The Physiological Alphabet.
We proceed to-day to dissect the body of language.
In doing this we treat language as a mere
corpse, not caring whether it ever had any life or
meaning, but simply trying to find out what it is made
of, what are the impressions made upon our ear, and
how they can be classified. In order to do this it is
not sufficient to examine our alphabet, such as it
is, though no doubt the alphabet may very properly
be called the table of the elements of language. But
what do we learn from our ABC? what even, if we
are told that k is a guttural tenuis, s a dental sibilant,
m a labial nasal, y a palatal liquid? These are names
which are borrowed from Greek and Latin grammars.
They expressed more or less happily the ideas which
the scholars of Athens and Alexandria had formed of
the nature of certain letters. But as translated into
our grammatical phraseology they have lost almost
entirely their original meaning. Our modern grammarians
speak of tenuis and media, but they define
tenuis not as a bare or thin letter, but on the contrary
as the hardest and strongest articulation; nor are they
always aware that the mediæ or middle letters were
originally so called because, as pronounced at Alexandria,
they stood half-way between the bare and the
rough letters, i. e. the aspirates, — being pronounced
95with less aspiration than the aspirates, with more than
the tenues. * Plato's division of letters, as given in his
Cratylus, is very much that which we still profess to
follow. He speaks of voiced letters (φωνήεντα, vocales),
our vowels; and of voiceless letters (ἄφωνα), our consonants,
or mutes. But he seems to divide the latter
into two classes: first, those which are voiceless, but
produce a sound (φωνήεντα μὲv οὔ, οὐ μέντοι γε ἄφθογγα),
afterwards called semi-vowels (ἡμίφωνα); and secondly,
the real mutes, both voiceless and soundless, i. e. all
consonants, except the semi-vowels (ἄφθογγα). † In
later times, the scheme adopted by Greek grammarians
is as follows: —
I. Phōnḗenta, vocales, voiced vowels.
II. Sýmphōna, consonantes.
II. 1. Hēmíphōna, semi-vocales, half-voiced,
l, m, n, r, s: or, Hygrá, liquidæ, fluid,
l, m, n, r.
II. 2. A'phōna, mutæ, voiceless.
a. Psilá, tenues | b. Mésa, mediæ | c. Daséa, aspiratæ.
k, t, p. | g, d, b. | ch, th, ph.
Another classification of letters, more perfect, because
96deduced from a language (the Sanskrit) not
yet reduced to writing, but carefully watched and
preserved by oral tradition, is to be found in the so-called
Prâtiśâkhyas, works on phonetics, belonging to
different schools in which the ancient texts of the Veda
were handed down from generation to generation with
an accuracy far exceeding that of the most painstaking
copyists of MSS. Some of these works have lately been
published and translated, and may be consulted by
those who take an interest in these matters. *
Of late years the whole subject of phonetics has been
taken up with increased ardour by scientific men, and
assaults have- been made from three different points
by different armies, philologists, physiologists, and
mathematicians. The best philological treatises I can
recommend (without mentioning earlier works, such as
the most excellent treatise of Bishop Wilkins, 1688),
are the essays published from time to time by Mr. Alexander
John Ellis, † by far the most accurate observer
97and analyser in the field of phonetics. Other works
by R. von Raumer, * F. H. du Bois-Reymond, †
98Lepsius, * Thausing, † may be consulted with advantage
in their respective spheres. The physiological
works which I found most useful and intelligible to a
reader not specially engaged in these studies were,
Midler's ‘Handbook of Physiology,’ Brücke's ‘Grundzüge
der Physiologie und Systematik der Sprachlaute’
(Wien, 1856), Funke's ‘Lehrbuch der Physiologie,’
and Czermak's articles in the ‘Sitzungsberichte
der K. K. Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Wien.’
Among works on mathematics and acoustics, I have
consulted Sir John Herschel's ‘Treatise on Sound,’
in the ‘Encyclopædia Metropolitana;’ Professor Willis's
paper ‘On the Vowel Sounds and on Reed Organ-Pipes,’
read before the Cambridge Physiological Society
in 1828 and 1829; but chiefly Professor Helmholtz's
classical work, ‘Die Lehre von den Tonempfindungen’
(Braunschweig, 1863), a work giving the
results of the most minute scientific researches in a
clear, classical, and truly popular form, so seldom to
be found in German books.
I ought not to omit to mention here the valuable
services rendered by those who, for nearly twenty
years, have been labouring in England to turn the
results of scientific research to practical use, in devising
and propagating anew system of ‘Brief Writing
and True Spelling,’ best known under the name of
the Phonetic Reform. I am far from underrating the
difficulties that stand in the way of such a reform,
and I am not so sanguine as to indulge in any hopes
99of seeing it carried for the next three or four generations.
But I feel convinced of the truth and reasonableness
of the principles on which that reform rests,
and as the innate regard for truth and reason, however
dormant or timid at times, has always proved irresistible
in the end, enabling men to part with all they
hold most dear and sacred, whether corn-laws, or
Stuart dynasties, or Papal legates, or heathen idols,
I doubt not but that the effete and corrupt orthography
will follow in their train. Nations have before
now changed their numerical figures, their letters,
their chronology, their weights and measures; and
though Mr. Pitman may not live to see the results
of his persevering and disinterested exertions, it requires
no prophetic power to perceive that what at present
is pooh-poohed by the many will make its way in
the end, unless met by arguments stronger than those
hitherto levelled at the ‘Fonetic Nuz.’ One argument
which might be supposed to weigh with the
student of language, viz., the obscuration of the etymological
structure of words, I cannot consider very
formidable. The pronunciation of languages changes
according to fixed laws, the spelling has changed in
the most arbitrary manner, so that if our spelling
followed the pronunciation of words, it would in
reality be of greater help to the critical student of
language than the present uncertain and unscientific
mode of writing.
Although considerable progress has thus been made
in the analysis of the human voice, the difficulties inherent
in the subject have been increased rather than
diminished by the profound and laborious researches
carried on independently by physiologists, students of
acoustics, and philologists. The human voice opens
100a field of observation in which these three distinct
sciences meet. The substance of speech or sound
has to be analysed by the mathematician and the
experimental philosopher; the organs or instruments
of speech have to be examined by the anatomist; and
the history of speech, the actual varieties of sound
which have become typified in language, fall to the
province of the student of language. Under these
circumstances it is absolutely necessary that students
should cooperate in order to bring these scattered
researches to a successful termination, and I take
this opportunity of expressing my obligation to Dr.
Rolleston, our indefatigable Professor of Physiology,
Mr. G. Griffith, Deputy-Professor of Experimental
Philosophy, Mr. A. J. Ellis, and others, for their kindness
in helping me through difficulties which, but for
their assistance, I should not have been able to overcome
without much loss of time.
What can seem simpler than the ABC, and yet
what is more difficult when we come to examine it?
Where do we find an exact definition of vowel and
consonant, and how they differ from each other? The
vowels, we are told, are simple emissions of the voice,
the consonants cannot be articulated except with the
assistance of vowels. If this were so, letters such as
s, f, r, could not be classed as consonants, for there
is no difficulty in pronouncing these without the
assistance of a vowel. Again, what is the difference
between a, i, u? What is the difference between a
tenuis and media, a difference almost incomprehensible
to certain races; for instance, the Mohawks and
the inhabitants of Saxony? Has any philosopher given
as vet an intelligible definition of the difference between
whispering, speaking, singing? Let us begin,
101then, with the beginning, and give some definitions of
the words we shall have to use hereafter.
What we hear may be divided, first of all, into
Noises and Sounds. Noises, such as the rustling
of leaves, the jarring of doors, or the clap of thunder,
are produced by irregular impulses imparted to the
air. Sounds, such as we hear from tuning-forks,
strings, flutes, organ-pipes, are produced by regular
periodical (isochronous) vibrations of elastic air.
That sound, musical sound, or tone in its simplest
form, is produced by tension, and ceases after the
sounding body has recovered from that tension, seems
to have been vaguely known to the early framers of
language, for the Greek tonos, tone, is derived from a
root tan, meaning to extend. Pythagoras * knew
more than this. He knew that when chords of the
same quality and the same tension are to sound a
fundamental note, its octave, its fifth, and its fourth,
their respective lengths must be like 1 to 2, 2 to 3,
and 3 to 4.
When we hear a single note, the impression we
receive seems very simple, yet it is in reality very
complicated. We can distinguish in each note —
1. Its strength or loudness.
2. Its height or pitch.
3. Its quality, or, as it is sometimes called, timbre;
in German Tonfarbe, i. e. colour of tone.
Strength or loudness depends upon the amplitude
of the excursions of the vibrating particles of air which
produce the wave.
Height or pitch depends on the length of time
that each particle requires to perform an excursion,
102i. e. on the number of vibrations executed in a given
time. If, for instance, the pendulum of a clock,
which oscillates once in each second, were to mark
smaller portions of time, it would cause musical sounds
to be heard. Sixteen double oscillations in one second
would be sufficient to bring out sound, though
its pitch would be so low as to be hardly perceptible.
For practical purposes, the lowest tone we hear is
produced by 30 double vibrations in one second, the
highest by 4,000. Between these two lie the usual
seven octaves of our musical instruments. It is said
to be possible, however, to produce perceptible musical
sounds through 11 octaves, beginning with 16
and ending with 38,000 double vibrations in one
second, though here the lower notes are mere hums,
the upper notes mere clinks. The a′ of our tuningforks,
as fixed by the Paris Academy, requires 437.5
double, or 875 single * vibrations in one second. In
Germany the a′ tuning-fork makes 440 double vibrations
in one second. It is clear that beyond the lowest
and the highest tones perceptible to our ears, there is a
progress ad infinitum, musical notes as real as those
which we hear, yet beyond the reach of sensuous perception.
It is the same with the other senses. We
can perceive the movement of the pendulum, but we
cannot perceive the slower movement of the hand
on the watch. We can perceive the flight of a bird,
but we cannot perceive the quicker movement of a
103cannon-ball. This, better than anything else, shows
how dependent we are on our senses; and how, if our
senses are our weapons for the discovery of truth,
they are likewise our chains that keep us from soaring
too high. Up to this point everything, though wonderful
enough, is clear and intelligible. As we hear
a note, we know, with mathematical accuracy, to how
many vibrations in one second it is due; and if we
want to produce the same note, an instrument, such
as the siren, which gives a definite number of impulses
to the air within a given time, will enable us
to do it in the most mechanical manner.
