« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
Perish : perishable, perishability, perishableness, perishment.
EDUCATE : education, educational, educationist, educator, educable, educability.
IMPUGN : impugner, impugnable, impugnment.
ONTOLOGY : ontologist, ontologic, ontological, ontologically.
From these eight primitive words we here find thirty-five derivatives, and of this number twenty-three are inserted by Mr. Worcester, which are not found in Todd's Johnson, or, as we suppose, in any other English dictionary. They take their place, however, on the authority of learned and respectable writers.
To this source of accession to the “World of English Words,” as Edward Phillips, nearly two centuries ago, entitled his dictionary, in which terms of Astrology, Magic, Heraldry, Mythology, and Hawking, “ hard words” from other languages, proper names, and other matters, were mingled in strange juxtaposition, we may add the constant improvements, discoveries, and inventions in the arts and sciences; the vast extension of the commerce of Great Britain and the United States with other nations; the increasing personal intercourse of the inhabitants of those countries with the people of the continent of Europe ; the consequent interchange of customs, fashion, and literature ; and the journals and itineraries which record whatever is peculiar to the countries visited by English and American travellers ; - and it may be that a few years only will pass, before we shall have a vocabulary of a hundred thousand words, instead of seventy or eighty thousand. And there is no occasion for much alarm at such a prospect. The multiplication of words has hitherto produced no distraction among writers and public speakers of literary taste and acquirements, nor will it hereafter. Now and then, a useless word of recent origin or recent revival will enjoy its brief period of fashion, until men of taste, sickened by the sound, as it is constantly uttered by lips that use or abuse it, will reject it with disgust.
While Mr. Worcester has included in his vocabulary most of the words he has found in the productions of respectable writers, on some of which, however, he sets a discountenancing mark, we do not find that he has excluded any which have heretofore been admitted into dictionaries, and are en
titled to respect.
He does not belong to the corps of militant etymologists, who war against custom, which establishes the laws of language. On the contrary, he pays due fealty to these laws, and gives no countenance to a revolutionary spirit. We have discovered no instance in which he has changed the orthography of a word to make it conform to an assumed theory. In these respects, he has, wherever we have traced him, shown that fidelity to our language as he found it, which makes him worthy of entire confidence.
Dictionaries are made not so much for the learned as for the learner and the general reader. We cannot but think, that whatever is done by a lexicographer to disturb what is settled by common practice and consent is unwise and pedantic. For instance, we have long been in possession of the word systematize, which happened to be formed immediately from the Greek substantive ending in alpha, instead of the Anglicized substantive system. In like manner we have dogmatize and stigmatize from the Greek termination of dogma and stigma. Dr. Webster chose to derive from system the verb systemize, which he inserted without any comment, and excluded systematize. But he inserted systematic, systematical, and systematically. Why should be not have boldly carried out his process, and have given us systemic, systemical, and systemically? We hold a critic who thus tampers with our vocabulary guilty of culpable oversight, or of a high philological misdemeanour. Again, the word sovereign is always spelled in one and the same way by educated people; but Dr. Webster says, “We retain this barbarous orthography from the Norman sourereign. The true spelling would be suveran. Fr. souverain, &c." Accordingly, he inserted suveran in its alphabetical place, as the approved orthography, and illustrated its use with the word preserved in the same form. The only comment he makes is, 6. The barbarous Norman word souvereign seems to be formed of L. super and regnum ; a strange blunder.” The adoption of such etymological vagaries into the body of a dictionary entirely destroys its usefulness as a work of reference. Though they may be comparatively few in number, the book ceases to be trustworthy in any case; for the inquirer can never be sure but that the particular word he is searching for is one of those over which the lexicographer has exercised his usurped authority.
As an introduction to his dictionary, Mr. Worcester has prefixed several brief essays, clear and succinct in style, and at the same time sufficiently comprehensive, on the following subjects :- 1. Principles of Pronunciation ; 2. Orthography; 3. English Grammar ; 4. Origin, Formation, and Etymology of the English Language ; 5. Archaisms, Provincialisms, and Americanisms; 6. History of English Lexicography,
In treating of pronunciation, Mr. Worcester begins with that crux criticorum, as every author of a pronouncing dictionary must feel it to be, the key to the vowel sounds, denoted by certain marks or figures to be annexed to the vowels in all the words in the vocabulary. It is doubtless difficult for any orthoëpist fully to satisfy himself in this matter, and it is very certain he cannot perfectly convey his own ideas of all the minute distinctions of sound to other persons. The inconstancy of our vowel sounds, and the great diversity that in many words exists between the orthography and the pronunciation, render it difficult to apply, to its full extent, a system of notation by arbitrary marks. English, says La Harpe, would be half French, were it not for its “inconcevable prononciation.” " The extreme viciousness of the English pronunciation seems to be in conflict with the articulation of the human voice.” This is more vivacious than philosophical. Our pronunciation cannot appear more vicious to Frenchmen, or to conflict more with natural articulation, than theirs does to us.
