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beyond childhood; though I have frequently, in the book, addressed my directions to masters and their scholars.
I persuade myself that there are thousands of young persons, and many at full grown age, who for want of happier advantages, may profit considerable in this universal piece of knowledge, by the directions that are here proposed. They may learn to read more usefully to those who hear, as well as to write more intelligibly to those who must read, if they will but enter into acquaintance with the principles of their native tongue, and follow the rules here prescribed.
It is not so easy a matter to read well as most people imagine: There are multitudes who can read common words true, can speak every hard name exactly, and pronounce the single or the united syllables perfectly well; who yet are not capable of reading six lines together with a proper sound, and a graceful turn of voice either to inform or please the hearers: and if they ever attempt to read verse, even of the noblest composure, they perpetually affect to charm their own ears, as well as the company, with ill tones and cadences, with false accents, and a false harmony, to the utter ruin of the sense, and the disgrace of the poet.
As for spelling, how wretchedly is it practised by a great part of the unlearned world? For having never attained a good knowledge of the general force and sound of the English letters, nor the customary and various use of diphthongs; and being utter strangers to the derivation of words from foreign languages, they neither spell according to custom, nor to the sound, nor the derivation. When they have learned the use of a pen, they make such a hideous jumble of letters to stand for words, that neither the vulgar nor the learned can guess what they mean.
Yet here I am sensible I must beg pardon of the critics, that I have allowed my readers to spell several English words rather according to custom, and the present pronunciation, than in the etymological and learned way; and that I have advised them sometimes to spell words of the same sound, and the same derivation, two different ways, if they have a different meaning; as practise, when it is a verb, with an s; and when it is a noun, with a e: For it is the happiness of any language to distinguish the writing, and, if it were possible, the sound also of every word which has two distinct senses, as we do in the words Advise andAdvice; that neither speech nor writing might have any thing ambiguous.
I hope they will forgive too, if I have allowed the unlearned to spell many of the same words two ways, even when their sense is the same; as Pretious may be written with a t, or a c. Perhaps they may tell me, that both these can never be right. But in several of these instances, the critics themselves are at great variance, though the matter is of too trifling importance to be the subject of learned quarrels; and custom, which is, and will be sovereign over all the forms of writing and speaking, gives me licence to indulge my unlearned readers in this easy practice. I will never contest the business of spelling with any man; for after all the most laborious searches into antiquity, and the combats of the grammarians, there are a hundred words that all the learned will not spell the same way.
I have by no means aimed at perfection, and shall not at all be disappointed when the world tells me, I have not attained an impossibility. The English tongue being composed out of many languages, enjoys indeed a variety of their beauties; but by this means it becomes also so exceeding irregular,
that no perfect account of it can be given in certain rules, without such long catalogues of perpetual exceptions as would much exceed the rules themselves. And after all, too curious and exquisite a nicety in these minute affairs, is not worth the tedious attendance of a reasonable mind, nor the labours of a short life. If what was composed for private use, may be made a public advantage, and may assist my countrymen to a little more decency and propriety in reading and spelling than heretofore they practised, they will enjoy the benefit, and I shall rejoice to find that the service is more extensive than my first design.
Those who have a mind to inform themselves more perfectly of the genius and composition of our language, either in the original derivation of it, or in the present use and practice, must consult such treatises as are written on purpose; amongst which, I knew none equal to that Essay towards a Practical English Grammar, composed by Mr. James Greenwood; wherein he has shown the deep knowledge, without the haughty airs of a critic; and he is preparing a new edition, with great improvements, by the friendly communications of the learned world. When that ingenious author has finished the work he designs, if he would deny himself so far as to publish a short abstract of the three first parts of it, in two or three sheets, merely for the instruction of common English readers, I am well assured it would give them an easier and better acquaintance with the nature of grammar, and the genius of their native tongue, than any treatise that has ever yet come within my notice.
ART OF READING AND WRITING ENGLISH,
CHAPTER I.-Of Letters and Syllables.
WHAT is reading?
Answer. To read, is to express written or printed words by their proper sound.
2 Q. What are words made of?
A. Words are made of letters and syllables, either one or more; as 1, by, fire, water.
3 Q. What is a letter?
A. A letter is the mark of a single sound; and it is the least part of a word, as a, m, s.
4 Q. What is a syllable?
A. A syllable is one distinct sound, made by one letter alone; as a, e, i; or by more letters joined together; as ha, bi, dan, den, pint, sport.
