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THE ELEMENTARY SOUNDS OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE.
The number of elementary sounds in the English language is forty. They are represented by single letters, and by combinations of two letters. C, Q, and X, have no sounds which are not represented by other letters. In the word come, C. is the representative of the sound of K, in vice, of S. There are fifteen vocals, fifteen sub-vocals, and ten aspirates.
The vocals consist of a distinct and pure vocality, and have a much more musical quality than the other elements.
The sub-vocals possess qualities similar to the vocals, being like them, contradistinguished from aspirate or whispering sounds, but their vocality is inferior.
The aspirates are mere whispers. The elements are heard in the capital letters of the following Phonological Table. Individuals or classes, by practising only ten or fifteen minutes a day, will soon acquire a knowledge of Phonology, together with a correct and elegant articulation, and also render their voices smooth, flexible, and powerful. In schools, or when classes in Elocution are organized, the elements may be given in concert.
It is convenient and desirable in teaching, or hearing the elementary sounds, to have a Phonological Chart, on a large scale, like a map.
Mr. Wyse, of the British Parliament, in his work on popular education, insists upon the importance of obtaining a knowledge of the elements. He justly observes, that "it is preposterous to use signs for sounds, before we first possess the sounds for which the signs are to be used." He also says, that "alphabetic teaching, as it is generally practised, is a complication of useless and difficult absurdities." My opinion is, that the names and sounds of the letters, should be taught simultaneously. In common schools, the elements are seldom taught; and consequently, a large majority of mankind pass through life, without learning them.
It should be borne in mind, that the elementary exercise, fortifies the pulmonary organs against the invasion of disease.
To enable an individual the more easily and readily to ana lyze words, the "Vocals," excepting, OU; and, TH, which is both a "Sub-vocal" and "Aspirate," are numbered.
If the voice be cultivated by exercise upon the elements, and in recitation, it will, as is believed, take such inflections and intonations as sentiment requires, naturally and spontaneously. It is true, as Lord Kames says, that "certain sounds are by nature, allotted to each passion, for expressing it externally."
A reader or speaker ought to be so familiar with elocution, as to display its graces without any effort. So surely as an individual thinks of his elocution, at the time he is speaking, just so surely, he will fail of producing any other effect upon his hearers, than to convince them that he takes no interest in his subject. As a bird, when taken from the illimitable fields of nature, and deprived of the air and foliage of the forest, loses the brilliancy of its plumage; so, the slightest appearance of being governed by rules, is fatal to eloquence. No professor of elocution can describe, in so many words, what is the mysterious power in which true and genuine eloquence consists. He can ly say, that, to be truly eloquent, a man must well understand the subject upon which he speaks; he must have complete control over the modulations of his voice; his gestures must be natural and graceful; and he must speak under the influence of deep feeling, emanating from its appropriate fountain, the heart. His articulation, too, must be correct and elegant.
As a correct articulation consists in the distinct utterance of the elements, it may be advantageous to exhibit a table of the analysis of words, in which there are both easy and difficult combinations of elements. The first column contains words as they are usually spelled; the second, their elements. To know how our language is composed, it is necessary to decompose it. According to the system of teaching spelling which obtains in our schools, the pupil is obliged to mention the name of the letters which compose words. He ought also to be required to spell words by uttering, separately, each element. As there are many silent letters in words, and as words themselves are not always spelled in accordance with the sounds of the letters of which they are composed, the best means of making a person a good reader, or an eloquent speaker, is, to teach him the sounds which single letters or combination of two letters, actually have; and the adoption of this method will enable the pupil to give them as Phonology requires.
ARTICULATION, OR EXAMPLES IN SOME OF ITS MOST DIFFICULT COMBINATIONS.
The faults of readers and speakers in articulation, may be attributed, either to the entire omission of some of the elementary sounds which belong to words, to the introduction of supernumerary elements into them, or to the exchanging of one element for another.
For example, a portion of the elementary sounds are frequently omitted in the following words, thus: months is incorrectly called, munce; purse, pus; priests, pries's; ghosts, ghos's; Christs, Chris's; basks, bas's.
Supernumerary elements are sometimes introduced, thus: heav'n is improperly called heaven; little, littel.
Exchanging one element for another, as in the following
instances, is a very common fault. President, is frequently called, presidunt; Providence, Providunce; silent, silunt; goodness, goodniss; gospel, gospil; consider, cunsider; government, govermut; Birmingham, Brumegum; London, Lonon. Occasionally, several errors are made even in a short sentence, thus: Lord Berun's Pride of Abedus ;—instead of saying, Lord Byron's Bride of Abydos. These faults, and all others of a similar character, may be remedied, and a clear, distinct, and elegant enunciation acquired, by exercising the voice, as well upon the combinations of those sounds which are most difficult of utterance, as upon the elements separately.
Let the pupil exercise upon the following sentences of difficult articulation, and let him be careful to sound every element.
The words in which errors are most likely to be made are italicised.
"Search the scriptures."
"Music, and poetry, and sculpture."
"Your healths, gentlemen."
"The heights, depths, and breadths of the subject."
"I thrust three thousand thistles through the thick of my thumb."
"A thousand shrieks for hopeless mercy call."
"It was the severest storm of the season, but the masts stoo through the gale."
"His acts being seven ages."
"The acts of the Apostles."
"This act more than all other acts of the Legislature, laid the axe at the root of the evil."
"On either side an ocean exists."
"On neither side a notion exists."
"When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw."
"The magistrates sought to prove the charge"
"That last still night."
"Without leave asked of thee."
"And his disciples asked him."
"Because thou hast not asked riches, wealth, or honor, neither yet hast asked long life, but hast asked wisdom and