Page images



from the Greek words ogdos (orthos), right, and ygaon (graphé), a writing, is that part of grammar which teaches the nature and powers of letters, and the just method of spelling words.

13. Language consists of a succession of sounds formed by the vocal organs. These sounds have been analyzed into their elements, and marks or characters have been invented to represent them. These marks are known by the name of the Letters of the Alphabet. The resolution of sounds into their simple elements, and the adoption of marks to represent them, must be allowed to rank among the greatest human achievements. The Phænicians are said to have been the inventors of alphabetic writing, and it is certain that they conveyed a knowledge of the art to Greece. From the Greeks the Romans borrowed the greater part of their letters; and the modern European nations, our own among the number, owe theirs to Rome.

14. The English alphabet, as it at present stands, consists of twenty-six letters : A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S,

T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z.
a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t,

u, V, W, X, Y, Z. 15. It has been often shown that this alphabet is both defective and redundant: defective, because there are simple sounds in the language which it has no characters to represent; and redundant, because there are simple sounds which have more than one character to represent them. The English alphabet is said to be defective in these respects. To represent fifteen different sounds, as in the words fate, far, fall, fat; me, met; pine, pin; no, move, nor, not; tube, tub, bull; it has only five distinct characters. It has no character to represent the initial sounds in the words thin, thine, and shine, nor the final sound of the word sing.

Our alphabet is redundant, because i and y represent the same sound ; q is equivalent to k; x is equivalent to or

ks ; and c has no sound that may not be represented by :

or k.

16. Letters are divided into Vowels and Consonants. The Vowels are A, E, I, O, U, and they can be sounded fully by themselves; but the remaining letters cannot be sounded by themselves. They require the help of the vowels to bring out their sounds, and from this circumstance they have received the name of Consonants.

17. From what we have said (15), it follows as a necessary consequence, that no rules can be laid down for spelling words,—that is, to determine what characters shall be used to represent particular sounds. Still a few observations may be of use.

Observation 1.-Spelling is, to a considerable extent, regulated by pronunciation ; but sometimes a letter has remained in the written form of the word after all trace of it has vanished from the word as spoken. Thus, the word which we pronounce dět is not spelled so, but has a b before thet; and this departure from pronunciation has arisen, most probably, from the fact that writing is more fixed in its nature than speaking.

Observation 2.-When words ending in silent e receive an augment beginning with a vowel, the e is rejected ; as, love, loving; fame, famous.

Observation 3.—When a word ending in ll becomes part of a compound word, one l is dropt ; thus, all, Almighty; till, until; skill, full, skilful.

Observation 4.-When monosyllables ending in a single consonant preceded by a single vowel, or words accented on the last syllable, receive an augment, the final consonant is doubled. Thus, hot, hotter ; bid, bidden ; begin, beginner ; commit, committed.

Observation 5.—When a word ending in y receives an augment, the y is generally changed into i ; thus, merry, merriment; happy, happier, happily.

18. To all these observations, and others of the same kind, there are many exceptions; and it may be safely affirmed, that spelling will never be taught by rules. Writing to dictation, or writing what has been committed to memory, and then comparing the exercise with the book, which is assumed as accurate, is now generally allowed to be the most effectual method of learning orthography. The pupil should be careful to observe the use of such words as there and their ; his and is ; was and as ; principal and principle ; air, hair, and heir ; to, too, and two ; were and where ; they, the, and thee; of and off ; and generally words that are differently spelled but pronounced the same or nearly so.

19. ORTHOEPY is often reckoned a part of orthography. It treats of the proper pronunciation of words. The distinction between the two is thus pointed out by Mr Latham. “ Orthoëpy determines the correct pronunciation of words, and deals with a language as it is spoken ; orthography determines the correct spelling of words, and deals with a language as it is written.

*** Orthography addresses itself to the eye, orthoëpy to the ear. Orthoëpy deals with the articulate sounds that constitute syllables and words; orthography treats of the signs by which such articulate sounds are expressed in writing.”English Language, p. 145.

