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ten language is decidedly more fixed and perma- | him saying, that the objections on the matter of nent in its nature, and admits of being ascertained theoretical propriety are referable to the following more distinctly, than the spoken language; indeed, heads :we would'seriously recommend this amendment to
1. The value of the present orthography in disMr. Ellis. If he must have some reform, if writ- tinguishing by spelling words which, although difing and speech must of necessity be merely the ferent in meaning, are identical in sound. 2. The reflection of one another, let him commence an agi- value of the same as indicative of the etymological tation for a graphic reform, and invite the world origin of words. 3. The value of the same in formto pronounce English as it is written. The ar- ing a standard of language. Each of the three rangement is in theory more reasonable than his real office of an alphabet. This is to represent the
functions is incompatible with a true notion of the phonetic proposal, and just as likely to succeed in language to which it belongs, taking it as it is, and practice.
attempting no secondary or subordinary effects. To As soon as a language has obtained a literary talk about there being a written language and a existence, we say it is subject to a literary standard spoken language, is to talk of there being two sorts of spelling, just as much as a spoken language is of men, real and painted ; or men in the flesh and subject to a vocal standard of pronunciation. The blood, and men in pictures. There is but one reprinciple under which it began, whether phonetic This representation may be good or bad ; i. e. an
ality; the duplicate is merely a representation. or ideagraphic, was a scaffolding merely from alphabet may represent a language just as a portrait which to launch it into independent existence ; and may represent a face, well, indifferently, or not at to talk as Mr. Ellis does of our present orthography all. To ensure its doing the first, it should be made being “an utter failure," because it is not strictly to keep to the representation alone ; to ensure its phonetic, is just as absurd as it would be to call doing the third, it should be made to represent and such words as rumble, bang, splash, &c. utter fail
And this is what is done in do something more.
English. ures, because, though originally imitative, they
1. Two words are alike in sound but different in are now only conventionally significant sounds. To express this difference we make a disPerhaps a reference to the case of proper names tinction in the spelling, although it was unnecessary will illustrate our position better than anything in the speaking, and so conceal the likeness : just else, although what we say of them is true of all as if, in order to distin uish two Dromios from on words whatever. Mr. Ellis is particularly severe another, we put a different color on their portraits. on such a piece of hetericisin as that Mr.“ Tirit of the language, the proper function of an alphabet,
Whatever else may gain by this, the representation (for instance) should spell his name Tyrrwhill.
loses. 2. Again, we spell a word like city with c, The only answer to this is, that such is his name. although s (sity) would have done as well. By this His spoken name is Tirit, his written name is we get a certain fact made somewhat clearer than Tyrrwhitt ; his written name is no more “ Tirit,” it would have been otherwise ; namely, the fact that than his spoken name is Jones. If there were no the English city is connected with the Latin civitas. such thing as written English, he would have no The price we pay for this is the addition of a rewritten name; but there is a written English, and the way of illustration ; i. e. to show that our pres
dundant letter. At present I am only writing in he has a written name : it is Tyrrwhilt ; it is a
ent alphabet aims at objects other than the simple fact, and there is, or should be, an end of the mat- representation of a language. I therefore abstain
But facts go for nothing with an enthusiast; from further remarks ; my wish being to give promit is, nevertheless, just this incapacity to recognize inence to the fact, that alphabetic writing has only and submit to facts which makes ihe difference one function ; namely, to represent. To mix up between a useless visionary and a useful
etymology, and to give the history of a word as well former. *
as its sound, is no proper function. On the conIt will be said that the above positions are mere
trary, it is an intention which can only be fulfilled
at the expense of the representation; just as a porassertions, unsupported by proof. They are, how-trait that should attempt to give a family pedigree ever, we believe, positions which most people who as well as a likeness, (family or not,) would be consider steadily the real nature of language will something other than a true portrait, and by no admit to be correct. It is evident that they lie at means an improvement on one. the root of the whole question, and that, unless
We can only meet these representations by a they can be controverted, the entire superstructure direct denial of their correctness. We are not of phonetics must fall to the ground. Dr. Latham very partial to arguing by means of metaphors and sees this clearly enough, and he accordingly asserts similes, because they seldom run on all-fours ; but positions directly contradictory of ours. In his
we have no objection to adopt Dr. Latham's figure first letter to the Atheneum, (before cited,) we find of the portrait, for it is a good one, and exactly
* Mr. Punch, whose sense of the ludicrous has led him proves what we have been saying. Granting that to cut some jokes on the phonetic system in general, de- writing was originally a picture of speaking, what scribing it as " originally invented by Winifred Jenkins, and carried to its greatesi height by Jeames, with the able then? A picture, when it is made, is thenceforth assistance of Yellow plush and itman," yet admits that an existing independent thing ; there was before its introduction in the case of some proper names would only one thing, the man ; now there are two things, more truly) absurd in these cases than in any other; but the man and the picture. Because the picture a little liberal prejudice obscured his reasoning powers for was originally intended to be like the man, is that a moment; the desire to have a sneer at what he chooses to connect with " aristocratic humbug” was too strong for
a reason for kecping it like the man ; touching it him.-See the number for 24th February, 1849.
up, and altering it day after day, as the man grows
uglier or handsomer? Can a picture long exist points to his 100,000 copies of phonetic publica under such conditions ? Will it not inevitably be tions, and to his list of phonetic corresponding spoiled ? From the moment the picture has begun societies," as a proof that in practice, at least, to be, it and the man are distinct ; from that mo- phoneticism is not impossible, we answer, that ment each begins to change and grow old, in obe- these afford no proof of real life. Phoneticism is dience to the laws of its own nature, and not in still in the hands of its authors and of those who imitation of the other. If after a certain lapse of claim, as reflected light, part of the fame of its time the picture is no longer a resemblance, and it authors as its first supporters and propagators ; is thought necessary (for any reason) to have a re- enthusiasm, vanity, prejudice, call it what you semblance, a new picture must be made ; but we will, are engaged in maintaining, in what is in are not now considering whether such a necessity reality a soulless model, the appearances of vitalhas arisen, but the truth of the position, that it is ity; but it is but a galvanic motion that can be the nature of the picture to keep like the original, imparted, and as soon as the master has left off and that it does not “ perform its functions” unless applying the battery, and the pupils have got tired it keeps like the original. Such is not its nature, of their plaything, it will tumble down again, a and such are not its functions ; it has no functions mere inanimate lump of vowels and consonants. to perform, unless natural life and growth can be It will never be able to go alone. so called. Dr. Latham should have taken rather We have hitherto endeavored to consider the the simile of the reflection of a man in a mirror ; principle of phonetics, as laid down and asserted it would have suited his line of argument better ; by its champions, singly and in the abstract ; but but it would have been entirely inapplicable to the so impalpable and contradictory is it, that it is no case of language, for his own view of the present easy task to fix the attention on it steadily; and condition of English, or, if not that, a reference to often while fancying we were contemplating its any of the symbolic languages, is a sufficient proof nature and consequences, we have found that the that a written language is capable of existing, and phantom had altogether slipped away, leaving a does actually exist, independently of the spoken very different proposition in its place, which, not language.
being demonstrably impracticable and absurd, can Although Mr. Ellis occasionally loses sight of the stand up to be looked a little more in the face. It real nature of his own “revolution,” let us endeavor is probable that many members of “phonetie corto consider steadily its true character and neces- responding societies,” who fancy they are wor
There is to be no standard of cor- shipping the true divinity, are in reality prostrate rect writing, it is said : that a written word should at the feet of this intrusive idol; for it is evident be anything but a reproduction, by means of pho- from more than one passage in his writings (as we netic letters, of the sound made by the writer in have already hinted) that even Mr. Ellis himself pronouncing the same word, is denounced as a occasionally falls into a similar mistake. monstrous absurdity. A writer is to disregard all The changeling proposition to which we refer literary authority, and to do nothing but to analyze is this ; not that there should be no literary standhis own accents, else his spelling will not be pho-ard, but that there ought to be a new one; or, to netic. Now, let anybody ask himself what chance resume Dr. Latham's metaphor, that the time is a language has of subsisting in any purity which come to paint a fresh picture. is to be dealt with in this way? It is proposed to A few quotations will soon show that it is a reduce the English language to the stage at which change of this nature that has been present (though that of the Cannibal Islanders and other savages, undetected) to Mr. Ellis' mind, while he has bewhose words have been merely jotted down by lieved himself to be advocating the cause of phomissionaries and travellers, now is, viz., a mere neticism pur et simple ; and that, provided the new imitation of sounds, having no existence apart from standard is to be of his own making, he has conthose sounds; and not only reducing it to that stage, templated such a state of things with considerable but keeping it there; for although the Caffres and complacency. He now appears no longer as the Bushmen, as soon as they have a literature, will assertor of the liberties of the people against assuredly (unless there be Pitmans and Ellises in orthographical tyranny in general, but merely as their land also) have a literary language obedient the founder of a new dynasty, which is in principle to a literary standard, we, although we have, or and may become in practice just as tyrannical and used to have, a literature, are, it seems, not to arbitrary as the old. For instance, at the very have a literary language.
