« AnteriorContinuar »
A third sound, intimately associated with the letter r, and seldom heard but in connection with it, is the vowel sound called obtuse e, or obtuse u. This is the vowel sound heard in such words as earn, err, sir, first, word, church. It is, in fact, a sound which has no fixed written representative, and it matters little whether it is considered a sound of r, or of the vowel which precedes it, or a sound introduced between the two and not represented by either. The first seems to be the case in the words just mentioned, and the last in words containing a long vowel, such as more, moor, perring, etc., hereafter named.
When both the vowel and the consonant sound are heard, the former must precede the latter; but only the consonant sound should be heard when r precedes the vowel of the syllable in which it stands, as in round, preach, strict. Some uncultivated speakers occasionally utter a slight preliminary sound of obtuse e before the consonant sound of r in such words as rain, right, truth, etc.; but such a pronunciation is neither common nor elegant.
The natural position of the letter r in a word is next to the vowel of the syllable in which it stands, either just before or just after it. In the latter case it may modify the vowel sound, but not usually in the former. It therefore frequently influences the vowel sounds which precede it, and not generally those which follow it. An apparent exception to this is found in such words as acre and lucre; but in English pronunciation the r follows the e. The case of r followed by long u will be considered hereafter.
POSITIONS OF LONG AND SHORT VOWELS. As the effects of » differ in the case of long and short vowels, it will be necessary first to state when a vowel naturally has its long sound, and when it takes its short sound. So far as pertains to this discussion, there are two* positions in which a vowel may have its long sound, viz. :
1. When it stands before a consonant followed by silent e; as in male, mete, pine, cote, huge, type.
2. When a second vowel is written with it, in the same syllable ; as in mail, steak, meat, meet, mien, coat, soul, feud.
* A vowel ending an accented syllable is usually long, but it is obvious that it can not be modified by an r following it in the same syllable. Neither have such combinations of consonants as lengthen the vowels in flight, wild, cold, etc., any connection with r.
In the case of e, doubling the written vowel gives the sound of long e. Doubling o, on the contrary, gives it a u sound, sometimes long, as in mood, and sometimes short, as in good.
A single vowel usually has its short sound when the syllable which contains it ends in a consonant; as in tramp, met, pest, pin, him, cot, hug, hunt, hymn.
There are many words which are exceptions to the above rules, such as have, are, love, done, granite, friend, sieve, been, young, flight, wild, cold, etc., ; but syllables ending in r or re generally conform to these principles.
“R” FOLLOWING LONG VOWELS. When any long vowel, except Italian a and broad a, is followed by r in the same syllable, a slight sound of obtuse e is inserted between the sound of the vowel and the consonant sound of r; as in here, hear, peer, mire, more, moor, our, pure, pyre.
This may be perceived more clearly by comparing sere with se-er, hire with higher, lore with lower, sore with sower, sure with sho-er, pure with fewer, lyre with liar, flour with flower, etc. It will be observed that the quality of the sounds is precisely the same in each pair of words ; but in the second word of each the sound of obtuse e may be somewhat more prolonged, and made the commencement of a distinct syllable, when spoken deliberately.
In uttering most long vowel sounds, the vocal organs are in such a position that they can not readily pass at once to the position required for producing the consonant sound of r; hence the introduction of obtuse e. In the case of Italian a and broad a, however, the vowel sound coalesces at once with the consonant sound of r, as may be learned by pronouncing the words far and war.
In such words as care, pare, pear, pair, etc., the position of a shows that it should be long, as in cape, pale, pail, steak, etc. It is so marked in the older dictionaries, and if pronounced as marked, pare and payer would bear the same relation to each other as more and mower, and others above named. In Great Britain this pronunciation probably prevails; but in this country, and especially in New England, the a in such words is more frequently short a lengthened, with obtuse e added, as in the case of most other long vowels. This is readily learned by comparing care with carry, pare with parry, etc. Even if the cause of this anomaly can not be explained, the fact must
be admitted, and the later editions of our American dictionaries provide a special mark for a in such words.
This throws light upon the question, “ How should parent be pronounced ?" No authority divides it pa-rent. Although the a is long, it is followed by r in the same syllable, and should be pronounced like the a in care and pare.
In some common words, such as there, their, where, ere, etc., long e takes the sound of long a, and therefore undergoes the same change as a in care, pair, etc.
It should be borne in mind that the consonant sound of r is often entirely omitted after these long vowels, unless it comes immediately before another vowel sound, as has before been stated. This is seen in a common pronunciation of care, careless, caring; fear, fearful, fearing ; more, mourn, moreover ; bar, barn, barring; war, warm, warrant. In the case of Italian a and broad a, the r, according to this pronunciation, is not sounded, unless lefore a vowel; while in the case of other vowels, r is represented only by obtuse e, under similar circumstances. R should, in such a position, have at least a slight, consonant sound. :
“R” FOLLOWING SHORT VOWELS. 1. When any short vowel, except a or o, is followed by r in the same syllable, that vowel loses its own sound and assumes the sound of obtuse e, unless the r (either single or double) is followed by a vowel in the same word; as in her, term, certain, concern, swerve ; sir, bird, firkin, whirl ; burr, burn, burden, cur, curl, curtain; myrrh.
