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ART. V. - SHORT REVIEWS AND NOTICES.
1. – 1. Phonotypy. A Report to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Cambridge. 1847.
2. Significance of the Alphabet. By C. KraitsIR, M. D. Published by E. P. Peabody. Boston. 1846.
3. First Book of English, founiled on the Significance of the Alphabet, by C. KRAITSIR, M. D.
An orthography of English, properly speaking, has never had existence. The gentlemen of the American Academy, who have put forth the report in favor of Phonotypy, state very clearly the disadvantages resulting from the extreme contradiction at present existing between the writing and the pronunciation. But they have not investigated the origin and history of this discrepancy, nor shown the comparative truth to the nature of language, of the writing and pronunciation ; and hence the remedy they suggest is worse than the evil, for it involves a sanction and extension of every abuse of the latter, which has the chance of present fashion in its faror ; it precludes future return towards the general standard of the Indo-European tongues, in pronunciation; and, what is worse than all, it annihilates that truth to the eye which the language in a great degree still preserves, by being written with letters indicating the natural growth of the words from roots common to the whole family of languages to which it belongs.
We therefore would call attention to Dr. Kraitsir's pamphlet on the “ Significance of the Alphabet,” as well as to the “ First Book of English,” which he has published. The latter, notwithstanding some carelessness evinced in the composition of the vocabularies, is conceived in a more scientific spirit, and suggests more fundamental ideas than any primer we have seen.
In the “Significance of the Alphabet,” Dr. Kraitsir shows that the Latin arrangement of the visible signs of sounds was made with reference to the organs which made the sounds respectively; and that these organs severally imitate the things, and symbolize the ideas, which are the subject of speech : consequently, that the sounds they make are significant. And, in the “ First Book of English,” he states, as a first principle, that the great secret of language is this; namely, that the sounds articulated by the lips, tongue, throat, and teeth, signify exactly what these organs symbolize to the senses and imagination.
If this is the case, and if, as he states, the alphabets used by the Indo-European nations classify sounds according to their organic origin and significance, an importance is given to these schemes of writing, in the eyes of the philologist and philosopher, which Phonotypy does not respect, but which claims the careful investigation of both its defenders and opposers.
Dr. Kraitsir has yet to unfold, in a “ Second Book of English,” the practical bearings of his idea upon the treatment of the English language. In his treatise on the “ significance," he has merely spoken of the alphabet we use as affording a perfect standard of Latin pronunciation, for which language it was invented. The views and arguments with respect to the pronunciation of Latin are not new, except in this country. Karl Ottfried Müller adopted this pronunciation in his lectures in Göttingen, and, in fact, it is now generally recognized as having the analogy of the language and the authority of the old Roman grammarians in its favor. Even in England, Scheller's Latin Grammar has been translated, and the translator adds to the proofs adduced by Scheller, others of his own; and Dr. Ainsworth long ago, in his dictionary, gives us the same views.
But Dr. Kraitsir goes to the root of the matter, in pointing out the organic significance of the sounds, and showing the bearings of the true pronunciation of Latin upon the establishment of a standard of radical meanings, and the laws that identify words in all the Indo-European languages.
The possibility of establishing this standard, and discovering these laws, which may be used as keys to unlock the vital treasures of that immense family of languages, containing the highest results of human civilization, gives the subject such an interest as might ensure for it the attentive study, not only of professed scholars, but of practical men, to whom it becomes yearly of more importance to speak in a variety of tongues. The suggestion of the Promptuary, (pp. 26, 27,) containing a comparative anatomy of languages, opens a new world to every man of common-sense, no less than to the philologist and philosopher.
Among the many trains of interesting thought suggested by these works, we have room only to advert to that point, in which they seem to cross the path of the phonotypists.
Dr. Kraitsir recognizes all the inconveniences of the discordance of the writing and pronunciation of English pointed out by the Report of the Academy, and touches upon others of more importance still; and, although he maintains that the English writing is less corrupted than the pronunciation, and is rather to be preserved of the two, he admits and even suggests some reform in the writing.
Since the Latin alphabet is confessedly not adequate to the perspicuous writing of the English tongue, which contains eight more vowels, and five more consonants, than the Latin, he would enlarge it by a system of pointing, as the Poles did, when they undertook to write their language with Latin letters. He suggests that the a in man, o in not and nor, e in err, i in fir, and u
in fur should have each a dot placed under them; and u in fun two dots. This would make a character for every vowel, for Dr. Kraitsir does not admit that mere quantity of sound changes the vowel. To the guttural division of the alphabet he would add c with a dot under it, to represent the consonant ch in church. To the lingua-dental division he would add s with a dot under it, to represent the sh in ship, and a with a dot under it, to represent the first consonant sound in osier. To represent the th in this he suggests that either the Anglo-Saxon character be restored, or a d with a dot under it used ; and for th in thin, either the AngloSaxon character or a dot under t.
These twelve additional characters would represent all the sounds of the English language; rendering the present characters not obsolete or obscure, but more clear and perspicuous, and then a great deal of the English language could be written as it is spelt.
But this last should not be done indiscriminately. There are many silent consonants in English writing, which should be preserved, because they indicate sounds that have a meaning; and the vowels i and u are often indicative of sunken consonants, and must be, in those instances, carefully preserved.