When two waves of one note enter the ear in
the same time as one wave of another, the interval
between the two is an octave.
When three waves of one note enter the ear in the
same time as two waves of another, the interval
between the two notes is a fifth.
When, four waves of one note enter the ear in the
same time as three waves of another, the interval
between the two notes is a fourth.
When five waves of one note enter the ear in the
same time as four waves of another, the interval
between the two notes is a major third.
When six waves of one note enter the ear in the
same time as five waves of another, the interval
between the two notes is a minor third.
When five waves of one note enter the ear in the
same time as three waves of another, the interval
between the two notes is a major sixth.
All this is but the confirmation of what was known
to Pythagoras. He took a vibrating cord, and, by
placing a bridge so as to leave 2/3 of the cord on the
right, 1/3 on the left side, the left portion vibrating by
itself, gave him the octave of the lower note of the
104right portion. So, again, by leaving 3/5 on the right,
2/5 on the left side, the left portion vibrating gave him
the fifth of the right.
But it is clear that we may hear the same tone,
i. e. the result of exactly the same number of vibrations
in one second, produced by the human voice, by
a flute, a violoncello, a fife, or a double bass. They
are tones of the same pitch, and yet they differ in
character, and their difference is called their quality.
But what is the cause of these various qualities? By a
kind of negative reasoning, it had long been supposed
that, as quality could neither arise from the amplitude
nor from the duration, it must be due to the form of
the vibrations. Professor Helmholtz, however, was
the first to prove positively that this is the case, by applying
the microscope to the vibrations of different
musical instruments, and thus catching the exact outline
of their respective vibrations — a result which
before had been but imperfectly attained by an instrument
called the Phonautograph. What is meant
by the form of waves may be seen from the following
In pursuing these inquiries, Professor Helmholtz
made another most important discovery, viz., that the
different forms of the vibrations which are the cause
of what he calls quality or colour are likewise the
cause of the presence or absence of certain harmonics,
or by-notes; in fact, that varying quality and varying
harmonics are but two expressions for the same
Harmonics are the secondary tones which can be
perceived even by the unassisted ear, if, after lifting
the pedal, we strike a key on a pianoforte. These
harmonics arise from a string vibrating as if its
motion were compounded of several distinct vibrations
of strings of its full length, and one half, one third,
one fourth, &c, part of its length. Each of these
shorter lengths would vibrate twice, three times, four
times as fast as the original length, producing corresponding
tones. Thus, if we strike c, we hear, if
listening attentively, c′, g′, c″, e″, g″, b″ flat, c‴,
c | c′ | g′ | c″ | e″ | g″ | b″ flat | c‴
That the secondary notes are not merely imaginative
or subjective can be proved by a very simple
and amusing experiment. If we place little soldiers
—very light cavalry — on the strings of a pianoforte,
and then strike a note, all the riders that sit on
strings representing the secondary tones will shake,
and possibly be thrown off, while the others remain
firm in their saddles, because these strings vibrate in
106sympathy with the secondary tones of the string
struck. Another test can be applied by means of
resounding tubes, tuned to different notes. If we
apply these to our ear, and then strike a note the secondary
tones of which are the same as the notes to
which the resounding tubes are tuned, those notes will
sound loudly and almost yell in our ears; while if the
tubes do not correspond to the harmonics of the note
played, the resounding tubes will not answer in the
We thus see, again, that what seems to us a simple
impression, the one note struck on the pianoforte,
consists of many impressions which together make up
what we hear and perceive. We are not conscious of
the harmonics which follow each note and determine
its quality, but we know, nevertheless, that these by-notes
strike our ear, and that our senses receive them
and suffer from them. The same remark applies to
the whole realm of our sensuous knowledge. There
is a broad distinction between sensation and perception.
There are many things which we perceive at first and
which we perceive again as soon as our attention is
called to them, but which, in the ordinary run of life,
are to us as if they did not exist at all. When I first
came to Oxford, I was constantly distracted by the
ringing of bells; after a time I ceased even to notice
the dinner-bell. There are earrings much in fashion
just now — little gold bells with coral clappers. Of
course they produce a constant jingling which everybody
hears except the lady who wears them. In these
cases, however, the difference between sensation and
perception is simply due to want of attention. In
other cases our senses are really incapable, without
assistance, of distinguishing the various constituents
107of the objective impressions produced from without.
We know, for instance, that white light is a vibration
of ether, and that it is a compound of the single
colours of the solar spectrum. A prism will at once
analyse that compound, and divide it into its component
parts. To our apprehension, however, white
light is something simple, and our senses are too
coarse to distinguish its component elements by any
We now shall be better able to understand what I
consider a most important discovery of Professor Helmholtz. *
It had been proved by Professor G. S. Ohm †
that there is only one vibration without harmonics,
viz., the simple pendulous vibration. It had likewise
been proved by Fourier, Ohm. and other mathematicians, ‡
that all compound vibrations or sounds
can be divided into so many simple or pendulous
vibrations. But it is due to Professor Helmholtz
that we can now determine the exact configuration of
many compound vibrations, and determine the presence
and absence of the harmonics which, as we saw,
caused the difference in the quality, or colour, or
timbre of sound. Thus he found that in the violin,
as compared with the guitar or pianoforte, the primary
note is strong, the secondary tones from two to six
are weak, while those from seven to ten are much
more distinct. § In the clarinet ‖ the odd harmonics
only are perceptible, in the hautboy the even harmonics
are of equal strength.
Let us now see how all this tells on language.
108When we are speaking we are in reality playing on a
musical instrument, and a more perfect instrument
than was ever invented by man. It is a wind-instrument,
in which the vibrating apparatus is supplied by
the chordæ vocales, while the outer tube, or bells,
through which the waves of sound pass, are furnished
by the different configurations of the mouth. I shall
try, as well as I can, to describe to you, with the help
of some diagrams, the general structure of this instrument,
though in doing so I can only retail the scant
information which I gathered myself from our excellent
Professor of Physiology at Oxford, Dr. Rolleston.
He kindly showed and explained to me by actual
dissection, and with the aid of the newly-invented
laryngoscope (a small looking-glass, which enables
the observer to see as far as the bifurcation of the
windpipe and the bronchial tubes), the bones, the
cartilages, the ligaments and muscles, which together
form that extraordinary instrument on which we play
our words and thoughts. Some parts of it are extremely
complicated, and I should not venture to act
even as interpreter of the different and sometimes
contradictory views held by Müller, Brücke, Czermak,
Funke, and other distinguished physiologists, on the
mechanism of the various cartilages, the thyroid,
cricoid, and arytenoid, which together constitute the
levers of the larynx. It fortunately happens that the
most important organs which are engaged in the formation
of letters lie above the larynx, and are so
simple in their structure, and so open to constant
inspection and examination, that, with the diagrams
placed before you, there will be little difficulty, I
hope, in explaining their respective functions.109
There is, first of all, the thorax (1), which, by alternately
compressing and dilating the lungs, performs
the office of bellows.
2. Pectoralis minor.
3. Latissimus dorsi.
4. Serratus magnus.
5. External intercostals.
6. Rectus abdominis.
7. Internal oblique.
The next diagram (2) shows the trachea, a cartilaginous
and elastic pipe, which terminates in the
lungs by an infinity of roots or bronchial tubes, its
upper extremity being formed into a species of head
called the larynx, situated in the throat, and composed
of five cartilages.110
The uppermost of these cartilages, the epiglottis (3),
is intended to open and shut, like a valve, the aperture
of the glottis, i. e. the superior orifice of the larynx
(fissura laryngea pharyngis). The epiglottis is a leafshaped
111elastic cartilage, attached by its narrower end
to the thyroid cartilage, and possessing a midrib overhanging
and corresponding to the fissure of the glottis.
The broader end of the leaf points freely upwards
toward the tongue, in which direction the entire cartilage
presents a concave, as towards the larynx a convex,
outline. In swallowing, the epiglottis falls over the
larynx, like a saddle on the back of a horse. In the
112formation of certain letters a horizontal narrow fissure
may be produced by depressing the epiglottis over the
vertical false and true vocal chords.
Within the larynx (4, 5), rather above its middle,
between the thyroid and arytenoid cartilages, are two
elastic ligaments, like the parchment of a drum split
in the middle, and forming an aperture which is called
the interior or true glottis) and corresponds in direction
with the exterior glottis. This aperture is provided
with muscles, which enlarge and contract it at pleasure,
and otherwise modify the form of the larynx.
The three cartilages of the larynx supply the most
perfect mechanism for stretching or relaxing the
chords, and likewise, as it would seem, for deadening
some portion of them by pressure of a protuberance on
the under side of the epiglottis (in German, Epiglottiswulst).
These chords are of different length in children
and grown-up people, in man and in woman. Their
average length in man is 18 1/2 mm. when relaxed,
23 1/6 mm. when stretched; in woman, 12 2/3 mm. when
relaxed, 15 2/3 mm. when stretched: thus giving a
difference of about one-third between the two sexes,
which accounts for the different pitch of male and
female voices. *
The tongue, the cavity of the fauces, the lips, teeth,
and palate, with its velum pendulum and uvula
performing the office of a valve between the throat
and nostrils, as well as the cavity of the nostrils themselves,
are all concerned in modifying the impulse
given to the breath as it issues from the larynx, and
in producing the various vowels and consonants.
After thus taking to pieces the instrument, the
tubes and reeds as it were of the human voice, let us
now see how that instrument is played by us in
speaking or in singing. Familiar and simple as
114singing or music in general seems to be, it is, if we
analyse it, one of the most wonderful phenomena.
