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meaning, because they are symbolic of numbers, while our letters are symbolic of sounds.

It is quite possible that the original constitutional peculiarities of different people, cause some difference in the sounds by which they represented things : one nation would select more gutturals, another more labials than the rest; but be that as it may, different sounds being selected and generally adopted as words, or signs of things, when the elements of the sounds were sought out by those who formed the alphabet, they of course fixed upon a sign for each, the order in which they arranged them constituting the alphabetic order ; and as this is a matter of pure chance, an alphabet may as well begin with z as

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with a.

The arrangement of these elementary signs of sound so as to represent words to the eye, is orthography. Now as it is impossible to make people, in different grades of society, in different parts of the country, and in different ages, pronounce in the same way, so it is impossible to make the orthography conform to the pronunciation. The spoken words, however, are much the more volatile and ephemeral. We know not exactly how the people of England pronounced their words two hundred years ago ; but it is probable we should think it a very uncouth manner ; perhaps we should not be able to understand them ; but we know how they spelled their words, and we ourselves spell nearly in the same manner.

Verba volant, scripta manent; hence it is that we have such inconsistencies in spelling; the written signs not changing as rapidly as the spoken ones ; the preposition through might once have been pronounced thro-ugh, and it was so written down, but the pronunciation hav

a

ing since changed entirely, while the written signs remain the same, they are no longer a correct representation of it; hence he who should write it thru would come nearer to the true design of orthography ; nevertheless he would be wrong, because, should his example be generally followed, the written language would soon be thrown into confusion.

It is impossible to remedy this evil entirely, though it may be corrected; but it must be done with great caution; and we must not think so much of the imperfections of orthography as to forget its great advantages. We must remember that if we could to-day change the orthography of all our words, so as to make it conform to their sounds, in a few years it would be as imperfect as ever, because people will depart from the standard of pronunciation which they now use.

The same is true of temporary, and of local or provincial accent. In these matters, as well as in orthography, the standard usually taken is the usage of the capital of the country, not because it is any better, not because it is more euphonious, but simply from that influence wbich people gain from being associated in large numbers. The same feeling which makes the country girl adjust her boddice and her flounces by those of the city belle, rather than trust her natural taste; and which makes her select the ornaments for her hair from the Magazin des modes, rather than from the sweet flowers of her own fields, makes the men copy the accent and pronunciation of those who contemptuously style every one a clown who differs from them.

The philosopher would have a right to smile at those who plume themselves upon what they suppose to be a standard, but which is as ephemeral as their own existence, were it not that the feeling which they manifest is of too much importance to be ridiculed ; and rather deserves grave expostulation. The power of ridicule and satire was given to man for some good purpose, but not to bring into contempt what deserves only pity, and teachers cannot be too careful about the books which are put into childrens' hands, lest they be taught to pride themselves upon what is no subject of self-gratulation, and to despise others for what is not their fault. It is, indeed, hard to find books in which the fault just alluded to does not exist, for from time immemorial the provincialisms, the mispronunciations, and the misspelling of ignorant people, have furnished a mark for the arrows of almost all our writers. Even at this day, and in our country, you can hardly take up a newspaper or an almanac, in which the 66

witty department is not supplied with materials furnished by the ignorance and illiteracy of some unschooled wight; and it is not a little remarkable that those newspapers which declaim loudest about their connection with, and love of, the dear people, should be foremost in this abuse of the unfortunate. What humane heart has not bled at reading in our police reports the burlesque and ridicule, administered to some ignorant, inebriate, or criminal. But there are exceptions, and it is among that sex to which humanity owes not only all its graces, but most of its virtues,—it is among women that the brightest exceptions are found. Where can you find

upon

the
pages

of Edgeworth, a Hemans, or a Sedgwick, a single fling at the ignorance or illiteracy of others ? It is upon the false notions of vulgarity and gentility, that the humane teacher should carry on a war unto extermination ; and it is espe

an

cially the mission of common-school teachers to elevate their charge above the reach of the sneers of the boarding-school miss, and the gibes of the college pedant ; but let him beware that he engenders not in them a feeling kindred to the one he so justly complains of

now.

Remarks of the same kind might be made upon accent, emphasis, rhythm, &c., which belong strictly to vocal language, but are to be observed in reading written language, and for some of which, indeed, we have arbitrary written signs.

Accent is mainly arbitrary, but it is not a matter of indifference ; indeed, so highly was it prized by the old Greeks that they used certain characters in writing, which denoted the tone in which the words were to be read. These were applied originally, perhaps, only to musical tone, as the origin of the word prosody [rgós 'woñ] seems to imply. The modern Greeks use the accents in writing and in printed books; but they can read quite as well if the accents are omitted. This may furnish a hint for decision of the question how far the accents used in some of our elementary school books are useful. In all common words children, doubtless, learn the accent by the ear, in conversation ; they catch the accent of those about them, whence arise provincialisms; and they imitate also any peculiarities of the members of their family. The tone of the voice varies with the various words, and even syllables, by gradations so subtle and minute, that it would be impossible to express them by any system of marks, yet the child perceives and imitates them, and accomplishes a task seemingly as difficult as that of the infant Hercules, without apparent effort or labor.

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In teaching them to read, this natural process should be imitated as much as possible; the faculty of imitation should be mainly depended upon; and when they fairly understand that the printed characters serve only to call to mind the words which they use so familiarly in conversation, they will pronounce naturally.

With regard to words not in common use, printed accents may be more serviceable and less objectionable.

Emphasis, differing as it does entirely in its nature from accent, requiring a voluntary effort of the lungs, and not being an arbitrary matter, can be properly observed by those only who understand what they read. It would be possible, indeed, to make children observe the syllabic emphasis of words which they do not understand, though the task would be a difficult one; but with regard to rhetorical emphasis, that requires absolutely a knowledge of the sense, for not only are the emphatic words to be carefully distinguished, but they require each one a particular stress of intonation, a warmth of expression, which can come only from a warmth of feeling at the moment of reading, or a recollection and imitation of the tone in which that feeling was expressed at some previous period.

In this, as indeed in every part of the process of reading, the teacher will find it of immense benefit to be able to read well himself; for he cannot, as in writing, make use of copies; and if he be a poor reader, he can only serve his pupils as a beacon, a warning, not as a model. I have known a master, who was not a good reader, to teach his pupils to read well; but it cost him immense labor ; the process must have been somewhat like that of teach

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