It is proper also to remark, that although Dr. Kraitsir suggests this reform in printing, it is not at all essential in his eyes. When languages are studied on the philological principle, the inconveniences of the anomalous writing of English are of less consequence.
We were quite surprised to find, from the “First Book of English,” how seldom the soft sounds of c and g occur in the language. Dr. Kraitsir affirms that they never occur except in derivations from the corruptly pronounced Latin of the middle ages, or in importations from the French. In the Anglo-Saxon words, girl, gird, get, &c., we have g hard before e and i as well as before a, o, and u. We would suggest, that, if the writing be reformed, a dot should be placed over c and g, wherever they are soft, to facilitate the reading of the language to children and foreigners.
The space allowed has compelled us to abbreviate what we have hinted at, and we can only add, that the suggestion of pointing the letters of the Latin alphabet to represent those sounds of the English which are not found in Latin, has this unquestionable advantage over the scheme of the phonographers; that it is in analogy with the organism and in harmony with the significance of the language, and suggests to scholars true standards of pronunciation and meaning.
2. — Prison Life and Reflections, or, a Narrative of the Arrest,
Trial, Conviction, Imprisonment, Treatment, Observations, Reflections, and Deliverance, of Work, Burr, and Thompson, who suffered an unjust and cruel imprisonment in the Missouri Penitentiary, for attempting to aid some slaves to liberty. Three parts in one volume. By GEORGE THOMPSON, one of the prisoners. Oberlin : Printed by James M. Fitch. 1847. 12mo. pp. xvi and 417. The above title is sufficiently descriptive of the work.
3. - The Characteristics of the Present Age. By JOHANN
GOTTLIEB FICHTE. Translated from the German by WILLIAM Sith. London: John Chapman. 1847. 12mo. pp. XVI and 271. Two years ago Mr. Smith translated another work of Fichte, “ The Nature of the Scholar,” to which he prefixed a short but beautiful memoir of its author, and last year Mrs. Percy Sinnett translated his “Destination of Man." Fichte thus is likely to become well known to English readers. The present volume contains seventeen lectures on the following subjects: Idea of universal history ; a general and minute delineation of the present age and its scientific condition ; the Life according to Reason ; earlier conditions of the scientific or literary world, and its ideal condition ; Mysticism as a phenomenon of the present age; the origin and limits of History; the absolute form and historical development of the State; Influence of Christianity on the State ; Development of the State in modern Europe ; Public Morality and Public Religion of the present age; Conclusion. He promises also to translate Fichte's “ Doctrine of Religion,” the ablest and most celebrated of all his works. The translation is more free than literal.
4.- A Vindication of Protestant Principles. By Phileleutherus
Anglicanus. Nihil tam tectum est, quod non sit detegendum, non semper pendebit inter latrones Christus : resurget aliquando crucifixa veritas. London : John W. Parker. 1847. 8vo. pp. XVI and 194.
This is the work of some man who has read much amongst philosophical and theological writers, and has thought much. He ihinks William of Ockham originated the Protestant principles ; that Luther and Bucer were not the main springs of the Reformation in England, but the revival of letters and the influence of Melancthon. The articles of the English church have a “comprehensive Protestantism.” However, he admits errors in the church establishment, but thinks the Puritans mainly to be blamed for their existence. The most important feature of the book is the author's opposition to all worship of the Bible. He considers that Strauss has overthrown rationalism on the one hand, and verbal inspiration on the other ; at the same time he thinks “ the Scriptures deliver an authoritative message from God to man, in regard to all matters of essential and religious truth, therein set forth," and thinks the gradual development of religious truth was terminated by the final revelation of the gospel. After a good deal of good-humored discussion and learned talk, he comes to the conclusion, “ that it is the duty of all rational men, who are subjects of the British crown, to enter the widely-spread portals of the national church, which allows full scope for the free exercise of the privilege” of reading the Scriptures, “and treats with enlightened tolerance every unimportant modification of religious sentiments.” He “cannot understand why any one who acquiesces in the judicial authority of the Lord Chancellor should object to the ecclesiastical supremacy of the Archbishop of Canterbury.” The author has but a poor appreciation of the doctrine of the Trinity.
5.- Endeavours after the Christian Life. Discourses by JAMES
MARTINEAU. Vol. II. London. 1847. 12mo. pp. XII and 349.
The first volume of the “ Endeavours” was published in 1843, and has been republished and extensively read in America. This work is thus worthily dedicated : “ To Rev. John Hamilton Thom, this volume, the expression of a heart enlarged by his friendship and often aided by his wisdom, is dedicated, in memory of many labors lightened by partnership, purposes invigorated by sympathy, and the vicissitudes of years balanced by constancy of affection.” This volume contains twenty-one sermons, with the following titles: Where is thy God? The Sorrow with downward Look; The Shadow of Death; Great Hopes for great Souls ; Lo! God is here ; Christian Self-consciousness; The unclouded Heart; Help Thou mine Unbelief; Having, Doing, and Being ; The Freeman of Christ ; The Good Soldier of Jesus Christ ; The Realm of Order; The Christian Doctrine of Merit; The Child's Thought; Looking up and Lifting up; The Christian Timeview ; The Family in Heaven and Earth ; The Single and the Evil Eye; The Seven Sleepers ; The Sphere of Silence – 1.