outset, is not his alphabet itself a piece of dictation? Do what you will, you will never get anything Why is anybody to adopt it rather than set about to live upon principles and by means of forces ex- inventing one for himself?* Why should we be ternal to itself. Whether it be a plant or a constitution, a language or an old gentleman, it mat- complete as it is possible that such an alphabet should be ;
* Messrs. Pirman and Ellis' alphabet is, perhaps, as ters, not; it must live by its own life or be lifeless. we are far from wishing to depreciate it; on the contrary, Phoneticism is in principle an attempt to make we look on it as quite a monument of patient analysis and
linguistic science; but it is decidedly inadequate to exwritten English live, not by its own life, but by press correctly all the sounds made in English speaking; the life of spoken English ; it is, therefore, in the vowels in particular, though there are sixteen of them, principle false and contradictory, and by necessary the verb to produce, and the ow in oven, expressed by the
are obviously insufficient. For instance, we find the o in consequence impossible in practice. If Mr. Ellis saine type, (see the Spelling Reformer No. I., p. 6.)
obliged to take letters ready made any more than uniformity of spelling would cease,” Mr. Ellis words ? But letting that pass, and granting him gives the following curious and remarkable the privilege of making our alphabet for us, at answer.
First, he saysleast he should stop there and leave us to spell for ourselves according to our own phonetic views. land, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and America, in
We have received letters from all parts of EngSee, however, how royally he again interferes phonetic spelling, and find the real points of difwith our liberties, and prescribes for us the course ference very small indeed [if this be so, it can only we must freely follow :-“We instituted many be because the authority which he claims has been experiments. We began, as was most natural, in accepted.] And it must be recollected (he conattempting to furnish the most accurate represen- tinues) that this diversity will be almost confined tation we could produce of the familiar conver
to manuscript. Printers' readers will correct the sational style of speech.
spelling according to the most approved standard of
After several exper- pronunciation, as exhibited in proper pronouncing iments, we decided that this should not be adopted, 'dictionaries.* as it was too vague and unpleasant ;'' and after some consideration, we are told that his majesty
This is again simply giving up the whole led to adopt the stiff rhetorical pronunciation as position. These standards of pronunciation (so the standard by which to regulate our spelling.” called) would obviously be literary standards "We have at length arrived at a system of using written books ; there is, then, to be a reference to
What! refer to a mere phonetic spelling which is satisfactory to ourselves, authority in the matter. and of which we hear remarkably few complaints.” image ; copy a copy when we have the original
Why should anybody complain of it, unless at hand? Why should a man take his spelling human instinct was longing for an authority on from a dictionary? He is to spell as he prowhich it could rely?
nounces ; you have told him so ; dictionaries have
nothing to do with it; one of the great blessings In the process of time, as our characters become of the phonetic system is, that everybody who more and more familiar to the eye, we expect that knows how to pronounce a word knows how to these complaints will become less and less, and that spell it. Are these your revolutionary princiour orthography will be adopted, not on its own authority, (he adds, however, to save his principles,) of June here!
ples ? Up with the barricades—we want a 23d but because it is found the most desirable.
