By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Dissertation on the English Language - With Notes, Historical and Critical; to Which is Added, - by Way of Appendix, an Essay on a Reformed Mode of Spelling, - With Dr. Franklin's Arguments on that Subject
Author: Jr., Webster, Noah
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Dissertation on the English Language - With Notes, Historical and Critical; to Which is Added, - by Way of Appendix, an Essay on a Reformed Mode of Spelling, - With Dr. Franklin's Arguments on that Subject" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.





  To which is added, BY WAY OF APPENDIX,






         *       *       *       *       *


         *       *       *       *       *


         *       *       *       *       *

  [Illustration: IT & Co]





_Benjamin Franklin, Esq_; LL.D. F.R.S.



Are most respectfully Inscribed,

By His Excellency's

Most obliged and most obedient Servant,

  _The Author._

Dedications are usually designed to flatter the Great, to acknowlege
their services, or court their favor and influence. But very different
motives have led me to prefix the venerable name of FRANKLIN to this

Respect for his Excellency's talents and exertions, as a great
Philosopher and a warm Patriot, I feel in common with all the lovers
of science and freedom; but my peculiar admiration of his character,
arises from considering it as _great_ in _common things_.

His Excellency has not labored to perplex himself and confound his
countrymen with ingenious theories in ethics, and unintelligible
speculations in theology and metaphysics. He has not compiled volumes
to prove or disprove the probability of universal salvation, or the
eternal duration of future punishments; content with a plain doctrine,
taught by philosophy and common sense, and confirmed by christianity,
that virtue and happiness, vice and punishment, are inseparably
connected, and that "if we do well here, we shall fare well hereafter."
In the most elevated stations of life, his Excellency has never been
above a constant application to some useful business; thus complying
with that precept of the fourth command, "_six days shalt thou labor
and do all thy work_," which is as positive an injunction, and as
binding upon all men, as the first article, "_remember the Sabbath day,
to keep it holy_."

In his philosophical researches, he has been guided by experiment, and
sought for _practical truths_. In the world, he has been industrious
to collect _facts_, (which compose all our knowlege) and apply them
to the most useful purposes of government, agriculture, commerce,
manufactures, rural, domestic and moral economy. In communicating his
ideas he does not sacrifice truth to embellishment. His stile is plain
and elegantly neat; and his remarks are not so general as to leave
his ideas indefinite and obscure. His pen follows his thoughts, and
consequently leads the reader, without study, into the same train of
thinking. In short, he writes for the child as well as the philosopher,
and always writes well, because he never takes pains to write.

Violently attached to no political party, he labors to reconcile
contending factions in government. Convinced, by the experience of
a long life, that all men are liable to err, and acknowleging "that
he has often found himself mistaken, and had occasion to change his
opinions," he consents to measures which his judgement tells him are
_theoretically wrong_, when the voices of a majority declare them to be
_practically right_.

He never attempts to usurp the divine prerogative of controlling
opinions; never charges another with ignorance, knavery and folly, nor
endeavors to stab his reputation, for not subscribing a particular
creed; much less does he ever assume a dictatorial authority, and
sentence to final damnation, those who have the same chance of being
right as himself, and whose conduct, whatever may be their opinions, is
regulated by the rules of moral and social virtue.

For these reasons, as well as for the age, the eminent rank and public
merits of this illustrious defender of American freedom, I revere a
character equally known and respected in this and foreign countries.

HARTFORD, _May, 1789_.


Young gentlemen who have gone through a course of academical studies,
and received the usual honors of a University, are apt to contract
a singular stiffness in their conversation. They read Lowth's
Introduction, or some other grammatical treatise, believe what they
read, without examining the grounds of the writer's opinion, and
attempt to shape their language by his rules. Thus they enter the world
with such phrases as, _a mean_, _averse from_, _if he have_, _he has
gotten_, and others which they deem _correct_; they pride themselves,
for some time, in their superior learning and peculiarities; till
further information, or the ridicule of the public, brings them to use
the language of other people.

Such has been my progress, and that of many of my cotemporaries. After
being some years in that excellent school, the world, I recommenced my
studies, endeavored, not merely to learn, but to understand, the _a_,
_b_, _c_, of the English language, and in 1783 compiled and published
the First Part of my Grammatical Institute. The favorable reception of
this, prompted me to extend my original plan, which led to a further
investigation of the principles of language. After all my reading and
observation for the course of ten years, I have been able to unlearn
a considerable part of what I learnt in early life; and at thirty
years of age, can, with confidence, affirm, that our modern grammars
have done much more hurt than good. The authors have labored to prove,
what is obviously absurd, viz. that our language is not made right;
and in pursuance of this idea, have tried to make it over again, and
persuade the English to speak by Latin rules, or by arbitrary rules
of their own. Hence they have rejected many phrases of pure English,
and substituted those which are neither English nor sense. Writers and
Grammarians have attempted for centuries to introduce a subjunctive
mode into English, yet without effect; the language requires none,
distinct from the indicative; and therefore a subjunctive form stands
in books only as a singularity, and people in practice pay no regard to
it. The people are right, and a critical investigation of the subject,
warrants me in saying, that common practice, even among the unlearned,
is generally defensible on the principles of analogy, and the structure
of the language, and that very few of the alterations recommended by
Lowth and his followers, can be vindicated on any better principle than
some Latin rule, or his own private opinion.

Some compilers have also attempted to introduce a _potential mode_,
where they arrange those phrases that have the _auxiliary_ verbs,
as they are called, _can_, _may_, &c. But all the helping verbs are
principal verbs, and the verb following them is generally in the
infinitive. _I can go_, _he may write_, _we shall see_, &c. are only a
customary ellipsis of _I can to go_, _he may to write_, _we shall to
see_; and are no more a potential mode than _I dare go_, _we saw him

In the indeclinable parts of speech, all authors were mistaken, till
Mr. Horne Tooke explained them: Our conjunctions are mostly verbs in
the imperative mode: Our adverbs and prepositions are mostly verbs,
nouns and adjectives, either separate or combined; and the proper
definition of adverb and preposition, is, "a word, or union of words,
without the ordinary rules of government." _Because_ is a compound of
the verb _be_, in the imperative, and the noun _cause_; _otherwise_ is
merely a corruption of _other ways_; _wherefore_ is a corruption of
the Roman _qua-re_, with the addition of _for_; _wisely_ is nothing
more than the two adjectives _wise like_. So that in many cases, the
want of a space between two words, or of the usual rules of government,
is the only circumstance that distinguishes them from ordinary nouns
and verbs; that is, the only thing that makes them _adverbs_ or
_prepositions_; such as, _because_, _always_, _beyond_, _before_,
_behind_, _forward_, _backward_. In short, had the English never been
acquainted with Greek and Latin, they would never have thought of one
half the distinctions and rules which make up our English grammars.

The object of grammar, in a living language, is usually misunderstood.
Men often suppose they must learn their native language by grammar;
whereas they learn the language first, and grammar afterwards. The
principal business of a compiler of a grammar is, to separate _local_
or _partial_ practice from the _general custom_ of speaking; and reject
what is _local_, whether it exists among the great or the small, the
learned or ignorant, and recommend that which is universal, or general,
or which conforms to the analogies of structure in a language. Whether
the words _means_, _pains_, _news_, ought to have been used originally
in the singular form; or _sheep_, _deer_, _hose_, in the plural; or
in other words, whether the language is well made, or might in some
instances be mended, are questions of little consequence now; it is
our business to find what the English language _is_, and not, how it
_might have been made_. The most difficult task now to be performed by
the advocates of _pure English_, is to restrain the influence of men,
learned in Greek and Latin, but ignorant of their own tongue; who have
laboured to reject much good English, because they have not understood
the original construction of the language. Should the following
Dissertations produce this effect, in the smallest degree, they may
render essential service to our native tongue.

These Dissertations derive their origin from accidental circumstances,
the history of which is briefly this. The necessity of securing the
copy right of the Grammatical Institute in the different states,
seconded by a desire of being acquainted with my own country, induced
me to suspend my professional pursuits, and visit the Southern States.
While I was waiting for the regular Sessions of the Legislatures,
in those states which had not passed laws for protecting literary
property, I amused myself in writing remarks on the English Language,
without knowing to what purpose they would be applied. They were begun
in Baltimore in the summer of 1785; and at the persuasion of a friend,
and the consent of the Rev. Dr. Allison, whose politeness deserves my
grateful acknowlegements, they were read publicly to a small audience
in the Presbyterian Church. They were afterward read in about twenty of
the large towns between Williamsburg in Virginia, and Portsmouth in New
Hampshire. These public readings were attended with various success;
the audiences were generally small, but always respectable; and the
readings were probably more useful to myself than to my hearers. I
every where availed myself of the libraries and conversation of learned
men, to correct my ideas, and collect new materials for a treatise,
which is now presented to the public.

There are few men who do not at times find themselves at a loss,
respecting the true pronunciation of certain words. Having no
principles or rules, by which they can solve questions of this kind,
they imitate some gentleman, whose abilities and character entitle
his opinions to respect, but whose pronunciation may be altogether
accidental or capricious.

With respect to many words, I have been in the same uncertainty;
and used formerly to change my pronunciation, in conformity to the
practice of the last man of superior learning whom I heard speak. My
enquiries have been directed to investigate some principles, which
will remove all difficulties in pronunciation; the result of which is
a full satisfaction in my own mind as to almost every particular word.
Whether the principles will prove equally satisfactory to others, it is
impossible now to determine. Most of the varieties in pronunciation are
mentioned in the second and third Dissertations; those which are not,
the reader will be enabled to adjust on the principles there unfolded.

It will be observed, that many of the remarks in this publication are
not new. This will be no objection to the main design; as some remarks
which are found in other philological treatises, are necessary to the
general plan of this. A great part however of my opinions are new, and
many of them directly opposed to the rules laid down by former writers.

In the singularity of spelling certain words, I am authorized by
Sidney, Clarendon, Middleton, Blackstone, Ash, or other eminent
writers, whose authority, being supported by good principles and
convenience, is deemed superior to that of Johnson, whose pedantry has
corrupted the purity of our language, and whose principles would in
time destroy all agreement between the spelling and pronunciation of
words. I once believed that a reformation of our orthography would be
unnecessary and impracticable. This opinion was hasty; being the result
of a slight examination of the subject. I now believe with Dr. Franklin
that such a reformation is practicable and highly _necessary_.

It has been my aim to support my opinions by numerous and respectable
authorities. In some cases, an author is quoted, but not the chapter or
page. This was owing to neglect in first transcribing passages, which
was often done, without any design to use the quotations as authorities
in the present work; and the passages could not afterwards be found
without great trouble, and sometimes the author could not be a second
time procured. In a very few instances, a quotation has been taken at
second hand on the credit of a faithful writer; but never when I could
obtain the original work. Many other ancient authors would have been
consulted, had it been practicable; but the most valuable of these are
very scarce, and many of them I have not heard of in America. It is
to be lamented that old authors are neglected, and modern libraries
composed of abridgements, compilations, short essays, &c. which are
calculated only for communicating some general information and making
superficial scholars, to the prejudice of profound learning and true

The American student is often obliged, and too often disposed, to drink
at the streams, instead of mounting to the sources of information.

For the remarks on English Verse in the fifth Dissertation, I am much
indebted to the celebrated author of M'Fingal, a gentleman who has
"drank deep of the Pierian Spring," and who is equally distinguished
for wit, erudition, correct taste, and professional knowlege.

In explaining the principles of the language, I have aimed at
perspicuity, with a view to render the work useful to all classes of
readers. The Notes at the end are designed to illustrate some points
by authorities or arguments that could not be properly arranged in
the text; and to throw some light on ancient history. To the curious
enquirer, these may be as entertaining as the Dissertations themselves.
In two or three instances, I have found occasion to change my opinion,
since the publication of the Institute; but a future edition of that
work will be conformed to the criticisms in these Dissertations.

To those who ask where a writer was born and educated, before they
can ascertain the value of his writings, I can only observe, it is
expected this publication will fare like all others. Men every where
suppose that their own state or country has some excellence that does
not belong to their neighbors; and it is well, if they do not arrogate
a superiority in _every_ respect. They think their own colleges the
best; their professional men the most learned, and their citizens the
most liberal and polite. I have been witness to numberless remarks and
insinuations of this kind in almost every state in the union; and after
personal observation, can affirm that they generally proceed from gross
ignorance, or unpardonable prejudice. But it is very natural for men to
think and say all these things of _home_, when they have little or no
knowlege of any thing _abroad_.

Convinced that a writer is apt to overlook his own mistakes, when they
are very obvious to a reader, I have submitted these Dissertations to
the criticism of good judges of the subject, with full liberty of
altering, amending and expunging any part of the work; by which means
several passages have been omitted and others corrected. Still there
may be faults in the book; and as truth is the object of my enquiries,
whenever the friendly critic shall point out any errors, either in fact
or opinion, it will be my pride and pleasure to acknowlege and correct
them. Many years experience has taught me that the public, when well
informed, usually form a very just opinion of a man and his writings,
and I am perfectly disposed to acquiesce in their decision.

P. S. Several Essays, on more important subjects, intended for an
Appendix to this work, are necessarily reserved for a future volume.


[1]----"a fungous growth of Novels and pamphlets, the meaner
productions of the French and English presses, in which it is to be
feared (the reader) rarely finds any rational pleasure, and more rarely
still, any solid improvement."--Harris. Hermes, 434.




  INTRODUCTION,                                                       17

  Advantages of national uniformity in language,                      19

  The English language the parent of the American,                    21

  Absurdity of copying the changes of language in
  Great Britain,                                                      24

  The only good principles on which any permanent
  uniformity can be established,                                      27

  English writers who are the best models of stile,                   31

  Writers who have corrupted stile,                                   32

  History of the English Language,                                    40

  Of the ancient Celtic,                                              41

  Of the Armoric,                                                     48

  Of the old Irish,                                                   49

  Of the Teutonic or Gothic,                                          53

  Of the Norman French,                                               56

  Of the language in Chaucer's time,                                  59

  Remarks,                                                            61

  Of the Saxon origin of the English tongue,                          61

  Of the poverty and copiousness of languages,                     63-64

  Of the difference in the French and English manner
  of speaking,                                                        67

  Of the irregular orthography of the English language,               70


  Elements of the language unfolded,                                  81

  Rules of pronunciation,                                             91

  Of accent,                                                          95

  Differences of pronunciation and controverted points
  examined,                                                          103

  How the manner of speaking may be affected by the
  laws of property, &c.                                              106


  Examination of controverted points, continued,                     131

  Of modern corruptions in the English pronunciation,                146


  Remarks on the formation of language,                              181

  A sketch of Mr. Horne Tooke's new and ingenious
  explanation of the particles,                                      186

  Examination of particular phrases,                                 201

  Noun,                                                              201

  Verb,                                                              222

  Mode,                                                              231

  Number and person,                                                 232

  Auxiliaries,                                                       234

  Criticisms on the use of what is called the future
  tense,                                                             236

  ---------- On the use of what is called the Subjunctive
  Mode,                                                              240

  Of the participial noun,                                           279

  Particles,                                                         284

  State of the language in America,                                  287


  Of the construction of English verse,                              291

  Pauses,                                                            299

  Expression,                                                        305

  Of reading verse,                                                  310


  Etymological reasons for supposing the European
  languages to be descended from one common
  stock,                                                         313-350

  Other arguments,                                               350-353

  The affinity between the ancient Irish language
  and the Punic,                                                     353

  Reasons for supposing the Irish to be derived from
  the Phenician or Hebrew,                                           354

  Specimen and state of the English Language in the
  reign of Richard II,                                               357

  Strictures on the stile of Sir William Temple,                     364

  ---------- of Dr. Robertson,                                       365

  ---------- of Mr. Gibbon,                                          367


  An Essay on the necessity, advantages and practicability
  of reforming the mode of spelling,                                 391

  Dr. Franklin's arguments on the subject,                           408


The sounds of the vowels, marked or referred to in the second and
third Dissertations, are according to the Key in the First Part of the
Institute. Thus:

                   a       e        i        o       u       y
  First sound,   late,   feet,    night,   note,   tune,   sky,
  Second,        hat,    let,     tin,             tun,    glory,
  Third,                 law,     fraud,
  Fourth,                ask,     father,
  Fifth,                 not,     what,
  Sixth,                 prove,   room,

The capitals, included in brackets [] in the text, are references to
the Notes at the end.






     I. _Introduction._--II. _History of the English Language._--III.




A regular study of language has, in all civilized countries, formed a
part of a liberal education. The Greeks, Romans, Italians and French
successively improved their native tongues, taught them in Academies at
home, and rendered them entertaining and useful to the foreign student.

The English tongue, tho later in its progress towards perfection, has
attained to a considerable degree of purity, strength and elegance, and
been employed, by an active and scientific nation, to record almost all
the events and discoveries of ancient and modern times.

This language is the inheritance which the Americans have received from
their British parents. To cultivate and adorn it, is a task reserved
for men who shall understand the connection between language and logic,
and form an adequate idea of the influence which a uniformity of speech
may have on national attachments.

It will be readily admitted that the pleasures of reading and
conversing, the advantage of accuracy in business, the necessity of
clearness and precision in communicating ideas, require us to be able
to speak and write our own tongue with ease and correctness. But there
are more important reasons, why the language of this country should be
reduced to such fixed principles, as may give its pronunciation and
construction all the certainty and uniformity which any living tongue
is capable of receiving.

The United States were settled by emigrants from different parts of
Europe. But their descendants mostly speak the same tongue; and the
intercourse among the learned of the different States, which the
revolution has begun, and an American Court will perpetuate, must
gradually destroy the differences of dialect which our ancestors
brought from their native countries. This approximation of dialects
will be certain; but without the operation of other causes than
an intercourse at Court, it will be slow and partial. The body of
the people, governed by habit, will still retain their respective
peculiarities of speaking; and for want of schools and proper books,
fall into many inaccuracies, which, incorporating with the language
of the state where they live, may imperceptibly corrupt the national
language. Nothing but the establishment of schools and some uniformity
in the use of books, can annihilate differences in speaking and
preserve the purity of the American tongue. A sameness of pronunciation
is of considerable consequence in a political view; for provincial
accents are disagreeable to strangers and sometimes have an unhappy
effect upon the social affections. All men have local attachments,
which lead them to believe their own practice to be the least
exceptionable. Pride and prejudice incline men to treat the practice of
their neighbors with some degree of contempt. Thus small differences
in pronunciation at first excite ridicule--a habit of laughing at the
singularities of strangers is followed by disrespect--and without
respect friendship is a name, and social intercourse a mere ceremony.

These remarks hold equally true, with respect to individuals, to small
societies and to large communities. Small causes, such as a nick-name,
or a vulgar tone in speaking, have actually created a dissocial
spirit between the inhabitants of the different states, which is
often discoverable in private business and public deliberations. Our
political harmony is therefore concerned in a uniformity of language.

As an independent nation, our honor requires us to have a system of
our own, in language as well as government. Great Britain, whose
children we are, and whose language we speak, should no longer be _our_
standard; for the taste of her writers is already corrupted, and her
language on the decline. But if it were not so, she is at too great a
distance to be our model, and to instruct us in the principles of our
own tongue.

It must be considered further, that the English is the common root or
stock from which our national language will be derived. All others will
gradually waste away--and within a century and a half, North America
will be peopled with a hundred millions of men, _all speaking the same
language_. Place this idea in comparison with the present and possible
future bounds of the language in Europe--consider the Eastern Continent
as inhabited by nations, whose knowlege and intercourse are embarrassed
by differences of language; then anticipate the period when the people
of one quarter of the world, will be able to associate and converse
together like children of the same family.[2] Compare this prospect,
which is not visionary, with the state of the English language in
Europe, almost confined to an Island and to a few millions of people;
then let reason and reputation decide, how far America should be
dependent on a transatlantic nation, for her standard and improvements
in language.

Let me add, that whatever predilection the Americans may have for their
native European tongues, and particularly the British descendants for
the English, yet several circumstances render a future separation of
the American tongue from the English, necessary and unavoidable. The
vicinity of the European nations, with the uninterrupted communication
in peace, and the changes of dominion in war, are gradually
assimilating their respective languages. The English with others is
suffering continual alterations. America, placed at a distance from
those nations, will feel, in a much less degree, the influence of the
assimilating causes; at the same time, numerous local causes, such as
a new country, new associations of people, new combinations of ideas
in arts and science, and some intercourse with tribes wholly unknown
in Europe, will introduce new words into the American tongue. These
causes will produce, in a course of time, a language in North America,
as different from the future language of England, as the modern Dutch,
Danish and Swedish are from the German, or from one another: Like
remote branches of a tree springing from the same stock; or rays of
light, shot from the same center, and diverging from each other, in
proportion to their distance from the point of separation.

Whether the inhabitants of America can be brought to a perfect
uniformity in the pronunciation of words, it is not easy to predict;
but it is certain that no attempt of the kind has been made, and an
experiment, begun and pursued on the right principles, is the only way
to decide the question. Schools in Great Britain have gone far towards
demolishing local dialects--commerce has also had its influence--and
in America these causes, operating more generally, must have a
proportional effect.

In many parts of America, people at present attempt to copy the
English phrases and pronunciation--an attempt that is favored by their
habits, their prepossessions and the intercourse between the two
countries. This attempt has, within the period of a few years, produced
a multitude of changes in these particulars, especially among the
leading classes of people. These changes make a difference between the
language of the higher and common ranks; and indeed between the _same_
ranks in _different_ states; as the rage for copying the English, does
not prevail equally in every part of North America.

But besides the reasons already assigned to prove this imitation
absurd, there is a difficulty attending it, which will defeat the end
proposed by its advocates; which is, that the English themselves have
no standard of pronunciation, nor can they ever have one on the plan
they propose. The Authors, who have attempted to give us a standard,
make the practice of the court and stage in London the sole criterion
of propriety in speaking. An attempt to establish a standard on this
foundation is both _unjust_ and _idle_. It is unjust, because it
is abridging the nation of its rights: The _general practice_ of a
nation is the rule of propriety, and this practice should at least
be consulted in so important a matter, as that of making laws for
speaking. While all men are upon a footing and no singularities are
accounted vulgar or ridiculous, every man enjoys perfect liberty. But
when a particular set of men, in exalted stations, undertake to say,
"we are the standards of propriety and elegance, and if all men do not
conform to our practice, they shall be accounted vulgar and ignorant,"
they take a very great liberty with the rules of the language and the
rights of civility.

But an attempt to fix a standard on the practice of any particular
class of people is highly absurd: As a friend of mine once observed, it
is like fixing a light house on a floating island. It is an attempt to
_fix_ that which is in itself _variable_; at least it must be variable
so long as it is supposed that a local practice has no standard but
a _local practice_; that is, no standard but _itself_. While this
doctrine is believed, it will be impossible for a nation to follow as
fast as the standard changes--for if the gentlemen at court constitute
a standard, they are above it themselves, and their practice must shift
with their passions and their whims.

But this is not all. If the practice of a few men in the capital is
to be the standard, a knowlege of this must be communicated to the
whole nation. Who shall do this? An able compiler perhaps attempts
to give this practice in a dictionary; but it is probable that the
pronunciation, even at court, or on the stage, is not uniform. The
compiler therefore must follow his particular friends and patrons; in
which case he is sure to be opposed and the authority of his standard
called in question; or he must give two pronunciations as the standard,
which leaves the student in the same uncertainty as it found him. Both
these events have actually taken place in England, with respect to the
most approved standards; and of course no one is universally followed.

Besides, if language must vary, like fashions, at the caprice of a
court, we must have our standard dictionaries republished, with the
fashionable pronunciation, at least once in five years; otherwise a
gentleman in the country will become intolerably vulgar, by not being
in a situation to adopt the fashion of the day. The _new_ editions of
them will supersede the _old_, and we shall have our pronunciation to
relearn, with the polite alterations, which are generally corruptions.

Such are the consequences of attempting to make a _local_ practice
the _standard_ of language in a _nation_. The attempt must keep the
language in perpetual fluctuation, and the learner in uncertainty.

If a standard therefore cannot be fixed on local and variable custom,
on what shall it be fixed? If the most eminent speakers are not to
direct our practice, where shall we look for a guide? The answer is
extremely easy; the _rules of the language itself_, and the _general
practice of the nation_, constitute propriety in speaking. If we examin
the structure of any language, we shall find a certain principle of
analogy running through the whole. We shall find in English that
similar combinations of letters have usually the same pronunciation;
and that words, having the same terminating syllable, generally have
the accent at the same distance from that termination. These principles
of analogy were not the result of design--they must have been the
effect of accident, or that tendency which all men feel towards
uniformity.[3] But the principles, when established, are productive of
great convenience, and become an authority superior to the arbitrary
decisions of any man or class of men. There is one exception only to
this remark: When a deviation from analogy has become the universal
practice of a nation, it then takes place of all rules and becomes the
standard of propriety.

The two points therefore, which I conceive to be the basis of a
standard in speaking, are these; _universal undisputed practice_, and
the _principle of analogy_. _Universal practice_ is generally, perhaps
always, a rule of propriety; and in disputed points, where people
differ in opinion and practice, _analogy_ should always decide the

These are authorities to which all men will submit--they are superior
to the opinions and caprices of the great, and to the negligence and
ignorance of the multitude. The authority of individuals is always
liable to be called in question--but the unanimous consent of a nation,
and a fixed principle interwoven with the very construction of a
language, coeval and coextensive with it, are like the common laws of a
land, or the immutable rules of morality, the propriety of which every
man, however refractory, is forced to acknowlege, and to which most
men will readily submit. Fashion is usually the child of caprice and
the being of a day; principles of propriety are founded in the very
nature of things, and remain unmoved and unchanged, amidst all the
fluctuations of human affairs and the revolutions of time.

It must be confessed that languages are changing, from age to age,
in proportion to improvements in science. Words, as Horace observes,
are like leaves of trees; the old ones are dropping off and new ones
growing. These changes are the necessary consequence of changes in
customs, the introduction of new arts, and new ideas in the sciences.
Still the body of a language and its general rules remain for ages the
same, and the new words usually conform to these rules; otherwise
they stand as exceptions, which are not to overthrow the principle of
analogy already established.

But when a language has arrived at a certain stage of improvement,
it must be stationary or become retrograde; for improvements in
science either cease, or become slow and too inconsiderable to affect
materially the tone of a language. This stage of improvement is the
period when a nation abounds with writers of the first class, both for
abilities and taste. This period in England commenced with the age of
Queen Elizabeth and ended with the reign of George II. It would have
been fortunate for the language, had the stile of writing and the
pronunciation of words been fixed, as they stood in the reign of Queen
Anne and her successor. Few improvements have been made since that
time; but innumerable corruptions in pronunciation have been introduced
by Garrick, and in stile, by Johnson, Gibbon and their imitators.[4]

The great Sidney wrote in a pure stile; yet the best models of purity
and elegance, are the works of Sir William Temple, Dr. Middleton,
Lord Bolingbroke, Mr. Addison and Dean Swift. But a little inferior to
these, are the writings of Mr. Pope, Sir Richard Steele, Dr. Arbuthnot,
with some of their cotemporaries. Sir William Blackstone has given
the law stile all the elegance and precision of which it is capable.
Dr. Price and Dr. Priestley write with purity, and Sir William Jones
seems to have copied the ease, simplicity and elegance of Middleton and

But how few of the modern writers have pursued the same manner of
writing? Johnson's stile is a mixture of Latin and English; an
intolerable composition of Latinity, affected smoothness, scholastic
accuracy and roundness of periods. The benefits derived from his
morality and his erudition, will hardly counterbalance the mischief
done by his manner of writing. The names of a Robertson, a Hume, a
Home and a Blair, almost silence criticism; but I must repeat what
a very learned Scotch gentleman once acknowleged to me, "that the
Scotch writers are not models of the pure English stile." Their stile
is generally stiff, sometimes very awkward, and not always correct.[5]
Robertson labors his stile and sometimes introduces a word merely for
the sake of rounding a period. Hume has borrowed French idioms without
number; in other respects he has given an excellent model of historical
stile. Lord Kaims' manner is stiff; and Dr Blair, whose stile is less
exceptionable in these particulars, has however introduced, into his
writings, several foreign idioms and ungrammatical phrases. The Scotch
writers now stand almost the first for erudition; but perhaps no man
can write a foreign language with genuin purity.

Gibbon's harmony of prose is calculated to delight our ears; but it is
difficult to comprehend his meaning and the chain of his ideas, as
fast as we naturally read; and almost impossible to recollect them,
at any subsequent period. Perspicuity, the first requisite in stile,
is sometimes sacrificed to melody; the mind of a reader is constantly
dazzled by a glare of ornament, or charmed from the subject by the
music of the language. As he is one of the _first_, it is hoped he
may be the _last_, to attempt the gratification of our _ears_, at the
expense of our _understanding_.

Such however is the taste of the age; simplicity of stile is neglected
for ornament, and sense is sacrificed to sound.[6]

Altho stile, or the choice of words and manner of arranging them,
may be necessarily liable to change, yet it does not follow that
pronunciation and orthography cannot be rendered in a great measure
permanent. An orthography, in which there would be a perfect
correspondence between the spelling and pronunciation, would go very
far towards effecting this desireable object. The Greek language
suffered little or no change in these particulars, for about a thousand
years; and the Roman was in a great degree fixed for several centuries.

Rapid changes of language proceed from violent causes; but these causes
cannot be supposed to exist in North America. It is contrary to all
rational calculation, that the United States will ever be conquered by
any one nation, speaking a different language from that of the country.
Removed from the danger of corruption by conquest, our language can
change only with the slow operation of the causes before-mentioned and
the progress of arts and sciences, unless the folly of imitating our
parent country should continue to govern us, and lead us into endless
innovation. This folly however will lose its influence gradually, as
our particular habits of respect for that country shall wear away,
and our _amor patriæ_ acquire strength and inspire us with a suitable
respect for our own national character.

We have therefore the fairest opportunity of establishing a national
language, and of giving it uniformity and perspicuity, in North
America, that ever presented itself to mankind. Now is the time to
begin the plan. The minds of the Americans are roused by the events
of a revolution; the necessity of organizing the political body and
of forming constitutions of government that shall secure freedom and
property, has called all the faculties of the mind into exertion; and
the danger of losing the benefits of independence, has disposed every
man to embrace any scheme that shall tend, in its future operation,
to reconcile the people of America to each other, and weaken the
prejudices which oppose a cordial union.

My design, in these dissertations, is critically to investigate
the rules of pronunciation in our language; to examin the past and
present practice of the English, both in the pronunciation of words
and construction of sentences; to exhibit the principal differences
between the practice in England and America, and the differences in
the several parts of America, with a view to reconcile them on the
principles of _universal practice_ and _analogy_. I have no system of
my own to offer; my sole design is to explain what I suppose to be
authorities, superior to all private opinions, and to examin local
dialects by those authorities.

Most writers upon this subject have split upon one rock: They lay down
certain rules, arbitrary perhaps or drawn from the principles of other
languages, and then condemn all English phrases which do not coincide
with those rules. They seem not to consider that grammar is formed on
language, and not language on grammar. Instead of examining to find
what the English language _is_, they endeavor to show what it _ought to
be_ according to their rules. It is for this reason that some of the
criticisms of the most celebrated philologers are so far from being
just, that they tend to overthrow the rules, and corrupt the true
idiom, of the English tongue. Several examples of this will appear in
the course of these Dissertations.

To learn the English language in its purity, it is necessary to examin
and compare the best authors from Chaucer to the present time. In
executing the following work, the most approved compilations have
been consulted, and the opinions of the learned authors considered as
respectable, not as decisive, authorities. The language itself has
been examined with great industry, with a view to discover and defend
its principles on the best grounds, _analogies in structure_, and
_immemorial usage_. I have had recourse to the works of authors who
wrote prior to Chaucer, and have even borrowed some light upon this
subject, from the early ages of Gothic ignorance. Believing, with the
author of "Diversions of Purley," that the peculiar structure of our
language is Saxon, and that its principles can be discovered only in
its Teutonic original, it has been my business, as far as the materials
in my possession would permit, to compare the English with the other
branches of the same stock, particularly the German and the Danish.
These researches have thrown light upon the meaning and construction of
particular phrases, and enabled me to vindicate some expressions in the
language which are often used, but generally condemned by grammarians.

My knowlege of the practice of speaking in different parts of America,
is derived from personal observation. My knowlege of the past and
present state of the language in England, is taken from the writers who
have treated expressly of the subject.[7] The authorities necessary to
prove particular points will be quoted, as occasion shall require.

The talk of examining words cannot be agreeable to a writer, nor can
his criticisms be very entertaining to the reader. Yet this talk I have
imposed upon myself; for I believe it the only method to correct common
mistakes. A general rule may be sufficient for a classical scholar, who
makes it his business to apply the rule to all cases: But most readers
must have their particular errors laid before their eyes, or they will
not discover them.

To offer to correct the mistakes of others, is also a _hazardous_
task, and commonly exposes a man to abuse and ill will. To avoid this
I can only say, that my motives for the undertaking were not local nor
personal; my enquiries are for truth, and my criticisms, it is hoped,
will be marked with candor.

But before I proceed to explain the principles of pronunciation, it
is necessary to give a sketch of the history of our language from
the earliest times, and endeavor to discover from what sources it is


The first correct accounts we have of Britain were given by Julius
Cesar, who invaded and conquered the southern parts of the island,
about fifty four years before the Christian era.[8] Tacitus, in his
_Life of Julius Agricola_, has described the natives of the island,
and given it as his opinion, that they came from Gaul (now France.)
The inhabitants of Caledonia, now Scotland, in the color of their
hair and size of their limbs, resembled the Germans. Some appearances
in the people of the more southern parts of the island, and their
position with respect to Spain, indicated _their_ descent from the
ancient Iberi. But those who inhabited the shores, opposite to France,
resembled the Gauls, in their religious ceremonies, their courage, and
particularly in their language: "Sermo haud multum diversus."[10]

It is an uncontroverted point, that the primitive language of Britain
was the same as that of Gaul.[11] This language was denominated the
Celtic, from the _Celtæ_, or _Keltæ_, a famous tribe of people that
inhabited Gaul. Many writers suppose the Celtic to have been the
primitive elementary language, from which most, or all the present
languages of Europe, and some of the languages of Asia and Africa,
are derived. Some authors go so far as to assert that the Greek and
Roman may be traced to the same source. To prove this opinion well
founded, they endeavor to discover an affinity between these languages,
by analizing words in each, and tracing them to the same elements or
monosyllabic roots. In this they have succeeded so far as to discover
a great number of words, which, with small dialectical variations, are
common to the Greek and Latin and to most of the living languages of
Europe. Perhaps these radicals, common to all languages of which we
have any knowlege, were sufficient to form a simple language, adequate
to the purposes of speech among rude nations.[A]

But as the first inhabitants of the earth had, for many ages, no method
of fixing sounds, or very imperfect methods, their language must
have been liable to considerable mutations, even when they lived and
conversed together. But after they had separated from each other, by
extending their settlements into distant regions, and an intercourse
between the colonies had ceased, their languages must have in a great
measure lost their affinity to each other. The radical words, common to
all, must have assumed dialectical distinctions, and new objects and
inventions, peculiar to the different tribes, must have originated new
terms among each, to which the others were strangers. Different nations
would advance, by very different degrees of rapidity, to a state of
civilization, and as words multiply with ideas, one language would
become more copious than another, as well as more regular and polished.
In the course of many centuries, these causes would obscure the common
radicals, and make such accessions of new words to each dialect, as
to form them all into distinct languages. An uncivilized people have
occasion for few words; perhaps five or six hundred would answer all
their purposes. And if we should thoroughly examin any of the present
languages of the world, we should probably find that the roots of the
most copious do not amount to more than that number. The Greek, it is
said, may be traced to about three or four hundred radical words. These
roots or elementary words are usually monosyllables, and mostly names
of sensible objects. By applying these names figuratively, savages make
them answer the purpose of expressing other ideas, and by combining
them in an almost infinite variety of ways, civilized nations form
copious and elegant languages.

Thus it happens that in the existing languages of Europe, there are
many words evidently the same; the orthography and pronunciation do
not exactly coincide in all the countries where they are used; yet
the resemblance is obvious in _these_ particulars; and with respect to
their _meaning_, there is such an affinity, as to demonstrate that the
nations, in whose languages they are found, all sprung from the same

The primitive language of Europe probably retained its original form
and purity in the West, much later than on the borders of Asia;[12]
for the Gauls and Britons had made less advances in knowlege, than
the eastern nations, and had probably suffered fewer shocks from war
and conquest. The Greeks first formed an elegant language out of the
barbarous dialects spoken on the borders of the Egean Sea. The Romans
afterwards did the same in Italy, and gradually changed the languages
of the countries which they conquered, by introducing their own. It
was the policy of the Roman state to make _subjects_, rather than
_slaves_, of their conquered nations; and the introduction of their own
tongue among them was considered as a necessary step towards removing
prejudices, facilitating an intercourse with their provinces, and
reconciling distant nations to the Roman government.

Julius Cesar found the Gauls and Britons at peace, united by a
similarity of manners and language, and by a sameness of interest. His
conquest of their countries made some inroads upon their language.
But altho the Romans had possession of these countries more than four
hundred years, during which time Roman garrisons were stationed in Gaul
and Britain, the young men of both countries were drafted into the
Roman service, and many British youth went to Rome for an education,
still the native Celtic language remained without material alteration.
It is obvious indeed that many of the higher classes of people were
acquainted with Latin, and there are traces of that language still
found among the Welsh, the descendants of the ancient Britons. But the
body of the people, either for want of opportunity to learn the Latin,
or thro an inveterate hatred of their conquerors, continued wedded to
their native tongue. This would have still been the language of France
and England, had it not suffered more violent shocks, than by the Roman

But in the fifth century, the southern parts of Europe began to be
alarmed by the invasion of the Goths, Vandals, Huns and other fierce
barbarians from the North. For three centuries, all the fertile
provinces of the Roman empire were ravaged by these hardy invaders, the
most of whom settled in the countries which they conquered.

These nations, mixing with the natives of the country where they
settled, changed or corrupted the primitive language. From the jargon
of Celtic and Roman, blended with the language of the Franks, Normans,
Burgundians, &c. sprung the modern French. From the mixture of Latin,
with the language of the Huns, Lombards, &c. sprung the present
Italian. From a similar composition of Latin, with the language of the
Visigoths and other northern tribes, and some remains of the Moorish
language, left in Spain by the Saracens, are formed the modern Spanish
and Portuguese.

In the general desolation, occasioned by these conquests, the island of
Britain did not escape. The Saxons, a tribe of northern nations, which
inhabited the country now called Denmark, or the shores of the Baltic,
now within the Empire of Germany, invaded Britain, soon after the Roman
legions had been called home to defend the Empire against other tribes
of barbarians. It is said the Saxons were at first invited to assist
the Britons against the inroads of the Picts or Scots, and that having
defeated the invaders, they were tempted, by the fertility of the soil,
to remain in the island, and afterwards took possession of it for

But whatever was the first cause of their leaving their native country,
it is certain, that numerous bodies of adventurers, at different times,
went over and seated themselves in the island. They did not cease
till they had possessed themselves of all the fertile and cultivated
parts of England. The universality of the conquest is demonstrated by
the total change of language; there being no more affinity between
the Saxon or English, and the ancient British, than between any two
languages of Europe.

The British however was not lost. The brave inhabitants, who survived
the liberty of their country, and could not brook the idea of living
with their conquerors, retired to the countries within the mountains
on the west of the island, now called _Wales_ and _Cornwall_, where
they maintained their independence for many centuries, and where their
language is still preserved. The Welsh and the Cornish therefore are
the purest remains of the primitive Celtic language.

To these we may add the Armoric, or language of the Bas Breton, on the
coast of France; the inhabitants of which are genuin descendants of the
old Britons. The time and occasion of this settlement in France are not
certain. Perhaps a body of Britons were driven thither by the Saxon
conquest of England; or what is more probable, as it is a tradition
among the people, the Armoricans are the posterity of some British
soldiers, who had been in the Roman army when it was called to Italy to
defend the empire, and on their return, being informed that the Saxons
had taken possession of their native country, seated themselves on the
opposite coast of France.[13]

But whatever was the cause of the settlement, the language of the
people is the old British or Celtic; for altho they must have been
separated from their countrymen about twelve or fourteen hundred years,
yet there is such an affinity still between the Welsh and the Armoric,
that the Welsh soldiers, who passed thro Brittany in a late war,[14]
could converse familiarly with the inhabitants. If any other proof than
this were necessary to convince the reader, we might mention the name
of this province, _Brittany_, and produce a long catalogue of Armoric
words, collated with the Welsh and Cornish.

One would think that the Irish, by reason of their vicinity to England,
would have spoken the same language; yet it is found that the old Irish
tongue has very little affinity with the Welsh. Sir William Temple
asserts[15] that the Erse, or Caledonian language, and the old Irish,
which are radically the same, and spoken also on the Isle of Man, have
no affinity with any other language now spoken. But the celebrated
Lluyd and others, who have been more critical in their investigations
of this subject, maintain that the Irish has a real affinity with the
Cambrian or British. They further show that many names of places in S.
Britain, the meaning of which is lost in the Welsh, can be explained
only by words now extant in the Irish and Erse. This is a sufficient
proof of a common origin.[16]

But on this point historians are divided in opinion. Some suppose that
the north of Ireland was first peopled by emigrations from Scotland,
and the sameness of their language renders this opinion probable. But
whence do the Scots derive their origin? The most probable account of
the settlement of Scotland is, that it was peopled from Norway or some
other northern country, by a tribe of those nations that went under the
general denomination of _Scythians_; for _Scot_ and _Scythian_ are from
the same root.

There are writers, however, who contend that Ireland must have been
settled from Spain, for there are many Spanish words found in the
language of the country. But the number of these is too inconsiderable
to render the argument conclusive.

Within a few years, an attempt has been made to trace the origin of
the Irish nation, to the Carthaginians. The author of a small work,
entitled "An Essay on the Antiquities of Ireland," has examined, in
a play of Plautus, the Punic speech which has the marks of being the
genuin language of Carthage, and has collated it with the ancient
Irish. In this speech there is a surprising affinity between the

But without running into a field of conjecture, it is sufficient for
my purpose to observe, that the Irish, the Erse, and the language
spoken on the Isle of Man, are indisputably the same, and must have
been very ancient: That the Welsh, the Cornish, and the Armoric are
now a distinct language, and unquestionably the remains of the Celtic,
or that language which was common to Gaul and Britain, when they were
invaded by Julius Cesar. The Irish and the British may be as distinct
as the Hebrew and the British, and yet a critical etymologist may
discover in both, common radicals enough to convince him that both are
the offspring of the same parent.

Hitherto our researches have thrown but little light upon the present
English language. For the substance of this we must look to the Saxon
branch of the Teutonic.[17]

The Teutones and Goths or Getæ were the nations that inhabited the
north of Europe. They were in a rude state and had no historical
records by which their descent could be ascertained. They however had
a class of men under the denomination of _Scalds_ or _Bards_, whose
business it was to recount in verse the illustrious actions of their
heroes, and to preserve their traditions. These _Scalds_ all agree
that their ancestors came from the east;[18] and it is well known also
that Herodotus mentions the _Germans_ as a Persian people.[19] It is
probable that they extended their settlements gradually, or were driven
from Asia by the Roman invasions under Pompey, during the reign of
Mithridates, and under the conduct of Odin, their hero and lawgiver,
established themselves on the shores of the Baltic.

From these nations proceeded those fierce and numerous warriors, who,
under different leaders invaded and subdued all the southern parts of
Europe; changed the government, the manners and the language of the
primitive inhabitants, and gave them their present complexion. The
Saxons, who inhabited the northern parts of Germany, or Denmark, were
the tribe that conquered England, and introduced a language and a form
of government, the principles of which are still existent among their
descendants, both in England and America. This happened in the fifth
and sixth centuries.

Our language is therefore derived from the same stock as the German,
the Dutch, the Danish, the Swedish, and the Swiss. Of all these
branches, the German is perhaps the principal, and that which has
suffered the least by the violence of conquest or the changes of time.
Between this and the pure English, there is a close affinity, as may be
observed by any person indifferently well acquainted with both.

From the establishment of the Saxons in England, to the Norman
conquest, the language of the country suffered but little variation.
The invasions of the Danes and their government of the kingdom, during
a short period, could not but affect the language, yet not materially,
as the island suffered a change of masters, rather than of people or
laws; and indeed the Danes themselves spoke a dialect of the Saxon

But the conquest by William, the Norman, in 1066, introduced important
changes into the language, as well as the government of the English
nation. William was followed by multitudes of his countrymen;
these formed his court, and filled the rich livings, temporal and
ecclesiastical, which were forfeited or left vacant by the death of
their former possessors who were slain in the battle of Hastings.
The language of the conquerors, which was a mixture of Latin and
Norman, immediately became fashionable at Court, and was used in all
legislative and judicial proceedings. It continued to be the polite
and law language of the nation about three centuries; when, in the
thirty sixth year of Edward III.[20] an act of parliament was passed,
ordaining that in future all pleas in courts should be made in English
and recorded in Latin. In the preamble to this act, the reason assigned
for making it is, "that the people of the realm did not understand

This proves that the Norman French was spoken only by the nobility,
who were mostly of Norman extraction, and by the higher orders of
men in office, at court, or in the cities. The body of the people,
defendants of the Saxons, still retained their primitive tongue.[22]
During this period, when French was the polite, and Saxon the vulgar
language of the English, the Latin was also understood by the learned,
who were mostly the regular and secular clergy. On the revival of
literature in Europe, Latin was studied with classical correctness,
and the number and excellence of the Greek and Roman authors, with
the elegance of the languages, have recommended them to the attention
of succeeding generations. The records of parliament and of judicial
proceedings were kept in Latin, from the thirty sixth of Edward
III. to the fourth of George II.[23] when, by act of parliament, the
_English_ was ordered to be the language of the _English_ laws and
public records. Of these three languages, the Saxon, the Norman French
and the Latin, our present English is composed.

The incorporation of the Roman and other foreign tongues with the
English, took place principally under the first Norman kings. It was
attended with some difficulty, and Chaucer has been censured by his
cotemporaries for introducing cartloads of French words into his

Language is the effect of necessity, and when a nation has a language
which is competent to all their purposes of communicating ideas, they
will not embrace new words and phrases. This is the reason why the
yeomanry of the English nation have never adopted the improvements of
the English tongue. The Saxon was competent to most of the purposes
of an agricultural people; and the class of men who have not advanced
beyond that state, which in fact makes the body of the nation, at least
in America, seldom use any words except those of Saxon original.

But as men proceed in the progress of society, their ideas multiply,
and new words are necessary to express them. They must therefore either
invent words, or combine those before used into compounds, or borrow
words of suitable import from a foreign language. The latter method was
principally pursued by the English. The learned of the nation spoke
and wrote Latin, which had been the language of a polite and improved
nation, and consequently abounds with terms in the various arts and
sciences. When the English found their native tongue deficient, they
had recourse to the Roman or Greek, where they were immediately
supplied with words, expressive of their new ideas, and easily
conforming to the genius of the English language.

The English retained its Saxon appearance till the twelfth century.[C]
From this period to Chaucer, who wrote in the reign of Edward III.
about the year 1360 or 70, the changes were slow and gradual. Chaucer
was a man of a very liberal education; well versed in the Greek and
Roman authors; and his mind had been improved by his travels. His
genius and acquirements led him to stray from the common stile of
writing, and enrich his verse with the elegance of the _Provençal_
language, at that time the most polished in Europe.[25] His abilities,
his reputation and his influence at court, enabled him, in opposition
to his adversaries, to introduce many beauties and much energy into our

From Chaucer to Addison our language was progressively refined, and
enriched with a variety of words, adequate to all its uses among a
people highly improved. The French language has furnished us with
military terms; the Dutch with sea phrases; the Greek and Roman with
words proper to form and polish the poetical, historical and rhetorical
stiles, and with terms in mathematics, philosophy and physic; the
modern Italian has supplied us with terms in music, painting and
sculpture; and in the Saxon, the ground-work of the whole, the yeomanry
find all the words for which they have any use in domestic life or in
the agricultural and most simple mechanical employments.

In this progress, the language has not only been enriched with a
copious supply of words, but the accent of words has generally been
established in such a manner as to render pronunciation melodious.
The spoken language is also softened, by an omission of the harsh and
guttural sounds which originally belonged to the language, and which
are still retained by the Germans, Scotch and Dutch. At the same time,
it is not, like the French, enervated by a loss of consonants. It holds
a mean between the harshness of the German, and the feebleness of the
French. It has more smoothness and fluency than the northern languages,
and less music in its vocal sounds, than the Spanish and Italian. As
the English have attempted every branch of science, and generally
proceeded farther in their improvements than other nations, so their
language is proportionably copious and expressive.


Having given this general history and the present state of the
language, I proceed to some remarks that naturally result from the

1. The primitive language of the English nation was the Saxon, and
the words derived from that, now constitute the ground-work of modern
English. Hence all the rules of inflection, and most of the rules
of construction, are Saxon. The plural terminations of nouns, the
variations of the pronouns, the endings which mark the comparison of
adjectives, and the inflections of the verbs, are wholly of Teutonic
origin. For this reason, the rules of grammatical construction and the
propriety of particular phrases, can be ascertained only by the ancient
Saxon, and the modern English writings. The Greek and Roman languages
were constructed on different principles, which circumstance has not
been sufficiently attended to, by those who have attempted to compile
English Grammars. The consequence is, that false principles have been
introduced and taught as the rules of the English language, by which
means very eminent writers have been led into mistakes.

2. It has been remarked that the common people, descendants of the
Saxons, use principally words derived from the native language of their
ancestors, with few derivatives from the foreign tongues, for which
they have no occasion. This fact suggests the impropriety of writing
sermons, or other discourses designed for general use, in the elevated
English stile. To adapt a stile to common capacities, the language
should consist, as much as possible, of Saxon words, or of Latin and
French derivatives which are introduced into familiar discourse. The
modern taste for introducing uncommon words into writings, for rounding
periods, and rising into what is falsely called the elegant and sublime
stile, has had an unhappy effect in rendering language obscure or

3. The number and perfection of the languages from which the English
is collected, must account for its copiousness and the multitude of
synonimous words with which it abounds.

A primitive unmixed language rarely contains two words of the same
signification. On the contrary, rude nations often use one word to
express several ideas, which have some resemblance or analogy to each
other, in the constitution of things.

From the poverty of a language proceed repetitions of the same word, to
express an idea with particular force, or in the superlative degree.
Hence the Hebraisms, as they are called, of the Bible; to _rejoice_
with _joy_; to _fear_ with great _fear_. This mode of speaking is
frequent among all nations whose languages are imperfect.

But the English, on the other hand, abounds with synonimous terms, so
that a repetition of _words_ is generally unnecessary, even when there
is a necessity of repeating the _idea_ in the same sentence.

This copiousness, while it affords great advantages to a judicious
writer, may also be abused, and become the cause of a prolix verbose
stile. Instances of this fault occur in almost every author; it is one
of the greatest, as well as most frequent faults in writing, and yet
has scarcely been censured by critics.[27]

There are indeed but few instances in which two or three words express
_precisely_ the same idea; but there are many instances of words
conveying _nearly_ the same sense, which are thrown together by
careless writers without the least occasion. Take for example a passage
of Mr. Addison's Cato:

    "So the _pure_, _limpid_ stream, when _foul_ with _stains_
    Of rushing torrents and descending rains,
    _Works_ itself _clear_ and as it runs _refines_,
    Till by degrees the floating mirror shines."

_Pure_ and _limpid_ are here too nearly synonimous to be applied
to the same object. The same objection lies to the use of "_foul_
with _stains_." Between _working clear_ and _refining_, there is
perhaps no difference in idea: And the arrangement in the second line
is objectionable, for the consequence is placed before the cause;
_rushing torrents_ being the consequence of _descending rains_. Such
an assemblage of synonimous words clogs and enfeebles the expression,
and fatigues the mind of the reader. Writers of an inferior class
are particularly fond of crowding together epithets. If they would
describe a man they hate, he is a _low_, _vile_, _mean_, _despicable_,
_contemptible_ fellow. If they would describe a man of an amiable
character, he is the most _kind_, _humane_, _loving_, _tender_,
_affectionate_ being imaginable. Epithets, so liberally bestowed,
confuse our ideas and leave the mind without any distinct knowlege of
the character.[E]

To a copiousness of language, on the other hand, may be ascribed
the decline of action in speaking, and the want of animation. When
nations have but few words to express their ideas, they have recourse
to figures, to significant tones, looks and gestures, to supply the
defect. Hence the figurative language of the Orientals of antiquity;
hence the imagery of the Caledonian Bard;[28] the bold metaphorical
language of the American natives, and the expressive tones and
gesticulations that attend their speaking.

To this cause also must we ascribe the music of the Greek language, and
the action which accompanied the rehearsals on the stage. What was the
effect of necessity at first, became afterwards a matter of art. This
was the origin of the pantomime. Modern operas are also an imitation of
the ancient musical rehearsals of the theater.[29]

But as languages become rich and furnish words for communicating every
idea, action must naturally cease. Men will not give themselves the
pain of exerting their limbs and body to make themselves understood,
when a bare opening of their lips will answer the purpose. This may be
assigned as one principal cause of the decline of eloquence in modern
ages, particularly among the English.

To the same cause, in part, may we ascribe the difference in the French
and English manner of speaking. It is a common observation, that the
French use more action and are more animated in conversation, than the
English. The cause usually assigned, is, the natural vivacity of the
French nation; which appears to me not satisfactory; for the Germans,
who resemble the French, in some degree, in their manner of speaking,
are nevertheless a more grave people than the English.

I suspect that the difference may in part be thus accounted for. The
French, tho by no means a barren language, wants words to express many
ideas, for which the English is provided. For example, the English
has two forms for the future tense of verbs; _shall_ and _will_;
each of which has a distinct meaning. _Shall_ expresses event in the
first person, and promise, command or threatning in the second and
third. _Will_, in the first person, promises; in the second and third,
foretells. The French has no such distinction. The phrase _je lui
payerai_, the only form of the future, cannot convey such distinct
meanings, as _promise_ and _event_, unless accompanied with some
expressive tone or gesture. A Frenchman therefore, to express the
force of the English, _I will pay_, must supply the want of a distinct
word by action, or have recourse to a circumlocution. The same remark
holds with respect to _would_ and _should_, which, in a variety of
combinations, retain distinct significations.

The French has properly but one word, _plume_, for the three English
words, _feather, en_ and _quill_. Its verbs have not such a variety of
combinations to express the precise time of an action as the English.
_J'ecris_ is the only phrase for the English, _I write_ and _I am
writing_, which have distinct uses; and I do not know whether there
is any phrase used in French which will exactly correspond with the
English phrases answering to the inceptive verb of the Romans, _I am
going to write_, or, _am about writing_.[30]

This solution of a difficulty, which has occurred to many people,
in comparing the manners of the English and French, may not be the
true one; but it appears rational. Other causes also have a material
influence upon eloquence, particularly the form of government and the
state of society. In these respects England and France may not be so
favorable to the cultivation of oratory, as were the republics of
Greece and Rome. But if a free government is the best soil for the
growth of eloquence, why should it flourish in France rather than in
England, which is said to be the fact with respect to pulpit eloquence?
The genius of the nation may have its effect; but it is presumed, the
state of the language may be considered as an auxiliary cause, if not a

From the foregoing history of the language, we learn the causes of its
incorrect orthography. The Saxon characters, some of which were Roman,
both in shape and power, while others were peculiar to the language,
continued in use till the fourteenth century. These were afterwards
laid aside for the Old English characters, as they are usually called;
which were introduced with the art of printing from Germany,[31] and
continued in use, till within a century. But both the Saxon and German
letters were much inferior to the Roman in the simplicity and elegance
of their form; for which reason most of the European nations have
rejected their primitive characters and adopted the Roman.[32]

In changing the characters of an alphabet, as well as in expressing
the sounds of one language by letters of an other, some difficulty
will often arise from the want of a perfect correspondence between
the true sounds of letters in both. Altho there is, and must be, a
great uniformity in the articulate sounds of all men, yet there are
also differences peculiar to each nation, which others have not proper
characters to express.

Thus the Romans, when they would express the sound of the Greek ~th~
and of ~ch~, for want of suitable characters, wrote _th_ and _ch_. We
conclude from this circumstance, that the Greek sound of the former was
that of _t_ followed by an aspirate, and the latter, that of _k_ with
an aspirate. Yet it is very probable that the sounds were guttural in
Greek, and not exactly represented by the Latin combinations _th_ and

Thus two Saxon characters are represented in modern English, by the
Latin combination _th_, as in _think_, _thou_. These Saxon characters
were single letters and had distinct powers. We preserve the
distinction of sounds to this day, but are subject to the inconvenience
of having no mark by which the eye can discern that distinction.

On the other hand, _sh_ was usually written by the Saxons _sc_,
as _sceaft_, shaft; _sceam_, shame; _sceal_, shall. What was the
pronunciation of _sc_ cannot be determined; but it is evident that each
letter had a distinct sound. It is most probable that before _a_, _o_,
and _u_, _sc_ were pronounced _sk_, or _c_ might have had the force
of _ch_ in _choose_. It is very clear that _c_ had this sound before
_e_ and _i_; for the Saxon words in which _ch_ now precede _e_ or _i_,
were formerly spelt with _c_ only; as _child_ from the Saxon _cild_;
_chill_ from _cele_; _chink_ from _cinnon_, to gape; _chick_ from
_cicen_. If therefore _c_ before _e_ and _i_ had the force of _ch_,
_sceaft_ must have been pronounced _scheaft_, which would easily be
softened down and contracted into _shaft_.

