« ForrigeFortsett »
affected. Such precision in pronouncing is sometimes introduced, for the purpose of ridicule, on the stage; but this very circumstance serves to show that to pronounce with that labored affectation of accuracy or of extraordinary refinement, is to offend the good sense and the taste of society. Unfortunately, some teachers in this country who have understood Walker as requiring that manner of pronouncing, and have felt disgusted with what was so offensive to their ear, are disposed to tolerate the obsolete pronunciation of these dipthongs, which is but a shade better than the antiquated vulgarisms of far and prdr, (for/air and prayer,) sounds, which though they may be associated with the idea of rude grandeur, when they drop from the lips of the rugged woodsman of the southwest, can hardly be proposed for imitation in refined society or in school. Walker's orthoepy, was founded on the usage of good society, and of esteemed public speakers; and that author would have shrunk from a literal copy of either of the above extremes. He would, in short, have given, (if asked to do it orally,) that chaste sound of these dipthongs which is current among well bred people on his side the Atlantic; but which no selection or arrangement of letters can convey exactly to the eye. The author of the Pronouncing Bible has not, we are happy to observe, attempted any wide deviation from Walker. He has followed the orthoepy of that writer, and has left to the teacher the office of communicating the proper oral expression of what is merely laid before the eye in the most accurate way which circumstances will permit; but which can be perfectly acquired, through no other medium than the ear, or the living voice. In this arrangement Mr. Alger has, we believe, the sense of the community in his favor. To maintain a pure style of vernacular pronunciation in the United States, an approximation to a standard seems equally necessary and desirable. The partial and gradual mutations which are constantly taking place in the pronunciation of British society, we are too far off to acquire by any species of transmission sufficiently rapid and diffusive. We are left then to a choice between those local peculiarities which will accumulate everywhere into wide differences, (not to say uncouth and deplorable errors) and the partial if not full adoption of an acknowledged and permanent standard. That the latter course is the preferable one, needs no demonstration to persons of taste. When we reflect, however, on the multitude of minds and of tastes which are concerned in any national measure, it will not seem wonderful that, while the people of the United States are disposed, generally speaking, to adopt Walker's orthoepy, theiradherenccto it is not perfectly uniform. Due weight must be allowed to the difficulty arising from Vol. I. 39 such misconceptions as we have already mentioned, and from even the most rational attempts to effect alterations in what is everywhere held to be a criterion of good sense, and sometimes even of moral propriety, and where the apparent instability resulting from a change, is apt to seem absurd, if not contemptible. We have indulged these wide views of this subject, from our conviction that the Pronouncing Bible is a work destined to effect an extensive improvement in its sphere. That its merits render it worthy of the career of usefulness for which it is designed, no one, we think, will doubt, who has perused it. There is, as far as we know, no work with which this can be compared, except Brown's Testament—the first book of the kind, perhaps, in which any attempt was made to facilitate a correct style of scriptural reading in families and schools. The improvement in that work, however, extended no farther than to a selection of the most difficult words in every chapter, arranged over it, in the dictionary form. Mr. Alger's method is vastly superior: it extends to every word in which it would seem that a mispronunciation could possibly be made. This idea is, we think, a happy one; for many errors in common reading are those which the reader is accustomed to make in conversation, and which habit leads him to transfer to his style of reading. If, in these circumstances, his book affords him no guidance or correction but in the more difficult words, he is still liable to numberless inaccuracies which he has never suspected. The Pronouncing Bible will prove a radical cure of such evils. It hems the careless reader in on every side, and leaves him no opportunity of wandering off into error. This work will perhaps do more than has been effected by all the dictionaries heretofore published, to produce throughout the United States, a uniform and chaste pronunciation of the English language. A brief but well constructed explanatory key renders the whole orthoepv perfectly intelligible. A preference in marking the pronunciation of words is very justly given to accents and marks over figures; the former being susceptible of a much more minute and satisfactory application. We cannot close our remarks, without expressing our satisfaction with the accurate and neat style in which the work is executed. As far as regards this very desirable point, the editor and the publishers have truly succeeded in making their work 'worthy of the confidence and patronage of the public.' The labor undergone in this publication has been great; and we have no doubt that it will be amply repaid by an extensive adoption of the work in families and schools.
STRICTURES ON MURRAY'S GRAMMAR. [The following strictures on Murray's Grammar will perhaps be found to present views which differ very widely from those of some of our readers. There can be, however, but little diversity of opinion on several of the points which the writer of this article has so ingeniously and clearly laid down. The whole communication furnishes no ordinary quantity of matter suited to the purposes of oral instruction and explanation; and in this light we recommend it to the attentive consideration of those of our readers who, in communicating knowledge to the young, are unwilling to be bound to a tame acquiescence in the opinions of others; no matter how distinguished the names which may have afforded a sanction or a screen to error.]
"It appears to me that nothing but prejudice or affectation could have prompted our English Grammarians to desert the simple structure of their own language, and wantonly perplex it with technical terms for things not existing in the language itself."
Dr. CrombWt Grammar.
