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The human voice may be regarded as a continuous stream of 1 air, emitted as breath from the lungs, changed, as it leaves the larynx, by the vibration of two ligaments (called chordæ vocales) into vocal sound, and either modified by various positions, or interrupted or compressed by various actions, of the uvula, the tongue, and the lips. In a whisper the ligaments do not vibrate, but otherwise the description holds good.

Interruption by complete contact, or compression by approximation of certain parts of the organs, or vibration of the tongue or uvula, produces consonants.

Modification, without interruption or compression, and without vibration of the tongue or uvula, produces vowels.



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Consonants admit of a fourfold classification, according to

the completeness or incompleteness of the contact; 2. the accompaniment or absence of vocal sound; 3. the position of the organs, where the contact takes place; 4. the passage of the breath through the mouth or nose.

1 In this and the next two Chapters, much use has been made of Lepsius' Standard Alphabet (1863); Max Müller's Survey of Languagas (1885) and Lectures and series; Melville Bell's Principles of Speech (1863); Brücke's Physiologie der Sprachlaute (1856).

1. (a) If the contact is complete, so as to cause an entire in- 3 terruption of the passage of the breath, we get mutes (explosive consonants, checks, &c.); as p, b; , 8; t, d.

(b). If the contact is only partial, i.e. if the organs do but approximate more or less closely to each other, we get a continuous sound caused by the friction of the breath against the parts. These sounds are called fricative consonants (continuous, spirants, datus, breathings, &c.); as 8, z; sh, zh (French 3); th; f, v; &c.

2. (a) Again the contact or approximation may be made with 4 the vocal chords wide apart, in which case a whisper only takes place. These consonants are called sharp or voiceless (breathed, hard, surd, tenues, &c.); as p, k, t, s, sh, th (in thin), f, wh, h (in huge), rh (as r in French theatre, fiacre), &c.

(6) If the contact or approximation is made, with the vocal chords close to one another, the consonants are called flat or voicei (soft, blunt, sonant, mediæ, &c.); as b, g, d, z, zh, th (in then), v, w, y, r, &c. The chords being thus ready to vibrate usually do vibrate, causing voice, either during the approximation, or, in the case of a mute, the instant that the contact is released. But the sound of the voice is not essential, as, in whispering, a rustle in the throat takes its place. (See App. A, vii.)

3. Again the parts of the mouth which are put in contact or 5 approximation or movement are very various, and the sound is modified accordingly. For the purposes of classification in European languages five parts may be especially distinguished; viz. the lips, the throat (or rather the soft palate just above the larynx), the hard palate, the teeth, and the tongue.

(a) Consonants formed at or with the lips are called Labial; viz. p, b, m, w, and labial f, v. The ordinary i, v are labio-dentals, being formed by the under lip and upper teeth.

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(6) Consonants formed in the throat (or soft palate) are called Guttural; viz. k (c, q), g, ng, ch (in loch).

(c) Consonants formed at the hard palate are called Palatal, of which some approach nearer to gutturals, some to dentals: such are y, ch (in Germ. Ich, or h in Engl. huge), sh, French j. (The Italian ( (in cima) i. e. English ch (in church), and Italian g (in giro) i. e. English j (in join), which are sometimes classed as palatals, appear to be really double consonants; viz. ch=tsh; j=dzh where zh is French j.)

(d) Consonants formed at or just above the teeth are called Dental; viz. t, d, n; th; s, z.

(e) Two other consonants, called Lingual consonants or liquids (or trills), are r, 1. r is caused by the breath passing over the tip of the tongue, which is more or less vibrated: 1 is caused by the breath passing over the sides of the back of the tongue, which is then removed from its position to complete the sound. For an r (common in France), caused by vibration of the uvula, see App. A.

4. If the uvula be lowered so as to obstruct the passage of the 6 air through the mouth, but allow it to vibrate in the cavities of the nose, a nasal sound is produced. If the organs are otherwise in the positions required for b, d, e, but the air passes into the nose, the nasal consonants m, n, ng (a single sound as in sing) are respectively produced. (The palatal n has much the same sound as a dental n.)

The nasals resemble the explosive consonants in requiring a vowel before and after to give the full effect; they resemble the continuous consonants in the possibility of cont the sound, which is however that of the first half only of the consonant.

5. The semivowels w and y will be best described after the 7 vowels ($ 23).

Another letter has yet to be noticed, viz. h (spiritus asper). This is a mere expulsion of breath through the perfectly open glottis, i.e. with the vocal chords apart, not approximated and vibrating. h stands to the vowels, as p to b, k to g, &c.