But whatever was the sound of _sc_ in the Saxon, the sound derived
from it is now simple, and has no single character to represent it in
our language; for the proper sounds of _s_ and _h_ combined, do not
form the sound which we invariably annex to _sh_. By not retaining the
primitive Saxon _c_ after _s_, we have probably lost the pronunciation
and introduced an irregularity.

It is not certain however that a change of the alphabet was prior to
the change of pronunciation; for the latter might have produced the
former. But the effect is certain; we have a simple sound without a
proper character, which is always an imperfection.[33]

We have therefore in English the two sounds of _th_, the aspirate in
_think_, and the vocal in _this_, both of which are simple consonant
sounds, peculiar to the language, and derived from two _single_
characters. Each ought still to be represented by a distinct single
letter. _Sh_, on the other hand, express a simple sound, derived from
_two_ separate Saxon consonants, which must have been originally
pronounced as two letters. These irregularities must have been partly
owing to a change of alphabet.[34]

Other irregularities have been occasioned by an injudicious application
of the letters of one alphabet to the sounds of another language.

The Roman _c_ some writers suppose was hard, like _k_, before all the
vowels and diphthongs. It certainly was so before all except _e_ and
_i_; where, there is reason to suppose, it had the sound of _ch_ or
_ts_. It is very evident that it had not the sound of _s_, which we now
annex to it in _civil_, _cellar_. When the Roman alphabet, therefore,
took place of the primitive English characters, the Greek _k_ should
have been always written before _a_, _o_, _u_, as in _cat_, _cord_,
_cup_; and _s_ before _e_ and _i_. Or _c_ should have been called _ke_,
limited to one sound, and always used instead of _k_. If our ancestors
had retained the Roman pronunciation of _c_ before _e_ and _i_, they
would probably have spelt _cera_, _civilis_, _chera_, _chivilis_,[35]
_ch_ having its English sound of _tsh_, as in _charm_. But if they
pronounced these words as we do, they should have substituted _s_,
_sera_, _sivilis_. In short, they should have limited every character
to one sound; in which case, one of the three letters, _c_, _k_, _s_,
would have been entirely omitted as useless. This would have delivered
us from a large class of difficulties.

Whether the _ph_ and _ch_, in Greek derivatives, were originally
introduced into English, because our ancestors preserved the aspirate;
or whether the _h_ was retained merely to show the etymology of
words, it is not easy to decide. The probability is, that these
letters were never aspirated in English, but that _ph_ has ever been
pronounced _f_, and _ch_ generally _k_; as in _Philip_, _chorus_. It
is probable however that the Romans, from whom the English borrowed
their characters, preserved the aspirate; for they very scrupulously
retained the _h_ after _p_ and _c_; and they attempted to copy exactly
the Greek pronunciation.[36] They borrowed all words in _ph_, _ch_
and _th_ from the Greeks. We have preserved the characters, but have
mostly lost the aspirate; _ph_ has invariably the sound of _f_; _ch_,
in Greek derivatives, generally that of _k_; and _th_ has become
the representative of two simple consonants. With this change of
pronunciation, the orthography should have changed; _philosophy_ should
now be written _filosofy_; and _chorus_, _korus_; _th_ might become a
single character and be called _Eth_.[F]

But it was the fate of our language to be shaken by violent
revolutions, and abandoned to accident or the caprice of unskillful
heads. The operation of imperceptible causes, common to all languages,
in all ages, has also been gradually changing the spelling and

In Chaucer's time, the infinitive mode and plural number of verbs, in
the present tense, ended often in _en_; as _loven_, for _to love_ or
_they love_. But _loveth_ was sometimes used in the plural, and _n_
began to be omitted in the infinitive. The French termination _esse_,
as in _Goddesse_, _richesse_, was used, and the final _e_ was often
pronounced. The plural number of nouns usually ended in _es_, as
_houndes_; and in the same manner terminated the genitive case. Nouns
now ending in _y_, ended then in _ie_, as _storie_; _y_ was still
prefixed to participles, as _ybent_; and _y_ was often used where we
now write _g_, as _yeve_ for _give_.

From that period the orthography was still varying, at least in some
particulars, till the beginning of the present century. The group of
eminent writers who were cotemporary with Swift, gave great stability
to the spelling; yet some good authorities differ from them in several
points. Johnson, who has been usually followed by succeeding compilers
of dictionaries, preserves the _u_ in _honour_, _favour_, and similar
words; as also the final _k_ in _publick_, &c. Ash, followed by many
writers, very properly restores these words to the Roman spelling, by
omitting the _u_ and _k_. Excepting these particulars, the orthography
of our language is nearly fixed.

The pronunciation has been neglected till a few years ago; when
Sheridan and Kenrick, with several compilers of less note, attempted
to give us a standard. Unluckily they have all made the attempt on
false principles; and will, if followed, multiply the anomalies, which
already deform the language and embarrass the learner.[37]

The language, is composed of a variety of materials, and it requires
some labor to adjust the parts and reduce them to order.

To accomplish this purpose, we must search for such principles of
analogy as still exist in its construction, and make them the pillars
of a regular system. Where such principles cannot be found, let us
examin the opinions of the learned, and the practice of the nations
which speak the pure English, that we may determine by the weight of
authority, the _common law_ of language, those questions which do not
come within any established rules.




[2] Even supposing that a number of republics, kingdoms or empires,
should within a century arise and divide this vast territory; still
the subjects of all will speak the same language, and the consequence
of this uniformity will be an intimacy of social intercourse hitherto
unknown, and a boundless diffusion of knowlege.

[3] This disposition is taken notice of by Dr. Blair, Lect. 8. Where he
observes, "that tho the formation of abstract or general conceptions is
supposed to be a difficult operation of the mind, yet such conceptions
must have entered into the first formation of languages"--"this
invention of abstract terms requires no great exertion of metaphysical
capacity"--"Men are _naturally_ inclined to call all those objects
which resemble each other by one common name--We may daily observe
this practised by children, in their first attempts towards acquiring

I cannot, with this great critic, call the process by which _similar_
objects acquire the _same_ name, an act of _abstraction_, or the
name an _abstract term_. Logical distinctions may lead us astray.
There is in the mind an _instinctive disposition_, or _principle of
association_, which will account for all common names and the analogies
in language.

[4] The progress of corruption in language is described with precision,
and philosophical reasons assigned with great judgement, by that
celebrated French writer, Condillac, in his Origin of Human Knowlege,
Part 2.

"It is nearly the same here as in physics, where motion, the source of
life, becomes the principle of destruction. When a language abounds
with original writers in every kind, the more a person is endowed
with abilities, the more difficult he thinks it will be to surpass
them. A mere equality would not satisfy his ambition; like them he
wants the pre-eminence. He therefore tries a new road. But as every
stile analogous to the character of the language and to his own, has
been already used by preceding writers, he has nothing left but to
deviate from analogy. Thus in order to be an original, he is obliged to
contribute to the ruin of a language, which, a century sooner, he would
have helped to improve.

"Tho such writers may be criticized, their superior abilities must
still command success. The ease there is in copying their defects, soon
persuades men of indifferent capacities, that they shall acquire the
same degree of reputation. Then begins the reign of strained and subtle
conceits, of affected antitheses, of specious paradoxes, of frivolous
and far-fetched expressions, of new-fangled words, and in short, of
the jargon of persons, whose understandings have been debauched by bad
metaphysics. The public applauds; foolish and ridiculous writings, the
beings of a day, are surprisingly multiplied; a vicious taste infects
the arts and sciences, which is followed by a visible decrease of men
of abilities."

One would think that Condillac had designed here to give a description
of the present taste of the English writers, and a state of their

The foregoing sentiments seem to have been borrowed from Velleius
Paterculus. Hist. Rom. L. 1. Cap. 17.

The same passage is copied by Sig. Carlo Denina, Professor of Eloquence
and Belles Lettres in the University of Turin, in his "Revolutions of
Literature," page 47; and if I mistake not, the sentiments are adopted
by Lord Kaims, in his Sketches of the History of Man.

Similar reasons may be assigned for the prevalence of an affected and
vitious pronunciation.

[5] Dr. Witherspoon is an exception. His stile is easy, simple and
elegant. I consider Dr. Franklin and Dr. Witherspoon as the two
best writers in America. The words they use, and their arrangement,
appear to flow spontaneously from their manner of thinking. The vast
superiority of their stiles over those of Gibbon and Gillies, is owing
to this circumstance, that the two American writers have bestowed their
labor upon _ideas_, and the English historians upon _words_.

[6] The same taste prevailed in Rome, under the Emperors, when
genius was prostituted to the mean purposes of flattery. "It must be
acknowleged indeed, that after the dissolution of the Roman republic,
this art began to be perverted by being too much admired. Men grew
excessively fond of the numerous stile, and readily sacrificed the
strength and energy of their discourse to the harmony of their
language. Pliny the younger often complains of this contemptible
affectation: And Quintilian speaks of certain prose writers in his
time, who boasted that their compositions were so strictly numerous,
that their hearers might even beat time to their measures. And it
should seem that even in Tully's time, this matter was carried to
excess; since even then the orators dealt so much in numbers, that it
was made a question, wherein they differed from the Poets."----Mason's
Essay on the Power and Harmony of Prosaic Numbers. Introduction, page 4.

This was an abuse of the art. Melody should be studied; but not

[7] Wallis, Johnson, Kenrick, Sheridan, with a multitude of inferior

[8] He found the inhabitants of the maritime towns somewhat
civilized,[9] and in their manners resembling the Gauls, with whom they
had some commercial intercourse. It is probable that the Britons came
originally from the continent, from which their island is separated by
a strait of no great extent.

[9] "Ex his omnibus, long esunt humanissimi, qui Cantium incolunt:
Quæ regio est maritima omnis; _neque multum_ a Gallica differunt
consuetudine."----Cesar De Bello Gallico, Lib. 5.

[10] Tacitus. Jul. Agric. Vit 11.

[11] "Erat autem prisca isthæc Gallis et Britannis communis lingua,
ultra omnium historiarum memoriam antiquæ."----Wallis Gram.

[12] This is said upon the hypothesis, that the ancient Celtic or
British had a common origin with the Hebrew, Phenician and Greek. For
proofs of this, see the notes at the end.

[13] Temple's Introd. to Hist. of England.

[14] At the conquest of Belisle. See the Preface to Mallet's North.
Antiq. page 23.

[15] Works, Vol. 3. Introd. to Hist. Eng.

[16] Indeed a good reason may be given for the apparent difference in
the several branches of the old Celtic. In this language, words are
declined by changing the initial letters, or by prefixing an article
with an apostrophe. By these means, words are so altered, that a
superficial observer may confound the radical letters, with those
which are added for the sake of expressing different relations. Thus
the British word _pen_ signifies, a head; _pen gûr_, a man's head; _i
ben_, his head; _i phen_, her head; _y'm mhen_, my head. This by the
way is no contemptible evidence that the British was derived from the
Phenician or Hebrew, in the latter of which, words are declined by
prefixes, as well as suffixes.

For the difference between the Irish and British, Lluyd assigns other
reasons. The ancestors of the Irish and Highland Scots, who were
called Guydelians, might have been the original Celts, who first
inhabited Britain; and the Cymri or Welsh, another race, or a branch
of the Celtic Cimbri, might, either by colonization or conquest, take
possession of Britain, and introduce a very different dialect of the
same radical language. The Irish language might be somewhat changed by
Cantabrian words, imported by the Scots from Spain; and the Cymraeg or
British might suffer considerable changes during 400 years subjection
to the Romans. See Pref. to Mallet's North. Antiq. page 42.

[17] "Erat autem illa Anglo-Saxonum lingua antiquæ Teutonicæ propago,
(nisi antiquæ Gothicæ seu Geticæ potius dixeris, unde forsan ipsa
Teutonica duxerit originem) ut et Francica illa in Galliam advecta,
et hodierna Germanica, Belgica, Danica, Suevica, Borussica, aliæque
affines linguæ."----WALLIS.

[18] Mallet's North. Antiq.

[19] "~Alloi de Persai eisi hoide, Panthelaioi, Derousiaioi,
Germanioi~."----Herodotus in Clio. ed. 1570, page 34.

[20] 1362.

[21] In this act of Edward III. there is an express reservation in
favor of particular law-phrases or technical terms, which, by long use,
had acquired peculiar force and propriety, and whose place could not be
well supplied by English words or phrases. Hence the number of French
words still used in law proceedings.

[22] We have the testimony of Robert, Earl of Gloucester (who wrote
under Henry III. and Edward I.) to this purpose. Page 364.

    "Vor bote a man couth French, me tolth of hym well lute,
    Ac lowe men holdeth to Englyss and to her kunde speeche yute."

For but a man knoweth French, men told of him well little, and lowe men
holdeth to English and to their native tongue.---- That is, unless a
man could speak French he was little esteemed.

[23] 1731.

[24] "Ex hac malefano novetatis pruritu, Belgæ Gallicas voces passim
civitate sua donando patrii sermonis puritatem nuper non leviter
inquinârunt, et Chaucerus Poeta, pessimo exemplo, _integris vocum
plaustris ex eadem Gallia in nostram linguam invectis_, eam, nimis
antea a Normannorum victoriæ adulteratam, omni fere nativa gratia et
nitore spoliavit."----Skinner Etymol. L. A. Pref.

[25] Raimond IV. of Aragon, count of Provence, rendered his Court a
temple of the muses, and to this resorted the lovers of the Belles
Lettres from every part of Europe. About the year 1300, a taste for the
Provençal language and poetry was imbibed in Italy, and soon after in
England.--Denina, Chap. 4.

[26] A remarkable example of this kind of stile, we have in
Elphinstone's principles of the English Language. The author has taken
great pains to be obscure, and has succeeded to admiration.

Of this kind of stile, the reader may see a specimen in the following
passage, taken from Young's spirit of Athens. Page 6.

"Surely, in every mind, there is an emulation of virtuous superiority,
which, however fortune or the meaner passions may hebitate its powers,
still, at every example of success in the particular object of its
predilection, glows into a momentary flame, which from frequent
resuscitation may acquire a stability and strength sufficient to reach
at the attainment of what, at first, was regarded solely as matter of
admiration; the idea of imitation which hath thus enraptured the fancy,
may in times of perilous crisis somewhat elevate the mind and influence
the conduct; and if such ever may be the effect, what other lecture can
ballance the utility of that, which thus animates the man, and urges
him to noble and disinterested services in a good, great and public

The author could hardly have invented an arrangement, better calculated
to obscure his meaning.

It is said of Moliere, that before he would suffer a new play of his to
be acted, he read it to an old woman, and judged, by the effect it had
upon her, what reception it would meet with on the stage. It is a pity,
some modern writers do not copy the example.

[27] Dr. Blair has made a few excellent remarks on this fault, under
the article _Precision_, Lecture 10. I do not remember to have seen any
other criticisms upon this subject.

[28] Ossian.

[29] See Blair, Lecture 6, and Condillac, in his Essay on the Origin of
Human Knowlege. The _dancing_ of David, and others, mentioned in the
Old Testament, was a solemn exercise, in which action was joined with
words to express ideas.

It is said to have been a dispute between Cicero and Roscius, whether
the former could express an idea by a greater variety of _words_,
or the latter by a greater variety of _gesture_.----"Satis constat,
contendere cum (Ciceronem) cum ipso histrione (Roscio) solitum, utrum
ille sæpius eandem sententiam variis gestibus efficeret, an ipse per
eloquentiæ copiam sermone diverso pronunciaret."----Macrob. Saturn, 2.

[30] I cannot think the French _devenir_ prefixed to a verb answers
exactly to both these English forms. The deficiency of the French in
this respect, may be observed in the following passage:

"S'il est vrai que vous _aimiez_ la justice, & que vous _alliez_ en
Créte pour apprendre les loix du bon roi Minos, n'endurcissez point
votre coeur contre mes soupirs & contre mes larmes."----Telemaque,
Liv. 4.

If we translate the passage thus: "If it is true that you _love_
justice and _go_ to Crete," &c. we lose the force of the verb _alliez_;
for the sense is evidently, _are going_, _are now on your journey_. "If
it is true that you _love_ justice and _are going_ to Crete," &c.

In French the verbs _aimiez_ and _alliez_ are both in the same tense,
and have the same form of construction; in English the verbs should be
in the same tense, but have different forms of construction. In French
the force of _alliez_ is collected from the sense of the passage; but
in English, it is expressed by a particular construction.

[31] On the first invention of printing, letters were cut in wood and
fixed. They were afterwards engraved upon metal, still fixed. The third
stage of improvement was the casting of moveable types. It is probable
that this was a work of labor and expense; and it must have been a
long time, before they cast more than one kind of character. Hence the
German character was used in England.

[32] The Germans and Dutch are exceptions: They use their old
characters in their own language; but they use the Latin character and
language in works of science.

[33] This may be supplied by uniting the two characters _s_ and _h_ in
one, and naming the combination _Esh_.

[34] The Germans, who invented printing, had not proper types for the
two Saxon or English characters; they therefore made use of _th_ as a
substitute for both, which defect we have not yet supplied.

[35] Or _tsera_, _tsvilis_.

[36] "Eundem olim (_ph_) sonum habuisse ac _f_ inscriptiones veteres
confirmant, in quibus alterum pro altero promiscue adhiberi cernimus:
ut _phidelis_" (pro fidelis.)---- Middleton de Lat. Liter. Pron. Dis.

Our letter _f_ has some degree of aspiration in its sound; but had its
original Roman sound been precisely that of the Greek ~Ph~ _phi_, it is
probable that _f_ would have been wholly used in derivatives where the
_phi_ occurred. I suspect that _ph_ in Latin must have been originally
more strongly aspirated than _f_; but the transition from the sound
of the one to that of the other was easy, and the distinction was
gradually lost.

[37] We may except Kenrick, who has paid some regard to principles, in
marking the pronunciation.



     _Of the English Alphabet._--_Rules of
     Pronunciation._--_Differences of Pronunciation and controverted
     Points examined._




From a general history of the English language, and some remarks upon
that subject, I proceed to examin its elements, or the powers of the
letters which compose our alphabet.

There are in English, twenty five characters or letters which are the
representatives of certain sounds, either simple or combined; a, b,
c, d, e, f, g, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z.
The English have also the character _h_, which marks an aspiration or
strong breathing, but has very little sound of its own.[G]

Letters, according to the sounds they represent, or the purposes
they serve, are very naturally divided into three kinds; _vowels_,
_dipthongs_, and _consonants_.

In order to obtain clear ideas of our alphabet, let us attend to the
following definitions:

1. A vocal sound, formed by opening the mouth, and by a single position
of the organs of speech, is a simple sound or vowel. Most of the vowels
in English are capable of being prolonged at pleasure, without varying
the position of the organs.

2. No more than one simple sound can be formed by one aperture of the
mouth, and one position of the organs of speech. The only difference
that can be made with the same position of the organs, is, to prolong
and shorten the same sound.

3. Two simple sounds, closely united in pronunciation, or following
each other so rapidly that the distinction is scarcely perceptible,
form a dipthong. In pronouncing a dipthong, two positions of the parts
of the mouth are required.

4. Those letters which are not marks of articulate sounds, but
represent indistinct sounds, formed by some contact of the parts of the
mouth, or by compressing those parts, check all sound, are denominated

By the first definition we ascertain the number of vowels in English.
In pronouncing each of the letters [1a], [4a], [3a], [1e], [1o], [6o],
[2u], we observe but one position or aperture of the mouth; the sounds
are therefore simple, and the letters are called _vowels_. The six
first sounds are capable of being prolonged at pleasure.

By the second definition, we determine which sounds are the same in
quality, and different only in the time of being pronounced. Thus _i_
in _fit_ has the same quality of sound as _ee_ in _feet_, for both are
pronounced with the same disposition of the organs; but the first is
the shortest articulation of the sound, and the last, a long or grave
articulation. The other vowels have also their short or abrupt sounds;
_a_ in _late_ has its short sound in _let_; _a_ in _cart_ has its
short sound in _carry_; _a_ in _fall_ has its short sound in _folly_;
_oo_ in _fool_ its short sound in _full_. _O_ is sometimes shortened
in common parlance, as in _colt_; but the distinction between _o_
in _coal_ and _colt_, seems to be accidental or caused by the final
consonant, and not sufficiently settled or important to require a
separate consideration.

By the third definition we are enabled to ascertain the dipthongs
in our language. The letters _i_, _u_ and _y_ are usually classed
among the vowels; but the first or long sound of each requires, in
pronunciation, two positions of the organs of speech, or rather a
transition from the position necessary to form one simple sound, to the
position necessary to form another simple sound. We begin the sound of
_i_ nearly with the same aperture of the glottis, as we do the broad
_a_ or _aw_: The aperture however is not quite so great: We rapidly
close the mouth to the position where we pronounce _ee_, and there stop
the sound. This letter is therefore a dipthong. _Y_ has no property but
what belongs to _i_.

_U_ also is not strictly a vowel; nor is it, as it is commonly
represented, composed of _e_ and _oo_. We do not begin the sound
in the position necessary to sound _ee_, as is obvious in the words
_salute_, _salubrious_, _revolution_; but with a greater aperture of
the mouth and with a position perfectly easy and natural. From that
position we pass to the position with which we pronounce _oo_, and
there close the sound.

It must however be observed that when these letters, _i_, _u_, are
followed by a consonant, the two sounds of the dipthong are not clearly
distinguishable. We do not, in _fight_, hear the sound of _ee_; nor the
sound of _oo_ in _cube_. The consonant compresses the organs and closes
the sound of the word so suddenly, that the ear can distinguish but a
simple vocal sound: And notwithstanding these letters are dipthongs,
when considered by themselves, yet in combination with consonants, they
are often marks of simple sounds or vowels.

The short sound of _i_ and _y_, is merely short _ee_. The sound of _u_
in _tun_, is a separate vowel, which has no affinity to any other sound
in the language.[H]

The sound of _oi_ or _oy_ is dipthongal, composed of the third or
broad _a_, and _ee_. The sound of _ou_ or _ow_ is also dipthongal,
compounded of third _a_ and _oo_. The sound however does not require
quite so great an aperture of the mouth as broad _a_; the position is
more natural, and the articulation requires less exertion.

The union of _a_ and _w_ in _law_, has been very erroneously considered
a dipthong. Whatever might have been the ancient pronunciation of these
letters (and it is probable that good reasons operated to produce their
union) they now exhibit but one simple vocal sound. The same may be
observed of _ee_, _oo_, _au_, _ai_, _ea_, _ei_, _ie_, _eo_, _oa_, and
perhaps some other combinations, each of which actually exhibits the
sound of one letter only, which sound is as simple as that of _a_ or

Under the head of dipthongs we may perhaps range _wa_, _we_, _wo_,
_wi_, &c. _W_ has nearly the short sound of _oo_; for _will_, _dwell_
are pronounced as if written _ooill_, _dooell_. It is a controverted
point, whether _w_ should be classed with the vowels or consonants. I
shall only observe, that it is pronounced by opening the mouth, without
a contact of the parts; altho, in a rapid pronunciation, it approaches
to a consonant.[I] It is however very immaterial, whether we class it
with the vowels or consonants; as all grammarians agree that its sound
is that of _oo_ short. It ought to be named _oo_ or _we_; which would
save children much of the trouble they now experience, in learning its
proper sound from that awkward name _double u_.

The sound of _y_ in the beginning of words, is, by some writers, called
a vowel, but by most of them a consonant. Lowth has asserted, that it
has every property of a vowel and not one of a consonant. Sheridan
considers _y_ in _youth_, _year_, &c. as the short _ee_. But if these
writers would attend to the manner in which we pronounce _yes_, _ye_,
they would acknowlege that _y_ has some property different from _ee_;
for it is very evident that they are not pronounced _ee-es_, _ee-e_.
The fact is, that in the American pronunciation of _y_, the root of
the tongue is pressed against the upper part of the mouth, above the
palate, more closely than it is in pronouncing _ee_, and not so closely
as in pronouncing _g_ hard. The transition however from _y_ to _ee_ or
to _g_, is extremely easy, and hence the mistake that _y_ is short
_ee_, as also the convertibility of _y_ with _g_.[J] It appears to me
that _y_ in the beginning of words, is more clearly a consonant than

In many words, _i_ has the power of _y_ consonant; particularly after
_l_ and _n_; as _filial_, _union_.

The vowels therefore in English are all heard in the following words;
late, half, hall, feet, pool, note, tun, fight, truth. The five first
have short sounds or duplicates; which may be heard in let, hat, hot,
fit, pull; and the letters _i_ and _u_ are but accidentally vowels. The
pure primitive vowels in English are therefore seven.

The dipthongs may be heard in the following words; lie or defy, due,
voice or joy, round or now. To these we may add _ua_ in _persuade_; and
perhaps the combinations of w and the vowels, in _well_, _will_, &c.

The consonants in English are nineteen; but for want of proper
characters, five of them are expressed or marked by double letters. We
annex two sounds to _th_; one to _sh_; one to _ng_; and one to _si_
or _su_, as may be heard in the following words; think, this, shall,
bring, confusion or pleasure. These characters should be called _eth_,
_esh_, _eng_, _ezh_; and _th_ should have two names, the aspirate as
in _think_, and the vocal as in _this_; the latter sound might be
distinguished by a small mark drawn thro _th_. This improvement is so
obvious and easy, and would be so convenient for the learners of the
language, that I must believe it will soon be introduced.

The consonants may be divided into _mutes_ and _semivowels_. When a
consonant compresses the lips, or the tongue and roof of the mouth, so
closely as to check all sound, it is called a _perfect mute_: Such are
_p_, _k_, and _t_, as may be perceived by pronouncing the syllables,
_ep_, _ek_, _et_. When the compression of the organs is more gentle
and does not stop all sound immediately, the letters are called mutes;
such are _b_, _d_, and _g_, as may be perceived by pronouncing the
syllables, _eb_, _ed_, _eg_. When a consonant has an imperfect sound,
or hissing, which may be continued, after a contact of the organs, it
is denominated a semivowel. Of this kind are ef, el, em, en, er, es,
ev, ez, eth,[39] eth,[39] esh, ezh, ing. Of these, four are aspirates,
ef, es, eth, and esh. The others are vocal, having an imperfect sound.

The whole may be thus arranged.

         Perfect mutes---p, k, t.
         Mutes-----------b, d, g.
              vocal,   } l, m, n, r, v, z, th,
  Semivowels--         }    zh, ng,
              aspirate,} f, s, th, sh.

They may also be classed according to the manner in which they are
formed by the organs: Thus, those formed

  By the lips, are called labials--b, p, f, v.
  By the teeth, are called dentals--d, t, th, z, s, sh, zh.
  By the palate, are called palatine--g, k, l, r.
  By the nose, are called nasal--m, n, ng.

On the subject of the alphabet, I have this remark further; that for
want of a proper knowlege of the powers of _sh_ and _th_, some material
errors in printing have obtained in common practice. _Sh_ are usually
united in printing, and generally with propriety, for the combination
represents a simple consonant. But in several compound words _s_
and _h_ have been improperly united, where one is silent or where
each retains its own power, as in dishonor, dishonest, dishabille,
hogshead, household, falsehood, and some others. The union of _sh_ in
these words, is embarrassing, especially to children, who are led to
pronounce them _dish-onor_, _dish-onest_. This error still prevails
in printing, except in the last mentioned word, which is sometimes
correctly printed _falsehood_.

_Th_, tho not united in character, have a tendency to produce, in some
words, a wrong pronunciation. For instance, we are very apt to say
_Wren-tham_ instead of _Wrent-ham_. _Hotham_ is also ambiguous; there
is nothing in the orthography to direct us, whether to pronounce it
_Hot-ham_ or _Ho-tham_, altho custom decides in favor of the latter.

These remarks show the propriety of attending to our orthography, and
of attempting to remove causes of error, when it can be done without
much trouble or danger of giving offence.


Having briefly explained the English alphabet, I proceed to the rules
of pronunciation.

In pronunciation, two things demand our notice; the proper sounds of
the vowels and consonants, and the accent.

In pronouncing both vowels and consonants, the general rule is, _that
similar combinations of letters should be pronounced alike, except
when general custom has decided otherwise_. Thus if _i_ in the words,
_bind_, _find_, _mind_, has its first sound, it ought to have the same
sound in other similar combinations, _kind_, _blind_, _grind_. This is
the rule of _analogy_, the great leading principle that should regulate
the construction of all languages. But as languages are not formed at
once by system, and are ever exposed to changes, it must necessarily
happen that there will be in all languages, some exceptions from any
general rule; some departures from the principle of uniformity.

The practice of a nation, when universal or ancient, has, in most
cases, the force and authority of law; it implies mutual and general
consent, and becomes a rule of propriety. On this ground, some
deviations from the analogy of construction and pronunciation must be
admitted in all languages. Thus from the analogy already mentioned,
_wind_ is an exception; for general practice has determined that _i_
should, in this word, have its second or short sound.[40] Whether this
deviation was admitted at first to distinguish this word from the
verb _to wind_, or whether there were other good reasons which cannot
now be explored, or whether it was merely the work of ignorance or
accident, it is unnecessary to enquire; the common consent of a nation
is sufficient to stamp it with propriety.

Another rule in English, which admits of no exception, is, when the
accent falls on a vowel, it is long, as _o_ in ho´-ly; but when the
accent falls on a consonant, the preceding vowel is short, as in

It is also a general rule, that when a consonant closes a syllable, the
preceding vowel is short, as in _fan-cy_, _habit_; altho this rule has
its exceptions, as _Cam-bridge_, _dan-ger_, and perhaps _man-ger_.

From this rule, the English except also _[2a]ngel_, _[2a]ncient_. In
this all the standard authors agree, except Kenrick and Burn, who
mark _a_ in _ancient_ both long and short. The English pronunciation
is followed in the middle and southern states; but the eastern
universities have restored these words to the analogy of the language,
and give _a_ its second sound. It is presumed that no reason can be
given for making these words exceptions to the general rule, but
practice; and this is far from being universal, there being many of the
best speakers in America, who give _a_, in the words mentioned, the
same sound as in _anguish_, _annals_, _angelic_, _antiquity_.

The practice of the eastern universities therefore should be
encouraged, rather than discountenanced; as it diminishes the number
of anomalies. I shall only remark further, that _a_ in these words
must formerly have had its third or fourth sound; which is evident
from the old orthography; for angel, at least, was spelt like _grant_,
_command_, &c. _aungel_, _graunt_, _commaund_. In giving _a_ its first
sound therefore, the modern English have not only infringed the rule of
analogy, but have deviated from former practice.

In the word _chamber_, _a_ has its fourth sound. It is necessary to
remark this; as there are many people in America, who give _a_ its
first sound, which is contrary to analogy and to all the English

With regard to accent, that particular stress of voice which should
distinguish some syllable of a word from others, three things are to be
considered; the importance of the syllable; the derivation of the word;
and the terminating syllable.

The importance of a syllable is discovered by resolving a word into the
parts which compose it, or reducing it to its radicals. Thus _sensible_
is derived from _sensus_ in Latin or _sense_ in English. The first
syllable therefore is that on which the meaning of the word principally
depends; the others being an accessary termination.

The first syllable then is the most important and requires the accent.
For the same reason, _admire_, _compare_, _destroy_, &c. have the
accent on the second syllable in preference to the first; the last
syllables being all derived from verbs, and the first being mere

Another rule for laying the accent of words arises from derivation.
Thus all words that take the terminations _ing_, _ful_, _less_, _ness_,
_ed_, _est_, _ist_, _ly_, retain the accent on the syllable where it
is laid in their primitives; as _proceed_, _proceeding_, _wonder_,
_wonderful_, &c.

But the most important article to be considered in the accentuation of
words, is the terminating syllable. From the different terminations of
words arise various analogies, the most of which are enumerated in the
first part of my Institute. The principle which has operated to produce
these analogies, is the ease of speaking or the harmony of enunciation.
Consequently this principle must take place of all others; and we
find that it frequently interferes with the two foregoing rules, and
regulates practice in opposition to both.

The general rule, grounded on this principle, is, that words, having
the _same_ terminating syllable, have the accent at the _same_ distance
from that termination. Thus all words ending in _tion_, _sion_, _cion_,
_cial_, _cian_, have the accent on the last syllable but one;[42] and
this without any regard to derivation or to the number of syllables in
the word.

Thus most words in _ty_, if they consist of more syllables than
two, have the accent on the antepenult; as _probity_, _absurdity_,
_probability_. I recollect but two exceptions, viz. _commonalty_,
_admiralty_; the accent of which is laid upon the first syllable, as in
their primitives.[43]

But let us observe the force of the last rule, in opposition to the
others. _Mortal_ has the accent on the first syllable. Here the first
rule takes place, for the first syllable, having _mors_, death, for its
root, is the most important. But the derivative, _mortality_, conforms
to the analogy of words ending in _ty_ and has the accent on the last
syllable but two. That the ease or harmony of pronunciation, is the
cause of this change of accent, will be evident to any person who shall
attempt to pronounce words of this class, with the accent on any other
syllable than the antepenult.

Most of these rules admit a few exceptions, which are to be learnt by
practice. Custom has made some inroads upon the rules of uniformity,
and caprice is ever busy in multiplying anomalies. Still, rules will be
of great service in ascertaining and fixing our language; for tho they
may not root out _old_ errors, they may prevent the introduction of

But besides the principal accent, there is, in most polysyllables,
an inferior accent laid on the third or fourth syllable from the
principal. Indeed in some words, the two accents are so nearly equal,
as to be scarcely distinguishable.

It is denied by some critics that there are more accents than one, in
any word. But the composition of words, and the ease of speaking, both
require a plurality of accent in a very great number of instances; and
our ears inform us that such a plurality actually exists in practice.
If a man will assert that in such words as _designation_, _exaltation_,
there is but one syllable distinguished from the others by a superior
stress of voice, he must deny the evidence of sense, and would not
listen to argument.

I must however remark that most, if not all syllables, derived from
some important word, have some degree of accent:[44] So that in
compounds, there are usually as many accents as radicals. Thus in
_sanctify_, which is composed of two radicals, _sanctus_ and _fio_,
we observe two accents; the strongest on the first syllable. The same
may be observed in _magnanimity_, from _magnus_ and _animus_, in
_promogeniture_, &c. except that in these the principal accent is on
the third syllable.

Notwithstanding it is a general rule, that there are as many accents
in a word, as radicals, yet one of them at least is frequently removed
from the principal syllable, by the analogy of termination, which
prevails over all other reasons. Thus in _mathematics_, the two
accents lie on the proper syllables; but in _mathematician_, the last
accent is removed to a less important place. In _imperceptible_, the
principal accent, with propriety, lies on the third syllable, which
being derived from a verb (_capio_) is the most important. The particle
_im_, being the privative, or that syllable which changes the meaning
of the whole word from affirmative to negative, becomes important and
has some degree of accent. But in the derivative _imperceptibility_,
while the first and third syllables retain an accent, the analogy of
termination carries the principal accent to the fifth syllable, which
is adventitious and less important than the others.[45]

In many compounds, as, _earth-quake_, _rain-bow_, each syllable is
pronounced with the stress that belongs to accented syllables; and
there is little or no distinction of accent. The reason is obvious:
There is no difference in the importance of the syllables; both are
equally necessary to convey the idea. By giving one syllable the
whole accent, such a word loses its original meaning, or at least
its force, as may be observed in the word _hussy_, a corruption of
_house-wife_; which, from an affectation of a unity of accent, and a
hasty pronunciation, has sunk into a low word. From the same ridiculous
affectation, _work-house_ is, by some people, pronounced _work-us_.

On this head, I shall only observe further, that some words of
many syllables have three accents; of which we have an example in

It has been already remarked that the composition of words, and the
ease of speaking, require a plurality of accent. The reason why words
of many syllables have two or three accents, is plain to any man that
attempts to pronounce them without an accent.

We cannot pronounce more than two unaccented syllables with perfect
ease; but four or five can hardly be articulated without an intervening
accent. We glide over the unaccented syllables with such rapidity, that
we have hardly time to place the organs in a position to articulate
them. The difficulty is in proportion to the number: So that after
passing over two or three, the voice very naturally rests or falls
forceably upon a particular syllable. Hence the words most difficult
to be pronounced, are those of four syllables, accented on the first;
as _figurative_, _literature_, _applicable_. The difficulty is very
great, when the middle syllables abound with consonants, even in
trissyllables, as _ag'grandize_; but is itself a sufficient reason for
not accenting the first syllable of such words as _acceptable_ and
_refractory_. When one of the words which have the accent on the first,
and three succeeding unaccented syllables, is followed by two or three
particles, the passage is weak and often occasions hesitation in a
speaker; as "_applicable to the affairs of common life_."

A remarkable instance of this, we find in Priestley's Preface to
Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever; "Whether of a _pleasureable or
of a_ painful nature." In this example there are six weak syllables
following each other without interruption, and such passages are not
reduceable to any kind of poetic feet. This assemblage of unimportant
syllables makes a hiatus in language, which should, as far as possible,
be avoided by a writer; for the melody of prose consists in a proper
mixture of important and unimportant syllables.[46][K]


Having laid down some general rules reflecting pronunciation, I
proceed to examin local differences, and the most material points of
controversy on this subject.

In the eastern states, there is a practice prevailing among the body of
the people, of prolonging the sound of _i_ in the termination _ive_.
In such words as _motive_, _relative_, &c. the people, excepting the
more polished part, give _i_ its first sound. This is a local practice,
opposed to the general pronunciation of the English on both sides
of the Atlantic, sometimes to the rules of accent, and always to
derivation. In dissyllables, as _motive_, _active_, the genius of our
language requires that the accent should be laid on _one_ syllable, and
that the other should be short.[47] But by prolonging _i_ in the last,
the distinction of accent is totally destroyed.

In polysyllables, which often have two accents, this reason has less
force, but the derivation, which is from the French _motif_, _relatif_,
always requires that _i_ in the termination _ive_ should have the sound
of _ee_ short, as in _live_, _give_. This is merely the short sound
of the French _i_, and the consequence of the English accent on the
first syllable. These reasons, with the authority of the most approved
practice, should operate to discountenance the singular drawling
pronunciation of the eastern people.[48]

The same reasons are opposed to another local practice of a similar
nature in the middle states; where many people pronounce _practise_,
_prejudice_, with _i_ long. I know of no authority for this beyond the
limits of two or three states; and it is clear that the practice is not
warranted by any principle in the language.

Another very common error, among the yeomanry of America, and
particularly in New England, is the pronouncing of _e_ before _r_,
like _a_; as _marcy_ for mercy. This mistake must have originated
principally in the name of the letter _r_, which, in most of our
school books, is called _ar_. This single mistake has spread a false
pronunciation of several hundred words, among millions of people.[49]

To avoid this disagreeable singularity some fine speakers have run into
another extreme, by pronouncing _e_ before _r_, like _u_, _murcy_.
This is an error. The true sound of the short _e_, as in _let_, is the
correct and elegant pronunciation of this letter in all words of this

There is a vulgar singularity in the pronunciation of the eastern
people, which is very incorrect, and disagreeable to strangers; that
of prefixing the sound of _i_ short or _e_, before the dipthong _ow_;
as _kiow_, _piower_ or _peower_. This fault usually occurs after _p_,
_c_ hard, or those other consonants which are formed near the seat of
_ee_ in the mouth, or in passing from which to the succeeding vowel,
the organs naturally take the position necessary to pronounce _ee_.
But the most awkward countryman pronounces _round_, _ground_, &c. with
tolerable propriety.

This, with some other peculiarities which prevail among the yeomanry of
New England, springs from causes that do not exist, in the same degree,
in any other part of America, perhaps not in the world. It may surprize
those who have not turned their thoughts to this subject, that I should
ascribe the manner of speaking among a people, to the nature of their
government and a distribution of their property. Yet it is an undoubted
fact that the drawling nasal manner of speaking in New England arises
almost solely from these causes.

People of large fortunes, who pride themselves on family distinctions,
possess a certain boldness, dignity and independence in their manners,
which give a correspondent air to their mode of speaking. Those who are
accustomed to command slaves, form a habit of expressing themselves
with the tone of authority and decision.

In New England, where there are few slaves and servants, and less
family distinctions than in any other part of America, the people are
accustomed to address each other with that diffidence, or attention
to the opinion of others, which marks a state of equality. Instead of
commanding, they advise; instead of saying, with an air of decision,
_you must_; they ask with an air of doubtfulness, _is it not best?_
or give their opinions with an indecisive tone; _you had better, I
believe_. Not possessing that pride and consciousness of superiority
which attend birth and fortune, their intercourse with each other is
all conducted on the idea of equality, which gives a singular tone to
their language and complexion to their manners.

These remarks do not apply to the commercial towns; for people who are
conversant with a variety of company lose most of their singularities,
and hence well bred people resemble each other in all countries. But
the peculiar traits of national character are found in the internal
parts of a country, among that class of people who do not travel,
nor are tempted by an intercourse with foreigners, to quit their own

Such are the causes of the local peculiarities in pronunciation,
which prevail among the country people in New England, and which, to
foreigners, are the objects of ridicule. The great error in their
manner of speaking proceeds immediately from not opening the mouth
sufficiently. Hence words are drawled out in a careless lazy manner, or
the sound finds a passage thro the nose.

Nothing can be so disagreeable as that drawling, whining cant that
distinguishes a certain class of people; and too much pains cannot be
taken to reform the practice.

Great efforts should be made by teachers of schools, to make their
pupils open the teeth, and give a full clear sound to every syllable.
The beauty of speaking consists in giving each letter and syllable its
due proportion of sound, with a prompt articulation.

Thus in order to pronounce _cow_, _power_, or _gown_ with propriety,
the pupil should be taught, after placing the organs in the position
required by the first consonant, to open his mouth wide, before he
begins the sound of _ow_: Otherwise in passing from that position to
the aperture necessary to pronounce _ow_, he will inevitably articulate
_ee_, _keow_.

A similar method is recommended to those polite speakers who are
so fond of imitating the English stage pronunciation as to embrace
every singularity, however disagreeable. I refer to the very modern
pronunciation of _kind_, _sky_, _guide_, &c. in which we hear the short
_e_ before _i_, _keind_, or _kyind_, _skey_, &c. This is the same
barbarous dialect, as the _keow_ and _veow_ of the eastern country
people. Yet, strange as it may seem, it is the elegant pronunciation
of the fashionable people both in England and America. Even Sheridan,
who has laid it down as a rule that _i_ is a dipthong, composed of _aw_
and _ee_, has prefixed a _y_ short to its sound in several words; as
_kyind_, _skyi_, _gyide_, &c. We may with equal propriety prefix _e_ to
the dipthong _ow_, or to _o_ in _poll_, or to _oo_ in _fool_, or to any
other vowel. It is presumed that the bare mention of such barbarisms
will be sufficient to restrain their progress, both in New England and
on the British theater.

Some of the southern people, particularly in Virginia, almost omit the
sound of _r_ as in _ware_, _there_. In the best English pronunciation,
the sound of _r_ is much softer than in some of the neighboring
languages, particularly the Irish and Spanish; and probably much softer
than in the ancient Greek. But there seems to be no good reason for
omitting the sound altogether; nor can the omission be defended on the
ground, either of good practice or of rules. It seems to be a habit
contracted by carelessness.

It is a custom very prevalent in the middle states, even among some
well bred people, to pronounce _off_, _soft_, _drop_, _crop_, with
the sound of _a_, _aff_, _saft_, _drap_, _crap_. This seems to be a
foreign and local dialect; and cannot be advocated by any person who
understands correct English. [L]

In the middle states also, many people pronounce a _t_ at the end of
_once_ and _twice_, _oncet_ and _twicet_. This gross impropriety would
not be mentioned, but for its prevalence among a class of very well
educated people; particularly in Philadelphia and Baltimore.

_Fotch_ for _fetch_ is very common, in several states, but not among
the better classes of people. _Cotched_ for _caught_ is more frequent,
and equally barbarous.

_Skroud_ and _skrouge_ for _croud_, are sometimes heard among people
that should be ashamed of the least vulgarism.

_Mought_ for _might_ is heard in most of the states, but not frequently
except in a few towns.[M]

_Holpe_ for _help_ I have rarely heard except in Virginia. _Tote_
is local in Virginia and its neighborhood. In meaning it is nearly
equivalent to _carry_. I have taken great pains to discover the
etymology of the local terms used in the several states; but this word
has yet eluded my diligence.[51]

_Chore_, a corruption of _char_, is an English word, still used in many
parts of England, as a _char-man_, a _char-woman_, but in America, it
is perhaps confined to New England. It signifies small domestic jobs of
work, and its place cannot be supplied by any other single word in the

These local words, and others of less note, are gradually growing into
disuse, and will probably be lost: Except such as are necessary in some
particular occupation.

The pronunciation of _w_ for _v_ is a prevailing practice in
England and America: It is particularly prevalent in Boston and
Philadelphia.[52] Many people say _weal_, _wessel_, for _veal_,

These letters are easily mistaken for each other, and the name of
the letter _w_ now used, is a proof that the letter _v_ was formerly
called _u_ or _oo_. The letter in the Roman language had the sound we
now give _w_ in _will_. _Via_ and _vinum_, pronounced _wia_, _winum_,
have suffered but a small change of pronunciation in our _way_, _wine_.
In old English books, down to Shakespear, _v_ was written for the
short _u_, as _vp_, _vnder_; for _up_, _under_. On the other hand, _u_
was written where we now write _v_, as _uery_, _euery_, for _very_,
_every_. It seems therefore, that _v_ had formerly the sound of _w_
or _oo_; and that instead of corrupting the language, the Cockneys
in London, and their imitators in America, who say _weal_, _wery_,
have retained the primitive pronunciation. In confirmation of this
opinion, it may be observed that the Danes, who speak a dialect of the
Saxon, have no _w_ in their language, but where we write _w_, they
write _v_, and where we write _wh_, they invariably write _hv_; as
_vind_, _wind_; _vej_, _way_; _vader_, _wade_; _hvad_, _what_; _hvide_,
_white_; _hvi_, _why_. The Germans, whose language is another branch of
the same stock, invariably pronounce _w_ as we do _v_; _wall_, _vall_;
_wir_, _vir_, _we_; _wollen_, _vollen_, _will_; and _v_ they pronounce
as we do _f_; as _vergessen_, _fergessen_, which is the same as the
English _forget_.

The retaining the old sound of _v_ is a proof of the force of custom;
but since the nation in general have annexed to it a precise sound, as
well as to _w_, every person should resign his peculiarities for the
sake of uniformity.

But there are some points in pronunciation, in which the best informed
people differ, both in opinion and practice.

The words _shall_, _quality_, _quantity_, _qualify_, _quandary_,
_quadrant_, are differently pronounced by good speakers. Some give _a_
a broad sound, as _shol_, _quolity_; and others, its second sound,
as in _hat_. With respect to the four first, almost all the standard
writers[53] agree to pronounce _a_ short, as in _hat_: And this is the
stage pronunciation. It is correct, for it is more agreeable to the
analogy of the language; that being the proper sound of the English
_a_ which is heard in _hat_ or _bar_. With respect to the two last,
authors differ; some give the first, some the second, and others the
fifth sound. They all pretend to give us the court pronunciation, and
as they differ so widely, we must suppose that eminent speakers differ
in practice. In such a case, we can hardly hesitate a moment to call
in analogy to decide the question, and give _a_ in all these words, as
also in _quash_, its second sound.[54]

The words _either_, _neither_, _deceit_, _conceit_, _receipt_, are
generally pronounced, by the eastern people, _ither_, _nither_,
_desate_, _consate_, _resate_. These are errors; all the standard
authors agree to give _ei_, in these words, the sound of _ee_. This
is the practice in England, in the middle and southern states, and,
what is higher authority, analogy warrants the practice. Indeed it
is very absurd to pronounce the verb _conceive_, _conceeve_, and the
noun _conceit_, _consate_. Such an inconsistency will hardly find
advocates, except among the prejudiced and uninformed.

_Importance_ is, by a few people, pronounced imp[1o]rtance; with the
first sound of _o_. The reason alleged is, that it is a derivative
of _import_, and _o_ should preserve the same sound it has in the
original. It seems however to be affectation, for the standard writers
and general practice are opposed to it. Indeed it may be considered as
a mere imitation of the French pronunciation of the same word.

_Decis-ive_ for _deci-sive_ is mere affectation.

_Reesin_ for _raisin_ is very prevalent in two or three principal towns
in America. One of the standard authors gives us this pronunciation;
and another gives us both _raisin_ and _reesin_. But all the others
pronounce the word _raisin_, with _a_ long; and derivation, analogy and
general custom, all decide in favor of the practice.

_Leisure_ is sometimes pronounced _leesure_, and sometimes _lezhure_:
The latter is the most general pronunciation in America. It is almost
singular in its spelling; _seizure_ being the only word in analogy
with it; and this is a derivative from _seize_. The true original
orthography of _leisure_ was _leasure_; this was in analogy with
_pleasure_, _measure_, and its ancient pronunciation still remains.

_Dictionary_ has been usually pronounced _dicsonary_; But its
derivation from _diction_, the analogous pronunciation of _tion_ in
other cases, and all the standard writers require _dicshunary_, or

One author of eminence pronounces _defile_ in three syllables,
_def-i-le_. In this he is singular; neither general practice, nor rules
warrant the pronunciation; and all the other authorities are against

With respect to _oblige_, authorities differ. The standard writers
give us both _oblige_ and _obleege_, and it is impossible to determine
on which side the weight of authority lies. The direct derivation of
the word from the French would incline us to prefer _obleege_, in
the analogy of _fatigue_, _machine_, _antique_, _pique_, _marine_,
_oblique_, which uniformly preserve the French _i_ or English _ee_.
Yet Chesterfield called this affectation, and it might be so in his
age; for the opinions of men are capricious. The English analogy
requires _i_ long in _oblige_; and perhaps this should incline all
parties to meet each other on that best principle.

Some people very erroneously pronounce _chaise_, _sha_ in the singular,
and _shaze_ in the plural. The singular number is _shaze_, and the
plural, _shazes_.

Our modern fashionable speakers accent _European_ on the last syllable
but one. This innovation has happened within a few years: I say
innovation; for it is a violation of an established principle of the
language, that words ending in _ean_ have the accent on the last
syllable but two: Witness _Mediterra'nean_, _Pyre'nean_, _Hercu'lean_,
_subterra'nean_. I do not advert to an exception,[55] and why
_European_ should be made one, it is difficult to determine. The reason
given by some, that _e_ in the penultima represents the Latin dipthong
_æ_, which was long, is of little weight, opposed to the general
practice of a nation, and to an established principle. The standard
authors, in this instance, as in all others, where practice is not
uniform, very absurdly give both pronunciations, that we may take our
choice. As this is a very easy method of getting over difficulties,
and passing along without giving offence, so it is a certain way to
perpetuate differences in opinion and practice, and to prevent the
establishment of any standard. Analogy requires _Euro'pean_, and this
is supported by as good authorities as the other.

_Rome_ is very frequently pronounced _Room_, and that by people of
every class. The authors I have consulted give no light upon this word,
except Perry, who directs to that pronunciation. The practice however,
is by no means general in America: There are many good speakers who
give _o_ its first sound. It seems very absurd to give _o_ its first
sound in _Romish_, _Romans_, and pronounce it _oo_ in _Rome_, the
radical word. I know of no language in Europe, in which _o_ has not one
uniform sound, viz. the sound we give it in _rose_. It is perhaps the
only vowel, in the sound of which all nations agree. In English it has
other sounds; but the first is its proper one. A great proportion of
people in America have restored the analogy of pronunciation in giving
_o_ its first found in _Rome_; and a desire of uniformity would lead us
to extend the practice.[56]

In the pronunciation of _arch_ in many compound words, people are
not uniform. The disputed words are _archangel_, _archetype_,
_architecture_, _architrave_, _archives_. There seems to be no settled
principle of analogy, by which the question can be determined.
Etymology would require _ch_, in Greek and Hebrew derivatives, to
have uniformly the sound of _k_; but before most consonants, such a
pronunciation is harsh; for which reason it is generally softened into
the English _ch_, as _archbishop_. But before vowels, as in the words
just enumerated, the best practice has decided for the sound of _k_;
and euphony, as well as derivation, favors the decision.[N]

The sound of _ch_ in _chart_ is likewise disputed; and the standard
authors are directly opposed to each other. There is as good foreign
authority on one side as the other; but in America, _ch_ has generally
its soft or English sound. This must perhaps be preferred, contrary to
etymology; for we uniformly give _ch_ that sound in _charter_, which
is from the same original; and this also distinguishes the word from
_cart_; a reason which is not without its weight.

There are many people who omit the aspirate in most words which begin
with _wh_; as _white_, _whip_, &c. which they pronounce _wite_, _wip_.
To such it is necessary only to observe, that in the pure English
pronunciation, both in Great Britain and New England, for it is exactly
the same in both, _h_ is not silent in a single word beginning with
_wh_. In this point our standard authors differ; two of them aspirating
the whole of these words, and three, marking _h_ in most of them as
mute. But the omission of _h_ seems to be a foreign corruption; for in
America, it is not known among the unmixed descendants of the English.
Sheridan has here given the true English pronunciation. In this class
of words, _w_ is silent in four only, with their derivatives; viz.
_who_, _whole_, _whoop_, _whore_.

One or two authors affect to pronounce _human_, and about twenty other
words beginning with _h_, as tho they were spelt _yuman_.[57] This is
a gross error. The only word that begins with this sound, is _humor_,
with its derivatives. In the American pronunciation, _h_ is silent in
the following, _honest_, _honor_, _hour_, _humor_, _herb_, _heir_, with
their derivatives. To these the English add _hospital_, _hostler_,
_humble_; but an imitation of these, which some industriously affect,
cannot be recommended, as every omission of the aspirate serves to
mutilate and weaken the language.

The word _yelk_ is sometimes written _yolk_ and pronounced _yoke_. But
_yelk_ is the most correct orthography, from the Saxon _gealkwe_; and
in this country, it is the general pronunciation.

_Ewe_ is, by the English, often pronounced _yo_; which is sometimes
heard in America. But analogy and the general corresponding practice in
this country, with the authority of some of the most accurate writers,
decide for _yew_.

The English speakers of eminence have shortened the vowel in the
first syllable of _tyranny_, _zealous_, _sacrifice_, &c. altho in the
primitive words, all agree to give the vowel its first sound. This
pronunciation has not spread among the people of this country; but our
learned men have adopted it; and it seems in some degree to be the
genius of our language. In _child_, _clean_, _holy_, &c. we uniformly
give the first vowel its long sound; but when a syllable is added, we
always shorten it; _children_, _clenly_, _holyday_.

On the other hand, many people in America say _pat-ron_, _mat-ron_;
whereas the English say either _pa-tron_ or _pat-ron_, _ma__tron_
or _mat-ron_; but all agree in saying, _pat-ronage_. In _patriot_,
_patriotism_, the English give _a_ its long sound; but a great part of
the Americans, its short sound. In all these cases, where people are
not uniform, I should prefer the short sound; for it appears to me the
most analogous.

_Wrath_, the English pronounce with the third sound of _a_ or _aw_; but
the Americans almost universally preserve the analogous sound, as in
_bath_, _path_. This is the correct pronunciation; and why should we
reject it for _wroth_, which is a corruption? If the English practice
is erroneous, let it remain so; we have no concern with it: By adhering
to our own practice, we preserve a superiority over the English, in
those instances, in which ours is guided by rules; and so far ought
we to be from conforming to their practice, that they ought rather to
conform to ours.

It is disputed whether _g_ should have its hard or soft sound, in
_homogeneous_ and _heterogeneous_: On this question the standard
authors are not agreed. The hard sound, as in _go_, coincides with
etymology; but analogy requires the other, as in _genius_. The same
remarks apply to _g_ in _phlogiston_.

In the middle and southern states, _fierce_, _pierce_, _tierce_, are
pronounced _feerce_, _peerce_, _teerce_. To convince the people of the
impropriety of this pronunciation, it might be sufficient to inform
them, that it is not fashionable on the English theater. For those who
want better proofs, before they relinquish their practice, I would
observe, that these words are derived to us from the French; _fierce_,
_tierce_, from _fiers_, _tiers_, and _pierce_ from _percer_. In the two
former, the French pronounce both _i_ and _e_; but it is evident the
English originally pronounced _e_ only; for the _i_ was omitted in the
spelling of _fierce_, and was not introduced into _pierce_ till after
Spenser wrote.

    "--When he him knew and had his tale herd,
    As _fers_ as a leon pulled out his swerd."

  Chaucer, Knightes Tale 1600.

    "The drought of March hath _perced_ to the rote."

  Canterbury Tales.

    "For they this queen attended; in whose steed,
    Oblivion laid him down on Laura's herse:
    Hereat the hardest stones were seen to bleed,
    And grones of buried ghosts the heavens did perse."

  Verses to Edmond Spenser.

_Pierce_ is also made to rhime with _rehearse_. Pope makes it rhime
with _universe_.

    "He, who thro vast immensity can pierce,
    See worlds on worlds compose one universe."

  Essay on Man, 23.

The rhime in the last quotation, is not unequivocal proof of the
pronunciation in Pope's time; but the orthography in Chaucer's and
Spenser's writings, are to me satisfactory evidence that _e_ in these
words was short. The standard English pronunciation now is _ferce_,
_perce_, _terce_, and it is universal in New England. I have only to
add, that the sharp abrupt sound of _e_ in the two first words is most
happily adapted to express the ideas.

The English pronounce _leap_, _lep_; and that in the present tense
as well as the past. Some of our American horsemen have learnt the
practice; but among other people, it is almost unknown. It is a breach
of analogy, at least in the present tense; the American pronunciation,
_leep_, is therefore the most correct and should not be relinquished.

In the fashionable world, _heard_ is pronounced _herd_ or _hurd_.
This was almost unknown in America till the commencement of the late
war, and how long it has been the practice in England, I cannot
determine. By Chaucer's orthography, one would imagine that it had been
handed down from remote antiquity; for he writes _herd_, _herde_, and
_herden_.[58] In reading more modern poets, I have rarely found any
instance of a verse's closing with this word; so that it is difficult
to say what has been the general practice among the learned. But for
centuries, the word has been uniformly spelt _heard_; the verb _hear_
is in analogy with _fear_, _sear_, and yet _e_ in the past time and
participle has been omitted, as _heard_, not _heared_. That _herd_ was
not formerly the pronunciation, is probable from this circumstance;
the Americans were strangers to it when they came from England, and
the body of the people are so to this day.[59] To most people in this
country, the English pronunciation appears like affectation, and is
adopted only in the capital towns, which are always the most ready to
distinguish themselves by an implicit imitation of foreign customs.
Analogy requires that we should retain our former practice; for we may
as well change _feared_, _seared_, into _ferd_, _serd_, as to change
_heard_ into _herd_.

_Beard_ is sometimes, but erroneously, pronounced _beerd_. General
practice, both in England and America, requires that _e_ should be
pronounced as in _were_, and I know of no rule opposed to the practice.

_Deaf_ is generally pronounced _deef_. It is the universal practice
in the eastern states; and it is general in the middle and southern;
tho some have adopted the English pronunciation, _def_. The latter is
evidently a corruption; for the word is in analogy with _leaf_ and
_sheaf_, and has been from time immemorial. So in Sir William Temple's
works, Virg. Ecl.

              ----"We sing not to the deaf,
    An answer comes from every trembling leaf."

_Leaf_ and _deaf_, with a different orthography, are repeatedly made to
rhime in Chaucer's works; as in the Wife of Bath's Prologue, L. 6217,

    "For that I rent out of his book a lefe,
    That of the stroke myn ere wex al _defe_."

So also line 6249.

This was the orthography of his time, and an almost conclusive evidence
that _deaf_ was pronounced _deef_.[60] This pronunciation is generally
retained in America, and analogy requires it.

This dissertation will be closed with one observation, which the reader
may have made upon the foregoing criticisms: That in many instances
the Americans still adhere to the analogies of the language, where
the English have infringed them. So far therefore as the regularity
of construction is concerned, we ought to retain our own practice
and be our own standards. The English practice is an authority; but
considering the force of custom and the caprice of fashion, their
practice must be as liable to changes and to errors, as the practice
of a well educated yeomanry, who are governed by habits and not easily
led astray by novelty. In the instances where we have adhered to
analogy, no consideration can warrant us in resigning our practice
to the authority of a foreign court, which, thro mere affectation,
may have embraced many obvious errors. In doubtful cases, to pay a
suitable deference to the opinions of others, is wise and prudent;
but to renounce an obvious principle of propriety because others have
renounced it, is to carry our complaisance for the faults of the great,
much farther than we can justify, and in a _nation_, it is an act of
servility that wants a name.




[38] Dr. Sheridan has coined a word for these combinations; he calls
them _digraphs_, that is, _double written_.

[39] Vocal and aspirate.

[40] On the stage, it is sometimes pronounced with _i_ long, either for
the sake of rhime, or in order to be heard. Mr. Sheridan marks it both
ways; yet in common discourse he pronounces it with _i_ short, as do
the nation in general.

[41] The most significant words, and consequently the most important,
are nouns and verbs; then follow adjectives, pronouns, auxiliary verbs
and participles.--Particles are the least important.

[42] I consider these terminations as single syllables.

[43] Such is the tendency of people to uniformity, that the
_commonalty_, for the most part, form the word regularly, and pronounce
it _commonality_. Analogy requires that both these words should end in
_ity_; but custom has established them as exceptions.

[44] From this remark we must except some derivatives from the Greek;
as geography, philology, antithesis, hypothesis, &c. which have but
one accent. Etymology requires these words to be accented on the first
and third syllables; but the genius of the language, or the analogy of
termination has prevailed over etymological reasons. Etymology however
resumes her rights in the derivatives, _geographical_, _philological_,
&c. where each radical syllable is distinguished by an accent.

[45] To prove the utility of accent in marking the signification of
words, it is only necessary to advert to the two words _omission_ and
_commission_. These words have the accent on the second syllable;
but when we use them by way of contrast, we lay a strong accent on
the first syllable of each, by which the opposition of sense is
distinguished. "Sins of o'mission and com'mission." Thus when we use
the word _regain_, we often lay an accent on _re_ almost equal to
that on _gain_; because the sense of the word depends much, or rather
wholly, on the particle.

[46] In the following passage, alliteration or the similarity of
the weak syllables, has a very bad effect. "We tread, as with_in an
en_chanted circle, where nothing appears as it truly is."----Blair
Serm. 9.

A difficulty of pronunciation is obvious in the following sentence,
"This caution while it _admirably_ protects the public liberty, can
never bear hard upon individuals." Change the accent from the first to
the second syllable of _admirably_, and the difficulty vanishes.

"And yet the labyrinth is more _admirable than the_
Pyramids."----Trans. of Herodotus, Euterpe.

[47] Except compounds, as _earthquake_, _bookcase_.

[48] The final _e_ must be considered as the cause of this vulgar
dialect. It is wished that some bold genius would dare to be right,
and spell this class of words without _e_, _motiv_. By reason of an
embarrassing orthography, one half the trouble of learning English, is
bestowed in acquiring errors, and correcting them after they are formed
into habits. To prevent the continuance of this erroneous practice, I
have, in the first part of the Institute, distinguished the silent _e_,
by an Italic character.

[49] To remedy the evil, in some degree, this letter is named _er_, in
the Institute. In a few instances this pronunciation is become general
among polite speakers, as clerks, sergeant, &c.

[50] Hence the surprising similarity between the idioms of the New
England people and those of Chaucer, Shakespear, Congreve, &c. who
wrote in the true English stile. It is remarked by a certain author,
that the inhabitants of islands best preserve their native tongue. New
England has been in the situation of an island; during 160 years, the
people except in a few commercial towns, have not been exposed to any
of the causes which effect great changes in language and manners.

[51] I have once met with the word in Chaucer's Plowman's Tale 2014.

    "The other side ben pore and pale,
    And peple yput out of prese,
    And semin caitiffs sore a cale,
    And er in one without encrease;
    Iclepid Lollers and Londlese;
    Who _toteth_ on 'hem thei ben untall;
    They ben arayid all for pece,
    But falshed foule mote it befall."

[52] I am at a loss to determine, why this practice should prevail in
Boston and not in Connecticut. The first and principal settlers in
Hartford came from the vicinity of Boston. Vast numbers of people in
Boston and the neighborhood use _w_ for _v_; yet I never once heard
this pronunciation in Connecticut.

[53] By standard writers, I mean, Kenrick, Sheridan, Burn, Perry and

[54] The distinction in the pronunciation of _a_ in _quality_, when it
signifies the property of some body, and when it is used for high rank,
appears to me without foundation in rule or practice.

[55] _Hymenean_ and _hymeneal_ are, by some writers, accented on the
last syllable but one; but erroneously. Other authorities preserve the

[56] This is the sound which the rhime requires in the following verses:

    "Give eare to me that ten years fought for Rome,
    Yet reapt all grace at my returning home."

  Rel. An. Poet. p. 204.

[57] Particularly _Perry_. I am surprized that his pronunciation
has found so many advocates in this country, as there is none more

I would just remark here that many writers use _an_ before _h_
aspirate, instead of _a_; which practice seems not well founded. The
rapid sound of the article _a_ is indistinct, but opens the mouth to
a proper position to pronounce _h_; whereas _n_ places the end of the
tongue under the upper teeth, and the mouth assumes a new position,
before the aspiration can be formed. _A_ hundred, _a_ house, &c. are
therefore much more easily articulated, than _an_ hundred, _an_ house.

Thus _a_ should always be used before _y_ consonant, and consequently
before _u_ when it has the same sound, as in _union_, _universal_, &c.
Indeed I cannot account for the use of _an_ before _y_, on any other
principle than this, that the persons who use it do not pronounce _y_
at all. If they make _y_ the same as _ee_, it is consistent to write
_an_ before it; but this is an error.

[58] See Canterbury Tales and Prologue. L. 221, 955, 1599, 15382.

[59] To prove that the Americans have a corrupt pronunciation, we
are often told that our ancestors came from the western counties of
England. This is but partially true.

The company that purchased New England, was indeed called the _Plymouth
Company_, being composed principally of persons belonging to the county
of Devon. But many of the principal settlers in these states came from
London and its vicinity; some from the middle counties, the ancient
kingdom of Mercia; and a few from the northern counties. To show the
falsehood of the charge, with respect to the language, it may be
asserted with truth, that there is not the least affinity between the
language of the New England people and the specimens of the Devonshire
dialect, given in the English Magazines.

[60] The digraph _ea_ seems not to have been much used in that age; for
_speak_ authors wrote _speke_; for _dear_, _dere_; for _leaf_, _lefe_.



     _Examination of controverted Points, continued._--_Of modern
     Corruptions in the English Pronunciation._




In the preceding dissertation I have endeavored to settle a number of
controverted points and local differences in pronunciation, on the most
satisfactory principles hitherto discovered. I now proceed to some
other differences of consequence to the language, and particularly in

_Gold_ is differently pronounced by good speakers, and differently
marked by the standard writers. Two of them give us _goold_, as
the standard, and three, _gold_ or _goold_. But we may find better
principles than the opinions or practice of individuals, to direct our
judgement in this particular. The word indeed has the pronunciation,
_goold_, in some of the collateral branches of the Teutonic, as in the
Danish, where it is spelt _guld_. But in the Saxon, it was written
_gold_, and has been uniformly written so in English. Besides, we have
good reason to believe that it was, in early times, pronounced _gold_,
with the first sound of _o_, for the poets invariably make it rhime
with _old_, _behold_, and other words of similar sound. Thus in Chaucer:

    "With nayles yelwe, and bright as any _gold_,
    He hadde a bere's skin, cole blake for old."

  Knight's Tale, L. 2143.

IN Pope:

    "Now Europe's laurels on their brows behold,
    But stain'd with blood, or ill exchang'd for _gold_."

  Essay on Man, Book 4.

The rhime is here a presumptive proof that the poets pronounced this
word with the first sound of _o_, and it is a substantial reason why
that pronunciation should be preferred. But analogy is a still stronger
reason; for bold, told, fold, and I presume every similar word in the
language, has the first sound of _o_. These are good reasons why _gold_
should have that sound; reasons which are permanent, and superior to
any private opinions.

Similar reasons, and equally forceable, are opposed to the modern
pronunciation of _wound_. I say _modern_; for in America _woond_ is a
recent innovation. It was perhaps an ancient dialect; for the old Saxon
and modern Danish orthography warrant this conjecture.

But in English the spelling has uniformly corresponded with _bound_,
_sound_, and if we may judge from the rhimes of our poets, the
pronunciation has also been analogous. Thus in Skelton's Elegy on
Henry, Earl of Northumberland, 1489, we have the following lines:

    "Most noble erle! O foul mysurd[61] ground
    Whereon he gat his finall deadly _wounde_."

  Rel. An. Eng. Poet. vol. 1. page 113.

So in a song which seems to have been written in the reign of Henry

    "Where griping grefes the hart would _wounde_
    And doleful dumps the mynde oppresse,
    There musicke with her silver sound,
    With speed is wont to send redresse."

  Ibm. page 165.

Similar rhimes occur in almost every page of modern poetry.

    "Warriors she fires with animated sounds,
    Pours balm into the bleeding lover's _wounds_."


The fashionable pronunciation of _wound_ destroys the rhime and
infringes the rule of analogy; two objections to it which can be
removed only by universal practice. Does this practice exist? By no
means. One good authority[62] at least, directs to the analogous
pronunciation; and another compiler directs to both--the regular and
the fashionable. But were _woond_ the universal practice in Great
Britain, this should not induce us to lay aside our own practice
for a foreign one. There is but a small part, even of the well bred
people in this country, who have yet adopted the English mode; and the
great body of the people uniformly pursue analogy. The authority of
practice therefore, is, in this country, opposed to the innovation.
Shall we then relinquish what every man must acknowlege to be _right_,
to embrace the corruptions of a foreign court and stage? Will not the
Atlantic ocean, the total separation of America from Great Britain,
the pride of an independent nation, the rules of the language, the
melody of English poetry, restrain our rage for imitating the errors of

But it is said that _woond_ is softer than _wound_, and therefore more
agreeable. Suppose the assertion to be true, will it follow that the
softest pronunciation should be preferred?

It is acknowleged on all hands, that a correspondence between sound
and sense is a beauty in language, and there are many words in
our language, the sounds of which were borrowed from the sensible
objects, the ideas of which they are designed to express. Such are
the _dashing_ of waters, the _crackling_ of burning faggots, the
_hissing_ of serpents, the _lisping_ of infants, and the _stuttering_
of a _stammerer_. These are considered as beauties in a language.
But there are other words, the sounds of which are not adopted in
imitating audible noises, which are either soft or harsh, and by the
help of association are particularly calculated to express ideas, which
are either agreeable or disagreeable to the mind. Of this kind are
_soft_ and _harsh_, _sweet_ and _sour_, and a multitude of others. On
the supposition therefore, that _woond_ is the softer pronunciation,
this is a good reason why it should _not_ be adopted; for the idea it
conveys is extremely disagreeable, and much better represented by a
harsh word.[63]

_Skeptic_ for _sceptic_ is mere pedantry; a modern change that has no
advantage for its object. The Greek derivation will be pleaded as an
authority; but this will not warrant the innovation, without extending
it to _scene_, _scepter_, and many others. Will the advocates write
and pronounce the latter _skene_, _skepter_? If not, they should
be satisfied with analogy and former practice. It is remarkable
however, that notwithstanding the authority of almost all the modern
dictionaries is in favor of skeptic, no writer of reputation, whose
works I have seen, has followed the spelling. The old orthography,
_sceptic_, still maintains its ground.

_Sauce_ with the fourth sound of _a_ is accounted vulgar; yet this
is the ancient, the correct, and the most general pronunciation. The
_aw_ of the North Britons is much affected of late; _sawce_, _hawnt_,
_vawnt_; yet the true sound is that of _aunt_, _jaunt_, and a change
can produce no possible advantage.

The words _advertisement_ and _chastisement_ are differently accented
by the standard authors, and by people on both sides of the Atlantic.
Let us find the analogy. The original words, _advertise_ and
_chastise_, are verbs, accented uniformly on the last syllable. Let us
search thro the language for verbs of this description, and I presume
we shall not find another instance, where, in nouns formed from such
verbs, by the addition of _ment_, the seat of the accent is changed.
We find amusement, refinement, refreshment, reconcilement, and many,
perhaps all others, preserve the accent of their primitives; and in
this analogy we find the reason why _chastisement_ and _advertisement_
should be accented on the last syllable but one. This analogy is a
substantial and permanent rule, that will forever be superior to local

Similar remarks may be made respecting _acceptable_, _admirable_,
_disputable_, _comparable_, which our polite speakers accent on the
first syllable. The first is indeed accented on the second syllable,
by most authors, except Sheridan, who still retains the accent on the

It was an old rule of grammarians, that the genius of our language
requires the accent to be carried as far as possible towards the
beginning of the word. This is seldom or never true; on the contrary,
the rule is directly opposed to the melody, both of poetry and prose.
Under the influence, however, of this rule, a long catalogue of words
lost their true pronunciation, and among the rest, a great number of
adjectives derived from verbs by an addition of the termination _able_.
Some of these are restored to their analogy; others retain the accent
on the first syllable.

Notwithstanding the authority of Sheridan, I presume few people will
contend for the privilege of accenting _acceptable_ on the first
syllable. How the organs of any man can be brought to articulate so
many consonants in the weak syllables, or how the ear can relish such
an unnatural pronunciation, is almost inconceiveable. In spite of the
pedantry of scholars, the ease and melody of speaking, have almost
wholly banished the absurd practice, by restoring the accent to the
second syllable.

But with respect to _admirable_, _comparable_ and _disputable_, the
authors who are deemed authorities are divided; some are in favor of
the accent on the first syllable, and others adhere to analogy.

Setting aside custom, every reason for accenting these words on
the first syllable, will apply with equal force to _adviseable_,
_inclineable_, _requireable_, and a hundred others. They are all formed
from verbs accented on the last syllable, by annexing the _same_
termination to the verb, and they are all of the _same_ part of speech.
Let us examin them by the rules for accentuation, laid down in the
preceding dissertation.

The primitive verbs of this class of words are usually compounded of
a particle and principal part of speech; as _ad-mi-ro_, _com-paro_,
_re-quæro_, &c. The last syllable, derived from a verb, is the most
important, and in the primitives, is invariably accented. This is
agreeable to the first rule. In nine tenths of the derivatives, the
same syllable retains the accent; as, _perceiveable_, _available_,
_deploreable_. In these therefore both rules are observed. The third
rule, or that which arises from the terminating syllable, is also
preserved in most of this class of words. It is therefore much to be
regretted, that a false rule should have introduced an irregularity
into the language, by excepting a few words from an analogy, which
unites in itself every principle of propriety.

But the practice, with respect to the three words under consideration,
is by no means general. I have taken particular notice of the
pronunciation of people in every part of America, and can testify that,
in point of numbers, the practice is in favor of analogy. The people at
large say _admi'reable_, _dispu'teable_, _compa'reable_; and it would
be difficult to lead them from this easy and natural pronunciation,
to embrace that forced one of _ad'mirable_, &c. The people are right,
and, in this particular, will ever have it to boast of, that among the
unlearned is found the purity of English pronunciation.

Of this class of words, there are a few which seem to be corrupted in
universal practice; as _reputable_. The reason why the accent in this
word is more generally confirmed on the first syllable, may be this;
there is but a single consonant between the first and second syllable,
and another between the second and third; so that the pronunciation of
the three weak syllables is by no means difficult. This word therefore,
in which all authors, and as far as I know, all men, agree to lay the
accent on the first syllable, and the orthography of which renders the
pronunciation easy, must perhaps be admitted as an exception to the
general rule.[65]

_Accessary_ or _accessory_, are differently accented by the best
writers and speakers. But the ease of speaking requires that they
should follow the rule of derivation, and retain the accent of the
primitive, _access'ary_.

The fashionable pronunciation of such words as _immediate_,
_ministerial_, _commodious_, is liable to particular exceptions. That
_i_ has a liquid sound, like _y_, in many words in our language, is not
disputed; but the classes of words which will admit this sound, ought
to be ascertained. It appears to me that common practice has determined
this point. If we attend to the pronunciation of the body of people,
who are led by their own ease rather than by a nice regard to fashion,
we shall find that they make _i_ liquid, or give it the sound of _y_
consonant, after those consonants only, which admit that sound without
any change of their own powers. These consonants are _l_, _n_, _v_,
and the double consonant _x_; as _valiant_, _companion_, _behavior_,
_flexion_. Here _y_ might be substituted for _i_, without any change,
or any tendency to a change, of the preceding consonant; except perhaps
the change of _si_ in _flexion_ into _sh_, which is a general rule in
the language, as it is to change _ti_ and _ci_ into the same sound.[66]

But when _i_ is preceded by _d_, change it into _y_, and we cannot
pronounce it with our usual rapidity, without blending the two letters
into the sound of _j_, which is a compound of _dzh_; at least it cannot
be effected without a violent exertion of the speaker. _Immedyate_ is
so difficult, that every person who attempts to pronounce it in that
manner, will fall into _immejate_. Thus _commodious_, _comedian_,
_tragedian_, are very politely pronounced _commojus_, _comejan_,
_trajejan_. Such a pronunciation, changing the true powers of the
letters, and introducing a harsh union of consonants, _dxh_, in the
place of the smooth sound of _dia_, must be considered as a palpable

With respect to the terminations _ial_, _ian_, &c. after _r_, I must
believe it impossible to blend these letters in one syllable. In the
word _ministerial_, for example, I cannot conceive how _ial_ can be
pronounced _yal_, without a pause after the syllables, _minister-_.
Sheridan's manner of pronouncing the letters _ryan_, _ryal_, in a
syllable, appears to be a gross absurdity: Even allowing _y_ to have
the sound of _e_, we must of necessity articulate two syllables.

But supposing the modern pronunciation of _immediate_ to be liable to
none of these exceptions, there is another objection to it, arising
from the construction of our poetry. To the short syllables of such
words as _every_, _glorious_, _different_, _bowery_, _commodious_,
_harmonious_, _happier_, _ethereal_, _immediate_, _experience_,
our poetry is in a great measure indebted for the _Dactyl_, the
_Amphibrach_, and the _Anapæst_, feet which are necessary to give
variety to versification, and the last of which is the most flowing,
melodious and forceable foot in the language. By blending the two short
syllables into one, we make the foot an Iambic; and as our poetry
consists principally of iambics, we thus reduce our heroic verse to a
dull uniformity. Take for example the following line of Pope.

    "THAT sees immediate good by present sense"--

If we pronounce it thus:

    THAT sees | imme|jate good | by pres|ent sense;

the line will be composed entirely of Iambics. But read it thus:

    THAT sees | imme|di-ate good | by pres|ent sense;

and the third foot, becoming an anapæst, gives variety to the verse.

In the following line:

    "SOME happier island in the watery waste:"

If we read _happier_ and _watry_, as words of two syllables, the feet
will all be Iambics, except the third, which is a _Pyrrhic_. But if
we read _happier_ and _watery_,[67] in three syllables, as we ought,
we introduce two anapæsts, and give variety and flowing melody to the

These remarks will be more fully confirmed by attending to the last
verse of the following distich:

    "In martial pomp he clothes the angelic train,
    While warring myr|iads shake | the ethe|rial plain."

  Philosophic Solitude.

On Sheridan's principles, and by an elision of _e_ in _the_, the last
line is composed of pure Iambics; whereas in fact, the three last feet
are anapæsts; and to these the verse is, in some measure, indebted for
its melody and the sublimity of the description.

These considerations are directly opposed to the fashionable
pronunciation of _immediate_, and that whole analogy of words. In
addition to this, I may remark, that it is not the practice of people
in general. Whatever may be the character and rank of its advocates, in
this country they compose but a small part, even of the literati.


I proceed now to examin a mode of pronouncing certain words, which
prevails in England and some parts of America, and which, as it
extends to a vast number of words, and creates a material difference
between the orthography and pronunciation, is a matter of serious

To attack established customs is always hazardous; for mankind, even
when they see and acknowlege their errors, are seldom obliged to the
man who exposes them. The danger is encreased, when an opposition is
made to the favorite opinions of the great; for men, whose rank and
abilities entitle them to particular respect, will sooner dismiss
their friends than their prejudices. Under this conviction, my present
situation is delicate and embarrassing: But as some sacrifices must
often be made to truth; and as I am conscious that a regard to truth
only dictates what I write, I can sincerely declare, it is my wish to
inform the understanding of every man, without wounding the feelings of
an individual.

The practice to which I allude, is that of pronouncing _d_, _t_, and
_s_ preceding _u_; which letter, it is said, contains the sound of _e_
or _y_ and _oo_; and that of course _education_ must be pronounced
_edyucation_; _na__ture_, _natyure_; and _superior_, _syuperior_:
From the difficulty of pronouncing which, we naturally fall into the
sound of _dzh_, _tsh_, and _sh_: Thus education becomes _edzhucation_
or _ejucation_; nature becomes _natshure_ or _nachure_; and superior
becomes _shuperior_.

How long this practice has prevailed in London, I cannot ascertain.
There are a few words, in which it seems to have been universal from
time immemorial; as, _pleasure_, and the other words of that analogy.
But I find no reason to suppose the practice of pronouncing _nature_,
_duty_, _nachure_, _juty_, prevailed before the period of Garrick's
reputation on the stage.

On the other hand, the writers on the language have been silent upon
this point, till within a few years; and Kenrick speaks of it as
a _Metropolitan pronunciation_, supported by _certain mighty fine
speakers_,[68] which implies that the practice is modern, and proves
it to be local, even in Great Britain. But the practice has prevailed
at court and on the stage for several years, and the reputation of
a Garrick, a Sheridan and a Siddons, has given it a very rapid and
extensive diffusion in the polite world. As the innovation is great and
extends to a multitude of words, it is necessary, before we embrace
the practice in its utmost latitude, to examin into its propriety and

The only reasons offered in support of the practice, are, the English
or Saxon sound of _u_, which is said to be _yu_; and _euphony_, or the
agreeableness of the pronunciation.

But permit me to enquire, on what do the advocates of this practice
ground their assertion, that _u_ had in Saxon the sound of _eu_ or
_yu_? Are there any testimonies to support it, among old writers of
authority? In the course of my reading I have discovered none, nor have
I ever seen one produced or referred to.

Will it be said, that _yu_ is the name of the letter? But where did
this name originate? Certainly not in the old Saxon practice, for the
Saxons expressed this sound by _ew_, or _eo_: And I do not recollect
a single word of Saxon origin, in which the warmest sticklers for the
practice, give _u_ this sound, even in the present age. Kenrick, who
has investigated the powers of the English letters with much more
accuracy than even Sheridan himself, observes, that we might with equal
propriety, name the other vowels in the same manner, and say, _ya_,
_ye_, _yi_, _yo_, as well as _yu_.[69]

_U_ in _union_, _use_, &c. has the sound of _yu_; but these are all of
_Latin_ origin, and can be no proof that _u_ had, in _Saxon_, the sound
of _ew_ or _yu_.

The whole argument is founded on a mistake. _U_ in pure English has
not the sound of _ew_, but a sound that approaches it; which is
defined with great accuracy by the learned Wallis, who was one of the
first correct writers upon English Grammar, and whose treatise is
the foundation of Lowth's Introduction and all the best subsequent

This writer defines the English letter _u_ in these words, "Hunc sonum
Extranei sere assequenter, si dipthongum _iu_ conentur pronunciare;
nempe _i_ exile literæ _u_, vel _w_ preponentes; (ut in Hispanorum
ciudad, civitas.) _Non tamen idem est omnino sonus, quamvis, ad illum
proxime, accedat_; est enim _iu_ sonus compositus, at Anglorum et
Gallorum _u_ sonus simplex."[71]---- Gram. Ling. Angl. Sect. 2.

This is precisely the idea I have ever had of the English _u_; except
that I cannot allow the sound to be perfectly simple. If we attend to
the manner in which we begin the sound of _u_ in _flute_, _abjure_,
_truth_, we shall observe that the tongue is not pressed to the mouth
so closely as in pronouncing _e_; the aperture of the organs is not so
small; and I presume that good speakers, and am confident that most
people, do not pronounce these words _fleute_, _abjeure_, _treuth_.
Neither do they pronounce them _floote_, _abjoore_, _trooth_; but
with a sound formed by an easy natural aperture of the mouth, between
_iu_ and _oo_; which is the true English sound. This sound, however
obscured by affectation in the metropolis of Great Britain and the
capital towns in America, is still preserved by the body of the people
in both countries. There are a million descendants of the Saxons in
this country who retain the sound of _u_ in all cases, precisely
according to Wallis's definition. Ask any plain countryman, whose
pronunciation has not been exposed to corruption by mingling with
foreigners, how he pronounces the letters, _t_, _r_, _u_, _th_, and
he will not sound _u_ like _eu_, nor _oo_, but will express the real
primitive English _u_. Nay, if people wish to make an accurate trial,
let them direct any child of seven years old, who has had no previous
instruction respecting the matter, to pronounce the words _suit_,
_tumult_, _due_, &c. and they will thus ascertain the true sound of
the letter. Children pronounce _u_ in the most natural manner; whereas
the sound of _iu_ requires a considerable effort, and that of _oo_, a
forced position of the lips. Illiterate persons therefore pronounce
the genuin English _u_, much better than those who have attempted to
shape their pronunciation according to the polite modern practice.
As singular as this assertion may appear, it is literally true. This
circumstance alone would be sufficient to prove that the Saxons never
pronounced _u_ like _yu_; for the body of a nation, removed from the
reach of conquest and free from a mixture of foreigners, are the safest
repositories of ancient customs and general practice in speaking.

But another strong argument against the modern practice is, that
the pretended dipthong, _iu_ or _yu_, is heard in scarcely a single
word of Saxon origin. Almost all the words in which _d_, _t_ and _s_
are converted into other letters, as _education_, _due_, _virtue_,
_rapture_, _superior_, _supreme_, &c. are derived from the Latin or
French; so that the practice itself is a proof that the principles on
which it is built, are false. It is pretended that the English or Saxon
sound of _u_ requires the pronunciation, _edzhucation_, _natshure_, and
yet it is introduced almost solely into Latin and French words. Such an
inconsistency refutes the reasoning and is a burlesque on its advocates.

This however is but a small part of the inconsistency. In two other
particulars the absurdity is still more glaring.

1. The modern refiners of our language distinguish two sounds of
_u_ long; that of _yu_ and _oo_; and use both without any regard to
Latin or Saxon derivation. The distinction they make is founded on
a certain principle; and yet I question whether one of a thousand of
them ever attended to it. After most of the consonants, they give _u_
the dipthongal sound of _eu_; as in _blue_, _cube_, _due_, _mute_; but
after _r_ they almost invariably pronounce it _oo_; as _rule_, _truth_,
_rue_, _rude_, _fruit_. Why this distinction? If they contend for the
Saxon sound of _u_, why do they not preserve that sound in _true_,
_rue_, _truth_, which are of Saxon original; and uniformly give _u_ its
Roman sound, which is acknowleged on all hands to have been _oo_, in
all words of Latin original, as _rule_, _mute_, _cube_? The fact is,
they mistake the principle on which the distinction is made; and which
is merely accidental, or arises from the ease of speaking.

In order to frame many of the consonants, the organs are placed in
such a position, that in passing from it to the aperture necessary to
articulate the following vowel or dipthong, we insensibly fall into the
sound of _ee_. This in particular is the case with those consonants
which are formed near the seat of _e_; viz. _k_ and _g_. The closing of
the organs forms these mutes; and a very small opening forms the vowel
_e_. In passing from that close compression occasioned by _k_ and _g_,
to the aperture necessary to form any vowel, the organs are necessarily
placed in a situation to pronounce _ee_. From this single circumstance,
have originated the most barbarous dialects or singularities in
speaking English, which offend the ear, either in Great Britain or

This is the origin of the New England _keow_, _keoward_; and of the
English _keube_, _ackeuse_, _keind_ and _geuide_.

There is just the same propriety in one practice as the other, and both
are equally harmonious.

For similar reasons, the labials, _m_ and _p_, are followed by _e_: In
New England, we hear it in _meow_, _peower_, and in Great Britain, in
_meute_, _peure_. With this difference however, that in New England,
this pronunciation is generally confined to the more illiterate part
of the people, and in Great Britain it prevails among those of the
first rank. But after _r_ we never hear the sound of _e_: It has been
before observed, that the most awkward countryman in New England
pronounces _round_, _ground_, _brown_, as correctly as men of the first
education; and our fashionable speakers pronounce _u_ after _r_ like
_oo_. The reason is the same in both cases: In pronouncing _r_ the
mouth is necessarily opened (or rather the glottis) to a position for
articulating a broad full sound. So that the vulgar singularities in
this respect, and the polite refinements of speaking, both proceed from
the same cause; both proceed from an accidental or careless narrow way
of articulating certain combinations of letters; both are corruptions
of pure English; equally disagreeable and indefensible. Both may be
easily corrected by taking more pains to open the teeth, and form full
bold sounds.

2. But another inconsistency in the modern practice, is the introducing
an _e_[72] before the second sound of _u_ as in _tun_; or rather
changing the preceding consonant; for in _nature_, _rapture_, and
hundreds of other words, _t_ is changed into _tsh_; and yet no person
pretends that _u_, in these words, has a dipthongal sound. On the other
hand, Sheridan and his copier, Scott, have in these and similar words
marked _u_ for its short sound, which is universally acknowleged to
be simple. I believe no person ever pretended, that this sound of _u_
contains the sound of _e_ or _y_; why then should we be directed to
pronounce _nature_, _natyur_? Or what is equally absurd, _natshur_?
On what principle is the _t_ changed into a compound consonant? If
there is any thing in this sound of _u_ to warrant this change, does
it not extend to all words where this sound occurs? Why do not our
standard writers direct us to say _tshun_ for _tun_, and _tshumble_ for
_tumble_? I can conceive no reason which will warrant the pronunciation
in one case, that will not apply with equal force in the other. And
I challenge the advocates of the practice, to produce a reason for
pronouncing _natshur_, _raptshur_, _captshur_, which will not extend
to authorize, not only _tshun_, _tshurn_, for _tun_, _turn_, but also
_fatshal_ for _fatal_, and _immortshal_ for _immortal_.[73] Nay, the
latter pronunciation is actually heard among some very respectable
imitators of fashion; and is frequent among the illiterate, in
those states where the _tshu's_ are most fashionable. How can it be
otherwise? People are led by imitation; and when those in high life
embrace a singularity, the multitude, who are unacquainted with its
principles or extent, will attempt to imitate the novelty, and probably
carry it much farther than was ever intended.

When a man of little education hears a respectable gentleman change
_t_ into _tsh_ in nature, he will naturally be led to change the same
letter, not only in that word, but wherever it occurs. This is already
done in a multitude of instances, and the practice if continued and
extended, might eventually change _t_, in all cases, into _tsh_.

I am sensible that some writers of novels and plays have ridiculed the
common pronunciation of _creatur_ and _nutur_, by introducing these and
similar words into low characters, spelling them _creater_, _nater_:
And the supporters of the court pronunciation allege, that in the
vulgar practice of speaking, the letter _e_ is sounded and not _u_: So
extremely ignorant are they of the nature of sounds and the true powers
of the English letters. The fact is, we are so far from pronouncing
e in the common pronunciation of _natur_, _creatur_, &c. that _e_ is
always sounded like short _u_, in the unaccented syllables of _over_,
_sober_, _banter_, and other similar words. Nay, most of the vowels, in
such syllables, sound like _i_ or _u_ short.[74] Liar, elder, factor,
are pronounced _liur_, _eldur_, _factur_, and this is the true sound of
_u_ in _creatur_, _nature_, _rapture_, _legislature_, &c.

I would just observe further, that this pretended dipthong _iu_ was
formerly expressed by _ew_ and _eu_, or perhaps by _eo_, and was
considered as different from the sound of _u_. In modern times, we
have, in many words, blended the sound of _u_ with that of _ew_,
or rather use them promiscuously. It is indifferent, as to the
pronunciation, whether we write _fuel_ or _fewel_. And yet in this
word, as also in _new_, _brew_, &c. we do not hear the sound of _e_,
except among the Virginians, who affect to pronounce it distinctly,
_ne-ew_, _ne-oo_, _fe-oo_. This affectation is not of modern date,
for Wallis mentions it in his time and reprobates it. "Eu, ew, eau,
sonanter per _e_ clarum et _w_; ut in _neuter_, _few_, _beauty_.
Quidem tamen accutius efferunt, acsi scriberentur _niew ter_, _fiew_,
_bieuty_. At prior pronunciatio rectior est."----Gram. Ling. Ang.

Here this author allows these combinations to have the sound of _yu_ or
_iu_; but disapproves of that refinement which some affect, in giving
the _e_ or _i_ short its distinct sound.

The true sound of the English _u_, is neither _ew_, with the distinct
sounds of _e_ and _oo_; nor is it _oo_; but it is that sound which
every unlettered person utters in pronouncing _solitude_, _rude_,
_threw_, and which cannot easily be mistaken. So difficult is it to
avoid the true sound of _u_, that I have never found a man, even among
the ardent admirers of the stage pronunciation, who does not retain the
vulgar sound, in more than half the words of this class which he uses.
There is such a propensity in men to be regular in the construction and
use of language, that they are often obliged, by the customs of the
age, to struggle against their inclination, in order to be wrong, and
still find it impossible to be uniform in their errors.

The other reason given to vindicate the polite pronunciation, is
_euphony_. But I must say with Kenrick,[75] I cannot discover the
euphony; on the contrary, the pronunciation is to me both disagreeable
and difficult. It is certainly more difficult to pronounce two
consonants than one. _Ch_, or, which is the same thing, _tsh_, is
a more difficult sound than _t_; and _dzh_, or _j_, more difficult
than _d_. Any accurate ear may perceive the difference in a single
word, as in _natur_, _nachur_. But when two or three words meet,
in which we have either of these compound sounds, the difficulty
becomes very obvious; as the _nachural feachurs of indivijuals_. The
difficulty is increased, when two of these _churs_ and _jurs_ occur in
the same word. Who can pronounce these words, "at this _junctshur_
it was _conjectshured_"--or "the act passed in a _tshumultshuous
legislatshur_," without a pause, or an extreme exertion of the
lungs? If this is euphony to an English ear, I know not what sounds
in language can be disagreeable. To me it is barbarously harsh and

But supposing the pronunciation to be relished by ears accustomed
to it (for custom will familiarize any thing) will the pleasure
which individuals experience, balance the ill effects of creating a
multitude of irregularities? Is not the number of anomalies in our
language already sufficient, without an arbitrary addition of many
hundreds? Is not the difference between our written and spoken language
already sufficiently wide, without changing the sounds of a number of

If we attend to the irregularities which have been long established
in our language, we shall find most of them in the Saxon branch. The
Roman tongue was almost perfectly regular, and perhaps its orthography
and pronunciation were perfectly correspondent. But it is the peculiar
misfortune of the fashionable practice of pronouncing _d_, _t_, and
_s_, before _u_, that it destroys the analogy and regularity of the
_Roman_ branch of our language; for those consonants are not changed
in many words of Saxon original. Before this affectation prevailed, we
could boast of a regular orthography in a large branch of our language;
but now the only class of words, which had preserved a regular
construction, are attacked, and the correspondence between the spelling
and pronunciation, destroyed, by those who ought to have been the first
to oppose the innovation.[76]

Should this practice be extended to all words, where _d_, _t_ and _s_
precede _u_, as it must before it can be consistent or defensible,
it would introduce more anomalies into our tongue, than were before
established, both in the orthography and construction. What a
perverted taste, and what a singular ambition must those men possess,
who, in the day light of civilization and science, and in the short
period of an age, can go farther in demolishing the analogies of
an elegant language, than their unlettered ancestors proceeded in
centuries, amidst the accidents of a savage life, and the shocks of
numerous invasions!

But it will be replied, _Custom is the legislator of language_, and
custom authorizes the practice I am reprobating. A man can hardly
offer a reason, drawn from the principles of analogy and harmony in a
language, but he is instantly silenced with the decisive, _jus et norma

What then is custom? Some writer has already answered this question;
"Custom is the plague of wise men and the idol of fools." This was
probably said of those customs and fashions which are capricious and
varying; for there are many customs, founded on propriety, which are
permanent and constitute laws.

But what kind of custom did Horace design to lay down as the standard
of speaking? Was it a local custom? Then the _keow_ of New England;
the _oncet_ and _twicet_ of Pennsylvania and Maryland; and the _keind_
and _skey_ of the London theaters, form rules of speaking. Is it the
practice of a court, or a few eminent scholars and orators, that he
designed to constitute a standard? But who shall determine what body of
men forms this uncontrollable legislature? Or who shall reconcile the
differences at court? For these eminent orators often disagree. There
are numbers of words in which the most eminent men differ: Can all be
right? Or what, in this case, is the _custom_ which is to be our guide?

Besides these difficulties, what right have a few men, however elevated
their station, to change a national practice? They may say, that
they consult their own ears, and endeavor to please themselves. This
is their only apology, unless they can prove that the changes they
make are real improvements. But what improvement is there in changing
the sounds of three or four letters into others, and thus multiplying
anomalies, and encreasing the difficulty of learning a language? Will
not the great body of the people claim the privilege of adhering to
their ancient usages, and believing their practice to be the most
correct? They most undoubtedly will.

If Horace's maxim is ever just, it is only when custom is national;
when the practice of a nation is uniform or general. In this case
it becomes the common law of the land, and no one will dispute its
propriety. But has any man a right to deviate from this practice,
and attempt to establish a singular mode of his own? Have two or
three eminent stage players authority to make changes at pleasure,
and palm their novelties upon a nation under the idea of _custom_?
The reader will pardon me for transcribing here the opinion of the
celebrated Michaelis, one of the most learned philologers of the
present century. "It is not," says he, "for a scholar to give laws nor
proscribe established expressions: If he takes so much on himself he
is ridiculed, and deservedly; it is no more than a just mortification
to his ambition, and the penalty of his usurping on the rights of the
people. Language is a democratical state, where all the learning in
the world does not warrant a citizen to supersede a received custom,
till he has convinced the whole nation that this custom is a mistake.
Scholars are not so infallible that every thing is to be referred to
them. Were they allowed a decisory power, the errors of language, I
am sure, instead of diminishing, would be continually increasing.
Learned heads teem with them no less than the vulgar; and the former
are much more imperious, that we should be compelled to defer to
their innovations and implicitly to receive every false opinion of

Yet this right is often assumed by individuals, who dictate to a
nation the rules of speaking, with the same imperiousness as a tyrant
gives laws to his vassals: And, strange as it may appear, even well
bred people and scholars, often surrender their right of private
judgement to these literary governors. The _ipse dixit_ of a Johnson,
a Garrick, or a Sheridan, has the force of law; and to contradict it,
is rebellion. Ask the most of our learned men, how they would pronounce
a word or compose a sentence, and they will immediately appeal to some
favorite author whose decision is final. Thus distinguished eminence in
a writer often becomes a passport for innumerable errors.

The whole evil originates in a fallacy. It is often supposed that
certain great men are infallible, or that their practice constitutes
custom and the rule of propriety. But on the contrary, any man, however
learned, is liable to mistake; the most learned, as Michaelis observes,
often teem with errors, and not unfrequently become attached to
particular systems, and imperious in forcing them upon the world.[79]
It is not the particular whim of such men, that constitutes _custom_;
but the common practice of a nation, which is conformed to their
_general_ ideas of propriety. The pronunciation of _keow_, _keind_,
_drap_, _juty_, _natshur_, &c. are neither right nor wrong, because
they are approved or censured by particular men; nor because one is
local in New England, another in the middle states, and the others are
supported by the court and stage in London. They are wrong, because
they are opposed to national practice; they are wrong, because they
are arbitrary or careless changes of the true sounds of our letters;
they are wrong, because they break in upon the regular construction of
the language; they are wrong, because they render the pronunciation
difficult both for natives and foreigners; they are wrong, because
they make an invidious distinction between the polite and common
pronunciation, or else oblige a _nation_ to change their general
customs, without presenting to their view one _national_ advantage.
These are important, they are permanent considerations; they are
superior to the caprices of courts and theaters; they are reasons that
are interwoven in the very structure of the language, or founded on
the common law of the nation; and they are a living satire upon the
licentiousness of modern speakers, who dare to slight their authority.

But let us examin whether the practice I am censuring is general or
not; for if not, it cannot come within Horace's rule. If we may believe
well informed gentlemen, it is not general even in Great Britain.
I have been personally informed, and by gentlemen of education and
abilities, one of whom was particular in his observation, that it is
not general, even among the most eminent literary characters in London.
It is less frequent in the interior counties, where the inhabitants
still speak as the common people do in this country. And Kenrick
speaks of it as an affectation in the metropolis which ought to be

But whatever may be the practice in England or Ireland, there are few
in America who have embraced it, as it is explained in Sheridan's
Dictionary. In the middle and southern states, there are a few, and
those well bred people, who have gone far in attempting to imitate
the fashion of the day.[80] Yet the body of the people, even in
these states, remain as unfashionable as ever; and the eastern states
generally adhere to their ancient custom of speaking, however vulgar it
may be thought by their neighbors.[81] Suppose custom therefore to be
the _jus et norma_, the rule of correct speaking, and in this country,
it is directly opposed to the plan now under consideration.

As a nation, we have a very great interest in opposing the introduction
of any plan of uniformity with the British language, even were the
plan proposed perfectly unexceptionable. This point will be afterwards
discussed more particularly; but I would observe here, that the
author who has the most admirers and imitators in this country, has
been censured in London, where his character is highly esteemed, and
that too by men who are confessedly partial to his general plan. In
the critical review of Sheridan's Dictionary, 1781, there are the
following exceptions to his standard.

"Nevertheless our author must not be surprized if, in a matter, in its
nature so delicate and difficult, as that concerning which he treats,
a doubt should here and there arise, in the minds of the most candid
critics, with regard to the propriety of his determinations. For
instance, we would wish him to reconsider, whether, in the words which
begin with _super_, such as _superstition_, _supersede_, he is right in
directing them to be pronounced _shooper_. Whatever might be the case
in Queen Anne's time, it doth not occur to us, that any one at present,
above the lower ranks, speaks these words with the sound of _sh_; or
that a good reason can be given, for their being thus sounded. Nay
their being thus spoken is contrary to Mr. Sheridan's own rule; for he
says that the letter _s_ always preserves its own proper sound at the
beginning of words."

Here we are informed by this gentleman's admirers, that, in some
instances, he has imposed upon the world, as the standard of purity,
a pronunciation which is not heard, except among the _lower ranks of
people_, and directly opposed to his own rule. The reviewers might
have extended their remarks to many other instances, in which he has
deviated from general practice and from every rule of the language.
Yet at the voice of this gentleman, many of the Americans are quitting
their former practice, and running into errors with an eagerness
bordering on infatuation.

Customs of the court and stage, it is confessed, rule without
resistance in monarchies. But what have we to do with the customs of
a foreign nation? Detached as we are from all the world, is it not
possible to circumscribe the power of _custom_, and lay it, in some
degree, under the influence of propriety? We are sensible that in
foreign courts, a man's reputation may depend on a genteel bow, and
his fortune may be lost by wearing an unfashionable coat. But have we
advanced to that stage of corruption, that our highest ambition is
to be as particular in fashions as other nations? In matters merely
indifferent, like modes of dress, some degree of conformity to local
custom is necessary;[82] but when this conformity requires a sacrifice
of any principle of propriety or moral rectitude, singularity becomes
an honorable testimony of an independent mind. A man of a great soul
would sooner imitate the virtues of a cottage, than the vices of
a court; and would deem it more honorable to gain one useful idea
from the humble laborer, than to copy the vicious pronunciation of a
splendid court, or become an adept in the licentious principles of a
Rochester and a Littleton.

It will not be disputed that Sheridan and Scott have very faithfully
published the present pronunciation of the English court and theater.
But if we may consult the rules of our language and consider them as
of any authority; if we may rely on the opinions of Kenrick and the
reviewers; if we may credit the best informed people who have travelled
in Great Britain, this practice is modern and local, and considered,
by the judicious and impartial, even of the English nation, as a gross
corruption of the pure pronunciation.

Such errors and innovations should not be imitated, because they are
found in authors of reputation. The works of such authors should
rather be considered as lights to prevent our falling upon the rocks of
error. There is no more propriety in our imitating the practice of the
English theater, because it is described by the celebrated Sheridan,
than there is in introducing the manners of Rochester or the principles
of Bolingbroke, because these were eminent characters; or than there
is in copying the vices of a Shylock, a Lovelace, or a Richard III.
because they are well described by the masterly pens of Shakespear
and Richardson. So far as the correctness and propriety of speech are
considered as important, it is of as much consequence to oppose the
introduction of that practice in this country, as it is to resist the
corruption of morals, which ever attends the wealthy and luxurious
stage of national refinements.

Had Sheridan adhered to his own rules and to the principle of analogy;
had he given the world a consistent scheme of pronunciation, which
would not have had, for its unstable basis, the fickle practice of a
changeable court, he would have done infinite service to the language:
Men of science, who wish to preserve the regular construction of the
language, would have rejoiced to find such a respectable authority on
the side of propriety; and the illiterate copiers of fashion must have
rejected faults in speaking, which they could not defend.[83]

The corruption however has taken such deep root in England, that
there is little probability it will ever be eradicated. The practice
must there prevail, and gradually change the whole structure of the
Latin derivatives. Such is the force of custom, in a nation where all
fashionable people are drawn to a point, that the current of opinion is
irresistible; individuals must fall into the stream and be borne away
by its violence; except perhaps a few philosophers, whose fortitude may
enable them to hold their station, and whose sense of propriety may
remain, when their power of opposition has ceased.

But our detached situation, local and political, gives us the _power_,
while pride, policy, and a regard for propriety and uniformity
among ourselves, should inspire us with a _disposition_, to oppose
innovations, which have not utility for their object.

We shall find it difficult to convince Englishmen that a corrupt taste
prevails in the British nation. Foreigners view the Americans with a
degree of contempt; they laugh at our manners, pity our ignorance, and
as far as example and derision can go, obtrude upon us the customs
of their native countries. But in borrowing from other nations, we
should be exceedingly cautious to separate their virtues from their
vices; their useful improvements from their false refinements. Stile
and taste, in all nations, undergo the same revolutions, the same
progress from purity to corruption, as manners and government; and in
England the pronunciation of the language has shared the same fate. The
Augustan era is past, and whether the nation perceive and acknowlege
the truth or not, the world, as impartial spectators, observe and
lament the declension of taste and science.

The nation can do little more than read the works and admire the
beauties of the original authors, who have adorned the preceding ages.
A few, ambitious of fame, or driven by necessity, croud their names
into the catalogue of writers, by imitating some celebrated model,
or by compiling from the productions of genius. Nothing marks more
strongly the declension of genius in England, than the multitude of
plays, farces, novels and other catchpenny pieces, which swell the
list of modern publications; and that host of compilers, who, in
the rage for selecting beauties and abridging the labor of reading,
disfigure the works of the purest writers in the nation. Cicero did
not waste his talents in barely reading and selecting the beauties
of Demosthenes; and in the days of Addison, the beauties of Milton,
Locke and Shakespear were to be found only in _their works_. But taste
is corrupted by luxury; utility is forgotten in pleasure; genius is
buried in dissipation, or prostituted to exalt and to damn contending
factions, and to amuse the idle debauchees that surround a licentious

These are the reasons why we should not adopt promiscuously their
taste, their opinions, their manners. Customs, habits, and _language_,
as well as government should be national. America should have her _own_
distinct from all the world. Such is the policy of other nations, and
such must be _our_ policy, before the states can be either independent
or respectable. To copy foreign manners implicitly, is to reverse the
order of things, and begin our political existence with the corruptions
and vices which have marked the declining glories of other republics.


[61] Misused.

[62] Kenrick, who was not guided solely by the fashion of the day, but
paid some regard to the regular construction of the language.

[63] Sheridan has repeated with approbation, a celebrated saying of
Dean Swift, who was a stickler for analogy, in pronouncing _wind_
like _mind_, _bind_, with the first sound of _i_. The Dean's argument
was, "I have a great m[2i]nd to f[2i]nd why you pronounce that word
_w[2i]nd_." I would beg leave to ask this gentleman, who directs us
to say _woond_, if any good reason can be _foond_ why he _soonds_
that word _woond_; and whether he expects a rational people, will be
_boond_ to follow the _roond_ of court improprieties? We acknowlege
that _w[2i]nd_ is a deviation from analogy and a corruption; but who
pronounces it otherwise? Practice was almost wholly against Swift,
and in America at least, it is as generally in favor of the analogy
of _wound_. A partial or local practice, may be brought to support
analogy, but should be no authority in destroying it.

[64] _Government_, _management_, retain also the accent of their
primitives; and the nouns _testament_, _compliment_, &c. form another

[65] It is regretted that the adjectives, _indissoluble_, _irreparable_
were derived immediately from the Latin, _indissolubilis_,
_irreparabilis_, and not from the English verbs, _dissolve_, _repair_.
Yet _dissolvable_, _indissolvable_, _repairable_ and _irrepairable_,
are better words than _indissoluble_, _reparable_, _irreparable_.
They not only preserve the analogy, but they are more purely English
words; and I have been witness to a circumstance which alone ought to
determine their excellence and give them currency: People of ordinary
education have found difficulty in understanding such derivatives as
_irreparable_, _indissoluble_; but the moment the words _irrepairable_,
_indissolveable_ are pronounced, they are led to the meaning by
a previous acquaintance with the words _repair_ and _dissolve_.
Numberless examples of this will occur to a person of observation,
sufficient to make him abhor and reject the pedantry of authors, who
have labored to strip their native tongue of its primitive English
dress, and load it with fantastic ornaments.

[66] _Flexion_ resolved into its proper letters would be _fleksion_,
that is _flekshun_; and _fleks-yun_ would give the same sound.

[67] To an ignorance of the laws of versification, we must ascribe the
unwarrantable contraction of _watery_, _wonderous_, &c. into _watry_,

[68] Rhetorical Grammar, prefixed to his Dictionary, page 32. London,

[69] Rhet. Gram. 33.

[70] His grammar was written in Latin, in the reign of Charles IId. The
work is so scarce, that I have never been able to find but a single
copy. The author was one of the founders of the Royal Society.

[71] This sound of _u_, foreigners will nearly obtain, by attempting
to pronounce the dipthong _iu_; that is, the narrow _i_ before _u_ or
_w_; (as in the Spanish word _ciudad_, a city.) Yet the sound (of _u_)
is not exactly the same, altho it approaches very near to it; for the
sound of _iu_ is compound; whereas the _u_ of the English and French is
a simple sound.

[72] Lowth condemns such a phrase as, "the introducing an _e_" and says
it should be, "the introducing _of_ an _e_." This is but one instance
of a great number, in which he has rejected _good_ English. In this
situation, _introducing_ is a participial noun; it may take an article
before it, like any other noun, and yet govern an objective, like any
transitive verb. This is the idiom of the language: but in most cases,
the writer may use or omit _of_, at pleasure.

[73] I must except that reason, which is always an invincible argument
with weak people, viz. "It is the practice of some great men." This
common argument, which is unanswerable, will also prove the propriety
of imitating all the polite and detestable vices of the great, which
are now unknown to the _little vulgar_ of this country.

[74] Ash observes, that "in unaccented, short and insignificant
syllables, the sounds of the five vowels are nearly coincident. It
must be a nice ear that can distinguish the difference of sound in
the concluding syllable of the following words, altar, alter, manor,
murmur, satyr."----Gram. Diff. pref. to Dic. p. 1.

[75] For my part I cannot discover the euphony; and tho the contrary
mode be reprobated, as vulgar, by certain mighty fine speakers, I think
it more conformable to the general scheme of English pronunciation;
for tho in order to make the word but two syllables, _ti_ and _te_
may be required to be converted into _ch_, or the _i_ and _e_ into
_y_, when the preceding syllable is marked with the accute accent as
in _question_, _minion_, _courteous_, and the like; there seems to be
little reason, when the grave accent precedes the _t_, as in _nature_,
_creature_, for converting the _t_ into _ch_; and not much more for
joining the _t_ to the first syllable and introducing the _y_ before
the second, as _nat-yure_. Why the _t_ when followed by neither _i_
nor _e_, is to take the form of _ch_, I cannot conceive: It is, in my
opinion, a species of affectation that should be discountenanced.----
Kenrick Rhet. Gram. page 32. Dic.

[76] Well might Mr. Sheridan assert, that "Such indeed is the state of
our written language, that the darkest hieroglyphics, or most difficult
cyphers which the art of man has hitherto invented, were not better
calculated to conceal the sentiments of those who used them, from all
who had not the key, than the state of our spelling is to conceal the
true pronunciation of our words, from all, except a few well educated
natives." Rhet. Gram. p. 22. Dic. But if these well educated natives
would pronounce words as they ought, one half the language at least
would be regular. The Latin derivatives are mostly regular to the
educated and uneducated of America; and it is to be hoped that the
modern hieroglyphical obscurity will forever be confined to _a few well
educated natives_ in Great Britain.

[77] "Quem penes arbitrium est, et jus et norma loquendi."
Horace.----"Nothing," says Kenrick, "has contributed more to the
adulteration of living languages, than the too extensive acceptation
of Horace's rule in favor of custom. Custom is undoubtedly the rule of
present practice; but there would be no end in following the variations
daily introduced by caprice. Alterations may sometimes be useful--may
be necessary; but they should be made in a manner conformable to the
genius and construction of the language. Modus est in rebus. Extremes
in this, as in all other cases, are hurtful. We ought by no means to
shut the door against the improvements of our language; but it were
well that some criterion were established to distinguish between
improvement and innovation."----Rhet. Gram. page 6, Dict.

[78] See a learned "Dissertation on the influence of opinions on
language and of language on opinions, which gained the prize of the
Prussian Royal Academy in 1759. By Mr. Michaelis, court councellor to
his Britannic Majesty, and director of the Royal Society of Gottingen."


    The vulgar thus by imitation err,
    As oft the learn'd by being singular.
    So much they scorn the croud, that if the throng,
    By chance go right, they purposely go wrong.


[80] There are many people, and perhaps the most of them in the capital
towns, that have learnt a few common place words, such as _forchin_,
_nachur_, _virchue_ and half a dozen others, which they repeat on all
occasions; but being ignorant of the extent of the practice, they are,
in pronouncing most words, as vulgar as ever.

[81] It should be remarked that the late President of Pennsylvania, the
Governor of New Jersey, and the President of New York college, who are
distinguished for erudition and accuracy, have not adopted the English

[82] Not between different nations, but in the same nation. The manners
and fashions of each nation should arise out of their circumstances,
their age, their improvements in commerce and agriculture.

[83] Sheridan, as an improver of the language, stands among the
first writers of the British nation, and deservedly. His Lectures on
Elocution and on Reading, his Treatises on Education, and for the most
part his Rhetorical Grammar, are excellent and almost unexceptionable
performances. In these, he encountered practice and prejudices,
when they were found repugnant to obvious rules of propriety. But
in his Dictionary he seems to have left his only defensible ground,
_propriety_, in pursuit of that phantom, _fashion_. He deserted his own
principles, as the Reviewers observe: and where he has done this, every
rational man should desert his _standard_.

[84] From this description must be excepted some arts which have for
their object, the pleasures of sense and imagination; as music and
painting; and sciences which depend on fixed principles, and not on
opinion, as mathematics and philosophy. The former flourish in the last
stages of national refinement, and the latter are always proceeding
towards perfection, by discoveries and experiment. Criticism also
flourishes in Great Britain: Men read and judge accurately, when
original writers cease to adorn the sciences. Correct writers precede
just criticism.



     _Of the Formation of Language.--Horne Tooke's theory of the
     Particles.--Examination of particular Phrases._




Having discussed the subject of pronunciation very largely in the two
preceding Dissertations, I shall now examin the _use of words in the
construction of sentences_.

Several writers of eminence have attempted to explain the origin,
progress and structure of languages, and have handled the subject with
great ingenuity and profound learning; as Harris, Smith, Beatie, Blair,
Condillac, and others. But the discovery of the true theory of the
construction of language, seems to have been reserved for Mr. Horne
Tooke, author of the "Diversions of Purley." In this treatise, however
exceptionable may be particular instances of the writer's spirit and
manner, the principles on which the formation of languages depends,
are unfolded and demonstrated by an etymological analysis of the Saxon
or Gothic origin of the English particles. From the proofs which this
writer produces, and from various other circumstances, it appears
probable, that the _noun_ or substantive is the principal part of
speech, and from which most words are originally derived.

The invention and progress of articulate sounds must have been
extremely slow. Rude savages have originally no method of conveying
ideas, but by looks, signs, and those inarticulate sounds, called by
grammarians, _Interjections_. These are probably the first beginnings
of language. They are produced by the passions, and are perhaps very
little superior, in point of articulation or significancy, to the
sounds which express the wants of the brutes.[85]

But the first sounds, which, by being often repeated, would become
articulate, would be those which savages use to convey their ideas of
certain visible objects, which first employ their attention. These
sounds, by constant application to the same things, would gradually
become the _names_ of those objects, and thus acquire a permanent
signification. In this manner, rivers, mountains, trees, and such
animals as afford food for savages, would first acquire names; and
next to them, such other objects as can be noticed or perceived by
the senses. Those names which are given to ideas called _abstract_
and _complex_, or, to speak more correctly, those names which express
a combination of ideas, are invented much later in the progress of
language. Such are the words, faith, hope, virtue, genius, &c.

It is unnecessary, and perhaps impossible, to describe the whole
process of the formation of languages; but we may reason from the
nature of things that the _necessary_ parts of speech would be the
first formed; and it is very evident from etymology that all the others
are derived from these, either by abbreviation or combination. The
necessary parts of speech are the _noun_ and _verb_; and perhaps we may
add the _article_. Pronouns are not necessary, but from their utility,
must be a very early invention.

That the noun and verb are the only parts of speech, absolutely
necessary for a communication of ideas among rude nations, will be
obvious to any person who considers their manner of life, and the small
number of their necessary ideas. Their employments are war and hunting;
and indeed some tribes are so situated as to have no occupation but
that of procuring subsistence. How few must be the ideas of a people,
whose sole employment is to catch fish, and take wild beasts for food!
Such nations, and even some much farther advanced towards civilization,
use few or no prepositions, adverbs and conjunctions, in their
intercourse with each other, and very few adjectives. Some tribes of
savages in America use no adjectives at all; but express qualities by
a particular form of the verb; or rather blend the affirmation and
quality into one word.[86] They have, it is said, some connecting words
in their own languages, some of which have advanced towards copiousness
and variety. But when they attempt to speak English, they use nouns and
verbs long before they obtain any knowlege of the particles. They speak
in this manner, go, way---- sun, shine---- tree, fall---- give, Uncas,
rum; with great deliberation and a short pause between the words. They
omit the connectives and the abbreviations, which may be called the
"wings of Mercury." Thus it is evident, that, among such nations, a few
nouns and verbs will answer the purposes of language.

Many of this kind of expressions remain in the English language to
this day. _Go away_ is the savage phrase with the article _a_, derived
perhaps from _one_, or what is more probable, added merely to express
the sound, made in the transition from one word to the other, for if
we attend to the manner in which we pronounce these or two similar
words, we shall observe that we involuntarily form the sound expressed
by _a_ or _aw_. In some such manner are formed _astray_, _awhile_,
_adown_, _aground_, _ashore_, _above_, _abaft_, _among_, and many
others. They are usually called adverbs and prepositions; but they are
neither more nor less than nouns or verbs, with the prefix _a_.[87]
That all the words called adverbs and prepositions, are derived in like
manner, from the principal parts of language, the noun and verb, is not
demonstrable; but that _most_ of them are so derived, etymology clearly


This theory derives great strength from analizing the words called
_conjunctions_. It will perhaps surprize those who have not attended to
this subject, to hear it asserted, that the little conjunction _if_, is
a _verb_ in the Imperative Mode. That this is the fact can no more be
controverted than any point of history, or any truth that our senses
present to the mind. _If_ is radically the same word as _give_; it was
in the Saxon Infinitive, _gifan_, and in the Imperative, like other
Saxon verbs, lost the _an_; being written _gif_. This is the word in
its purity; but in different dialects of the same radical tongue, we
find it written _gife_, _giff_, _gi_, _yf_, _yef_, and _yeve_. Chaucer
used _y_ instead of _g_.[88]

    "Unto the devil rough and blake of hewe
    _Yeve_ I thy body and my panne also."

  Freres Tale, 7204.

But the true Imperative is _gif_, as in the Sad Shepherd. Act 2. Sc. 2.

                    ----"My largesse
    Hath lotted her to be your brother's mistress
    _Gif_ she can be reclaimed; _gif_ not, his prey."

This is the origin of the conjunction _if_; and it answers, in sense
and derivation to the Latin _si_, which is but a contraction of _sit_.
Thus what we denominate the Subjunctive mode is resolvable into
the Indicative. "_If_ ye love me, ye will keep my commandments," is
resolvable in this manner; "Give, (give the following fact, or suppose
it) ye love me, ye will keep my commandments." Or thus, "Ye love me,
give that, ye will keep my commandments." But on this I shall be more
particular when I come to speak of errors in the use of verbs.

_An_ is still vulgarly used in the sense of _if_. "_An_ please your
honor," is the usual address of servants to their masters in England;
tho it is lost in New England. But a word derived from the same root,
is still retained; viz. the Saxon _anan_, to give; which is sometimes
pronounced _nan_, and sometimes _anan_. It is used for _what_, or _what
do you say_; as when a person speaks to another, the second person
not hearing distinctly, replies, _nan_, or _anan_; that is, _give_ or
_repeat_ what you said. This is ridiculed as a gross vulgarism; and it
is indeed obsolete except among common people; but is strictly correct,
and if persons deride the use of the word, it proves at least that they
do not understand its meaning.

Unless, _lest_ and _else_, are all derivatives of the old Saxon verb
_lesan_, _to dismiss_, which we preserve in the word _lease_, and its
compounds. So far are these words from being conjunctions, that they
are, in fact, verbs in the Imperative mode; and this explanation serves
further to lay open the curious structure of our language. For example:

"Unless ye believe ye shall not understand," may be thus resolved;
"Ye believe; _dismiss_ (that fact) ye shall not understand." Or thus,
"_Dismiss_ ye believe, (that circumstance being away) ye shall not
understand." Thus by analizing the sentence we find no Subjunctive
mode; but merely the Indicative and Imperative.

"Kiss the Son, lest he be angry," is resolvable in the same manner:
"Kiss the Son, _dismiss_ (that) he will be angry." _Else_ is used
nearly in the same sense, as in Chaucer, Freres Tale, 7240:

    "Axe him thyself, if thou not trowest me,
    Or _elles_ stint a while and thou shalt see."

That is, "If thou dost not believe me, ask him thyself, or _dismissing_
(omitting that) wait and thou shalt be convinced."

_Though_, or _tho_, commonly called a conjunction, is also a verb in
the Imperative Mode. It is from the verb _thafian_ or _thafigan_,
which, in the Saxon, signified to _grant_ or _allow_. The word in its
purity is _thaf_ or _thof_; and so it is pronounced by many of the
common people in England, and by some in America.

"_Tho_ he slay me, yet will I trust in him," may be thus explained;
"_Allow_ (suppose) he should slay me, yet will I trust in him." That
this is the true sense of _tho_, is evident from another fact. The old
writers used _algife_ for _although_; and its meaning must be nearly
the same.

          "----Whose pere is hard to find,
    _Algife_ England and France were thorow saught."

  Rel. An. Poet. 115.

_Since_ is merely a participle of the old verb _seon_, to see. In
ancient authors we find it variously written; as _sith_, _sithence_,
_sin_, _sithen_, &c. and the common people in New England still
pronounce it _sin_, _sen_ or _sence_. Of all these, _sin_ or _sen_,
which is so much ridiculed as vulgar, comes nearest to the original
_seen_.[89] This explanation of _since_ unfolds the true theory of
languages, and proves that all words are originally derived from those
which are first used to express ideas of sensible objects. Mankind,
instead of that abstract sense which we annex to _since_, if we have
any idea at all when we use it, originally said, _seen the sun rose,
it has become warm_; that is, after the sun rose, or that circumstance
being _seen_ or _past_. We use the same word now, with a little
variation; but the etymology is lost to most people, who still employ
the word for a precise purpose, intelligible to their hearers.

_But_ has two distinct meanings, and two different roots. This is
evident to any person who attends to the manner of using the word.
We say, "_But to proceed_;" that is, _more_ or _further_. We say
also, "All left the room, _but_ one;" that is, except one. These two
significations, which are constantly and insensibly annexed to the
word, will perhaps explain all its uses; but cannot be well accounted
for, without supposing it to have two etymologies. Happily the early
writers furnish us with the means of solving the difficulty. Gawen
Douglass the poet, was cotemporary with Chaucer, or lived near his
time, was Bishop of Dunkeld in Scotland, and probably wrote the
language in the purity of his age and country. As the Scots in the Low
Lands, are descendants of the Saxons, in common with the English, and
from their local situation, have been less exposed to revolutions,
they have preserved more of the Saxon idiom and orthography than their
southern brethren. In Douglass we find two different words to express
the two different meanings, which we now annex to one; viz. _bot_
and _but_. The first is used in the sense of _more_, _further_ or
_addition_; and the last in the sense of _except_ or _take away_.

    "_Bot_ thy work shall endure in laude and glorie,
    _But_ spot or falt condigne eterne memorie."

The first Mr. Horne derives from _botan_, _to boot, to give more_; from
which our English word _boot_, which is now for the most part confined
to jockeys, is also derived; and the other from _be utan_,[90] _to be
out or away_. That these etymologies are just is probable, both from
old writings and from the present distinct uses of the word _but_. This
word therefore is the blending or corruption of _bot_ and _beut_, the
Imperatives of two Saxon verbs, _botan_ and _beutan_.[91]

_And_ is probably a contraction of _anan_, to give, the verb before
mentioned; and _ad_, the root of the verb _add_, and signifying
_series_ or _remainder_. _An ad, give the remainder._

The word _with_, commonly called a preposition, is likewise a verb. It
is from the Saxon _withan_, to join; or more probably from _wyrth_, to
be, or the German _werden_, devenir, to be. The reason for this latter
conjecture, is that we have preserved the Imperative of _wyrth_ or
_werden_, in this ancient phrase, "woe _worth_ the day;" that is, woe
be to the day. The German verb, in its inflections, makes _wirst_ and
_wurde_; and is undoubtedly from the same root as the Danish _værer_,
to be. But whether _with_ has its origin in _withan_, to join, or in
_werden_, to be, its sense will be nearly the same; it will still
convey the idea of connection. This will plainly appear to any person
who considers, that _by_ is merely a corruption of _be_, from the old
verb _beon_; and that this word is still used to express connection or
nearness; "He lives _by_ me;" "He went _by_ me;" that is, he lives _be_

This verb _be_ was formerly used in this phrase; _be my faith, be
my troth_; that is, _by my faith_, as in Chevy Chace.[92] We still
find the same verb in a multitude of compounds, _be-come_, _be-yond_,
_be-tween_, _be-side_, _be-fore_. Thus we see what are called
_prepositions_, are mere combinations or corruptions of verbs; they are
not a primitive part of language, and if we resolve this phrase, _he
went beyond me_, we shall find it composed of these words, _he went_,
_be_, _gone_, _me_; _yond_ being nothing but the participle of _go_.

Will my grammatical readers believe me, when I assert that the
affirmation _yea_, or _yes_, is a verb? That it is so, is undeniable.
The English _yea_, _yes_, and the German _ja_, pronounced _yaw_, are
derived from a verb in the Imperative Mode; or rather, they are but
corruptions of _aye_, the Imperative of the French _avoir_, to have.
The pure word _aye_, is still used in English. The affirmation _yea_ or
_yes_, is _have_, an expression of assent, _have what you say_.[93]

That all the words, called _adverbs_, are abbreviations or
combinations of nouns, verbs and adjectives, cannot perhaps be proved;
for it is extremely difficult to trace the little words, _when_,
_then_, _there_, _here_, &c. to their true origin.[94] But excepting a
few, the whole class of words, denominated _adverbs_, can be resolved
into other parts of speech. The termination _ly_, which forms a large
proportion of these words, is derived from the Saxon _liche_, _like_.

    "And as an angel heaven_lich_ she sung."

  Chaucer, Cant. Tales, 1057.

We have in a few words retained the original pronunciation, as
_Godlike_; but in strictness of speech, there is no difference between
_Godlike_ and _Godly_.[95]

Notwithstanding it is evident that conjunctions, prepositions, and
adverbs are not original and necessary parts of speech, yet as species
of abbreviations, or compound terms to express assemblages of ideas,
they may be considered as very useful, and as great improvements in
language. Every person, even without the least knowlege of etymology,
acquires a habit of annexing a certain idea, or certain number of
ideas to _unless_, _lest_, _yes_, _between_, and the other particles;
he uses them with precision, and makes himself understood by his
hearers or readers. These words enable him to communicate his ideas
with greater facility and expedition, than he could by mere names
and affirmations. They have lost the distinguishing characteristics
of verbs, person, time, and inflection. It is therefore convenient
for grammatical purposes, to assign them distinct places and give
them names, according to their particular uses. Such of these old
verbs as exhibit some connection between the members of a discourse,
may be properly denominated _conjunctions_. Others, that are used to
show certain relations between words and are generally prefixed to
them, may be well called _prepositions_. A third species, which are
employed to qualify the sense of other words, may, from their position
and uses in a discourse, be denominated _adverbs_. But the foregoing
investigation is necessary to unfold the true principles on which
language is constructed, and the philosophical enquirer is referred for
a more general view of the subject, to Mr. Horne Tooke's _Diversions of

The _verb_ or _word_ is so called by way of eminence; the ancient
grammarians having considered it as the principal part of speech. The
_noun_ is however entitled to the precedence; it is of equal importance
in language, and undoubtedly claims priority of origin. Philosophy
might teach us that the _names_ of a few visible objects would be first
formed by barbarous men, and afterwards the words which express the
most common actions. But with respect to names of abstract ideas, as
they are usually called, they not only precede the formation of the
verbs which represent the action, but it often happens that the same
word is used, with a prefix to denote the action of the object to which
the name is given. For example, _love_ and _fear_ are the names of
certain passions or affections of the mind. To express the action or
exertion of these affections, we have not invented distinct terms; but
custom has for this purpose prefixed the word _do_ or _to_, which, in
its primitive sense, is _to act_, _move_, or _make_.[96] Thus I _do
love_, or _do fear_, are merely, I _act, love_, or _act, fear_; and _to
love_ and _to fear_ in the Infinitive, are _act, love_, and _act, fear_.

To confirm these remarks, let it be considered that formerly _do_ and
_did_ were almost invariably used with the verb; as _I do fear_, _he
did love_; and the omission of these words in affirmative declarations
is of a modern date. They are still preserved in particular modes
of expression; as in the negative and interrogative forms, and in
emphatical assertions.

The present hypothesis will derive additional strength from another
circumstance. Grammarians allege that the termination of the regular
preterit tense, _ed_, is a corruption of _did_. If so, it seems to
have been originally optional, either to place the word _did_, which
expressed the _action_ of the object, before or after the _name_. Thus,
_he feared_, is resolvable into _he fear did_, and must be a blending
of the words in a hasty pronunciation. But it was also a practice to
say _he did fear_, which arrangement is not yet lost nor obscured; but
in no case are both these forms used, _he did feared_; a presumptive
evidence of the truth of the opinion, that _ed_ is a contraction of
_did_. Indeed I see no objection to the opinion but this, that it is
not easy on this supposition, to account for the formation of _did_
from _do_. If _did_ is itself a contraction of _doed_, the regular
preterit, which is probable, whence comes _ed_ in this word? To derive
_ed_ in other words from _did_ is easy and natural; but this leaves us
short of the primary cause or principle, and consequently in suspense,
as to the truth of the opinion. Yet whatever may be the true derivation
of the regular ending of the past time and perfect participle of
English verbs, the use of _do_, _did_ and _to_ before the verb, is a
strong evidence, that at least one class of affirmations are formed by
the help of _names_, with a prefix to denote the action of the objects
expressed by the names. _I fear_, therefore, is a phrase, composed of
the pronoun _I_, and the noun _fear_; and the affirmation, contained
in the phrase, is derived from the single circumstance of the position
of the name after _I_. _I fear_ is a modern substitute for _I do fear_;
that is, _I act, fear_; all originally and strictly _nouns_. But by a
habit of uniting the personal name _I_ with the name of the passion
_fear_, we instantly recognize an affirmation that the passion is
exerted; and _do_, the primitive name of _act_, has become superfluous.


Having made these few remarks on the formation of our language, I shall
proceed to examin the criticisms of grammarians on certain phrases,
and endeavor to settle some points of controversy with respect to the
use of words; and also to detect some inaccuracies which prevail in


Writers upon the subject of propriety in our language, have objected to
the use of _means_, with the article _a_ and the definitive pronouns
singular, _this_ and _that_. The objection made is, that as this word
ends in _s_, it must be plural, and cannot be joined in construction
with words in the singular. This objection supposes that all nouns
ending with _s_ are plural; but this would perhaps prove too much,
and make it necessary to consider all nouns, _not_ ending in _s_, as
singular, which cannot be true, even on the principles of those who
bring the objection. The supposition in both cases would be equally
well founded.

It appears to me however, that the sense of the word, and particularly
the universal practice of the English nation, ought to have induced
the critical grammarian, who wished to reduce the language to some
certainty, to suppress the objection. The word _means_, applied to a
single instrument of action, or cause, conveys a _single_ idea; and
I presume, was generally used for this purpose, till Bishop Lowth
questioned the propriety of the practice; at least _mean_ is scarcely
used as a noun, in any author from Chaucer to Lowth. On the contrary,
the best writers have used _means_ either in the singular or plural
number, according as they had occasion to express by it an idea of one
cause or more.

"By _this means_, it became every man's interest, as well as his duty
to prevent all crimes."----Temple, Works, vol. 3. p. 133.

"And by _this means_ I should not doubt," &c.---- Wilkins Real
Character, book 1.

"And finding themselves by _this means_ to be safe."----Sidney on Gov.
chap. 3. sect. 36.

"For he hopeth by _this means_ to acquit himself."----Rawley's Sylva

"And by _that means_ they lost their barrier."----Moyle on the
Lacedem. Gov.

"Clodius was now quæstor and by _that means_ a senator."----Middleton
L. of Cic. vol. 1. p. 261.

"By _this means_ however, there was nothing left to the Parliament of
Ireland."----Blackstone's Com. vol. 1. p. 102.

In this manner was the word used by the elegant writers in Queen Anne's

But we have not only the authority of almost every good writer in the
language, for this use of _means_ in the singular as well as plural
number, but we have the authority of almost unanimous national
practice in speaking. It is rare to hear _mean_ used as a noun, and by
those only who are fettered by the arbitrary rules of grammarians. I
question whether the word, in the singular form, has obtained such an
establishment, as to be entitled to a place among the English nouns.
The use of it appears like pedantry. No man, whatever may be his rank
and abilities, has a right to reject a mode of speech, established by
immemorial usage and universal consent. Grammars should be formed on
_practice_; for practice determines what a language is. I do not mean
a _local_ practice, for this would subject us to perpetual variety
and instability; but _national_ or _general_ practice. The latter, it
has been remarked, is the standard of propriety, to which all local
idioms and private opinions should be sacrificed. The business of
a grammarian is not to examin whether or not national practice is
founded on philosophical principles; but to _ascertain_ the national
practice, that the learner may be able to weed from his own any local
peculiarities or false idioms.

If _this means_ and _a means_ are now, and have immemorially been, used
by good authors and the nation in general, neither Johnson, Lowth, nor
any other person, however learned, has a right to say that the phrases
are not _good English_. That this is the fact, every person may satisfy
himself, by consulting the good authors and observing the universal
practice in discourse.

Besides, the general practice of a nation is not easily changed, and
the only effect that an attempt to reform it can produce, is, to make
_many_ people doubtful, cautious, and consequently uneasy; to render
a _few_ ridiculous and pedantic by following nice criticisms in the
face of customary propriety; and to introduce a distinction between the
learned and unlearned, which serves only to create difficulties for

Dr. Priestley is the only writer upon this subject who seems to have
been guided by just principles. He observes, with great propriety,
that "Grammarians have leaned too much to the analogies of the Latin
language, contrary to our mode of speaking and to the analogies of
other languages, more like our own. It must be allowed, that the custom
of speaking, is the original and only just standard of any language."
Pref. to Gram. page 9. His criticisms are exceedingly judicious, and
are entitled to the consideration of the student, in preference to
those of Lowth, or any other English author. He considers _means_ as
belonging "to that class of words which do not change their termination
on account of number." It is used in both numbers, _a means_, or _these
means_, with equal propriety.

To the same class of words belong _pains_, _news_, and perhaps some
others. Every person who has read good English authors, or lived where
the language is spoken in purity, must have observed that the word
_pains_ is usually preceded by _much_, and followed by a verb in the
singular number; _much pains was taken_. If the word is a plural noun,
it should neither be followed by a singular verb, nor preceded by
_much_; for we never prefix _much_ to plurals. The most untutored ear
would be offended at _much papers_, _much labors_. But do we not always
say _much pains_? Do we ever say _many pains were_ taken? I confess I
never yet heard or saw the expression. Yet Lowth contends that _pains_
is plural. This criticism upon the word is an authority in vindication
of an erroneous practice of using it with a plural verb, even when it
is preceded by _much_. So in Sheridan's Art of Reading, we observe
these words; "If so _much pains were_ thought necessary among them,"
&c. Temple indulges the same mistake; "I know how _much pains have
been_ taken to deduce the words _Baro_ and _feudum_ from the Latin and
Greek, and even from the Hebrew and Egyptian tongue." Works, vol. 3. p.

Might not these writers have used, _much sheep were killed_, with the
same propriety?

The sense of the word _pains_ does not require that we should
consider it as a plural; for it signifies _labor_ or _fatigue_, in
contradistinction to those uneasy sensations, each of which singly is
called a _pain_, and to express a number of which _pains_ is used as a
plural. On the other hand we have the authority of general practice for
uniting with it _much_, which can in no case be used with a plural, and
also a verb in the singular number.

--"And taken _much pains_ so to proportion the powers of the several
magistrates."----Sidney on Gov. sect. I.

"I found _much art_ and _pains_ employed."----Middleton.

"He will assemble materials with _much pains_."----Bolling. on Hist.
letter 4.

"As to our own language, several persons have taken _much pains_ about
the orthography of it."----Wilkins Real Char. book I. chap. 5.

There are a few instances in which good authors have considered _news_
as a plural; as

"From all regions where the best _news are_ made."----B. Johnson,
Staple of News.

"And seal the news and issue _them_."----The same.

But can an English ear relish this affected correctness? Hear the
language of Cowley and Shakespear, who wrote as the nation spoke:

    "A GENERAL joy at _this glad newes_ appear'd."

  Cowley's Davideis, book 1.

    "Now by St. Paul _this news_ is bad indeed!"

  The same.

    "No news so bad abroad as _this_ at home."

  Rich. III. scene 1.

Such is the language at this day, and a man would expose himself to
ridicule, who should say, _these news are good_.

Late writers seem to consider _riches_ as plural; but erroneously. It
is merely a contraction of _richesse_, the French singular, which was
probably introduced into England under the Norman kings. Chaucer uses
_richesse_ as the singular:

    "But for ye speken of swiche gentillesse,
    As is descended out of old _richesse_."

  Cant. Tales, 6691.

    --"And he that ones to love doeth his homage
    Full oftentymes dere bought _is the richesse_."

  La Belle Dame sans mercy, 323.

The word _richesse_ here is no more plural than _gentilnesse_,
_distresse_, _doublenesse_, which the author uses in the same poem;
and _riches_ now, in strictness of speech, is no more plural than
_gentleness_, _distress_, or any other word of similar ending. When
Chaucer had occasion for a plural, he wrote the word _richesses_; as in
the Tale of Melibeus: "Thou hast dronke so muche hony of swete temporal
_richesses_ and delices and honors of this world," &c.---- Works, vol.
4. p. 170. Bell's edit.

The word _riches_ therefore is in the singular number and merely
an abbreviation of _richesse_; as _distress_ is of _distresse_;
_weakness_, of _weaknesse_, &c. and the reason why the plural
_richesses_ has been neglected, may be, that the idea it conveys does
not admit of number any more than that of _wealth_, which is also
destitute of a plural form.

"Was ever _riches_ gotten by your golden mediocrities?"----Cowley on
Cromwell's Gov.

    "When love has taken all thou hast away,
    His strength by too much riches will decay."


"The envy and jealousy which great _riches_ is always attended
with."----Moyle's Essay on Lacedem. Gov. 48.

"In one hour _is_ so great _riches_ come to nought."----Bible.

Here _riches_ is considered in its true light. Notwithstanding this,
the termination of the word has led late writers into the opinion, that
it is plural; so that we generally see it followed by a plural verb:
Should this become the unanimous opinion and a general correspondent
practice ensue, _riches_ will be established as a plural, contrary to
etymology and ancient usage.

_Alms_ is also in the singular number; being a contraction of the old
Norman French, _almesse_, the plural of which was _almesses_. So in

     "Ye knowen wel that I am poure and olde, Kithe (show) your
     _almesse_ upon me poure wretche."

     Freres Tale, 7190.

"_This almesse_ shouldest thou do of thy propre thinges," &c.---- Vol.
5. p. 217. Bell.

"These ben generally the _almesses_ and werkes of charitie of hem that
have temporel richesses."----The same.

_Alms_ is used as a noun singular in the Bible; "To ask _an alms_." "He
gave _much alms_;" that is, _almesse_, or charity. The plural of this
word is not used.

_Largess_ is a word of this class. It is from the old French
_largesse_; but the idea admits of number, and accordingly we find the
plural, _largesses_, still in use.

_Laches_, from the French _lachesse_, is still retained in the law
stile; but custom has abbreviated the word into _lache_, a single

_Amends_ may properly be considered as in the singular number, and so
it is used by one of our best writers. "They must needs think that this
honor to him, when dead, was but _a_ necessary _amends_ for the injury
which they had done him, when living."----Middleton's L. of Cic. vol.
3. p. 131.

The idea here conveyed by _amends_ is as single as that expressed by
_compensation_. The word has no change of termination, and may be
considered as singular or plural, at the choice of the writer.

_Wages_ is a word of the same kind.

_Victuals_ is derived from the old French _vitaille_,[97] and was
formerly used in the singular form, _victual_. But the latter is now
wholly disused, and _victuals_ generally used with a singular verb and
pronoun. So Swift uses the word. "We had such very fine _victuals_ that
I could not eat _it_."[98] The editor of his works remarks, _that
here is false concord_; but I believe Swift has followed the general
practice of the English. The word seems to have lost the plurality of
ideas, annexed to many different articles included in the term, and to
have assumed the general meaning of the word _food_, which does not
admit of the plural.

The word _odds_ seems to be of the same kind. We sometimes find a
plural verb united to it, as in Pope's translation of Homer:

    "On valor's side the _odds_ of combat _lie_,
    The brave live glorious, or lamented die."

  Iliad, b. 15. l. 670.

But in common practice _odds_ is considered as in the singular number.
We always say, "What _is_ the _odds_;" and I should rank this among the
words, which, altho they have the termination of regular plurals, more
properly belong to the singular number.

The word _gallows_ is evidently of this class. "Let _a gallows_ be
made," say the translators of the Bible, with perfect propriety.
Indeed I cannot conceive how any man who has read English authors, can
consider this word as in the plural.

_Bellows_, _tongs_, _sheers_, _scissors_, _snuffers_, _pincers_, have
no change of termination, and it is the practice to prefix to them
the word _pair_. Yet notwithstanding these articles are composed of
two principal parts, both are necessary to form a single indivisible
instrument, and the names might have been considered as nouns in the
singular.[99] _Pair_ is more properly applied to two separate articles
of the same kind, and used together; a _pair of shoes_, or _gloves_.
Custom, however, has sanctioned the use of it before the words just
enumerated, and therefore a pair of tongs, &c. must be admitted as good

There are many other words in our language which have the plural
termination; as _billiards_, _ethics_, _metaphysics_, _mathematics_,
_measles_, _hysterics_, and many others; which properly belong to the
singular number. _Ethics is a science_, is better English than _ethics

On the other hand, there are many words, which, without ever taking the
plural termination, often belong to the plural. _Sheep_, _deer_ and
_hose_, are often mentioned as belonging to this description. To these
we may add many names of fish; as _trout_, _salmon_, _carp_, _tench_
and others, which are in fact names of species; but which apply equally
to the individuals of the species. We say _a trout_, or _five trout_;
but never _five trouts_.


In many instances we find two or three words used to describe or
designate a particular person or thing; in which case they are to be
considered as a single noun or name, and the sign of the possessive
annexed to the last; as, "the _King of France's_ army."

"_Fletcher of Salton's plan_ of a militia differs little from that of
Harrington."[101]---- Home, Sketch 9.


Most grammarians have given the article the first rank among the parts
of speech. To me this arrangement appears very incorrect; for the
article is a mere appendage of the noun, and without it cannot even
be defined. The _noun_ is the primary and principal part of speech,
of which the _article_, _pronoun_ and _adjective_ are mere adjuncts,
attendants, or substitutes, and the latter therefore should follow the
former in grammatical order and definition.

Under this head I will introduce a few observations on the use of
_a_. Grammarians have supposed that _a_, in the phrases _a going_,
_a hunting_, is a corruption of the preposition _on_; a supposition,
which, if we attend to the sense of the phrases, appears highly absurd,
but which etymology, in a great measure, overthrows.

In the first place, the preposition is not among the original parts of
language; its use, and consequently its formation, are not necessary
among rude nations; it is a part of speech of a late date in the
progress of language, and is itself a derivative from other words.
I have, in another place,[102] given some reasons to prove _on_ to
be an abbreviation of the numeral _one_, or _top one_. It is very
evident that _on_ is a contraction of _upon_, which was formerly
written _uppone_; and there are good reasons for believing the latter
to be derived from _top one_. In addition to the authorities quoted in
the Institute, an example or two from Chaucer will almost place the
question beyond a doubt.

    "There lith on--up myn hed."

  Cant. Tales, 4288.

That is, there lieth one upon my head; where _up_ is used for _upon_,
as it is in other places.

    "No more, _up paine_ of losing of your hed."

  Ibm. 1709.

That is, _upon pain of losing your head_.

The word _up_ is undoubtedly but a corruption of _top_, or a noun
derived from the same root, and this hypothesis is supported by the
true theory of language; which is, that rude nations converse mostly by
names. _Up myn hed_, is _top mine head_. An improvement of this phrase
would be the use of _one_, _ane_ or _an_, to ascertain particular
things; _uppone_, _upon_. In the progress of language, these words
would be contracted into _on_, which we denominate a preposition.

I am very sensible that Chaucer used _on_ in the manner mentioned
by Lowth; _on live_ for _alive_; _on hunting_; _on hawking_; which
would seem to warrant the supposition of that writer, that _a_ is a
contraction of _on_, considering _on_ originally as a preposition. But
it is contrary to all just ideas of language to allow such a primitive
part of speech. On the other hand, Chaucer uses _on_ for other
purposes, which cannot be explained on Lowth's hypothesis.

    "His brede, his ale, was alway _after on_."

  Cant. Tales, 343.

So also in line 1783. In this example _on_ is allowed on all hands to
be a contraction of _one_; _after one_ (way, manner) that is, _alike_,
or in the same manner.

"They were _at on_;" line 4195. They were _at one_; that is, together
or agreed.

"Ever _in on_;" line 1773, and 3878; ever _in one_ (way, course, &c.)
that is, _continually_.

If therefore we suppose _on_ to be merely a corruption of _one_, we
can easily explain all its uses. _On hunting_, or contractedly, _a
hunting_, is _one hunting_. _On live_, _on life_, or _alive_, is merely
_one life_. This form of expression is very natural, however childish
or improper it may appear to us. It seems very obvious to resolve
_ashore_, _abed_, into _on shore_, _on bed_; but even Lowth himself
would be puzzled to make us believe that _adry_, _athirst_, came from
_on dry_, _on thirst_; and Wallis would find equal difficulty to
convince us that they came from _at dry_, _at thirst_. If we suppose
_a_ to be a contraction of _one_, or the Saxon _ane_ or _an_, the
solution of all these phrases is perfectly easy, and corresponds with
Horne's theory of the particles. For if rude nations converse without
particles, they must say _go shore_, or _go one shore_; _he is bed_,
or _he is one bed_; _he is dry_, or _one dry_; _I am thirst_, or _I
am one thirst_. Indeed every person who will attend to the manner of
speaking among the American savages, must believe this explanation of
the phrases to be probably just.

That _on_ was formerly used both as a preposition and an adjective,
is acknowleged by the Editor of the British Poets;[103] but its uses
in all cases may be easily explained on the single principle before

This hypothesis however will be confirmed by the fact, that the
English article _a_, "is nothing more than a corruption of the Saxon
adjective, _ane_ or _an_ (one) before a substantive beginning with a
consonant." Editor of Chaucer's works, Gloss. p. 23. And the article
_a_ and the numeral _one_ have still the same signification. That
_ane_ or _an_, and _one_ are originally the same, is a point not to
be controverted. We have therefore the strongest reason to believe
that _a_ in the phrases _a going_, _a hunting_, _a fishing_ is derived
from _one_. _On_, as a contraction of _upon_, has, in modern language,
a different sense, and cannot be well substituted for _a_; for _on
going_, _on fishing_, have an awkward appearance and will not obtain in
the language, to the exclusion of _a going_, _a fishing_. The vulgar
practice is more correct than Lowth's correction, and ought by no means
to be rejected.

    "O let my life, if thou so many deaths _a coming_ find,
    With thine old year its voyage take."----

  Cowley's Ode to the New Year.

    "But these fantastic errors of our dream,
    Lead us to solid wrong;
    We pray God, our friend's torments to prolong,
    And wish uncharitably for them,
    To be as long _a dying_ as Methusalem."


If the foregoing opinion of the origin of _a_ in such phrases, should
not be deemed satisfactory, we may perhaps ascribe its origin to a mere
custom of forming expletive sounds in the transition from one word to

The following phrases, _three shillings a piece_, _a day_, _a head_, _a
bushel_, it is said are elliptical forms of speech; some preposition
being implied, as, _for_ or _by_. This assertion can proceed only from
an imperfect view of the subject. Unless grammarians can prove that
some preposition was formerly used, which is now omitted, they cannot
prove that any is implied, nor should they have recourse to implication
to find a rule to parse the phrases. The truth is, no such preposition
can be found, nor is there need of any. _A_, in this form of speech,
carries the full meaning of the Latin _per_, and the substitution
of the latter, for want, as it is said, of an English word, in the
phrases, _per day_, _per head_, _per pound_, is a burlesque upon the
English to this day. We see continually a wretched jargon of Latin
and English in every merchant's book, even to the exclusion of a pure
English phrase, more concise, more correct, and more elegant. It is to
be wished that _a_ might be restored to its true dignity, as it is used
by some of the purest English writers.

     "He had read almost constantly, twelve or fourteen hours _a day_;"
     that is, _one day_.---- Bolingbroke on History, letter 4.

     "To the sixteen scholars twenty pounds _a piece_."----Cowley.

This is pure elegant English, and the common people have the honor of
preserving it, unadulterated by foreign words.


The most difficult branch of this subject is the verb. Next to the
noun, this is the most important part of speech, and as it includes
all the terms by which we express action and existence, in their
numberless varieties, it must, in all languages, be very comprehensive.

The English verb suffers very few inflections or changes of
termination, to express the different circumstances of person, number,
time and mode. Its inflections are confined to the three persons of the
singular number, in the present tense, indicative mode, and the first
and second persons of the past tense; unless we consider the irregular
participles as a species of inflection belonging to the verb. All
the other varieties of person, number, time and mode, are expressed
by prefixing other words, by various combinations of words, or by a
particular manner of utterance.

This simplicity, as it is erroneously called, is said to render our
language easy of acquisition. The reverse however of this is true; for
the use of auxiliaries or combinations of words, constitutes the most
perplexing branch of grammar; it being much easier to learn to change
the termination of the verb, than to combine two, three or four words
for the same purpose.

Grammarians have usually divided the English verbs into _active_,
_passive_ and _neuter_. "_Active_ verbs," say they,[105] "express
action, and necessarily imply an agent and an object acted upon." But
is not a man _passive_ in _hearing_? Yet _hear_ is called an _active_

"A verb _neuter_ expresses being, or a state or condition of being;
when the agent and object coincide, and the event is properly neither
action nor passion, but rather something between both." But is there
neither _action_ nor _passion_ in _walking_, _running_, _existing_? One
would think that _running_ at least might be called _action_.

The common definitions, copied, in some measure, from the Latin
Grammars, are very inaccurate. The most correct and general division
of English verbs, is, into _transitive_ and _intransitive_; the former
term comprehending all verbs that may be followed by any object
receiving the action, or of which any thing is affirmed; the latter,
all those verbs, the affirmation in which is limited to the agent. Thus
_hear_ is a _transitive_ verb, for it affirms something of an object;
_I hear the bell_.

_Run_ is an _intransitive_ verb, for the action mentioned is confined
to the agent; _he runs_. Yet the last is an _active_ verb, and the
first, strictly speaking, is not;[106] so that there is a distinction
to be made between a verb _active_ and _transitive_.

In strict propriety, we have in English no passive verb; that is, we
have no single word which conveys the idea of passion or suffering, in
the manner of the Greek or Latin passive verb. It may be useful, in
teaching English to youth or foreigners, to exhibit a specimen of the
combinations of the verb _be_, with the participles of other verbs in
all their varieties; but each word should be parsed as a distinct part
of speech; altho two or more may be necessary to convey an idea which
is expressed by a single word in another language.


Time is naturally divided into _past_, _present_ and _future_. The
English verb has but two variations of ending to express time; the
present, as _love_, _write_; and the past, as _loved_, _wrote_. The
usual division of tenses, or combinations of words corresponding
to the Latin tenses, is not wholly accurate. The definition of the
second tense, in the ordinary arrangement of them in Latin grammars,
may be correct, as it relates to the Roman tongue; but does not apply
to the English tense, which is commonly called by the same name, the
_Imperfect_. The Latin words _movebam_, _legebam_, are translated _I
moved_, _I read_. Now the English words express actions _perfectly
past_, and therefore the time or tense cannot be justly denominated
_imperfect_. If the Latin words expressed, in the Roman tongue, actions
_imperfectly past_, they should be rendered by us, _I was moving_,
_was reading_, which convey ideas of actions, as taking place at some
preceding period, but not then past. In this sense, the name of the
tense might have been used with propriety. But the English form of
expression, _he moved_, conveys the idea of an action completely past,
and does not fall within the definition of the Latin _Imperfect_.

It is surprizing that the great Lowth should rank this form of the
verb, _they moved_, under the head of _indefinite_ or _undetermined_
time; and yet place this form, _have moved_, or what is called the
perfect tense, under the head of _definite_ or _determined_ time. The
truth is, the first is the most _definite_. _I have loved_, or _moved_,
expresses an action performed and completed, generally within a period
of time not far distant; but leaves the particular point of time
wholly _indefinite_ or _undetermined_. On the other hand, _I loved_ is
necessarily employed, when a particular _period_ or _point_ of time is
specified. Thus it is correct to say, _I read a book yesterday_, _last
week_, _ten years ago_, &c. but it is not grammatical to say, _I have
read a book yesterday_, _last week_, &c. so that, directly contrary to
Lowth's rule, _I moved_, is the _definite_, and _I have moved_, the
_indefinite_ time.

Great inaccuracy is likewise indulged in the usual description of the
English future tense. There is no variation of the verb to express
a future action; to remedy this defect, the English use _shall_ and
_will_, before the verb in its radical form. But these words are both
in the present time; being merely the Teutonic verbs _sollen_ and
_wollen_, which formerly had, and in the German still have, most of the
inflections of regular verbs. Thus:

     Ind. Pref. _Ich soll_, I ought or should. _Ich will_, I will.

     Imp. _Ich sollt_, I ought or should. _Ich wollt_, I would.

     Preter. _Ich habe gesollt_, I ought or should have. _Ich habe
     gewollt_, I would or would have, &c. &c.[107]

_I will go_ is really nothing more than a _present_ promise of a
_future_ action. I _shall go_ is a _present_ prediction of a _future_
action. In the second and third persons, _will_ expresses the
prediction; and as one cannot promise for a second or third person,
_shall_, in these persons, implies a promise of the first person, that
he will _command_ or _oblige_ the second or third person to do an
action in some future time. The whole may be thus explained:

     _I will go_,

Is my own _present_ promise to do a future action.

     _Thou wilt go_--_He will go_,

are my (the speaker's) _present_ predictions that the persons mentioned
will do a future action; or perhaps more properly, a declaration of
their inclination or intention.

     _I shall go_,

is my _present_ prediction of a future action.

     _Thou shalt go_--_He shall go_,

are my (the speaker's) _present_ promise that the second and third
persons will do a future action. But as a man cannot compel a superior,
he can promise only for himself or inferiors; therefore these last
expressions imply a promise in the speaker, and a right to command the
second and third persons to do the thing promised; for which reason
they are used only in addressing or speaking of, inferiors or subjects.
The same remarks apply to the three persons in the plural number.

Hence we observe the inaccuracy of translating the future tense of the
Greeks, Romans, and French, by _shall_ or _will_ indifferently. It
is probable that the future tense in those languages, and perhaps in
others, where the tense is formed by inflections, was employed merely
to _foretell_. If so, _shall_ only should be used in the first person
of the English translation, and _will_, in the second and third. Thus:

  _Latin._       _French._        _English._

  Habebo,        J'aurai,         I shall have.
  Habebimus,     nous aurons,     we shall have.
  Habebis,       tu auras,        thou wilt have.
  Habebit,       il aura,         he will have.
  Habebitis,     vous aurez,      you will have.
  Habebunt,      ils auront,      they will have.

On the other hand, a promise in the first person expressed in English
by _will_, and a promise or command in the second and third, expressed
by _shall_, seem, in these languages, to be communicated by other words
or a circumlocution.

In strictness of speech therefore, we have no future tense of the
verb in English; but we use auxiliaries, which, in the present tense,
express a prediction of an action, or a disposition of mind to produce
an action. These auxiliaries, united with the verb or affirmation,
answer the purposes of the future tenses of verbs in other languages;
and no inconvenience can arise from calling such a combination a


Most languages are so constructed, that the verbs change their
terminations for the purpose of expressing the _manner_ of being or
action. In this particular, the English is singular; there being but
one inflection of a single verb, which can be said to be peculiar to
the conditional or subjunctive mode.[108] In all other respects, the
verbs in the declaratory and conditional modes are the same; and the
condition is known only by some other word prefixed to the verb.

It is astonishing to see how long and how stupidly English grammarians
have followed the Latin grammars in their divisions of time and mode;
but in particular the latter. By this means, we often find _may_,
_can_, _should_ and _must_ in a conditional mode, when they are
positive declarations and belong to the indicative. All unconditional
declarations, whether of an action, or of a _right_, _power_ or
_necessity_ of doing an action, belong to the _indicative_; and the
distinction between the _indicative_ and _potential_ is totally
useless. _Should_ is commonly placed in the imperfect time of the
subjunctive; yet is frequently used to express an unconditional
obligation, as _he should go_; and belongs to the present time of the
indicative, as much as _he ought_, or the French _il faut_ or _il doit_.

_Would_ is sometimes employed in a declaratory sense to express a
present volition, and then belongs to the indicative. In the past time,
_should_, _would_, _might_, _could_, often express unconditional ideas,
and belong to the indicative. In short, the usual arrangement of the
English verbs and auxiliaries in our grammars is calculated to perplex
and mislead a learner; and I have never found a foreigner who could use
them with tolerable propriety.


Under this head, I shall remark on a single article only, the use of
_you_ in the singular number, with a plural verb. The use of the plural
_nos_ and _vos_, for _ego_ and _tu_ in Latin; of _nous_ and _vous_
for _je_ and _tu_ in French; seems to have been very ancient, and to
have been originally intended to soften the harshness of egotism, or
to make a respectful distinction in favor of great personages. But
the practice became general in the French nation, was introduced by
them into England, and gradually imitated by the English in their own
tongue. _You_, in familiar discourse, is applied to an individual,
except by a single sect of Christians; the practice is general and
of long standing; it has become correct English, and ought to be
considered, in grammar, as a pronoun in the singular number. It may
be objected, that we unite with it a verb in the plural number, _you
are_, _you have_; this is true, but the verb, in these instances,
becomes singular; and both the pronoun and verb should be placed in the
singular number.

In the union of _you_ with a plural verb in the present time, we are
all unanimous; but in the past time, there is a difference between
books and common practice in a single instance. In books, _you_
is commonly used with the plural of the verb _be_, _you were_; in
conversation, it is generally followed by the singular, _you was_.
Notwithstanding the criticisms of grammarians, the antiquity and
universality of this practice must give it the sanction of propriety;
for what but practice forms a language? This practice is not merely
vulgar; it is general among men of erudition who do not affect to
be fettered by the rules of grammarians, and some late writers have
indulged it in their publications. I should therefore inflect the
verb _be_ in the past time after this manner; _I was_, _thou wast_,
or _you was_, _he was_, &c. Whatever objections may be raised to this
inflection, _it is the language of the English_, and rules can hardly
change a general practice of speaking; nor would there be any advantage
in the change, if it could be effected.


There are several verbs in English, which, from the necessity of their
union with other verbs, have obtained the name of _auxiliaries_.
Originally they were principal verbs, with regular Saxon infinitives,
and the usual inflections; as may be observed by any person, who has
the smallest acquaintance with the modern German, which retains more of
the ancient structure, than any other branch of the primitive language.

The verbs, called _auxiliaries_ or _helpers_, are _do_, _be_, _have_,
_shall_, _will_, _may_, _can_, _must_. The three first are often
employed alone, and are therefore acknowleged to be sometimes principal
verbs. That the others were so, will be made obvious by a specimen
from the German, with the corresponding English.

             _German._                _English._

  Inf.       _Wollen_,                to will.
  Ind. Pref. Ich will,                I will.
             Wir wollen,[109]         we will.
  Imper.     Ich wolte,               I would.
  Preterit.  Ich habe gewolt,         I have would, or willed.
  Plup.      Ich hatte gewolt,        I had would.
  Fut.       Ich werde wollen,        I shall will.
  Imp.       Wolle du,                will thou.
  Subj.      _Ich wolle_,             (if) I would, &c.
  Inf.       Wollen,                  to will.
             Gewolte haben,           to have would, or willed.
  Part.      Wollend,                 willing.
             Gewollte,                having would, or willed.

_Sollen_, to shall, is inflected in the same manner. _Koennen_, to can,
or be able, is inflected much in the same manner. _Ich kann_, I can,
&c. Imperfect, _Ich konnte_, I could. Preterit, _Ich habe gehonnt_,
I have could (or been able.) Participle, _Kænnend_, _canning_, being
able. Thus _mægen_, to may, makes, in the past tenses, _Ich mochte_,
I might or mought, as the vulgar sometimes pronounce it; _Ich habe
gemocht_, _I have might_. _Must_ also, which in English has lost all
inflection, is varied in the German; _mussen_, to must, or be obliged;
Imperfect, _Ich muste_, I must, or was obliged.

But whatever these verbs may have once been, yet from their loss of
several inflections and the participles, with their singular use
in combination with other verbs, they may very well be denominated
_auxiliary verbs_. Their true force in English should be ascertained
and explained in grammars for the benefit of learners, and particularly
for the assistance of foreigners;[110] yet in resolving sentences, each
should be considered as a verb or distinct part of speech.

For want of a clear and accurate knowlege of the English auxiliaries,
foreigners are apt to fall into material errors in constructing
sentences. The most numerous errors appear in the use of _will_ and
_shall_, and their inflections. The Scots and Irish, even of the first
rank, generally use _will_ for _shall_ in the first person; by which
means, they substitute a _promise_ for an intended _prediction_.
Several errors of this kind have escaped the notice of the most
celebrated writers.

"Without having attended to this, we _will_ be at a loss in
understanding several passages in the classics, which relate to
the public speaking, and the theatrical entertainments of the
ancients."----Blair's Lectures, p. 48. Philad. edit.

"In the Latin language, there are no two words, we _would_ more readily
take to be synonimous, than _amare_ and _diligere_."----The same, p.

In these and several other instances which occur in Blair's writings,
the words _will_ and _would_ are used very improperly, for _shall_ and
_should_. The author means only to _foretell_ certain events, and has
employed words which carry, to an English ear, the full force of a

English writers have rarely fallen into this error; yet a few instances
may be found in authors of reputation.

"If I draw a catgut or any other cord to a great length between my
fingers, I _will_ make it smaller than it was before," &c.----
Goldsmith's Survey of Experimental Philosophy, book 2. chap. 2.

In the middle and southern states of America, this error is frequent,
both in writing and conversation.

"Let us suppose the charter repealed and the bank annihilated; _will_
we be better situated?"----Argument against repealing the charter of
the Bank of North America.

This is very incorrect; there is hardly a possible case, in which
_will_ can be properly employed to ask a question in the first person.

"As soon as the diploma is made out, I _will_ have the honor to
transmit it to you."----Letter to Count Rochambeau.

Is not this _promising_ to have the honor of a communication, an
engagement which delicacy forbids? It is impossible for a foreigner to
have a just idea of the absurdity of using _will_ in this manner; but a
correct English ear revolts at the practice.

Dr. Priestley observes very justly, that the form of the auxiliaries,
_shall_, _will_, which is generally conditional, viz. _should_ and
_would_, is elegantly used to express a slight assertion, with modest

"The royal power, _it should seem_, might be intrusted in their
hands."----Hume's History, vol. 3. p. 383.

We say also, "I _would_ not choose any." In these cases, the verbs are
not conditional; they modestly declare a fact, and therefore properly
belong to the indicative mode. But in the following passage, _should_
is improperly employed:

"In judging only from the nature of things, and without the surer aid
of divine revelation, one _should_ be apt to embrace the opinion of
Diodorus Siculus," &c.---- Warburton's Divine Legation, vol. 2. p. 81.

_Should_, in the second and third persons, expresses _duty_, and the
idea of the author was, to express an event, under a condition, or a
modest declaration; he _should_ have used _would_.

"There is not a girl in town, but let her have her will in going to a
mask, and she _shall_ dress as a shepherdess."----Spect. No. 9.

_Shall_, in this example, expresses _command_, an idea very different
from the author's meaning.

"Think what reflection _shall_ most probably arise."----Blair, Serm. 9.

"A person, highly entertained at a play, _shall_ remember perfectly the
impression made on him by a very moving scene."----Nugent's Trans. of
Condillac, p. 1. s. 1.

I would just remark here, that the errors in the use of the auxiliary
verbs before mentioned, are not English; that they are little known
among the inhabitants of South Britain, and still less among their
descendants in New England. This is a new proof of the force of
national customs. I do not remember to have heard once in the course
of my life, an improper use of the verbs _will_ and _shall_, among the
unmixed English descendants in the eastern states.

But of all the errors or inaccuracies in speaking or writing the
English language, the most numerous class appear in the improper use of
verbs in the subjunctive mode. Not only illiterate men, but authors of
the first rank, often use the present tense for the future, the future
for the present, and the past for both.

"If any member _absents_ himself, he shall forfeit a penny for the use
of the club, unless in case of sickness and imprisonment."----Rules of
the Two Penny Club, Spect. No. 9.

"If thou _neglectest_ or _dost_ unwillingly what I command, I'll rack
thee with old cramps."----Temp. act 1. s. 4.

In both these examples, the events mentioned in the verbs are _future_;
"if any member _shall_ absent himself;" "if thou _shalt_ neglect;"
therefore the auxiliary verb _shall_ should have been employed, or
the sentences should have been elliptical, "if any member _absent_
himself;" "if thou _neglect_;" where _shall_ is understood and easily
supplied by the reader.

Numberless examples of the same kind of inaccuracy may be found in good
authors. Thus in Haley's Happy Prescription, act 2.

    "And if my scheme _prospers_, with joy I'll confess,
    What a whimsical trifle produced our success."

The idea is, "if my scheme _shall_ prosper;" and this is obvious by the
subsequent part of the sentence, where the future is employed, "with
joy _I'll_ confess."

"If Punch _grows_ extravagant, I shall reprimand him very freely; if
the stage _becomes_ a nursery of folly and impertinence, I shall not be
afraid to animadvert upon it."----Spect. No. 35.

These should have been _grow_ or _should grow_; _become_ or _should

"If any thing _offers_ (shall offer) from Dublin, that may serve either
to satisfy or divert you, I will not fail," &c.---- Swift's Corresp.
letter 2.

In the following passage, the same writer is much more correct.

"If any one matter in it _prove_ (that is, _shall prove_) false, what
do you think will become of the paper?"----Letter 8.

But the use of the future for the present is much more frequent.

"If reverence, gratitude, obedience and confidence _be_ our duty."----
Priestley, let. 7 to a Phil. Unbeliever.

"If he _have_ any knowlege of actual existence, he must be
satisfied."----Same, letter 8.

The author doubtless intended these sentences to be strictly
grammatical, by placing the verbs in the present tense of the
subjunctive. But in the first example, _be_ is wrong even on Lowth's
principles. The rule of the Bishop, with respect to the use of the
indicative and subjunctive modes, is this: That when something
conditional, hypothetical, or doubtful, is expressed, the verb should
be in the subjunctive mode; but when the fact is certain, or taken for
granted, the verb should be in the indicative. He gives for examples
of the former, several passages from scripture: "If thou _be_ the
son of God." Matth. iv. 3. "Tho he _slay_ me, yet will I trust in
him." Job xiii. 15. "Unless he _wash_ his flesh." Lev. xxii. 6. "No
power except it _were_ given from above." John xix. 11. "Whether it
_were_ I or they, so we preach." 1 Cor. xv. 11. "The subjunctive in
these instances," says the Bishop, "implies something contingent or
doubtful; the indicative would express a more absolute and determinate
sense." To illustrate the latter part of his rule, he quotes a passage
from Atterbury's Sermons. "Tho he _were_ divinely inspired, and spake
therefore as the oracles of God, with supreme authority; tho he _were_
endued with supernatural powers," &c. That our Savior was divinely
inspired, and endued with supernatural powers, are positions that are
here taken for granted, as admitting not of the least doubt; they would
therefore have been better expressed in the indicative mode; "tho he
_was_ divinely inspired," &c. Even on these principles, the verb in
the first example from Priestley, just quoted, should have been in the
indicative; for there is no doubt that reverence, gratitude, &c. _are_
our duty to the Supreme Being.

