongs with them, as being altogether as simple and
elementary. Thus he begins with confounding all distinction between
diphthongs and simple vowels; except that which he makes for himself when
he admits "the radical and the vanish," the first half of a sound and the
last, to have no difference in quality. This admission is made with respect
to the vowels heard in _ooze, eel, err, end_, and _in_, which he calls, not
diphthongs, but "monothongs." But in the _a_ of _ale_, he hears _=a'-ee_;
in that of _an, ~a'-~e_; (that is, the short _a_ followed by something of
the sound of _e_ in _err_;) in that of _art, ah'~-e_; in that of _all,
awe'-~e_; in the _i_ of _isle, =i'-ee_; in the _o_ of _old, =o'-oo_; in the
proper diphthong _ou, ou'-oo_; in the _oy_ of _boy_, he knows not what.
After his explanation of these mysteries, he says, "The seven radical
sounds with their vanishes, which have been described, include, as far as I
can perceive, all the elementary diphthongs of the English
language."--_Ib._, p. 60. But all the sounds of the vowel _u_, whether
diphthongal or simple, are excluded from his list, unless he means to
represent one of them by the _e_ in _err_; and the complex vowel sound
heard in _voice_ and _boy_, is confessedly omitted on account of a doubt
whether it consists of two sounds or of three! The elements which he
enumerates are thirty-five; but if _oi_ is not a triphthong, they are to be
thirty-six. Twelve are called "_Tonics_; and are heard in the usual sound
of the separated _Italics_, in the following words: _A_-ll, _a_-rt, _a_-n,
_a_-le, _ou_-r, _i_-sle, _o_-ld, _ee_-l, _oo_-ze, _e_-rr, _e_-nd,
_i_-n,"--_Ib._, p. 53. Fourteen are called "_Subtonics_; and are marked by
the separated Italics, in the following words: _B_-ow, _d_-are, _g_-ive,
_v_-ile, _z_-one, _y_-e, _w_-o, _th_-en, a-_z_-ure, si-_ng_, _l_-ove,
_m_-ay, _n_-ot, _r_-oe."--_Ib._, p. 54. Nine are called "_Atonics_; they
are heard in the words, U-_p_, ou-_t_, ar-_k_, i-_f_, ye-_s, h_-e,
_wh_-eat, _th_-in, pu-_sh_."--_Ib._, p. 56. My opinion of this scheme of
the alphabet the reader will have anticipated.


In printed books of the English language, the Roman characters are
generally employed; sometimes, the _Italic_; and occasionally, the [Font
change: Old English]: but in handwriting, [Font change: Script letters] are
used, the forms of which are peculiarly adapted to the pen.

Characters of different sorts or sizes should never be _needlessly mixed_;
because facility of reading, as well as the beauty of a book, depends much
upon the regularity of its letters.

In the ordinary forms of the Roman letters, every thick stroke that slants,
slants from the left to the right downwards, except the middle stroke in Z;
and every thin stroke that slants, slants from the left to the right

Italics are chiefly used to distinguish emphatic or remarkable words: in
the Bible, they show what words were supplied by the translators.

In manuscripts, a single line drawn under a word is meant for Italics; a
double line, for small capitals; a triple line, for full capitals.

In every kind of type or character, the letters have severally _two forms_,
by which they are distinguished as _capitals_ and _small letters_. Small
letters constitute the body of every work; and capitals are used for the
sake of eminence and distinction. The titles of books, and the heads of
their principal divisions, are printed wholly in capitals. Showbills,
painted signs, and short inscriptions, commonly appear best in full
capitals. Some of these are so copied in books; as, "I found an altar
with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD."--_Acts_, xvii, 23. "And they
set up over his head, his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF
THE JEWS."--_Matt._, xxvii, 37.



When particular books are mentioned by their names, the chief words in
their titles begin with capitals, and the other letters are small; as,
"Pope's Essay on Man"--"the Book of Common Prayer"--"the Scriptures of the
Old and New Testaments." [104]


The first word of every distinct sentence, or of any clause separately
numbered or paragraphed, should begin with a capital; as, "Rejoice
evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the
will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench not the Spirit. Despise
not prophesyings. Prove all things: hold fast that which is good."--_1
Thess._, v, 16--21.