We will not undertake to say how the present race of critics in France speak of the irregularities of their own language ; but one of the French Encyclopedists drew a picture of the contrariety between its orthography and its pronunciation, which we should consider greatly exaggerated as a picture of the English language.
“It has happened,” he says, “ by the alterations which rapidly succeed each other in pronunciation, and by the corrections which are slowly introduced in writing, that the pronunciation and writing do not correspond. And though societies of men of letters have been charged with the business of reducing them to rules, so as to harmonize together, they are still found to be at an inconceivable distance from each other; so that two things, which in their origin were imagined faithfully to represent one another, differ not much less than the portraits of the same person at very distant periods of his life. In fine, the disagreement has become so excessive, that no one dares to attempt a remedy. We pronounce one language; we write another; and being accustomed, during the remainder of life, to the inconsistencies which have caused us so many tears in childhood, if we should renounce our bad orthography for one nearer to the pronunciation, we should not be able to recognize our spoken language under the new combination of characters."
Mr. Worcester's key to the sounds of the vowels exhibits a more minute analysis than that of Walker. This is a dry subject for commentary, and ours shall be very brief.
Walker's Key represents but four sounds of the letter a ; namely, the long slender English sound, as in fate ; the long Italian, as in far ; the broad German, as in fall; and the short Italian, as in fat. To these Mr. Worcester adds a long before r, as heard in fare, rare, pair, and bear. It may not be amiss to remark, that bear has an anomalous pronunciation. We have the same sound in pear, swear, wear,
and perhaps a few other words of the same class, which do not occur to us. But the common sound of ea before r, is that which is familiar to us in clear, dear, drear, fear, gear, &c. But words having the same form as fare and pair have uniformly, if we mistake not, the same sound of a that is denoted by these words. For want of marking this variety in the sound of a, Walker has sometimes given to words of this form the long sound of a in hate, and sometimes that of a in hat, where neither represents the true sound, and consequently the reader is liable to be misled. It is not probable that Walker pronounced the word rare with the long slender English sound of a in fate ; but his notation so teaches. Nor do we believe that he considered this sound as applied to the a in parent any thing more than an approximation. Unfortunately, some persons, who have looked for perfection in his representation of vowel sounds, have acquired the habit of an affected pronunciation of this word, and others of the same class, such as apparent, care, careful, fare, farewell.
It cannot be doubted that Walker, who had analyzed very carefully the vowel sounds as affected by the consonants, perceived the peculiarity of sound occasioned by r following the vowel, in examples like those we have cited ; although we do not find it remarked upon in his critical examination of the power of the letters. Mr. Worcester has done good service in this addition to the key of the vowel. The propriety of the other addition to his key, that of a intermediate, having neither the short sound, as in fat, nor the Italian, as in far, we think is apparent. This sound is denoted in the key by the arbitrary vowel mark on the words fast, branch, grasp, and grass. To the vowel in these words, and others of the same class, Walker gives the short sound. The Italian sound of a in such words, which we generally hear from those who have bestowed little care upon pronunciation, it appears to us, approaches nearer to the true sound than that which is noted by Walker.
To the letter e Walker gives in his table of vowel sounds only the common long and short sounds, as in me and met. Mr. Worcester adds e, like a in rare, exemplified in heir, there, where. Here, again, the imperfection of Walker's notation
appears. For the purpose of indicating the sound of the vowel, he spells these words with a long, as in fate ; and the last of them, in the following awkward manner, — hware and hware-az. He probably never distorted his mouth so as to pronounce them according to this orthography. Another addition in Mr. Worcester's key to the same letter is what he calls the short and obtuse sound, as in her, herd, fern, fervid. Some of these, also, for the sake of indicating the true sound, Walker was obliged to spell with a different vowel. Thus her is directed to be pronounced hur, like u in tub. But we cannot come at this sound with the vowel before r, except by the help of another syllable, as in hur-ry. Whether we gain any thing by such a process, every one can judge. It is pretty certain, however, that no orthoëpist has skill enough to lead one astray in pronouncing the word. Not exactly thus is it with herd, to which Walker gives the short vowel sound, like e in met. It is possible, by very labored self-training, to give to this word the strange and indescribable sound which we have heard in the utterance of earth, erth, with short e, - a sound so difficult, that Walker proposed it with many grains of allowance, and for the sake of guarding against “a coarse, vulgar pronunciation, as if written urth. There is, indeed,” he says, “but a delicate difference between this and the true sound, but quite sufficient to distinguish a common from a polite speaker.
Thus it appears, that Walker's table of sounds, in regard as well to the letter e as to the letter a, is not sufficiently