But I apprehend, that however just Lowth's distinction between the
modes, may have formerly been, it is not warranted by the present
idiom of the language. Indeed I cannot think the rule just. In the
_first_, _fourth_ and _fifth_ examples quoted by the Bishop, the
indicative might be substituted for the subjunctive, and the passages
rendered more correct, according to the present practice of speaking
and writing. "If thou _art_ the son of God." "No power except it _was_
given from above." "Whether it _was_ I, or they, so we preach." Every
English ear must acknowlege that these expressions are more agreeable
to our present practice, than those employed by the translators of the
Bible, and they convey an idea of condition or doubt, as fully as the
other form. But why did the translators deviate from the original? In
the Greek, the verbs, in the two first examples, are in the indicative
mode; and in the last, the verb is not expressed. ~Ei huios ei tou
Theou~, literally, If thou _art_ the son of God. ~Ouk echeis exousian
oudemian kat' emou, ei mê ên soi dedomenon anôthen~; literally, Thou
hast no power (or authority) against me, except it _was_ given thee
from above. In the last instance the verb is omitted; ~Eite de egô,
eite ekeinoi~; Whether I or they. In these instances therefore the
translators of the Bible, and Bishop Lowth have evidently mistaken the
true structure of the English verbs. The translators deviated from the
original Greek, in changing the modes; and the Bishop has taken their
error, as the foundation of a distinction which does not exist in the
language. The indicative mode is employed to express conditional ideas,
more frequently than the subjunctive, even by the best English writers.
Take the following examples.

"And if the same accident _is_ able to restore them to us."----
Bolingbroke, Reflec. on Exile.

"If this being, the immediate maker of the universe, _has_ not existed
from all eternity, he must have derived his being and power from one
who has."----Priestley, let. 4 to Phil. Unb.

"If there _is_ one, I shall make two in the company."----Merry Wives
of Windsor, act 3. sc. II.

    "If thou _lovest_ me then
    Steal forth thy father's house tomorrow night."

  Midsum. Night's Dream, act 1. s. 2.

    "If thou _beest_[111] Stephano, touch me and speak to me;
    If thou _beest_ Trinculo, come forth."

  Tempest, act 2. s. 3.

    "If thou _art_ any thing besides a name."

  Cowley's Request.

    "For if he _lives_ that hath you doen despight."

  Spenser's Fairy Queen, book 2. chap. 1.

"If any one _imagines_."----Moyle.

"Why did Caligula wish that the people had but one neck, that he might
strike it off at a blow, if their welfare _was_ thus reciprocal."----
Sidney on Gov. sect. 5.

"If Governments _are_ constituted."----Sidney.

    "Well, keep your own heart, if silence _is_ best,
    Tho a woman, for once, I'll in ignorance rest."

  Haley's Happy Prescription.

"If she _has_ stolen the color of her ribbons from another."----Spect.
No. 4.

"If we _are_ rightly informed."----Same, No. 8.

"If she _is_ tall enough, she is wife enough."----No. 66.

"If you _are_ in such haste, how came you to forget the
miscellanies?"----Swift's Letter to Mr. Tooke.

"If men's highest assurances _are_ to be believed."----Same.

Shall we say that the use of the indicative after _if_ in the foregoing
examples is improper or ungrammatical? By no means. Yet the verbs
express something conditional or doubtful; and therefore Lowth's rule
cannot be well founded.

Let the foregoing passages be contrasted with the following.

"But if he _say_ true, there is but one government in the world that
can have any thing of justice in it."----Sidney, sect. 1.

"If he _have_ any knowlege of actual existence, he must be
satisfied."----Priestley, let. 8.

"But tho criticism _be_ thus his only declared aim, he will not
disown," &c.---- Introd. to Elements of Criticism.

"But if a lively picture, even of a single emotion, _require_ an
effort of genius, how much greater the effort to compose a passionate
dialogue, with as many different tones of passion as there are
speakers?"----Elements of Criticism, vol. 1. chap. 16.

"Here we must also observe, that tho THOU _be_ long in the first part
of the verse, it becomes short when repeated in the second."----
Sheridan's Art of Reading.

The Scotch writers, who learn the English language grammatically,
are the most particular in the use of this subjunctive form of the
verb; in consequence of which their stile generally appears stiff and
fettered. In all the foregoing examples, and in every instance where
the affirmation respects present time, the indicative form is the most
correct, and the only form that corresponds with the actual present
state of the language. _If he says_, _if he has_, _if he requires_, are
the true expressions universally used in speaking; and grammars should
exhibit and enforce this practice, rather than amend it.

There are few or no English writers, who seem to have adhered
uniformly to any rule in the use of the verbs after the conjunctions.
In consequence, either of ignorance or inattention, the most correct
writers have fallen into inconsistencies, even in the same sentence.
This will appear by the following examples.

"If life and health enough _fall_ to my share, and I _am_ able to
finish what I meditate."----Bolingbroke, let. 4, on History.

The author intended the verbs, _fall_ and _am_, to be in the present
time; but this would make him write nonsense; for the events were
future at the time of writing. The first part of the sentence, to make
sense, must be considered as elliptical, "if life and health enough
_shall_ or _should fall_ to my share;" in the last part therefore _be_
should be substituted for _am_, _if I shall be able_: This would make
the whole sentence correct and consistent.

"Whether our conduct _be_ inspected, and we _are_ under a righteous
government, or under no government at all."----Priestley's Pref. to
Let. to a Phil. Unb.

What a confusion of modes! or rather of tenses!

"Tho THOU _be_ long, in the first part of the verse," says Sheridan, in
the passage just quoted; yet soon after uses the indicative in a phrase
precisely similar; "And tho it _is_ impossible to prolong the sound
of this word." Can this great critic give a reason for this change of
modes? Such examples serve to show at least the necessity of studying
our language with more attention, than even many eminent scholars are
willing to bestow.

It has been remarked by Lowth, and many other writers on this subject,
that "the verb itself in the present, and the auxiliary both of the
present and past imperfect times, often carry with them somewhat of a
future sense."[112] Thus, _if he_ _come tomorrow_, _if he should or
would come tomorrow_, carry _somewhat of a future sense_. The writer
should have gone farther, and said that these expressions are in future
time; for they form the English future, and belong to no other tense.
This would have been the truth, and have prevented the numberless
errors which have proceeded from his arranging them in the present
tense of the subjunctive. Let us attend to the following passages.

"This can never happen till patriotism _flourish_ more in
Britain."--Home's Sketches, book 2. s. 9.

"Pray heaven, he _prove_ so, when you come to him."----Two Gent. of
Verona, act 2. s. 10.

"But if thou _linger_ in my territories."----Same, act 3. s. 2.

"Lest, growing ruinous, the building _fall_."----Same, act 5. s. 6.

"If the second _be_ pronounced thus, the verse will be degraded into
hobbling prose."----Sheridan's Art of Reading.

It is needless to multiply similar passages; the same use of the verb,
without the personal termination, occurs in almost every page of our
best writings, and it is perfectly correct.

But will any person contend that the verbs in these passages are in
the present tense? The sense is entirely future, and could not be
translated into Latin or French, without employing the future tense.
The expressions are elliptical, and cannot be clearly understood,
without inserting _shall_ or _should_ before the verbs. This pretended
present tense of the subjunctive is therefore the real future of
the indicative. To confirm this remark, let us attend to some other

"Tho he _slay_ me, yet will I trust in him."

"Unless he _wash_ his flesh, he shall not eat of the holy thing."

In the original Hebrew these verbs are in the future tense; and so are
most similar expressions.[113]

Matth. vii. 10.--Or if he _ask_ a fish, will he give him a serpent?
~Kai ean ichthyn aitêsê mê ophin epidôsei autô?~

Rom. xiv. 15.--But if thy brother _be_ grieved with thy meat. ~Ei gar
dia brôma ho adelphos sou lupeitai~.

Luke xvii. 3.--If thy brother _trespass_ against thee. ~Ean hamartêsê ho
adelphos sou~. 4. And seven times in a day _turn_ again to thee. ~Kai
heptakis tês hêmêras epistrepsê~.

Luke xvi. 28.--Lest they also _come_ into this place of torment. ~Mê
kai autos elthôsin eis touton ton topon tês basanou~.[114]

Is not the sense of the foregoing verbs _future_? Are not the verbs
in the original, either in the future tense, or in the indefinite
tenses, which, in the subjunctive mode, _usually_ have the sense of
the future, and perhaps _never_ the sense of the present? Why then
should we consider the English verbs as in the present time? Either
the translators made a mistake, and placed the verbs in a wrong tense;
or Lowth and his followers have mistaken the tense, and called that
present which is really future.

That the fault is, in some measure, to be ascribed to the translators,
is evident from their using the same form of the verb, after a
conjunction, when the original Greek is in the present of the

1 Cor. xvi. 22.--If any man _love_ not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him
be, &c. ~Ei tis ou philei ton Kyrion Iêsoun Christon, êtô~, &c.

1 Cor. xiv. 37.--If any man think himself a prophet. ~Ei de tis dokei
prophêtês einai~. 38.--If any man _be_ ignorant, let him be ignorant
still. ~Ei de tis agnoei, agnoeitô~.

In these instances, the verbs express conditional facts in the present
time. In the original they are in the indicative present; and on what
authority did the translators introduce a different mode in English?
Can they be justified by the idioms of the language at the time when
they lived? Was the subjunctive always used after a conjunction? By no
means: Their own translation of other passages proves the contrary.

1 Cor. xv. 13.--And if there _is_ no resurrection of the dead. ~Ei de
anastasis nekrôn ouk estin~.

Here is the present tense of the indicative used, where the fact
mentioned is supposed, by the argument, to be at least doubtful. In
other places the present time of the same mode is used, where the
future would have been more accurate.

Prov. ii. 3, 4.--"Yea if thou _criest_ after knowlege, and _liftest_
up thy voice for understanding; if thou _seekest_ for her as for hid
treasures, then shalt thou understand," &c.

What conclusion shall we draw from this state of facts? This at least
may be said with safety, either that the English modes and tenses have
not been ascertained and understood, or that the best of our writers
have been extremely negligent.

After an attentive and accurate examination of this subject, I
believe I may venture to assert, that nine times out of ten, when the
pretended subjunctive form of the verb is used after a conjunction,
either in the vulgar translation of the Bible, or in our best profane
authors, the sense is actually future, and to render the sentences
complete, it would be necessary to insert _shall_ or _should_.[115]
This will be more obvious by attending to the Latin translation
of the New Testament, where the future is almost always employed
to express the Greek future and aorists. _Igitur si munus tuum
attuleris ad altare_--If thou _bring_ thy gift to the altar; _et illic
memineris_--and there _rememberest_; (what confusion of modes.) If his
son _ask_ bread--_Si filius ejus_ petierit _panem_. And if the house
_be_ worthy--_Et si quidem_ fuerit _domus digna_; and so throughout the
whole New Testament.

Will any person pretend to say that the verbs _bring_, _ask_ and _be_,
in the foregoing passages, are present time; or that _rememberest_ is
not bad English? The elliptical future, _If thou be_, _if he ask_, &c.
is correct English, but should by no means be confounded with the
present tense, which, in English, has but one form.

I do not deny that good authors have used this form, after
conjunctions, in the present time; but I deny that the genius of the
language requires it, that it is agreeable to the ancient or modern
elegant languages, and that it has been or is now the general practice.

With respect to the ancient practice, examples sufficient have been
already produced, to show that authors have considered the present of
the indicative, after conjunctions, denoting uncertainty or doubt, as
at least correct; and the present practice in speaking is wholly on
this side of the argument.

With respect to the Roman and Greek languages, I believe examples
enough may be brought to prove, that the subjunctive mode after the
conditional conjunctions or adverbs, was not generally used, except
when the idea was such as we should express by _may_, _might_,
_should_, _let_, or some other auxiliary before the verb. "Quid est
autem, quod deos _veneremur_ propter admirationem ejus naturæ, in qua
egregium nihil videmus?" "Ut, quos ratio non posset, eos ad officium
religio _duceret_."--Cicero, De nat Deorum, l. I. 42. To render
_veneremur_ and _duceret_ into English, _should_ may be prefixed to
_adore_, and _might_ to _lead_.

At any rate, the conditional conjunctions do not all, nor generally
require the subjunctive mode: "Quæ, _si_ mundus _est_ Deus, quoniam
mundi partes sunt, Dei membra parim ardentia, partim refrigerata
dicenda sunt."--Ibm. 1. I. 10. "_Si_ Di _possunt_ esse sine sensu," &c.
The indicative after this conjunction occurs frequently in the best
Roman authors.

In Greek the case is nearly the same. Several instances of the
indicative after the conditional conjunction ~ei~ (if) have already
been quoted from scripture; and similar instances without number may be
produced from profane writers.

"~Ei oun houtôs echei, ephê, ô Kyre, ti an allo tis kreitton heuroi,
ê pempein eis Persas, kai hama men didaskein autous hoti ei ti
peisontai Mêdoi, eis Persas to deinon hêxei, hama de aitein pleion
strateuma~;"---- Xenoph. de Cyri. Inst. l. 2. p. 80. Lond. Ed.

Here the verb ~echei~ is in the present tense of the indicative, after
a conjunction denoting condition or doubt; "if the affair _is_ so--if
such _is_ the true state of affairs, Cyrus, what better method _can
be taken_ (~heuroi~) than to send to the Persians, and inform them
that _if_ any accident _happen_ to the Medes (so we should render
~peisontai~, which is in the future) calamity will fall upon the
Persians also, and let us ask for a greater force."

In French, the conditional conjunctions do not require the subjunctive
mode. "Si ma prédiction _est_ fausse, vous serez libre de nous immoler
dans trois jours."--Telemaque, liv. 1. "S'il _est_ vrai que vous aimiez
la justice."--Liv. 4. If my prediction _is_ false--if it _is_ true--are
correct modes of speaking in French. No argument therefore in favor of
the use of the English subjunctive, can be drawn from the analogy of
other languages.

But this subjunctive form is not agreeable to the structure of the
language. It has been demonstrated that our conjunctions are mostly old
Saxon verbs in the imperative mode. Let us resolve some sentences where
the subjunctive form is used; for example, the passages before quoted.

"If he _have_ any knowlege of actual existence, he must be
satisfied."----Priestley's Letters.

Resolved--"He have any knowlege of actual existence, (if) give that, he
must be satisfied." Is this English?

"If thou be the son of God, command that these stones be made
bread."----Matth. iv. 3.

Resolved--"Thou be the son God, give that, command," &c.

"Tho he slay me, yet will I trust in him."

Resolved--"He slay me, grant it, yet will I trust in him."

This is the literal construction of those sentences; the two first are
present time, the last, which is future, is merely elliptical.

If therefore, _I be_, _he have_, are good English in the present tense
of the indicative, the foregoing are correct expressions; if not,
they are incorrect; for every such conditional sentence is resolvable
into two or more declaratory phrases. Let us substitute the Latin
derivative, which precisely answers to _if_, viz. _suppose_; thus, in
place of "if thou be the son of God," write, "_suppose_ thou be the
son of God," does not every ear acknowlege the impropriety? The only
difference between the two expressions is this; _if_ is a _Saxon_ verb
in the imperative mode, and _suppose_, a _Latin_ one in the same mode.

With respect to _be_, it may be said very justly, that it was anciently
used after the conjunctions in almost all cases. But it must be
observed also, it was used _without_ the conjunctions. Be, from the
Saxon _beon_, is the true radical verb, still preserved in the German,
_Ich bin_, I be, _du bist_, thou beest, in the indicative. The old
English writers employed _be_ in the same mode and tense.

"O, there _be_ players that I have seen play."----Shakesp. Hamlet to
the Players.

"They that _be_ drunken, are drunken in the night."----1 Thess. v. 7.

"As we _be_ slanderously reported."----Rom. iii. 8.

The common people in New England still employ _be_ in the present tense
of the indicative, except in the third person. They almost universally
say, _I be_, _we be_, _you be_, and _they be_. While _be_ remained
the proper substantive verb in the indicative, it was very correctly
employed after the conjunctions, _If he be_, _tho he be_, but when,
_am_, _are_, _art_ and _is_ were substituted in the indicative, they
should likewise have been employed in the subjunctive; for the latter
is resolvable into the former.

From the facts produced, and the remarks made, we may draw the
following conclusions; that the distinction made by grammarians between
the present tense of the indicative and subjunctive mode in English, is
not well founded; that it is not warranted by the construction of the
language, nor by the analogy of other languages; that the expressions
commonly supposed to be in the present tense of the subjunctive, are
mostly in fact an elliptical form of the future in the indicative,
and that the present translation of the Bible cannot be vindicated on
any other supposition; that the present practice, both in speaking
and writing, is generally in favor of the indicative after the
conjunctions; and consequently, that the arrangement of the verbs by
Lowth and his followers, is calculated to lead both foreigners and
natives into error.

I have been more particular upon this article, because the Scotch
writers, many of whom stand among the first authors of the British
nation, follow the usual grammatical division of verbs, and thus write
a stile not conformed to the present practice of speaking.

In the use of what is called the _imperfect_ tense, after the
conjunctions, there is something peculiar, which has not yet been
sufficiently explained. On examination it will probably be found that
custom has established one singular distinction in the sense of verbs
in different tenses, a knowlege of which is necessary to enable us
to speak and write with precision. This distinction will readily be
understood by a few examples.

A servant calls on me for a book, which his master would borrow. If I
am uncertain whether I have that book or not, I reply in this manner;
"If the book _is_ in my library, or if I _have_ the book, your master
shall be welcome to the use of it."

But if I am certain I do not possess the book, the reply is different;
"I have not the book you mention; if I _had_, it should be at your
master's service."

Both these forms of speaking are correct; but the question is, what
is the difference? It cannot be in _time_; for both refer to the
same. The ideas both respect present time; "If I _have_ it _now_, it
_shall_ be at your master's service"--"If I _had_ it _now_, it _should_
be." The distinction in the meaning is universally understood, and
is simply this; the first expresses _uncertainty_; the last implies
_certainty_, but in a peculiar manner; for an affirmative sentence
implies a positive negation; and a negative sentence implies a positive
affirmation. Thus, _if I had the book_, implies a positive denial of
having it; _if I had not the book_, implies that I have it: And both
speak of possessing or not possessing it at this _present_ time.

The same distinction runs thro all the verbs in the language. A
man, shut up in an interior apartment, would say to his friend,
"_if it rains_ you cannot go home." This would denote the speaker's
uncertainty. But on coming to the door and ascertaining the fact, he
would say, "_if it rain__ed_, you should not go;" or, "_if it did not
rain_, you might go." Can these verbs be in _past_ time? By no means;
_if it did not rain now, you could go_, is present, for the present
existence of the fact prevents the man from going.

These forms of speech are established by unanimous consent in practice.

"It remaineth that they who have wives, be as tho they _had_ none,
and they that weep, as tho they _wept_ not; and they that rejoice, as
tho they _rejoiced_ not; and they that buy, as tho they _possessed_
not."----1 Cor. vii. 29, 30.[116]

"Nay, and the villains march wide betwixt the legs, as if they _had_
gyves on."----1 Henry IV.

"We have not these antiquities; and if _we had_ them, they would add to
our uncertainty."----Bolingbroke on Hist. let. 3.

"Whereas, _had_ I (if I had) still the same woods to range in, which I
once _had_, when I was a fox hunter, I should not resign my manhood
for a maintenance."----Spect. No. 14.

"I confess I have not great taste for poetry; but if _I had_, I am apt
to believe I should read none but Mr. Pope's."[117]---- Shenstone on
Men and Manners.

Whatever these verbs may be in declaratory phrases, yet after the
conditional conjunctions _if_ and _tho_, they often express present
ideas, as in the foregoing examples. In such cases, this form of the
verb may be denominated the _hypothetical_ present tense. This would
distinguish it from the same form, when it expresses uncertainty in the
past time; for this circumstance must not be passed without notice.
Thus, "If he _had_ letters by the last mail," denotes the speaker's
uncertainty as to a past fact or event. But, "if _he had_ a book, he
would lend it," denotes a present certainty that he has it not. The
times referred to are wholly distinct.

As the practice of all writers and good speakers, and even of the
vulgar, is nearly uniform in the distinction here mentioned, it is
needless to produce more examples for illustration. One verb however
deserves a separate consideration; which is _be_. In the use of this
verb in the hypothetical sense, there is a difference between good
authors and common parlance; the first write _were_, but most people in
conversation say, _was_. Thus,

"Every rich man has usually some sly way of jesting, which would make
no great figure, _were_ he not rich."----Spect. No. 2.

"He will often argue, that if this part of our trade _were_ well
cultivated, we should gain from one nation," &c.---- Same.

"_Were_ I (if I were) a father, I should take a particular care to
preserve my children from these little horrors of imagination."----
Same, No. 12.

    "Nor think, tho men _were_ none,
    That heaven would want spectators, God want praise."

  Milton, P. L.

    "What then he _was_, oh, _were_ your Nestor now."

  Pope, Iliad, b. 7. 189.

"Yes, if the nature of a clock _were_ to speak, not strike."----Ben

    "Where the poor knave erroneously believes,
    If he _were_ rich, he would build churches, or
    Do such mad things."----Same.

_Were_, in these examples, is the same hypothetical present tense just
described, having not the least reference to the past.[118] But in
conversation, we generally hear _was_; "if I _was_ in his place;" "if
he _was_ here _now_," &c. and I observe that modern writers are copying
the general practice.

"If I _was_ not afraid of being thought to refine too much."--Boling.
Refl. on Exile.

Both these forms have such authorities to support them, that neither
can be considered as wholly incorrect; they are both English. But
custom will eventually establish the latter, _was_, as the hypothetical
form of the substantive verb. It is now almost universally used, except
in books; and the tide of general practice is irresistible.

The following examples will illustrate what has been advanced.

_Present time. Affirmative._

If he _has_ or _is_--denotes uncertainty. If he _had_ or _were_ or
_was_--denote certainty that he has not, or is not.


If he _has_ not or _is_ not--uncertainty. If he _had_ not, _were_ not
or _was_ not--certainty that he has or is.

_Past time. Affirm._

If he _had_ or _was_ yesterday--uncertainty. If he _had_ have,[119] or
_had_ been yesterday--certainty that he _had_ not, or _was_ not.


If he _had_ or _was_ not--uncertainty. If he _had_ not have, or _had_
not been--certainty that he had or was.[120]

I cannot close my remarks on the tenses of the English verb, without
noticing a common error, which must have sprung from inattention, and
is perhaps too general now to admit of correction. It is the use of
the past tense after another verb or _that_, when the sense requires a
change of tenses. Thus,

"Suppose I were to say, that to every art there _was_ a system of such
various and well approved principles."----Harris.

The first part of the sentence is hypothetical, _suppose I were to
say_; but the last becomes declaratory under the supposition, and
therefore the form of the verb should be changed to the present,
indicative, _that to every art there is a system_: For it must be
remarked that when the English speak of general existence, they use the
present time; as, truth _is_ great above all things; the scriptures
_are_ a rule of faith; the heavens _display_ the glory of the Lord. The
past or the future, in such cases, would be highly improper. Hence the
absurdity of the passage just quoted; the supposition is that every art
_has_ (generally--at all times) a system of principles.

"If the taxes laid by government _were_ the only ones we _had_ to pay."

The author's meaning is, "the only taxes we _have_ to pay;" and he
was probably led into the mistake by not understanding the preceding
hypothetical verb, _were_, which actually speaks of the present time

The error will be more striking in the following passages.

"If an atheist would well consider the arguments in this book, he would
confess there _was_ a God."

There _was_ a God! And why not confess that there _is_ a God? The
writer did not consider that the first part of the sentence is
_conditional_, and that the last ought to be _declaratory_ of a fact
always existing.

"Two young men have made a discovery that there _was_ a God."----
Swift's Arg. against Abolishing Christianity.

A curious discovery indeed! Were the Dean still alive, he might find
there _is_ a great inaccuracy in that passage of his works.

"Yet were we to use the same word, where the figure _was_ manifest, we
should use the preposition _from_."----Priestley, Gram. p. 158.

Here is the same error, and the author may live to correct it.

But of all this class of mistakes, the following is the most palpable.

"I am determined to live, as if there _was_ a _future_ life."----
Hammon, quoted by Price and Priestley.

Hammon is an atheist, and it would require the same abilities to
reconcile the two words _was future_, as to reconcile his principles
with the common sense of mankind.[121]

The following passage, from _Gregory's Comparative View of the State
and Faculties of Man_, is remarkable for this error.

"Men have been taught that they _did_ (do) God acceptable service,
by abstracting themselves from all the duties they _owed_ (owe) to
society; and by inflicting on themselves the severest tortures which
nature can support. They have been taught that it _was_ (is) their
duty," &c.

"And yet one would think that this _was_ the principal use of the study
of history."----Bolingbroke on Hist. letter 3.

A similar fault occurs in one of Mrs. Thale's letters to Dr. Johnson,
Aug. 9, 1775.

"--Yet I have always found the best supplement for talk _was_ writing."

So in Blackstone's Commentaries, book 1. chap. 7.

"It was observed in a former chapter, that one of the principal
bulwarks of civil liberty, or, in other words, of the British
constitution, _was_ the limitation of the king's prerogative."

The observation had been made in time past, but respecting a fact that
exists _now_, and at all times while the British constitution exists.
The sentence therefore should run thus; "it _was_ observed that one
principal bulwark of civil liberty, _is_ the limitation of the king's

No fault is more common; we every day hear such expressions as these;
"If I thought it _was_ so;" "suppose I should say she _was_ handsome;"
"I did not think it _was_ so late," &c. _Was_, in the first and last
examples, should be the infinitive, _to be_; and in the second, the
present time, _is_. Had proper attention been paid to our language, so
many palpable mistakes would not have crept into practice, and into
the most correct and elegant writings. Dr. Reid is perhaps the only
writer who has generally avoided this error.

The Greek and Roman writers were not guilty of such mistakes. Either
the varieties of inflection in their languages, or superior care in the
writers, made them attentive to the nice distinctions of time. In the
following passage, the translators of the Bible, by adhering closely to
the original, have avoided the common error before mentioned.

"I _knew_ thee that thou art an hard man."--Matth. xxv. 24. "~Egnôn
hoti sklêros ei anthrôpos~;" literally, _having
known_ that thou _art_ an hard man. So also ver. 26, "Thou wicked and
slothful servant, thou _knewest_ that I _reap_, where I sowed not;"
"~êdeis hoti therizô~." Had these passages been translated into the
careless stile of modern conversation, and even of many excellent
writings, they would have stood thus--"I knew thee that thou _wast_
an hard man"--"thou knewest that I _reaped_ where I sow not." But the
general character and conduct of the person mentioned in this parable,
are supposed to exist at all times while he is living; and this general
nature of the fact requires the verb to be in the present time. To
confirm this remark let the sentences be inverted; "thou art an hard
man, I knew thee to be such, or I knew it." "I reap where I sowed not,
thou knewest that." This is an indubitable evidence of the accuracy of
the translation.[122]

An inversion of the order of the sentence in the passages first
quoted, will show the common error in a most striking light.

"There _was_ a God, two young men have made that discovery." "Men _did_
God acceptable service, by abstracting themselves, &c. they have been
taught this; it _was_ their duty, they have been taught this." "The
taxes we _had_ to pay to government, if these were the only ones."
This will not make sense to a man who _has_ taxes _still_ to pay; the
writer's _had to pay_ will not discharge the public debt. But it is
unnecessary to multiply examples and arguments; the reader must be
already convinced that these errors exist, and that I ought not to have
been the first to notice them.

Sometimes this hypothetical tense is used with an infinitive for the
future. In the following passage it seems to be correct.

"I wish I _were_ to go to the Elysian fields, when I die, and then I
should not care if I _were_ to leave the world tomorrow."----Pope.

But the following are hardly vindicable.

"Suppose they _marched_ up to our mines with a numerous army, how could
they subsist for want of provision."----Moyle, Diss. on the Rev. of

"If they _foraged_ in small parties."----Same.

The sense is future, and therefore _should march_, _should forage_,
would have been more correct.

"I should not act the part of an impartial spectator, if I _dedicated_
the following papers to one who is not of the most consummate and
acknowleged merit."----Spect. Dedic.

_If I should dedicate_, would have been more accurate.

A similar fault occurs in the following passage.

    "If nature _thunder'd_ in his opening ears,
    And _stunn'd_ him with the music of the spheres."

  Pope, Essay on Man.

If nature _should thunder_ and _stun_ him, is the meaning.

There is another article that deserves to be mentioned; which is, the
use of a verb after _as_ or _than_, apparently without a nominative.

"This unlimited power is what the best legislators of all ages have
endeavored to deposit in such hands, as _would preserve_ the people
from rapine."----Swift, vol. 2. Contests, &c.

"_Would preserve_" seems to have no nominative, for _hands_ cannot be
inserted without changing the form of the sentence; _in those hands
which would preserve_.

"A hypocrite hath so many things to attend to, _as make_ his life a
very perplexed and intricate thing."----Tillotson.

This mode of expression is however well established and occasions no
obscurity. The truth is, _as_ is an article or relative equivalent to
_that_ or _which_; and the criticisms of Lowth on the conjunctions,
where he condemns the use of _as_ and _so_ in a number of instances,
prove that he knew nothing about the true meaning of these words. See
Diversions of Purley, page 283.

Another form of expression, peculiar to our language, is the
_participial noun_, a word derived from a verb, and having the
properties, both of a verb and a noun; as, "I heard of _his acquiring_
a large estate." _Acquiring_ here expresses the _act done_, the
acquisition; yet governs the following objective case, _estate_. When
a noun precedes the participle, it takes the sign of the possessive,
"I heard of a _man's acquiring_ an estate." This is the genuin English
idiom; and yet modern writers very improperly omit the sign of the
possessive, as, I heard of a _man acquiring_ an estate. This omission
often changes the sense of the phrase or leaves it ambiguous.

The omission of the sign of the possessive in the following example is
a very great fault.

"Of a general or public act, the courts of law are bound to take notice
judicially and _ex officio_, without the _statute being_ particularly
pleaded."----Blackstone Comment. vol. 1. p. 86.

The preposition _without_ here governs the phrase following, which
might otherwise be properly arranged thus, without _the particular
pleading of the statute_, or without _pleading the statute
particularly_. But as the sentence stands, there is nothing to show the
true construction, or how the sentence may be resolved: _Being_ and
_pleaded_ both stand as participles; whereas the construction requires
that they should be considered as standing for a noun; for _without_
does not govern _statute_; _without the statute_, is not the meaning of
the writer. But it governs _pleading_, or refers immediately to that
idea or union of ideas, expressed by _being particularly pleaded_. As
these last words represent a noun, which is immediately governed by
the preposition, _without_, the word _statute_ should have the sign of
the possessive, as much as any word in the genitive case, _without the
statute's being particularly pleaded_; that is, without the particular
pleading _of the statute_ by the parties; for in order to make grammar
or sense, _statute_ must be in the possessive.

To confirm these remarks, I would just add, that when we substitute a
pronoun in such cases, we always use the possessive case. Suppose the
word _statute_ had been previously used, in the sentence; the writer
then would have used the pronoun in the close of the sentence, thus;
"without _its_ being particularly pleaded;" and I presume that no
person will contend for the propriety of, "without _it_ being pleaded."

So we should say, "a judge will not proceed to try a criminal, without
_his_ being present." But would it be correct to say, without _him_
being present? This mode of speaking will not, I am confident, be
advocated: But unless I am mistaken, this last expression stands on a
footing with the example cited, _without the statute being pleaded_.
Numberless similar examples occur in those modern writers who aim at
refinement of language. "If we can admit the doctrine of the _stomach
having_ a general consent with the whole system."--"On account of the
_system being_ too highly toned," &c. It is strange the writers of such
language do not see that there are in fact two possessives in such
phrases--"on account _of_ the too high toning _of_ the system," and
that both should be expressed; thus, "on account _of_ the _system's_
being too high toned."

It may be questioned whether the verb _need_ may not with propriety be
used in the third person singular of the indicative, present, without
the usual termination of that person. Practice will at least warrant it.

"But tho the principle is to be applauded, the error cannot, and, in
this enlightened age, happily _need_ not be defended."----Erskine,
Orat. Temp. vol. 1. p. 95.

"Now a person _need_ but enter into himself and reflect on the
operations of his own mind."----Nugent's Burlamaqui, 1. I. 9.

"Hence it was adjudged, that the use _need_ not always be executed the
instant the conveyance is made."----Blackstone, Com. b. 2. chap. 20.

Numberless authorities of this kind may be produced; but we may spare
the trouble, and only advert to the constant practice of speakers of
every class; "he need not;" "it need not." Indeed, _he needs not_,
altho grammatically correct, is so offensive to most ears, that we have
little reason to expect people will be persuaded to use it.

The same may be said of _dare_; "he dare not."

_I am mistaken_, Lowth reprobates as bad English; asserting that the
phrase is equivalent to _I am misunderstood_. In this criticism the
Bishop _is mistaken_ most grossly. Whether the phrase is a corruption
of _am mistaking_ or not, is wholly immaterial; in the sense the
English have used it from time immemorial and universally, _mistaken_
is a mere adjective, signifying that one is in an error; and this sense
the Bishop should have explained, and not rejected the phrase.


The same author disapproves of _to_ after _averse_; another example of
his hasty decision. The practice of good writers and speakers is almost
wholly in favor of _to_, and this is good authority; the propriety of
the English particles depending almost solely on their use, without
any reference to Latin rules. _Averse_ is an adjective, describing a
certain state or quality of the mind, without regard to motion, and
therefore _averse from_ is as improper as _contrary from_, _opposed
from_, or _reluctant from_. Indeed in the original sense of _from_,
explained by Mr. Horne Tooke, as denoting _beginning_, _averse from_
appears to be nonsense.

The following phrases are said to be faulty; _previous to_,
_antecedent to_, with others of a similar nature. The criticism on
these expressions must have been made on a very superficial view of
the subject. In this sentence, "previous to the establishment of the
new government, the resolutions of Congress could not be enforced by
legal compulsory penalties;" _previous_ refers to the word _time_ or
something equivalent implied, _at the time previous_, or _during the
time or period, previous_ to the establishment of the new government.
This is the strict grammatical resolution of the phrase; and the
usual correction, _previously_, is glaringly absurd; _during the time
previously to the establishment_; into such wild errors are men led by
a slight view of things, or by applying the principles of one language
to the construction of another.[124]

"_Agreeable to his promise_, he sent me the papers;" here _agreeable_
is correct; for it refers to the fact done; he sent me the papers,
which sending was agreeable to his promise. In such cases, practice has
often a better foundation than the criticisms which are designed to
change it.

_According_ is usually numbered among the prepositions; but most
absurdly; it is always a participle, and has always a reference to
some noun or member of a sentence. "_According to his promise_, he
called on me last evening." Here _according_ refers to the whole
subsequent member of the sentence; "he called on me last evening, which
(the whole of which facts) was _according_ to his promise." No person
pretends that "_accordingly_ to his promise" is good English; yet the
phrase is not more incorrect than "_agreeably_ to his promise," or
"_previously_ to this event," which the modern critics and refiners of
our language have recommended.

"_Who_ do you speak _to_?" "_Who_ did he marry?" are challenged as bad
English; but _whom_ do you speak _to_? was never used in speaking, as
I can find, and if so, is hardly English at all. There is no doubt,
in my mind, that the English _who_ and the Latin _qui_, are the same
word with mere variations of dialect. _Who_, in the Gothic or Teutonic,
has always answered to the Latin nominative, _qui_; the dative _cui_,
which was pronounced like _qui_, and the ablative _quo_; in the same
manner as _whose_ has answered to _cujus_, in all genders; _whom_ to
_quem_, _quam_, and _what_ to _quod_. So that _who_ did he speak _to_?
_Who_ did you go _with_? were probably as good English, in ancient
times, as _cui dixit?_ _Cum quo ivisti?_ in Latin. Nay, it is more than
probable that _who_ was once wholly used in asking questions, even
in the objective case; _who_ did he marry? until some Latin student
began to suspect it bad English, because not agreeable to the Latin
rules. At any rate, _whom_ do you speak _to_? is a corruption, and all
the grammars that can be formed will not extend the use of the phrase
beyond the walls of a college.

The foregoing criticisms will perhaps illustrate and confirm an
assertion of Mr. Horne Tooke, that "Lowth has rejected much _good_
English." I should go farther and assert that he has criticized away
more phrases of _good_ English, than he has corrected of _bad_. He has
not only mistaken the true construction of many phrases, but he has
rejected others that have been used generally by the English nation
from the earliest times, and by arbitrary rules, substituted phrases
that have been rarely, or never used at all. To detect such errors, and
restrain the influence of such respectable names, in corrupting the
true idiom of our tongue, I conceive to be the duty of every friend to
American literature.

On examining the language, and comparing the practice of speaking
among the yeomanry of this country, with the stile of Shakespear and
Addison, I am constrained to declare that the people of America, in
particular the English descendants, speak the most _pure English_ now
known in the world. There is hardly a foreign idiom in their language;
by which I mean, a _phrase_ that has not been used by the best English
writers from the time of Chaucer. They retain a few obsolete _words_,
which have been dropt by writers, probably from mere affectation, as
those which are substituted are neither more melodious nor expressive.
In many instances they retain correct phrases, instead of which the
pretended refiners of the language have introduced those which are
highly improper and absurd.

Let Englishmen take notice that when I speak of the American yeomanry,
the latter are not to be compared to the illiterate peasantry of their
own country. The yeomanry of this country consist of substantial
independent freeholders, masters of their own persons and lords of
their own soil. These men have considerable education. They not only
learn to read, write and keep accounts; but a vast proportion of them
read newspapers every week, and besides the Bible, which is found in
all families, they read the best English sermons and treatises upon
religion, ethics, geography and history; such as the works of Watts,
Addison, Atterbury, Salmon, &c. In the eastern states, there are public
schools sufficient to instruct every man's children, and most of the
children are actually benefited by these institutions. The people of
distant counties in England can hardly understand one another, so
various are their dialects; but in the extent of twelve hundred miles
in America, there are very few, I question whether a hundred words,
except such as are used in employments wholly local, which are not
universally intelligible.

But unless the rage for imitating foreign changes can be restrained,
this agreeable and advantageous uniformity will be gradually destroyed.
The standard writers abroad give us local practice, the momentary whims
of the great, or their own arbitrary rules to direct our pronunciation;
and we, the apes of fashion, submit to imitate any thing we hear and
see. Sheridan has introduced or given sanction to more arbitrary and
corrupt changes of pronunciation, within a few years, than had before
taken place in a century; and in Perry's Dictionary, not to mention the
errors in what he most arrogantly calls his "_Only sure Guide_ to the
English Tongue," there are whole pages in which there are scarcely two
or three words marked for a just pronunciation. There is no Dictionary
yet published in Great Britain, in which so many of the analogies of
the language and the just rules of pronunciation are preserved, as in
the common practice of the well informed Americans, who have never
consulted any foreign standard. Nor is there any grammatical treatise,
except Dr. Priestley's, which has explained the real idioms of the
language, as they are found in Addison's works, and which remain to
this day in the American practice of speaking.

The result of the whole is, that we should adhere to our own practice
and general customs, unless it can be made very obvious that such
practice is wrong, and that a change will produce some considerable


[85] It is a dispute among grammarians, whether the interjection is
a part of speech; and the question, like many others upon similar
subjects, has employed more learning than common sense. The simple
truth is this; the involuntary sounds produced by a sudden passion, are
the language of nature which is subject only to nature's rules. They
are, in some degree, similar among all nations. They do not belong to a
grammatical treatise, any more than the looks of fear, surprise or any
other passion. The words, ah me! oh me! are mere exclamations, as are
bless me! my gracious! and numberless other sounds, which are uttered
without any precise meaning, and are not reduceable to any rules.

[86] See Dr. Edwards on the Mohegan tongue. New Haven. 1788.

[87] _While_ is an old Saxon noun, signifying _time_; and it is still
used in the same sense, _one while_, _all this while_. _Adown_ is of
uncertain origin. The Saxon _aduna_ cannot easily be explained. _Above_
is from an old word, signifying _head_. _Among_ is from the Saxon
_gemengan_ to mix. The etymology of the others is obvious.

[88] It has been remarked that _y_ and _g_ are gutturals which bear
nearly the same affinity to each other as _b_ and _p_. Thus it happens
that we find in old writings a _y_ in many words where _g_ is now used;
as _ayen_, _ayenst_, for again, against. Thus _bayonet_ is pronounced

[89] Four hundred years ago, the purest author wrote _sen_ or _sin_
which is now deemed vulgar:

    "Sin thou art rightful juge, how may it be,
    That thou wolt soffren innocence to spill,
    And wicked folk to regne in prosperitee?"

  Chaucer, Cant. Tales. 5234.

[90] _Out_ was originally a verb. So in the first line of the
celebrated Chevy Chace,

    "The Persé _owt_ of Northombarlande,
    And a vow to God made he," &c.

I have, in one or two instances, observed the use of it still among the
lower classes of people, in this country; and I find _outed_ in some
good writers, as late as Charles I.

[91] Mr. Horne remarks that the French word _mais_ was formerly used
in the sense of _more_, or _bot_. The English word _more_ was formerly
often spelt _mo_.

    "Telle me anon withouten wordes _mo_."

  Chaucer, Prol. to Cant. Tales, 810.

Is it not possible that _mo_ or _more_ and the French _mais_ may be
radically the same word?

The following passage will confirm the foregoing explanation of
_beutan_. It is taken from the Saxon version of the Gospels.---- Luke,
chap. 1. v. 74. of the original.

"Hæt we _butan_ ege of ure feonda handa alysede, him theowrian."

This version of the Gospels was doubtless as early as the tenth or
eleventh century. In Wickliff's version, made about three centuries
later, the passage stands thus: "That we _without_ drede, delyvered
fro the hand of oure enemyes, serve to him." Where we find _butan_ and
_without_ are synonimous.

The word _bot_ or _bote_ is still retained in the law language, as
_fire-bote_, _house-bote_; where it is equivalent to _enough_ or

[92] So in Mandeville's works. "And right as the schip men taken here
avys here, and govern hem _be_ the lode sterre, right so don schip men
bezonde the parties, _be_ the sterre of the Southe, the which apperethe
not to us."

[93] The French _oui_ is said to be a derivative or participle of
the verb _ouir_ to hear. The mode of assent therefore is by the word
_heard_; as what you say is _heard_; a mode equally expressive with the

[94] It is most probable that many of the English words beginning
with _wh_ are from the same original as the Latin qui, quæ, quod; and
both coeval with the Greek. Qui and who; quod and what; are from the
same root, and a blending of the Greek ~kai ho~ and ~kai hoti~. This
supposition is strongly supported by the ancient Scotch orthography of
_what_, _where_, &c. which was _quhat_, _quhar_.

[95] The termination _ly_, from _liche_, added to _adjectives_, forms
the part of speech called _adverbs_; as _great_, _greatly_; _gracious_,
_graciously_. But when this termination is added to a noun, it forms
an adjective, as God, _Godly_; heaven, _heavenly_; and these words are
also used adverbially; for they will not admit the addition of another
_ly_. _Godlily_, which has been sometimes used, that is, _Godlikelike_,
and other similar words, are not admissible, on any principle whatever.

[96] _Do_ and _to_ are undoubtedly from the same root; _d_ and _t_
being convertible letters.

[97] This word is not used in modern French; but its derivatives,
_avitailler_, _avitaillment_, &c. are still retained.

[98] Correspondence, letter 53.

[99] Some of these articles, in other languages, have names in the
singular number, as in Latin, _forceps_, pincers; _forfex_, sheers or
scissors; _follis_, bellows. In French, _souflet_ is singular, and
_pincettes_, plural. A _bellows_ is sometimes heard in English, and is
perfectly correct.

[100] Will the same authority justify our farmers in prefixing _pair_
to a sett of _bars_, and other people, in prefixing it to _stairs_,
when there are five or six of the former, and perhaps twenty of the
latter? A _pair of bars_, a _pair of stairs_, in strictness of speech,
are very absurd phrases; but perhaps it is better to admit such
anomalies, than attempt to change universal and immemorial practice.

[101] "The _King of England's court_, toto nempe illi aggregato. The
_King of England_, tamquam uni substantivo potponitur litera formativa

[102] Second part of the Grammatical Institute. Tit. Notes.

[103] Chaucer's Works, Glossary, p. 151.

[104] The Editor of Chaucer's Works before mentioned, remarks, "that
_a_, in composition with words of Saxon original, is an abbreviation
of _as_ or _of_, _at_, _on_ or _in_; and often a corruption of the
prepositive particle _ge_ or _y_." According to this writer, _a_ is any
thing and every thing; it has so many derivations and uses, that it has
no certain derivation or meaning at all. In the phrase _a coming_, _a_
seems now to be a mere expletive; but otherwise _a_, _one_, and _an_
have the same meaning in all cases.

[105] Lowth's Introduction. Tit. verb.

[106] _Run_, like many other verbs, may be used either transitively or
intransitively. Simply _to run_, is intransitive; _to run a horse_,

[107] Lowth observes a distinction between the verb _to will_, and the
auxiliary, _will_; the first being regularly inflected. _I will_, _thou
willest_, _he wills_, and the latter, _I will_, _thou will_, _he will_.
But altho this distinction actually exists in modern practice, yet the
words are, in both cases, the same--derived from the same root, and
still retaining nearly the same meaning.

[108] _If I were_, _thou wert_, _he were_, in the present hypothetical
tense of the subjunctive mode, are not used in the indicative.

[109] It has been before observed, that the common people have not
wholly lost this pronunciation, _woll_, to this day.

[110] See the second part of the Grammatical Institute. Appendix.

[111] It must be remembered that _be_ is the old original substantive
verb, and belongs to the indicative. _Am_ and _art_ are of later
introduction into English.

[112] Lowth's Introduction, p. 39. Note.

[113] "The present tense in English hath often the _sense of the
future_; as _when do you go out of town?_ I go tomorrow: that is, when
will you, shall you go? I shall go. _If you do well_, that is, shall
do well, you will be rewarded: _As soon as_, or _when you come there_;
that is, shall come, turn on your right hand: With these forms of
speaking, the verb is always placed in the future in Latin, Greek and
Hebrew."----Bayley's Intro. to Lan. Lit. and Phil. 99.

This critical writer has explained this mode of speaking with accuracy;
but it would be more correct to call this form of the verb, an
_elliptical future_, than to say, _the present tense has the sense of
the future_.

[114] So in the law stile. "If a man _die_ intestate;" "if a man
_die_ seised of an estate in fee;" "if Titius _enfeoff_ Gaius," &c.
are future; and in most such phrases used in translations from the
Latin and French, the verbs in the original are future. But in law the
same form is used in the present very frequently, agreeable to the
ancient practice. The reason may be, the convenience and necessity of
copying words and phrases with great exactness. But Blackstone, the
most accurate and elegant law writer, uses the other form, "if a man
_has_ heirs;" "if a good or valuable consideration _appears_;" and too
often, when the sense requires the future. He generally gives _be_ its
subjunctive form, as it is called, and most other verbs the indicative.

[115] In some instances, the time is present, and the ellipsis may be
supplied by _may_ or some other auxiliary.

[116] In the original, the participle of the present time is employed:
~hina kai echontes gynaikas, hôs mê echontes~; and so in the other
instances. The Greek is correct; "those _having_ wives as _not having_
them." The translation is agreeable enough to the English idiom; but
the verbs represent the present time.

[117] A similar use of the verb occurs after _wish_; "_I wish I had_
my estate _now_ in possession;" this would be expressed in Latin.
_Utinam me habere_, using the present of the infinitive, or _Utinam ut
haberem_; but this Imperfect tense of the Subjunctive, both in Latin
and French, is used to convey the same ideas as English verbs after if;
_if I had_, _si haberem_, _si j'aurois_, and whatever may be the name
annexed to this form of the verb, it cannot, in the foregoing sense,
have any reference to past time.

The common phrases, _I had rather_, _he had better_, are said to be a
corruption of _I would rather_, _he would better_, rapidly pronounced,
_I'd rather_. I am not satisfied that this is a just account of their
origin; _would_ will not supply the place of _had_ in all cases. At any
rate, the phrases have become good English.

[118] The following translation of a passage in Cicero is directly
in point. "Vivo tamen in ea ambitione et labore tanquam id, quod non
postulo, _expectem_."----Cicero ad Quintum. 2. 15.

"I live still in such a course of ambition and fatigue, as if _I were
expecting_ what I do not really desire."----Middleton, Life of Cicero,
vol. 2. p. 97.

Here _tanquam expectem_ are rendered very justly, "as if I _were_
expecting;" _now_, in present time, agreeable to the original. The
words carry a negative: _if I were expecting_, implying, that _I do not

[119] This tense is not admitted to be good English; yet is often used
in speaking; the _have_ being contracted or corrupted into _a_, _had a
written_, _if he had a received_.

[120] We have derived our substantive verb from two radical verbs;
_beon_, whence come the English _be_, and the German _bist_; and
_weorthan_, to be or _become_, fieri; from which probably, the Danes
have their _varer_, and the English their _were_.

[121] The great source of these errors is this: Grammarians have
considered _that_ as a conjunction, and supposed that "conjunctions
couple like cases and modes;" a Latin rule that does not always hold
in English. But Mr. Horne Tooke has clearly proved the word _that_ to
be always a relative pronoun: It always relates to a word or sentence;
and the reason why grammarians have called it a conjunction, may be
this; they could not find any word to govern it as a relative, and
therefore did not know what to do with it. But it is in fact a relative
word, thus, "two men have made a discovery;" this is one assertion.
What discovery? "_that_ or _this_ is the discovery;" the word _that_
carrying the force of a complete affirmation; "there _was_ a God." Here
we see the absurdity of Swift's declaration and the common notions of a
subjunctive mode. There is no subjunctive; in strictness of speech, all
sentences are resolvable into distinct declaratory phrases. "There _is_
a God;" "two young men have discovered _that_;" so the sentence should
be written to show the true construction.

[122] A passage in Dr. Middleton's Life of Cicero, is remarkably
accurate; "The celebrated orator, L. Cassius, died of the same disease
(the pleurisy,) which might probably be then, as I _was_ told in Rome
it _is now_, the peculiar distemper of the place." _Was_ refers to time
completely _past_; but _is_ declares a fact that exists generally, at
all times; the verb is therefore in the present tense, or as Harris
terms it,[123] the _aorist of the present_. So also in Dr. Reid's
Essays, vol. 1. p. 18. "Those philosophers _held_, that there _are_
three first principles of all things;" which is correct English.
"Aristotle _thought_ every object of human understanding _enters_ at
first by the senses."--Page 110. The following passage is equally
correct. "There is a courage depending on nerves and blood, which _was_
improved to the highest pitch among the Greeks."----Gillies, Hist. of
Greece, vol. 1. p. 248. This courage is derived from the constitution
of the human body; it exists therefore at _all times_; and had our
author said, "there _was_ a courage depending on nerves and blood,
which the Greeks _improved_ to the highest pitch," the sense would
have been left imperfect. Here then we see the indefinite use of this
form of the present tense; for were the verb is, in the foregoing
example, limited to time _now present_, it would make the author write
nonsense; it being absurd to say, "the Greeks 2000 years ago _improved_
a courage which exists only _at the present time_." So that verbs, in
the _present_ tense, express facts that have an uninterrupted existence
in _past_, _present_, and _future_ time.

[123] Hermes, page 123.

[124] _Previous_ may be vindicated on another principle; viz. by
considering it as qualifying the whole subsequent member of the
sentence. "The resolutions of Congress could not be enforced by legal
penalties; this _fact_ was _previous_ to the establishment," &c. But
the other is the real construction.



     _Of the Construction of English Verse.--Pauses.--Expression.--Of
     reading Verse._




As poetry has ever been numbered among the _fine arts_, and
has employed the pens of the first geniuses in all nations, an
investigation of the subject must be gratifying to readers of taste.
And it must be the more agreeable, as it has been much neglected, and
the nature and construction of English verse have frequently been

Most prosodians who have treated particularly of this subject, have
been guilty of a fundamental error, in considering the movement of
English verse as depending on long and short syllables, formed by
long and short vowels. This hypothesis has led them into capital
mistakes. The truth is, many of those syllables which are considered
as _long_ in verse, are formed by the shortest vowels in the language;
as _strength_, _health_, _grand_. The doctrine, that long vowels are
requisite to form long syllables in poetry, is at length exploded, and
the principles which regulate the movement of our verse, are explained;
viz. _accent_ and _emphasis_. Every emphatical word, and every
accented syllable, will form what is called in verse, a long syllable.
The unaccented syllables, and unemphatical monosyllabic words, are
considered as short syllables.

But there are two kinds of emphasis; a natural emphasis, which arises
from the importance of the idea conveyed by a word; and an accidental
emphasis, which arises from the importance of a word in a particular

The first or natural emphasis belongs to all nouns, verbs, participles
and adjectives, and requires no elevation of voice; as,

    "Not _half_ so _swift_ the _tremb_ling _doves_ can _fly_."

The last or accidental emphasis is laid on a word when it has some
particular meaning, and when the force of a sentence depends on it;
this therefore requires an elevation of voice; as,

    "Perdition catch my soul--but I _do_ love thee."

So far the prosody of the English language seems to be settled; but
the rules laid down for the construction of verse, seem to have been
imperfect and disputed.

Writers have generally supposed that our heroic verse consists of five
feet, all pure Iambics, except the first foot, which they allow may be
a Trochee. In consequence of this opinion, they have expunged letters
from words which were necessary; and curtailed feet in such a manner as
to disfigure the beauty of printing, and in many instances, destroyed
the harmony of our best poetry.

The truth is, so far is our heroic verse from being confined to the
Iambic measure, that it admits of eight feet, and in some instances of
nine. I will not perplex my readers with a number of hard names, but
proceed to explain the several feet, and show in what places of the
line they are admissible.

An Iambic foot, which is the ground of English numbers, consists of
two syllables, the first _short_ and the second _long_. This foot is
admitted into every place of the line. Example, all Iambics.

    "Wh[)e]re sl[=a]ves [)o]nce m[=o]re th[)e]ir n[=a]t[)i]ve l[=a]nd
    N[)o] fi[=e]nds t[)o]rm[=e]nt, n[)o] chr[=i]sti[)a]ns th[=i]rst,
      f[)o]r g[=o]ld."


The Trochee is a foot consisting of two syllables, the first _long_ and
the second _short_. Example.

    "_W[=a]rms_ [)i]n the sun, refreshes in the breeze,
    _Glows in_ the stars, and blossoms in the trees."


The Trochee is not admissible into the second place of the line;
but in the third and fourth it may have beauty, when it creates a
correspondence between the sound and sense.

    "Eve rightly call'd _m[=o]th[)e]r_ of all mankind."

    "And staggered by the stroke, _dr[=o]ps th[)e]_ large ox."

The Spondee is a foot consisting of two long syllables. This may be
used in any place of the line.

    1. "_G[=o]od l[=i]fe_ be now my task, my doubts are done."


    2. "As some _l[=o]ne mo[=u]nt_ain's monstrous growth he stood."


But it has a greater beauty, when preceded by a Trochee.

    "L[=o]ad th[)e] _t[=a]ll b[=a]rk_ and launch into the main."

    3. "The mountain goats _c[=a]me b[=o]und_ing o'er the lawn."

    4. "He spoke, and speaking in _pr[=o]ud tr[=i]_umph spread,
       The long contended honors of her head."


    5. "Singed are his brows, the scorching lids _gr[=o]w bl[=a]ck_."


The Pyrrhic is a foot of two short syllables; it is graceful in the
first and fourth places, and is admissible into the second and third.

    1. "_N[)o]r [)i]n_ the helpless orphan dread a foe."


    2.           ----"On they move,
       Indis_s[)o]l[)u]_bly firm."----Milton.

    3. "The two extremes appear like man and wife,
       Coupled togeth_[)e]r f[)o]r_ the sake of strife."


But this foot is most graceful in the fourth place.

    "The dying gales that pant _[)u]p[)o]n_ the trees."

    "To farthest shores the ambrosial spirit flies,
    Sweet to the world and grate_f[)u]l t[)o]_ the skies."

The Amphibrach is a foot of three syllables, the first and third short,
and the second long. It is used in heroic verse only when we take the
liberty to add a short syllable to a line.

    "The piece you say is incorrect, _wh[)y] t[=a]ke [)i]t_,
    I'm all submission, what you'd have _[)i]t, m[=a]ke [)i]t_."

This foot is hardly admissible in the solemn or sublime stile. Pope has
indeed admitted it into his Essay on Man:

    "What can ennoble sots or slaves [)o]r c[=o]w[)a]rds,
    Alas! not all the blood of all th[)e] H[=o]w[)a]rds."


    "To sigh for ribbands, if thou art s[)o] s[=i]ll[)y],
    Mark how they grace Lord Umbra or S[)i]r B[=i]ll[)y]."

But these lines are of the high burlesque kind, and in this stile the
Amphibrach closes lines with great beauty.

The Tribrach is a foot of three syllables, all short; and it may be
used in the third and fourth places.

    "And rolls impet_[)u]o[)u]s t[)o]_ the subject plain."

Or thus:

    "And thunders down impet_[)u]o[)u]s t[)o]_ the plain."

The Dactyl, a foot of three syllables, the first long and the two last
short, is used principally in the first place in the line.

    "_F[=u]r[)i]o[)u]s_ he spoke, the angry chief replied."

    "_M[=u]rm[)u]r[)i]ng_, and with him fled the shades of night."

The Anapæst, a foot consisting of three syllables, the two first short
and the last long, is admissible into every place of the line.

    "C[)a]n [)a] b[=o]s[)o]m s[)o] g[=e]ntl[)e] r[)e]m[=a]in,
    Unmoved when her Corydon sighs?
    Will a nymph that is fond of the plains,
    These plains and these valleys despise?
    Dear regions of silence and shade,
    Soft scenes of contentment and ease,
    Where I could have pleasingly stay'd,
    If ought in her absence could please."