What we hear when listening to a chorus or a symphony
is a commotion of elastic air, of which the
wildest sea would give a very inadequate image. The
lowest tone which the ear perceives is due to about
30 vibrations in one second, the highest to about
4,000. Consider then what happens in a Presto when
thousands of voices and instruments are simultaneously
producing waves of air, each wave crossing
the other, not only like the surface waves of the water,
but like spherical bodies, and, as it would seem,
without any perceptible disturbance; * consider that
each tone is accompanied by secondary tones, that
each instrument has its peculiar timbre, due to
secondary vibrations; and, lastly, let us remember
that all this cross-fire of waves, all this whirlpool of
sound, is moderated by laws which determine what
we call harmony, and by certain traditions or habits
which determine what we call melody — both these
elements being absent in the songs of birds — that all
this must be reflected like a microscopic photograph
on the two small organs of hearing, and there excite
not only perception, but perception followed by a
new feeling even more mysterious, which we call
either pleasure or pain; and it will be clear that we
are surrounded on all sides by miracles transcending
all we are accustomed to call miraculous, and yet disclosing
to the genius of an Euler or a Newton laws
which admit of the most minute mathematical determination.
For our own immediate purposes it is important to
remark that, while it is impossible to sing without at
115the same time pronouncing a vowel, it is perfectly
possible to pronounce a vowel without singing it.
Why this is so we shall see at once. If we pronounce
a vowel, what happens? Breath is emitted from the
lungs, and some kind of tube is formed by the mouth
through which, as through a clarinet, the breath has
to pass before it reaches the outer air. If, while the
breath passes the chordæ vocales, these elastic laminæ
are made to vibrate periodically, the number of their
vibrations determines the pitch of our voice, but it
has nothing to do with its timbre or vowel. What we
call vowels are neither more nor less than the qualities,
or colours, or timbres of our voice, and these are determined
by the form of the vibrations, which form again
is determined by the form of the buccal tubes. This
had, to a certain extent, been anticipated by Professor
Wheatstone in his critique * on Professor Willis's ingenious
experiments, but it has now been rendered
quite evident by the researches of Professor Helmholtz.
It is, of course, impossible to watch the form
of these vibrations by means of a vibration microscope,
but it is possible to analyse them by means of
resounding tubes, like those before described; and
thus to discover in them what, as we saw, is homologous
with the form of vibration, viz. the presence
and absence of certain harmonics. If a man sings
the same note on different vowels,, the harmonics
which answer to our resounding tubes vary as they
would vary if the same note was played on the violin,
or flute, or some other musical instruments. In order
to remove all uncertainty, Professor Helmholtz simply
inverted the experiment. He took a number of tuning-forks,
116each furnished with a resonance box, by
advancing or withdrawing which he could give their
primary tones alone various degrees of strength,
and extinguish their secondary tones altogether. He
tuned them so as to produce a series of tones answering
to the harmonics of the deepest tuning-fork. He then
made these tuning-forks vibrate simultaneously by
means of a galvanic battery, and by combining the
harmonics, which he had first discovered in each vowel
by means of the sounding tubes, he succeeded in reproducing
artificially exactly the same vowels. *
We know now what vowels are made of. They are
produced by the form of the vibrations. They vary
like the timbre of different instruments, and we in
reality change the instruments on which we speak
when we change the buccal tubes in order to pronounce
a, e, i, o, u (the vowels to be pronounced as in Italian).
Is it possible, then, to produce a vowel, to evoke a
certain timbre of our mouth, without giving at the
same time to each vowel a certain musical pitch? This
question has been frequently discussed. At first it was
taken for granted that vowels could not be uttered
without pitch; that there could be mute consonants,
but no mute vowels. Yet, if a vowel was whispered,
it was easy to see that the chordæ vocales were not
vibrating, at least not periodically; that they began
to vibrate only when the whispered vowel was changed
into a voiced vowel. J. Müller proposed a compromise.
He admitted that the vowels might be uttered as
mutes without any tone from the chordæ vocales, but
he thought that these mute vowels were formed in the
glottis by the air passing the non-sonant chords, while
117all consonantal noises are formed in the mouth. * Even
this distinction, however, between mute vowels and
mute consonants is not confirmed by later observations,
which have shown that in whispering the vocal chords
are placed together so that only the back part of the
glottis between the arytenoid cartilages remains open,
assuming the form of a triangle. † Through this aperture
the air passes, and if, as happens not unfrequently
in whispering, a word breaks forth quite loud, betraying
our secrets, this is because the chordæ vocales have resumed
their ordinary position and been set vibrating
by the passing air. Cases of aphonia, where people
are unable to intone at all, invariably arise from disease
of the vocal chords; yet, though unable to intone,
these persons can pronounce the different
vowels. It can hardly be denied, therefore, that the
vowels pronounced with vox clandestina are mere
noises, coloured by the configuration of the mouth,
but without any definite musical pitch; though it is
equally true that, in whispering vowels, certain vague
tones inherent in each vowel can be discovered, nay,
that these inherent tones are invariable. This was
first pointed out by Professor Donders, and afterwards
corrected and confirmed by Professor Helmholtz. ‡ It
will be necessary, I think, to treat these tones as imperfect
tones, that is to say, as noises approaching to tones,
or as irregular vibrations, nearly, yet not quite, changed
into regular or isochronous vibrations; though the
exact limit where a noise ends and tone begins has, as
far as I can see, not yet been determined by any
Vowels in all their varieties are really infinite in
number. Yet, for practical purposes, certain typical
vowels have been fixed upon in all languages, and these
we shall now proceed to examine.
From the diagrams which are meant to represent
the configuration of the mouth requisite for the formation
of the three principal vowels, you will see that
there are two extremes, the u and the i, the a occupying
an intermediate position. All vowels are to be
pronounced as in Italian.
1. In pronouncing u we round the lips and draw
down the tongue so that the cavity of the mouth
assumes the shape of a bottle without a neck. Such
bottles give the deepest notes, and so does the vowel u.
According to Helmholtz its inherent tone is f. *
Open syllable, long, who
Closed syllable, long, fool
2. If the lips are opened somewhat wider, and the
119tongue somewhat raised, we hear the o. Its pitch, according
to Helmholtz, B′ flat.
Open syllable, long, ago
Closed syllable, long, bone
short, Sonne (German)
3. If the lips are less rounded, and the tongue
somewhat depressed, we hear the å.
Open syllable, long, august (subs.)
short, august (adj.)
Closed syllable, long, nought
4. If the lips are wide open, and the tongue in its
natural flat position, we hear a. Inherent pitch, according
to Helmholtz, B″ flat. This seems the most
natural position of the mouth in singing; yet for the
higher notes singers prefer the vowels e and i, and
120find it impossible to pronounce a and u on the
Open syllable, long, mamâ
short, păpâ. †
Closed syllable, long, farm
short, It. ballare
5. If the lips are fairly open, and the back of the
tongue raised towards the palate, the larynx being
raised at the same time, we hear the sound e. The
buccal tube resembles a bottle with a narrow neck.
The natural pitch of e is B‴ flat.
Open syllable, long, hay
Closed syllable, long, lake
short, Germ. Leck
6. If we raise the tongue higher still, and narrow
the lips, we hear i. The buccal tube represents a bottle
121with a very narrow neck of no more than six centimètres
from palate to lips. Such a bottle would
answer to C″″, The natural pitch of i seems to be D″″
Open syllable, long, he
Closed syllable, long, been
7. There is, besides, the most troublesome of all
vowels, the neutral vowel, sometimes called Urvocal.
Professor Willis defines it as the natural vowel of the
reed, Mr. Ellis as the voice in its least modified form.
Some people hear it everywhere, others imagine they
can distinguish various shades of it. We know it
best in short closed syllables, such as but, dust, &c. It
is supposed to be long in absurd. Sir John Herschel
hears but one and the same vowel in spurt, assert,
bird, virtue, dove, oven, double, blood, Sheridan and
Smart distinguish between the vowels heard in bird
and work, in whirl'd and world. There is no doubt
that in English all unaccented syllables have a tendency
towards it, * e. g. ăgainst, finăl, principăl, ideă,
captaĭn, villăge. Town sinks to Paddington, ford to
Oxfŏrd; and though some of these pronunciations
may still be considered as vulgar, they are nevertheless
These are the principal vowels, and there are few
languages in which they do not occur. But we have
only to look to English, French, and German in order
to perceive that there are many varieties of vocal
sound besides these. There is the French u, the
German u, which lies between i and u; * as in. French,
du, German, über, Sünde. Professor Helmholtz has
fixed the natural pitch of ü as G‴.
There is the French eu, the German ö, which lies
between e and o, as in French peu, German König, or
short in Böcke. † Professor Helmholtz has fixed the
natural pitch of ö as C‴ sharp.
There is the peculiar short a in closed syllables in
English, such as hat, happy, man. It may be heard
lengthened in the affected pronunciation of half.
There is the peculiar short i, as heard in the
English happy, reality, hit, knit. ‡
There is the short e in closed syllables, such as
heard in English debt, bed, men, which if lengthened
comes very near to the German ä in Väter, and the
French e in père, not quite the English there.
Lastly, there are the diphthongs, which arise when,
instead of pronouncing one vowel immediately after
another with two efforts of the voice, we produce a
sound during the change from one position to the
other that would be required for each vowel. If we
123change the a into the i position and pronounce a vowel,
we hear ai, as in aisle. A singer who has to sing I
on a long note will end by singing the Italian i. If
we change the a into the u position and pronounce a
vowel, we hear au, as in how. Here, too, we find many
varieties, such as ăi, âi, ei, and the several less perfect
diphthongs, such as oi, ui, &c.
Though this may seem a long and tedious list, it is,
in fact, but a very rough sketch, and I must refer to
the works of Mr. Ellis and others for many minute
details in the chromatic scale of the vowels. Though
the tube of the mouth, as modified by the tongue and
the lips, is the principal determinant in the production
of vowels, yet there are other agencies at work, the
velum pendulum, the posterior wall of the pharynx, the
greater or less elevation of the larynx, all coming in
at times to modify the cavity of the throat. It is
said that in pronouncing the high vowels the bones of
the skull participate in the vibration, * and it has been
proved by irrefragable evidence that the velum pendulum
is of very essential importance in the pronunciation
of all vowels. Professor Czermak, † by introducing
a probe through the nose into the cavity of the
pharynx, felt distinctly that the position of the velum
was changed with each vowel; that it was lowest for
a, and rose successively with e, o, u, i, reaching its
highest point with i.
He likewise proved that the cavity of the nose was
more or less opened during the pronunciation of
certain vowels. By introducing water into the nose
he found that while he pronounced i, u, o, the water
124would remain in the nose, but that it would pass into
the fauces when he came to e, and still more when
he uttered a. * These two vowels, a and e, were the
only vowels which Leblanc, † a young man whose
larynx was completely closed, failed to pronounce.