This may be perceived more clearly by comparing her with hem, sir with sit, burr with but, myrrh with myth, etc. It is evident that e, i, u, and y, when followed by other consonants, usually hare their proper short sound; but before r they all have the same sound, obtuse e, which is often confounded with short u, though distinct from it.
Here, as elsewhere in this article, an attempt is made to represent sounds as actually pronounced by the educated people of New England, and not to follow distinctions made by the older orthoepists where none now exist.
2. When followed by r in the same syllable, without a succeeding vowel, short a usually assumes the Italian sound, and short o is usually lengthened nearly into broad a, if found in a monosyllabic word, or an accented syllable ; as in far, farm, farmer ; nor, north, normal.
This may be perceived more clearly by comparing far with fat, tar with tap, mar with mad ; nor with not, lord with lost, for with fop, etc. It will be seen that the o of nor is longer than the o of not, but not quite so long as the broad a of naught; for broad a and short o have the same quality, and differ only in quantity.
It might at first appear that such words as war and work furnish an important exception to the above rule; but it will be found that another principle here takes precedence of the one in question. The a of war would have the Italian sound, as in far; and the o of work would take the lengthened sound of short o, as in fork, were it not that the w, instead of the r, gives character to the vowel. The principle may be stated thus :
When preceded by the consonant sound of w (w, qu, wh), short a usually takes the sound of short o, or broad a, except when followed by a g or k sound; and short o usually takes a sound of u; as in was, walk, want, warn, warrior, squash, quart, wharf ; wolf, won, world, worship, worry, whorl.
Hence we may modify the second rule, given above, by the provision that, when preceded by the consonant sound of w, short a becomes short o lengthened, and short o becomes obtuse e.
3. If short a and short o are placed in an unaccented syllable, especially the last syllable of a word, they generally lose their own short sound before r, and assume that of obtuse e. Hence the final sounds of polar, colder, nadir, author, sulphur, martyr, and grandeur are generally pronounced exactly alike.* Some persons, however, give to ar and or in such positions the same quality as in accented syllables, especially in such words as creator, pastor, etc.
It should be borne in mind that after short vowels, as well as after long ones, the consonant sound of r is often entirely omitted. Hence mower, more, and Noah; manner and manna, often take the same final sound; the consonant sound of r being omitted in one case, and the Italian'a changed to obtuse e in the other.
4. When r (either single or double) stands between two vowels in the same word, any short vowel immediately before the r usually retains its own proper short sound, and the r has its proper consonant sound, without any intervening obtuse e; as in carry, harry, merry, very, mirror, miracle, spirit, borrow, florid, coral, flurry, hurry, tyranny, syringe.
* This is only a single illustration of the general principle that when a short vowel is unaccented, there is a tendency to pronounce it like short u; as in servant, patient, sermon. When followed by r, this vowel, of course, becomes obtuse e.
Warrant, warrior, quarry, worry, etc., are exceptions, as before explained.
Custom is not as uniform in the case of u as with the other vowels, probably because short u is so often confounded with obtuse e. According to this principle, flurry should take the same sound of u that flutter does.
It is also evident that the y of syrup should take the sound of short i.
Sometimes the derivatives of a word ending in r retain the vowel sound of their primitive in order to preserve its identity; as in starry, barring. Erring is sometimes pronounced with obtuse e, and sometimes with short e; but error always takes short e, in accordance with the rule.
In the New England pronunciation of care, pare, etc., short a lengthened is substituted for long a, and therefore it takes the obtuse e before r in such words ; and this may sometimes be retained in such derivitives as caring, paring, etc.
“R” FOLLOWED BY LONG “u.” R seldom, if ever, affects a pure vowel sound which follows it. But the English sound of long u may be called a semi-consonant diphthong, being composed of the consonant sound of y and the vowel sound of 00. The sound of the letter r in English can only stand just before or just after the vowel of the syllable in which it is found; hence it would be impossible for it to stand next to the consonant sound of y, in the same syllable. If the y sound of long u should be retained after r, it must become a vowel (rỉool or rēool) unless the r is separated from the u (r-yool). In either case the combination of sounds is a difficult one, and contrary to the analogies of the language. Hence orthoepists have generally agreed that long u should be pronounced simply oo after the sound of r, in such words as rule and truth.
D. W. H.
THE DIPHTHONGS “EI” AND “IE.”—There is frequently much difficulty in determining which of these diphthongs should be used. A conversation upon the subject recently with an accomplished lady of this State educed the following letter: