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Expounding the Nature of the Letters, and the manner how they are formed.

Hitherto we have treated concerning the Voice and Breath, and of the manner of the formation of both of them, in general; now let us see how the said Voice and Breath are, as a fit Matter for them, framed into such or such Letters; for the Voice and Breath are alone the material part of Letters, but the form of them is to be sought out from the various Configurations of those hollow Channels, thorough which they pass; Letters therefore, not as they be certain Characters, but as they are Pronounced or Spoken, are the Voice and Breath, diversly Figured by the Instruments ordained for the Speech.

But here we must be pre-admonished concerning the Letters; that there is a great Latitude almost amongst them all, and that one and the same Character is not pronounced by one and the same Configuration of the Mouth, yea, in one and the same Language; thus [a] and [e] sometimes are sounded open, and sometimes close; also [o] hath its own Latitude, so as many other Letters also may have; yea, as many as are the divers Modes, by which the Voice and Breath can be Figured, by the Organs of Speech; but the most easie, only, and the most Conspicuous are received by all Nations, whose number never almost exceedeth Twenty four, and have certain Characters annexed to them: But seeing that these Characters are not every where pronounced alike, yea, one and the same Letter sometimes is variously sounded by one and the same People, therefore I have made choice of the German Letters, which are of my Mother-Tongue, and the most Simple of all Letters, to be examined in this place: in as much as they are for the most part sounded every where alike, their Vowels are very Simple, and agreeable to the nature of the thing, the Diphthongs compounded of them, do retain the Nature of their compounding Vowels, because they are always heard pronounced in them, otherwise, than as it is in most other Languages, which they stile living ones; for sometimes they make their Diphthongs out of the most Simple Vowels, as are [au] [] [] amongst the French, and [oe] and [eu] amongst the Dutch, or else they have such improper Diphthongs, that scarce either of their compounding Vowels can be heard, such are [oi] of the French, and [uy] of the Dutch, not to mention more Examples, or else they are variously sounded according to their various Placings, so as if I were to teach some Deaf French-man, I would from the beginning teach him, not the French, but the German Letters, or else he would be plainly confounded. Nor is the state of the Consonants in better case for the Pronunciation of some of them, is so very different, that there are scarce two Nations, which pronounce the Character [g] after the same manner.

But in the German Alphabet, that which most disliketh me, is, their Order; which, in good truth, is none; because scarce two Letters of the same rank do follow mutually after one another, which would render the information of Deaf Persons to be so much the more difficult; wherefore I have reduced them into this following order, which seemed to me to be the most natural.

a. e. i. j. y. o. u. ae. oe. ue. m. n. ng. l. r. h. g. ch. s. f. v. k. c. q. d. t. b. p. x. z.

To those who observe well, it will from this order alone, appear, that I have divided this whole Alphabet into Vowels, Semi-vowels, and Consonants. The Vowels are a Voice or Sound modified by a various opening of the Mouth only, and are either Simple, or Uniform, as a. e. i. j. y. o. u. w. Or else they are mixt, which out of two, do so melt down into one, as that they are pronounced together, and are different from Diphthongs, in as much as their Vowels are successively pronounced: Now these mixt Vowels, are ae. oe. ue. which some Nations either have not at all, or else do write them evilly; but of the manner of Formation, more shall be said hereafter.

The Semi-vowels are a middle sort between the Genuine Voice, and a Simple Breath, and may at pleasure be brought forth in the manner as Vowels are; and they are either of the Nose, or Nasall such are m. n. ng. or else they be of the Mouth, or Orall, as l. r. Consonants are a Simple Breath, not sonorous, yet variously modified, and are of three kinds:

For they are either pronounced successively, and may be produced at pleasure, as g. ch. s. f. v.

Or are suddainly shot forth; which upon that score I call them explosive, as k. c. q. t. d. b. p.

Or else being Compounded out of two foregoing ones, their number is diverse in divers Nations; the Germans have two; viz. x. and z.

To this Division, in which I have had respect chiefly to the nature, and manner of pronouncing the Letters, may not impertinently be added, that those Letters are formed mostly in three Regions of the Mouth, viz. in the bottom, or Throat; in the middle, or in the Palate and Teeth; and lastly, in the utmost part thereof, or in the Lips: Hence it is, from every one of their Classes almost, are three sorts; one Guttural, another Dental, and a third Labial; but of these, more hereafter.

I will here prevent the Readers who may object to me in the following Chapter, that this my Doctrin will be always lame, because all Deaf Persons, whom we would teach by the Tongue, Lips, _&c._ will never by their Sight attain unto these motions: But, besides that the Sight doth not give place to the Hearing, as to a quick sensibility, I affirm, that there is no need thereof, if once they have made but any Progress; for even we our selves do very often not hear in Pronunciation those Letters which I call Consonants, but we collect them from the Vowels and Semi-vowels, commixed together with them: No Man, for Example, shall so pronounce b. g. or d. as that he may be heard at a hundred Paces distant. And this seems to me to be the principal reason why we can most rarely pronounce or repeat at the first blush, any word spoken in a foreign Language.