If, instead of emitting the vowel sound freely
through the mouth, we allow the velum pendulum
to drop and the air to vibrate through the cavities
which connect the nose with the pharynx, we hear the
nasal vowels ‡ so common in French, as un, on, in, an.
It is not necessary that the air should actually pass
through the nose; on the contrary, we may shut the
nose, and thus increase the nasal twang. The only
requisite is the removal of the velum, which, in ordinary
vowels, covers the choanæ more or less completely. §
There is no reason why languages should not have
been entirely formed of vowels. There are words
consisting of vowels only, such as Latin eo, I go; ea,
she; eoa, eastern; the Greek êioeis (ήἴόεις, with high
banks), but for its final s; the Hawaian hooiaioai,
125to testify, but for its initial breathing. Yet these
very words show how unpleasant the effect of such a
language would have been. Something else was
wanted to supply the bones of language, namely,
the consonants. Consonants are called in Sanskrit
vyanjana, which means ‘rendering distinct or manifest,’
while the vowels are called svara, sounds, from
the same root which yielded susurrus in Latin.
As scholars are always fond of establishing general
theories, however scanty the evidence at their disposal,
we need not wonder that languages like the Hawaian,
in which the vowels predominate to a very considerable
extent, should on that very ground have
been represented as primitive languages. It was
readily supposed that the general progress of language
was from the slightly articulated to the strongly articulated
; and that the fewer the consonants, the older
the language. Yet we have only to compare the
Hawaian with the Polynesian languages in order to
see that there too the consonantal articulation existed
and was lost; that consonants, in fact, are much more
apt to be dropped than to sprout up between two
vowels. Prof. Buschmann expresses the same opinion:
‘Mes recherches m'ont conduit à la conviction, que
cet état de pauvreté phonique polynésienne n'est pas
tant l'état naturel d'une langue prise à sa naissance,
qu'une détérioration du type vigoureux des langues
malaies occidentales, amenée par un peuple qui a peu
de disposition pour varier les sons.’ * The very
name of Havai, or more correctly Hawai'i, confirms
this view. It is pronounced126
in the Samoan dialect, | Savai'i
Tahitian, | Havai'i
Rarotongan, | Avaiki
Nukuhivan, | Havaiki
New Zealand, | Hawaiki
from which the original form may be inferred to have
been Savaiki. *
All consonants fall under the category of noises.
If we watch any musical instruments, we can easily
perceive that their sounds are always preceded by
certain noises, arising from the first impulses imparted
to the air before it can produce really musical
sensations. We hear the puffing and panting of the
siren, the scratching of the violin, the hammering of
the pianoforte, the spitting of the flute. The same
in speaking. If we send out our breath, whether
vocalised or not, we hear the rushing out, the momentary
breathing, the impulse produced by the
inner air as it reaches the outer.
If we breathe freely the glottis is wide open, † and
the breath emitted can be distinctly heard. Yet this
is not yet our A, or the spiritus asper. An intention is
required to change mere breathing into h; the velum
pendulum has to assume its proper position, and the
breath thus jerked out is then properly called asper,
because the action of the abdominal muscles gives to
it a certain asperity. If, on the contrary, the breath
is slightly curbed or tempered by the pressure of the
glottis, and if thus held in, it is emitted gently, it is
properly called spiritus lenis, soft breath. We distinctly
127hear it, like a slight bubble, if we listen to
the pronunciation of any initial vowel, as in old, art,
ache, ear, or if we pronounce ‘my hand,’ as it is
pronounced by vulgar people, ‘my 'and.’ According
to some physiologists, * and according to nearly all
grammarians, this initial noise can be so far subdued
as to become evanescent, and we all imagine that
we can pronounce an initial vowel quite pure. † Yet
I believe the Greeks were right in admitting the
spiritus lenis as inherent in all initial vowels that
have not the spiritus asper, and the laryngoscope
clearly shows in all initial vowels a narrowing of the
vocal chords, quite distinct from the opening that
takes place in the pronunciation of the h.
It has been customary to call the h or spiritus
asper a surd, the spiritus lenis a sonant letter; and
there is some truth in this distinction if we clearly
know what is meant by these terms. Now, as we are
speaking of whispered language, it is clear that the
vocal chords, in their musical quality, can have no influence
on this distinction. Nevertheless, if we may
trust the laryngoscope, ‡ that is to say, if we may trust
our eyes, the chordæ vocales or the glottis would seem
to be chiefly concerned in producing the spiritus lenis,
or in mollifying the spiritus asper. It is their narrowing,
though not their stretching, that tempers the
impetus of the spiritus asper, and prevents it from
rushing straight against the faucal walls, and in this
128sense the noise or friction which we hear while the
breath slowly emerges from the larynx into the mouth
may be ascribed to them. There is another very important
distinction between spiritus asper and lenis.
It is quite impossible to sing the spiritus asper, that is
to say, to make the breath which produces it, sonant.
If we try to sing ha, the tone does not come out till
the h is over. We might as well try to whistle and
to sing at the same time. *
The reason of this is clear. If the breath that is to
produce h is to become a tone, it must be checked by
ʽ — (h); e. g. hand.
ʼ —; e. g. and.
the vocal chords, but the very nature of h consists in
the noise of the breath rushing forth unchecked from
the lungs to the outer air. The spiritus lenis, on the
129contrary, can be sounded, because, in pronouncing it
more or less distinctly, the breath is checked near the
chordæ vocales, and can there be intoned.
This simplest breathing, in its double character of
asper and lenis, can be modified in eight different
ways by interposing certain barriers or gates formed
by the tongue, the soft and hard palate, the teeth, and
the lips. Before we examine these, it will be useful
to say a few words on the general distinction between
asper and lenis, a distinction which, as we shall see,
affects every one of these breathings.
The distinction which, with regard to the first
breathing or spiritus, is commonly called asper and
lenis, is the same which, in other letters, is known by
the names of hard and soft, surd and sonant, tenuis and
media. The peculiar character meant to be described
by these terms, and the manner in which it is produced,
are the same throughout. The authors of the
Pratisakhyas knew what has been confirmed by the
laryngoscope, that, in pronouncing tenues, hard or
surd letters, the glottis is open, while, in pronouncing
mediæ, soft or sonant letters, the glottis is closed. In
the first class of letters, vibration of the vocal chords
is impossible; in the second, they are so close that,
though not set to vibrate periodically, they begin to
sound audibly, or, perhaps more correctly, they
modify the sound. Anticipating the distinction between
k, t, p, and g, d, b, I may quote here the
description given by Professor Helmholtz of the
general causes which produce their distinction.
‘The series of the media?, b, d, g,’ he says, ‘differs
from that of the tenues, p, t, k, by this, that for the
former the glottis is, at the time of consonantal opening,
sufficiently narrowed to enable it to sound, or at
130least to produce the noise of the vox clandestina, or
whisper, while it is wide open with the tenues, * and
therefore unable to sound.’
‘Mediæ are therefore accompanied by the tone of
the voice, and this may even, when they begin a
syllable, set in a moment before, and when they end
a syllable, continue a moment after the opening of the
mouth, because some air may be driven into the closed
cavity of the mouth and support the sound of the
vocal chords in the larynx,’
‘Because of the narrowed glottis, the rush of the
air is more moderate, the noise of the air less sharp
than with the tenues, which are pronounced with
the glottis wide open, so that a great mass of air may
rush forth at once from the chest.’ †
ʽh (ch); e. g. Loch.
ʼh (g); e. g. Tage (German).
We now return to an
examination of the various
modifications of the breaths,
in their double character of
hard and soft.
If, instead of allowing
the breath to escape freely
from the lungs to the lips,
we hem it in by a barrier
formed by lifting the tongue
against the uvula, we get
the sound of eft, as heard
131in the German ach or the Scotch loch. * If, on the
contrary, we slightly check the breath as it reaches
that barrier, we get the sound which is heard when
the g in the German word Tage is not pronounced as
a media, but as a semi-vowel, Tage.
A second barrier is formed by bringing the tongue
in a more contracted state towards the point where
the hard palate begins, a little beyond the point where
the k is formed. Letting the spiritus asper pass this
isthmus, we produce the sound ch as heard in the
German China or ich, a sound very difficult to an
Englishman, though approaching to the initial sound
ý (ch); e. g. ich (German).
ý (y); e. g. yea.
of words like hume, huge. †
If we soften the breath as
it reaches this barrier, we
arrive at the familiar sound
of y in year. This sound
is naturally accompanied
by a slight hum arising
from the check applied
through the glottis, nor is
there much difficulty in
intoning the y. There is
no evidence whatever that
the Sanskrit palatal flatus
was ever pronounced like
132ch in German China and ich. Most likely it was the
assibilated sound which can be produced if, keeping
the organs in the position for German ch, we narrow
the passage and strengthen the breath. This, however,
is merely an hypothesis, not a dogma.
A third barrier, produced by advancing the tongue
towards the teeth, modifies the spiritus asper into s,
the spiritus lenis into z, the former completely surd,
the latter capable of intonation; for instance, the rise
Or rice; but to rise.
s; e. g. the rise, rice, sin.
z; e. g. to rise, zeal.
ṣ; (sh); e. g. sharp.
ẓ; e. g. azure.
A fourth barrier is formed by drawing the tongue
back and giving it a more or less concave (retrousse)
shape, so that we can distinctly see its lower surface
brought in position towards the back of the upper
teeth or the palate. By pressing the air through
this trough, we get the letter sh as heard in sharp,
and s as heard in pleasure, or j in the French jamais;
the former mute, the latter intonable. The pronunciation
of the Sanskrit lingual sh requires a very elaborate
position of the tongue, so that its lower surface
should really strike the roof of the palate. But a much
133more simple and natural position, as described above,
will produce nearly the same effect.
A fifth barrier is produced by bringing the tip of
the tongue almost point-blank against the back of the
upper teeth, or, according to others, by placing it
against the edge of the upper teeth, or even between
the edges of the upper and lower teeth. If, then, we
emit the spiritus asper, we form the English th, if we
emit the spiritus lenis, the English dh; the former
mute, as in breath, the latter intonable, as in to breathe,
and both very difficult for a German to pronounce.
th (þ); e. g. breath.
dh (ð); e. g. to breathe.
f; e. g. life.
v; e. g. to live.