"14. He has given his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:
15. _For_ quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
16. _For_ protecting them, by a mock trial, from punishment for murders:
17. _For_ cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:
18. _For_ imposing taxes on us without our consent:" &c.
_Declaration of American Independence._


All names of the Deity, and sometimes their emphatic substitutes, should
begin with capitals; as, "God, Jehovah, the Almighty, the Supreme Being,
Divine Providence, the Messiah, the Comforter, the Father, the Son, the
Holy Spirit, the Lord of Sabaoth."

"The hope of my spirit turns trembling to Thee."--_Moore_.


Proper names, of every description, should always begin with capitals; as,
"Saul of Tarsus, Simon Peter, Judas Iscariot, England, London, the Strand,
the Thames, the Pyrenees, the Vatican, the Greeks, the Argo and the


Titles of office or honour, and epithets of distinction, applied to
persons, begin usually with capitals; as, "His Majesty William the Fourth,
Chief Justice Marshall, Sir Matthew Hale, Dr. Johnson, the Rev. Dr.
Chalmers, Lewis the Bold, Charles the Second, James the Less, St.
Bartholomew, Pliny the Younger, Noah Webster, Jun., Esq."


Those compound proper names which by analogy incline to a union of their
parts without a hyphen, should be so written, and have but one capital: as,
"Eastport, Eastville, Westborough, Westfield, Westtown, Whitehall,
Whitechurch, Whitehaven, Whiteplains, Mountmellick, Mountpleasant,
Germantown, Germanflats, Blackrock, Redhook, Kinderhook, Newfoundland,
Statenland, Newcastle, Northcastle, Southbridge, Fairhaven, Dekalb,
Deruyter, Lafayette, Macpherson."


The compounding of a name under one capital should be avoided when the
general analogy of other similar terms suggests a separation under two; as,
"The chief mountains of Ross-shire are Ben Chat, _Benchasker_, Ben Golich,
Ben Nore, Ben Foskarg, and Ben Wyvis."--_Glasgow Geog._, Vol. ii, p. 311.
Write _Ben Chasker_. So, when the word _East, West, North_, or _South_, as
part of a name, denotes relative position, or when the word _New_
distinguishes a place by contrast, we have generally separate words and two
capitals; as, "East Greenwich, West Greenwich, North Bridgewater, South
Bridgewater, New Jersey, New Hampshire."


When any adjective or common noun is made a distinct part of a compound
proper name, it ought to begin with a capital; as, "The United States, the
Argentine Republic, the Peak of Teneriffe, the Blue Ridge, the Little
Pedee, Long Island, Jersey City, Lower Canada, Green Bay, Gretna Green,
Land's End, the Gold Coast."


When a common and a proper name are associated merely to explain each
other, it is in general sufficient, if the proper name begin with a
capital, and the appellative, with a small letter; as, "The prophet Elisha,
Matthew the publican, the brook Cherith, the river Euphrates, the Ohio
river, Warren county, Flatbush village, New York city."


The name of an object personified, when it conveys an idea strictly
individual, should begin with a capital; as, "Upon this, _Fancy_ began
again to bestir herself."--_Addison_. "Come, gentle _Spring_, ethereal
mildness, come."--_Thomson_.


Words derived from proper names, and having direct reference to particular
persons, places, sects, or nations, should begin with capitals; as,
"Platonic, Newtonian, Greek, or Grecian, Romish, or Roman, Italic, or
Italian, German, or Germanic, Swedish, Turkish, Chinese, Genoese, French,
Dutch, Scotch, Welsh:" so, perhaps, "to Platonize, Grecize, Romanize,
Italicize, Latinize, or Frenchify."


The words _I_ and _O_ should always be capitals; as, "Praise the Lord, O
Jerusalem; praise thy God, O Zion."--_Psalm_ cxlvii. "O wretched man that I
am!"--"For that which I do, I allow not: for what I would, that do I not;
but what I hate, that do I."--_Rom._, vii, 24 and 15.


Every line in poetry, except what is regarded as making but one verse with
the line preceding, should begin with a capital; as,

"Our sons their fathers' failing language see,
And such as Chaucer is, shall Dryden be."--_Pope_.

Of the exception, some editions of the Psalms in Metre are full of
examples; as,

"Happy the man whose tender care
relieves the poor distress'd!
When troubles compass him around,
the Lord shall give him rest."
_Psalms with Com. Prayer, N. Y._, 1819, Ps. xli.