EXERCISE I. 1. Define Grammar. In what two senses has the word language been used ? What is the subject-matter of grammar? With what object is it studied ? Mention some of the points in which different languages may coincide or differ? To what causes must the similarities and differences of language be ascribed ? What is the object of English Grammar? Why is grammar treated of under different heads ?

2. Write in full the words pronounced thus :-Plummer, hansome, numatics, sâm, tho, sizm, nabur, retoric, rīm, ruf, anser, caracter, grisel.

3. Add the appropriate augments to the following words :-Peace, note, force, hate, sense, slave, arrive, stone, shame.

4. Compound the following words :-Full and fill; skill and full ; mercy and full; un and till.

5. Add augments to the words fat, big, spin, drum; admit, propel, prefer.

6. On what principle do we write worker from work ; dealer from deal ; builder from build; repeated from repeat; repealer from repeal ?

7. Add augments to boy, duty, holy, dry, merry, pity, and state on what principle the y is retained, or changed into i.

8. Supply the blanks in the following sentences with the appropriate words :

I am

[ocr errors]

I looked for him in the house, but he was not They vowed revenge on enemies. John told father a lie. Honesty the best policy. Mankind may be classed with regard to colour of hair. The eldest son is to his father's property.

angry to speak you. One and one make I asked John he had been. The Amazon is the

river in South America. He wants the true

of virtue. As soon the sun rose all their boats manned. They returned thanks

God for conducting voyage to such a happy issue. The early history Scotland obscure. The country long one of the most barbarous in Europe. Fear a necessary

in human government.

9. Write equivalent words to the following expressions :

In what place ? in that place ; of him ; belonging to them ; the atmosphere ; the covering of the human head; existed ; exists; away ; chief ; reason ; belonging to us; the twelfth part of the day; the ocean ; to observe.


20. The word ETYMOLOGY, from stupov (etumon), the root of a word, and Loyos (logos), a discourse, has been used by grammarians in two senses. Sometimes it is restricted to the tracing of words from one language to another; but, technically, it is used in a wider sense, and treats of the various classes into which words are arranged, of the changes they undergo to express difference of meaning, and of their origin and history. Classification is not properly a part of Etymology; it is a preparatory process; and just as the natural historian arranges substances and animals into classes and orders, before he proceeds to analyze or minutely describe them, so the grammarian arranges the words of a language into certain groups before he describes the various changes they are subjected to, either within the language or in passing from one language to another.


21. Words are the symbols or signs of ideas, and they are classified and named, not from their form, but from the

nature of the idea they represent or stand for. The class of any particular word is only to be ascertained by observing the office which it performs. What it does, alone indicates what it is.

It would be quite impossible to say, previous to actual inspection, how many sorts of words, or, as they are generally called, Parts of Speech, exist in any language; but, upon examination, it is ascertained that all words used in the English language may be arranged under eight heads; we say may be, because it is quite possible to group the words of the language in a different manner.

The Eight Parts of Speech are,—Noun, Adjective, Pronoun, Verb, Adverb, Preposition, Conjunction, and Interjection.

22. A definition of each of these classes of words ought to point out the characteristic or specific idea by which it is distinguished from all the others; and every individual word brought under any of the eight heads must agree with the definition, if it is adequate—that is, neither too extensive nor too limited.

It is to be observed, however, that the distinction between two parts of speech is not so complete as that between a triangle and a circle; and grammatical definitions cannot pretend to the accuracy of those given by mathematicians.


23. A Noun, from the Latin word nomen, a name, is the name of any person, place, thing, quality, or principle; or, more generally, it is the name of whatever can be an object of contemplation or subject of discourse.

The characteristic of the noun is this : it gives of itself a distinct idea or object of thought; thus, of the words, to, pen, just, alas ! he, terrify, and ship, the only ones that present a picture to the “mind's eye” are pen and ship. These, therefore, we call nouns ; but the others do not belong to this class.

It should be carefully observed, that every proposition, or sentence that asserts any thing, must contain at least a noun

« PreviousContinue »