A sixth barrier is formed by bringing the lower lip
against the upper teeth. This modifies the spiritus
asper to f, the spiritus lenis to v, as heard in life and
to live, half and to halve.
A seventh barrier is possible by bringing the two
lips together. The sound there produced by the
spiritus asper would be the sound which we make in
blowing out a candle; it is not a favourite sound in
civilized languages. The spiritus lenis, however, is
very common; it is the w in German as heard
134in Quelle, i. e. Kwelle; * also sometimes in the German
An eighth barrier is formed by slightly contracting
w̔ (wh); e. g. which.
w̓; e. g. we.
and rounding the lips, instead
of bringing them together
fiat against each
other. Here the spiritus
asper assumes the sound
of wh in wheel, which;
whereas the spiritus lenis
is the common English
double u, as heard in weal.
We have thus examined
eight modifications of spiritus
asper and spiritus
lenis, produced by breath
emitted eruptively or prohibitively, arid modified by
certain narrowings of the mouth. Considering the
great pliability of the muscles of the tongue and the
mouth, we can easily imagine other possible narrowings;
but with the exception of some peculiar
letters of the Semitic and African languages, we shall
find these eight sufficient for our own immediate
The peculiar guttural sounds of the Arabs, which
have given rise to so much discussion, have at last
been scientifically defined by Professor Czermak.
Examining an Arab by means of the laryngoscope,
he was able to watch the exact formation of the Hha
and Ain which constitute a separate class of guttural
breathings in the Semitic languages. This is his
account. If the glottis is narrowed and the vocal
135chords brought near together, not however in a
straight parallel position, but distinctly notched in the
middle, while, at the same time, the epiglottis is
pressed down, then the stream of breath in passing
assumes the character of the Arabic Hha, ح, as
different from h, the spiritus asper, the Arabic ة.
If this Hha is made sonant, it becomes Ain. Starting
from the configuration as described for Hha, all that
takes place in order to change it into Ain is that the
rims of the apertures left open for Hha are brought
close together, so that the stream of air striking
against them causes a vibration in the fissura laryngea,
and not, as for other sonant letters, in the real glottis.
These ocular observations of Czermak * coincide with
the phonetic descriptions given by Arab grammarians,
and particularly with Wallin's account. If the vibration
in the fissura laryngea takes place less regularly,
the sound assumes the character of a trilled r, the
deep guttural r of the Low Saxons. The Arabic خ
and غ I must continue to consider as near equivalents
of the ch in loch and 'h in German tage, though the pronunciation
of the غ approaches sometimes to a trill,
like the r grasseyé.
We have to add to this class of letters two which
are commonly called trills, the r and the l. They are
136both intonable or sonant, that is to say, they are
modifications of the spiritus lenis, but they differ from
the other modifications by a vibration of certain portions
of the mouth. I am unable to pronounce the
different r's, and I shall therefore borrow their
description from one of the highest authorities on
this subject, Mr. Ellis. * ‘In the trills,’ he writes,
‘the breath is emitted with sufficient force to cause a
vibration, not merely of some membrane, but of some
much more extensive soft part, as the uvula, tongue,
or lips. In the Arabic grh (grhain), which is the
same as the Northumberland burr (burgrh, Hágrhiut
for Harriot), and the French Provençal r grasseyé
(as, Paris c'est la France, Paghri c'est la Fgrhance),
the uvula lies along the back part of the tongue,
pointing to the teeth, and is very distinctly vibrated.
If the tongue is more raised and the vibration indistinct
or very slight, the result is the English r, in
more, poor, while a still greater elevation of the tongue
produces the r as heard after palatal vowels, as hear,
mere, fire. These trills are so vocal that they form
distinct syllables, as surf, serf, fur, fir, virtue, honour,
and are with difficulty separable from the vowels.
Hence, when a guttural vowel precedes, the effect of
the r is scarcely audible. Thus laud, lord, father,
farther, are scarcely distinguishable.’
Professor Helmholtz describes r and l as follows: —
‘In pronouncing r the stream of air is periodically
entirely interrupted by the trembling of the soft
palate or of the tip of the tongue, and we then get an
intermittent noise, the peculiar jarring quality of
which is produced by these very intermissions. In
137pronouncing l the moving soft lateral edges of the
tongue produce, not entire interruptions, but oscillations
in the force of air.’ *
If the lips are trilled the result is brh, a sound
which children are fond of making, but which, like
the corresponding spiritus asper, is of little importance
in speaking. If the tongue is placed against the teeth,
and its two lateral edges, or even one only, are made
to vibrate, we hear the sound of l, which is easily
in ton able as well as the r.
We have thus exhausted one class of letters which
all agree in this, that they can be pronounced by
themselves, and that their pronunciation can be continued.
In Greek, they are all included under the
name of Hemiphona, or semi-vowels, while Sanskrit
grammarians mention as their specific quality that, in
pronouncing them, the two organs, the active and
passive, which are necessary for the production of all
consonantal noises, are not allowed to touch each
other, but only to approach. †
Checks or Mutes.
We now come to the third and last class of letters,
which are distinguished from all the rest by this, that
for a time they stop the emission of breath altogether.
They are called by the Greeks aphōna, mutes, because
they check all voice, or, what is the same, because they
cannot be intoned. They differ, however, from the
hisses or hard breathings, which likewise resist all intonation;
for, while the hisses are emissions of breath,
138they, the mutes, are prohibitions of breath. They are
formed, as the Sanskrit grammarians say, by complete
contact of the active and passive organs. They will
require very little explanation. If we bring the root
of the tongue against the soft palate, we hear the consonantal
noise of k. If we bring the tongue against
the teeth, we hear the consonantal noise of t If we
bring the lower against the upper lip, we hear the
consonantal noise of p. The
real difference between those
three articulations consists
in this, that in p, two flat
surfaces are struck against
each other; in t, a sharp
against a flat surface; in k,
a round against a hollow
surface. These three principal
contacts can be modified
almost indefinitely, in
some cases without perceptibly
altering the articulation. If we pronounce ku,
ka, ki, the point of contact between tongue and palate
139advances considerably without much influence on the
character of the initial consonant. The same applies
to the t contact. * Here the essential point is that the
tongue should strike against the wall formed by the
teeth. But this contact may be effected —
1. By flattening the tongue and bringing its edge
against the alveolar part of the palate.
2. By making the tongue convex, and bringing the
lower surface against the dome of the palate (these
are the lingual or cacuminal letters in Sanskrit †).
3. By making the tongue convex, and bringing the
upper surface against the palate, the tip against the
lower teeth (dorsal t in Bohemian).
4. By slightly opening the teeth and stopping the
aperture by the rounded tongue, or by bringing the
tongue against the teeth.
Most languages have only one t, the first or the
fourth; some have two; but we seldom find more
than two sets of dentals distinguished phonetically
in one and the same dialect.
If we place the tongue in a position intermediate
between the guttural and dental contact, we can produce
various consonantal sounds which go by the
general name of palatal. The click that can be
produced by jerking the tongue, from the position in
which ich and yea are formed, against the palate,
shows the possibility of a definite and simple consonantal
contact analogous to the two palatal breathings.
That contact, however, is liable to many modifications,
140and it oscillates in different dialects between ky and tsh.
The sound of ch in church, or Ital. cielo, is formed
most easily if we place the tongue and teeth in the
position described above for the formation of sh in
sharp, and then stop the breath by complete contact
between the tongue and the back of the teeth. Some
physiologists, and among them Brücke, * maintain that
ch in English and Italian consists of two letters, t followed
by sh, and should not be classed as a simple
letter. There is some truth in this, which, however,
has been greatly exaggerated from want of careful
observation. Ch may be said to consist of half t and
half sh; but half t and half sh give only one whole
consonant. There is an attempt of the organs at
pronouncing t, but that attempt is frustrated or
modified before it takes effect. † If Sanskrit grammarians
called the vowels ê and ô diphthongs, because
they combine the conditions of a and i, and of a and
u, we might call the Sanskrit ch a consonantal diphthong,
though even this would lead to the false supposition
that it was necessarily a double letter, which
it is not. That the palatal articulation may be
simple is clearly seen in those languages where, as
in Sanskrit, both ancient and modern, ch leaves a
short vowel that precedes it short, whereas a double
consonant would raise its quantity.
Few Sanskrit scholars acquainted with the Prâtiśâkhyas,
works describing the formation of letters,
would venture to speak dogmatically on the exact
pronunciation of the so-called palatal letters at any definite
period in the history of ancient Sanskrit. They
141may have been pronounced as they are now pronounced,
as consonantal diphthongs; they may have
differed from the gutturals no more than k in
kaw differs from k in key; or they may have
been formed by raising the convex part of the
tongue so as to flatten it against the palate, the
hinder part being in the k, and the front part in
the y position. The k, as sometimes heard in English,
in kind, card, cube, cow, sounding almost like kyind,
cyard, cyube, cyow, may give us an idea of the transition
of k into ky, and finally into English ch — a change
analogous to that of t into ch, as in natura, nature, or
of d into j, as in soldier, pronounced soljer, diurnale
changed to journal. In the northern dialects of Jutland
a distinct j is heard after k and g if followed by
œ, e, o, ö; for instance, kjœv', kjœr, gjekk, kjerk, skjell,
instead of kœv', kœr, &c. * However that may be, we
must admit, in Sanskrit and in other languages, a
class of palatals, sometimes modifications of gutturals,
sometimes of dentals, varying no doubt in pronunciation,
not only at different periods in the history of
the same language, but also in different localities;
yet sufficiently distinct to claim a place for themselves,
though a secondary one, between gutturals
and dentals, and embracing, as we shall see, the
same number of subdivisions as gutturals, dentals,
It is not always perceived that these three consonants
k, t, p, and their modifications, represent in
reality two quite different effects. If we say ka, the
effect produced on the ear is very different from ak.
In the first case the consonantal noise is produced by
142the sudden opening of the tongue and palate; in the
second by their shutting. This is still clearer in pa
and ap. In pa you hear the noise of two doors
opening, in ap of two doors shutting. In empire you
hear only half a p; the shutting takes place in the m,
and the p is nothing but the opening of the lips. In
topmost you hear likewise only half a p; you hear the
shutting, but the opening belongs to the m. The
same in uppermost. It is on this ground that mute
letters have sometimes been called dividuæ, or divisible,
as opposed to the first class, in which that
difference does not exist; for whether I say sa or as,
the sound of s is the same.
