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In offering to the public a book like the present, which, as respects some of its more important characteristics, is quite new, the authors feel themselves called upon to explain briefly the object and nature of the work, as well as the motives which induced them to undertake it.
They had themselves often felt the want of a geographical dictionary, to which they might refer for the pronunciation of the names, as well as for the description, of places. They were also convinced by the concurrent testimony of a number of teachers of the highest respectability and of great experience, that the want of such a work was extensively felt; the absence of any standard of geographical pronunciation, rendering it extremely difficult to determine the proper mode of pronouncing many names which are found in the elementary works used in our schools. On inquiring more particularly among persons of different classes and occupations, they were led to the belief that a pronouncing gazetteer, if properly executed, would be generally acceptable to the community.
To fix upon the most eligible system of pronunciation, was a point of the highest importance, but it did not appear to be one of extraordinary difficulty. They determined, in accordance with what they believed to be the prevailing sense of the more intelligent, and the prevailing practice of the better educated, to give the pronunciation of all geographical names, as nearly as possible, as they are pronounced by the well educated people of the respective countries to which they
belong, with the exception of those well known foreign names which appear to have acquired a fixed English pronunciation, as Paris, NAPLES, &c. In these cases, it has been their aim to give the English pronunciation according to the usage of the best speakers: at the same time the pronunciation of the people of the country has been added, for the satisfaction of those who might feel any curiosity on the subject. Thus they have given Pârl-is, as the proper mode for an Englishman or an American to pronounce this name, at the same time adding the name as spoken by the French, which might be written Pår-ree: and so with respect to most other well known names in foreign countries.
It is admitted that cases not unfrequently occur, in which it is impossible to convey, with any great degree of precision, the native pronunciation of other countries by means of English letters; but something is undoubtedly gained by such an approximation to the true sound, as would enable one more readily to understand, and to be understood by, those who are familiar with the names of places as spoken by the inhabitants themselves.
Some have indeed maintained the propriety of pronouncing foreign names as they are written, giving to every letter its proper English sound. But this system appears to be attended with greater difficulties than any other, since different persons would differ with regard to the proper English sound of many letters or combinations of letters. Thus the river Seine might be pronounced seen or sane ;—we have heard those, we think, unacquainted with French, more frequently call it seen, and it is doubtful whether, even among the better educated, there is one in fifty who could say without some reflection, to which pronunciation the scale of analogy would incline. A few probably would call it sine, and others might pronounce the final e.
This one instance out of a multitude may perhaps serve to
show the endless diversity and confusion into which such a system, or rather want of system, must of necessity lead. But this is not all; there are innumerable cases wherein it is very difficult, if not impossible, to pronounce the names of other countries according to the English sound of the letters, e.g., CZERNIGOW, CsongRAD, SZEGEDIN, LJUSNE, &c., while there is no difficulty whatever, in pronouncing them according to the native sound. Many instances also occur, in which the
English manner of pronouncing names, though not difficult, is i far less euphonious than that of the inhabitants of the country
to which such names belong. Minho (meen'-yo,) a river, and Batalha (bả-tál-yả,) a town of Portugal, and BACCHIGLIONE (bảk-keel-yo'-ná,) a river of Italy, may serve as examples.
As a further confirmation of the propriety of the system which we have adopted, it may be remarked that it agrees (as will be seen from the first part of the Introduction,) with the mode of pronunciation generally employed by all our most distinguished poets.
Nothing in their mental culture is perhaps so important to be taught early to children, as a habit of correct pronunciation. It need not occupy any additional time, since a faulty pronunciation is no more easily learned in the first instance, than a correct one, but when once acquired it can be changed only with the greatest difficulty. Erroneous habits,—as those engaged in the business of education well know—are far more difficult to eradicate than erroneous opinions. In order, however, to teach pupils to pronounce correctly, a system of pronunciation is indispensable.
Most persons who have reflected at all upon the subject, will doubtless admit, that it is highly desirable that there should be some fixed mode of pronouncing geographic names, as well as ordinary English words, in which all should at least generally agree. If this be conceded, and the scholar be required to conform lo a system at all, it appears clear,
that that system should be preferred, which, without placing any serious difficulty in the way of the learner, approaches most nearly to the usage of those, who, whether natives or travellers, seem entitled, by their superior knowledge of places, to determine the proper manner of speaking their names. It may be remarked that the recently increased facilities of communication, and consequent increase of intercourse between different parts of the world, render an acquaintance with the native geographical names of other countries, at the “present time, additionally important.
Particular pains have been taken in the present work, with the European, and the better known of the Asiatic languages, not only to give the accent correctly, but also to notice all important peculiarities of pronunciation. In performing this, it has been our anxious aim to consult, in every instance, the very best authorities in each of the different languages. We flatter ourselves that in this aim we have been singularly successful; and esteem ourselves most fortunate in being able to cite in our list of authorities, the names of so many gentlemen of distinguished reputation in their respective departments.
In our Introduction we have thought it proper to state the general principles of pronunciation of each of the more important European languages, as well as to explain the mode of writing and pronouncing the geographical names of Asia, Africa, &c. With respect to the four great languages of continental Europe, viz: the French, German, Italian, and Spanish, it seemed requisite to treat the subject somewhat more fully, both on account of their intrinsic importance, and because it has been found convenient to employ them as standards of comparison, to which other languages less known might be referred.
It may be proper to state, that in the present work the adjective, and the appellation of the inhabitants, derived from
the names of countries, cities, &c., have been added, whenever these appeared to be sanctioned by common usage, or by the authority of Some writer of established reputation. Thus from DENMARK are derived the adjective Dumish, and the noun Dane designating the inhabitant of the country ;—from SWEDEN, Swedish and Swede ; &c. In most instances the adjective and inhabitant are expressed by the same word, as Algerine, Neapolitan, &c. These have never been given, that we are aware of, in any former gazetteer, and it is hoped they will form no unimportant addition to the value of the present work, at least as a school book. While we have dictionaries of almost every description, and adapted to every stage of intellectual development, to which the pupil may refer for the definition, correct spelling, and pronunciation, of ordinary English words, it is somewhat remarkable, that there has hitherto been no work of any authority which one might consult respecting the proper mode of spelling and pronouncing this numerous class
of words, the use of which, with the progress of geographical - knowledge, is daily becoming more extensive.
It may be further stated, that the ancient Greek or Roman
names of places on the old continent, and occasionally their za signification, have been carefully given from the best authori
ties. This we trust will be found useful and interesting, not
only to the classical scholar, but likewise to the ordinary ne reader, more especially as in many instances it points out the
derivation of the present name, and at the same time, perhaps, associates it with some important historical or topographical fact, as in the case of TRIPOLI, TRAPANI, MAESTRICHT, UTRECHT, &c. We have also given the signification of modern foreign names, or those of foreign origin, whenever it seemed that this would teach or impress any useful fact, as PORTO Bello, i.e.," beautiful port;" BOMBAY, i.e.,“good harbour;" INNSPRUCK, (originally Innsbrücke) i. e., the “Bridge of the Inn," &c.