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OF ENGLISH GRAMMAR.
OF THE DIVISION AND SOUND OF LETTERS.
IN the early ages of antiquity, before alphabets were invented, mankind, sensible of their want of some means of recording historical events and scientifical discoveries, had res? course to various arts for these purposes, the first of which was painting. That partiality for pictures, so evident in all ages and countries, afforded the ancients a method of per-petuating their transactions. To commemorate that one man had killed another, they painted the figure of a dead man, with another man standing over him, having an hoftile weapon in his hand. On the firft discovery of America, this was the only kind of writing used by the Mexicans.
The first improvement made by our ancestors iu the art of writing (if it might then be called an art), wag by the intro. duction of hieroglyphical characters. These confifted of VOL. I.
certain symbols, which were inade to represent certain invi. fible objects, to which, in fome particulars, such symbols were supposed to bear some relemblance. An eye was the symbol of knowledge; a circle, of eternity, as having neither beginning nor end. The figures of animals were also much em. ployed in this kind of writing, on account of some quality with which they were supposed to be endowed, and in which they relembled the object signified. Thus, imprudence was represented by a Aly; wisdom by an ant; and victory by a hawk. These hieroglyphics flourished moft in ancient Egypt (as did all other learning at that time), where the knowledge of these characters was reduced into a regular art: and many specimens of them are still extant in relics of Egyptian antiquities. Hieroglyphics, though an improvement upon the former mode of writing, was a very imperfect one, and often confused and perplexed its most skilful professors.
In a few succeeding ages, bieroglyphics gave place to simple arbitrary marks, which were introduced to represent objects, without having the least resemblance or affinity to the objects represented. The Chinese still use characters of this nature : they have no alphabet of letters, but every single mark or character signifies one perfect idea or object. The number of these characters are therefore great :-near feventy thousand. To be perfe&tly acquainted with them, conftitutes 'the bufiness of a whole life; which njust be an infurmountable abftacle to the iniprovement of science. Our common figures, 1, 2, 3, 4, &c. afford' us an example of this fort of writing; where each figure or character conveys the idea of the number for whicb it stands as clearly and intelligibly as the words themselves, one, two, three; &c.“. But when marks or characters 'come to be used for all our ideas, in exclufion to an alphabet of letters, they then, from their Fumberi become inconvenient. 291 m) lososom den
The next improvement in the'ati" of writing was by the invention of signs of marks, which ffood, not directly for the objects themfelves, but for the words or wames whereby
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they were distinguished. This was an alphabet of syllables. An alphabet of this kind is still in use in Æthiopia, and fume countries of India.
But the noble and sublime discovery of an alphabet of letters superseded every other improvement in this art. Who was the first in this invention is uncertain. An alphabet of letters was, however, brought into Greece by Cadnus, the Phænician, who was contemporary with king David. This alphabet consisted of only fixteen letters: the rest were added afterwards, as signs for proper founds were found to be wanting. The Phænician, Hebrew, Greek, and Roman alphabets are so much alike in the figures and names of the letters, as plainly to evince they were originally derived from the fame.
By the use of the alphabet, we are now, therefore, enabled to express our ideas with the fame clearness and precision, as in conversation.
The English alphabet consists of twenty-fix letters: A, a; B, b; C, c; D, d; E, e; F, f; G, g; H, h; I, i; J, J; K, K; L, 1; M, m; N, n; 0, 0;P, P; Q, 9; R, r; S, f, s; T, t; U, u; V, v; W, w; X, x; Y, y; 2, 2; and is divided into vowels and consonants, mutes and semi-vowels.
The names of the twenty-fix letters are as follow : a, bee, cee, dee, e, ef, gee, aitch, i, ja, ka, el, em, en, o, pee, cue, ar, ess, tee, u, vee, double u, ex, y, zad.
The vowels are fix in number, viz. a, b, the rest are consonants.
The mutes are those letters which are begun, when they are spelled, by a consonant: as, b, bee ; c, cee; d, dee, &c.; those which are begun with a vowel are called semi-vowels : as, l, el; m, em ; n, en ; ?, ar ; s efs, &c.; l, m, n, r, are also called liquids.
When two vowels meet together, they are called a diphthong: of these there are thirteen, viz. si, ei, oi, ui, ax, eul, ou, ec, 00, ex, co, oa, and ie.
When three vowels meet, they are called a triphthong: as in the word beauty. A 2