It must be apparent to every observer, that, while not only the mode of teaching other branches of knowledge, but also the text books used, have become more rational, practical, and simple, still the subject of grammar remains almost untouched. It is true, that since the days of Lowth, who was the pattern of Murray, various authors have written and published improved grammars, but these have been mere commentaries upon their predecessors. The followers of Murray in this country, (and we have the books of thirty before us,) have been careful to preserve nearly all his peculiarities, contenting themselves with making a different arrangement of them, and attempting a clearer illustration of his errors. The subject of English Grammar is as much in the dark as ever; and the innumerable commentaries upon Murray have answered no valuable purpose, except to convince the unbiased that there is a want of simplicity in the text, or the comments and illustrations would be unnecessary. In the United States, Murray's Grammar, under one form or another, is universally used; and so satisfied is the public mind of its perfection, that an attempt to check its progress will be viewed as a desperate adventure. It may be so, but more desperate adventures have succeeded, and no effort, however humble, to check the progress of error, can be entirely without effect. It was the few
seeds of truth, scattered just before the reformation of Luther, which finally took root and overspread the earth. Let it not be supposed that a more rational system of grammar than that which prevails, has never been attempted, or that we claim any merit on the score of discovery. Numerous distinguished philologers, at the head of whom is Home Tooke, have in their elaborate works proved that the prevalent system of English Grammar has no adaptation to that language. These works, however, are but little known in this country, and so far as they affect the mode of teaching are a dead letter. We shall freely draw upon them for ideas and arguments, acknowledging once for all our obligations to them, and expressing our astonishment that when such truly great minds have protested against the foreign rack on which our simple language has been stretched, no effort has been made by its friends, who must have been acquainted with the fact, to rescue it from its uneasy situation. Dr. Lowth, in the preface to his grammar says "The English language is perhaps of all the present European languages by much the most simple in its form and construction," again, "a grammatical study of our own language makes no part of the ordinary method of instruction, which we pass through in our childhood," and again, after mentioning the insufficiency of various helps to enable us to form a good English style, he observes, " much less then will what is commonly called learning serve the purpose; that is, a critical knowledge of ancient languages and much reading of ancient authors. The greatest critic and most able grammarian of the last age, when he came to apply his learning and criticism to an English author, was frequently at a loss in matter sof ordinary use, and common construction in his owarernactdar idiom." Finally after stating that the first design of grammar is "to teach us to express ourselves with propriety," he adds, "but there is a secondary use to which it may be applied and which I think is not attended to as it deserves, viz. the facilitating of the acquisition of other languages, whether ancient or modern." Then, after asserting that the study of English Grammar is a great preparation for the study of the Latin Grammar, he makes the important confession "a design, somewhat of this kind, gave occasion to the following little system intended merely for a private and domestic use." We make these extracts because the English Grammar of the distinguished Latin scholar who wrote them, was the basis of Murray's system, for the latter only refined a little upon the other's speculations. We gather therefore from the extracts, that English Grammar then formed no part of an English education; that Lowth's grammar was not intended for a school book, but for private use; that a learned man, that is a Latin and a Greek scholar.
waa not the proper person to make an English Grammar; that, of course, Dr. Lowth was disqualified; and lastly, that, as one very important design in making the English Grammar was to introduce the pupil to Latin Grammar, it is but fair to presume that the English Grammar was made as much like the Latin as it was possible to make it. The utility of English Grammar (Murray's system) as an introduction to Latin Grammar is a favorite argument for its continuance even at the present day, and it is but a year or two since a distinguished classical scholar, then one of the Boston school committee, when asked why a more philosophical, or I should say, a more English grammar was not introduced into the public schools, replied, that the improvement proposed was valuable, but Murray's grammar in consequence of its numerous moods and tenses, was a better preparation for Latin. At that time about one in a thousand of the children in the English grammar schools expected to study Latin. So that 999 were, and are obliged to study a great deal of useless, and worse than useless matter, that one may be in a very trifling degree prepared for learning Latin. Our classical knowledge will not disqualify ns from judging of the requisites to form a proper English Grammar; and, taking Murray for our text, we shall endeavor in our next essay to show that he has departed from the true idiom of our language, in many essential points.
SCHOOLS IN MAINE.
We copy from the American Patriot, published at Portland, the following abftract of the returns made under a late act of the State of Maine, by the Selectmen of towns and Assessors of plantations, exhibiting the number of school districts in the State, the number of children, and the number who attend school, with the amount paid for the support of schools. We have long thought that an annual return of this sort, presenting perhaps some particulars in addition to those here stated, would be of great service in this State. By exhibiting as far as practicable, to the legislature and to the public, the state of the schools, it would facilitate those measures of improvement, which all should be anxious to adopt j and by making known to the public the efforts made by each town to place their schools on a respectable footing, it would tend to produce an emulation which might lead to the most useful results.
Schools.—From an examination of the returns made to the office of the Secretary of State, pusuant to ' An Act in addition to an Act to provide for the Education of Touth,' passed February 25, 1825, we have drawn the following facts, which are both curious and important.