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ten language is decidedly more fixed and perma- | him saying, that the objections on the matter of nent in its nature, and admits of being ascertained theoretical propriety are referable to the following more distinctly, than the spoken language; indeed, heads :we would 'seriously recommend this amendment to Mr. Ellis. If he must have some reform, if writing and speech must of necessity be merely the reflection of one another, let him commence an agitation for a graphic reform, and invite the world to pronounce English as it is written. rangement is in theory more reasonable than his phonetic proposal, and just as likely to succeed in practice.

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As soon as a language has obtained a literary existence, we say it is subject to a literary standard of spelling, just as much as a spoken language is subject to a vocal standard of pronunciation. The principle under which it began, whether phonetic or ideagraphic, was a scaffolding merely from which to launch it into independent existence; and to talk as Mr. Ellis does of our present orthography being an utter failure," because it is not strictly phonetic, is just as absurd as it would be to call such words as rumble, bang, splash, &c. utter failures, because, though originally imitative, they are now only conventionally significant sounds. Perhaps a reference to the case of proper names will illustrate our position better than anything else, although what we say of them is true of all words whatever. Mr. Ellis is particularly severe on such a piece of hetericism as that Mr. " Tirit" (for instance) should spell his name Tyrrwhitt. The only answer to this is, that such is his name. His spoken name is Tirit, his written name is Tyrrwhitt; his written name is no more "Tirit," ," than his spoken name is Jones. If there were no such thing as written English, he would have no written name; but there is a written English, and he has a written name: it is Tyrrwhitt; it is a fact, and there is, or should be, an end of the matter. But facts go for nothing with an enthusiast; it is, nevertheless, just this incapacity to recognize and submit to facts which makes the difference between a useless visionary and a useful reformer.*

It will be said that the above positions are mere assertions, unsupported by proof. They are, however, we believe, positions which most people who consider steadily the real nature of language will admit to be correct. It is evident that they lie at the root of the whole question, and that, unless they can be controverted, the entire superstructure of phonetics must fall to the ground. Dr. Latham sees this clearly enough, and he accordingly asserts positions directly contradictory of ours. In his first letter to the Athenæum, (before cited,) we find *Mr. Punch, whose sense of the ludicrous has led him to cut some jokes on the phonetic system in general, describing it as" originally invented by Winifred Jenkins, and carried to its greatest height by Jeames, with the able assistance of Yellowplush and Pitman," yet admits that its introduction in the case of some proper names would be desirable. And yet it is more obviously (though not more truly) absurd in these cases than in any other; but a little liberal prejudice obscured his reasoning powers for a moment; the desire to have a sneer at what he chooses to connect with "aristocratic humbug" was too strong for him. See the number for 24th February, 1849.


1. The value of the present orthography in distinguishing by spelling words which, although different in meaning, are identical in sound. 2. The value of the same as indicative of the etymological origin of words. 3. The value of the same in forming a standard of language. Each of the three functions is incompatible with a true notion of the real office of an alphabet. This is to represent the language to which it belongs, taking it as it is, and attempting no secondary or subordinary effects. To talk about there being a written language and a spoken language, is to talk of there being two sorts of men, real and painted; or men in the flesh and blood, and men in pictures. There is but one reality; the duplicate is merely a representation. This representation may be good or bad; i. e. an alphabet may represent a language just as a portrait may represent a face, well, indifferently, or not at all. To ensure its doing the first, it should be made to keep to the representation alone; to ensure its doing the third, it should be made to represent and do something more. And this is what is done in English.


1. Two words are alike in sound but different in To express this difference we make a distinction in the spelling, although it was unnecessary in the speaking, and so conceal the likeness; just as if, in order to distinguish two Dromios from one another, we put a different color on their portraits. of the language, the proper function of an alphabet, Whatever else may gain by this, the representation loses. 2. Again, we spell a word like city with c, although s (sity) would have done as well. By this we get a certain fact made somewhat clearer than it would have been otherwise; namely, the fact that the English city is connected with the Latin civitas. dundant letter. At present I am only writing in The price we pay for this is the addition of a rethe way of illustration; i. e. to show that our present alphabet aims at objects other than the simple representation of a language. I therefore abstain from further remarks; my wish being to give prominence to the fact, that alphabetic writing has only one function; namely, to represent. To mix up etymology, and to give the history of a word as well as its sound, is no proper function. On the conat the expense of the representation; just as a portrary, it is an intention which can only be fulfilled trait that should attempt to give a family pedigree as well as a likeness, (family or not,) would be something other than a true portrait, and by no means an improvement on one.