The first word of a full example, of a distinct speech, or of a direct
quotation, should begin with a capital; as, "Remember this maxim: 'Know
thyself.'"--"Virgil says, 'Labour conquers all things.'"--"Jesus answered
them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?"--_John_, x, 34.
"Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not
steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy
mother."--_Luke_, xviii, 20.


Other words of particular importance, and such as denote the principal
subjects treated of, may be distinguished by capitals; and names subscribed
frequently have capitals throughout: as, "In its application to the
Executive, with reference to the Legislative branch of the Government, the
same rule of action should make the President ever anxious to avoid the
exercise of any discretionary authority which can be regulated by
Congress."--ANDREW JACKSON, 1835.


Capitals are improper wherever there is not some special rule or reason for
their use: a century ago books were disfigured by their frequency; as,
"Many a Noble _Genius_ is lost for want of _Education_. Which wou'd then be
Much More Liberal. As it was when the _Church_ Enjoy'd her _Possessions_.
And _Learning_ was, in the _Dark Ages_, Preserv'd almost only among the
_Clergy_."--CHARLES LESLIE, 1700; _Divine Right of Tythes_, p. 228.


OBS. 1.--The letters of the alphabet, read by their names, are equivalent
to words. They are a sort of universal signs, by which we may mark and
particularize objects of any sort, named or nameless; as, "To say,
therefore, that while A and B are both quadrangular, A is more or less
quadrangular than B, is absurd."--_Murray's Gram._, p. 50. Hence they are
used in the sciences as symbols of an infinite variety of things or ideas,
being construed both substantively and adjectively; as, "In ascending from
the note C to D, the interval is equal to an inch; and from D to E, the
same."--_Music of Nature_, p. 293. "We have only to imagine the G clef
placed below it."--_Ib._ Any of their forms may be used for such purposes,
but the custom of each science determines our choice. Thus Algebra employs
small Italics; Music, Roman capitals; Geometry, for the most part, the
same; Astronomy, Greek characters; and Grammar, in some part or other,
every sort. Examples: "Then comes _answer_ like an ABC book."--_Beauties of
Shakspeare_, p. 97. "Then comes _question_ like an _a, b, c_,
book.--_Shakspeare_." See A, B, C, in _Johnson's quarto Dict._
Better:--"like an _A-Bee-Cee_ book."

"For A, his magic pen evokes an O,
And turns the tide of Europe on the foe."--_Young_.

OBS. 2.--A lavish use of capitals defeats the very purpose for which the
letters were distinguished in rank; and carelessness in respect to the
rules which govern them, may sometimes misrepresent the writer's meaning.
On many occasions, however, their use or disuse is arbitrary, and must be
left to the judgement and taste of authors and printers. Instances of this
kind will, for the most part, concern _chief words_, and come under the
fifteenth rule above. In this grammar, the number of rules is increased;
but the foregoing are still perhaps too few to establish an accurate
uniformity. They will however tend to this desirable result; and if doubts
arise in their application, the difficulties will be in particular examples
only, and not in the general principles of the rules. For instance: In 1
Chron., xxix, 10th, some of our Bibles say, "Blessed be thou, LORD God of
Israel our father, for ever and ever." Others say, "Blessed be thou, LORD
God of Israel, our Father, for ever and ever." And others, "Blessed be
thou, LORD God of Israel our Father, for ever and ever." The last is wrong,
either in the capital F, or for lack of a comma after _Israel_. The others
differ in meaning; because they construe the word _father_, or _Father_,
differently. Which is right I know not. The first agrees with the Latin
Vulgate, and the second, with the Greek text of the Septuagint; which two
famous versions here disagree, without ambiguity in either.[105]

OBS. 3.--The innumerable discrepancies in respect to capitals, which, to a
greater or less extent, disgrace the very best editions of our most popular
books, are a sufficient evidence of the want of better directions on this
point. In amending the rules for this purpose, I have not been able
entirely to satisfy myself; and therefore must needs fail to satisfy the
very critical reader. But the public shall have the best instructions I can
give. On Rule 1st, concerning _Books_, it may be observed, that when
particular books or writings are mentioned by other terms than their real
titles, the principle of the rule does not apply. Thus, one may call
Paradise Lost, "Milton's _great poem_;" or the Diversions of Purley, "the
_etymological investigations_ of Horne Tooke." So it is written in the
Bible, "And there was delivered unto him _the book of the prophet_
Esaias."--_Luke_, iv, 17. Because the name of Esaias, or Isaiah, seems to
be the only proper title of his book.