The trissyllabic feet have suffered most by the general ignorance of
critics; most of them have been mutilated by apostrophes, in order to
reduce them to the Iambic measure.

Thus in the line before repeated,

    "_Murmuring_, and with him fled the shades of night,"

we find the word in the copy reduced to two syllables, _murm'ring_, and
the beauty of the Dactyl is destroyed.

Thus in the following:

    "On every side with shadowy squadrons deep,"

by apostrophizing _every_ and _shadowy_, the line loses its harmony.
The same remark applies to the following:

    "And hosts infuriate shake the shudd'ring plain."

    "But fashion so directs, and moderns raise
    On fashion's _mould'ring_ base, their transient praise."


Poetic lines which abound with these trissyllabic feet, are the most
flowing and melodious of any in the language; and yet the poets
themselves, or their printers, murder them with numberless unnecessary

It requires but little judgement and an ear indifferently accurate, to
distinguish the contractions which are necessary, from those which are
needless and injurious to the versification. In the following passage
we find examples of both.

    "She went from op'ra, park, assembly, play,
    To morning walks and pray'rs three times a day;
    To part her time 'twixt reading and bohea,
    To muse and spill her solitary tea;
    Or o'er cold coffee trifle with the spoon,
    Count the slow clock, and dine exact at noon;
    Divert her eyes with pictures in the fire,
    Hum half a tune, tell stories to the 'squire;
    Up to her godly garret after sev'n,
    There starve and pray, for that's the way to heav'n."

  Pope's Epistles.

Here _e_ in _opera_ ought not to be apostrophized, for such a
contraction reduces an Amphibrachic foot to an Iambic. The words
_prayers_, _seven_ and _heaven_ need not the apostrophe of _e_; for
it makes no difference in the pronunciation. But the contraction of
_over_ and _betwixt_ is necessary; for without it the measure would be


Having explained the several kinds of feet, and shown in what places
of a verse they may be used, I proceed to another important article,
the pauses. Of these there are two kinds, the _cesural_ pause, which
divides the line into two equal or unequal parts; and the _final_ pause
which closes the verse. These pauses are called _musical_, because
their sole end is the melody of verse.

The pauses which mark the sense, and for this reason are denominated
_sentential_, are the same in verse as in prose. They are marked by the
usual stops, a comma, a semicolon, a colon, or a period, as the sense
requires, and need no particular explanation.

The cesural pause is not essential to verse, for the shorter kinds of
measure are without it; but it improves both the melody and the harmony.

Melody in music is derived from a succession of sounds; harmony from
different sounds in concord. A single voice can produce melody; a union
of voices is necessary to form harmony. In this sense harmony cannot
be applied to verse, because poetry is recited by a single voice.
But harmony may be used in a figurative sense, to express the effect
produced by observing the proportion which the members of verse bear to
each other.[125]

The cesural pause may be placed in any part of the verse; but has the
finest effect upon the melody, when placed after the second or third
foot, or in the middle of the third. After the second:

    "In what retreat, inglorious and unknown,
    Did genius sleep, when dulness seized the throne."

After the third:

    "O say what stranger cause, yet unexplored,
    Could make a gentle belle reject a lord?"

In the middle of the third:

    "Great are his perils, in this stormy time,
    Who rashly ventures, on a sea of rhime."

In these examples we find a great degree of melody, but not in all the
same degree. In comparing the divisions of verse, we experience the
most pleasure in viewing those which are equal; hence those verses
which have the pause in the middle of the third foot, which is the
middle of the verse, are the most melodious. Such is the third example

In lines where the pause is placed after the second foot, we perceive
a smaller degree of melody, for the divisions are not equal; one
containing four syllables, the other six, as in the first example.

But the melody in this example, is much superior to that of the verses
which have the cesural pause after the third foot; for this obvious
reason: When the pause bounds the second foot, the latter part of the
verse is the greatest, and leaves the most forcible impression upon the
mind; but when the pause is at the end of the third foot, the order is
reversed. We are fond of proceeding from small to great, and a climax
in sound, pleases the ear in the same manner as a climax in sense
delights the mind. Such is the first example.

It must be observed further, that when the cesural pause falls after
the second and third feet, both the final and cesural pauses are on
accented syllables; whereas when the cesural pause falls in the middle
of the third foot, this is on a weak syllable, and the final pause, on
an accented syllable. This variety in the latter, is another cause of
the superior pleasure we derive from verses divided into equal portions.

The pause may fall in the middle of the fourth foot; as,

    "Let favor speak for others, worth for me;"

but the melody, in this case, is almost lost. At the close of the first
foot, the pause has a more agreeable effect.

    "That's vile, should we a parent's fault adore,
    And err, because our fathers err'd before?"

In the middle of the second foot, the pause may be used, but produces
little melody.

    "And who but wishes to invert the laws
    Of order, sins against the eternal cause."

Harmony is produced by a proportion between the members of the same
verse, or between the members of different verses. Example.

    "Thy forests, Windsor, and thy green retreats,
    At once the monarch's, and the muse's seats,
    Invite my lays. Be present sylvan maids,
    Unlock your springs, and open all your shades."

Here we observe, the pause in the first couplet, is in the middle
of the third foot; both verses are in this respect similar. In the
last couplet, the pause falls after the second foot. In each couplet
separately considered, there is a uniformity; but when one is compared
with the other, there is a diversity. This variety produces a pleasing
effect.[126] The variety is further encreased, when the first lines
of several succeeding couplets are uniform as to themselves, and
different from the last lines, which are also uniform as to themselves.
Churchill, speaking of reason, lord chief justice in the court of man,
has the following lines.

    "Equally form'd to rule, in age and youth,
    The friend of virtue, and the guide to youth;
    To _her_ I bow, whose sacred power I feel;
    To _her_ decision, make my last appeal;
    Condemn'd by _her_, applauding worlds in vain
    Should tempt me to take up my pen again;
    By _her_ absolv'd, the course I'll still pursue;
    If _Reason_'s for me, _God_ is for me too."

The first line of three of these couplets, has the pause after the
second foot; in this consists their similarity. The last line in three
of them, has the pause in the middle of the third foot; they are
uniform as to themselves, but different from the foregoing lines. This
passage, which on the whole is very beautiful, suffers much by the
sixth line, which is not verse, but rather hobbling prose.[127]

The foregoing remarks are sufficient to illustrate the use and
advantages of the cesural pause.

The final pause marks the close of a line or verse, whether there is
a pause in the sense or not. Sentential pauses should be marked by a
variation of tone; but the final pause, when the close of one line is
intimately connected with the beginning of the next, should be merely a
suspension of the voice without elevation or depression. Thus:

    "Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit
    Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste
    Brought death into the world, and all our woe," &c.

When these lines are read without a pause after the words _fruit_
and _taste_, they degenerate into prose. Indeed in many instances,
particularly in blank verse, the final pause is the only circumstance
which distinguishes verse from prose.


One article more in the construction of verse deserves our observation,
which is _Expression_. Expression consists in such a choice and
distribution of poetic feet as are best adapted to the subject, and
best calculated to impress sentiments upon the mind. Those poetic feet,
which end in an accented syllable, are the most forcible. Hence the
Iambic measure is best adapted to solemn and sublime subjects. This is
the measure of the Epic, of poems on grave moral subjects, of elegies,
&c. The Spondee, a foot of two long syllables, when admitted into the
Iambic measure, adds much to the solemnity of the movement.

    "While the clear sun, rejoicing still to rise,
    In pomp _rolls round_ immeasurable skies."


The Dactyl, _rolls round_, expresses beautifully the majesty of the sun
in his course.

It is a general rule, that the more important syllables there are in a
passage, whether of prose or verse, the more heavy is the stile. For

    "A past, vamp'd, future, old, reviv'd new piece."

    "Men, bearded, bald, cowl'd, uncowl'd, shod, unshod."

Such lines are destitute of melody and are admissible only when they
suit the sound to the sense. In the high burlesque stile, of which
kind is Pope's Dunciad, they give the sentiment an ironical air of
importance, and from this circumstance derive a beauty. On the other
hand, a large proportion of unaccented syllables or particles, deprives
language of energy; and it is this circumstance principally which in
prose constitutes the difference between the grave historical, and the
familiar stile. The greatest number of long syllables ever admitted
into a heroic verse, is seven, as in the foregoing; the smallest number
is three.

    "Or to a s[=a]d var[=i]ety of w[=o]e."

The Trochaic measure, in which every foot closes with a weak syllable,
is well calculated for lively subjects.

    "Softly sweet in Lydian measures
    Soon he sooth'd his soul to pleasures;
    War he sung is toil and trouble,
    Honor but an empty bubble," &c.

The Anapæstic measure, in which there are two short syllables to one
long, is best adapted to express the impetuosity of passion or action.
Shenstone has used it to great advantage, in his inimitable pastoral
ballad. It describes beautifully the strong and lively emotions which
agitate the lover, and his anxiety to please, which continually hurries
him from one object and one exertion to another.

    "I have found out a gift for my fair,
    I have found where the wood pigeons breed;
    Yet let me that plunder forbear,
    She will say 'twas a barbarous deed.
    For he ne'er could prove true, she averr'd,
    Who could rob a poor bird of her young:
    And I lov'd her the more when I heard
    Such tenderness fall from her tongue."

The Amphibrachic measure, in which there is a long syllable between two
short ones, is best adapted to lively comic subjects; as in Addison's

          "Since conjugal passion
          Has come into fashion,
    And marriage so blest on the throne is,
          Like Venus I'll shine,
          Be fond and be fine,
    And Sir Trusty shall be my Adonis."

Such a measure gives sentiment a ludicrous air, and consequently is ill
adapted to serious subjects.

Great art may be used by a poet in choosing words and feet adapted to
his subject. Take the following specimen.

      "Now here, now there, the warriors fall; amain
    Groans murmur, armor sounds, and shouts convulse the plain."

The feet in the last line are happily chosen. The slow Spondee, in the
beginning of the verse, fixes the mind upon the dismal scene of woe;
the solemnity is heightened by the pauses in the middle of the second
and at the end of the third foot. But when the poet comes to shake the
plains, he closes the line with three forcible Iambics.

Of a similar beauty take the following example.

    "She all night long, her amorous descant sung."

The poet here designs to describe the length of the night, and the
music of the Nightingale's song. The first he does by two slow
Spondees, and the last by four very rapid syllables.

The following lines, from Gray's Elegy, written in a country church
yard, are distinguished by a happy choice of words.

    "For who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey,
    This pleasing anxious being e'er resign'd?
    Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
    Nor cast one _longing lingering_ look behind?"

The words _longing_ and _lingering_ express most forcibly the
reluctance with which mankind quit this state of existence.

Pope has many beauties of this kind.

    "And grace and reason, sense and virtue split,
    With all the rash dexterity of wit."

The mute consonants, with which these lines end, express the idea of
_rending asunder_, with great energy and effect. The words _rash_ and
_dexterity_ are also judiciously chosen.

In describing the delicate sensations of the most refined love, he
is remarkable for his choice of smooth flowing words. There are some
passages in his Eloisa and Abelard, which are extended to considerable
length, without a single mute consonant or harsh word.


With respect to the art of reading verse, we can lay down but a few
simple rules; but these may perhaps be useful.

1. Words should be pronounced as they are in prose and in conversation;
for reading is but rehearsing another's conversation.

2. The emphasis should be observed as in prose. The voice should
bound from accent to accent, and no stress should be laid on little
unimportant words, nor on weak syllables.

3. The sentential pauses should be observed as in prose; these are not
affected by the kind of writing, being regulated entirely by the sense.
But as the cesural and final pauses are designed to encrease the melody
of verse, the strictest attention must be paid to them in reading. They
mark a suspension of voice without rising or falling.

To read prose well it is necessary to understand what is read; and to
read poetry well, it is further necessary to understand the structure
of verse. For want of this knowlege, most people read all verse like
the Iambic measure. The following are pure Iambics.

    "Above how high progressive life may go!
    Around how wide, how deep extend below!"

It is so easy to lay an accent on every second syllable, that any
school boy can read this measure with tolerable propriety. But the
misfortune is, that when a habit of reading this kind of meter is once
formed, persons do not vary their manner to suit other measures. Thus
in reciting the following line,

    "Load _the_ tall _bark_, and launch in_to_ the main,"

many people would lay the accent on every second syllable; and thus
read, our poetry becomes the most monotonous and ridiculous of all
poetry in the world.

Let the following line be repeated without its pauses, and it loses its
principal beauty.

    "Bold, as a hero,, as a virgin, mild."

So in the following.

    "Reason, the card,, but passion, is the gale."

    "From storms, a shelter,, and from heat, a shade."

The harmony is, in all these instances, improved much by the
semipauses, and at the same time the sense is more clearly understood.

Considering the difficulty of reading verse, I am not surprised to find
but few who are proficients in this art. A knowlege of the structure
of verse, of the several kinds of feet, of the nature and use of the
final, the cesural and the semicesural pauses, is essential to a
graceful manner of reading poetry; and even this, without the best
examples, will hardly effect the purpose. It is for this reason, that
children should not be permitted to read poetry of the more difficult
kind, without the best examples for them to imitate. They frequently
contract, in early life, either a monotony or a sing song cant, which,
when grown into a habit, is seldom ever eradicated.



[125] Sheridan's Art of Reading.

[126] Sheridan.

[127] Churchill has improved English versification, but was sometimes
too incorrect. It is a remark of some writer, "That the greatest
geniuses are seldom correct," and the remark is not without foundation.
Homer, Shakespear, and Milton, were perhaps the greatest geniuses that
ever lived, and they were certainly guilty of the greatest faults.
Virgil and Pope were much inferior in point of genius, but excelled
in accuracy. Churchill had genius, but his contempt of rules made him
sometimes indulge a too great latitude of expression.





[A], page 42, Text.

The author of the "Specimen of an Etymological Vocabulary," asserts
that "the Celtic was demonstrably the origin of the Greek and Latin; of
most, if not all the languages of Europe; of part of Africa and the two

Mons. Gebelin, who has, with great industry, investigated the origin
of the European languages, is of opinion that the Celtic was spoken
from the borders of the Hellespont to the ocean, and from Troy to Cape
Finisterre and Ireland. "La langue Celtique, dans son sens le plus
extendu, est la langue que parlerent les premiers habitans de l'Europe,
depuis les rives de l'Hellespont & de la Mer Egée, jusques a celle de
l'Ocean; depuis le cap Sigée aux portes de Troie, jusques au cap de
Finisterre en Portugal, ou jusques en Irelande."----Dis. Prelim. art.

From this language, he says, sprung the Greek or Pelasgic, prior to
Hesiod and Homer--the Latin or that of Numa--the Etruscan, spoken in
a considerable part of Italy--the Thracian, spoken on the Danube, from
the Euxine to the Adriatic sea, which was the same as the Phrygian--the
Teutonic or German, spoken from the Vistula to the Rhine--the Gaulish,
spoken on the Alps, in Italy, on this side the Po, and from the Rhine
to the Ocean, including France, the Low Countries, Switzerland,
Alemain, and the two Bretagnes--also the Cantabrian, or ancient
language of Spain--in short, the Runic, spoken in the North, Denmark,
Sweden, &c.

The only pure remains of this primitive Celtic, the same author
supposes, are found in Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany in France, where
the people still speak dialects of a language which is proved to be the
ancient British.

"Separes ainsi du reste de l'univers, ces debris des anciens Celtes
ont conservé leurs anciens usages, & parlent une langue qui n'a aucun
rapport a celles des peuples qui les ont subjugués, & qui s'est
partagée en trois dialectes, le Gallois, le Cornouaillien, & le Bas
Breton; dialectes qui ont entr'eux le plus grand rapport, & qui sont
incontestablement les precieux restes de l'ancienne langue des Celtes
ou des Gaulois."----Dis. Prelim.

"Separated from the rest of the world, these remains of the ancient
Celts have preserved their ancient customs, and speak a language which
_has no agreement with those of their conquerors_, and which is divided
into three dialects, the Welsh, the Cornish, and the Armoric--dialects
which have a close affinity with each other, and which are, beyond
dispute, the precious remains of the ancient Celtic or Gaulish

In this passage the author seems to contradict what he had just before
advanced, that the Celtic was the primitive language of Europe,
from which sprung the Gothic or German. Now the Franks, Normans and
Saxons, who subdued Gaul and Britain, spoke dialects of the Gothic;
consequently there must have been, upon our author's own hypothesis,
some agreement between the ancient Celtic and the more modern languages
of the Goths, Saxons, and other northern conquerors of the Celtic
nations. This agreement will appear, when I come to collate a number of
words in the different languages.

Many learned men have attempted to prove that the Northern Goths and
Teutones, and the Celts who lived in Gaul and Britain, were originally
the same people. Mons. Mallet, the celebrated historian, has composed
his "Introduction to the History of Denmark" upon this hypothesis. His
translator is of a different opinion, and has generally substituted the
English word "Gothic" for the "Celtique" of the original. In a preface
to his translation, he endeavors to confute the opinion of Mons.
Mallet, Cluverius, Pellutier and others, and prove that the Gothic and
Celtique nations were _ab origine_ two distinct races of men. Great
erudition is displayed on both sides of the question, and those who
have a taste for enquiries of this kind, will receive much satisfaction
and improvement, in reading what these authors have written upon the

After a close examination, I freely declare myself an advocate for the
opinion of Mons. Mallet, Lhuyd, and Pellutier, who suppose the Celts
and Goths to be descended from the same original stock. The separation
however must have been very early, and probably as early as the first
age after the flood. To say that the Gothic and Celtique languages have
_no affinity_, would be to contradict the most positive proofs; yet the
affinity is very small--discoverable only in a few words.

The modern English, Danish, Swedish and German are all unquestionably
derived from the same language; they have been spoken by distinct
tribes, probably not two thousand years, and almost one half of
that period, the sounds have been in some measure fixed by written
characters, yet the languages are become so different as to be
unintelligible, each to those who speak the other. But, suppose two
languages separated from the parent tongue, two thousand years earlier,
and to be spoken, thro the whole of that time, by rude nations,
unacquainted with writing, and perpetually roving in forests, changing
their residence, and liable to petty conquests, and it is natural to
think their affinity must become extremely obscure. This seems to have
been the fact with respect to the Gothic and Celtic tongues. The common
parent of both was the Phenician or Hebrew. This assertion is not made
on the sole authority of Moses; profane history and etymology furnish
strong arguments to prove the truth of the scripture account of the
manner in which the world was peopled from one flock or family. Of
these two ancient languages, the Celtic or British comes the nearest
to the Hebrew, for which perhaps substantial reasons will be assigned.
The Gothic bears a greater affinity to the Greek and Roman, as being
derived through the ancient Ionic or Pelasgic, from the Phenician.

Lhuyd, a celebrated and profound antiquary, remarks, Arch. Brit. page
35. "It is a common error in etymology to endeavor the deriving all
the radical words of our western European languages from the Latin
and Greek; or indeed to derive constantly the primitives of any one
language from any particular tongue. When we do this, we seem to forget
that all have been subject to alterations; and that the greater and
more polite any nation is, the more subject, (partly for improvement,
and partly out of a luxurious wantonness) to new model their language.
We must therefore necessarily allow, that whatever nations were of
the neighborhood and of one common origin with the Greeks and Latins,
when they began to distinguish themselves for politeness, they must
have preserved their languages (which could differ from theirs only
in dialects) much better than they; and consequently no absurdity
to suppose a great many words of the language, spoken by the old
aborigines, the Osci, the Læstrigones, the Ausonians, Ænotrians,
Umbrians and Sabines, out of which the Latin was composed, to have been
better preserved in the Celtic than in the Roman. "Lingua Hetrusca,
Phrygia, Celtica (says the learned Stiernhelm) affines sunt omnes;
ex uno fonte derivatæ. Nec Græca longe distat, Japheticæ sunt omnes;
ergo et ipsa Latina. Non igitur mirium est innumera vocabula dictarum
Linguarum communia esse cum Latinis." And that being granted, it must
also be allowed that the Celtic (as well as all other languages) has
been best preserved by such of their colonies, as, from the situation
of their country, have been the least subject to foreign invasions.
Whence it proceeds that we always find the ancient languages are best
retained in mountains and islands."

The result of this doctrine is, that the primitive Celtic was
preserved, in greatest purity, in Britain, before the Roman and Saxon
conquests, and since those periods, in Wales and Cornwall. Hence the
affinity between the Hebrew and British, which will afterward appear.

Wallis remarks that it is doubtful whether many words in the English
and German languages are derived from the Latin, or the Latin from the
Teutonic, or whether all were derived from the same stock. "Multas
autem voces, quæ nobis cum Germanis fere sunt communes, dubium est an
prisci olim Teutones a Latinis, an hi ab illis, aut denique utrique ab
eodem commune fonte, acceperint."----Gram. Cap. 14.

But I presume that history, as well as etymology, will go far in
solving the doubt, and incline us to believe that the Teutonic, Greek
and Latin were all children of the same parent tongue.

We first hear of men in the mild climate of Asia Minor, and about the
head of the Mediterranean. Soon after the flood, the inhabitants began
to migrate into distant countries. Some of them went northward and
settled in Bactriania and Hyrcania, thence extending westward along the
shores of the Caspian sea into Armenia. From these Asiatic colonies,
sprung the Scythians and the numerous tribes that afterwards covered
the territory of modern Russia, Sweden and Denmark. The different
tribes or hordes of these people were called Cimbri, (perhaps from
Gomer) Galli, Umbri, &c. and settled the northern parts of Europe as
far as the Rhine.

The northern Greek countries, Thrace and Mysia, were peopled by the
descendants of Tiras or Thiras, a son of Japhet. The whole country from
Thrace to Peloponnesus was inhabited by the posterity of Javan and
Cittim; indeed Ionia, the ancient name of Greece, seems to be derived
from Javan, _J_ or _I_ being anciently pronounced as liquid _i_, or _y_
consonant, and as it is still pronounced in the German _ja_, _yaw_.
These settlements were made long before the Pelasgic migrations into
Greece, which happened at least 2000 years before Christ. The original
language of Greece was called _Ionic_, from _Javan_ or _Ion_. The
Pelasgi were probably Phenicians; and ancient historians relate that
they carried letters into Greece; but these must have been in a very
rude state, so early after their invention;[129] nor do we find that
they were ever much used; at least no records or inscriptions, in these
characters, are mentioned by the Greek historians.

Cadmus introduced the Phenician letters into Greece 1494 years before
Christ. These letters were introduced with some difficulty, and both
Cadmus and his followers were obliged to adopt the _Ionic_ or original
Japhetic language, which was afterwards written in his Phenician

The Greeks, at different periods, sent colonies into distant parts of
the country. These settled in Thrace, Macedon, on the banks of the
Euxine, in Asia Minor, in Italy, Sicily and on the southern shore
of the Mediterranean. This Ionic or Japhetic language was therefore
the root of the Greek and Latin. It was also the root of the Gothic
language, spoken in the north of Europe; and from which, after the
revolution of ages, the shocks of war, and the improvements in science,
no less than seven or eight different languages are derived.[130]

Profane history therefore warrants us in asserting that the Greek,
Roman, and all the modern languages of the north of Europe, and the
English, among the rest, had a common stock. But history alone would
not silence our objections to this theory, were it not incontestibly
proved by a number of radical words, common to all, which are not
yet lost in the changes of time. Etymology therefore furnishes a
demonstration of what is related in history. When one sees the words
~ginôskô~ and ~gnoô~ in Greek, _nosco_, and anciently, _gnosco_ in
Latin, and _know_ in English, conveying the same idea, he is led to
suspect that one nation borrowed the word from another. But when did
the English borrow this word? The word was used by the Saxons, long
before they could have had any knowlege of Greek or Roman authors. It
furnishes therefore a strong presumption that all the streams came from
the same fountain. But when we examin further, and find many, perhaps a
hundred words or more, common to all these languages, the evidence of
their common origin becomes irresistible. This in fact is the case.

The authors then who have labored to prove the Greek and Latin
Languages to be derived from the _Celtic_, mistake the truth. The
_Celtic_ was not _prior_ to the Greek and Latin, but a branch of the
_same stock_; that is, cotemporary with those languages.

This Japhetic language, I take to be coeval with the Phenician or
Hebrew; and there are some Hebrew words in the English language, which
must have been derived thro the Saxon or Teutonic. But the old British,
as I before remarked, retained the greatest affinity to the Hebrew. The
reason which appears probable, has been already assigned; the Celts
and Britons in the west of Europe, remained, till the times of Julius
Cæsar, less disturbed by wars and revolutions, than the inhabitants of
Asia, Egypt and Greece.

But I am inclined to believe further, that the descent of the Britons
from the first Japhetic tribes that settled in Greece, was more direct,
than thro the Gomerians or Cimbri, who travelled northward along the
shores of the Baltic. I suspect that very ancient colonies settled on
the shores of the Mediterranean, in Italy and Spain, and thence found
their way to Gaul and Britain, before the northern tribes arrived
thro Germany and Belgium. This would account for the affinity between
the Hebrew language and the Welsh. The opinion however is not well
supported by historical facts, and the ancient name of the British
language, _Cymraeg_, denoting its descent from the _Cimbric_ is a
weighty objection.[131]

It is certain however that Carthage was settled by Phenicians, about
900 years before Christ. Greek colonies went thither in the following
century, and not long after they settled at Marseilles in Gaul. The
people therefore on both shores of the Mediterranean were descended
from the same stock as the northern nations.

Accordingly we are not surprized to find some radical words nearly
the same in all the existing languages of Europe. See Jackson's
Chronological Antiquities, vol. 3, with Lhuyd, Geblin, and others.

To illustrate what I have advanced, respecting the first peopling of
the world, and the derivation of most European languages from one
mother tongue, I will here insert some remarks from Rowland's Mona
Antiqua Restaurata, p. 261, with a table of words, evidently of Hebrew

     "_A_ TABLE, _shewing the Affinity and near Resemblance, both in
     Sound and Signification, of many Words of the Ancient Languages of
     Europe with the Original Hebrew Tongue_.

"For the better understanding of the parallels of this following table,
it is to be observed, that letters of one and the same organ are of
common use in the pronunciation of words of different languages--as
for example, _M_, _B_, _V_, _F_, _P_, are labials: _T_, _D_, _S_,
are dentals: _G_, _Ch_, _H_, _K_, _C_, are gutturals--and therefore
if the Hebrew word or sound begins with, or is made of, any one of
the labials, any of the rest of the same organ will answer it in the
derivative languages. The same is to be observed in using the dental
and the guttural letters. For in tracing out the origin of words,
we are more to regard the sound of them than their literal form and
composition; wherein we find words very often, by the humors and fancy
of people, transposed and altered from their native sounds, and yet
in their signification they very well fit their original patterns. I
shall only exemplify in the letters _M_, _B_, and _V_, which are of one
organ, that is, are formed by one instrument, the lip; and therefore
are promiscuously used the one for the other, in pronouncing words of
one language in another. The Hebrew _B_ is generally pronounced as a
_V_ consonant. And the Irish also, most commonly in the middle of a
word, pronounce _M_ as a _V_; as we find the ancient Britons to have
made use of _V_, or rather _F_, which they pronounce as _V_, for _M_
and _B_ in many Latin words; as,

  LATIN.         BRITISH.

  _Animal_       _Anifail_
  _Turma_        _Tyrfa_
  _Terminus_     _Terfyn_
  _Calamus_      _Calaf_
  _Primus_       _Prif_
  _Amnis_        _Afon_
  _Arma_         _Arfau_
  _Firmus_       _Ffyrf_
  _Monumentum_   _Monfent_
  _Firmomentum_  _Ffurfafen_
  _Lamentor_     _Llefain_
  _Elementum_    _Eifen_
  _Memorare_     _Myfyrio_
  _Hyems_        _Gauaf_
  _Clamare_      _Llafaru_
  _Numerus_      _Nifer_
  _Columna_      _Colofn_
  _Gemelli_      _Gefeill_
  _Roma_         _Rhufain_
  _Scribo_       _Scrifenu_
  _Liber_        _Llyfr_
  _Remus_        _Rhwyf_
  _Domo_         _Dofi_
  _Rebello_      _Rhyfela_
  _Pluma_        _Pluf_
  _Catamanus_    _Cadfan_
  _Dimetæ_       _Dyfed_
  _Lima_         _Llif_
  _Lamina_       _Llafn_, &c.

"We are not to wonder at this analogy of sounds in the primitive
distinction of languages. For before the use of writing, which has
established the correct form of words, people were only guided by the
ear in taking the sound of words, and they pronounced and uttered them
again as the organs of their voice were best fitted for it; and it
happening that the aptitude and disposition of those organs, peculiar
to some people and countries, were various (as we find to this day some
nations cannot shape their voice to express all the sounds of another's
tongue,) it accordingly affected and inclined some parties of people to
speak the same consonants harder or softer, to utter the same vowels
broader or narrower, longer or shorter, as they found themselves best
disposed to do. And thereupon custom prevailing with particular sets
of people, to continue the use of such different pronunciation as they
affected, the words so varied came at length to take on them different
forms, and to be esteemed and taken as parts of different languages,
tho in their origin they were one and the same.[132]

  _Hebrew._   _Derivatives._          _English._

  Auch        Awch           _Brit._  The edge of a sword
  Even        Maen                    A stone
  Agam        Lagam          _Corn._  A pool or lake
  Ivah        Deis-yfu         _Br._  To desire
  Auor        Awyr                    Lightened air
  Ano         Yno                     Then
  Achei       Achau                   Brethren or kindred
  Aedenei     Gwadnau                 The soles of the feet
  Calal       Cyllell                 To wound or pierce
  Domen       Tomen                   Muck or dung
  Gehel       ----                    Coal
  Sâl         Sâl              _Br._  Vile or of no account
  Kadal       Gadael                  To forsake or desist
  Aggan       Angeion        _Greek_  A vessel or earthen pot
  Alaph       'Alpho[=o]              To find
  Bama        Bo[=o]mòs               An altar
  Hag         Agios                   Holy
  Hadar      {Cadair           _Br._  Honor or reverence
             {Katha          _Irish_
  Hia         Y hi             _Br._  She
  Goph        Corph                   A body, corpse
  Deraich    {Braich                  An arm
  Dad         Diden            _Br._  The dug or udder
  Ager        Aggero          _Lat._  To heap together
  Elah        -Illi, illæ             They, _masc. & fem._
  Angil       Axilla                  The arm pit
  Dapsh       Daps                    Cheer or dainties
  Hen         En! ecce!               Lo! behold!
  Phar        Phér[=o]       _Greek_  To bear or carry
  Harabon     Arrhabon                A pawn or pledge
  Phalat      Phulátt[=o]             To keep or defend
  Pathah      Peíth[=o]               To persuade
  Gab         Gibbus          _Lat._  Bent or crooked
  Dur         Duro                    To endure
  Laish       Lis            _Greek_  A lion
  Deka        Dek[=o]                 To bite
  Ephach      Ophis                   A serpent
  Dath        Deddf            _Br._  A law
  Denah       Dyna                    This, that, there it is
  Hissah     {Ys taw                  Be silent
  Cala        Claf                    To be sick
  Clei        Cleas          _Irish_  Jewels, ornaments
  Devar       Deveirim                To speak
  Ein         Ynys             _Br._  Island
  Hama       {Aman          _Armor._
             {Ymenyn           _Br._  Butter
             {Im             _Irish_
  Ivo         Nava                    His enemy
  Beala       Mealam                  To be wasted
  Vock       {Vacuus          _Lat._  Empty
             {Gwâc             _Br._
  Aita        Ydyw                    Is, or are
  Bar         Bar            _Irish_  Son
  Bareh       Bara             _Br._  Meat, or victuals
  Beram       Verùm           _Lat._  But, nevertheless
  Beth        Bwth             _Br._  A house, booth
  Se          She            _Irish_  He, or him
  Gaha        Iachau           _Br._  To heal, or cure
  Gad         Càd                     An army
  Boten       Potten           _Br._  The belly
  Gever       Gwr                     A man
  Hada        Ed[=o]         _Greek_  To cherish
  Boa         Bá[=o]                  To come
  Aniah       Anía                    Sadness
  Charath     Charâtt[=o]             To insculp
  Maas        Misé[=o]                I hate
  Semain      Semaín[=o]              I shew
  Aaz         'Aix                    A goat
  Aleth       Alaeth           _Br._  A curse
  Elil        Ellylly                 Idol
  Allun       Llwyn                   A grove of oaks
  Amunath     Amynedd                 Constancy
  Ap          Wep                     Face
  Itho        Iddo                    With him
  Atun        Odyn                    A furnace
  Atha        Aeth                    Went, or came
  Ische       Yssu                    To burn
  Emaeth      Ymaith                  From him
  Barach      Parch                   To esteem, or bless
  Gobah       Coppa                   The top
  Geven       Cefn                    A ridge, or back
  Gedad       Gwiwdod                 Excellency
  Gaiaph      Cau                     To shut, or inclose
  Evil        ----                    Evil
  Beasch      ----                    Base
                                      To babble, cabal; and
                                        hablar in Spanish, to
  Babel       ----                      speak; Lat. fabula;
                                        Fr.  fariboles, idle
  Baroth      ----                    Broth
  Gaah        ----                    Gay
  Dum         ----                    Dumb
  Dusch       ----                    To dash
  Hebisch     ----                    To abash
  Hua         ----                    He, _masc. gend._
  Haras       ----                    To harass
  Chittah     ----                    Wheat
  Mesurah     ----                    A measure
  Sahap       ----                    To sweep
  Charath     ----                    To write
  Saar        ----                    A shower
  Aanna       ----                    To annoy
  Phæer       ----                    Fair
  Pheret      ----                    A part, or portion
  Phærek      ----                    Fierce
  Eretz       ----                    Earth; Sax. hertha
  Sad         ----                    Side
  Spor        ----                    A sparrow
  Kinneh      ----                    A cane
  Kera        ----                    To cry
  Shekel      ----                    Skill
  Rechus      ----                    Riches
  Kre         ----                    A crow
  Pasa        ----                    To pass
  Halal       ----                    A hole
  Catat       ----                    To cut
  Ragez       ----                    To rage
  Ragal       ----                    To rail, or detract
  Maguur      Magwyr                  Habitation
  Madhevi     Myddfai                 Distempers
  Doroth      Toreth                  Generations, encrease
  Dal         Tal                     Tall and high
  Havah       Y fu                    Was, or has been
  Mahalac     Malc                    A pathway, or a balk
  Hilo        Heulo                   Shining. _Apollo, Sol._
  Tor        {Toar          _Irish._
             {Terfyn           _Br._  A boundary, or limit
  Siu         Syw                     Resplendent
  Achalas     Achles                  Defence, Achilles
             {Machno                  Places of defence of old
  Machaneh   {_and_                     in the co. of Montgomery.
             {Mechain                   Penmachno
  Chorau      Crau                    Holes
  Choresh     Cors             _Br._  A place full of small
                                        wood or reeds
  Nodah       Nodi                    To make known, or note
  Jadha      {Addef                   To know
             {'Oída          _Greek_
  Hathorath   Athrawiaeth      _Br._  Discipline
  Jch         Eich                    Your, or your own
  Jared       I wared                 Descended
  Cha         Chwi                    You
  Jain        Gwîn                    Wine
  Toledouth   Tylwyth                 Generations
  Lus         Llyfu                   To go away, or avoid
  Caolath     Colled                  A loss
  Hounil      Ynnill                  Gain
  Jester      Ystyr                   Consideration
  Jadadh      Gwahodd                 To invite
  Cafodoth    Cyfoeth                 Honours, or wealth
  Cis         Cîst                    A chest
  Bar        {Far             _Lat._
             {Bara             _Br._  Bread corn
  Shevah      ----                    Seven
  Dakar       ----                    A dagger
  Hinnek      ----                    To hang
  Shelet      ----                    A shield
  Hever       ----                    Over, or above
  Shibbar     ----                    To shiver, or quake
  Jiled       ----               [133]A child
  Choebel     ----                    A cable
  Parak       ----                    To break
  Gannaf      ----                    A knave, or a thief
  Coll        ----                    All
  Hannah      ----                    To annoy, or hurt
  Eth        {Etos           _Greek_
             {Ætas            _Lat._  A year, or age
  San         Coena                   A supper
  Nabal       Nebulo                  A churl
  Mot         Motus           _Lat._  Motion
  Bath        Batos          _Greek_  A thorn
  Eden        Edone                   Pleasure
  Kolah       Klei[=o]                To praise
  Sas         Ses                     A moth
  Phac        Phake                   Lentil
  Skopac      Scop[=o]                To speculate
  Jounec      Jevangc          _Br._  A suckling
  Hamohad     Ammod                   Covenant
  Parad       Pared                   A partition
  Keren       Corn                    A horn
  Kefel       Cefail                  The armpit
  Me-Ab       Mâb                     Son, or from a father
  Luung       Llyngcu                 To swallow
  Temutha     Difetha                 Destruction
  Ceremluach  Cromlech                A sacrificing stone
  Hamule      Aml                     Plenty, or store
  Mah?        Mae?                    What? where? how?
  Magal       Maglu                   To betray
  Makel       Magl                    A staff
  Meria       Mêr                     Fat, or marrow
  Mout        Mudo                    To remove
  Meth        Methu                   To die, or fail
  Mar         Maer                    A lord
  Marad       Brad               [134]Rebellion
  Nafe        Nef                     Joyful
  Taphilu     Taflu                   To cast
  Hanes       Hanes                   To signify
  Nevath      Neuadd                  Habitation
  Jissal      Isel _or_ Iselu         To throw down
  Naoaph      Nwyf                    Lust
  Nadu        Nadu                    They moan
  Sethar      Sathru                  To throw under feet
  Heber       Aber                    A ford, or passage
  Nucchu      Nychu                   Being smitten
  Nuu         Nhwy                    They, or those
  Naodhad     Nodded                  To escape
  Gadah       Gadaw            _Br._  To pass by
  Niued       Niweid                  To spoil
  Goloth      Golwyth                 Burnt offerings
  Mohal       Moel                    Top of a hill
  Galas       Glwys                   Pleasant
  Hasem       Asen                    A rib, or bone
  Garevath    Gwarth                  Shame
  Taphug      Diffyg                  Want, or defect
  Phoreth     Ffrwyth                 Fruit, or effect
  Pach        Bach                    A crooked stick
  Pinnouth    Pennaeth                Chief, or uppermost
  Phinnah     Ffynnu                  To prosper
  Path        Peth                    A part or portion
  Philegesh   Ffiloges                A concubine
  Caton       Cwttyn                  Short and little
  Cir         Caer                    A walled town
  Reith       Rhîth                   Appearance
  Tireneh     Trîn                    To feed and look after
  Ragah       Rhwygo                  To tear, rag
  Rasah       Râs _and_ Rhâd          Grace, or good will
  Semen       Saim                    Fat, or oil
  Saraph      Sarph                   A serpent
  Sac         Sâch                    A [135]sack
  Phuk       {Ffûg                    Disguise
             {Fucus           _Lat._
  Phærek      Ferocia                 Fierceness
  Pinnah      Pinna                   Battlement
  Pigger      Piger fuit              Lazy
  Naca        Neco                    To slay
  Ad          Ad                      Unto
  Nut         Nuto                    To nod
  Darag       Trech[=o]      _Greek_  To run to, or come at
  Bala        Palai                   Some time ago
  Hannak     {'Agch[=o]               To strangle
             {Tagu             _Br._
  Naar        Nearos         _Greek_  New or lately
  Agab        'Agapa[=o]              To love
  Pacha       Pege           _Greek_  A fountain
  Parash      Phras[=o]               To declare, phrase
  Kol         Kalè[=o] _G._ Galw _B._ To call
  Mashal      Basileu[=o]    _Greek_  To reign
  Shareka     Syrinx                  A syringe
  Bekarim     Pecora          _Lat._  Cattle
  Ahel        Aula                    A hall
  Carpas      Carbasus                Fine linen, or lawn
  Æsh         Æstes _La._ Tês  _Br._  Heat, or hot weather
  Gibar       Guberno         _Lat._  To govern
  Parah       Vireo                   To look green
  Ki          Quia                    Wherefore
  Olam        Olim                    Of old
  Golem       Glomus                  A clew of thread
  Amam        Ymam                    Mother, mamma
  Coaphar     Gwobr                   Reward
  Cala        Caula           _Lat._  A sheepfold
  Sarch       Serch            _Br._  Lustful
  Goliath     Glwth                   A bed
  Pathehen    Puttain                 A whore
  Burgad      Bwrgais                 A burgess
  Terag       Drwg                    Bad, or evil
  Dasgar      Dysgl                   A dish
  Shiovang    Sionge                  Honorable
  Anas        Annos                   To instigate
  Tam         Dim                     Nothing
  Pherch      Y ferch                 A daughter
  Tetuva      Edifar                  Penitent
  Leamor      Ar lafar                Saying
  Casas       Ceisio                  To search
  Cark        Carchar                 To bind; _Lat._  carcer
  Kam         Cammu                   To bend
  Caffa       Cyff                    A beam
  Cevel       Ar gyfyl                Near
  Dumga       Dammeg                  A simile
  Tor         Tarw                    A bull; _Lat._  taurus
  Turna       Teyrn                   A prince, tyrant
  Manos       Myddyn                  A mountain
  Malas       Melys                   Sweet
  Palac       Plygu                   To fold
  Banc        Mainc                   A bench
  Malal       Malu                    To grind
  Marak       Marc                    A note
  Cadif       Gwadu                   To tell a lie
  Tohum       Eyfn                    Depth
  Colar       Coler                   A neck band, collar
  Corontha    Coron                   A crown
  Berek       Brêg                    A breach
  Bagad       Bagad                   A great many
  Arach       Arogli                  To smell
  Nagash      Yn agos                 To approach
  Ciliah      Ceilliau                Stones
  Gevr        Cawr                    A giant
  Kec         Cêg                     A mouth
  Kun         Cwyno                   To lament
  Natsar      Dinystr                 Destruction, or ruin
  Pinnah      Pinagl                  Pinnacle
  Mahalal     Mawl _or_ Moli          To praise
  Hedel       Hoedl                   Life
  Halal       Haul                    Sun
  Gavel       Gafael                  Tenure
  Lashadd     Glasaidd                Blueish
  Gerem       Grym, grymmus           Bony or strong
  Masac       Cym-myscu               To mingle
  Gana        Canu                    To sing; Lat. cano
  Celimah     Calumnia        _Lat._  Reproach
  Netz        Nisus                   Endeavor
  Ptsel       Psile[=o]               To make bear
  Shushan     Souson                  Lilly
  Shecan      Scene[=o]               To dwell in tabernacles
  Kalal       Gwael            _Br._  Vile
  Taffi       Diffoddi                To extinguish
  Tselem      Delw                    An image
  Hoberi      Obry                    Men over against
  Aen-adon    Anudon                  Disclaiming God, or

Here are about fifty English words, which, from their near resemblance
to the Hebrew, both in sound and signification, must have been borrowed
from the latter in modern ages, or been preserved thro successive
generations from Heber to the present times. But they could not have
been introduced into English in modern ages, for many of them are
found in the other branches of the Gothic, the German, Danish and
Swedish; and it can be proved that they existed in the original Gothic
or northern language. For example, our word _earth_ is found in Hebrew,
and in all the dialects of the Gothic. Hebrew, _ert_ or _ertz_; Welsh,
_d'aira_; Greek, _éra_; Latin, _terra_; Gothic, _airthai_; ancient
German, _erth_ or _herth_; Saxon, _eartho_; Low Dutch, _aerden_;
High Dutch, erden; Swiss, erden; Scotch, airth; Norwegian or Norse,
_iorden_; Danish, _iorden_; Swedish, _iordenne_; Irelandic, _iordu_.
In the pronunciation of these words there is little difference, except
such as is common to the several languages. The ancients aspirated
their words more frequently than the moderns; hence the old Germans
pronounced the word with _h_, as appears by a passage in Tacitus, De
Mor. Germ. 40. "Nec quidquam notabile in singulis, nisi quod in commune
_Herthum_, id est _terram_, matrem colunt."--The modern nations of
the north generally write and pronounce _d_ where we write _th_; as
_erden_; and the _i_ of the Norwegians answers to our _e_ or _y_, so
that _iorden_ is pronounced _yorden_; and it is remarkable that many of
the common English people still pronounce _earth_, _yerth_.

The Hebrew _turna_ is found in the British _teyrn_, signifying a prince
or ruler. This word is the root of the Greek _turannos_, the Latin
_tyrannus_, the British _dyrnas_, a kingdom or jurisdiction, which is
still preserved in the modern Welsh _deyrnas_; and we see the word in
the name of the celebrated British commander, _Vortighern_. Our word
tyrant is derived from it, but it is always used in a bad sense.

In the Hebrew _rechus_ or _rekus_, we have the origin of the English
_rich_, _riches_, and the termination_ rick_ in bishop-_rick_, and
anciently, in king-_rick_; the word originally denoting _landed
property_, in which wealth was supposed to consist, and afterwards
_jurisdiction_. From the same word are derived the Anglo Saxon _ryc_;
the Franco Theotisc, _rihhi_; the Cimbric, _rickie_; the ancient Irish
or Gaedhlig, _riogda_; the Low Dutch, _rijcke_; the Frisic, _rick_; the
German, _reich_; the Swiss, _rijch_; the Danish, _rige_; the Norwegian,
_riga_; the Swedish, _ricke_; the French, _riche_, and the Spanish,
_riccos_, a general name for nobility, or wealthy proprietors of land.

The word _Caer_ seems to have been a very ancient name for a city or
town. We probably see this word in a great number of Welsh names,
_Carmarthen_, _Carnarvon_, _Carlisle_, &c. This word seems also to be
the origin of _Cairo_, in Egypt; _Carthage_ or town of the horse;[136]
the _cirthe_ of the Numidians, and the _Caere_ of the Etruscan.
"Inde Turnus Rutilique, diffisi rebus, ad florentes Etruscorum opes
Mezentiumque eorum regem, confugiunt; qui _Caere_, opulento tum oppido
imperitans--haud gravatim socia arma Rutulis junxit."--Liv. lib. 1. 2.
Here we hear of the word before the foundation of Rome.

But the affinity between the Hebrew and British is much more obvious,
than that between the Hebrew and English. There are about one hundred
and eighty British words in the foregoing table, which are clearly the
same as the Hebrew; and there is no way to account for the fact, but by
supposing them to be all derived from the same primitive tongue.

The resemblance between the Welsh, Latin and English may be observed in
the following.

  _Welsh._   _Latin._   _English._

  Y'sgol     schola     school
  Y'spelio   spolio     spoil
  Y'sprid    spiritus   spirit
  Y'stad     status     state
  Y'stod     stadium    _furlong_

The old Britons however might have borrowed these words from the
Romans, during their government of the Island; as the English did many
of theirs at a later period.

The same remark will not apply to the following:

  _Welsh._   _Latin._   _Irish._   _English._

  Guin       vinum      fin        wine
  Guyl       vigilæ     feil       watch
  Gur        vir        fearr      man
  Guynt      ventus                wind
  Gual       vallum                wall
  Gosper     vesper     feaskor    guespor
  Guedhar                          weather
  Guerth     virtus                worth
  Guylht                           wild

In this table, we see the different nations begin the same word with a
different consonant. The ancient Latin _v_ was pronounced as our _w_;
vinum, _winum_; hence the English _wine_. So in the following:

  _Latin._        _English._

  Via             way
  Venio, ventum   went
  Vellus          wool
  Vespa           wasp
  Volvo           wallow
  Volo            will[137]

That the Welsh should pronounce _gu_, where we pronounce _w_, may seem
strange; yet such is the fact, and an anatomist will readily assign
the reason. The French, in the same manner, use _g_ where we write and
pronounce _w_.

  _English._    _French._

  War           guerre
  Warrant       garrant
  Ward          gard
  Wise          guise
  Wile          guile
  Wage          gage
  Wicket        guicket
  William       Guillaum
  Wales         Gales, Gaul, Gallia[138]

A number at least of the words in the foregoing tables, must have
existed in the several languages from the earliest times; and therefore
must have been derived from the same stock.

In the following words, we trace the common origin of the Greek and
Gothic languages.

  _Greek._        _English._

  Kear  }         heart
  Ki[=o]          hie
  Kale[=o]        hail, call
  Koilas          hollow
  K[=e]das        heed, care
  Kerdas          hire
  Keras           horn, herald
  Axine           ax
  Ophrun          frown
  Pur             fire
  Platus          plate
  Xeras           fear
  Mignu[=o]       mingle
  Eile[=o]        heal, hail
  Kair[=o]        cheer
  Gonu            knee
  Knix            gnat
  Z[=e]te[=o]     seek

The reader will find no difficulty in believing these words to be from
the same root, when he is told that the Greeks and the northern nations
of Europe pronounced with a strong guttural aspirate; and that _k_
among the Greeks was often a mere aspirate, like _h_. Thus the Romans
often pronounced _c_; for which reason that letter is often omitted,
and _h_ substituted in modern English. _Curro_ and _hurry_ are the
same word; and so are _cornu_ and _horn_; _Carolus_ and _Harold_.

  _Greek._    _Latin._    _English._

  'Oinos      vinum       wine
  Dama[=o]    domo        tame
  Zeugos      jugum       yoke
  Upper       super       upper
  Gno[=o]}    nosco   }   know
  Ginosko}    cognosco}

Some old people still pronounce the _k_ in _know_.

In the following, the Welsh differ from the Greek in the prepositives
or initial mutes; but they are clearly from the same root.

  _Greek._    _Latin._    _English._

  Stoma       saman       mouth
  Ikanos      digon       sufficient
  Ark[=e]     d'erke      beginning
  Air[=o]     d'uyrey     arise
  Platun      lhydon      broad
  Papyrun     bruyn       rushes
  Trek[=o]    rhedeg      run
  Petalon     dalen       loaf[139]

In the following words, the Welsh are nearer the Greek than the Latin;
yet all came from one stock.

  _Greek._   _Welsh._                      _Latin._   _English._

  Helios     heil                          sol        sun
  Hypnos     hyn, heppian                  somnus     sleep
  Halon      halen                         sal        salt
  Hamolos    hamal                         similis    like
  Bounos     ban                           mons       mountain
  Kleas      klad. _Cornish_, klas         laus       praise
  Pepto      pobo                          coquo      cook
  Hyle       hely                          sylva      woods
  Krios      kor                           aries      ram

These words are incontestibly the same, with mere dialectical
variations. All are branches of the same stock, yet neither can claim
the honor of being that stock.

But the most curious etymological analysis ever exhibited perhaps in
any language, is that found in Gebelin's works. Take the following

In the primitive language (of Europe) the monosyllable _tar_, _ter_,
_tor_ or _tro_, for it appeared under these forms, signified _force_.
It was composed of _t_ and _ar_ or _d'ar_, _roughness_, _rapidity_.
Hence _tar_ expressed the idea of force, with the collateral ideas of
violence, rigor, grandeur, &c. From _tar_ are derived, _taurus_, a
bull; _torrent_, _target_, _trunk_, _truncare_, to cut off; _terror_,
_trepan_, _tare_, _detriment_, _trancher_, to cut; _retrench_;
_tardus_, _tardy_, _retard_, _tergum_, because things heavy, that
require force, were carried upon the back; _intrigue_, for it implies
difficulties; _trop_, too much, _troop_, _ter_, _trois_, which
originally signified a multitude; for many savage nations have names
only for the three first numbers; _tierce_, _tres_, very; _tresses_,
a braid or plait of hair in three divisions; _triangle_, _tribunal_,
_tribe_, _attribute_, _contribute_, &c. _trident_, _trillion_, _trio_,
_trinity_, _entre_, _enter_, taken from a relation of three objects,
_one_ between _two_, makes a _third_; hence _internal_, _external_,
_travers_, across; _tradition_, passing from one to another; _traffic_,
_trahir_, to draw; _traitor_, _trepidation_, _intrepid_. From _tra_,
between, and _es_, it is, came the Celtic, _treh_, a narrow pass, a
_strait_, _strict_, Fr. _etroit_, _astringent_, _detroit_, strait;
_distress_, _strength_. The compounds are numerous. _Intrinsic_,
_entrails_, _introduce_, _extraneous_, _extravagant_, _transcendent_,
_transfer_, _transform_, _transgress_, _transact_, _translate_,
_transmit_, _transmigrate_, _transmutation_, &c.

_Paltroon_ is from _pollex_, a _thumb_, and _truncare_, to cut off;
for cowards use to cut their thumbs to avoid service.


_Tem_ signified river, water. Hence _tempero_ in Latin signified to
_plunge into water_. We to this day say to _temper iron or steel_.
_To temper_, is to moderate. From this root come _temperance_,
_temperature_, and a numerous catalogue of other words. The river
Thames derives its name from the same root.

+VA+, _to go_, _radical_.

From _va_, the Celtic root, we find a multitude of branches in Greek,
Latin, English and French. It is an _onomatope_, a word borrowed from
the sound of our feet in walking. Its derivatives are, _wade_, _evade_,
_evasion_, _invade_, _invasion_, _venio_, Lat. and _venir_, Fr. to
come; _venia_ and _venial_,[140] _adventure_, _avenue_, _convenio_,
_convenience_, _convention_, _covenant_ perhaps, _contravene_,
_intervene_, _invent_, _prevent_, _province_,[141] _advance_, _via_,
_way_, _voyage_, _convoy_, _convey_, _obviate_, _vex_, _invective_,
_vein_, a way for the blood; _voiture_, Fr. for a load to carry;
_evitare_, Lat. to shun; _inevitable_.

To these derivatives, I will just add a comparative view of the verbs
_have_ and _be_ in several languages.


  _English._  _Latin._  _French._  _Germ._  _Spanish._  _Portuguese._

  I have      habeo     ai[142]    habe     he          éy
  Thou hast   habes     as         hast     as          has
  He has      habet     a          hat      as          ha
  We have     habemus   avons      haben    avemos      hamos, avemos
  You have    habetis   avez       habet    aveis       éys, evéys
  They have   habent    ont        haben    an          ham

_The Substantive Verb_ +BE+.

  _English._       _Latin._ _French._ _Germ._ _Spanish._      _Portuguese._

  I am, be         sum      suis      bin     estoy & soy     sou, estou
  Thou art, beest  es       es        bist    estas, eres     es, estas
  He is, be        est      est       est-es  está, es        he, esta
  We are, be       sumus    sommes    sind    estamos, somos  somos, estamos
  You are, be      estis    êtes      seyd    estais, sois    soys, estoys
  They are, be     sunt     sont      sind    estan, son      sam, estam

It is indisputable that _have_, in all these languages, is from the
same root. But there seem to have been anciently two substantive verbs,
or perhaps three, from which modern nations have borrowed; viz, the
Greek ~einai~ or ~eimi~, or the Latin _esse_, from which most of the
foregoing are derived; the Teutonic _beon_, whence the Germans have
their _bin_ and _bist_, and the English their _be_ and _beest_; and an
old Gothic or Teutonic word, _weorthan_, whence the Danes have derived
their _voerer_, and the English and Germans their _were_ and _werden_.
In the old English phrase, "woe _worth_ the day," we see the same verb.

Having stated my reasons and authorities for believing all the European
languages descended from one parent tongue, I will here subjoin the
Lord's Prayer in several languages of Celtic and Gothic origin. The
affinity between all the branches of the Gothic is very visible; the
affinity likewise between all the branches of the Celtic is very
obvious, except the ancient Irish. The Cantabrian and Lapland tongues
have little resemblance to either of the stocks or their branches.

  |                              |                              |
  |                              |                              |
  1. OLD SAXON,                  2. FRANCIC,                    3. CIMBRIC,
  or ANGLO-SAXON.                or FRANCO-THEOTISC.            or OLD ICELANDIC.
  |                              |                              |
  |                              |                              |
  |  {1. ENGLISH.                +--1. GERMAN,                  +--1. ICELANDIC.
  +--{2. BROAD,                  |     or HIGH DUTCH (proper.)  +--2. NORWEGIAN,
  |     or Lowland SCOTCH.       +--2. GERMAN                   |      or NORSE.
  |                              |     of SWABIA.               +--3. DANISH.
  |  {3. BELGIC,                 +--3. SWISS.                   +--4. SWEDISH.
  +--{   or LOW DUTCH (proper.)
  |  {4. FRISIC,
  |  {   or Friezeland Tongue.

Very little affinity is discoverable between the original Gothic and
Celtic or their derivatives; yet this is not a proof that they were
_ab origine_ distinct languages; for the words in this prayer are few,
and it has been proved that there are many words common to both those
ancient tongues.

               |                                     |
  +------------+-----------+                         |
  |                        |                         |
  1. _The Ancient_         2. _The Ancient_          3. _The Ancient_
     _GAULISH._               _BRITISH._                _IRISH._
  |                        |                         |
  |                        |                         |
  _No Language fully_      +--1. _WELSH._            +--1. _IRISH._
  _derived from this is_   +--2. _AMORICAN,_         +--2. _ERSE, or_
  _now extant, unless it_  |     _or Bas Bretagne._  |     _Highland Scotch._
  _be the AMORICAN,_       +--3. _CORNISH._          +--3. _MANKS, or a Language_
  _which yet the best_                               |     _of the Isle of Man._
  _authorities derive_
  _from the Ancient_
  _British, or_


The ancient _Gothic_ of _Ulphilas_.