We can only meet these representations by a direct denial of their correctness. We are not very partial to arguing by means of metaphors and similes, because they seldom run on all-fours; but we have no objection to adopt Dr. Latham's figure of the portrait, for it is a good one, and exactly proves what we have been saying. Granting that writing was originally a picture of speaking, what then?

A picture, when it is made, is thenceforth an existing independent thing; there was before only one thing, the man; now there are two things, the man and the picture. Because the picture was originally intended to be like the man, is that a reason for keeping it like the man; touching it up, and altering it day after day, as the man grows

uglier or handsomer? under such conditions?

points to his 100,000 copies of phonetic publications, and to his list of" phonetic corresponding societies," as a proof that in practice, at least, phoneticism is not impossible, we answer, that these afford no proof of real life. Phoneticism is still in the hands of its authors and of those who claim, as reflected light, part of the fame of its authors as its first supporters and propagators;

will, are engaged in maintaining, in what is in reality a soulless model, the appearances of vitality; but it is but a galvanic motion that can be imparted, and as soon as the master has left off applying the battery, and the pupils have got tired of their plaything, it will tumble down again, a mere inanimate lump of vowels and consonants. It will never be able to go alone.

Can a picture long exist Will it not inevitably be spoiled? From the moment the picture has begun to be, it and the man are distinct; from that moment each begins to change and grow old, in obedience to the laws of its own nature, and not in imitation of the other. If after a certain lapse of time the picture is no longer a resemblance, and it is thought necessary (for any reason) to have a re-enthusiasm, vanity, prejudice, call it what you semblance, a new picture must be made; but we are not now considering whether such a necessity has arisen, but the truth of the position, that it is the nature of the picture to keep like the original, and that it does not " perform its functions" unless it keeps like the original. Such is not its nature, and such are not its functions; it has no functions to perform, unless natural life and growth can be so called. Dr. Latham should have taken rather the simile of the reflection of a man in a mirror; it would have suited his line of argument better; but it would have been entirely inapplicable to the case of language, for his own view of the present condition of English, or, if not that, a reference to any of the symbolic languages, is a sufficient proof that a written language is capable of existing, and does actually exist, independently of the spoken language.

We have hitherto endeavored to consider the principle of phonetics, as laid down and asserted by its champions, singly and in the abstract; but so impalpable and contradictory is it, that it is no easy task to fix the attention on it steadily; and often while fancying we were contemplating its nature and consequences, we have found that the phantom had altogether slipped away, leaving a very different proposition in its place, which, not being demonstrably impracticable and absurd, can stand up to be looked a little more in the face. It is probable that many members of " phonetic corresponding societies," who fancy they are worshipping the true divinity, are in reality prostrate at the feet of this intrusive idol; for it is evident from more than one passage in his writings (as we have already hinted) that even Mr. Ellis himself occasionally falls into a similar mistake.

Although Mr. Ellis occasionally loses sight of the real nature of his own "revolution," let us endeavor to consider steadily its true character and necessary results. There is to be no standard of correct writing, it is said that a written word should be anything but a reproduction, by means of phonetic letters, of the sound made by the writer in pronouncing the same word, is denounced as a monstrous absurdity. A writer is to disregard all The changeling proposition to which we refer literary authority, and to do nothing but to analyze is this; not that there should be no literary standhis own accents, else his spelling will not be pho-ard, but that there ought to be a new one; or, to netic. Now, let anybody ask himself what chance resume Dr. Latham's metaphor, that the time is a language has of subsisting in any purity which come to paint a fresh picture. is to be dealt with in this way? It is proposed to reduce the English language to the stage at which that of the Cannibal Islanders and other savages, whose words have been merely jotted down by missionaries and travellers, now is, viz., a mere imitation of sounds, having no existence apart from those sounds; and not only reducing it to that stage, but keeping it there; for although the Caffres and Bushmen, as soon as they have a literature, will assuredly (unless there be Pitmans and Ellises in their land also) have a literary language obedient to a literary standard, we, although we have, or used to have, a literature, are, it seems, not to have a literary language.

