Imatges de pÓgina
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ty to inquire into the original of words, and establish that orthography which is etymologically correct, or which is best suited to give the true pronunciation. In selecting authorities, he ought not to be guided exclusively by a majority of numbers; but when he finds a smaller number who are correct upon principle, he should decide in favor of their practice, in preference to the authority of greater num bers who are evidently wrong. There is an obvious propensity in writers to a regular orthography, a strong inclination to purify the language from its barbarisms, which, in defiance of custom, gradually corrects a mistake, lops off an excrescence, and retrenches superfluity. Thus, since the days of Dr. Johnson, publick, musick, politick, &c. have lost the k; deposit and repor it, have lost e; u is retrenched from many words, as ambassador, error, &c. and the merchant who should follow Johnson's spelling of the words ensurance, endorsement, would not escape ridicule. Some of the greatest authors in the English nation wrote examin, determin, imagin; among these are Camden in his Britannia; Lhuyd in his Archeologia, and Davenant on the revenues of England. Newton, Camden, Lhuyd, Hooke, Prideaux, Whiston, Bolingbroke, Middleton wrote scepter, theater, sepulcher, &c. Pope, Dryden, Hoole, Camden, Thompson, Goldsmith, Edwards' Hist. of W. Indies, Gregory, &c. wrote correctly mold, for mould. How shall these diversities be prevented? A certain part of writers will spurn the chains of authority, and prefer correctness to custom; while others from indolence, convenience, or ignorance, will follow their lexicons. There is therefore but one plain rule for the lexicographer to pursue, that of determining doubtful cases by etymology or analogy. regular orthography, or that which falls into established analogies, is the highest authority; and to this, after some struggles with habits, men will ultimately submit.

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Is it not the most mischievous doctrine, that we must be bound by common usage, whether right or wrong? Must we sanction the most obvious errors, and add our authority to ren

der them perpetual? What, because former writers were negligent, or failed of arriving at truth, by ill-directed researches, are posterity oblig ed to recognize their mistakes! The Reviewers themselves have decided this principle, in their remarks on each and either; for they say, "if Saxon writers, and the translators of the Bible confounded the proper meanings of these words, did they bind all their posterity to do the same?" In that case the question is inapplicable, for no such confusion is found. But the Reviewers, in one case, admit the right in posterity to alter, correct and improve language; which right, in another case, they deny.

But I will never degrade the business of lexicography, by complying with the erroneous principle of adhering, in every case, to common usage. I will not, like the English lexicographers, sanction what is admitted, on all hands, to be wrong. What, shall I admit the barbarous word comptroller, because this orthography can claim the authority of common usage? Shall I, like Johnson, introduce it with the authority of Shakespeare, Temple, and Dryden ?* Far be from me such a dereliction of my duty. The lexicographer's business is to search for truth, to proscribe error, and repress anomaly. This is the only direct and easy method to purify our language from the corrup tions and barbarisms entailed upon it by the Norman conquest, and by the ignorance and negligence of writers. Few men have an opportunity to investigate the origin of words. Most men even of letters confide in the de.

This is an er

I take this opportunity to correct a mistake in the Preface to my Dictiona ry, page 17; in which I have represented Johnson as having mistaken the etymology of this word. ror occasioned by my misapprehending his meaning-an error, I believe, that has been common. Johnson mentions the mistake of others; but by setting down comptroll, and its derivatives, with the exemplifications, he has, directly contrary to his intentions, spread the use of this orthography–as gross a blunder as ever was made.

eisions of lexicographers; for which reason the compilers of dictionaries should not be "dabblers in etymology," as many of them have been; but men of deep research, and of accurate philological knowledge. Compilers of this character, instead of transcribing and sanctioning the errors of writers, who had no authority but the errors of their predecessors, who have immemorially copied the same mistakes, would gradually acquire a dominion over practice, subdue its anomalies, and improve the language.

The Reviewers remark, that in speaking of pronunciation, I have passed no censure on the accenchuation and grachulation of Walker, nor on the furnichur and multichood of Sheridan, which they condemn. But the Gentlemen misapprehend my motive in making a comparison between Sheridan, Walker and Jones, in the class of words to which they refer. It was not for the purpose of censuring either; but to exhibit the diversities of practice and opinion among standard authors. I can however assure the Reviewers, that in the instances mentioned, as in many other words, I do heartily agree with them in giv. ing the preference to Jones.

In respect to the pronunciation of words, the Reviewers concur with my criticisms, in some instances, and dissent from them in others. The next club of Reviewers will probably give a directly contrary opinion. The fact is, no country, city, village or private club can be found in which all the individuals can agree upon the pronunciation of certain words. All men prefer the pronunciation to which they have been accustomed. The preference is determined by habit, rather than by principle; except in young men ambitious of fame, who seek to imitate the pronunciation of some popular speaker, upon the stage or at the bar. But the lexicographer should not be misled by his habits, nor biassed by the caprices of eminent men. The lexicographer who attempts to change the common pronunciation of words, upon the authority of a distinguished player, or a great luminary of the law," preeludes the possibility of uniformi

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See Walker, under the word record.

ty in national practice. This eager, ness to give books a currency by imitating particular men of popular fame, tends to unsettle established usages, and keep the language in perpetual fluctuation.