Soft Checks, or Mediæ.
We should now have finished our survey of the
alphabet of nature, if it was not that the consonantal
stops k, t, p, are liable to certain modifications, which,
as they are of great influence in the formation of
language, deserve to be carefully considered. What
is it that changes k into g and ng, t into d and n, p
into b and m? B is called a media, a soft letter, a
sonant, in opposition to p, which is called a tenuis, a
hard letter, or a surd. But what is meant by these
terms? A tenuis, we saw, was so called by the
Greeks in opposition to the aspirates, the Greek
grammarians wishing to express that the aspirates
had a rough or shaggy sound, * whereas the tenues
were bald, slight, or thin. This does not help us
much. ‘Soft’ and ‘hard’ are terms which no doubt
express the outward difference of p and b, but they
143do not explain the cause of that difference. ‘Surd’
and ‘sonant’ are apt to mislead; for, as both p and b
are classed as mutes, it is difficult to see how a mute
letter could be sonant. Some persons have been so entirely
deceived by the term sonant, that they imagined
all the so-called sonant letters to be necessarily pronounced
with tonic vibrations of the chordæ vocales. *
This is physically impossible; for if we really tried to
intone p or b, we should either destroy the p and b,
or be suffocated in our attempt at producing voice.
Both p and b, as far as tone is concerned, are aphonous
or mute. But b differs from p in so far as, in order
to pronounce it, the breath is for a moment checked
by the glottis, just as it was in pronouncing v instead
of f. What, then, is the difference between German
w and b? Simply that in the former no contact takes
place, and hence no cessation of breath, no silence;
whereas the mute b requires contact, complete contact,
and hence causes a pause, however short it may
seem, so that we clearly hear the breath all the time
it is struggling with the lips that shut in upon it.
We may now understand why the terms soft and hard,
as applied to b and p, are by no means so inappropriate
as has sometimes been supposed. Czermak, by
using his probe, as described above, found that hard
consonants (mutæ tenues) drove it up much more
violently than the soft consonants (mutæ mediæ). †
The normal impetus of the breath is certainly checked,
subdued, softened, when we pronounce b; it does not
strike straight against the barrier of the lips; it hesitates,
so to say, and we hear how it clings to the
glottis in its slow onward passage. This slight sound,
which is not caused by any rhythmic vibration, but
144only by a certain narrowing of the chordæ, is all that
can be meant when some grammarians call these
mute consonants sonant; and, physiologically, the only
appreciable difference between p and b, t and d, k and
g, is that in the former the glottis is wide open, in
the latter narrowed, but not so far stretched as to
produce musical tones.
Lastly, g, d, b, may be modified to ng, n, m. For
these three nasals a full contact takes place, but the
breath is stopped, not abruptly
as in the tenues, but
in the same manner as with
the mediæ. At the same
time the breathing is emitted,
not through the mouth,
but through the nose. It is
not necessary that breath
should be propelled through
the nose, as long as the veil
is withdrawn that separates
145the nose from the pharynx. Water injected into the
nose while n and m are pronounced rushes at once
into the windpipe. * Where the withdrawal of the
velum is rendered impossible by disease — such a case
came under Czermak's † observation — pure nasals cannot
be produced. ‡
The so-called mouillé or softened nasal, and all other
mouillé consonants, are produced by the addition of
a final y, and need not be classified as simple letters.
For most languages the letters hitherto described
would be amply sufficient; but in the more highly-organized
forms of speech new distinctions were introduced
and graphically expressed which deserve some
explanation. Instead of pronouncing a tenuis as it
ought to be pronounced, by cutting sharp through
the stream of breath or tone which proceeds from the
larynx, it is possible to gather the breath and to let it
explode audibly as soon as the consonantal contact is
withdrawn. In this manner we form the hard or
surd aspirates which occur in Sanskrit and in Greek,
kh, th, ph.
If, on the contrary, we pronounce g, d, b, and
allow the soft breathing to be heard as soon as the
contact is removed, we have the soft aspirates, which
are of frequent occurrence in Sanskrit, gh, dh, bh.146
Much discussion has been raised on these hard and
soft aspirates, the question being whether their first
element was really a complete consonantal contact, or
whether the contact was incomplete, and the letters
intended were hard and soft breathings. As we have
no means of hearing either the old Brahmans or
the ancient Greeks pronounce their hard aspirates,
and as it is certain that pronunciation is constantly
changing, we cannot hope to derive much aid either
from modern Pandits or from modern Greeks. The
Brahmans of the present day are said to pronounce
their kh, th, and ph like a complete tenuis, followed
by the spiritus asper. The nearest approach to kh
is said to be the English kh in inkhorn, though this
can hardly be a good illustration, as here the tenuis
ends and the aspirate begins a syllable. The Irish pronunciation
of hind, town, pig, has likewise been quoted
as in some degree similar to the Sanskrit hard aspirates.
In the modern languages of India where the
Sanskrit letters are transcribed by Persian letters, we
actually find kh represented by two letters, k and h,
joined together. The modern Greeks, on the contrary,
pronounce their three aspirates as breathings, like h,
th, f. It seems to me that the only two points of
importance are, first, whether these aspirates in Greek
or Sanskrit were formed with or without complete
contact, and secondly, whether they were classed as
surd or as sonant. Sanskrit grammarians allow, as
far as I can judge, of no doubt on either of these
points. The hard aspirates are formed by complete
contact (sprishṭa), and they belong to that class of
letters for which the glottis must be completely open,
i. e. to the surd or hard consonants. These two points
once established put an end to all speculations on the
147subject. What the exact sound of these letters was
is difficult to determine, because the ancient authorities
vary in their descriptions, but there is no uncertainty
as to their physiological character. They
are said to be uttered with a strong out-breathing
(mahapranah), but this, as it is shared by them in
common with the soft aspirates and the hard breaths,
cannot constitute their distinctive feature. Their technical
name ‘soshman,’ i. e. ‘with wind,’ would admit
of two explanations. ‘Wind’ might be taken in the
general sense of breath, or — and this is more correct
—in the sense of the eight letters called ‘the winds’ in
Sanskrit, h, ś, sh, s, tongue-root breath (Jihvâmûlîya),
labial breath (Upadhmânîya), neutral breath (Visarga),
and neutral nasal (Anusvâra). Thus it is maintained
by some ancient grammarians * that the hard aspirates
are the hard letters, k, t, p, together with the corresponding
winds or homorganic winds; that is to
say, kh is = k + tongue-root breath, th = t + s, ph = p
+ labial breath. The soft aspirates, on the contrary,
of which more hereafter, are said to be produced by
the union of the soft g, d, b, with the soft ʼh. It is
quite clear that the Sanskrit ʼh, which is not the spiritus
asper (though it has constantly been mistaken
for that), but a sonant letter, could not possibly form
the second element in the hard aspirates. They were
formed, as here described, by means of complete hard
contact, followed by the hard breaths of each organ.
The objections which other grammarians raise against
this view do not affect the facts, but only their explanation.
As they look upon all letters as eternal,
they cannot admit their composite character, and they
therefore represent the aspiration, not as an additional
148element, but as an external quality, and prescribe
for them a quicker pronunciation in order to prevent
any difference between them and other consonants.
In other letters the place, the contact, and the opening
or shutting of the glottis form the three constituent
elements; in the aspirates a fourth, the breath, is
added. The Sanskrit hard aspirates can only be considered
as k, t, p, modified by the spiritus asper, which
immediately follows them, and which assumes, according
to some, the character of the guttural, dental,
or labial breaths.
As to the Greek aspirates, we know that they belonged
to the aphōna, i. e. that they were formed by complete
contact. They were not originally hemiphona or
breaths, though they became so afterwards. That they
were hard, or pronounced with open glottis, we must
gather from their original signs, such as ΠΗ, and from
their reduplicated forms, tí-thēmi, ké-chyka, pé-phyka. *
It is more difficult to determine the real nature of
the Sanskrit soft aspirates, gh, dh, bh. According to
some grammarians they are produced by the union of
g, d, b, with ʼh, which in Sanskrit is a sonant letter,
a spiritus lenis, but slightly modified. † The same
grammarians, however, maintain that they are not
formed entirely with the glottis closed, or as sonant
letters, but that they and the h require the glottis
‘both to be opened and to be closed.’ What this means
is somewhat obscure. A letter may be either surd
or sonant, but it can hardly be both, and the fact that
not only the four soft aspirates but the simple ʼh ‡ also
149were considered as surd-sonant, would seem to show
that an intermediate rather than a compound utterance
is intended. One thing is certain, namely, that neither
the hard nor the soft aspirates were originally mere
breaths. They are both based on complete contact,
and thus differ from the hard and soft breaths which
sometimes take their places in cognate tongues.
We have thus finished our survey, which I have
kept as general as possible, without dwelling on
any of the less normal letters, peculiar to every
language, every dialect — nay, to the pronunciation
of every individual. It is the excessive attention
paid to these more or less peculiar letters that has
rendered most works on Phonetics so complicated and
unintelligible. If we have clearly impressed on our
mind the normal conditions of the organs of speech
in the production of vowels and consonants, it will be
easy to arrange the sounds of every new language
under the categories once established on a broad and
firm basis. To do this, to arrange the alphabet of any
given language according to the compartments planned
by physiological research, is the office of the grammarian,
not of the physiologist. But even here, too
much nicety is dangerous. It is easy to perceive
some little difference between k, t, p, as pronounced
by an Englishman and by a German; yet each has
only one set of tenues, and to class them as different
and represent them by different graphic exponents
would produce nothing but confusion. The Semitic
nations have sounds which are absent in the Indo-European
languages — the sounds which Brücke has
well described as gutturales veræ, true gutturals; for
150the letters which we commonly call gutturals, k, g,
have nothing to do with the guttur, but with the root
of the tongue and the soft palate. But their character,
if only accurately described, as it has been by
Czermak, will easily become intelligible to the student
of Hebrew and Arabic if he has but acquired a clear
conception of what has been well called the Alphabet
of Nature, To sum up, we must distinguish three
(1) What letters are made of.