A few quotations will soon show that it is a change of this nature that has been present (though undetected) to Mr. Ellis' mind, while he has be lieved himself to be advocating the cause of phoneticism pur et simple; and that, provided the new standard is to be of his own making, he has contemplated such a state of things with considerable complacency. He now appears no longer as the assertor of the liberties of the people against orthographical tyranny in general, but merely as the founder of a new dynasty, which is in principle and may become in practice just as tyrannical and arbitrary as the old. For instance, at the very outset, is not his alphabet itself a piece of dictation? Do what you will, you will never get anything Why is anybody to adopt it rather than set about to live upon principles and by means of forces ex-inventing one for himself? Why should we be ternal to itself. Whether it be a plant or a constitution, a language or an old gentleman, it matters not; it must live by its own life or be lifeless. Phoneticism is in principle an attempt to make written English live, not by its own life, but by the life of spoken English; it is, therefore, in principle false and contradictory, and by necessary consequence impossible in practice. If Mr. Ellis

*Messrs. Pitman and Ellis' alphabet is, perhaps, as complete as it is possible that such an alphabet should be; we are far from wishing to depreciate it; on the contrary, we look on it as quite a monument of patient analysis and linguistic science; but it is decidedly inadequate to express correctly all the sounds made in English speaking; the vowels in particular, though there are sixteen of them, the verb to produce, and the ow in own, expressed by the are obviously insufficient. For instance, we find the o in same type, (see the Spelling Reformer No. I., p. 5.)

We have received letters from all parts of England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and America, in phonetic spelling, and find the real points of dif ference very small indeed [if this be so, it can only be because the authority which he claims has been accepted.] And it must be recollected (he con

obliged to take letters ready made any more than uniformity of spelling would cease," Mr. Ellis words? But letting that pass, and granting him gives the following curious and remarkable the privilege of making our alphabet for us, at answer. First, he saysleast he should stop there and leave us to spell for ourselves according to our own phonetic views. See, however, how royally he again interferes with our liberties, and prescribes for us the course we must freely follow :-"We instituted many experiments. We began, as was most natural, in attempting to furnish the most accurate represen- tinues) that this diversity will be almost confined tation we could produce of the familiar converto manuscript. Printers' readers will correct the spelling according to the most approved standard of sational style of speech. After several exper-pronunciation, as exhibited in proper pronouncing iments, we decided that this should not be adopted, dictionaries.*" as it was too vague and unpleasant;" and after some consideration, we are told that his majesty led to adopt the stiff rhetorical pronunciation as the standard by which to regulate our spelling." "We have at length arrived at a system of using phonetic spelling which is satisfactory to ourselves, authority in the matter. and of which we hear remarkably few complaints." Why should anybody complain of it, unless human instinct was longing for an authority on which it could rely?

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In the process of time, as our characters become more and more familiar to the eye, we expect that these complaints will become less and less, and that our orthography will be adopted, not on its own authority, (he adds, however, to save his principles,)

but because it is found the most desirable.

This is again simply giving up the whole position. These standards of pronunciation (so called) would obviously be literary standardswritten books; there is, then, to be a reference to What! refer to a mere

image; copy a copy when we have the original at hand? Why should a man take his spelling from a dictionary? He is to spell as he pronounces; you have told him so; dictionaries have nothing to do with it; one of the great blessings of the phonetic system is, that everybody who knows how to pronounce a word knows how to spell it. Are these your revolutionary principles? Up with the barricades—we want a 23d of June here!

Although, strictly speaking, we are not called So Napoleon was elected Emperor of France upon to make the defence of our present orthogby universal suffrage.