OBS. 4.--On Rule 2d, concerning _First Words_, it may be observed, that the
using of other points than the period, to separate sentences that are
totally distinct in sense, as is sometimes practised in quoting, is no
reason for the omission of capitals at the beginning of such sentences;
but, rather, an obvious reason for their use. Our grammarians frequently
manufacture a parcel of puerile examples, and, with the formality of
apparent quotation, throw them together in the following manner: "He is
above disguise;" "we serve under a good master;" "he rules over a willing
people;" "we should do nothing beneath our character."--_Murray's Gram._,
p. 118. These sentences, and all others so related, should, unquestionably,
begin with capitals. Of themselves, they are distinct enough to be
separated by the period and a dash. With examples of one's own making, the
quotation points may be used or not, as the writer pleases; but not on
their insertion or omission, nor even on the quality of the separating
point, depends in all cases the propriety or impropriety of using initial
capitals. For example: "The Future Tense is the form of the verb which
denotes future time; as, John _will come_, you shall go, they will learn,
the sun will rise to-morrow, he will return next week."--_Frazee's Improved
Gram._, p. 38; _Old Edition_, 35. To say nothing of the punctuation here
used, it is certain that the initial words, _you, they, the_, and _he_,
should have commenced with capitals.

OBS. 5.--On Rule 3d, concerning _Names of Deity_, it may be observed, that
the words _Lord_ and _God_ take the nature of proper names, only when they
are used in reference to the Eternal Divinity. The former, as a title of
honour to men, is usually written with a capital; but, as a common
appellative, with a small letter. The latter, when used with reference to
any fabulous deity, or when made plural to speak of many, should seldom, if
ever, begin with a capital; for we do not write with a capital any common
name which we do not mean to honour: as, "Though there be that are called
_gods_, whether in heaven or in earth--as there be _gods_ many, and _lords_
many."--_1 Cor._, viii, 5. But a diversity of design or conception in
respect to this kind of distinction, has produced great diversity
concerning capitals, not only in original writings, but also in reprints
and quotations, not excepting even the sacred books. Example: "The Lord is
a great God, and a great King above all _Gods_."--_Gurney's Essays_, p. 88.
Perhaps the writer here exalts the inferior beings called gods, that he may
honour the one true God the more; but the Bible, in four editions to which
I have turned, gives the word _gods_ no capital. See _Psalms_, xcv, 3. The
word _Heaven_ put for God, begins with a capital; but when taken literally,
it commonly begins with a small letter. Several nouns occasionally
connected with names of the Deity, are written with a very puzzling
diversity: as, "The Lord of _Sabaoth_;"--"The Lord God of _hosts_;"--"The
God of _armies_;"--"The Father of _goodness_;"--"The Giver of all
_good_;"--"The Lord, the righteous _Judge_." All these, and many more like
them, are found sometimes with a capital, and sometimes without. _Sabaoth_,
being a foreign word, and used only in this particular connexion, usually
takes a capital; but the equivalent English words do not seem to require
it. For "_Judge_," in the last example, I would use a capital; for "_good_"
and "_goodness_," in the preceding ones, the small letter: the one is an
eminent name, the others are mere attributes. Alger writes, "_the Son of
Man_," with two capitals; others, perhaps more properly, "_the Son of
man_," with one--wherever that phrase occurs in the New Testament. But, in
some editions, it has no capital at all.