But before I shall unfold the nature, and manner of forming the Letters in special, I judged that it was not here to be omitted, how that as all the Letters, yea also, and the Vowels them-selves, cannot by any means be pronounced, as they are a Simple Breath, and not sonorous; for when we, for Example, do whisper somewhat to one in his Ear, so the Consonants also, excepting those which I call Explosive, may be pronounced vocally, or with the Voice conjoyned; and there are Nations which pronounce thus, as the French do their z. and their v.

I shall now treat of the Letters especially, and will examine them so, as both the absolute Simplicity of the German Letters may be manifested; and other Nations, from their Mode of Formation, may learn, how they ought to pronounce them; upon this account also, I shall add how improperly some Nations do render the same Letters in their own Language. Now in this Explication I shall observe the same order as I did in the Division of them, where readily it will appear, that Voice and Breath are according to a triple Region of the Mouth, triply figured or formed spontaneously.

Therefore the Simple and Uniform Vowels are, a. e. i. j. y. o. u. w. and are formed after the following manner.

a. is a Gutteral Vowel, and the most Simple of all; the Key of the Alphabet, and therefore is by all Nations set first of all, excepting only (as far as I know) the Abyssines, by whom, as Ludolf testifieth, it is placed as the Thirteenth Letter. True indeed it may be pronounced by various Placings of the Tongue, yet the common, and most convenient is, that the Tongue should be in its posture of rest; and then being gently stretched forth in the Mouth, it may only lightly, or not at all touch upon the utmost Border of the lower Teeth; if therefore the lower Jaw be drawn downwards, and thereby the Mouth be opened, that the Voice formed in the Throat, strikes not neither against the Teeth, nor against the Lips, than a plain open [a] is heard, e. i. j. y. are Dental Vowels, or the Voice, which in coming forth, smites more or less against the Teeth; Hence it is that Infants, although they can say Pappa, bo, &c. yet can they not pronounce these Letters until they have Teeth, especially the Cutters, or fore-Teeth; and indeed [e] is formed, when the Voice, (the Lips being gently opened), strikes against the Teeth also moderately opened; now the posture of the Tongue is such, that it somewhat presses on each side upon the Dog-Teeth of the Inferior Jaw, for so the passage of the Voice is made narrower, and the [e] much more clear.

i. j. and y. are the same Vowel, pronounced one while more short, and another more long, nor doth it stand upon any Foundation, [i] sometimes doth become a Consonant, but then is pronounced only more swiftly, so as together with the following Vowel, it can make a Diphthong; but [i] is formed after the same manner almost, as [e] except that the Teeth are for the most part, more stricken, and the Tongue put close to the Teeth, the passage of the Voice is rendred more strait, whence a more smart Sound also breaks forth, which notwithstanding, can sometimes be hardly distinguished from [e] [y,] also is [i] pronounced longer then usually, or [i] doubled. o. u. w. are Labial Vowels, that is, such as are formed by a different positure of the Lips; also [o.] and [u.] are different from one another, just as much as [e.] and [i]: But [w.] is to [u.] just as j. is to [i.] for indeed a. u. w. are formed, when the Teeth and Tongue keep the same posture; but the Lips are more or less contracted, even as the Teeth are in [e.] and [i.] and so when they are less stricken, [o.] is produced, but when a little more [u.] or [w.]; but we ought carefully to beware, whilst [o.] or [u.] are pronounced, least the Teeth should be seen; for else a certain kind of a soft e. will be mingled; and instead of oe. or ue. there will be produced o. or u. These Letters belong to the French, au and , when nevertheless they are nothing else but Diphthongs, also oe. of the Dutch is our u. but very improperly.

Mixt Vowels are ae. oe. ue. These Characters are peculiar to our Language, and were invented very ingeniously by our Ancients, though our Moderns mostly know not the reason thereof. Each hath its simple Character, because the Sound which they signifie, is only one, tho’ mixt; for a. o. and u. are so pronounced, that the passage of the Voice, the Tongue and Teeth being conjoyned for to pronounce, e. becomes Straiter, and so e. together with the said Letters, a. o. u. doth constitute but one only, yet a mixt vowel. The French utter them by aï. eu. and u. and in good truth, badly enough, as any one may see. The Dutch want [ae]. [oe]. and express them by eu. but [ue]. by u. in no better a way than the French.

Concerning the Diphthongs composed out of these Vowels, and which may be thence compounded, I judge it needless to say much; for they are nothing else in our Language than a more then usual swift Pronunciation of the Component Vowels, yet successive; and thus they differ from the mixt Vowels, but how improper and absurd Diphthongs some Nations have, any one may easily gather from what hath been already said.