In the mean time it is, of course, to be expected that many other printing-offices besides our own will be used for phonetic printing, and in these various styles of spelling will be adopted. For instance, in the American newspapers printed in phonotypes we meet with spellings which would not be tolerated in England. But by this concurrence of different orthographies we expect ultimately to arrive at a round, smooth, and pleasant system; as when stones are rolled on in the current of a river they lose their rough edges and distinctive forms.--Plea, p. 126.

This is, plainly, altogether an abandonment of the phonetic principles; instead of an assertion of the absolute liberty of the subject, we are presented with a congress of sovereigns making mutual compromises and trafficking away the independence of their people without consulting

raphy against any other given orthography, as such a change, the mere substitution of a new code for the old, is not in terms proposed by the advocates of the spelling reform; yet, as it is the only result which Mr. Ellis, supposing he were allowed to have everything his own way, could, from the nature of things, produce; and, moreover, as it is probably the result which in reality most of his followers look to, whenever they deliberately look to any at all, we will say a few words on the subject. We may now descend from the region of definitions and abstract principles : this change does not involve a contradiction in terms, it is to be considered as a practical question; first, whether it is worth bringing about; and, secondly, whether it is possible to bring it about. To the consistent phoneticist we need only observe that the new code, when created, and however created, would be as arbitrary as the old; but to the hetericist, still faithful to his allegiance, but whose belief in the divine right of A the Great, and the Prince Royal little a, and Bouncing B the Grand Vizier, and the other potentates of the despotism (absurdly called the republic) of Letters, has been a little shaken by It would seem that objections of this kind have been the insidious whispers of the revolutionary agents, pressed upon Mr. Ellis his answer is, that "experience we will propose one or two questions. 1. By has proved that it is sufficient for all the purposes claimed whom is the code to be composed? for it, and that it imparts a good pronunciation." (Penny 2. By what Packets, Part V.) This is another instance, in addition authority is it to be promulgated and enforced? to those in the text, of the naïve manner in which Mr. 3. How long is it to last? Who is to say when Ellis every now and then gives up his whole case; he forgets that according to his principles an alphabet cannot be practically sufficient unless it is absolutely complete; and that it is not likely that deliberately laying down a wrong pronunciation can impart a good one.


Again, when undertaking to dispose of the following objection, which he put in the mouth of a hetericist, that "phonetic pupils, spelling as they pronounce, would spell very variously, and

it shall be renewed?

And even if distinct and satisfactory answers could be given to these (which * Penny Packets, Part V.

Among his answers to the objection that the confusion and uncertainty of phonetic spelling would be intolerable, Mr. Ellis makes the counercharge that the spelling of one word in sixty of the English language is uncertain under the present system, and that it is a mistake to believe in the fixity of our present heteric orthography (Plea, p. 27 ;) from which he infers that we have no right to make any objections to his scheme on similar grounds, as we should be no worse off in that respect under the new régime than under the old.

This, we must say, looks very like what used to be called "cavilling;" it is with difficulty that we can believe that Mr. Ellis is himself convinced by his own argument. It is an entire misrepresentation to say that the spelling of all words which may properly be spelt in more than one


are indispensable preliminaries,) we should still | decline having anything to do with introducing (or rather attempting to introduce) such a change ourselves, and advise our readers to follow our example, simply because it is from its nature impracticable. You can no more change a nation's language than you can change a nation's character or constitution, all in a lump: none of these things can be dealt with by abrogating the old by proclamation, and bringing in the new full grown and complete in all its branches; it may look very pretty, but it will want one indispensable quality-life. The experiment has been tried in politics more than once, but always with the same inevitable result-ridiculous failure. No change can really take place in a language, written or spoken, except in the way of growth and development according to its own conditions, and by the force of its own internal energies. Mr. | way, such as chemist, chymist, is uncertain;* the Ellis perceives and expresses this truth clearly road to a place is not uncertain when there are enough with respect to spoken English :-" We two known paths equally convenient leading to it; feel," he says, ("whether justly or not is another it would be uncertain if there were no path, and question,)* that it cannot be all pure convention; nobody could tell how to get there except by that the stamp of nature is upon it."-Plea, p. making a long calculation and taking observations 13. Strange that he should not have felt that this with map, sextant, and compass for himself. is just as true of the written English! If the man is not left in uncertainty when he is told he tree of the British tongue has grown up irregu-may write with propriety either chemist or chymist; larly, so much the worse; if you wish to see it otherwise, you may do something by training its twigs into a straighter direction for the future; but you will not mend matters by cutting it down and planting the most symmetrical of Maypoles in its place. The tendency of its growth for the last three hundred years has been towards simplification; not very rapidly, it must be admitted, and with two or three anomalous exceptions, but on a general view certainly in that direction; and any one who thinks proper may do something towards encouraging that tendency by adopting every change which, from time to time, presents itself, or even if he will, by originating such as, from time to time, the genius of the language seems to warrant; but more than this he cannot do, the inexorable laws of the universe are against him; and if he attempts more, he will most assuredly, whatever his talents, his knowledge, and his energy, and however great the number of followers that these may temporarily gather round him, meet with the fate of all his fellows in failure, mortification, and oblivion.†