OBS. 6.--On Rule 4th, concerning _Proper Names_, it may be observed, that
the application of this principle supposes the learner to be able to
distinguish between proper names and common appellatives. Of the difference
between these two classes of words, almost every child that can speak, must
have formed some idea. I once noticed that a very little boy, who knew no
better than to call a pigeon a turkey because the creature had feathers,
was sufficiently master of this distinction, to call many individuals by
their several names, and to apply the common words, _man, woman, boy,
girl_, &c., with that generality which belongs to them. There is,
therefore, some very plain ground for this rule. But not all is plain, and
I will not veil the cause of embarrassment. It is only an act of imposture,
to pretend that grammar _is easy_, in stead of making it so. Innumerable
instances occur, in which the following assertion is by no means true: "The
distinction between a common and a proper noun is _very
obvious_."--_Kirkham's Gram._, p 32. Nor do the remarks of this author, or
those of any other that I am acquainted with, remove any part of the
difficulty. We are told by this gentleman, (in language incorrigibly bad,)
that, "_Nouns_ which denote the genus, species, or variety of beings or
things, are always common; as, _tree_, the genus; _oak, ash, chestnut,
poplar_, different species; and _red oak, white oak, black oak_,
varieties."--_Ib._, p. 32. Now, as it requires _but one noun_ to denote
either a genus or a species, I know not how to conceive of _those_ "_nouns_
which denote _the genus_ of things," except as of other confusion and
nonsense; and, as for the three varieties of oak, there are surely no
"_nouns_" here to denote them, unless he will have _red, white_, and
_black_ to be nouns. But what shall we say of--"the Red sea, the White sea,
the Black sea;" or, with two capitals, "Red Sea, White Sea, Black Sea," and
a thousand other similar terms, which are neither proper names unless they
are written with capitals, nor written with capitals unless they are first
judged to be proper names? The simple phrase, "the united states," has
nothing of the nature of a proper name; but what is the character of the
term, when written with two capitals, "the United States?" If we contend
that it is not then a proper name, we make our country anonymous. And what
shall we say to those grammarians who contend, that "_Heaven, Hell, Earth,
Sun_, and _Moon_, are proper names;" and that, as such, they should be
written with capitals? See _Churchill's Gram._, p. 380.

OBS. 7.--It would seem that most, if not all, proper names had originally
some common signification, and that very many of our ordinary words and
phrases have been converted into proper names, merely by being applied to
particular persons, places, or objects, and receiving the distinction of
capitals. How many of the oceans, seas, lakes, capes, islands, mountains,
states, counties, streets, institutions, buildings, and other things, which
we constantly particularize, have no other proper names than such as are
thus formed, and such as are still perhaps, in many instances, essentially
appellative! The difficulties respecting these will be further noticed
below. A proper noun is the name of some particular individual, group, or
people; as, _Adam, Boston_, the _Hudson_, the _Azores_, the _Andes_, the
_Romans_, the _Jews_, the _Jesuits_, the _Cherokees_. This is as good a
definition as I can give of a proper noun or name. Thus we commonly
distinguish the names of particular persons, places, nations, tribes, or
sects, with capitals. Yet we name the sun, the moon, the equator, and many
other particular objects, without a capital; for the word the may give a
particular meaning to a common noun, without converting it into a proper
name: but if we say _Sol_, for the sun, or _Luna_, for the moon, we write
it with a capital. With some apparent inconsistency, we commonly write the
word _Gentiles_ with a capital, but _pagans, heathens_, and _negroes_,
without: thus custom has marked these names with degradation. The names of
the days of the week, and those of the months, however expressed, appear to
me to partake of the nature of proper names, and to require capitals: as,
_Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday_; or, as
the Friends denominate them, _Firstday, Secondday, Thirdday, Fourthday,
Fifthday, Sixthday, Seventhday_. So, if they will not use _January,
February_, &c., they should write as proper names their _Firstmonth,
Secondmonth_, &c. The Hebrew names for the months, were also proper nouns:
to wit, Abib, Zif, Sivan, Thamuz, Ab, Elul, Tisri, Marchesvan, Chisleu,
Tebeth, Shebat, Adar; the year, with the ancient Jews, beginning, as ours
once did, in March.

OBS. 8.--On Rule 5th, concerning _Titles of Honour_, it may be observed,
that names of office or rank, however high, do not require capitals merely
as such; for, when we use them alone in their ordinary sense, or simply
place them in apposition with proper names, without intending any
particular honour, we begin them with a small letter: as, "the emperor
Augustus;"--"our mighty sovereign, Abbas Carascan;"--"David the
king;"--"Tidal king of nations;"--"Bonner, bishop of London;"--"The sons of
Eliphaz, the first-born you of Esau; duke Teman, duke Omar, duke Zepho,
duke Kenaz, duke Korah, duke Gatam, and duke Amalek."--_Gen._, xxxvi, 15.
So, sometimes, in addresses in which even the greatest respect is intended
to be shown: as, "O _sir_, we came indeed down at the first time to buy
food."--_Gen._, xliii, 20. "O my _lord_, let thy servant, I pray thee,

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