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The elements, as well as the letters by which they are represented, are usually divided into two classes, Vowels and Consonants. A more philosophical division, however, is into three classes, Vowels, Subvowels, and Aspirates.
The vowels are pure vocal sounds; their number is fifteen.
The subvowels have a vocality, but inferior to that of the vowels; their number is fourteen.
The aspirates are made with the whispering breath, and, consequently, have no vocality; they are nine in number.
and in été.
arme, gaz, gaze.
vailing. There are thirty-eight elements in the English alphabet, and, to represent these elements by appropriate characters, we should have thirty-eight letters. There is, then, a deficiency in our alphabet of twelve letters- and he who shall supply this imperfection, will be one of the greatest benefactors of the human race. This work must be done before our authography can be rendered consistent, our pronunciation natural and uniform, and our language easy of acquisition. Until this is accomplished, words must be spelled one way, and pronounced another indeed, two languages must be learned, instead of one. Should the English language, as some confidently expect, become the language of the world, the advantages in which a complete alphabet would result, can be conceived by those only who have duly reflected upon the subject.
day, bid, did,
fame, if, drift,
thin, truth, months,
The reader may ask why C, J, Q, and X, have not been classed with the elements. These letters have no sounds which are not represented, in the above scheme, by other letters. C has three sounds the sound of k, as in cat; that of s, as in cedar, and that of sh, as in ocean. J expresses the combined sounds of d and z in azure. Q has the sound of k. X, as in exercise, expresses the combined sounds of k and s; in example, the combined sounds of
and z in zone; in anxious, the combined sounds of k and sh. In Xenophon, x has the sound of z in zone.*
* I have been informed by a Greek, Mr. Castanis, that his countrymen pronounce X, in Xenophon, as we pronounce x in exercise, thus- Ksenophon.
THE vowels are divided into Monothongs, Diphthongs, and Triphthongs.
The Monothongs consist of one kind of sound throughout their concrete movement, and consequently are simple elements; they are represented by the italics in the following words:
arm, all, an, eve, end, in, on, up, full.
The Diphthongs consist of two vowel sounds, which coalesce so intimately that they appear like one uniform sound; they are represented by the italics in the following words:
ale, ile, lose, tube.
The diphthong à, as well as 1, has a characteristic sound for its radical, and the monothong, I, for its vanish. These diphthongs, under certain circumstances (for instance, when they are carried through a wide range of pitch, as in interrogation with surprise), are converted into triphthongs, the third constituent being the monothong, ề.
The diphthong ô, as well as ù, has a characteristic sound for its radical, and the subvowel w, for its vanish.
The Triphthongs consist of three vowel sounds which coalesce so intimately that they appear like one uniform sound; they are represented by the italics, in the following words:
The first constituent of ò, as well as that of ou, is a sound characteristic of this element; and the diphthong & constitutes the second and the third constituent of these triphthongs.
The following scheme is an analysis of the diphthongs and triphthongs. The reader will observe that
the letters which are employed to represent the diphthongs and triphthongs, are used under the head, Constituents, to represent their radicals only.
Diphthongs. Constituents. | Triphthongs. Constituents.
à — 1 — ¿
There is one diphthong, and three triphthongs, besides those already noticed; they are represented by the italics, in the following words:
oil, ay, boy, buoy.
But, as all their constituents are to be found among the fifteen vowels before enumerated, they do not increase the number of the elements. This may be seen by the following analysis:
Diphthong. Constituents. | Triphthongs. Constituents.
During the utterance of a monothong, the aperture of the mouth remains stationary; but during that of a diphthong, or triphthong, the aperture is gradually diminished till the commencement of the last constituent; it then remains stationary till the sound is ended. This is illustrated by the following diagrams:
8 å W
The opening of the tube (Diag. 1,) represents the aperture of the mouth in the utterance of the mono
* I have said that à and are sometimes diphthongs, and sometimes triphthongs; hence, above, they appear under both heads.
thong à, and the length of the tube represents the duration of the sound.
The large end of Diag. 2 represents the aperture of the mouth in commencing the utterance of the diphthong - the portion of the figure between 8 and w, & shows the gradual diminution of the aperture of the mouth during the utterance of the first constituent, and the remaining portion shows the stationary position of the aperture of the mouth during the utterance of the second constituent.
The large end of Diag. 3, represents the aperture of the mouth in commencing the utterance of the triphthong ò- the portion of the figure between ò and 8, shows the gradual diminution of the aperture of the mouth during the utterance of the first constituent the portion between 8 and w, shows the gradual diminution of the aperture of the mouth during the utterance of the second constituent; and the remaining portion of the figure, the stationary position of the aperture of the mouth during the utterance of the third constituent.
B CONSISTS of a vocal sound and an aspirate. The first constituent is formed with the lips closed; the second, by aspirating the vowel å, at the moment of their separation.*
When B is doubled, as in rabbit, the second constituent of the first B is omitted. When B is whispered, the second constituent only is heard. When words in which B is doubled are whispered, the first B is mute.
D consists of a vocal sound and an aspirate. The first constituent is formed with the tip of the tongue
* Care should be taken not to make the second constituent vocal.