Atta unsar thu in himinam. 1. Veihnai namo thein. 2. Quimai
thiudinassus theins. 3. Vairthai vilja theins, sue in himina, jah ana
airthai. 4. Hlaif unsarana thana sinteinan gif uns himmadaga. 5. Jah
aflet uns thatei sculans sijaima sua sue jah veis afletam thaim skulam
unsaraim. 6. Jah ni bringais uns in fraistubnjai. 7. Ak lausei uns af
thamma ubilin. Amen.

[From Chamberlayn's _Oratio Dominica in diversas omnium fere Gentium
Linguas versa, &c._]

_The_ ANCIENT LANGUAGES _derived from the_ GOTHIC.


_Anglo Saxon._

Uren Fader, thic arth in heofnas. 1. Sie gehalgud thin noma. 2. To
cymeth thin ryc. 3. Sie thin willa sue is in heofnas, and in eortho. 4.
Uren hlaf oferwistlic sel us to daeg. 5. And forgefe us scylda urna,
sue we forgefan scyldgum urum. 6. And no inlead usig in custnung. 7. Ah
gefriguiichfrom ftie. Amen.

[From Chamberlayn, p. 56]


_Franco Theotisc._

Fater unser thu thar bist in himile. 1. Si geheilagot thin namo. 2.
Queme thin rihhi. 3. Si thin willo, so her in himile ist o si her in
erdu. 4. Unsar brot tagalihhaz gib uns huitu. 5. Inti furlaz uns nusara
sculdi so uuir furlazames unsaron sculdigon. 6. Inti ni gileitest unsih
in costunga. 7. Uzouh arlosi unsi fon ubile. Amen.

[From Chamberlayn, p. 61.]


_Cimbric_, or old _Icelandic_.

Fader uor, som est i himlum. 1. Halgad warde thit nama. 2. Tilkomme
thitt rikie. 3. Skie thin vilie, so som i himmalam, so och po iordannè.
4. Wort dachlicha brodh gif os i dagh. 5. Ogh forlat os uora skuldar,
so som ogh vi forlate them os skildighe are. 6. Ogh inled os ikkie i
fretalsam. 7. Utan frels os ifra ondo. Amen.

[From Chamberlayn, p. 54]


--> I am not able to produce any specimen of the _Celtic_, at least
any version of the Lord's Prayer, which can be opposed in point of
antiquity to the _Gothic _specimen from _Ulphilas_, who flourished A.D.
365.--As the _Celts_ were settled in these countries long before the
_Goths_, and were exposed to various revolutions before their arrival,
their language has, as might be expected, undergone greater and earlier
changes than the _Gothic_; so that no specimen of the old original
_Celtic_ is I believe, now to be found.

_The_ ANCIENT LANGUAGES _derived from the_ CELTIC.


_Anc. Gaulish_.

Of this language I cannot find any specimen which can be depended on.


_Cambrian_, or _Ancient British_.

_Eyen Taad_ _rhuvn wyt yn y neofoedodd._ 1. _Santeiddier_ _yr henvu
tau._ 2. _Devedy dyrnas dau_. 3. _Guneler dy wollys_ _ar ryddayar megis
ag_ _yn y nefi._ 4. _Eyn bara_ _beunyddvul dyro inni_ _heddivu_. 5.
_Ammaddeu_ _ynny eyn deledion_, _megis ag i maddevu in_ _deledvvir
ninaw._ 6. _Agna thowys ni in_ _brofedigaeth_. 7. _Namyn_ _myn gwared
ni rhag_ _drug. Amen_.

[From Chamberl. p. 47.]


_Ancient Irish_, or _Gaedhlig_.

_Our Narme ata_ _ar neamb_. 1. _Beanich_ _a tainin._ 2. _Go_ _diga
de riogda_. 3. _Go denta du hoill air_ _talm in marte ar neamb._ 4.
_Tabair deim_ _aniugh ar naran_ _limbali_. 5. _Augus_ _mai duin ar
fiach_ _amhail maamhia_ _ar fiacha_. 6. _Naleig_ _sin amaribh_. 7.
_Ach_ _saarsa sin o olch_. _Amen_.

[From Dr. Anth. Raymond's Introduction to the History of Ireland, p. 2,
3, &c.][143]


I. MODERN LANGUAGES _derived from the_ OLD SAXON.



Our Father, which art in heaven. 1. Hallowed be thy name. 2. Thy
kingdom come. 3. Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven. 4. Give
us this day, our daily bread. 5. And forgive us our debts as we forgive
our debtors. 6. And lead us not into temptation. 7. But deliver us from
evil. Amen.

[From the English Testament.]


_Broad Scotch._

Ure Fader, whilk art in hevin. 1. Hallouit be thy naim. 2. Thy kingdum
cum. 3. Thy wull be dun in airth, as it is in hevin. 4. Gie uss this
day ure daily breid. 5. And forgive uss ure debts, ass we forgien ure
debtouris. 6. And leid uss na' into temptation. 7. Bot deliver uss frae
evil. Amen.

[From a Scotch Gentleman.]


_Low Dutch_, or _Belgic_.

Onse Vader, die daer zijt in de hemelen. 1. Uwen naem worde
gheheylight. 2. U rijcke kome. 3. Uwen wille gheschiede op der aerden,
gelijck in den hemel. 4. Onse dagelijck broodt gheest ons heden. 5.
Ende vergheeft ons onse schulden, ghelijck wy oock onse schuldenaren
vergeven. 6. Ende en leyt ons niet in Versoeckinge. 7. Maer verlost ons
vanden boosen. Amen.

[From the New Test. in Dutch.]


_Frisic_, or _Friezeland Tongue_.

Ws Haita duu deritu biste yne hymil. 1. Dyn name wird heiligt. 2. Dyn
rick tokomme. 3. Dyn wille moet schoen, opt yrtyck as yne hymile. 4.
Ws dielix bræ jov ws jwed. 5. In verjou ws, ws schylden, as vejac ws
schyldnirs. 6. In lied ws nact in versieking. 7. Din fry ws vin it
quæd. Amen.

[From Chamberlayn, p. 68.]




_Welsh_, or _Cymraeg_.

_Ein Tâd, yr hwn wyt yn y nefoedd. 1. Sanctieddier dy Enw. 2. Deved dy
deyrnas. 3. Bydaed dy ewyllys ar y ddaiar megis y mae yn y nefoedd. 4.
Dyro i ni heddyw ein bara beunyddiol. 5. A madde ini ein dyledion fel y
maddeuwn ni i'n dyledwyr. 6. Ag nag arwain ni i brofedigaeth. 7. Eithr
gwared ni rhag drwg. Amen._

[Communicated by a Gentleman of Jesus College, Oxon.]

II. _Armoric_, or Language of _Britanny_ in France.

_Hon Tad, pehudij sou en efaou. 1. Da hanou bezet sanctifiet. 2. Devet
aornomp da rouantelaez. 3. Da eol bezet graet en douar, eual maz eon en
euf. 4. Ró dimp hyziou hon bara pemdeziec. 5. Pardon dimp hon pechedou,
eual ma pardonomp da nep pegant ezomp offanczet. 6. Ha na dilaes quet a
hanomp en temptation. 7. Hoguen hon diliur diouz drouc. Amen._

[From Chamberlayn, p. 51.]



_Ny Taz, ez yn neau. 1. Bonegas yw tha hanaw. 2. Tha gwlakoth doaz.
3. Tha bonagath bogweez en nore pocoragen neau. 4. Roe thenyen dythma
gon dyth bara givians. 5. Ny gan rabn weary cara ny givians mens. 6. O
cabin ledia ny nara idn tentation. 7. Buz dilver ny thart doeg. Amen._

[From Chamberlayn, p. 50.]




_High Dutch_, (proper.)

Unser Vater in dem Himmel. 1. Dein name werde geheiliget. 2. Dein
reich komme. 3. Dein wille geschehe auf erden, wie im himmel. 4. Unser
taeglich brodt gib uns heute. 5. Und vergib uns unsere schulden, wie
wir unsern schuldigern vergeben. 6. Und fuehre uns nicht in Versuchung.
7. Sondern erloese uns von dem vbel. Amen.

[From the common German New Testament, printed at London, 12 mo.]


_High Dutch_ of the _Suevian Dialect_.

Fatter ausar dear du bischt em hemmal. 1. Gehoyleget wearde dain nam.
2. Zuakomme dain reych. 3. Dain will gschea uff earda as em hemmal. 4.
Ausar deglich braud gib as huyt. 5. Und fergiab as ausre schulda, wia
wiar fergeaba ausarn schuldigearn. 6. Und fuar as net ind fersuaching.
7. Sondern erlais as fom ibal. Amen.

[From Chamberlayn's Oratio Dominica, p. 64.]


The _Swiss Language_.

Vatter unser, der du bist in himlen. 1. Geheyligt werd dyn nam. 2.
Rukumm uns dijn rijch. 3. Dyn will geschahe, wie im himmel, also auch
uff erden. 4. Gib uns hut unser taglich brot. 5. Und vergib uns unsere
schulden, wie anch wir vergaben unsern schulderen. 6. Und fuhr uns
nicht in versuchnyss. 7. Sunder erlos uns von dem bosen. Amen.

[From Chamberlayn, p. 65.]




_Irish_, or _Gaidhlig_.

_Ar nathair atá ar neamh. 1. Naomhthar hainm. 2. Tigeadh do riaghachd.
3. Deuntar do thoil ar an ttalámh, mar do nithear ar neamh. 4. Ar
naràn laéathamhail tabhair dhúinn a niu. 5. Agus maith dhúinn ar
bhfiacha, mar mhaithmidne dar bhféitheamhnuibh fein. 6. Agus na léig
sinn a ccathughadh. 7. Achd sáor sinn o olc. Amen._

[From Bishop Bedel's Irish Bible. Lond. 1690. 8 vo.]


_Erse_, or _Gaidhlig Albannaich_.

_Ar n' Athair ata air neamh. 1. Gu naomhaichear t tinm. 2. Tigeadh do
rioghachd. 3. Deanthar do thoil air an ta amh mar a nithear air neamb.
4. Tabhair dhuinn an diu ar n aran laitheill. 5. Agus maith dhuinn ar
fiacha amhuill mar mhaithmid d'ar luehd-fiach-aibh.[144] 6. Agus na
leig am buaireadh sinn. 7. Ach saor sinn o olc. Amen._

[From the New Testament in the Erse Language.]


_Manks_, or Language of the _Isle of Man_.

_Ayr ain, t'ayns niau. 1. Casherick dy row dt'ennym. 2. Dy jig dty
reeriaught. 3. Dt'aigney dy row jeant er y thalao, myr te ayns niau.
4. Cur d oin nyn arran jiu as gaghlaa. 5. As leih dooin nyn loghtyn,
nyr ta shin leih dauesyn tu jannoo loghtyn nyn' oc. 6. As ny leeid shin
ayns miolagh. 7. Agh livrey shin veih olk. Amen._

[From the Liturgy in Manks, printed at London, 1765. 8 vo.]


ICELANDIC, _called (by some writers)_ CIMBRIC, _or_ CIMBRO GOTHIC.



Fader vor thu som ert a himnum. 1. Helgest thitt nafn. 2. Tilkome
thitt riike. 3. Verde thinn vilie, so a jordu, sem a himne. 4. Gieff
thu oss i dag vort daglegt braud. 5. Og fiergieff oss vorar skulder,
so sem vier fierergiefum vorum skuldinautum. 6. Og inleid oss ecke i
freistne. 7. Heldr frelsa thu oss fra illu. Amen.

[From Chamberlayn, p. 70.]


_Norwegian_, or _Norse_.

Wor Fader du som est y himmelen. 1. Gehailiget woare dit nafn. 2.
Tilkomma os riga dit. 3. Din wilia geskia paa iorden, som handt er udi
himmelen. 4. Giff oss y tag wort dagliga brouta. 5. Och forlaet os wort
skioldt, som wy forlata wora skioldon. 6. Och lad os icke homma voi
fristelse. 7. Man frals os fra onet. Amen.

[From Chamberlayn, p. 71.]



Vor Fader i himmelen. 1. Helligt vorde dit navn. 2. Tilkomme dit rige.
3. Vorde din villie, paa iorden som i himmelen. 4. Giff oss i dag
vort daglige bred. 5. Oc forlad oss vor skyld, som wi forlade vore
skyldener. 6. Oc leede oss icke i fristelse. 7. Men frels os fra ont.

[From Chamberlayn, p. 70.]



Fader war som ast i himmelen. 3. Helgat warde titt nampn. 2. Till komme
titt ricke. 3. Skei tin willie saa paa lordenne, som i himmelen. 4.
Wart dagliga brod giff oss i dagh. 5. Och forlat os wara skulder sa
som ock wi forlaten them oss skildege aro. 6. Och inleed oss icke i
frestelse. 7. Ut an frals oss i fra ondo. Amen.

[From Chamberlayn, p. 70.]



The _Finn_ Language.

_Isa meidan joca olet taiwassa. 1. Pyhitetty olcon sinum nimes. 2.
Lahes tulcon sinum waldacundas. 3. Olcon sinun tahtos niin maase cuin
taiwasa. 4. Anna meile tanapaiwana meidan joca paiwainen leipam. 5.
Sa anna meille meidan syndim andexi nuncuin mekin andex annam meidan
welwottistem. 6. Ja ala johdata meita kiusauxen. 7. Mutta paasta meita
pahasta. Amen._

[From Chamberlayn, p. 82.]


The _Lapland_ Tongue.

_Atka mijam juco lee almensisne. 1. Ailis ziaddai tu nam. 2.
Zweigubatta tu ryki. 3. Ziaddus tu willio. naukuchte almesne nau
ei edna mannal. 4. Wadde mijai udni mijan fært pæfwen laibebm. 5.
Jah andagasloite mi jemijan suddoid, naukuchte mije andagasloitebt
kudi mije welgogas lien. 6. Jah sissalaidi mijabni. 7. Æle tocko
kæckzællebma pahast. Amen._

[From Chamberlayn, p. 83.]

       *       *       *       *       *

preserved in_ SPAIN.

The _Basque_.

_Gure Aita kerutéan caréna. 1. Erabilbedi sainduqui çure jcena.
2. Ethorbedi çure eressuma. 3. Eguinbedi çure borondatea çerú
an becala turre'an ore. 4. Emandieçagucu egun gure egunorozco
oguia. 5. Eta barkhadietcatgutçu gure çorrac gucere gure coidunei
barkhatcendiotçaguten becala. 6. Eta ezgaitçatcu utc tentacionétan
erortcerat. 7. Aitcitic beguiragaitcatçu gaite gucietaric. Halabiz._

[From Chamberlayn, p. 44.]

Here we find many of the same words, with small variations, in all the
languages of Teutonic origin. It is however observable that the English
have softened some words, by omitting the gutturals. Thus _gehalgud_
in the Anglo-Saxon; _geheiliget_ in the German; _gheheylight_ in the
Belgic; and _geheyligt_ in the Swiss, are softened into _hallowed_ in
English; _taeglich_ and _dagelijcht_ become _daily_. Similar omissions
run thro the language. Thus _nagel_, _hagel_ have become in English
_nail_ and _hail_. The _gh_ in _might_, _night_ are still pronounced by
the Scotch; but the English say _mite_, _nite_.[145]

The affinity between the ancient British, the modern Welsh, and the
Armoric, is very obvious; but in the latter, we find a few Latin or
French words--_pardon_, _peichdon_, _deliur_, which we should naturally
expect from the vicinity of Britanny to the French language.

I have been at the pains to examin a great number of radical words in
the Danish, and find the most of them, amounting to more than four
hundred, very little different from the English. Where the English
write _w_, the Danes write _v_; _vind_ for _wind_. Where the English
write _c_ hard, the Danes, with more judgement, write _k_; _klover_,
_kan_, _kommer_, for _cleave_, _can_, _come_. Where the English write
_wh_, the Danes, with propriety, write _hv_, _v_ having the sound of
_w_; as _hvad_, _hvi_, _hval_; _what_, _why_, _whole_.

The words, common to the Danish and English, are mostly monosyllables.

As a corroborating proof of the Eastern origin of the Goths, authors
produce the resemblance between their religious opinions and the
notions of the Magi. The Scandinavian mythology is preserved in the
EDDA, written by Snorro Sturleson, an Icelander, a learned judge and
first magistrate in the 12th century.

In this there are many notions which seem to bear a great analogy to
the doctrines revealed in the Bible.

It is represented in the Edda, that before creation, "all was one vast
abyss;" an idea not unlike the scripture account of what we usually
call _chaos_.--"That _Surtur_, the black, shall come at the end of the
world, vanquish the gods and give up the universe to the flames"--a
crude notion of the conflagration.--"That _Ymer_ the first man or great
giant, slept and fell into a sweat, and from the pit of his left arm
were born male and female;" this has some resemblance to the scripture
account of the creation of the woman--"That the sons of _Bore_ slew
the giant _Ymer_, and all the giants of the frost were drowned, except
Bengelmer, who was saved in his bark;" in which notion we observe some
tradition of the deluge.

The opinion that the world will be destroyed by fire seems to have
been universal among the Gothic nations. The descriptions of that
catastrophe resemble those of the Stoics and of the ancient Magi and
Zoroaster, from whom the idea was probably taken. These descriptions
all agree with the scripture representation of that event in the
material circumstances.

The doctrine of a future state, or of a renovation of the world, was
part of the Gothic system. It was taught by Zamolxis, the celebrated
Druid of the Getæ and Scythians.---- Herod. Lib. 4. § 95.

In this same Edda, we also find the origin of some customs still
remaining among the descendants of the northern nations. The drinking
of bumpers is not an invention of modern bacchanals; it is mentioned,
fable 25, of the Edda, where it is said Thor challenged one to a
drinking match.

The custom of hanging up bushes on Christmas eve is derived probably
from the superstitious veneration paid to the Misseltoe by the

Indeed the festival of Christmas was grafted upon an ancient pagan
feast, celebrated at the winter solstice, in honour of the sun and to
render the new year propitious. It answered to the Roman Saturnalia,
and was probably of as high an origin. The night on which it was
observed was called _Mother Night_, as that which produced the rest;
and the feast itself was called by the Goths _Iuul_.--See Mallet's
North. Antiq. vol. 1. p. 130. Hence the old word _yeul_ or _yule_
for Christmas; a word that is still used, or at least has been used
till within a century in Scotland and the north of England. "Yule,"
says that learned antiquary, Cowel, "in the north parts of England,
is used by the country people as the name of the feast of our Lord's
nativity, usually termed _Christmas_. The sports used at Christmas,
called Christmas Gamboles, they stile _Yule Games_. _Yule_ is the
proper Scotch word for Christmas."----Cowel's Law Dictionary, tit.
Yule. The Parliament passed an act for discharging the _Yule Vacance_,
which was repealed after the union by stat. George I. cap. 8. The
feast was celebrated from time immemorial among the Romans and Goths;
the Christians changed its object and name; tho such is the force of
custom, that the Gothic name existed in Scotland till lately, and
perhaps still exists among the lower ranks of people.

From the northern nations also we have the names of the days of the
week; or at least of some of them. The ancient Goths devoted particular
days to particular deities.

TUESDAY was _Tyrsdag_, from Tyr the God of bravery. It is in the
Danish, _Tyrsdag_, and in the Swedish _Tisdag_.

WEDNESDAY is _Woden'sdag_, from _Woden_, a celebrated warrior deified.
In Icelandic, it is _Wonsdag_; in Swedish, _Odinsdag_; in Dutch,
_Woensdag_; in Anglo Saxon, _Wodensdag_.

THURSDAY is from _Thor_, god of the air. In Danish it is _Thorsdag_; in
Swedish _Torsdag_.

FRIDAY is from _Frea_, the earth and goddess of love, answering to the
Venus of the Greeks. In some languages it is called _Freytag_.---- See
Mallet's North. Antiquities.

I will just add, it is a weighty argument in favor of the truth of
the Scripture history, and of the opinion here advanced of the common
origin of languages, that in all the ancient and modern European
alphabets, the letters are of a similar figure and power, and arranged
nearly in the same order.[146] The true Greek letters were only the
Cadmean letters reversed: This reversal took place early in Greece,
when the ancient Phenician and Hebrew order of writing from right to
left, was changed for the modern order, which is from left to right.
The Hebrew or Phenician Alphabet was clearly the parent of the Greek,
Roman and Gothic.

[B], page 52.

The reader will please to accept the following specimen, which will
convey an idea of the whole.


Yth al o nim ua lonuth! sicorathissi me com syth chim lach chunyth mum
ys tyal myethi barii im schi.


Iath all o nimh uath lonnaithe! socruidhse me com sith chimi lach
chuinigh! muini istoil miocht beiridh iar mo scith.


Omnipotent, much dreaded Deity of this country! asswage my troubled
mind! Thou, the support of feeble captives! being now exhausted with
fatigue, of thy free will, guide me to my children.

In this example the affinity between the Punic and Irish is striking;
and the same runs thro the whole speech.

That Ireland received colonies from Spain or Carthage is probable from
other circumstances. The Irish historians say their ancestors received
letters from the Phenicians; and the Irish language was called _Bearni
Feni_, the Phenician tongue. _Cadiz_ in Spain was first settled by
Phenicians; and _cadas_ in Irish signifies _friendship_.

The Irish seems to be a compound of _Celtic_ and _Punic_; and if
Ireland was peopled originally from Carthage, and received colonies
from thence, the event must have been subsequent to the first Punic
war; for this was the period when the Carthaginians adopted the Roman
letters, and there is no inscription in Ireland in the Phenician

The Hebrew was the root of the Phenician and the Punic. The Maltese
is evidently a branch of the Punic; for it approaches nearer to the
Hebrew and Chaldaic, than to the Arabic. For this assertion we have
the authority of _M. Maius_, professor of the Greek and oriental
languages in the Ludovician university of Giessen, who had his
accounts from _Ribier_, a missionary Jesuit and native of Malta. This
fact will account for the correspondence between the Irish and the
Maltese, in several particulars. In Maltese, _Alla_ signifies _God_;
in Irish, _All_ is _mighty_. _Baol_ in Maltese, and _Bel_ or _Bal_ in
Irish, signify _Chief Deity_ or _Sun_. In Maltese, _ordu_ is _end_ or
_summit_; in Irish, _ard_, _arda_, are _hill_, _high_. These words are
probably from the same root as the Latin _arduus_, and the English
_hard_, implying labor. _Bandla_ in Maltese, is _a cord_; in Irish,
_bann_ is suspension. In Maltese, _gala_ is the sail of a ship; and in
Irish, _gal_ is a gale of wind. These Maltese words are taken from a
Punica Maltese Dictionary, annexed to a treatise, Della lingua Punica
presentamente usitate da Maltese, by G. Pietro Francisco Agius de

There is also a correspondence between the Irish and Punic, in the
variation of their nouns, as may be observed in the following example.

  _Punic._                           _Irish._

  Nom. A dar, the house               an dae, the house, &c.
  Gen. Mit a dar, of the house        mend na dae
  Dat. La dar, with or to the house   la dae
  Acc. A dar, the house               an dae
  Voc. Ya dar, O house                a dae
  Abl. Fa dar, with or by the house   fa dae

In several particulars the Irish bears a close affinity to the Hebrew
and Greek. It was the custom with the Hebrews, and it still remains
with them, to face the east in the act of devotion. From this practice
it proceeded, that the same word which signified _right hand_,
signified also _south_; the same with _left hand_ and _north_; _before_
and _east_; _behind_ and _west_. This is the case also in the Irish

  _Hebrew._                            _Irish._

  Jamin,[147] right hand, south        deas, the same
  Smol, left hand, north               thuaidh, the same
  Achor, behind, west                  tar, the same
  Cedem, before, east                  oir and oithear, the same, or
                                       rising sun. Latin, oriens

That the Greeks had an intercourse with the islands of Britain and
Ireland, or sent colonies thither, is not impossible; and Dr. Todd, not
many years ago, discovered, at Colchester, in Essex, an altar dedicated
to the Tyrian Hercules, with an inscription in Greek capitals,


There is a place in Ireland called _Airchil_. And it is a remarkable
fact, that some fragments of old Irish laws, which, for a long time,
puzzled the antiquaries of the nation, are found to be written in
a very ancient language, and in the manner which the Greeks called
_Boustrophedon_; that is, from right to left, and from left to right,
in the manner that oxen plow. This was supposed to be an improvement
on the Hebrew and Phenician order of writing all the lines from right
to left, which Cadmus introduced into Greece. This manner of writing
in Greece was prior to Homer, and if the Irish copied from the Greeks,
which is not impossible, the fact would prove a very early settlement
of Ireland by Greek colonies or their descendants. See Leland's Hist.
of Ireland, Prelim. Dis.

All these circumstances corroborate the opinion that the Celts came
originally from the east, and formed settlements on the shores of the
Mediterranean and Atlantic. The affinity between the Phenician, the
Punic, the Maltese, the Irish and the British languages, discoverable
in a great number of words, makes it probable, that after colonies
were settled at Carthage and at Cadiz, some commercial intercourse
was carried on between them and the nations at the head of the
Mediterranean, and that an emigration from Spain might people Ireland
before any settlements had been made there by the Gauls or Britons. It
is however more probable that the Punic words in the Irish language
might have been introduced into that island by subsequent colonization.
At any rate, from the Hebrew, Chaldaic, or Phenician, or the common
root of these languages, proceeded the Punic, the Maltese, the Iberian
or Spanish, the Gaulish, the British, and the Irish. The order I have
mentioned is obvious and natural; and history furnishes us with some
facts to strengthen the supposition.

[C], page 58.

Bishop Hickes, in his Saxon Grammar, which is a vast treasure of
valuable learning, has preserved a specimen of the language and of the
opinions of the English respecting it, in an extract from a manuscript
of one Ranulphus Higdenus, _de Incolarum linguis_, translated by John
Trevisa in 1385, and the ninth of Richard II. Trevisa's stile bears
some affinity to that of Chaucer, with whom he was cotemporary.

"As it is knowne how meny maner peple beeth in this land: There
beeth also so many dyvers longages and tongues. Nathless, Walschemen
and Scotts, that hath nought medled with other nations, holdeth wel
nyh his firste langage and speeche: But yif the Scottes that were
sometime considerat and woned with the Picts draw somewhat after
hir[148] speeche: But yif the Flemynges that woneth in the weste
side of Wales haveth left her strange speeche and speketh Sexon
like now. Also Englishmen, they had from the begynnynge thre maner
speeche, northerne, sowtherne, and middel speeche in the middle of
the lande, as they come of the maner peple of Germania. Nathless by
comyxtion and mellynge[149]; first with Danes and afterwards with
Normans, in meny the contray langage is apayred[150] and som useth
strong wlafferynge,[4] chiterynge,[4] hartynge[4] and gartynge,[4]
grisbayting;[151] this apayryng[152] of the burthe of the tunge is
because of tweie thinges: oon is for children in scole, agenst the
usage and maner of all other nations, beeth compelled for to leve
hire owne langage, and for to consture hir lessons and here[153]
thinges in Frenche and so they haveth sethe[154] Normans came firste
into England. Also gentilmen children beeth taught to speke Frenche
from the tyme that they beeth rokked in hire cradle and conneth[155]
speke and play with a childes brache and uplandissche men[156] will
likne hymself to gentilmen and fondeth[157] with the greet besynesse
for to speke Frenche for to be told of. [Trevisa, the translator
remarks here--"This maner was moche used to, for first deth,[158] and
is sithe[159] sum del[160] changed. For John Cornwaile, a maister of
grammer, changed the lore[161] in grammer scole and construction of
Frenche into Englishe. And Richard Peneriche lerned the manere techynge
of him as other men, of Penriche. So that now the yere of our Lorde
a thousand thre hundred and four score and fyve and of the second
king Richard after the conquest, nyne; and alle the grammar scoles of
England children lerneth Frenche and construeth and lerneth an Englishe
and haveth thereby advantage in oon side, and disadvantage in another
side. Here[162] advantage is that they lerneth hir grammer in lasse
tyme, than children were wonned to doo. Disadvantage is, that now
children of grammer scole conneth na more Frenche than can hir _lift
heele_,[163] and that is harme for hem an they schulle[164] passe the
see and travaille in strange londes and in many other places. Also
gentilmen haveth now moche left for to teche here children Frenche."]
_Ranulphus_.--Hit seemeth a great wonder how Englishe men and her[165]
own longage and tongue is so dyverse of sown in this oon ilande, and
the longage of Normandie is comlynge[166] of another lande and hath oon
maner soun among all men that speketh hit arigt in England. [Trevisa's
remark--"Nevertheless there is as many diverse maner Frenche in the
reeme[167] of France, as is dyvers maner Englishe in the reeme of
England."] _R_. Also of the aforesaid Saxon tonge that is deled[168]
athree and is abide scarceliche[169] with few uplandishe men, is great
wonder. For men of the est with men of the west is as it were under
the same partie of hevene accordeth more in sownynge of speeche than
men of the north with men of the south. Therefore it is that Mercii,
that beeth men of myddel England, as it were, parteners of the endes,
understandeth bettrie the side longages than northerne and southerne
understandeth either other. All the longage of the Northumbers and
specialliche at York, is so scharp, slitting and frotynge and unschape
that the southerne men may that longage unnethe[170] understande. I
trow that is because that they beeth nyh to strange men and nations,
that speketh strongliche, and also because the kinges of Englande
woneth[171] alway fer[172] from that contray, for they beeth more
turned to the south contray, and yif they goeth to the northe contray,
they goeth with great helpe and strengthe. The cause why they beeth
more in the southe contray than in the northe, for it may be better
corn londe, more peple, more noble cities, and more profitable

On this passage we may make the following remarks:

     1. That the third person singular of the verb is invariably used
     with _plural_ as well as singular nouns; _they_ _beeth_, _haveth_.
     Whereas in Chaucer and Mandeville the same person ends generally
     in _en_; _they seyn_ for _they say_.

The same third person was used for the imperative, by the best English

    "And soft take me in your armes twey,
    For love of God, and hearkeneth what I sey."

  Chaucer, Knight's Tale, 2783.

    "And at certyn houres, they seyn to certyn offices,
    _maketh pees_;" that is, _make peace_.--Mandeville, p. 281.

     2. That _yif_ is used for _if_; a proof that _if_ is a verb, a
     contraction of _gif_ or _yif_ (for they were used promiscuously)
     the imperative of _gifan_, to give.[174]

     3. That the subjunctive form of verbs was not used after _if_;
     _and yif they goeth to the northe contray_.

     4. That there were three principal dialects in the English; the
     _northern_, which was corrupted by the Scots and Picts, and from
     which the present Yorkshire language is derived; the _middle_,
     which came from Germany and retained its primitive purity, and
     is the true parent of modern English; and the _southern_, by
     which is meant, either the language of the southern parts which
     was corrupted by an intercourse with foreigners; or what is more
     probable, the language spoken in Devonshire, and on the borders of
     Cornwall, which was mixed with the old British, and is now almost

     5. That the conquests of the Danes and Normans had corrupted the
     pure language of the Saxons.

     6. That this corruption proceeded principally from the teaching of
     French in schools.

     7. That country people, (uplandish men) imitated the practice of
     the polite, and learnt French, as many do now, _to be told of_.

     8. That Cornwail and others, in Trevisa's time, had begun to
     reform this practice.

     9. That French had almost banished the native Saxon from the
     polite part of the nation, and that the _uplandish_ or western
     people alone retained it uncorrupted.

     10. That the kings of England resided principally in the southern
     parts of the kingdom, where the land was most fertile, best
     cultivated, most populous, and most advantageous for commerce.

[D], page 59.

Chaucer's particular patron was John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. He
married Philippa, the sister of Lady Swinford, who before her marriage
and after her husband's death, was one of the Duke's family.

    "Grete well _Chaucer_ when you mete--
    Of dittees and of songes glade,
    The which he----made
    The londe fulfilled is over all."


Gower is said to have been Chaucer's preceptor.

    "My maister _Chaucer_--chiefe poet of Bretayne
    Whom all this lond should of right preferre,
    Sith of our language he was _the lode starre_,
    That made first to dystylle and rayne
    The gold dew dropys of speche and eloquence
    Into our tungue through his excellence."


Chaucer's merit in improving the English language is celebrated by
other poets of his time--Occleve, Douglas and Dunbar. They call him the
_floure of eloquence_, the _fader in science_, and the _firste fynder
of our fayre langage_.

He died in 1400.

It must however be remarked that Chaucer did not import foreign words,
so much as introduce them into books and give them currency in writing.
It must further be observed that when I speak of the incorporation of
Latin words with the English, I would not be understood to mean that
words were taken directly from the Roman tongue and anglicised. On
the other hand, they mostly came thro the channel of the Norman or
Provençal French; and perhaps we may call them with propriety _French_
words; for they had lost much of their Roman form among the Gauls,
Franks and Normans.

The most correct account I have seen of the state of the language in
the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th centuries, is in the first volume of
Bell's edition of Chaucer.

We have the authority of Ingulphus, a historian of credit, for
alleging that the French began to be fashionable in England, before
the conquest. Edward the Confessor resided many years in Normandy,
and imbibed a predilection for the French manners and language. On
his accession to the throne of England, in 1043, he promoted many of
his Norman favorites to the first dignities in the kingdom; under the
influence of the king and his friends, the English began to imitate the
French fashions.

But the conquest in 1066, completed the change. The court of William
consisted principally of foreigners who could speak no language but
French. Most of the high offices and rich livings in the kingdom
were filled with Normans, and the castles which, by order of the
conqueror, were built in different parts of the country, were
garrisoned by foreign soldiers, in whom the king might most safely
confide.[175] Public business was transacted in the French, and it
became dishonorable or a mark of low breeding, not to understand that
language. Indeed under the first reigns after the conquest, it was a
disgrace to be called an _Englishman_. In this depressed state of the
English, their language could not fail to be neglected by the polite
part of the nation.

But as the body of the nation did not understand French, there must
have been a constant effort to root it out and establish the English.
The latter however gained ground slowly during the two first centuries
of the revolution. But in the reign of king John, Normandy, which had
been united with England under the Norman princes, was taken by the
French, 1205, and thus separated from the British dominions. In the
next reign (Henry III.) some regulations were made between the two
kingdoms, by which the subjects of either were rendered incapable of
holding lands in the other. These events must have restrained, in some
degree, the intercourse between the two kingdoms, and given the English
an opportunity to assume their own native character and importance.
In this reign the English began to value themselves upon their birth,
and a knowlege of the English language was a recommendation, tho not a
requisite, in a candidate for a benefice.

It appears also by the passage of Higden before quoted, that the
practice of construing Latin into French, in the schools, had closed
before his time. This, with the other causes before assigned,
contributed to root out the French, and make the English reputable;
and in the reign of Edward III. produced the act, mentioned in the
text, in favor of the English. This act did not produce a total change
of practice at once; for we find the proceedings in parliament were
published in French for sixty years after the pleas in courts were
ordered to be in English, and the statutes continued in French about
120 years after the act, till the first of Richard III.

It may be observed that the royal assent to bills was in some instances
given in English during the reign of Henry VI. _Be it ordained as it is
asked: Be it as it is axed._[176] But the royal assent is now declared
in French.

[E], page 66 and 34.

Sir William Temple's stile, tho easy and flowing, is too diffuse:
Every page of his abounds with tautologies. Take the following specimen
from the first page that presents itself on opening his third volume.

"Upon the survey of these dispositions in mankind and these conditions
of government, it seems much more reasonable to pity than to envy the
_fortunes_ and _dignities_ of princes or _great_ ministers of _state_;
and to _lessen_ and _excuse_ their _venial_ faults, or at least their
misfortunes, rather than to _encrease_ and _make them worse_ by _ill
colors_ and _representations_."----Of Pop. Dis.

_Fortunes_ and _dignities_ might have been better expressed by
_elevated rank_ or _high stations_; _great_ is superfluous, and
so are _lessen_ and _make them worse_, and either _colors_ or
_representations_ might have been omitted.

"The first safety of _princes_ and _states_ lies in avoiding all
_councils_ or _designs_ of innovation, in _ancient_ and _established
forms_ and _laws_, especially those concerning liberty, property and
religion (which are the possessions men will ever have most at heart;)
and thereby leaving the channel of _known_ and _common_ justice _clear_
and _undisturbed_." Several words might here be retrenched, and yet
leave the author's meaning more precise and intelligible. This is the
principal fault in Temple's stile.

"But men, accustomed to the free and vagrant life of hunters, are
incapable of regular application to labor; and consider agriculture as
a _secondary_ and _inferior_ occupation."--Robertson's Hist. Amer. book

Supposing _secondary_ and _inferior_ not to be exactly synonimous, in
this sentence one would have answered the purpose.

"_Agriculture_, even when the strength of man is seconded by that
of the animals _which he has subjected to the yoke_, and his power
augmented by _the use of the various instruments with which_ the
discovery of metals has furnished him, is still _a work_ of great
labor."--The same.

This sentence is very exceptionable. Is _agriculture, a work?_ Can
so _definite_ a term be applied to such a _general_ idea? But what
a group of useless words follow! It was not sufficient to say, _the
strength of man seconded by that of animals_, but the kinds of animals
must be specified; viz. such as _he has subjected to the yoke_; when
every person knows that other animals are never used; and consequently
the author's idea would have been sufficiently explicit without
that specification. In the subsequent clause, the words, _his power
augmented by the use of the various instruments of metal_, would have
been explicit; for the _discovery of metals_ must have been implied.
Such expletive words load the mind with a chain of particular ideas
which are not essential to the discourse.

"--And if any one of these prognostics is deemed unfavorable, they
instantly abandon the pursuit of _those_ measures, _on which they are
most eagerly bent_."--The same.

Here is an awkward conclusion of the period, and ascribeable to a too
nice regard for grammatical rules. _They are most eagerly bent on_,
would perhaps have been better; but a different construction would have
been still less exceptionable. There is however a greater fault in the
construction. By employing _those_ and _most eagerly_, the idea is,
that savages, on the appearance of unfavorable omens, would abandon
_those_ measures _only_, on which they are _most eagerly_ bent, and not
others that they might be pursuing with less earnestness. Why could
not the author have said in plain English--"they instantly abandon any
measure they are pursuing."

This writer's stile likewise abounds with synonims; as _strengthen_
and _confirm_, _quicken_ and _animate_; when one term would fully
express the meaning. "Strong liquors _awake_ a savage from his _torpid
state_--_give a brisker motion to his spirits_, and _enliven_ him more
thoroughly than either dancing or gaming."--Book. 4. What a needless
repetition of the same idea! The author is also very liberal in the use
of _all_--"_all_ the _transports_ and _frenzy_ of intoxication."--"War,
which between extensive kingdoms, is carried on with little animosity,
is prosecuted by small tribes, with _all_ the rancor of a private

In short, the stile of Dr. Robertson, the great, the philosophic
historian, is too labored. The mind of the reader is kept constantly
engaged in attending to the structure of the periods; it is fatigued
with words and drawn from the chain of events.

The stile of Kaims, tho not easy and flowing, is precise, and generally
accurate. The stile of Blair's Lectures is less correct than that of
his Sermons; but at the same time, less formal in the structure of the

These remarks, the reader will observe, respect stile only; for the
merit of Robertson, as a judicious and faithful historian; and of Kaims
and Blair, as critics, is above praise or censure.

In no particular is the false taste of the English more obvious,
than in the promiscuous encomiums they have bestowed on Gibbon, as a
historian. His work is not properly a "_History_ of the Decline and
Fall of the Roman Empire;" but a "Poetico-Historical Description of
certain Persons and Events, embellished with suitable imagery and
episodes, designed to show the author's talent in selecting words, as
well as to delight the ears of his readers." In short, his history
should be entitled, "A Display of Words;" except some chapters which
are excellent commentaries on the history of the Roman Empire.

The general fault of this author is, he takes more pains to form his
sentences, than to collect, arrange and express the facts in an easy
and perspicuous manner. In consequence of attending to ornament, he
seems to forget that he is writing for the _information_ of his reader,
and when he ought to _instruct_ the _mind_, he is only _pleasing_ the
_ear_. Fully possessed of his subject, he describes things and events
in general terms or figurative language, which leave upon the mind a
faint evanescent impression of some indeterminate idea; so that the
reader, not obtaining a clear precise knowlege of the facts, finds it
difficult to understand, and impossible to recollect, the author's
meaning. Let a man read his volumes with the most laborious attention,
and he will find at the close that he can give very little account of
the "Roman Empire;" but he will remember perfectly that Gibbon is a
most elegant writer.

History is capable of very little embellishment; _tropes_ and _figures_
are the proper instruments of _eloquence_ and _declamation_; _facts_
only are the subjects of _history_. Reflections of the author are
admitted; but these should not be frequent; for the reader claims a
right to his own opinions. The justness of the historian's remarks
may be called in question--facts only are incontestible. The plain
narrative of the Scripture historians, and of Herodotus, with their
dialogues and digressions, is as far superior, considered as pure
history, to the affected glaring brilliancy of stile and manner, which
runs thro Gibbon's writings, as truth is to fiction; or the vermillion
blush of nature and innocence, to the artificial daubings of fashion.
The first never fails to affect the heart--the last can only dazzle the

Another fault in Gibbon's manner of writing, is, the use of _epithets_
or _titles_ instead of _names_. "The Cæsar, the conqueror of the east,
the protector of the church, the country of the Cæsars, the son of
Leda," and innumerable similar appellations are employed, instead of
the real names of the persons and places; and frequently at such a
distance from any mention of the name, that the reader is obliged to
turn over a leaf and look for an explanation. Many of the epithets
are new; custom has not made us familiar with them; they have never
been substituted, by common consent, for the true names; the reader
is therefore surprized with unexpected appellations, and constantly
interrupted to find the persons or things to which they belong.

I am not about to write a lengthy criticism on this author's history;
a few passages only will be selected as proofs of what I have
advanced. "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," vol. 3, oct. chap.
17: In explaining the motives of the Emperors for removing the seat
of government from Rome to the East, the author says--"_Rome_ was
insensibly confounded with the dependent kingdoms which had once
acknowleged her supremacy; and _the country of the Cæsars_ was viewed
with cold indifference by a martial prince, born in the neighborhood
of the Danube, educated in the courts and armies of Asia, and invested
with the _purple_ by the legions of Britain." By the author's beginning
one part of the sentence with _Rome_, and the other with _the country
of the Cæsars_, the reader is led to think two different places are
intended, for he has not a suspicion of a tautology; or at least
he supposes the author uses _the country of the Cæsars_ in a more
extensive sense than _Rome_. He therefore looks back and reads perhaps
half a page with a closer attention, and finds that the writer is
speaking of the _seat of empire_, and therefore can mean the _city
of Rome_ only. After this trouble he is displeased that the author
has employed _five words_ to swell and adorn his period. This however
is not the only difficulty in understanding the author. Who is the
_martial prince_? In the preceding sentence, Dioclesian is mentioned,
as withdrawing from Rome; and in the sentence following, Constantine
is said to visit Rome but seldom. The reader then is left to collect
the author's meaning, by the circumstances of the birth, education and
election of this martial prince. If he is possessed of these facts
already, he may go on without much trouble.

The author's affectation of using _the purple_ for the crown or
imperial dignity, is so obvious by numberless repetitions of the word,
as to be perfectly ridiculous.

"In the choice of an advantageous situation, he preferred the confines
of Europe and Asia; to curb, _with a powerful arm_, the barbarians
who dwelt between the Danube and Tanais; to watch, _with an eye of
jealousy_, the conduct of the Persian monarch." Here the members of
the sentence in Italics, are altogether superfluous; the author wanted
to inform his reader, that Dioclesian designed to curb the barbarians
and watch the Persian monarch; for which purpose he chose a favorable
situation; but it was wholly immaterial to the subject to relate in
what manner or degree, the emperor meant to exert his arm or his
jealousy. Nay more, these are circumstances which are not reduceable
to any certainty, and of which the writer and the reader can have no
precise idea.

"With these views, Dioclesian had selected and embellished the
_residence of Nicomedia_."--Is Nicomedia a princess, whose residence
the emperor selected and embellished? This is the most obvious meaning
of the sentence. But Nicomedia, we learn from other passages, was a
city, the _residence_ itself of the emperor. Yet the author could not
tell us this in a few plain words, without spoiling the harmony of the
phrase; he chose therefore to leave it obscure and ungrammatical.

"--But the memory of Dioclesian was justly abhorred by the _Protector
of the Church_; and _Constantine_ was not insensible to the ambition
of founding a city, which might perpetuate the glory of his own name."
Who is the _protector of the church_? By Constantine's being mentioned
immediately after, one would think he cannot be the person intended;
yet on examination, this is found to be the case. But why this separate
appellation? It seems the author meant by it to convey this idea;
That Dioclesian was a persecutor of the church, therefore his memory
was abhorred by Constantine who was its protector; the _cause_ of
_Constantine_'s _abhorrence_ is implied, and meant to be unfolded to
the reader, in a single epithet. Is this history? I must have the
liberty to think that such _terseness_ of stile, notwithstanding the
authorities of Tacitus and Gibbon, is a gross corruption and a capital

In description, our author often indulges a figurative poetical manner,
highly improper.

"The figure of the imperial city (Constantinople) may be represented
under that of an unequal triangle. The obtuse point, which advances
towards the east, and the shores of Asia, meets and repels the waves
of the Thracian Bosphorus." Here the author soars on poetic wings, and
we behold the _obtuse point_ of a _triangle_, _marching_ eastward,
_attacking_ and _repulsing_ its _foes_, the _waves_ of the Bosphorus;
in the next line, the author sinks from the heights of Parnassus, and
creeps on the plain of _simple narrative_--"The northern side of the
city is bounded by the harbor."

"On these banks, tradition long preserved the memory of the sylvan
reign of Amycus, who defied the _son of Leda_ to the combat of the
Cestus." The author takes it for granted that his reader is acquainted
with all the ancient fables of Greece and Rome. Such _allusions_ to
facts or fables make a wretched figure in _sober history_.[177]

The author, after the manner of the poets, admits episodes into
his descriptions, by way of variety and embellishment. He begins a
description of Constantinople; to do justice to the city, he must
describe its situation; he therefore gives an account of the Thracian
Bosphorus, the Propontus and Hellespont, interspersed with ancient
fables, and adorned with poetical imagery. When he arrives at the mouth
of the Hellespont, his fancy leads him to the seat of ancient Troy, and
he cannot pass it, without telling us from Homer, where the Grecian
armies were encamped; where the flanks of the army were guarded by
Agamemnon's bravest chiefs; where Achilles and his myrmidons occupied a
promontory; where Ajax pitched his tent; and where his tomb was erected
after his death. After indulging his fancy on this memorable field of
heroic actions, he is _qualified_ to describe Constantinople.

But it is needless to multiply examples; for similar faults occur in
almost every page. Most men, who have read this history, perceive a
difficulty in understanding it; yet few have attempted to find the
reason; and hardly a man has dared to censure the stile and manner.

To what cause then shall we ascribe the almost unanimous consent of the
English and Americans, in lavishing praises upon Gibbon's history? In
some measure doubtless to the greatness of the attempt, and the want
of an English history which should unfold the series of events which
connects ancient and modern times. The man who should light a lamp, to
illuminate the dark period of time from the 5th to the 15th century,
would deserve immortal honors. The attempt is great; it is noble; it
is meritorious. Gibbon appears to have been faithful, laborious, and
perhaps impartial. It is his stile and manner only I am censuring; for
these are exceedingly faulty. For proof of this I appeal to a single
fact, which I have never heard contradicted; that a man who would
comprehend Gibbon, must read with painful attention, and after all
receive little improvement.

The encomiums of his countrymen proceed from false taste; a taste
for superfluous ornament. Men are disposed to lessen the trouble of
reading, and to spare the labor of examining into the causes and
consequences of events. They choose to please their eyes and ears,
rather than feed the mind. Hence the rage for _abridgements_, and
a display of rhetorical embellishments. Hence the eclat with which
"Millot's Elements of General History," is received in the world. This
work is no more than an _Index to General History_; or a recapitulation
of the principal events. It is calculated for two classes of people;
for those who, having read history in the original writers, want to
revise their studies, without a repetition of their first labors; and
for those who have but little time to employ in reading, and expect
only a general and superficial knowlege of history.[178] But a man who
would know the minute springs of action; the remote and collateral,
as well as the direct causes and consequences of events; and the nice
shades of character which distinguish eminent men, with a view to draw
rules from living examples; such a man must pass by abridgements as
trash; he must have recourse to the original writers, or to collections
of authentic papers. Indeed a collection of all the material official
papers, arranged in the order of time, however dry and unentertaining
to most readers, is really the _best_, and the _only authentic_ history
of a country. The philosopher and statesman, who wish to substitute
fact for opinion, will generally suspect human testimony; but repose
full confidence in the evidence of papers, which have been the original
instruments of public transactions, and recorded by public authority.

These strictures are contrary to the opinions of most men, especially
as they regard the stile of the authors mentioned. Yet they are written
with a full conviction of their being well founded. They proceed from
an earnest desire of arresting the progress of false taste in writing,
and of seeing my countrymen called back to nature and truth.


The foregoing remarks were written before I had seen the opinions
of that judicious and elegant writer, East Apthorp, M. A. vicar of
Croydon, on the same history. The following passage is too directly
in point to be omitted. It is in his "Second Letter on the Study of

"I was disappointed in my expectations of instruction from this book
(Gibbon's History) when I discerned that the author had adopted that
entertaining but superficial manner of writing history, which was first
introduced by the Abbe de Vertot, whose History of the Revolutions
in the Government of the Roman Republic, is one of those agreeable
and seducing models which never fail of producing a multitude of
imitations. There is, in this way of writing, merit enough to recommend
it to such readers, and such writers, as propose to themselves no
higher aim, than an elegant literary amusement: It piques their
curiosity, while it gratifies their indolence. The historian has the
advantage, in this way, of passing over such events and institutions
as, however essential to the science of history, are less adapted to
shine in the recital. By suppressing facts and violating chronology; by
selecting the most pleasing incidents and placing them in a striking
point of view, by the coloring and drapery of stile and composition,
the imagination is gratified with a gaudy spectacle of triumphs and
revolutions passing in review before it; while the rapid succession of
great events affords a transient delight, without leaving useful and
lasting impressions either on the memory or judgement; or fixing those
principles which ought to be the result of historic information.

"Nor is it the worst consequence of this slight and modish way of
compiling history, that it affords to supine and unreflecting readers
a barren entertainment, to fill up the vacant hours of indolence
and dissipation. The historian who gives himself the privilege of
mutilating and selecting, and arranging at discretion the records
of past ages, has full scope to obtrude on his careless readers any
system that suits with his preconceived opinions or particular views
in writing."--"The only legitimate study of history is in _original

The same writer complains of a decline of literature in Great Britain,
fixing the "settlement that followed the revolution," as the era of
true science and greatness. He remarks that the "aim of modern writers
seems to be to furnish their readers with fugitive amusement, and that
ancient literature is become rather the ornament of our libraries,
than the accomplishment of our minds; being supplanted by the modish
productions which are daily read and forgotten."

[F], page 76.

For proof of what I have advanced respecting the sound of c in Rome, I
would observe, that the genitive case of the first declension in Latin
anciently ended in _ai_, which was probably copied from the Greeks;
for it is very evident the Latin _æ_ in later writers, was the true
representative of the Greek _ai_. Thus _Mousai_ in Greek was translated
into the Roman tongue, _musæ_. Now _c_ before _ai_ had the sound of
_k_; for where the Romans wrote _cæ_ the Greeks wrote _kai_. Thus
_musica_, _musicæ_ in the first declension must have been pronounced
_musika_, _musikai_, not _musisee_, as we now pronounce the _æ_.

As a further proof, we may appeal to the laws of the Roman poetry,
by which dipthongs were always long, having the sound of two vowels

But a decisive proof that _c_ before the vowels _a_, _o_, _u_ and the
dipthongs, had the power of _k_, is that the Greeks always translated
the _c_ in _kappa_. They wrote Cæsar, _Kaisaros_, &c.

In confirmation of which I may add, that the Germans, among whom
the word _Cæsar_ became common to all emperors, and now signifies
_emperor_, spell it _Kaisar_; and in the pronunciation they preserve
the true Roman sound of _Cæsar_.[179]

That the Roman _c_ before _e_ and _i_ had the force of _ch_ or _tsh_,
is probable from the present practice of the Italians, who would be the
most likely to retain the pure Roman pronunciation. In modern Italian
_ce_, _ci_ are pronounced _che_, _chi_; as _dolcemente_, _Cicero_,
pronounced _dolchemente_, _Chichero_.

In this opinion I am supported by Dr. Middleton, who seems to have
been thoroughly versed in Roman literature. It may gratify the learned
reader to see his own words. _De Lat. Liter. pron. differ._

"Ante vocales _a_, _o_, _v_[180] eundem olim sonum habuisse ac
hodie habet certissimum est: qualem autem ante reliquas _e_ et _i_,
diphthongosque _æ_, _oe_, _ev_ habuerit, haud ita convenit. Angli illam
Gallique etiam, haud ab _s_ distinguunt, in Coena, Cæsar, Ceres, cinis,
&c. at in iisdem Itali, quod Romanos etiam fecisse olim existimo,
eum huic literæ sonum tribuunt, quo nos _ch_ efferimus, in vocibus
nostris, _cheek_, _cherry_, _cheap_, &c. itaque pronunciant Cicero,
uti nos Chichester, chicheley, &c. ita tamen ac si ante _c_, cum in
medio vocis sequatur vocalem, litera t leviter admodum et subobscure
sonanda interponeretur; ut _Citcero_, Chitchester, quam pronuntiandi
rationem expressisse plane sculptor quidam videtur, qui in inscriptione
veteri contra orthographiæ regulas, _t_ ante _c_ interposuit in nomine

He observes however that Lipsius ridicules this opinion, and contends
that _c_ had in all cases the force of _k_. This the Doctor ascribes to
his partiality for the pronunciation of his countrymen, the Germans,
which, he says, has often led him into errors. For altho _k_ before
_a_, _o_, _u_ used frequently to be written for _c_, as _Karcer_ for
_Carcer_, yet it never took the place of _c_ before _e_ and _i_; we
never find _Karker_ for _Carcer_.

But that _c_ had the sound of our _ch_, is probable from another fact:
In old inscriptions it is found that _c_ was often used for _t_ before
_i_; _condicio_ for _conditio_, _palacium_ for _palatium_. Now _ch_
in English have a compound sound, which begins with that of _t_, and
hence _ti_ and _ci_ in English have taken the sound of _ch_ or _sh_.
It is evident therefore that _c_ before _i_ had a great affinity to
_ti_; an affinity which is still preserved in the Italian language.
These circumstances give us reason to believe that _ci_ and _ti_ in
_condicio_ and _palatium_, were both pronounced _chi_, _condichio_,
_palachium_. This sound of _ci_ agrees perfectly well with the Saxon
sound in _cild_, pronounced _child_; _cele_, now pronounced _chill_, as
I have remarked above; text, page 72.

[G], page 82.

I shall not enter into a particular discussion of the question, whether
_h_ is a mark of _sound_ or not. By its convertibility with _k_ and
_c_ in the ancient languages, we have reason to conclude that it once
had a guttural sound, and the pronunciation of some northern nations
of Europe confirms the opinion. But it appears in modern English to
have no sound by itself; it however affects, in some degree, the sound
of the vowel to which it is prefixed, by previously opening the mouth
wider than is necessary to articulate the vowel. Thus in _hand_ we hear
no sound but of _and_; yet in pronouncing _hand_ we open the throat
wider, and emit the breath with violence before we begin the sound,
which makes an obvious difference in pronouncing the words _and_ and
_hand_; and perhaps this distinction is perceiveable as far as the
words can be heard. The same may be said of _th_ in _think_.

The instance of a man who lost a dinner by telling his servant to _eat_
it, when he meant to tell him to _heat_ it, affords a useful lesson to
those who are disposed to treat the letter _h_ with too much neglect.

[H], page 85.

That _i_ short is the same sound as _ee_ we have the authority of one
of the first and best English grammarians. "Hunc sonum, (ee) quoties
correptus est, Angli per _i_ breve, exprimunt; quum vero producitur,
scribunt ut plurimum per _ee_, non raro tamen per _ie_; vel etiam per
_ea_; ut, _sit_, _fit_, _feel_, _fill_, _fiend_, _near_," &c.----
Wallis, Gram. Sect. 2.

Ash confirms the opinion. "_Ee_ has one sound, as in _see_, _thee_, and
coincides with the narrow _i_."--Gram. Diss. pref. to his Dic.

Kenrick's arrangement of the _long_ and _short_ vowels is exactly
similar to mine.