(2) How they are made.
(3) Where they are made.
(1) Letters are formed —
(a) Of vocalized breath. These I call vowels
(Phōnḗenta, no contact).
(b) Of breath, not vocalized. These I call breaths
or spiritus (Hēmíphōna, slight contact).
(c) Of articulate noise. These I call checks or
stopping letters (Áphōna, complete contact).
(2) Letters are formed —
(a) With wide opening of the chordæ vocales.
These I call hard letters (psila, tenues, surd, sharp;
(b) With a narrowing of the chordæ vocales.
These I call soft letters (mesa, mediæ, sonant, blunt;
samvaranadaghoshali). This distinction applies both
to the breaths and to the checks, though the effect,
as pointed out, is different.
(3) Letters are formed in different places by active
and passive organs, the normal places being those
marked by the contact between the root of the tongue
and the palate, the tip of the tongue and the teeth,
and the upper and lower lips, with their various
places | breaths | checks | hard | soft | trilled | nasal | glottis | root of tongue and soft palate | root of tongue and hard palate | tip of tongue and teeth | tongue reversed and palate | tongue and edge of teeth | lower lip and upper teeth | upper and lower lips | upper and lower lips rounded | continuæ | prohibitivæ sive explosivæ152
Appendix to Lecture III.
Having on former occasions discussed the problem
of transcribing languages by a common alphabet, * I
should, for the present, have passed over that subject
altogether if I had not been repeatedly urged to
declare my opinion on other alphabets recommended
to the public by powerful advocates. No one has
worked more energetically for the propagation of a
common alphabet than Professor Lepsius, of Berlin;
and though, in my opinion, and in the opinion of much
more competent judges, such as Brücke, the physiological
basis of his alphabet is not free from error —
nay, though in the more limited field of languages
on which I can form an independent opinion he has
slightly misapprehended the nature of certain letters
and classes of letters — I should nevertheless rejoice in
the success even of an imperfect alphabet, supposing
it had any chance of general adoption. If his alphabet
could become the general alphabet at least among
African scholars, it would be a real benefit to that
new branch of philological studies. But I regret to
see that even in Africa those who, like Dr. Bleek,
are most anxious to follow the propositions of Professor
Lepsius, find it impossible to do so, ‘on
account of its too great typographical difficulties.’ †
If this is the case at a steam printing-office in Cape
Town, what can we expect at Neuherrnhut? Another
153and even more serious objection, urged likewise by a
scholar most anxious to support the Church Missionary
Alphabet, is that the scheme of Dr. Lepsius,
as modified by the Church of England and Continental
Missionary Societies has long ceased to be a
uniform system. ‘The Societies,’ says the Rev. Hugh
Goldie, in his ‘Dictionary of the Efik Language’
(Glasgow, 1862), ‘have not succeeded in establishing
a uniform system, for which Dr. Lepsius's alphabet
is taken as a base; deviations are made from
it, which vary in different languages, and which
destroy the claim of this system to uniformity.
Marks are employed in the Church of England
Society which are not employed by the continental
societies, and vice versâ. This, I think, is fatal to the
one great recommendation of the system, namely, its
claim to be received as a common system. Stripped
of its adventitious recommendations, and judged on
its own merits, we think it deficient in simplicity.’
These are serious objections; and yet I should
gladly have waived them and given my support to
the system of Professor Lepsius, if, during the many
years that it has been before the public, I had observed
any signs of its taking root, or of that slow and
silent growth which alone augurs well for the future.
What has been, I believe, most detrimental to its
success, is the loud advocacy by which it was attempted
to force that system on the acceptance of
scholars and missionaries, many of them far more
competent, in their own special spheres, * to form an
154opinion of its defects than either its author or its
patrons. That my unwillingness to adopt the system
of Professor Lepsius did not arise from any predilection
for my own Missionary Alphabet, I have
proved by adopting, when I write in English, the
system of Sir William Jones. My own system was,
in every sense of the word, a missionary system. My
object was, if possible, to devise an alphabet, capable
of expressing every variety of sound that could be physiologically
defined, and yet not requiring one single
new or artificial type. As in most languages we
find, besides the ordinary sounds that can be expressed
by the ordinary types, one, or at the utmost
two modifications to which certain letters or classes
of letters are liable, I proposed italics as exponents of
the first degree of modification, small capitals as exponents
of the second degree. Thus as, besides the
ordinary dentals, t, th, d, dh, we find in Sanskrit the
linguals, I proposed that these should be printed as
italics, t, th, d, dh, instead of the usual but more difficult
types, t′, th′, d′, dh′; or t̲, t̲h̲, d̲, d̲h̲. As in Arabic
we find, besides the ordinary dentals, another set of
155linguals, I proposed to express these too by italics.
These italics were only intended to show that the
dentals printed in italics were not meant for the usual
dentals. This would have been sufficient for those
not acquainted with Sanskrit or Arabic, while Sanskrit
and Arabic scholars could have had little doubt as to
what class of modified dentals was intended in Sanskrit
or Arabic. If certain letters require more than one
modification — as, for instance, t, s, n, r — then small
capitals would have come in, and only in very extreme
cases would an additional diacritical mark have been
required for a third modification of one common type.
If through the princely liberality of one opulent society,
the Church Missionary Society, * complete founts
of complicated and expensive types are to be granted
to any press that will ask for them, there is no further
need for italics or small capitals — mere make-shifts,
that could only have recommended themselves to poor
missionaries wishing to obtain the greatest results
by the smallest means. It is curious, however, that
in spite of all that has been urged against a systematic
use of italics, italics crop out almost everywhere both
in philological works at home and in missionary publications
abroad, while as yet I have very seldom met
with the Church Missionary ō for the vowel in French
coeur, or with the Church Missionary ṣ̌ for the Sanskrit
sh, as written by Sir W. Jones.
Within the circle of languages in which I take a
more immediate interest, the languages of India, the
adoption of the alphabet advocated by the Church
Missionary Society seems now, after the successful
exertions of Sir Charles Trevelyan, more than hopeless,
156nor do I think that for people situated like the
modern Hindus such a pis-aller as italics and small
capitals is likely to be popular. Living in England,,
and writing chiefly for England and India, I naturally
decided to follow that system which was so modestly
put forth by Sir William Jones in the first volume
of the ‘Asiatic Researches,’ and has since, with slight
modifications, not always improvements, been adopted
by the greatest Oriental scholars in India, England,
and the Continent. In reading that essay, written
about eighty years ago, one is surprised to see how
well its author was acquainted with all that is really
essential either in the physiological analysis or in the
philological definition of the alphabet. I do not think
the criticism of Professor Lepsius quite fair when he
imputes to Sir W. Jones ‘a defective knowledge of
the general organism of sounds, and of the distinct
sounds to be represented;’ nor can I blame the distinguished
founder of the Asiatic Society for the imperfect
application of his own principles, considering
how difficult it is for a scholar to sacrifice his own
principles to considerations of a more practical nature
The points on which I differ from Sir W. Jones are
of very small consequence. They arise from habit
rather than from principle. I should willingly give
them up if by so doing I could help to bring about a
more speedy agreement among Sanskrit scholars in
England and India. I am glad to find that in the
second edition of his ‘Standard Alphabet’ Professor
Lepsius has acknowledged the practical superiority of
the system of Sir W. Jones in several important points,
and I think he will find that his own system may be
still further improved, or at all events have a better
chance of success in Europe as well as in India, if it
157approaches more and more closely to that excellent
standard. The subjoined table will make this clearer
than any comment: —
* Scholion to Dionysius Thrax, in Anecdota Bekk. p. 810.
Φωνητικὰ ὄργανα τρία εἰσὶν, ἡ γλώσσα, οἱ ὀδόντες, τὰ χείλη. Τοϊς μὲν
ούν ἄκροις χείλεσι πιλουμένοις ἐκφωνεϊται [τὸ π], ώστε σχεδὸν μηδὲ
ὁλίγον τι πνεὔμα παρεκβαίνειν. ἀνοιγομένων δὲ τών χειλέων πάνυ
καὶ πνεύματος πολλοὔ έζιόντος, έκφωνείται τὸ φ. τέ δὲ β, ἐκφωνούμενον
ὁμοίως τοϊς ἄκροις τών χειλέων, τουτέστι περὶ τὸν αὐτὸν τόπον τοϊς
προλεχθεϊσι τών φωνητικών ὀργάνων, οὔτε πάνυ ἀνώγει τὰ χείλη ώς
τὸ φ, οὔτε πάνυ πιλεϊ ώς τὸ π, ἀλλὰ μέσην τινὰ δίέζοδον τᾠ πνεύματι
πεφεισμένως δίδωσιν, κ.τ.λ. See Rudolph von Raumer, Sprachwissenschaftliche
Schriften, p. 102; Curtius, Griechische Etymologie,
ii. p. 30.
† Raumer, l. c. p. 100.
* Prâtiśâkhya du Rig-Veda, par M. Ad. Regnier, in the Journal
Asiatique, Paris, 1856-58.
Text und Uebersetzung des Prâtiśâkhya, oder der ältesten
Phonetik und Grammatik, in M. M.'s edition of the Rig-Veda,
Das Vâjasanêyi-Prâtiśâkhyam, published by Prof. A. Weber,
in Indische Studien, vol. iv, Berlin, 1858.
The Atharva-Veda Prâtiśâkhya, by W. D. Whitney, Newhaven,
1862. The same distinguished scholar is preparing an
edition of the Prâtiśâkhya of the Taittirîya-Veda. As the hymns
of the Sâmaveda were chanted, and not recited, no Prâtiśâkhya
or work on phonetics exists for this Veda.
† Works on Phonetics by Alexander J. Ellis. — The Alphabet of
Nature; or, contributions towards a more accurate analysis and
symbolisation of spoken sounds, with some account of the principal
Phonetical alphabets hitherto proposed. Originally published in
the Phonotypic Journal, June 1844 to June 1845. London and
Bath, 1845. 8vo. pp. viii. 194. The Essentials of Phonetics; containing
the theory of a universal alphabet, together with its practical
application as an ethnical alphabet to the reduction of all
languages, written or unwritten, to one uniform system of writing,
with numerous examples, adapted to the use of Phoneticians, Philologists,
Etymologists, Ethnographists, Travellers, and Missionaries.