5 Q. How many letters are there?
A. There are usually counted twenty-four letters in English, a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u w x y z
6. Q. Are all these letters of one sort?
A. Five of them are vowels, as a, e, i, o, u; and all the rest are consonants.
Note, I have here followed the old and usual custom of making twenty-four letters, and distinguishing the u and i into vowels and consonants afterwards; though it had been much more proper and natural, if our fathers had made the vand j consonants two distinct letters, and called them ja and vee, and thus made it six and twenty.
7 Q. What is a vowel?
A. A vowel is a letter which can make a perfect and distinct sound of itself, and often makes a syllable alone, as i, o, a.
8 Q. What is a consonant?
A. A consonant is a letter which can never make a syllable alone, nor give a clear and perfect sound without a vowel pronounced with it.
9 Q. How does it appear that a consonant can make no perfect sound by itself alone?
A. The very names of the consonants cannot be spoken,
nor mentioned, without the sound of a vowel; as ƒ is called ef; b is called bee; k is called ka.
10 Q. Are the consonants all of one kind?
A. Five of the consonants are called liquids, or half vowels, because they have a kind of imperfect sound of themselves, as l, m, n, r. s; the rest are mutes, or quite silent.
CHAP. II.-Of Letters changing their Nature, double Consonants, and Diphthongs.
DO the vowels never become consonants?
Answer. ¿ and u are sometimes made consonants, and have a different shape and sound, as ja, va.
2 Q. How does the j consonant sound?
A. j when it is a consonant sounds like a soft g, as in the words jest and judge.
3 Q. How does v sound when it is a consonant ?
A. The consonant sounds almost like ƒ, as in the words value, visit, live, starve.
4 Q. Do any
of the consonants ever become vowels? A. y and w sometimes are used for vowels.
5 Q. When is y a vowel?
A. y is a vowel whensoever it sounds like i, as type, rhyme; and it is often written instead of i, at the end of a word, as in fly, city, mystery.
6 Q. When is w a vowel?
A. w is a vowel when it sounds like u, and comes after another vowel to make a diphthong; as in these words, law, few, town.
7 Q. What is a diphthong?
A. A diphthong is when two vowels are joined together in one syllable, to make one sound, as a i in raise, e e in feed, i e in grief, o a in goat, ow in grow, and u y in buy.
8 Q. Are two consonants never joined together in one syllable?
A. Yes; sometimes double consonants begin words or syllables, and sometimes end them; as fl in fly, s t in star, and n g in king, with many others?
9 Q. Are three vowels or consonants never joined together? A. Sometimes three vowels are joined in one sound, and make a tripthong, as u a i, in acquaint, e a u, in beauty, i e u, in lieu, i ew, in view; and sometimes three consonants, as str, in strong, thr in throw, or four, as n g t h, in length, rcht, in parcht, pht h, in phthisic.
Note, By this means there are a few words in the English tongue that are of one syllable, and have seven consonants to one vowel; as strength, stretcht. 10 Q. Do the letters never alter or lose their sound?
A. Vowels, consonants, and diphthongs alter their sound very much in different words, and sometimes entirely lose it. 11 Q. How may you know when any letter loses or changes its sound?
A. Though many of these things in the following chapters are reduced to rules; yet these rules are so large, and the exceptions so many, that we may almost as well learn this by practice.
Note, The following chapters, as far as the tenth, may be read by children two or three times over; but they should not be put to the task of learning them by heart. Yet if the master thinks proper to mark out a few of the most useful questions in them for his scholars to learn, he must use his own discretion in choosing them; and thus proceed to the tenth chapter.
CHAP. III-Of Consonants changing their Sound.
WHICH are the consonants that alter their sound in different words?
Answer. Chiefly these six, c, g, h, k, s and t.
A. c properly sounds like k, as can, cry, but before e, i or y, it is pronounced like s, as cease, city, cypress, mercy. 3 Q. How doth g change its pronunciation ?
A. Three ways; when it comes before e, i, or y: when it comes before h, and when it comes before n.
4 Q. How doth g change its sound before e, i, or y? A. g before e, i, or y, at the end of a syllable, always sounds soft like j consonant, as huge, barge, clergy; and sometimes before e, i, or y, in the beginning of a syllable, as gentle, ginger, gipsy; but not always, as get, give; for which there are no certain rules.
5 Q. Are g and c always sounded hard before a consonant? A. Let it be noted, That wheresoever the letters c or g come before an apostrophe, where the vowel e is cut off, or left out, the c and g must still be sounded soft, as though e were written; as placed, plac'd; danced, danc'd; raged, rag'd; changed, chang'd.
6 Q. How doth g alter its sound before h?
A. gh, at the end of a syllable, only lengthens the sound of it, as high, bright, dough, sigh; which some pronounce sithe; except in these few words, where it is pronounced like f, as cough, trough, chough, laugh, laughter, rough, tough, hough and enough.