*This parenthesis is characteristic of the doctrinaire. He is not sure but what there "ought" to be a universal language; constructed on scientific principles, of course. At p. 115 of the Plea, Mr. Ellis, with singular inconsistency, admits the force of these last objections:"No power," he admits, "is likely to effect such a change but the power of habit acting through a long space of time." "The change from the heteric to the phonetic style of printing may, and probably will, be so gradual as scarcely to be perceptible." What can this mean? If ever there was a change abrupt, sudden, and complete, it is the proposed change from heteric to phonetic writing. Does Mr. Ellis intend that people should begin by writing one word in a thousand phonetically, and the rest heterically; then by degrees one in 999, one in 999, and so forth? The flow of the phonetic tide over the land may he gradual, as it has been, and as its ebb will be; but the change to phonetics by any individual cannot be gradual; it must be a revolution, not a reform.

but it is to leave him in woful uncertainty to tell him, There is no right way of writing the word at all—find out for yourself.

As to there being now a fixed standard of orthography, it is true that none has been directly revealed from Heaven, or fixed by an act of Parliament-but it exists; Mr. Ellis himself and every other educated man in the country possesses it, and that is enough.

Having thus shown that the phonetic reform in its pure state is absolutely false and self-contradictory in principle, (professing as it does to deal with a literary language in a way inconsistent with the conditions of existence of a literary language,) and that in the very modified form of a proposal for reforming our spelling it is quite impossible in practice, we need not spend much time in considering the list of advantages which Mr. Ellis promises from its adoption-seeing that it cannot be adopted. We will, however, for the amusement of our readers, quote a few of his sentences in further confirmation of the remark which we have already made about natural rhetoric. Since the days of the great Twalmley we seldom remember to have met with more monstrous instances of that common weakness which the Greek could describe in a word, but for which we require a sentence-alaŝóveiα, the tendency to attach undue importance to one's own favorite subject.

John Bull,"with all thy faults," thou canst not be *The list which Mr. Ellis quotes and adopts from Worcester's English Dictionary (see Appendix to the Plea) of words spelt in more than two ways by different authorities, is abominably unfair. Many of the words, as cymar, sheik, are not English words at all; and several varieties of spelling are given which no one would think of using. Ribbon and riband may both be lawful, but who would think of using ribband or ribbin?