Surely

The effort of the Reviewers to vindicate the English practice of giving to a its long sound in angel, ancient, which is also the practice in some of these states, is beyond measure feeble. What, "a strong accent" give to a its long sound, in angel, ancient, and not in angle, anguish, annual, angy, anchor, anecdote, &c. ! the Gentlemen cannot be serious. It is far better to admit the real fact at once, that the practice is a departure from the original sound of the letter, in Greek and Latin, and from the analogies of other English words. Let me add that the Americans do not pronounce a in angel, ancient, as they do in command.

In the criticism upon the orthography of though the Reviewers may be correct; and this is the only point in which their strictures wear to me an appearance of correctness. I had well weighed the facts which they have suggested. The original orthography, theah, theh, thoth, I had examined, and carefully considered the primitive guttural sound of h. Still I am not satisfied with Mr. H. Tooke's opinion that theah, and thef are from the same root. Thof is certainly the imperative of thafan, to allow; but I have a strong suspicion that theah is from the same root as the Latin do, dare to give-in the imperative da or tha, which we see in the Celtic daigham. But I prefer the orthography, tho, as it gives the pronunciation, without obscuring the etymology, and makes an obvious distinction to the eye, between though and through.

On the subject of a repugnance among the learned to a reformation of orthography, I wish to be indulged in a few general remarks.

1st. My own attempts go no further than a correction of obvious errors and inconsistencies.

2d. Philosophical precision in orthography is found in no modern language, nor is it necessary.

Sd. The material anomalies in the orthography of the English language might be corrected without

any new characters; without rendering any book useless, and without occasioning any difficulty to elderly people. The schemes of Sir Thomas Smith, Dr. Gill, Dr. Franklin and others which have been offered, create difficulties which are needless, and which must forever prevent their success. If any general effort were to be made to effect the object, I could present a scheme, for the purpose, of far greater simplicity.

4th. The friends of English literature have a deep interest in reforming the orthography of the language, for its irregularities are among the greatest obstacles to the diffusion of it in foreign countries. This circumstance has had a material influence in retarding the study of English among foreigners, and giving a preference to the French. The French is far inferior to the English, in copiousness and strength; indeed the French is inferior to most languages in Europe. Yet the French nation have had the address to spread the knowledge of their language, so that it is, in a manner, a common medium of intercourse in Europe, and in some parts of Asia.

Few men seem to have observed the connexion of this extension of the French language with the political views of the French government, and its influence upon the manners and morals of other nations. The French language is unquestionably one of the principal instruments of extending the influence of the nation from the Ganges to the wilds of America. The natives of France are spread over the habitable globe. Not a country, city, or town, and scarcely a village can be named, in which we may not find Frenchmen, who, either in the characters of ministers, consuls, merchants, travellers, refugees, teachers of their language, painters, dancing masters, fencing masters, music masters, or barbers, are spreading a knowledge of their language, introducing frivolous amusements and levity of manners, or securing political attachments with a view to some national advantage. In no country can the French government want influence, where a party of friends is not previously secured to their hands; and the late events in

Yet

Europe demonstrate that the general diffusion of the French language has been the pioneer to their aims. with all these lessons of experience, the English, whose very existence is menaced by the power of France, are so little sensible of the policy by which her influence and dominions have been extended, that they cannot establish a college even in India, without attaching to it French professors. The people of the United States fall into the same current of fashionable error; and our sons and daughters are taught to believe, that a knowledge of the French language, like French cotillions, is essential as a polite accommlishment. Little as men are accustomed to reflect upon the remote or primary causes of great revolutions, we may be assured that the French language has been a principal instrument by which the gov ernment has divided the citizens, and vanquished the armies, of the neighbouring states; while it has propagated the most licentious manners, and the most detestable system of political principles.

To pave the way for this extension of their language, the French had the policy to refine and improve it, by purifying its orthography, and reducing it to a good degree of regularity. In short, they first removed the chief obstacles to the easy acquisition of their language by foreigners; and without this previous measure, their efforts would have been unavailing.

