Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/406

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Walker favored this pronunciation all good usage at present is opposed to it.

The name of the letter u consists of a double sound of which the first element is y or e, and the second is long oo. This compound nature of the vowel u is more generally marked in English than in American pronunciation. The most careful speakers are equally correct in the orthoëpy of this letter, but the majority of Americans substitute simply the long oo in words like tune, duty, Tuesday, nude, suit, etc. Some Southerners, however, fall into the opposite error, and give the initial element of this vowel undue distinctness.

In the short u, as in tub, sun, fun, etc., there is also a very perceptible difference between the pronunciation of the two peoples. The American sound comes forth naturally without any active oral adjustment—is similar to the u in furl, and is very much like that which is known as the neutral vowel. The English sound is shorter, more open, and is attended by a pharyngeal opening effort which is wanting in the American utterance. Similar corresponding differences obtain in a numerous class of words like hurry, flurry, etc, in which short n precedes the letter r.

The above are the chief phonological dissimilarities in the vowel scale, and attention is now asked to a few diphthongs. In the words boy, oil, join, etc., the diphthong oi is compounded of broad a, for the initial and short i for the terminational element. In English speech the broad a receives the full and decided stress of voice, and the final element is very brief, and the transition from the former to the latter is instantaneous. In American utterance the first element is dwelt upon, and the passage to the final one is less direct.

There is a want of agreement in the diphthong ou, in out, now, house, etc., as pronounced by Americans and Englishmen. Some of the former interpose between the vocal constituents of this diphthong a species of neutral vowel, while others use a much less open sound than Italian a, as the radical element. The latter fault is not confined to this country, however, but is equally a cockney peculiarity.

The chief points of phonetic variance in the consonants must now receive some notice.

Differences in the Consonants.It is well known that Englishmen "drop their h's," as they express it. To be sure this practice is more common among the lower classes, but even among the highly educated, either through inadvertence or the force of early habit, this gross error occasionally occurs. The more ignorant, as if determined to be at cross-purposes with this letter, not only omit it from syllables in which it should be sounded, but they prefix it to words beginning with a vowel. Natives of the United States are singularly free from these erroneous practices.

The letter r, which is of such phonological importance in modern languages, has many divergent phases in British and American