Although, strictly speaking, we are not called So Napoleon was elected Emperor of France upon to make the defence of our present orthogby universal suffrage.
raphy against any other given orthography, as
such a change, the mere substitution of a new In the mean time it is, of course, to be expected code for the old, is not in terms proposed by the that many other printing-offices besides our own advocates of the spelling reform ; yet, as it is the will be used for phonetic printing, and in these only result which Mr. Ellis, supposing he were various styles of spelling will be adopted. For instance, in the American newspapers printed in allowed to have everything his own way, could, phonotypes we meet with spellings which would from the nature of things, produce ; and, morenot be tolerated in England. But by this concur- over, as it is probably the result which in reality rence of different orthographies we expect ulti- most of his followers look to, whenever they mately to arrive at a round, smooth, and pleasant deliberately look to any at all, we will say a few system ; as when stones are rolled on in the cur- words on the subject. We may now descend from rent of a river they lose their rough edges and the region of definitions and abstract principles : distinctive forms.--Plea, p. 126.
this change does not involve a contradiction in This is, plainly, altogether an abandonment of terms, it is to be considered as a practical questhe phonetic principles ; instead of an assertion of tion ; first, whether it is worth bringing about ; the absolute liberty of the subject, we are pre- and, secondly, whether it is possible to bring it sented with a congress of sovereigns making about. To the consistent phoneticist we need mutual compromises and trafficking away the in- only observe that the new code, when created, dependence of their people without consulting and however created, would be as arbitrary as the them.
old ; but to the hetericist, still faithful to his alleAgain, when undertaking to dispose of the giance, but whose belief in the divine right of A following objection, which he put in the mouth the Great, and the Prince Royal little a, and of a hetericist, that “phonetic pupils, spelling as
Bouncing B the Grand Vizier, and the other they pronounce, would spell very variously, and potentates of the despotism (absurdly called tho
republic) of Letters, has been a little shaken by It would seem that objections of this kind bave been the insidious whispers of the revolutionary agents, pressed upon Mr. Ellis ; his answer is, that “experience we will propose one or two questions. has proved that it is sufficient for all the purposes claimed whom is the code to be composed ? 2. By what for it, and that it imparts a good pronunciation.” (Penny Puckets, Part V.) This is another instance, in addition authority is it to be promulgated and enforced? to those in the text, of the naive manner in which Mr. 3. How long is it to last ? Who is to say when Ellis every now and then gives up his whole case ; he forgets that according to his principles an alphabet can
it shall be renewed ? And even if distinct and not be practically sufficient unless it is absolutely com- satisfactory answers could be given to these (which plete; and that it is not likely tha: deliberately laying down a wrong pronunciation can impart a good one.
* Penny Packets, Part V.
are indispensable preliminaries,) we should still Among his answers to the objection that the decline having anything to do with introducing confusion and uncertainty of phonetic spelling (or rather attempting to introduce) such a change would be intolerable, Mr. Ellis makes the counourselves, and advise our readers to follow our ercharge that the spelling of one word in sixty of example, simply because it is from its nature the English language is uncertain under the presimpracticable. You
more change a ent system, and that it is a mistake to believe in nation's language than you can change a nation's the fixity of our present heteric. orthography character or constitution, all in a lump: none of (Plea, p. 27 ;) from which he infers that we have these things can be dealt with by abrogating the no right to make any objections to his scheme on old by proclamation, and bringing in the new full similar grounds, as we should be no worse off in grown and complete in all its branches ; it may that respect under the new régime than under the look very pretty, but it will want one indispensa- old. ble quality-life. The experiment has been tried This, we must say, looks very like what used in politics more than once, but always with the to be called “ cavilling;" it is with difficulty that same inevitable result-ridiculous failure. No we can believe that Mr. Ellis is himself convinced change can really take place in a language, writ- by his own argument. It is an entire misrepreten or spoken, except in the way of growth and sentation to say that the spelling of all words development according to its own conditions, and which may properly be spelt in more than one by the force of its own internal energies. Mr. way, such as chemist, chymist, is uncertain ;* the Ellis perceives and expresses this truth clearly road to a place is not uncertain when there are enough with respect to spoken English :-“We two known paths equally convenient leading to it; feel,” he says, (" whether justly or not is another it would be uncertain if there were no path, and question,)* that it cannot be all pure convention ; nobody could tell how to get there except by that the stamp of nature is upon it.”—Plea, p. making a long calculation and taking observations 13. Strange that he should not have felt that this with map, sextant, and compass for himself. A is just as true of the written English! If the man is not left in uncertainty when he is told he tree of the British tongue has grown up irregu- may write with propriety either chemist or chymist; larly, so much the worse ; if you wish to see it but it is to leave him in woful uncertainty to tell otherwise, you may do something by training its him, There is no right way of writing the word twigs into a straighter direction for the future ; but at all—find out for yourself. you will not mend matters by cutting it down and As to there being now a fixed standard of orplanting the most symmetrical of Maypoles in its thography, it is true that none has been directly place. The tendency of its growth for the last revealed from Heaven, or fixed by an act of Parthree hundred years has been towards simplifi- liament—but it exists; Mr. Ellis himself and cation ; not very rapidly, it must be admitted, and every other educated man in the country possesses with two or three anomalous exceptions, but on a it, and that is enough. general view certainly in that direction ; and any Having thus shown that the phonetic reform in one who thinks proper may do something towards its pure state is absolutely false and self-contraencouraging that tendency by adopting every dictory in principle, (professing as it does to deal change which, from time to time, presents itself, with a literary language in a way inconsistent or even if he will, by originating such as, from with the conditions of existence of a literary lantime to time, the genius of the language seems to guage,) and that in the very modified form of a warrant; but more than this he cannot do, the proposal for reforming our spelling it is quite iminexorable laws of the universe are against him ; possible in practice, we need not spend much time and if he attempts more, he will most assuredly, in considering the list of advantages which Mr. whatever his talents, his knowledge, and his Ellis promises from its adoption-seeing that it energy, and however great the number of follow- cannot be adopted. We will, however, for the ers that these may temporarily gather round him, amusement of our readers, quote a few of his meet with the fate of all his fellows in failure, sentences in further confirmation of the remark mortification, and oblivion.f
which we have already made about natural rhet* This parenthesis is characteristic of the doctrinaire. oric. Since the days of the great Twalmley we He is not sure but what there "ought" to be a universal seldom remember to have met with more monstrous language ; constructed on scientific principles, of course. instances of that common weakness which the
+ At p. 115 of the Plea, Mr. Ellis, with singular in Greek could describe in a word, but for which we consistency, admits the force of these last objections :"No power," he admits, " is likely to effect such a require a sentence—ahutóvel, the tendency to change but the power of habit acting through a long attach undue importance to one's own favorite suba space of time.” phonetic style of printing may, and probably will be so ject. gradual as scarcely to be perceptible.” What can this John Bull,“ with all thy faults,” thou canst not be mean? If ever there was a change abrupt, sudden, and complete, it is the proposed change from heteric to pho- * The list which Mr. Ellis quotes and adopts from netic writing. Does Mr. Ellis intend that people should Worcester's English Dictionary (see Appendix to the begin by writing one word in a thousand phonetically, Plea) of words spelt in more than iwo ways by different and the rest heterically; then by degrees one in 999, authorities, is aboininably unfair. Many of the words, one in 993, and so forth? The finw of the phonetic lide as cymar, sheik, are not English words at all; and seve over the land may he gradual, as it has been, and as its ebb eral varieties of spelling are given which no one would will be; but the change to phonetics hy any individual can- think of using. Ribbon and riband may both be lawful, not be gradual; it must be a revolution, uot a reform. but who would think of using ribband or ribbin?