The English pursue a different line of conduct; and with a far more excellent language; with more extensive colonial establishments; with an unlimited commerce, and all the motives to extend their influence, which any nation can have, they take incredible pains to retain in their language, the anomalies which offer almost insurmountable obstacles to its progress among foreigners. Every suggestion of a reformation is repelled by the dogmas of Dr. Johnson, or other writers, that "change is inconvenient, even from worse to better, and that there is in constancy and stability a general and lasting advantage, which overbalances the slow improvements of gradual correction." These positions, with

cut great modification, are not true, and would be as applicable to the Laplanders and Caffres, as to the English. The principles are just only when they apply to things in themselves indifferent, in which custom is the only ground of right or propriety. They are true as they regard the formation of language, and the words used as symbols of ideas. But when oral languages are formed, and characters have acquired a particular sound or use, it is no longer a matter of indifference which characters are used for particular sounds. In this case also the convenience is on the side of change. The amount of all the trouble attending a reformation would not equal the inconveniences, which are encountered every month in teaching an anomalous language. In short, the principles, as laid down and perpetually repeated by men of letters, if they had been adhered to in practice, would have interrupted all improvement, and chained men to the condition of savages. The true principle to be settled in every question of change, is, whether the advantages overbalance the inconvenience; and on this question, in this case, there can be no doubts. In regard to the propagation of principles of freedom, the arts, sciences, and manufactures; in regard to every thing which exalts mankind and tends to diffuse the blessings of civilized society; the improvement of our language deserves the united efforts of the learned, and the encouragement of government.

Further, the friends of the Christian religion have an interest of vast moment in the improvement of our language, as an instrument of propagat ing the gospel.

The colonial establishments of the English, and the missions for preaching the gospel, in the remotest parts of the earth present to the friends of religion, science and civilization, a most animating prospect. In Asia, Africa, and the South Seas, the English are laying the foundation of empires, which shall consist of their descendants; but the diffusion of their language among foreigners will be greatly retarded by the difficulty of learning it; an obstacle which

might be removed with less effort of a few distinguished characters, than is necessary to carry into effect the object of a single missionary society.

A language, in which a large part of its words are so written, that the characters are no certain guides to the pronunciation, a language which may be called a compound of alphabetical writing with hieroglyphics, can never make its way extensively among foreigners.

I will only remark further, that the opposition to a correction of our orthography is confined, in this country, to the learned. The great body of the people are so much perplexed with the difficulties of learning to spell, that they desire a reformation, and would readily embrace it. They know not from what cause such irregularities originated, and cannot conceive why they are permitted to exist. I have been repeatedly solicited to undertake the task of reformation; but men of letters, who encourage every other improvement, resist all attempts to improve the orthography of the language-Qua dam imo virtutes odio sunt. Tacitus.

The Reviewers recommend to me, before I execute the etymological part of my undertaking, to study the various dialects of the ancient British

language, and name Lhuyd's Archeologia Britannica, as the best elementary work on the subject. I sincerely thank the gentlemen for their advice, and for any assistance which they or other English gentlemen will afford me. But the gentlemen are informed that I have already studied Lhuyd, with diligence, and probably with success, as I have found many of the radical words, not only of English and French, but of the Latin, which had escaped the observation of others. I have also made discoveries calculated to illustrate some points of ancient history. It is my carnest desire to prosecute my designs to a useful conclusion; but my means are scanty, the labour Herculean, and the discouragements numerous and formidable.

N. WEBSTER.
New-Haven, June 10, 1807.

Review of New Publications.

The New Cyclopædia: or Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences: Formed upon a more enlarged plan of arrangement than the Dictionary of Mr. Chambers. Comprehending the various articles of that work, with additions and improvements: Together with the new subjects of Biography, Geography, and History; and adapted to the present state of literature and science. By Abraham Rees, D. D. F. R. S. Editor of the last edition of Mr. Chambers' Dictionary. With the assistance of eminent, professional gentlemen, Illustrated with new plates, including maps, engraved for the work by some of the most distinguished artists. First American edition, revised, corrected, enlarged, and adapted to this country, by several literary and scientific characters. Philadelphia. Samuel F. Bradford.

Vol. I. Part I.

Ix entering upon the review of a publication so extensive and important, as an Universal Dictionary of the Arts and Sciences, we deem it not improper to mention some of the characteristics, which ought to distinguish a work of this kind, that it may effect, as far as possible, the beneficial purposes, which alone give it a claim to patronage. No objections, we presume, can be justly made to the propriety of such a delineation, as it will obviously assist both ourselves and our readers, in the different stages of our progress. Vol. III. No. 3.

A Cyclopædia professes to give a brief, though, in a great measure, a satisfactory account, not only of the Arts and Sciences, properly so called, but also of those branches of knowledge, which derive most of their importance from daily use. Indeed the advantage most expected and desired, by subscribers in general, is that which results from having within their reach a manual, by which they may satisfy their curiosity, correct their mistakes, and, upon a hasty reference, gain that information, which may be immediately useful. The adept in science, and the accomplished scholar, while prosecuting their studies, have recourse rather to the original treatises, in which most of the advances in science, and inventions in arts, are made known to the world. The UNIVERSAL DICTIONARY may more properly be compared to a vast magazine, filled by the industry of man, and containing supplies for ordinary wants, and materials for future labour, than to a magnificent palace, or a solemn temple. To such a work as this of Dr. Rees, the artisan, the navigator, the merchant, the traveller, and the agriculturist, as well as those who are engaged in the learned professions, recur for the acquisition of that general knowledge, which few, if any private libraries contain, and which every man of extensive views must, at some period, find necessary. Hence the first publication of an Encyclopædia was hailed by

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