(If h is breathed immediately after an explosive consonant we get sounds, represented in Greek, viz. ø=p+h, x=k+h, o=t+h, and in Sanscrit (8 th &c.). A strong articulation of consonants e.g. by Scotchmen or Irishmen gives a similar sound.)

There is also a very slight sound heard before any initial vowel, and best caught when two vowels come together, but are pronounced separately, as in go over. This is rarely expressed by any letter. It is the spiritus lenis of the Greeks.

The principal sounds in European languages may be tabulated : as follows, the letters being supposed to be sounded as in English, except where it is otherwise stated.

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Sharp. Flat. Usually Sharp


flat. LABIAL. pb

labial 1


ordinary ordinary v ch in

Scotch loch g in Germ. GUTTURAL. kg hard ng

( after

La oro)
h in huge


(Germ. ch after g in Germ. i or e)


sh zh (French 1) LINGUAL.

whispered r Welsh (?) 11

1 S

% DENTAL, t d



(in thin) (in then) It may be added that s, z, and sometimes sh and French j are called sibilants.




SINGLE consonants may be sounded either before or after a 9 vowel. But the semivowels y and w are sounded only before a vowel.

A continuous consonant has always the same sound whether its vowel be before or after: but an explosive consonant has not the same. The full pronunciation of an explosive consonant requires both the closing and opening of the organs. Thus in ap only half the p is properly sounded: in pa we have the other half. The full pronunciation is heard in apa, or, as commonly written, ap-pa. In ap-ka the first half of p and the second half of k is sounded.

Writing consonants double has either an etymological origin, when it is done to preserve the memory of distinct sounds now lost; e.g. ac-cedo for ad-cedo; all-os compared with all-us; &c., or a phonetic origin, as in English it is used to distinguish a short accented vowel from a long one, e.g. kite, kitten; &c. In either case the consonant is wholly pronounced once only.

1 The continuous part of the sound wh is really a blowing, the con. tinuous part of w is the vowel u.

Two or more consonants may be pronounced with only one to vowel, but the possible combinations are somewhat different, when the vowel is before the consonants and when it is behind them. When the vowel is sounded after the consonants, the combination may be called initial; when the vowel is before the consonants, final.

(The Germans give the name Anlaut, Inlaut, Auslaut (onsound, in-sound, out-sound) to the sound of a consonant with the vowel following, on both sides, and preceding, respectively.)

An Initiall combination may not consist of a liquid or nasal 11 followed by any other consonant, except that an m may be followed by n, nor of a fricative, except a sibilant, followed by an explosive: nor of two explosives unless the former of the two be a labial or guttural, the latter a dental. Semivowels are never followed by any consonant.

Of the rarer combinations may be given as instances:
Greek, τλάω, πτύω, κτείνω, ψεύδω, ξαίνω, μνήμα, φθίνω, χθές.
German, Pfanne, Pflaum, Pfropf, Zerren (i.e. tserren).

A final combination may not consist of a nasal preceded by any 12 consonant, except a liquid; nor of a liquid preceded by any consonant, except that I may be preceded by r; nor readily of two explosives or two fricatives, unless the latter of the two be a dental: e.g. akp, apk, atk, atp, seem harsher than akt, apt; and (taking th as in English and ch as in German) athf, asf, athch, afch, than afth, afs, achth, acht.

Instances of the rarer combinations are
English, film, kiln, strength, watch, texts, cringed.
German, kopf, dumpf, obst, balgst, birgst.

Neither in initial nor final combinations are sharps pronounceable 13 before flats, or readily flats before sharps. When they occur together in writing, the former of the two, if a sharp, is usually changed in speaking into the corresponding flat; if at, into the corresponding sharp. Sometimes the latter is changed, to suit the former, which is retained: e.g. obst is either pronounced opst, or obzd. (But midst, strivist, hugg'st are pronounced without this change.)

Nor can either an initial or final combination contain more explosives than two, with or without a fricative before or after each.

A syllable is such a sound or combination of sounds as can be 14 uttered with one breath. It may consist of a vowel (or diphthong) only, or of a vowel (or diphthong) combined with one or more consonants.

A word consists of as many syllables, as it has vowels separately pronounced.

1 The languages of the Græco-Latin and Teutonic stocks are alone regarded in the following statements.



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