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scribed. Nothing has a surer tendency to secure attention, and to form correct habits.
The orthoëpical form of word-exercises, is meant to be a daily virtual review of the work originally done by the learner, in the lessons in oral spelling and syllabication, presented in the successive columns of his spelling-book, and to induce him to make constant use of his dictionary, for further guidance. Pupils whose earliest training may have been less accurate or regular than is desirable, will thus be enabled to atone, in degree, for the imperfection of the previous stages of their education, by supplying deficiencies and correcting errors. To all classes of pupils it may be a useful daily exercise to analyse, in the manner suggested, a few lines from the first paragraph of their reading lesson.
Suggestion to Students. To students somewhat advanced, who desire to attain to a systematic accuracy in their knowledge and use of the English language, and, more particularly, to such as intend to be occupied in teaching, or in public speaking, a self-appointed task, of a description similar to the foregoing, will prove highly serviceable. — Every teacher should be a competent living authority on every word of our language to which a dictionary can furnish access; that he may be able to ensure the accuracy of his pupils by his own intelligent and appropriate exemplification. On all variable and controverted words, as to orthoëpy, he should be critically versed in the comparative merits of every style proposed, that he may not be the slave of local prejudice or individual caprice. Worcester's Dictionary, or the Harper's edition of Webster's,* will
* The revision which Webster's Dictionary has undergone, in the department of orthoëpy, under the excellent editorial decisions of Professor Goodrich, renders the above-mentioned edition peculiarly valuable to teachers and students. Dr. Goodrich's critical judgment and refined taste have left comparatively little ground
furnish, in their lists of words liable to different styles, of pronunciation, a useful guide to the requisite knowledge in this department of instruction.
The importance of attention to early habit, with regard to appropriate style in pronunciation, is evident, not only with respect to the distinctness of articulation which it produces, but the standard of taste and scholarship which it implies, in students and teachers, and, not less, in professional speakers. The prevalent negligence on this point, is painfully manifest in the style of many public addresses in which the evidences of culture and refinement were rightly to be expected. The comparative general correctness of American usage in pronunciation, does not extend, in due proportion, to the ranks of professional life. Many a speaker who would blush at the inadvertent use of a false quantity in a syllable of Latin or Greek, is not ashamed to betray a slovenly negligence in pronouncing the words of his native tongue.
CURRENT ERRORS IN PRONUNCIATION. Suggestions to Teachers. The general correctness of style with which the English language is spoken in the United States, is freely admitted, even by those whose national prejudices might well be expected to give an unfavorable bias to their judgment. This correctness, however, it ought never to be forgotten by teachers, is but comparative; and a faithful discharge of the duties of instruction, requires a critical exactness of ear, on the part of those whose business it is to form individual and national habit, in this department of culture.
A perfectly correct style of pronunciation, is a
of objection, in regard to the peculiarities which formed the only drawback from the value of the original work.
thing exceedingly difficult of attainment, in any community in which our language is the native tongue of the people. The English language is itself extremely irregular and arbitrary, in its spoken forms. The diversity of elements in its composition, sufficiently accounts for this defect. In one English sentence of ordinary length, the reader or speaker is making continual transitions from the characteristic style of utterance in the German class of dialects to the widely different mode prevailing in the Romanic, and, particularly, the French. The spoken language, moreover, of any nation, even the most highly cultivated, being employed in the daily utterance of all classes of society, - the uncultivated as well as the learned,- is always found below the standard of written expression, which naturally falls, more gen. erally, under the stricter cognisance of educated usage. The comparative neglect, also, of taste and culture, as regards an influence on the style of oral expression, is a fault quite prevalent in most AngloSaxon communities. A nervous dread of seeming affectation, has, within the present century, taken the place, both in Old and New England, of the proper attention formerly given, in early training, to the acquisition of a correct and graceful use of language, as an attainment for which education was regarded as responsible. Every one who can recall examples of the style of conversation in the cultivated circles of the preceding period, is ready to attest its superior character, as contrasted with the negligence and incorrectness current in our own day.
In addition to the various circumstances which have been mentioned as impediments to the attainment of a uniform and correct style of spoken language, the English tongue labors under yet another, peculiar to itself. It has no universally acknowledged standard of decision, to which it can refer in a question of propriety. The stage, when it was
trodden by the members of the royal household, and, on great occasions, by the graduates of universities, and the students of inns of court, - was justly held the model of pronunciation. But that golden age of dramatic literature and dramatic life, has long since passed away. The stage, becoming obsolete itself, inclines to obsolete and exploded usages; and no standard of practice, for private life, could be proposed so revolting to true taste and sound judgment, as that which, by way of disparagement, is termed theatrical. The consentaneous usage of cultivated society, is the sole arbiter, in our day, of matters connected with the forms of utterance. The pulpit, the bar, the stage, the legislative hall, and the popular assembly, are all compelled to adopt the style thus imposed. But this law of custom is necessarily very vague, and not always plainly announced, or decisively enforced ; and, -as happens in all cases dependent on unity of opinion and action in large bodies of men,- is, to a great extent, inoperative. After all that can be said or done in the matter, a large number of the words in the English language, will ever be liable to a variable style of pronunciation; and, in such circumstances, no error is greater than that of the rigorist who insists on the monopoly of propriety, and condemns the modes of well sanctioned usage, because at variance with his personal opinion and practice.
Every attentive observer of national or of local custom, must be aware that, in America, we are liable to the influence of causes which counteract the general tendency to comparative accuracy in our current style of pronunciation. In our New-England States, there is a somewhat extensive prevalence of local peculiarities of usage, inherited from ancestral custom in certain parts of old England, but which are, everywhere else, regarded as obsolete. Some of these are exemplified even in the style of culti
vated and professional life; and a few are actually inculcated in the orthoëpy of standard dictionaries. The general practice of educated persons in our Middle States, as regards the details of pronunciation, while it avoids prevailing errors of the class just mentioned, is by no means wholly free froin peculiarities of local custom, plainly traceable to the early prevalence of the German language. The pronunciation of our Southern States is characterised by the predominance of an obsolete length and breadth of vowel sounds, such as marked the style of the country gentlemen of England, more than a century ago; and the spoken language of our Western States, is, to a great extent, chargeable with an intermixture of the local errors of New-England with those of the South.
A close, critical attention to perfect purity of style, on the part of teachers, and a careful correction of local errors in juvenile pronunciation, are the only securities for the removal of faults, and for the attainment of that most desirable result of general education, a correct and appropriate use of our native language. The readiness of public sentiment to favor the teacher's office, in this respect, devolves additional responsibleness, on his part, to the duties of his station. In all parts of the national Union, there is a prevailing disposition to submit to the authority of a recognised standard of orthoëpy, and to adopt that of a dictionary, rather than the fluctuating and arbitrary one of any living or professional form. But the notation of orthoëpy, although given in the most exact of forms, in the columns of a dictionary, must ever be interpreted by the voice of the teacher; and the correctness of his judgment and practice, is necessarily the measure of his pupil's attainments.
A few of the prominent principles of orthoëpy, which are most liable to be neglected in current