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It has a sharp sound like ks, when it ends a syllable with she accent upon it; as exit, exercise, excellence; or when the accent is on the next syllable, if it begins with a consonant; as excuse, extent, expense.
It has, generally, a flat sound like gz, when the accent is not on it, and the following syllable begins with a vowel; as, exert, exist, example; pronounced, egzert, egzistzegzample.
Y, when a consonant, has nearly the sound of ee; as, youth, York, resemble the sounds of eeouth, eeork: but that this is not its exact sound, will be clearly perceived by pronouncing the words ye, yes, new-year, in which its just and proper sound is ascertained. It not only requires a stronger exertion of the organs of speech to pronounce it, than is required to pronounce ee; but its formation is essentially different. It will not admit of an before it, as ee will in the following example; an eel. The opinion that y and w, when they begin a word or syllable, take exactly the sound of ee and oo, bas induced some grammarians to assert, that these letters are always vowels or diphthongs.
When y is a vowel, it has exactly the same sound as i would have in the same situation; as, rhyme, system, justify, pyramid, party, fancy, hungry.
Z Z has the sound of an s uttered with a closer compression of the palate by the tongue: it is the flat s; as, freeze, frozen, brazen.
It may be proper to remark, that the sounds of the letters vary, as they are differently associated, and that the pronunciation of these associations depends upon the position of the accent. It may also be observed, that, in order to pronounce accurately, great attention must be paid to the vowels which are not accented. There is scarcely any thing which more distinguishes a person of a poor educa
tion, from a person of a good one, than the pronunciation of the unaccented vowels. When vowels are under the accent, the best speakers and the lowest of the people, with very few exceptions, pronounce them in the same manner; but the unaccented vowels in the mouths of the former, have a distinct, open, and specific sound, while the latter often totally sink them, or change them into some other sound.
Section 3. The nature of articulation explained. A CONCISE account of the origin and formation of the sounds emitted by the human voice, may, perhaps, not improperly, be here introduced. It may gratify the ingenious student, and serve to explain more fully the nature of articulation, and the radical distinction between vowels and consonants.
Human voice is air sent out from the lungs, and so agitated or modified in its passage through the windpipe and larynx, as to become distinctly audible. The windpipe is that tube, which on touching the forepart of our throat externally, we feel hard and uneven. It conveys air into the lungs for the purpose of breathing and speech. The top or upper part of the windpipe is called the larynx, consisting of four or five cartilages, that may be expanded or brought together, by the action of certain muscles which operate all at the same time. In the middle of the larynx there is a small opening, called the glottis, through which the breath and voice are conveyed. This opening is not wider than one tenth of an inch ; and, therefore, the breath transmitted through it from the lungs, must pass with considerable velocity. The voice thus formed, is strengthened and softened by a reverberation from the palate and other hollow places in the inside of the mouth and nostrils; and as these are better or worse shaped for this reverberation, the voice is said to be more or less agreeable. .
If we consider the many varieties of sound, which one and the same human voice is capable of uttering, together
with the smallness of the diameter of the glottis ; and rem flect, that the same diameter must always produce the same tone, and, consequently, that to every change of tone a correspondent change of diameter is necessary; we must be filled with admiration at the mechanism of these parts, and the fineness of the fibres that operate in producing effects so minute, so various, and in their proportions so exactly uniform. For it admits of proof, that the diameter of the human glottis is capable of more than sixty distinct degrees of contraction or enlargement, by each of which a different note is produced ; and yet the greatest diameter of that aperture, as before observed, does not exceed one tenth of an inch. a.
Speech is made up of articulate voices; and what we call articulation, is performed, not by the lungs, windpipe, or larynx, but by the action of the throat, palate, teeth, tongue, lips, and nostrils. Articulation begins not, till the breath, or voice, has passed through the larynx. :
The simplest articulate voices are those which proceed from an open mouth, and are by grammarians called vowel sounds. In transmitting these, the aperture of the mouth may be pretty large, or somewhat smaller, or very small ; which is one cause of the variety of vowels ; a particular sound being produced by each particular aperture. Moreover, in passing through an open mouth, the voice may be gently acted upon, by the lips, or by the tongue and palate, or by the tongue and throat ; whence another source of variety in vowel sounds.
Thus ten or twelve simple vowel sounds may be formed, agreeably to the plan in page 15; and the learners, by observing the position of their mouth, lips, tongue, &c. when they are uttering the sounds, will perceive that various operations of these organs of speech, are necessary to the production of the different vowel sounds; and that by minute variations they may all be distinctly pronounced.
When the voice, in its passage through the mouth, is totally intercepted, or strongly compressed, there is formed a certain modification of articulate sound, which, as expressed by a character in writing, is called a consonant. Silence is the effect of a total interception ; and indistinct sound; of a strong compression; and therefore a consonant is not of itself a distinct articulate voice; and its influence in varying the tones of language is not clearly perceived, unless it be accompanied by an opening of the mouth, that is, by a vowel.
By making the experiment with attention, the student will perceive that each of the mutes is formed by the voice being intercepted, by the lips, by the tongue and palate, or by the tongue and throat; and that the semi-vowels are formed by the same organs strongly compressing the voice in its passage, but not totally intercepting it.
The elements of language, according to the different seats where they are formed, or the several organs of speech chiefly concerned in their pronunciation, are divided into several classes, and denominated as follows: those are called labials, which are formed by the lips; those dentals, that are formed with the teeth ; palatals, that are formed with the palate ; and nasals, that are formed by the nose.
The importance ofobtaining, in early life, a clear, distinct, and accurate knowledge of the sounds of the first principles of language, and a wish to lead young minds to a further consideration of a subject so curious and useful, have induced the compiler to bestow particular attention on the preceding part of his work. Some writers think that these subjects do not properly constitute any part of grammar; and consider them as the exclusive province of the spellingbook; but if we reflect, that letters and their sounds are the constituent principles of that art, which teaches us to speak and write with propriety, and that, in general, very little knowledge of their nature is acquired by the spelling-book, we must admit, that they properly belong to grammar; and that a rational consideration of these elementary principles of language, is an object that demands the attention
of the young grammarian. The sentiments of a very judicious and eminent writer (Quinctilian) respecting this part of grammar, may, perhaps, be properly introduced on the present occasion.
“Let no persons despise, as inconsiderable, the elements of grammar, because it may seem to them a matter of small consequence, to show the distinction between vowels and consonants, and to divide the latter into liquids and mutes. But they who penetrate into the innermost parts of this temple of science, will there discover such refinement and subtility of matter, as are not only proper to sharpen the understandings of young persons, but sufficient to give exercise for the most profound knowledge and erudition.”
The elementary sounds, under their smallest combination, produce a syllable; syllables properly combined produce a word; words duly combined produce a sentence; and sentences properly combined produce an oration or discourse. Thus it is, says HARRIS, in his Hermes, that to principles apparently so trivial as. a few plain elementary sounds, we owe that variety of articulate voices, which has been sufficient to explain the sentiments of so innumerable a multitude, as all the present and past gene. rations of men.
Of SYLLABLES, and the rules for arranging them.
A SYLLABLE is a sound, either simple or compounded, pronounced by a single impulse of the voice, and constituting a word, or part of a word: as, a, an, ant.
Spelling is the art of rightly dividing words into their syllables, or of expressing a word by its proper letters.