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sensible, that the diphthong oi or ai is more agreeable than any of these vowels pronounced singly: the same holds where a consonant enters into the double sonnd; the syllable le has a more agreeable sound than the vowel e, or than any vowel. And in support of experience, a satisfactory argument may be drawn from the wisdom of Providence : speech is bestowed on man, to qualify him for society; and his provision of articulate sounds is proportioned to the use he hath for them ; but if sounds that are agreeable singly were not also agreeable in conjunction, the necessity of a painful selection would render language intricate and difficult to be attained in any perfection ; and this selection, at the same time, would abridge the number of useful sounds, so as perhaps not to leave sufficient for answering the different ends of language.
In this view, the harmony of pronunciation differs widely from that of music properly so called. In the latter are discovered many sounds singly agreeable, which in conjunction are extremely disagreeable ; none but what are called concordant sounds having a good effect in conjunction. In the former, all soonds," singly agreeable, are in conjunction concordant; and ought to be, in order to fulfil the purposes of language.
Having discussed, -syllables, we proceed to words; which make ihe third article. Monosyllables belong to the former head : polysyllables open a different scene. In a cursory view, one would imagine, that the agreeableness or disagreeableness of a word with respect to its sound, should depend upon the agreeableness or disagreeableness of its component syllables : which is true in part, but not entirely; for we must also take under consideration, the effect of syllables in succession. In the first place, syllables in immediate succession, pronounced, each of them, with the same, or nearly the same aperture of the mouth, produce a succes, sion of weak and feeble sounds; witness the French words dit-il, pathetique : on the other hand, a syllable of the greatest aperture succeeding one of the smallest, or the contrary, makes a succes. sion, which, because of its remarkable disagreea. bleness, is distinguished by a proper name, hiatus. The most agreeable succession is, where the cavity is increased and diminished alternately within mo. derate limits. Examples, alternative, longevity, pusillanimous. Secondly, words consisting wholly of syllables pronounced slow, or of syllables pronounced quick, commonly called long and short syllables, have little melody in them; witness the words petitioner, fruiterer, dizziness: on the other hand, the intermixture of long and short syllables is remarkably agreeable ; for example, degree, repent, wonderful, altitude, rapidity, independent, impetuosity.* The cause will be explained afterwards, in treating of versification
Distinguishable from the beauties above mentioned, there is a beauty of some words which arises from their signification: When. the emotion raised by the length of skortpess, the rooghhess or smoothness, of the sound,.resembles in any degree what is raised by the sense; we feel ä very remarkable pleasure. But tbis :subjeot belongs to the third section.
:::. The foregoing observations afford a standard to every nation, for estimating, pretty accurately, the comparative merit of the words that enter into their own language : but they are not equally useful in comparing the words of different languages; which
* Italian words, like those of Latin and Greek, have this property almost universally : English and French words are generally defi. cient. In the former, the long syllable is removed from the end, as far as the sound will permit; and in the latter, the last syllable is ge: nerally long. For example, Senator in English, Senātor in Latin, and Senatēur in French..
will thus appear. Different nations judge differ. ently of the harshness or smoothness of articulate sounds; a sound, for example, harsh and disagree. able to an Italian, may be abundantly smooth to a northern ear: here every nation must judge for itself; nor can there be any solid ground for a pre. ference, when there is no common standard to which we can appeal. The case is precisely the same as in behaviour and manners : plain-dealing and sincerity, liberty in words and actions, forme the character of one people; politeness, resérve, and a total disguise of every sentiment that can give offence, form the character of another people: to each the manners of the other are disagreeable. An effeminate mind cannot bear the least of that roughness and severity which is generally esteemed manly, when exerted upon proper occasions : neither can an effeminate ear bear the harshpess of certain words, that are deemed nervous and sound. ing by those accustomed to a rougher tone of speech. Must we then relinquish all thoughts of comparing languages in point of roughness and smoothness, as a fruitless inquiry? Not altogether; for we may proceed a certain length, though with out hope of an oltimate decision. A language pronounced with difficulty even by natives, must yield to a smoother language : and supposing two languages pronounced with equal facility by natives, the rougher language, in my judgment, ought to be preferred, provided it be also stored with a competent share of more mellow sounds; which will be evideot from attending to the different effects that articplate sound bath on the mind. A smooth gliding sound is agreeable, by calming the mind, and lulling it to rest: a rough bold sound, on the contrary, animates the mind; the effort perceived in. pronouncing, is communicated to the hearers, who feel in their own minds a similar effort, rousing their attention, and disposing them to action. I add another consideration : the agreeableness of contrast in the rougher language, for which the great variety of sounds gives ample opportunity, must, even in an effeminate ear, prevail over the more uniform sounds of the smoother language.* This appears all that can be safely determined upon the present point. · With respect to the other circumstances that constitute the beauty of words, the standard above mentioned is infallible when ap. plied to foreign languages as well as to our own: for every man, whatever be his mother tongue, is equally capable to judge of the length or shortness of words, of the alternate opening and closing of the mouth in speaking, and of the
relation that the souod bears to the sense : in these particulars, the judgment is susceptible of no prejudice from custom, at least of no invincible prejudice.
That the English tongue, originally harsh, is at present much softened by dropping in the pronunciation many redundant consonants, is undoubtedly true: that it is not capable of being further mel. lowed without suffering in its force and energy, will scarce be thought by any one who possesses an ear; and yet such in Britain is the propensity for despatch, that, overlooking the majesty of words composed of many syllables aptly connected, the prevailing taste is to shorten words, even at the expense of making them disagreeable to the ear, and harsh in the pronunciation. But I have no occasion to insist upon this article, being prevented by an excellent writer, who possessed, if any man ever did, the true genius of the English tongue.
That the Italian tongue is too smooth, seems probable, from considering, that in versification, vowels are frequently suppressed, in order to produce a rougher and bolder tone.
See Swift's proposal for correcting the English tongue, in a letter to the Earl of Oxford.
I cannot however forbear urging one observation, borrowed from that author : several tenses of our verbs are formed by adding the final syllable ed, which, being a weak sound, lias remarkably the worse effect by possessing the most conspicuous place in the word : upon which account, the vowel in common speech is generally suppressed, and the consonant added to the foregoing syllable ; whence the following rugged sounds, drudg'd, disturbid, rebuk’d, fledg’d. It is still less excusable to fola low this practice in writing; for the hurry of speak.' ing may excuse what would be altogether improper in composition : the syllable ed, it is true, sounds poorly at the end of a word; but rather that defect, than multiply the number of harsh words, which, after all, bear an over-proportion in our tongue. The author above mentioned, by showing a good example, did all in his power to restore that syllable; and he well deserves to be imitated. Some exceptions however I would make. A word that signifies labour or any thing harsh or rugged, ought not to be smooth; therefore fore’d with an apostrophe, is better than forced, without it. Another exception is where the penult syllable ends with a vowel; in that case the final syllable ed may be apostrophised without making the word harsh : examples, betray'd, carry'd, destroy'd, employ’d.
The article next in order, is the music of words as united in a period. And as the arrangement of words in succession so as to afford the greatest pleasure to the ear, depends on principles remote from common view, it will be necessary to premise some general observations upon the appearance that objects make, when placed in an increasing or decreasing series. Where the objects vary by small differences, so as to have a mutual resemblance, we in ascending conceive the second object of no greater size than the first, the third of no greater