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wind-pipe, but with different openings of the mouth, form a regular series of sounds, descending from high to low, in the following order, i, e, a*, 0, u. Each of these founds is agreeable to the ear. And if it be inquired which of them is the most agreeable, it is perhaps the safest side to hold, that there is no universal preference of any one before the rest. Probably those vowels which are farthest removed from the extremes, will generally be the most relished. This is all I have to remark upon the first article. For consonants being letters which of themselves have no sound, have no other power but to form articulate sounds in conjunction with vowels; and every such articulate found being a syllable, consonants come naturally under the second article. To which therefore we proceed.
All consonants are pronounced with a less cavity than any of the vowels; and consequently they contribute to form a sound still more sharp than the sharpest vowel pronounced single. Hence it follows, that
* Here the German a is understood.,
every every articulate found into which a consonant enters, muft necessarily be double, though pronounced with one expiration of air, or with one breath as commonly expressed. The reason is, that though two sounds readily unite; yet where they differ in tone, both of them must be heard if neither of them be suppressed. For the same reason, every syllable must be composed of as many founds as there are letters, supposing every letter to be distinctly pronounced.
We next inquire, how far articulate sounds into which consonants enter, are agreeable to
With respect to this point, there is a noted observation, that all sounds of difficult pronunciation are to the ear harsh in proportion. Few tongues are so polished as entirely to have rejected sounds that are pronounced with difficulty; and such sounds must in some measure be disagreeable. But with respect to agreeable sounds, it appears, that a double sound is always more agreeable than a single sound. Every one who has an ear must be sensible, that the diphthongs oi or ai are more agreeable than any of these vowels pronounced singly.
And the same holds where a consonant enters into the double sound. The fyllable le has a more agreeable sound than the vowel e or than any vowel. And in support of experience, a satisfactory argument may be drawn from the wildom of Providence. Speech is bestowed upon man, to qualify him for society. The provision he hath of articulate sounds, is proportioned to the use he hath for them. But if sounds that are agreeable singly were not also agreeable in conjunction, the necessity of a painful selection would render language intricate and difficult to be attained in any perfection. And this selection, at the same time, would tend to abridge the number of useful sounds, so as perhaps not to leave sufficient for answering the different ends of language.
In this view, the harmony of pronunciation differs widely from that of music properly so called. In the latter are discovered many sounds singly agreeable, that in conjunction are extremely disagreeable; none but what are called concordant sounds having a good effect in conjunction. In the former, all sounds singly agreeable are in conVOL. II.
junction concordant; and ought to be, in order to fulfil the purposes of language. i
Having discussed syllables, we proceed to words; which make a third article. Monofyllables belong to the former head. Por lysyllables open a different scene. In a curfory view, one will readily imagine, that the effect a word hath upon the ear, muft depend entirely upon the agreeableness or disagreeableness of its component syllables. In part it doth; but not entirely; for we must also take under confideration the effect that a number of syllables composing a word have in succession. In the first place, fyllables in immediate succession, pronounced, each of them, with the fame or nearly the same aperture of the mouth, produce a weak and imperfect sound; witness the French words détété (detested), dit-il (says he), patetique (pathetic). On the other hand, a fyllable of the greatest aperture succeeding one of the smallest, or the opposite, makes a succession, which, because of its remarkable disagreeableness, is distinguished by a proper name, viz. hiatus. The most agreeable succession, is, where the
cavity is increased and diminished alternately by moderate intervals. Secondly, words consisting wholly of fyllables pronounced flow or of syllables pronounced quick, commonly called long and short syllables, have little melody in them. Witness the words petitioner, fruiterer, dizziness. On the other hand, the intermixture of long and short fyllables is remarkably agreeable; for example, degree, repent, wonderful, altitude, rapidity, independent, impetuohty. The cause will be explained afterward, in treating of versification.
Distinguishable from the beauties above mentioned, there is a beauty of fome words which arises from their signification. When the emotion raised by the length or shortness, the roughness or smoothness, of the found, resembles in any degree what is raised by the sense, we feel a very remarkable pleasure. But this subject belongs to the third section.
The foregoing observations afford a standard to every nation, for estimating, pretty accurately, the comparative merit of the words that enter into their own language.
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