accused of being a doctrinaire; it is useless in this under the new system. There is barely one man country to urge a change or a reform merely on in a hundred, even among the educated classes, the ground of theoretical completeness or consist- who possesses that power of watching and analyzency; it must be shown that some practical good ing spoken sounds which would enable him to spell will result from it. It was not likely that some accurately upon any phonetic principle, however scores of millions would submit to a complete well devised; and that one man, after he had once overthrow of one of their most deep-rooted prac- settled to his own satisfaction how to spell a given tices, merely for the beaux yeux of Messrs. Pitman word, (a task at least as laborious as that of learnand Ellis; it was necessary to connect the pro-ing how to spell a word as we now do,) would ever posal with some object of practical interest. Edu- afterwards write it not phonetically, (i. e. with refercation at once suggested itself-enlightenment-ence to its sound,) but by rote and unconsciously, propagation of useful knowledge; they have some- and the other ninety-nine would, (as we do now,) thing to do with reading and writing, and make a simultaneously and without conscious effort, acquire capital cry; and so we find it proclaimed (and no and acquiesce in the spelling which they found used doubt with the most perfect self-deceived sincerity) by others. Is it not too absurd to find a man, who that the cause of spelling reform is inseparably has learnt to read and write himself, and who connected with that of education, and that it is, in knows that everybody above the rank of idiot, and fact, "the sole means of making the education of even many idiots, can be taught to read and write the poor in this country possible!!" "What the too, speaking of those arts as "the most difficult invention of printing was to the middle ages," of all human attainments,"* and of "the difficulty says Mr. Ellis," the introduction of phonetic spell- of learning the separate meanings of ninety thouing will be to the present day. This is the great, sand symbols?” (Plea, p. 53.) We do not learn the noble, the holy cause in which we are engaged." them, they "come by nature;" reading and writAgain "Five million Englishmen cannot read; ing "grow with what they feed on," and whateight million Englishmen cannot write. Why?" ever the system of spelling, the actual state of Perhaps you may be simple enough to answer, things will be nearly the same-namely, he who "Because they have not been taught;" but, bless reads or writes but little will only be able to you! that is not the reason. It is "Because it read and write imperfectly, and he who reads and is as yet impossible to tell the sound of any English writes much will be able to do so perfectly. We word from its spelling, or the spelling of any Eng- do not believe, in spite of Mr. Ellis and Dr. lish word from its sound. Till this difficulty is Latham's alleged "proofs" of the contrary, that removed, the education of the poor is physically were the phonetic system now in full force there impossible!!" However, we need be under no would be any perceptible difference, fairly attribuapprehensions for the future: "Phonetic spelling table to that cause, either in the number of persons will remove all difficulty, by enabling any one who taught to read and write, or in the proportions in can speak English to read English with ease in a which correct reading and writing would depend month!!"'* Again: "Hetericism renders the upon facility empirically acquired at least, not task of learning to read hateful, unpleasant, and among those who know the language already; to a slow. Phoneticism renders it delightful to teacher foreigner, endeavoring to learn to speak it from and learner, and rapid of performance," (Plea, p. books alone, it would, probably, be some assistance. 75-6,) &c. And this reminds us that one of the arguments seriously advanced in favor of phonetics, and particularly enlarged upon in the article in the Westminster Review to which we have already referred, is that their introduction will hasten the arrival of a period when English shall be the universal language of the globe. We only hope that everybody who adopts phoneticism on this ground will at the same time begin to be economical in the use of fuel; for it has been calculated, we believe, that all the known coal-fields in the world do not contain more than enough for the consumption of two or three thousands of centuries.

It cannot be necessary to answer in detail these monstrous exaggerations: but we will just observe, with respect to learning to read, that if the Ellisian | code of spelling were the law and custom too of the land to-morrow, it would be, in fact, nearly as unphonetic† as the present to the whole of the unlettered population of Scotland and Ireland, and at least nine tenths of that of England, and that, therefore, this " difficulty" would not be "removed," and "the education of the poor" would remain (according to Mr. Ellis) as physically impossible" as it is at present; and with respect to learning to write, that under the same code people would, in point of fact, learn to spell just as they do at present-viz., empirically and by rote. There is more truth than is generally supposed in the observation of Dogberry, that "to write and read comes by nature :" it does now, and would


* See the prospectus of the Phonetic News.

At all events, there would be no more certainty than there is at present; and "if there could be a doubt as to the spelling of a single word when no doubt was felt as to its pronunciation, it would be a blot in the system of writing employed." (Plea, p. 38.)

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There is not a house in England which ought not, on Mr. Ellis' principles, to be pulled down and rebuilt, for there certainly is not one in which an architect could not suggest some improvements, both as to symmetry and convenience; in fact, the public-that part of the public, we mean, which is respectable enough to own messuages and tenements-has reason to be thankful that Mr.

A hyperbolical expression of Mr. R. Edgeworth's seriously adopted by Mr. Ellis, who has no notion of joking on so "holy" a subject. See p. 57 of the Plea.

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