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Letters denoting the
Words containing the simple sounds.
tub. asin bull. By this list it appears, that there are in the English language fourteen simple vowel sounds: but as i and u, when pronounced long, may be considered as diphthongs, or diphthongal vowels,our language, strictly speaking, contains but twelve simple vowel sounds; to represent which, We have only five distinct characters or letters. If a in far, is the same specific sound as a in fat; and u in bull, the same as o in move, which is the opinion of some grammarians; then there are but ten original vowel sounds in the English language.
The following list denotes the sounds of the consonants, being in number twenty-two. Letters denoting the
Words containing the simple sounds.
* Some grammarians suppose k to mark only an aspiration, or breathing : but it appears to be a distinct sound, and formed in a particular manner, by the organs of speech. .
Letters denoting the simple sounds.
Words containing the
Several letters marked in the English alphabet, as consonants, are either superfluous, or represent, not simple, but complex sounds. C, for instance, is superfluous in both its sounds; the one being expressed by k, and the other by s. G, in the soft pronunciation, is not a simple, but a complex sound ; as age is pronounced aidge. J is unnecessary, because its sound, and that of the soft g, are in our language the same. 2, with its attendant u, is either complex, and resolvable into kw, as in quality; or unnecessary, because its sound is the same with k, as in opaque. X is compounded of gs, as in example; or of ks, as in expect.
From the preceding representation, it appears to be a point of considerable importance, that every learner of the English language should be taught to pronounce perfectly, and with facility, every original simple sound that belongs to it. By a timely and judicious care in this respect, the voice will be prepared to utter, with ease and accuracy, every combination of sounds; and taught to avoid that confused and imperfect manner of pronouncing words, which accompanies, through life, many persons, who have not, in this respect, been properly instructed at an early period.
Letters are divided into Vowels and Consonants.
A Vowel is an articulate sound, that can be perfectly uttered by itself: as, a, e, 0; which are formed without the help of any other sound.
A consonant is an articulate sound, which cannot be perfectly uttered without the help of a
vowel : as, b, d, f, 1; which require vowels to express them fully.
The vowels are, a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes w and y.
W and y are consonants when they begin a word or syllable; but in every other situation they are vowels.
It is generally acknowledged by the best grammarians, that w and y are consonants when they begin a syllable or word, and vowels when they end one. That they are consonants, when used as initials, seems to be evident from their not admitting the article an before them, as it would be improper to say an walnut, an yard, &c. ; and from their following a vowel without any hiatus or difficulty of utterance; as, frosty winter, rosy youth. That they are vowels in other situations, appears from their regularly taking the sound of other vowels; as, rü has the exact sound of u in saw, few, now, &c.; and y that of i, in hymn, fly, crystal, &c. See the letters W and Y, pages 30 and 31*.
We present the following as more exact and philosophical definitions of a vowel and consonant.
A vowel is a simple, articulate sound, perfect in itself, and formed by a continued effusion of the breath, and a certain conformation of the mouth, without any alteration in the position, or any motion of the organs of speech, from the moment the vocal sound commences, till it ends,
A consonant is a simple, articulate sound, imperfect by itself, but which, joined with a vowel, forms a complete sound, by a particular motion or contact of the organs of speech.
Some grammarians subdivide vowels into the simple and
* The letters w and y are of an ambiguous nature ; being consonants at the begioning of words, and vowels at the end. Encyclopædia Britannica. WALKER's Critical Pronouncing Dictionary, page 24, third edition. PERRY's English Dictionary, Preface, page 7.
the compound. But there does not appear to be any foundation for the distinction. Simplicity is essential to the nature of a vowel, which excludes every degree of mixed or compound sounds. It requires, according to the definition, but one conformation of the organs of speech, to form it, and no motion in the orgaus, whilst it is forming.
Consonants are divided into mutes and semivowels.
The mutes cannot be sounded at all, without the aid of a vowel. They are b, p, t, d, k, and c and g hard.
The semi-vowels have an imperfect sound of themselves. They are f, l, m, n, r, v, s, %, x, and c and g soft..
Four of the semi-vowels, namely, l, m, n, r, are also distinguished by the name of liquids, from their readily uniting with other consonants, and flowing as it were into their sounds.
We have shown above, that it is essential to the nature of a consonant, that it cannot be fully uttered without the aid of a vowel. We may further observe, that even the names of the consonants, as they are pronounced in reciting the alphabet, require the help of vowels to express them. In pronouncing the names of the mutes, the assistant vowels follow the consonants : as, be, pe, te, de, ka. In pronouncing the names of the semi-vowels, the vowels generally precede the consonants : as, ef, el, em, en, ar, es, cr. The exceptions are, ce, ge, ve, zed.
This distinction between the nature and the name of a consonant, is of great importance, and should be well explained to the pupil. They are frequently confounded by writers on grammar. Observations and reasonings on the name, are often applied to explain the nature, of a consonant: and, by this means, the student is led into error and perplexity, respecting these elements of language. It should be impressed on his mind, that the name of every consonant, is a complex sound; but that the consonant itself, is always a simple sound. 9. &.}:f,"
Some writers have described the mutes and semi-vowels, with their subdivisions, nearly in the following manner. 5
The nutes are those consonants, whose sounds cannot be protracted. The semi-vowels, such whose sounds can be continued at pleasure, partaking of the nature of vowels, from which they derive their name,
The mutes may be subdivided into pure and impure. The pure are those whose sounds cannot be at all prolonged: they are k, p, t. The impure, are those whose sounds may be continued, though for a very short space : they are b, d, g. .
The semi-vowels may be subdivided into vocal and aspins. rated. The vocal are those which are formed by the voice; the aspirated, those formed by the breath. There are eleyen vocal, and five aspirated. The vocal are l, m, n, r, v, w, y, %, th flat, zh, ng: the aspirated, f, h, s, th sharp, sh.
The vocal semi-vowels may be subdivided into pure and impure. The pure are those which are formed entirely by the voice: the impure, such as have a mixture of breath with the voice. There are seven purel, m, n, r, w, y, ng four impure-, %, th flat, zh.
A diphthong is the union of two vowels, pronounced by a single impulse of the voice; as, ea in beat, ou in sound.
A triphthong is the union of three yowels, pronounced in like manner; as, eau in beau, iew in view.
A proper diphthong is that in which both the vowels are sounded; as, oi in voice, ou in ounce.
An improper diphthong has but one of the vowels sounded; as, ea in eagle, oa in boat.
Each of the diphthongal letters was, doubtless, originally