In lieu of a second edition of the Alphabet of Nature. London,
1848. 8vo. pp. xvi. 276. Printed entirely in a Phonetic character,
with illustrations in twenty-seven languages, and specimens of
various founts of Phonetic type. The Ethnical Alphabet was also
published as a separate tract. English Phonetics; containing an
original systematisation of spoken sounds, a complete explanation
of the Reading Reform Alphabet, and a new universal Latinic
Alphabet for Philologists and Travellers. London, 1854. 8vo.
pp. 16. Universal Writing and Printing with Ordinary Letters,
for the use of Missionaries, Comparative Philologists, Linguists,
and Phonologists (Edinburgh and London, 1856, 4to. pp. 22),
containing a complete Digraphic, Travellers' Digraphic, and Latinic
Alphabets (of which the two first were published separately),
with examples in nine languages, and a comparative table of the
Digraphic, Latinic, suggested Panethnic, Prof. Max Muller's
Missionary, and Dr. Lepsius's Linguistic Alphabets. A Plea for
Phonetic Spelling; or, the Necessity of Orthographic Reform.
London, 8vo. First edition, 1844, pp. 40. Second edition, 1848,
pp. 180, with an Appendix, showing the inconsistencies of
hetéric orthography, and the present geographical extent of the
writing and printing reform. Third edition, with an Appendix,
containing the above tables remodelled, an account of existing
Phonetic alphabets, and an elaborate Inquiry into the Variations
in English Pronunciation during the last Three Centuries, has
been in the press in America since 1860, but has been stopped by
the civil war. The whole text, pp. 151, has been printed.
* Gesammelte Sprachwissenschaftliche Schriften, von Rudolph
von Raumer. Frankfort, 1863. (Chiefly on classical and Teutonic
† Kadmus, oder Allgemeine Alphabetic, von F. H. du Bois-Reymond.
Berlin. 1862. (Containing papers published as early
as 1811, and full of ingenious and original observations.)
* Lepsius, Standard Alphabet, second edition, 1863. (On the
subject in general, but particularly useful for African languages.)
† Das Natürliche Lautsystem der Menschlichen Sprache, von
Dr. M. Thausing. Leipzig, 1863. (With special reference to
the teaching of deaf and dumb persons.)
* Helmholtz, Einleitung, p. 2.
* It is customary to reckon by single vibrations in France and
Germany, although some German writers adopt the English
fashion of reckoning by double vibrations or complete excursions
backwards and forwards. Helmholtz uses double vibrations, but
Scheibler uses single vibrations. De Morgan calls a double oscillation
* Helmholtz, l. c. p. 82.
† l. c. p. 38.
‡ l. c. p. 54.
§ l. c. p. 143.
‖ l. c. p. 162.
* Funke, Lehrbuch der Physiologie, p. 664, from observations
made by J. Müller.
* Weber, Wellenlehre, p. 495.
* London and Westminster Review, Oct. 1837, pp. 34, 37.
* l. c. p. 188.
* Funke, Handbuch der Physiologie, p. 673. Different views of
Willis and Brücke, p. 678.
† Helmholtz, p. 171.
‡ l. c. p. 172.
* I give instances of short and long vowels, both in open and
closed syllables (i. e. not followed or followed by consonants),
because in English particularly, hardly any vowels pair when
free and stopped. On the qualitative, and not only quantitative,
difference between long and short vowels, see Brücke, l. c.
p. 24, seq.; and R. von Raumer.
* Brücke, p. 13.
† As pronounced by children.
* Ellis, § 29.
* ‘While the tongue gets ready to pronounce i, the lips assume
the position requisite for u.’ — Du Bois-Reymond, Kadmus, p. 150.
† The German ö, if shortened, seems to dwindle down to the
neutral vowel, e. g. Öfen, ovens, but öffnen, to open. See Du Bois-Reympnd,
Kadmus, p. 173. Nevertheless, it is necessary to distinguish
between the German Götter and the English gutter.
‡ Brücke speaks of this and some other vowels which occur in
English in closed syllables as imperfect vowels. — p. 23.
* Brücke, p. 16.
† Sitzungsberichte der K. K. Akademie zu Wien (Mathemat.
Naturwissenschaftliche Classe), xxiv. p. 5.
* Funke, l. c. p. 676.
† Bindseil, Abhandlungen zur Allgemeinen Vergleichenden
Sprachlehre, 1838, p. 212.
‡ Brücke, p. 27.
§ The different degrees of this closure were tested by the experiment
of Prof. Czermak with a metal looking-glass applied
to the nostrils during the pronunciation of pure and nasal vowels.
Sitzungsberichte der Wiener Akademie, xxviii. p. 575, xxix. p. 174.
* Buschmann, Iles Marq. p. 36, 59. Pott, Etymologïsche Forschungen,
* Hale, l. c. p. 120.
† Czermak, Physiologische Untersuchungen mil Garcia's Kehlkopfspiegel,
Sitzungsberichte der K. K. Akademie der Wissenschaften,
vol. xxix. 1858, p. 563.
* Brücke, p. 9.
† Brücke, p. 85. ‘If in pronouncing the spiritus asper the
glottis is narrowed, we hear the pure tone of the voice without
any additional noise,’ The noise, however, is quite perceptible,
particularly in the vox clandestina.
‡ Brücke, Grundzüge, p. 9.
* See R. von Raumer, Gesammelte Schriften, p. 371, note.
Johannes Müller says, ‘The only continua which is quite mute and
cannot be accompanied by the tone or the humming of the voice,
is the h, the aspirate. If one attempts to pronounce the h loud,
with the tone of the chordæ vocales, the humming of the voice is
not synchronous with the h, but follows it, and the aspiration
vanishes as soon as the air is changed into tones by the chordæ
* See Lepsius, Die Arabischen Sprachlaute, p. 108, line 1.
† This distinction is very lucidly described by R. von Raumer,
Gesammelte Schriften, p. 444. He calls the hard letters flatæ,
blown, the soft letters halatæ, breathed. He observes that breathed
letters, though always sonant in English, are not so in other
languages, and therefore divides the breathed consonants, physiologically,
into two classes, sonant and non-sonant. This distinction,
however, is apt to mislead, and is of no importance in
reducing languages to writing. See also Investigations into the
Laws of English Orthography and Pronunciation, by Prof.
R. L. Tafel. New York, 1862.
* The same sound occurs in some of the Dayak dialects of
Borneo. See Surat Peminyuh Daya Sarawak, Reading Book for
Land and Hill Dayaks, in the Sentah dialect. Singapore, 1862.
Printed at the Mission Press.
† Ellis, English Phonetics, § 47.
* Brücke, l. c. p. 34.
* Sitzungsberichte der Mathematisch-Naturivissenschaftlichen
Classe der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, vol. xxix.
p. 576, seq. Professor Lepsius, Die Arabischen Sprachlaute, has
but partially adopted the views of Brücke and Czermak on what
they call the Gutturales Veræ in Arabic. See also the curious
controversy between Professor Brücke and Professor Lepsius, in
the 12th volume of the Zeitschrift für Vergleichende Sprachforschung.
* Universal Writing and Printing, by A. J. Ellis, B. A., 1856,
* l. c. p. 116.
† In Pâṇini, i. 1, 9, y, r, l, v, are said to be pronounced with
îshatspṛishṭam, slight touch; ś, sh, s, h, with vivṛitam, opening,
or îshadvivṛitam, slight opening, or asprishṭam, no contact.
* Brücke, p. 38.
† Formerly called cerebral, a mistranslation of mûrddhanya,
thoughtlessly repeated by many Sanskrit scholars and retained by
others, on the ground that it is too absurd to mistake. Brücke,
* Brücke, p. 63, seq. He would, however, distinguish these
concrete consonants from groups of consonants, such as ξ, ψ.
† Du Bois-Reymond, Kadmus, p. 213.
* See Kuhn's Zeitschrift, xii. 147.
* Brücke, p. 90. τώ πνεύματι πολλώ, Dion Hal. R. von Raumer,
Die Aspiration, p. 103.
* Funke, p, 685. Brücke, Grundzüge, p. 7, 89.
† l. c. p. 9.
* Czermak, Wiener Akademie, xxiv. p. 9.
† Funke, p. 681. Czermak, Wiener Akademie, xxix. p. 173.
‡ Professor Helmholtz has the following remarks on M and N:
‘M and N resemble the vowels in their formation, because they
cause no noise in the buccal tube. The buccal tube is shut, and
the voice escapes through the nose. The mouth only forms a
resounding cavity, modifying the sound. If we watch from below
people walking up-hill and speaking together, the nasals m and
n are heard longest.’
* Survey of Languages, p. xxxii. Śâkala-prâtiśâkhya, xiii. 18.
* Raumer, Aspiration, 96. Curtius, Gr. Etymologie, ii. p. 11.
† If Sanskrit writing were not of so late a date, the fact that
the Vedic ḍh or ḷh is actually represented by a combination of
ḷ and h might be quoted in support of this theory ( = ).
‡ Śâkala-Prâtiśâkhya, xiii. 1. The expression ‘the breath
becomes both sonant and surd between the two,’ i. e. between the
complete opening and shutting, shows that an intermediate sound
* Proposals for a Missionary Alphabet in M. M.'s Survey of
Languages (2nd edition), 1855.
† Dr. Bleek, Comparative Grammar, p. xii.
* Professor Lepsius has some interesting remarks on the African
clicks. The Rev. J. L. Dohne, author of a Zulu Kofir Dictionary,
expressed himself against Dr. Lepsius's proposal to write
the clicks before their accompanying letters. He at the same time
advanced some etymological arguments in support of his own view.
How is the African missionary answered by the Berlin Professor?
I quote Professor Lepsius's reply, which, if it did not
convince, must have startled and stunned his humble adversary.
‘Equally little.’ he writes, ‘should we be justified in inferring from
the fact that in the Sanskrit let'i (sic), he licks, from
lih, and ti, t' (sic) must be pronounced not as th (sic), but
as ht (sic).’ How the change of Sanskrit h and t into ḍ' ( is ḍh,
not ṭh) has any bearing on the Rev. J. L. Döhne's argument
about the clicks, I am afraid few missionaries in Africa will
* See Resolution 2, carried August 26, 1861, at the Church
Missionary House, London.