The other sort of Letters are Semi-Vowels, which are therefore so called, because that they be formed indeed out of a Sounding Breath or Voice, but such as in its progress is much broken. They are, as I said, either Nasalls, or such as are pronounced through that open passage, by which the Nose opens into the Hollow of the Mouth: Now the Voice is forced to go that way, either when it flows to the Lips shut close, and rebounding from thence, is formed into [m;] or when the Tip of the Tongue is so applied to the roof of the Mouth, and to the upper Teeth, the Voice is made to rebound through the Nostrils, and so [n] becomes formed; or lastly, when together with the hinder part of the Tongue, the Voice being applied to the Roof, is so straitned that there is no Egress left open for it, but through the Nose, and so [n] is formed; which is a Sound, which hath no peculiar Character in any Language, as I know of, yet it differs no less from the rest of the Nasals, (k) is divers from (t) or (p,) if any one desires to try this by himself, let him endeavour to pronounce; having his Nose held close with his Fingers, one of these three Letters, and he will not be able to do it.

Or else these Semivowels are Orall, which are indeed such as are pronounced thro’ the Mouth, but not so freely as are the Genuin Vowels, and they be two, (l) and (r;) (l) is formed when the Tongue is so applied to the Roof, and the upper Teeth, that the Voice cannot, but by a small Thred, as it were, get forth by the Sides of the Tongue; for if you compress the Cheeks to the Grinders, you stop up the Passage of the Voice, and it will be very difficult for you to pronounce this Letter, (r,) is a Voice fluctuating with great swiftness, and is formed, when the more movable part of the Tongue does in the twinkling of an Eye, oftentimes strike upon the Roof of the Mouth, and as often is drawn back again from it; for thus the Voice formed in the Throat, in its pronouncing, flows and ebbs back again, and is uttered, as it were by Leaps. Hence it is, that they, whose Tongues be too heavy and moist, and less voluble, will never pronounce this Letter, whether they can Hear, or are Deaf.

Now there still remains the Consonants, or the Letters, which are formed out of an unsounding or mute Breath; yet, out of which, some of the Semi-vowels may be made, as g. ch. s. f. v.

As the Voice is the common matter of the Consonants, the sharper part of which is (h) which is the most simple of them all, and out of which diversly figurated, the rest of them are framed: And they are either the Sibilants, which are formed out of Breath, which is somewhat compressed or straitned, that the passing Breath breaks forth with a certain kind of Hissing, and with violence.

Here I judge that we are not to pass over in silence, how that there are some parts in Germany, where there is so much of Affinity of (g) with (k,) as (b) has with (p) and (d) with (t,) or where (g) is pronounced like (k) but softer, so also the French do pronounce their (g) before a. o. u. and où.

(s) is formed, when the Teeth and Tongue are so clapt together, that the Breath cannot come forth, but by the Spaces of the Teeth: But (f) or (v) (which differs not from (f) in our Language) is formed, when the neather Lip is so moved to the Teeth above, that the Breath must break out thro’ the said Spaces of the Teeth; ph. is (f) being a Stranger in the German Tongue, and differs from it only in the Character.

The other kind of Consonants are explosive; which, viz. are discharged at one push, and as it were, in the twinkling of an Eye and are nothing else but Breath, which being got close together, either in the fore, middle, or hinder Region of the Mouth, is discharged on a suddain; and (k) is indeed formed in the hinder Region, when the hinder part of the Tongue is moved to the Roof, that the Breath cannot break forth, neither by the Mouth, nor by the Nose, but is suddenly let loose again: For thus the imprisoned Breath breaks out, and by breaking out, maketh k. c. or q. which in Germany are all the same Letter; in the middle Region are d. and t. formed, when, viz. the Breath, by help of the Tongues being moved to the Teeth, or Roof, and suddainly drawn back again, being more or less compressed, rusheth out by its own Springiness, and so d. or t. is made, which only differs, as b. and p. according to the more or less; in the outermost Region of the Mouth are formed, (b) and (p) when, viz. the Breath being compressed in the whole Cavity of the Mouth, they get out through the Lips opened.

Lastly; here follows those Consonants, which are compounded of Hissing and Explosion, such are (x) or ks. and (z) or ts. which only are the alone anomalous or irregular ones of the German Language; for if I may speak what I think; we might well enough want these Characters; yet I disapprove not of the use of them, but only shew what might be more convenient, viz. that Voice or Breath which is simple, might be expressed also by a simple Character, and on the contrary, that a Character, which is simple and only one, would signifie but one only Voice or Breath: But if the commodious use of Short-hand may be objected, I would perswade to express all possible Combinations, of Vowels, with Semi-vowels, and Consonants, by simple Characters.

This is what I determined to say concerning the Letters, and their Formation; and seeing I am not willing to write a Grammar, what might yet further be said of them, I pass by; but what I have performed, I leave it to others to judge thereof, not so much to teach them, as by what is here presented to excite them, being desirous, as it becomes a young Man, to learn of them: I hope they will pardon my Errors, because of my Youth. Yet certain I am, had the ancient Hebrews, Greeks and Romans, thus describ’d their Letters, there would have been no contention about the manner of Pronounciation.