accused of being a doctrinaire ; it is useless in this under the new system. There is barely one man country to urge a change or a reform merely on in a hundred, even among the educated classes, the ground of theoretical completeness or consist- who possesses that power of watching and analyzency ; it must be shown that some practical good ing spoken sounds which would enable him to spell will result from it. It was not likely that some accurately upon any phonetic principle, however scores of millions would submit to a complete well devised; and that one man, after he had once overthrow of one of their most deep-rooted prac- setiled to his own satisfaction how to spell a given tices, merely for the beaux yeur of Messrs. Pitman word, (a task at least as laborious as that of learnand Ellis; it was necessary to connect the pro- ing how to spell a word as we now do,) would ever posal with some object of practical interest. Edu- afterwards write it not phonetically, (i.e. with refercation at once suggested itself-enlightenment—ence to its sound,) but by rote and unconsciously, propagation of useful knowledge ; they have some- and the other ninety-nine would, (as we do now,) thing to do with reading and writing, and make a simultaneously and without conscious effort, acquire capital cry; and so we find it proclaimed (and no and acquiesce in the spelling which they found used doubt with the most perfect self-deceived sincerity) by others. Is it not too absurd to find a man, who that the cause of spelling reform is inseparably has learnt to read and write himself, and who connected with that of education, and that it is, in knows that everybody above the rank of idiot, and fact, “ the sole means of making the education of even many idiots, can be taught to read and write the poor in this country possible !!” “What the loo, speaking of those arts as “the most difficult invention of printing was to the middle ages, of all human attainments,'* and of “the difficulty says Mr. Ellis, “the introduction of phonetic spell- of learning the separate meanings of ninety thouing will be to the present day. This is the great, sand symbols?" (Plea, p. 53.) We do not learn the noble, the holy cause in which we are engaged.” them, they “come by nature;" reading and writAgain : “Five million Englishmen cannot read ; ing “grow with what they feed on," and whateight million Englishmen cannot write. Why?'' ever the system of spelling, the actual state of Perhaps you may be simple enough to answer, things will be nearly the same-namely, he who “ Because they have not been taught ;." but, bless reads or writes but little will only be able to you! that is not the reason. It is “ Because it read and write imperfectly, and he who reads and is as yet impossible to tell the sound of any English writes much will be able to do so perfectly. We word from its spelling, or the spelling of any Eng- do not believe, in spite of Mr. Ellis and Dr. lish word from its sound. Till this difficulty is Latham's alleged "proofs” of the contrary, that removed, the education of the poor is physically were the phonetic system now in full force there impossible!!” However, we need be under no would be any perceptible difference, fairly attribuapprehensions for the future: "Phonetic spelling table to that cause, either in the number of persons will remove all difficulty, by enabling any one who taught to read and write, or in the proportions in can speak English to read English with ease in a which correct reading and writing would depend month!!!"*
Again : “Hetericism renders the upon facility empirically acquired—at least, not task of learning to read hateful, unpleasant, and among those who know the language already; to a slow. Phoneticism renders it delightful to teacher foreigner, endeavoring to learn to speak it from and learner, and rapid of performance," (Plea, p. books alone, it would, probably, be some assistance. 75-6,) &c.
And this reminds us that one of the arguments It cannot be necessary to answer in detail these seriously advanced in favor of phonetics, and parmonstrous exaggerations : but we will just observe, ticularly enlarged upon in the article in the Westwith respect to learning to read, that if the Ellisian minster Review to which we have already referred, code of spelling were the law and custom too of is that their introduction will hasten the arrival of the land to-morrow, it would be, in fact, nearly as a period when English shall be the universal lanunphonetic † as the present to the whole of the un-guage of the globe. We only hope that everylettered population of Scotland and Ireland, and at body who adopts phoneticism on this ground will least nine tenths of that of England, and that, at the same time begin to be economical in the use therefore, this “difficulty" would not be “re- of fuel; for it has been calculated, we believe, that Hoved,” and “ the education of the poor” would all the known coal-fields in the world do not conremain (according to Mr. Ellis) as physically tain more than enough for the consumption of two impossible” as it is at present; and with respect or three thousands of centuries. to learning to write, that under the same code peo- There is not a house in England which ought ple would, in point of fact, learn to spell just as not, on Mr. Ellis' principles, to be pulled down they do at present-viz., empirically and by rote. and rebuilt, for there certainly is not one in which There is more truth than is generally supposed in an architect could not suggest some improvements, the observation of Dogberry, that “to write and both as to symmetry and convenience; in fact, read comes by nature :" it does now, and would the publicthat part of the public, we mean,
which is respectable enough to own messuages and * See the prospectus of the Phonelic News,
† At all events, there would be no inore certainly than tenements—has reason to be thankful that Mr. there is at present ; and " if there could be a doubt as to the spelling of a single word when no doubt was felt as * A hyperbolical expression of Mr. R. Edgeworth's to its pronunciation, it would be a blot in the system of seriously adopted by Mr. Ellis, who has no notion of writing employed.” (Plea, p. 38.)
joking on so "holy" a subject. See p. 57 of the Plea.