Sheridan entertains a different opinion respecting the short _i_ and
_e_. He considers them as distinct vowels, incapable of prolongation.
Rhet. Gram. pref. to his Dict. page 16. In this he differs from most
other writers upon the subject, who have attended to the philosophical
distinctions of sounds. This appears to be an inaccuracy in his
distribution of the vowels; altho it cannot affect the practice of

The sound of the Roman _i_, it is agreed on all hands, was that of the
English _ee_. It retains that sound still in the Italian, French and
Spanish, which are immediately derived from the Latin. It had its long
and short sounds in Latin; as in _vidi_, _homini_; the first pronounced
_veedee_, and the last _homini_, as we now pronounce _i_ in _fill_. The
French preserve the long sound, and lay it down as a general rule, that
_i_ is pronounced like the English _ee_: Yet in discourse they actually
shorten the sound, and in _sentimens_, _ressentiment_, &c. pronounce
_i_ as we do in _civil_. In the French _motif_, _i_ is long like _ee_;
in this and all similar terminations, we shorten the sound, _motiv_.
Mr. Sheridan, in this particular, is evidently singular and probably

That _e_ in _let_ is but the short abrupt sound of _a_ in _late_, is
not so clear; but to me is evident. There is little or no difference
in the position of the organs with which we pronounce both vowels.
The Roman, Italian, Spanish and French _e_ is considered as the
representative of the English _a_ in _late_, _made_; and yet in common
discourse, it is shortened into the sound of _e_ in _let_, _men_:
Witness, _legere_, _avec_, _emmené_, _bueno_, _entendido_: We observe
the same in English; for _said_, _any_, _many_, which are pronounced
_sed_, _enny_, _menny_, exhibit the same vowel or short _a_; the _e_
being the abrupt sound of _ai_ in _said_. I must therefore differ from
Mr. Sheridan, and still believe that _e_ in _let_, and _i_ in _fit_,
are capable of prolongation. Children, when, instead of a comparison,
they would express the superlative by an emphasis, say _leetle_ instead
of _little_; which is a mere prolongation of _i_ short.

Mr. Sheridan, in my opinion, is guilty of an error of greater
consequence, in marking the two qualities of sound in _bard_ and _bad_
with the same figure. He distinguishes the different qualities of sound
in _pool_ and _full_, and in _not_ and _naught_; and why he should omit
the distinction of sound in _bard_ and _bad_, _ask_ and _man_, is to me
inconceiveable. The last distinction is as obvious as the others which
he has marked; and the defect of his scheme must lead a foreigner into
mistakes. His scheme is singular; Kenrick, Perry and Burn all make a
distinction in the time of pronouncing _a_ in _ask_ and _at_; and even
Scott, who copies Sheridan's pronunciation almost implicitly, still
makes the same distinction.

[I], page 87.

"Non multum differt hic sonus (w) ab Anglorum _oo_; Gallorum _ou_,
Germanorum _u_ pingui, rapidissime pronunciatis; adeoque a quibusdam
pro vocali fuit habita, _cum tamen revera consona sit_, quanquam ipsi
vocali admodum sit affinis."----Wallis.

"It is indeed on the celerity of utterance, that all the difference,
in many cases, between consonants and vowels depends; as in _w_ and
_y_, in English; which, being discharged quickly, perform the office
of consonants, in giving form only to the succeeding vowel; but when
protracted or drawled out, acquire a tone and become the vocal _oo_ and
_ee_."----Kenrick, Rhet. Gram. p. 4.

Perry has adopted this opinion and contends warmly that _w_ is a
consonant. If _w_ is a vowel, says he, then _wool_, _wolf_, will be
pronounced _oo-ool_, _oo-olf_, or _ool_, _olf_. I am sensible that in
the beginning of words, _w_ has not precisely the power of _oo_; but it
is not clear from this fact that it has the properties of a consonant.
Place a vowel before _w_, as, _ow_, and there is no compression of the
lips or other parts of the mouth, to obstruct the sound, as there is
produced by _b_ or _m_, in _eb_ and _em_.

In opposition to the authorities mentioned, Sheridan ranks _w_ among
the vowels, and supposes it to form dipthongs with the other vowels,
as in _well_, _will_, &c. It appears to me to be a letter rather of an
ambiguous nature, of which we have others in the language.

[J], page 88.

It has been remarked that by old authors _y_ was often used for _g_;
_yeve_ for _give_; _foryete_ for _forget_.---- Chaucer, Knight's Tale,

I have observed that some foreigners pronounce _year_, in the same
manner nearly as they do _ear_; and _yeast_ is commonly pronounced
_east_. This pronunciation would easily lead a man into the supposition
that _y_ is merely _ee_ short. But the pronunciation is vicious.

I observe also that Mr. Sheridan says, "_ye_ has the sound of _e_ long
in _ye_; of _a_ long in _yea_; of _e_ long in _year_, _yean_; and of
_e_ short in _yearn_, _yell_, &c." This confirms my opinion, and is a
proof that he does not pronounce _y_ at all.

If _y_ has the sound of _e_ in _year_, then _e_ has _no_ sound, or
there are in the word, _two_ sounds of _e_, which no person will
undertake to assert. The dispute however is easily settled. I have
learnt by attending to the conversation of well bred Englishmen,
that they do not pronounce _y_ at all in _year_ and many other
words. They say _ear_, _e_, for _year_, _ye_; and the sound of _e_,
they erroneously suppose to be that of _y_. In America, _y_ has in
these words, the consonant sound it has in _young_; and the English
pronunciation must in this instance be faulty.

[K], page 103.

"Now the harmony of prose arises from the same principle with that
which constitutes the harmony of verse; viz. numbers; or such a
disposition of the words as throws them into just metrical feet,
but very different from those which constitute any species of
verse."--Essay on the Power of Numbers, &c. page 4. Introd.

"A good stile is both _expressive_ and _harmonious_. The former depends
on the happy choice of the words to convey our ideas; the other on the
happy choice of numbers in the disposition of the words. The language
of some is expressive, but unharmonious; that is, the writer's words
strongly convey his sentiments, but the order in which they are
placed creates a sound unpleasant to the ear. The stile of others is
harmonious but not expressive; where the periods are well turned and
the numbers well adapted, but the sense obscure. The former satisfies
the mind, but offends the ear; the latter gratifies the ear, but
disgusts the mind. A good stile entertains and pleases both," &c----
Ibm. 2d. Part, page 17.

The author proceeds to illustrate his doctrines by showing in what the
harmony of prose consists. He remarks that the words should in some
degree be an echo to the sense, in prose as well as verse.

He proceeds--"Every sentence may be conceived as divisible into
distinct and separate clauses; every clause, where there is an apparent
cessation of the voice, should always end with a generous foot; and
all the preceding numbers be so intermixt, that the short ones be duly
qualified by the succeeding long ones; reserving the best and most
harmonious number for the cadence."

To show how much depends on the proper arrangement of words, he quotes
the following instance--"A divine, speaking of the Trinity, hath this
expression--It is a mystery which we firmly believe the truth of, and
humbly adore the depth of." Here the language is expressive, but not
harmonious; not merely because the clauses end with the particle _of_,
but because they abound with feeble numbers, _Pyrrhics_ and _Trochees_.
Let us change the disposition of the feet--"It is a mystery, the truth
of which we firmly believe, and the depths of which we humbly adore."
The difference in the melody is very perceiveable. The force and music
of the last disposition is increased by the Iambics and Anapæsts.

The most forceable feet, and those best adapted to sublime and serious
subjects, are those which contain the most long syllables, or end in
a long syllable; as the Iambic, the Spondee, the Anapæst. The weak
feet are those which have the most short syllables or end in a short
syllable; as the Pyrrhic, the Trochee, the Tribrach.

The want of proper measures, or a mixture of weak and strong syllables,
is very remarkable in a passage of the Declaration of Independence.
"We must therefore acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our
separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, _enemies in
war_, _[)i]n p[=e]ace_, _fri[=e]nds_." The three last syllables form,
if any thing, a Bacchic; the first syllable, short, and the two others,
long. But in a just pronunciation, the foot is necessarily broken by
a pause after _peace_. This interruption, and the two long syllables,
render the close of the sentence extremely heavy. The period is concise
and expressive, as it stands; but the arrangement might be much more
harmonious--"O[)u]r [=e]n[)e]m[)i]es [)i]n w[=a]r; [)i]n p[=e]ace,
o[)u]r fri[=e]nds." Here the measure and melody are perfect; the period
closing with three Iambics, preceded by a Pyrrhic.

[L], page 111.

In a Scotch Ballad, called _Edom o Gordon_, we find the word _dreips_
for _drops_.

    "--And clear, clear was hir zellow hair
    Whereon the reid bluid _dreips_."

But it was often spelt _drap_, agreeable to the pronunciation. See
Edward. Rel. An. Poet. 53.

The dialect in America is peculiar to the descendants of the Scotch

[M], page 111.

Mought is the past time or participle of an old Saxon verb _mowe_ or
_mowen_, _to be able_. It answered to the _posse_ of the Romans, and
the _pouvoir_ of the French. This verb occurs frequently in Chaucer.

    "But that science is so fer us beforne,
    We _mowen_ not, altho we had it sworne,
    It overtake, it slit away so fast,
    It _wol_ us maken beggers at the last."

  Cant. Tales, l. 16, 148, Bell's edit.

"To _mowen_ such a knight done live or die."----Troil. and Cres. 2.
1594. That is, _to be able_ to make such a knight live or die.

    "And _mought_ I hope to winne thy love,
    Ne more his tonge could saye."

  Sir Cauline, an old Ballad, l. 163.

    "The thought they herd a woman wepe,
    But her they _mought_ not se."

  Adam Bell, &c. part 3. l. 2. in Rel. of An. Poet.

    "So _mought_ thou now in these refined lays
    Delight the dainty ears of higher powers.
    And so _mought_ they in their deep scanning skill,
    Allow and grace our Collen's flowing quill."

  Spenser, Hobbynall.

There seem to have been among our Saxon ancestors two verbs of nearly
or exactly the same signification, _may_ and _might_; and _mowe_ and
_mought_. There is some reason to think they were not synonimous; that
_may_ was used to express _possibility_, as _I may go next week_; and
_mowe_ to express _power_, as _they mowen go_, they are able to go. But
it is not certain that such a distinction ever existed. The Germans use
_moegen_, in the infinitive; _mag_, in the indic. pres. _mæge_, in the
subj. pres. in the imperfect of the ind. _mochte_; and in the imp. of
the subj. _mæchte_. The English use _may_ and _might_ solely in their
writing; but _mought_ is still pronounced in some parts of America.

_Holpe_ or _holp_ was not obsolete when the Bible was last translated,
in the reign of king James; for it occurs in several places in that
translation. It occurs frequently in old authors.

    "Unkindly they slew him, that _holp_ them oft at nede."

  Skelton El. on Earl of Northum. l. 47.

In Virginia it is pronounced _hope_. "Shall I hope you, Sir."

But we must look among the New England common people for ancient
English phrases; for they have been 160 years sequestered in some
measure from the world, and their language has not suffered material
changes from their first settlement to the present time. Hence most of
the phrases, used by Shakespear, Congreve, and other writers who have
described English manners and recorded the language of all classes of
people, are still heard in the common discourse of the New England

The verb _be_, in the indicative, present tense, which Lowth observes
is almost obsolete in England, is still used after the ancient manner,
I _be_, we _be_, you _be_, they _be_. The old plural _housen_ is still
used for houses. The old verb _wol_ for will, and pronounced _wool_,
is not yet fallen into disuse. This was the verb principally used in
Chaucer's time, and it now lives in the purest branch of the Teutonic,
the German.

For many years, I had supposed the word _dern_ in the sense of _great_
or _severe_, was local in New England. Perhaps it may not now be used
any where else; but it was once a common English word. Chaucer uses it
in the sense of _secret_, _earnest_, &c.

    "This clerk was cleped Hende Nicholas
    Of _derne_ love he could and of solas."

  Mil. Tale, l. 3200.

    "Ye mosten be ful _derne_ as in this case."

  Ibm. 3297.

The word is in common use in New England and pronounced _darn_. It has
not however the sense it had formerly; it is now used as an adverb to
qualify an adjective, as _darn sweet_; denoting a great degree of the

The New England people preserve the ancient use of _there_ and _here_
after a word or sentence, designating the _place where_; as _this
here_, _that there_. It is called vulgar in English; and indeed the
addition of _here_ or _there_ is generally tautological. It is however
an ancient practice; and the French retain it in the pure elegant
language of their country; _ce pays là_, _celui là_, _cet homme ici_;
where we observe this difference only between the French and English
idioms, that in French, the adverb follows the noun, _that country
there_, _this man here_; whereas in English, the adverb precedes the
noun, _that there country_, _this here man_. This form of speech seems
to have been coeval with the primitive Saxon, otherwise it would not
have prevailed so generally among the common people.

It has been before remarked that the word _ax_ for _ask_ was used in
England, and even in the royal assent to acts of parliament, down to
the reign of Henry VI.

    "And to her husband bad hire for to sey
    If that he _axed_ after Nicholas."----

  Chau. Mil. Tale, 3412.

    "This _axeth_ haste and of an hastif thing
    Men may not preche and maken tarying."

  Ibm. 3545.

This word to _ax_ is still frequent in New England.

I no not know whether our American sportsmen use the word, _ferret_, in
the sense of driving animals from their lurking places. But the word
is used in some parts of New England, and applied figuratively to many
transactions in life. So in Congreve:

"Where is this apocryphal elder? I'll _ferret_ him."----Old Bach, act
4, fc. 21.

Sometimes, but rarely, we hear the old imperative of the Saxon
_thafian_, now pronounced _thof_. But it is generally pronounced as
it is written, _tho_. It is remarked by Horne, that _thof_ is still
frequent among the common people of England.

_Gin_ or _gyn_ for _given_ is still used in America; as Bishop Wilkins
remarks, it is in the North of England.

_Without_, in the sense of _unless_, is as frequent as any word in
the language, and even among the learned. It is commonly accounted
inelegant, and writers have lately substituted _unless_: But I do not
see the propriety of discarding _without_, for its meaning is exactly
the same as that of _unless_. It is demonstrated that they are both
the imperatives of old verbs. _Without_, is _be out_, _be away_; and
_unless_ is _dismiss_, or _be apart_. Instead of the imperative Chaucer
generally uses the participle, _withouten_, _being out_.

The best writers use _without_ in the sense of _unless_.

"--And if he can't be cured _without_ I suck the poison from his
wounds, I'm afraid he won't recover his senses, till I lose mine."----
Cong. Love for Love, act 4. sc. 3.

"'Twere better for him, you had not been his confessor in that affair,
_without_ you could have kept his counsel closer."----Cong. Way of the
World, act, 3. sc. 7.

The best speakers use the word in this manner, in common discourse, and
I must think, with propriety.

_Peek_ is also used corruptedly for _peep_. By a similar change of
the last consonant, _chirk_ is used for _chirp_, _to make a cheerful
noise_. This word is wholly lost, except in New England. It is there
used for _comfortably_, _bravely_, _cheerful_; as when one enquires
about a sick person, it is said, he is _chirk_. _Chirp_ is still used
to express the singing of birds, but the _chirk_ of New England is not
understood, and therefore derided. Four hundred years ago it was a
polite term.

    "and kisseth hire swete, and _chirketh_ as a sparwe
    With his lippes."----

  Chaucer, Somp. Tale, 7386.

In the following it is used for a disagreeable noise.

    "All full of _chirking_ was that sory place."

  Knight's Tale, 2006.

    "And al so ful eke of _chirkings_
    And of many other wirkings."

  House of Fame, 858.

_Shet_ for _shut_ is now become vulgar; yet this is the true original
orthography and pronunciation. It is from the Saxon _scitten_, and I
believe was always spelt _shette_ or _shet_, till after Chaucer's
time, for he was a correct writer in his age, and always spelt it in
that manner.

    "Voideth your man and let him be thereout,
    And _shet_ the dore."----

  Chau. Yem. Tale, 16, 605.

    "And his maister _shette_ the dore anon."

  Ibm. 16, 610.

And in a variety of other places. This word is almost universally
pronounced _shet_ among all classes of people, not only in New England,
but in Great Britain and the southern states of America. How the
spelling came to be changed, is not known; but it was certainly a

_An_ for _if_ is seen in most old authors. It remains among the common
people, both in England and America. "_An_ please your honor;" that
is, "_if_ your honor please." In New England, the phrases in which it
occurs most frequently are, "Let him go, _an_ he will;" "Go, _an_ you
will;" and others of a similar kind.

_Because_ and _becase_ were used promiscuously by our ancestors.
_Becase_ is found in some ancient writings, tho not so frequently as
_because_. In New England, we frequently hear _becase_ to this day. It
is pronounced _becaze_. It is a compound of _be_ and _cause_ or _case_;
both of these words with the verb _be_ make good English; but _becase_
is vulgar.

The vulgar pronunciation of _such_ is _sich_. This is but a small
deviation from the ancient elegant pronunciation, which was _swich_
or _swiche_, as the word is spelt in Chaucer. Such is the force of
national practice: And altho the country people in New England,
sometimes drawl their words in speaking, and, like their brethren,
often make false concord, yet their idiom is purely Saxon or English;
and in a vast number of instances, they have adhered to the true
phrases, where people, who despise their plain manners, have run into
error. Thus they say, "a man is going _by_," and not _going past_,
which is nonsense: They say, "I _purpose_ to go," and not _propose_ to
go, which is not good English. They say, "a ship _lies_ in harbor," not
_lays_, which is a modern corruption. They say, "I _have_ done," and
never "I _am_ done," which is nonsense. They say, "it was _on_ Monday
evening," not "_of_ a Monday evening," which is an error. They never
use the absurd phrases "_expect it was_;" and "the ship will sail in
_all_ next week." They never say "he is home," but always, "at home."
They use the old phrase, "it is half _after_ six o'clock," which is
more correct than _half past six_. They say, if a person is not in
health, he is _sick_. The modern English laugh at them, because the
English say a man is _ill_; and confine sick to express the idea of
a nausea in the stomach. The English are wrong, and the New England
people use the word in its true sense, which extends to all bodily
disorders, as it is used by the pure English writers. _Ill_ is a
contraction of _evil_; and denotes a moral disorder. Its application
to bodily complaints is a modern practice, and its meaning figurative.
So that whatever improprieties may have crept into their practice
of speaking, they actually preserve more of the genuin idiom of the
English tongue, than many of the modern fine speakers who set up for

[N], page 120.

The letters _ch_ in Roman answered nearly to the Greek _ki_ or _chi_;
for _c_ had the sound of _k_, at least before _a_, _o_, _u_. _Ch_ or
_kh_ was therefore the proper combination for the Greek letter; which
had the sound of _k_ followed by an aspirate. This combination was
copied into our language; and perhaps the aspirate was once pronounced,
like the Irish guttural in _Cochran_. But when the aspirate was lost,
_k_ became the proper representative of the sound. It is wished, that
in all the derivatives from the ancient languages, where this character
occurs, _k_ might be substituted for _ch_; that persons unacquainted
with etymology, might not mistake and give _ch_ its English sound.



[128] It is said that the Celtic has a great affinity with the oriental
languages. "Magnam certe cum linguis orientalibus affinitatem retinet,
ut notant Dr. J. Davies passim in Dictionario suo Cambro Britannico, et
Samuel Bochartus in sua Geographica sacra."----Wallis, Gram.

[129] The invention of letters is ascribed to Taaut or Theuth, the son
of _Misraim_, soon after the flood.

[130] I strongly suspect that the primitive language of the north of
Europe was the root of the Sclavonic, still retained in Russia, Poland,
Hungary, &c. and that the Gothic was introduced at a later period.

[131] This objection however may be obviated by Lluyd's supposition,
mentioned in the note, page 50, that the primitive inhabitants of
Britain were denominated Guydelians, and the Cymri or Welsh were
another branch of the Celtic Cimbri, who came from the North, settled
in Britain and gave name to the language.

[132] It is commonly observed, that different climates, airs and
aliments, do very much diversify the tone of the parts and muscles
of human bodies; on some of which the modulation of the voice much
depends. The peculiar moisture of one country, the drought of another
(other causes from food, &c. concurring) extend or contract, swell or
attenuate, the organs of the voice, that the sound made thereby is
rendered either shrill or hoarse, soft or hard, plain or lisping, in
proportion to that contraction or extension. And hence it is, that the
Chinese and Tartars have some sounds in their language, that Europeans
can scarcely imitate: And it is well known in Europe itself, that an
Englishman is not able agreeably to converse with a stranger, even in
one and the same Latin; nay, even in England, it is noted by Mr. Camden
and Dr. Fuller, that the natives of Carleton Curlew in Leicestershire,
by a certain peculiarity of the place, have the turn of their voice
very different from those of the neighboring villages.

[133] _JILD Teka_, thou art my son. Psalm ii. 7.

[134] _MEREDUTH_ is the same with _Merad_, a British name.

[135] It has this sound in most of the ancient tongues.

[136] The armorial ensign of Carthage was a _horse_.

[137] It is remarkable that the Germans pronounce this word _wollen_,
and _woll_, like the Roman _volo_, pronounced _wolo_. Many old people
in America retain this pronunciation to this day; I _woll_, or _wool_,
for _will_.

The Roman pronunciation of _v_ is still preserved in England and
America; _veal_, weal; _vessel_, wessel; and _w_ is often changed into
_v_ or _f_; _wine_, vine, or even fine.

The Romans often pronounced _t_ where we use _d_; as _traho_, draw.

[138] In teaching English to a Spaniard, I found that in attempting to
pronounce words beginning with _w_, he invariably began with the sound
of _gu_; _well_, he would pronounce _guell_.

[139] This word is found in most of the branches of the Gothic.

[140] Allusive to the ancient custom of pardoning by giving permission
to depart.

[141] Frontier settlement; so called, because the Romans _passed thro_
this territory, in going to or from Rome.

[142] The French and Spanish rarely or never aspirate an _h_; and in
this word they have omitted it mostly in writing.

[143] The above specimen of the ancient Irish is judged to be a
thousand years old. See O'Conner's Dissertation on the History of
Ireland. Dublin, 1766, 8 vo.

[144] Feichneinibh.

[145] "Hunc sonum (gh) Anglos in vocibus _light_, _might_, &c. olim
protulisse sentio; at nunc dierum, quamvis scripturam retineant, sonum
tamen fera penitus omittunt. Boreales tamen, presertim Scoti, fere
adhuc retinent seu potius ipsius loco sonum _b_ substituunt."----Wallis.

[146] The Runic excepted. The Runic letters were sixteen in number, and
introduced very early into the North; but they went into disuse about
the tenth or eleventh century.

[147] _BENJAMIN is son of the right hand._

[148] Their.

[149] Mixture; an old French word, now written _melange_.

[150] corrupted.

[151] These words represent barbarity and roughness in speaking.

[152] Corruption of the native tongue.

[153] hear

[154] since

[155] know. The Germans preserve the verb _koennen_, to be able. The
pronouns _hir_ and _hire_ for _their_, still remain in the German _ihr_.

[156] Country-people, so called from, their living on the mountains or
high lands; hence _outlandish_.

[157] attempt with eagerness.

[158] time.

[159] _sithe_ is the origin of _since_.

[160] _Del_ signifies a _part_ or division; it is from the verb
_dæler_ to divide, and the root of the English word _deal_. _Dæler_ is
preserved in the Danish.

[161] learning.

[162] their.

[163] In the original these words are obscure.

[164] This is from the verb _sollen_, implying obligation, duty.

[165] their.

[166] foreign; Lat. _advena_.

[167] realm.

[168] divided.

[169] Scarcely.

[170] hardly.

[171] dwelleth.

[172] far.

[173] I find in an "Essay on the language and versification of Chaucer"
prefixed to Bell's edition of his works, part of this extract copied
from a Harlein manuscript, said to be more correct than the manuscript
from which Dr. Hickes copied it. But on comparing the extracts in both,
I find none but verbal differences; the sense of both is the same.

[174] In a charter of Edward III. dated 1348, _yeven_ is used for
_given_. _Yave_ for _gave_ is used by Chaucer.--Knight's Tale, line
2737. "And _yave_ hem giftes after his degree." In a charter of Edward
the Confessor, _gif_ is used in its Saxon purity. In the same charter,
_Bissop his land_, is used for a genitive. The Scotch wrote _z_ for
_y_; _zit_ for _yet_; _zeres_ for _years_.--Douglass. I do not find,
at this period, the true Saxon genitive in use: The _Bissop his land_,
is deemed an error. This mode of speaking has however prevailed, till
within a few years, and still has its advocates. But it is certain the
Saxons had a proper termination for the genitive or possessive, which
is preserved in the two first declensions of the German.

Example of the declension of nouns among the Saxons.


       _Sing._           _Plu._

  Nom. Word              word
  Gen. Wordes            worda
  Dat. Worde             wordum
  Acc. Word              word
  Voc. Eala thu word     eala ge word
  Abl. Worde             wordum

  Hickes Sax. Gram.

[175] CUSTODES in castellis strenuos viros ex Gallis collocavit, et
opulenta beneficia, pro quibus labores et pericula libenter tolerâ
rent, distribuit.--Orderic. Vital. lib. 4.

[176] The word _ax_ for _ask_ is not a modern corruption. It was an
ancient dialect, and not vulgar.

[177] So Gillies, in his Hist. of Greece, chap. II. talks about the
death of the "_friend_ of Achilles;" but leaves the reader to discover
the person--not having once mentioned the name of _Patroclus_. I
would observe further that such appellations as the _son of Leda_ are
borrowed from the Greek; but wholly improper in our language. The
Greeks had a distinct ending of the name of the father to signify son
or descendants; as _Heraclidæ_. This form of the noun was known and had
a definite meaning in Greece; but in English the idiom is awkward and

[178] Readers of the last description are the most numerous.

[179] _Czar_, the Russian appellation or Emperor, is a contraction of
_Cæsar_. It is pronounced in the Russian, _char_ or _tshar_.

[180] In ancient inscription, and the early Roman authors, _v_ was
written _u_, and pronounced _oo_ or _w_. The following extracts from
the laws of Romulus, &c. will give the reader an idea of the early
orthography of the Latin tongue:--

1 DEOS patrios colunto: externas superstitiones aut fabulas ne

3 NOCTURNA sacrificia peruigiliaque amouentor.

8 VXOR farreatione viro iuncta, in sacra et bona eius venito--ius
deuortendi ne esto.

13 SI pater filiom ter venumduit, filius a patre liber esto.

_A law of Numa._

5 QUI terminum exarasit, ipsus et boues sacrei sunto.

_A law of Tullius Hostillius._

2 NATI trigemini, donicum puberes esunt, de publico aluntor.





_the_ MODE _of_ SPELLING, _and of_ RENDERING _the_ ORTHOGRAPHY _of_



It has been observed by all writers on the English language, that
the orthography or spelling of words is very irregular; the same
letters often representing different sounds, and the same sounds often
expressed by different letters. For this irregularity, two principal
causes may be assigned:

1. The changes to which the pronunciation of a language is liable, from
the progress of science and civilization.

2. The mixture of different languages, occasioned by revolutions in
England, or by a predilection of the learned, for words of foreign
growth and ancient origin.

To the first cause, may be ascribed the difference between the spelling
and pronunciation of Saxon words. The northern nations of Europe
originally spoke much in gutturals. This is evident from the number of
aspirates and guttural letters, which still remain in the orthography
of words derived from those nations; and from the modern pronunciation
of the collateral branches of the Teutonic, the Dutch, Scotch and
German. Thus _k_ before _n_ was once pronounced; as in _knave_, _know_;
the _gh_ in _might_, _though_, _daughter_, and other similar words; the
_g_ in _reign_, _feign_, &c.

But as savages proceed in forming languages, they lose the guttural
sounds, in some measure, and adopt the use of labials, and the more
open vowels. The ease of speaking facilitates this progress, and
the pronunciation of words is softened, in proportion to a national
refinement of manners. This will account for the difference between the
ancient and modern languages of France, Spain and Italy; and for the
difference between the soft pronunciation of the present languages of
those countries, and the more harsh and guttural pronunciation of the
northern inhabitants of Europe.

In this progress, the English have lost the sounds of most of the
guttural letters. The _k_ before _n_ in _know_, the _g_ in _reign_,
and in many other words, are become mute in practice; and the _gh_ is
softened into the sound of _f_, as in _laugh_, or is silent, as in

To this practice of softening the sounds of letters, or wholly
suppressing those which are harsh and disagreeable, may be added a
popular tendency to abbreviate words of common use. Thus _Southwark_,
by a habit of quick pronunciation, is become _Suthark_; _Worcester_ and
_Leicester_, are become _Wooster_ and _Lester_; _business_, _bizness_;
_colonel_, _curnel_; _cannot_, _will not_, _cant_, _wont_.[181] In this
manner the final _e_ is not heard in many modern words, in which it
formerly made a syllable. The words _clothes_, _cares_, and most others
of the same kind, were formerly pronounced in two syllables.[182]

Of the other cause of irregularity in the spelling of our language,
I have treated sufficiently in the first Dissertation. It is here
necessary only to remark, that when words have been introduced from a
foreign language into the English, they have generally retained the
orthography of the original, however ill adapted to express the English
pronunciation. Thus _fatigue_, _marine_, _chaise_, retain their French
dress, while, to represent the true pronunciation in English, they
should be spelt _fateeg_, _mareen_, _shaze_. Thus thro an ambition to
exhibit the etymology of words, the English, in _Philip_, _physic_,
_character_, _chorus_, and other Greek derivatives, preserve the
representatives of the original ~Ph~ and ~Ch~; yet these words are
pronounced, and ought ever to have been spelt, _Fillip_, _fyzzic_ or
_fizzic_, _karacter_, _korus_.[183]

But such is the state of our language. The pronunciation of the words
which are strictly _English_, has been gradually changing for ages, and
since the revival of science in Europe, the language has received a
vast accession of words from other languages, many of which retain an
orthography very ill suited to exhibit the true pronunciation.

The question now occurs; ought the Americans to retain these faults
which produce innumerable in conveniencies in the acquisition and use
of the language, or ought they at once to reform these abuses, and
introduce order and regularity into the orthography of the AMERICAN

Let us consider this subject with some attention.

Several attempts were formerly made in England to rectify the
orthography of the language.[184] But I apprehend their schemes failed
of success, rather on account of their intrinsic difficulties, than
on account of any necessary impracticability of a reform. It was
proposed, in most of these schemes, not merely to throw out superfluous
and silent letters, but to introduce a number of new characters. Any
attempt on such a plan must undoubtedly prove unsuccessful. It is not
to be expected that an orthography, perfectly regular and simple,
such as would be formed by a "Synod of Grammarians on principles of
science," will ever be substituted for that confused mode of spelling
which is now established. But it is apprehended that great improvements
may be made, and an orthography almost regular, or such as shall
obviate most of the present difficulties which occur in learning our
language, may be introduced and established with little trouble and

The principal alterations, necessary to render our orthography
sufficiently regular and easy, are these:

1. The omission of all superfluous or silent letters; as _a_ in
_bread_. Thus _bread_, _head_, _give_, _breast_, _built_, _meant_,
_realm_, _friend_, would be spelt, _bred_, _hed_, _giv_, _brest_,
_bilt_, _ment_, _relm_, _frend_. Would this alteration produce any
inconvenience, any embarrassment or expense? By no means. On the
other hand, it would lessen the trouble of writing, and much more, of
learning the language; it would reduce the true pronunciation to a
certainty; and while it would assist foreigners and our own children in
acquiring the language, it would render the pronunciation uniform, in
different parts of the country, and almost prevent the possibility of

2. A substitution of a character that has a certain definite sound, for
one that is more vague and indeterminate. Thus by putting _ee_ instead
of _ea_ or _ie_, the words _mean_, _near_, _speak_, _grieve_, _zeal_,
would become _meen_, _neer_, _speek_, _greev_, _zeel_. This alteration
could not occasion a moment's trouble; at the same time it would
prevent a doubt respecting the pronunciation; whereas the _ea_ and
_ie_ having different sounds, may give a learner much difficulty. Thus
_greef_ should be substituted for _grief_; _kee_ for _key_; _beleev_
for _believe_; _laf_ for _laugh_; _dawter_ for _daughter_; _plow_ for
_plough_; _tuf_ for _tough_; _proov_ for _prove_; _blud_ for _blood_;
and _draft_ for _draught_. In this manner _ch_ in Greek derivatives,
should be changed into _k_; for the English _ch_ has a soft sound,
as in _cherish_; but _k_ always a hard sound. Therefore _character_,
_chorus_, _cholic_, _architecture_, should be written _karacter_,
_korus_, _kolic_, _arkitecture_; and were they thus written, no person
could mistake their true pronunciation.

Thus _ch_ in French derivatives should be changed into sh; _machine_,
_chaise_, _chevalier_, should be written _masheen_, _shaze_,
_shevaleer_; and _pique_, _tour_, _oblique_, should be written _peek_,
_toor_, _obleek_.

3. A trifling alteration in a character, or the addition of a point
would distinguish different sounds, without the substitution of a new
character. Thus a very small stroke across _th_ would distinguish its
two sounds. A point over a vowel, in this manner, _[.a]_ or _[.e]_, or
_[.i]_, might answer all the purposes of different letters. And for the
dipthong _ow_, let the two letters be united by a small stroke, or both
engraven on the same piece of metal, with the left hand line of the _w_
united to the _o_.

These, with a few other inconsiderable alterations, would answer every
purpose, and render the orthography sufficiently correct and regular.

The advantages to be derived from these alterations are numerous, great
and permanent.

1. The simplicity of the orthography would facilitate the learning
of the language. It is now the work of years for children to learn
to spell; and after all, the business is rarely accomplished. A few
men, who are bred to some business that requires constant exercise in
writing, finally learn to spell most words without hesitation; but most
people remain, all their lives, imperfect masters of spelling, and
liable to make mistakes, whenever they take up a pen to write a short
note. Nay, many people, even of education and fashion, never attempt to
write a letter, without frequently consulting a dictionary.

But with the proposed orthography, a child would learn to spell,
without trouble, in a very short time, and the orthography being very
regular, he would ever afterwards find it difficult to make a mistake.
It would, in that case, be as difficult to spell _wrong_, as it is now
to spell _right_.

Besides this advantage, foreigners would be able to acquire the
pronunciation of English, which is now so difficult and embarrassing,
that they are either wholly discouraged on the first attempt, or
obliged, after many years labor, to rest contented with an imperfect
knowlege of the subject.

2. A correct orthography would render the pronunciation of the
language, as uniform as the spelling in books. A general uniformity
thro the United States, would be the event of such a reformation as I
am here recommending. All persons, of every rank, would speak with some
degree of precision and uniformity.[185] Such a uniformity in these
states is very desireable; it would remove prejudice, and conciliate
mutual affection and respect.

3. Such a reform would diminish the number of letters about one
sixteenth or eighteenth. This would save a page in eighteen; and a
saving of an eighteenth in the expense of books, is an advantage that
should not be overlooked.

4. But a capital advantage of this reform in these states would be,
that it would make a difference between the English orthography and the
American. This will startle those who have not attended to the subject;
but I am confident that such an event is an object of vast political
consequence. For,

The alteration, however small, would encourage the publication of
books in our own country. It would render it, in some measure,
necessary that all books should be printed in America. The English
would never copy our orthography for their own use; and consequently
the same impressions of books would not answer for both countries.
The inhabitants of the present generation would read the English
impressions; but posterity, being taught a different spelling, would
prefer the American orthography.

Besides this, a _national language_ is a band of _national union_.
Every engine should be employed to render the people of this country
_national_; to call their attachments home to their own country; and
to inspire them with the pride of national character. However they may
boast of Independence, and the freedom of their government, yet their
_opinions_ are not sufficiently independent; an astonishing respect
for the arts and literature of their parent country, and a blind
imitation of its manners, are still prevalent among the Americans.
Thus an habitual respect for another country, deserved indeed and once
laudable, turns their attention from their own interests, and prevents
their respecting themselves.


1. "This reform of the Alphabet would oblige people to relearn the
language, or it could not be introduced."

But the alterations proposed are so few and so simple, that an hour's
attention would enable any person to read the new orthography with
facility; and a week's practice would render it so familiar, that a
person would write it without hesitation or mistake. Would this small
inconvenience prevent its adoption? Would not the numerous national
and literary advantages, resulting from the change, induce Americans
to make so inconsiderable a sacrifice of time and attention? I am
persuaded they would.

But it would not be necessary that men advanced beyond the middle stage
of life, should be at the pains to learn the proposed orthography. They
would, without inconvenience, continue to use the present. They would
read the _new_ orthography, without difficulty; but they would write in
the _old_. To men thus advanced, and even to the present generation in
general, if they should not wish to trouble themselves with a change,
the reformation would be almost a matter of indifference. It would be
sufficient that children should be taught the new orthography, and
that as fast as they come upon the stage, they should be furnished
with books in the American spelling. The progress of printing would
be proportioned to the demand for books among the rising generation.
This progressive introduction of the scheme would be extremely easy;
children would learn the proposed orthography more easily than they
would the old; and the present generation would not be troubled with
the change; so that none but the obstinate and capricious could
raise objections or make any opposition. The change would be so
inconsiderable, and made on such simple principles, that a column in
each newspaper, printed in the new spelling, would in six months,
familiarize most people to the change, show the advantages of it, and
imperceptibly remove their objections. The only steps necessary to
ensure success in the attempt to introduce this reform, would be, a
resolution of Congress, ordering all their acts to be engrossed in the
new orthography, and recommending the plan to the several universities
in America; and also a resolution of the universities to encourage and
support it. The printers would begin the reformation by publishing
short paragraphs and small tracts in the new orthography; school books
would first be published in the same; curiosity would excite attention
to it, and men would be gradually reconciled to the plan.

2. "This change would render our present books useless."

This objection is, in some measure, answered under the foregoing
head. The truth is, it would not have this effect. The difference of
orthography would not render books printed in one, illegible to persons
acquainted only with the other. The difference would not be so great
as between the orthography of Chaucer, and of the present age; yet
Chaucer's works are still read with ease.

3. "This reformation would injure the language by obscuring etymology."

This objection is unfounded. In general, it is not true that the
change would obscure etymology; in a few instances, it might; but it
would rather restore the etymology of many words; and if it were true
that the change would obscure it, this would be no objection to the

It will perhaps surprize my readers to be told that, in many particular
words, the modern spelling is less correct than the ancient. Yet
this is a truth that reflects dishonor on our modern refiners of
the language. Chaucer, four hundred years ago, wrote _bilder_ for
_builder_; _dedly_ for _deadly_; _ernest_ for _earnest_; _erly_ for
_early_; _brest_ for _breast_; _hed_ for _head_; and certainly his
spelling was the most agreeable to the pronunciation.[186] Sidney wrote
_bin_, _examin_, _sutable_, with perfect propriety. Dr. Middleton wrote
_explane_, _genuin_, _revele_, which is the most easy and correct
orthography of such words; and also _luster_, _theater_, for _lustre_,
_theatre_. In these and many other instances, the modern spelling is
a corruption; so that allowing many improvements to have been made in
orthography, within a century or two, we must acknowlege also that many
corruptions have been introduced.

In answer to the objection, that a change of orthography would obscure
etymology, I would remark, that the etymology of most words is already
lost, even to the learned; and to the unlearned, etymology is never
known. Where is the man that can trace back our English words to the
elementary radicals? In a few instances, the student has been able to
reach the primitive roots of words; but I presume the radicals of one
tenth of the words in our language, have never yet been discovered,
even by Junius, Skinner, or any other etymologist. Any man may look
into Johnson or Ash, and find that _flesh_ is derived from the Saxon
_floce_; _child_ from _cild_; _flood_ from _flod_; _lad_ from _leode_;
and _loaf_ from _laf_ or _hlaf_. But this discovery will answer no
other purpose, than to show, that within a few hundred years, the
spelling of some words has been a little changed: We should still be at
a vast distance from the primitive roots.

In many instances indeed etymology will assist the learned in
understanding the composition and true sense of a word; and it throws
much light upon the progress of language. But the true sense of a
complex term is not always, nor generally, to be learnt from the sense
of the primitives or elementary words. The current meaning of a word
depends on its use in a nation. This true sense is to be obtained by
attending to good authors, to dictionaries and to practice, rather than
to derivation. The former _must_ be _right_; the latter _may_ lead us
into _error_.

But to prove of how little consequence a knowlege of etymology is to
most people, let me mention a few words. The word _sincere_ is derived
from the Latin, _sine cera_, without wax; and thus it came to denote
_purity of mind_. I am confident that not a man in a thousand ever
suspected this to be the origin of the word; yet all men, that have
any knowlege of our language, use the word in its true sense, and
understand its customary meaning, as well as Junius did, or any other

_Yea_ or _yes_ is derived from the imperative of a verb, _avoir_ to
have, as the word is now spelt. It signifies therefore _have_, or
_possess_, or _take_ what you ask. But does this explication assist
us in using the word? And does not every countryman who labors in
the field, understand and use the word with as much precision as the
profoundest philosophers?

The word _temper_ is derived from an old root, _tem_, which signified
_water_. It was borrowed from the act of _cooling_, or moderating
heat. Hence the meaning of _temperate_, _temperance_, and all the
ramifications of the original stock. But does this help us to the
modern current sense of these words? By no means. It leads us to
understand the formation of languages, and in what manner an idea
of a visible action gives rise to a correspondent abstract idea; or
rather, how a word, from a literal and direct sense, may be applied to
express a variety of figurative and collateral ideas. Yet the customary
sense of the word is known by practice, and as well understood by an
illiterate man of tolerable capacity, as by men of science.

The word _always_ is compounded of _all_ and _ways_; it had originally
no reference to time; and the etymology or composition of the word
would only lead us into error. The true meaning of words is that which
a nation in general annex to them. Etymology therefore is of no use but
to the learned; and for them it will still be preserved, so far as it
is now understood, in dictionaries and other books that treat of this
particular subject.

4. "The distinction between words of different meanings and similar
sound would be destroyed."

"That distinction," to answer in the words of the great Franklin, "is
already destroyed in pronunciation." Does not every man pronounce _all_
and _awl_ precisely alike? And does the sameness of sound ever lead a
hearer into a mistake? Does not the construction render the distinction
easy and intelligible, the moment the words of the sentence are heard?
Is the word _knew_ ever mistaken for _new_, even in the rapidity of
pronouncing an animated oration? Was _peace_ ever mistaken for _piece_;
_pray_ for _prey_; _flour_ for _flower_? Never, I presume, is this
similarity of sound the occasion of mistakes.

If therefore an identity of _sound_, even in rapid speaking, produces
no inconvenience, how much less would an identity of _spelling_, when
the eye would have leisure to survey the construction? But experience,
the criterion of truth, which has removed the objection in the first
case, will also assist us in forming our opinion in the last.

There are many words in our language which, with the _same
orthography_, have _two_ or more _distinct meanings_. The word _wind_,
whether it signifies _to move round_, or _air in motion_, has the
_same spelling_; it exhibits no distinction to the _eye_ of a silent
reader; and yet its meaning is never mistaken. The construction shows
at sight in which sense the word is to be understood. _Hail_ is used
as an expression of joy, or to signify frozen drops of water, falling
from the clouds. _Rear_ is to raise up, or it signifies the hinder
part of an army. _Lot_ signifies fortune or destiny; a plat of ground;
or a certain proportion or share; and yet does this diversity, this
contrariety of meanings ever occasion the least difficulty in the
ordinary language of books? It cannot be maintained. This diversity
is found in all languages;[187] and altho it may be considered as a
defect, and occasion some trouble for foreign learners, yet to natives
it produces no sensible inconvenience.

5. "It is idle to conform the orthography of words to the
pronunciation, because the latter is continually changing."

This is one of Dr. Johnson's objections, and it is very unworthy of his
judgement. So far is this circumstance from being a real objection,
that it is alone a sufficient reason for the change of spelling. On
his principle of _fixing the orthography_, while the _pronunciation
is changing_, any _spoken language_ must, in time, lose all relation
to the _written language_; that is, the sounds of words would have
no affinity with the letters that compose them. In some instances,
this is now the case; and no mortal would suspect from the spelling,
that _neighbour_, _wrought_, are pronounced _nabur_, _rawt_. On this
principle, Dr. Johnson ought to have gone back some centuries, and
given us, in his dictionary, the primitive Saxon orthography, _wol_
for _will_; _ydilnesse_ for _idleness_; _eyen_ for _eyes_; _eche_ for
_each_, &c. Nay, he should have gone as far as possible into antiquity,
and, regardless of the changes of pronunciation, given us the primitive
radical language in its purity. Happily for the language, that doctrine
did not prevail till his time; the spelling of words changed with
the pronunciation; to these changes we are indebted for numberless
improvements; and it is hoped that the progress of them, in conformity
with the national practice of speaking, will not be obstructed by the
erroneous opinion, even of Dr. Johnson. How much more rational is the
opinion of Dr. Franklin, who says, "the orthography of our language
began to be fixed too soon." If the pronunciation must vary, from age
to age, (and some trifling changes of language will always be taking
place) common sense would dictate a correspondent change of spelling.
Admit Johnson's principles; take his pedantic orthography for the
standard; let it be closely adhered to in future; and the slow changes
in the pronunciation of our national tongue, will in time make as
great a difference between our _written_ and _spoken_ language, as
there is between the pronunciation of the present English and German.
The _spelling_ will be no more a guide to the pronunciation, than the
orthography of the German or Greek. This event is actually taking
place, in consequence of the stupid opinion, advanced by Johnson and
other writers, and generally embraced by the nation.

All these objections appear to me of very inconsiderable weight, when
opposed to the great, substantial and permanent advantages to be
derived from a regular national orthography.

Sensible I am how much easier it is to _propose_ improvements, than
to _introduce_ them. Every thing _new_ starts the idea of difficulty;
and yet it is often mere novelty that excites the appearance; for on
a slight examination of the proposal, the difficulty vanishes. When
we firmly _believe_ a scheme to be practicable, the work is _half_
accomplished. We are more frequently deterred by fear from making an
attack, than repulsed in the encounter.

Habit also is opposed to changes; for it renders even our errors dear
to us. Having surmounted all difficulties in childhood, we forget the
labor, the fatigue, and the perplexity we suffered in the attempt, and
imagin the progress of our studies to have been smooth and easy.[188]
What seems intrinsically right, is so merely thro habit.

Indolence is another obstacle to improvements. The most arduous task a
reformer has to execute, is to make people _think_; to rouse them from
that lethargy, which, like the mantle of sleep, covers them in repose
and contentment.

But America is in a situation the most favorable for great
reformations; and the present time is, in a singular degree,
auspicious. The minds of men in this country have been awakened.
New scenes have been, for many years, presenting new occasions for
exertion; unexpected distresses have called forth the powers of
invention; and the application of new expedients has demanded every
possible exercise of wisdom and talents. Attention is roused; the mind
expanded; and the intellectual faculties invigorated. Here men are
prepared to receive improvements, which would be rejected by nations,
whose habits have not been shaken by similar events.

_Now_ is the time, and _this_ the country, in which we may expect
success, in attempting changes favorable to language, science and
government. Delay, in the plan here proposed, may be fatal; under a
tranquil general government, the minds of men may again sink into
indolence; a national acquiescence in error will follow; and posterity
be doomed to struggle with difficulties, which time and accident will
perpetually multiply.

Let us then seize the present moment, and establish a _national
language_, as well as a national government. Let us remember that
there is a certain respect due to the opinions of other nations. As
an independent people, our reputation abroad demands that, in all
things, we should be federal; be _national_; for if we do not respect
_ourselves_, we may be assured that _other nations_ will not respect
us. In short, let it be impressed upon the mind of every American, that
to neglect the means of commanding respect abroad, is treason against
the character and dignity of a brave independent people.

To excite the more attention to this subject, I will here subjoin what
Dr. Franklin has done and written to effect a reform in our mode of
spelling. This sage philosopher has suffered nothing useful to escape
his notice. He very early discovered the difficulties that attend the
learning of our language; and with his usual ingenuity, invented a plan
to obviate them. If any objection can be made to his scheme,[189] it is
the substitution of _new_ characters, for _th_, _sh_, _ng_, &c. whereas
a small stroke, connecting the letters, would answer all the purposes
of new characters; as these combinations would thus become single
letters, with precise definite sounds and suitable names.

A specimen of the Doctor's spelling cannot be here given, as I have not
the proper types;[190] but the arguments in favor of a reformed mode of
spelling shall be given in his own words.

_Copy of a Letter from Miss S----, to Dr._ FRANKLIN, _who had sent her
his Scheme of a Reformed Alphabet. Dated, Kensington (England) Sept.
26, 1768._


I have transcribed your alphabet, &c. which I think might be of
service to those who wish to acquire an accurate pronunciation, if that
could be fixed; but I see many inconveniences, as well as difficulties,
that would attend the bringing your letters and orthography into
common use. All our etymologies would be lost; consequently we could
not ascertain the meaning of many words; the distinction too between
words of _different meaning_ and _similar_ sound would be useless,[191]
unless we living writers publish new editions. In short, I believe we
must let people spell on in their old way, and (as we find it easiest)
do the same ourselves.---- With ease and with sincerity I can, in the
old way, subscribe myself,

  Dear Sir,

  Your faithful and affectionate Servant,

  M. S.

  _Dr. Franklin._

_Dr._ FRANKLIN'S _Answer to Miss S----._


The objection you make to rectifying our alphabet, "that it will be
attended with inconveniences and difficulties," is a very natural one;
for it always occurs when any reformation is proposed, whether in
religion, government, laws, and even down as low as roads and wheel
carriages. The true question then is not, whether there will be no
difficulties or inconveniences; but whether the difficulties may not
be surmounted; and whether the conveniences will not, on the whole,
be greater than the inconveniences. In this case, the difficulties are
only in the beginning of the practice; when they are once overcome,
the advantages are lasting. To either you or me, who spell well in
the present mode, I imagine the difficulty of changing that mode for
the new, is not so great, but that we might perfectly get over it
in a week's writing. As to those who do not spell well, if the two
difficulties are compared, viz. that of teaching them true spelling in
the present mode, and that of teaching them the new alphabet and the
new spelling according to it, I am confident that the latter would be
by far the least. They naturally fall into the new method already, as
much as the imperfection of their alphabet will admit of; their present
_bad_ spelling is only bad, because contrary to the present _bad_
rules; under the new rules it would be _good_.[192] The difficulty of
learning to spell well in the old way is so great, that few attain it;
thousands and thousands writing on to old age, without ever being able
to acquire it. It is besides, a difficulty continually increasing;[193]
as the sound gradually varies more and more from the spelling; and to
foreigners it makes the learning to pronounce our language, as written
in our books, almost impossible.

Now as to the inconveniences you mention: The first is, "that all our
etymologies would be lost; consequently we could not ascertain the
meaning of many words." Etymologies are at present very uncertain; but
such as they are, the old books still preserve them, and etymologists
would there find them. Words in the course of time, change their
meaning, as well as their spelling and pronunciation; and we do not
look to etymologies for their present meanings. If I should call a man
a _knave_ and a _villain_, he would hardly be satisfied with my telling
him, that one of the words originally signified a _lad_ or _servant_,
and the other an under _plowman_, or the inhabitant of a village. It is
from present usage only, the meaning of words is to be determined.

Your second inconvenience is, "the distinction between words of
different meaning and similar sound would be destroyed." That
distinction is already destroyed in pronouncing them; and we rely on
the sense alone of the sentence to ascertain which of the several
words, similar in sound, we intend. If this is sufficient in the
rapidity of discourse, it will be much more so in written sentences,
which may be read leisurely, and attended to more particularly in case
of difficulty, than we can attend to a past sentence, while the speaker
is hurrying us along with new ones.

Your third inconvenience is, "that all the books already written
would be useless." This inconvenience would only come on gradually
in a course of ages. I and you and other now living readers would
hardly forget the use of them. People would long learn to read the
old writing, tho they practised the new. And the inconvenience is not
greater than what has actually happened in a similar case in Italy.
Formerly its inhabitants all spoke and wrote Latin; as the language
changed, the spelling followed it. It is true that at present, a mere
unlearned Italian cannot read the Latin books, tho they are still read
and understood by many. But if the spelling had never been changed, he
would now have found it much more difficult to read and write his own
language;[194] for written words would have had no relation to sounds;
they would only have stood for things; so that if he would express in
writing the idea he has when he sounds the word _Vescovo_, he must use
the letters _Episcopus_.[195]

In short, whatever the difficulties and inconveniences now are, they
will be more easily surmounted now, than hereafter; and some time or
other it must be done, or our writing will become the same with the
Chinese, as to the difficulty of learning and using it. And it would
already have been such, if we had continued the Saxon spelling and
writing used by our forefathers.

  I am, my dear friend,

  Your's affectionately,


  _London, Craven Street, Sept. 28, 1768._

[Illustration: The END.]


[181] _Wont_ is strictly a contraction of _woll not_, as the word was
anciently pronounced.

[182] "_Ta-ke_, _ma-ke_, _o-ne_, _bo-ne_, _sto-ne_, _wil-le_, &c.
dissyllaba olim fuerunt, quæ nunc habenter pro monosyllabis."----Wallis.

[183] The words _number_, _chamber_, and many others in English are
from the French _nombre_, _chambre_, &c. Why was the spelling changed?
or rather why is the spelling of _lustre_, _metre_, _theatre_, _not_
changed? The cases are precisely similar. The Englishman who first
wrote _number_ for _nombre_, had no greater authority to make the
change, than any modern writer has to spell _lustre_, _metre_ in a
similar manner, _luster_, _meter_. The change in the first instance was
a valuable one; it conformed the spelling to the pronunciation, and I
have taken the liberty, in all my writings, to pursue the principle in
_luster_, _meter_, _miser_, _theater_, _sepulcher_, &c.

[184] The first by Sir Thomas Smith, secretary of state to Queen
Elizabeth: Another by Dr. Gill, a celebrated master of St. Paul's
school in London: Another by Mr. Charles Butler, who went so far as
to print his book in his proposed orthography: Several in the time
of Charles the first; and in the present age, Mr. Elphinstone has
published a treatise in a very ridiculous orthography.

[185] I once heard Dr. Franklin remark, "that those people spell best,
who do not know how to spell;" that is, they spell as their ears
dictate, without being guided by rules, and thus fall into a regular

[186] In Chaucer's life, prefixed to the edition of his works 1602, I
find _move_ and _prove_ spelt almost correctly, _moove_ and _proove_.

[187] In the Roman language _liber_ had four or five different
meanings; it signified _free_, _the inward bark of a tree_, _a book_,
sometimes _an epistle_, and also _generous_.

[188] Thus most people suppose the present mode of spelling to be
really the _easiest_ and _best_. This opinion is derived from habit;
the new mode of spelling proposed would save three fourths of the labor
now bestowed in learning to write our language. A child would learn
to spell as well in one year, as he can now in four. This is not a
supposition--it is an assertion capable of proof; and yet people, never
knowing, or having forgot the labor of learning, suppose the present
mode to be the easiest. No person, but one who has taught children,
has any idea of the difficulty of learning to spell and pronounce our
language in its present form.

[189] See his Miscellaneous Works, p. 470. Ed. Lond. 1779.

[190] This indefatigable gentleman, amidst all his other employments,
public and private, has compiled a Dictionary on his scheme of a
Reform, and procured types to be cast for printing it. He thinks
himself too old to pursue the plan; but has honored me with the offer
of the manuscript and types, and expressed a strong desire that I
should undertake the task. Whether this project, so deeply interesting
to this country, will ever be effected; or whether it will be defeated
by indolence and prejudice, remains for my countrymen to determine.

[191] This lady overlooked the other side of the question; viz. that
by a reform of the spelling, words now spelt alike and pronounced
differently, would be distinguished by their letters; for the nouns
_abuse_ and _use_ would be distinguished from the verbs, which would be
spelt _abuze_, _yuze_; and so in many instances. See the answer below.

[192] This remark of the Doctor is very just and obvious. A countryman
writes _aker_ or _akur_ for _acre_; yet the countryman is _right_, as
the word _ought_ to be spelt; and we laugh at him only because _we_ are
accustomed to be _wrong_.

[193] This is a fact of vast consequence.

[194] That is, if the language had retained the old _Roman_ spelling,
and been pronounced as the modern _Italian_. This is a fair state of
facts, and a complete answer, to all objections to a reform of spelling.

[195] In the same ridiculous manner, as _we_ write, _rough_, _still_,
_neighbor_, _wrong_, _tongue_, _true_, _rhetoric_, &c. and yet
pronounce the words, _ruf_, _stil_, _nabur_, _rong_, _tung_, _tru_,

     Transcriber's Notes:

     Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant
     preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not changed.

     Simple typographical and spelling errors were corrected. The
     double commas occurring three times on p. 311 & 312 appear to be

     In DISSERTATION V the author was inconsistent in the use of
     italics in the minor headings--most of the time the language was
     italicized but when there were two or more languages then the
     language name was in standard font and the articles, conjunctions
     etc. were italicized. The usage was changed so that languages were
     always italicized and the other words were unitalicized.

     Italics words are denoted by _underscores_.

     Bold words are denoted by =equals=.

     Gespert font is denoted by +plus signs+.

     Greek text has been transliterated and enclosed in ~tildes~.

     Hand pointing right is denoted by -->

     Symbols for Diacritical Marks Encountered in the Text.

     In the table below, the "x" represents a letter with a diacritical

  macron (straight line)     ¯    [=x]   [x=]
  1 dot                      ·    [.x]   [x.]
  acute accent (aigu)        ´    ['x]   [x']
  breve (u-shaped symbol)    ∪   [)x]   [x)]
  tilde                      ˜     [~x]   [x~]
  numbers                    2    [2x]   [x2]

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Dissertation on the English Language - With Notes, Historical and Critical; to Which is Added, - by Way of Appendix, an Essay on a Reformed Mode of Spelling, - With Dr. Franklin's Arguments on that Subject" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.