us, as the tutoyant among the French ; but as the second personal pronoun thou, and its possessive thy are indispensable in composition, it seems of some importance to pronounce them properly.

How to pronounce the adjective possessive pronoun


I call this word an adjective possessive when it is used before a substantive, as it constantly is in scripture when the substantive begins with a vowel; as, Mine eyes have seen thy salvation :” and a substantive possessive when it stands alone, as, “ This book is mine." In reading the scripture we are at no loss about the pronunciation of this word, as the dignity and solemnity of the composition invariably direct us to give the i its long sound, as in the substantive; but in Milton and other composition, where there is no such dignity or solemnity, this pronunciation of the word has an intolerable stiffness, and ought not to be used. Thus, in the Spectator No. 195, Mr. Addison says,

“ Were I to prescribe a rule for drinking, it should be formed upon a saying quoted by Sir William Temple ;-The first glass for myself, the second for my friends, the third for good humour, and the fourth for mine enemies." In Milton too,

Close at mine ear, one call'd me forth to walk.

Paradise Lost

In Shakspeare also ;

-Sleeping within mine orchard,
My custom always in the afternoon,
Upon my secure hour thy uncle stole,
With juice of cursed hebenon in a phial,
And in the porches of mine ears did pour
The leperous distilment.-


In all these instances we find a formality, a staleness and uncouthness of sound, that is peculiarly displeasing to the ear: and as this mode of writing was introduced when our pronunciation may be said to have been in its infancy, for the sake of euphony, (for it is clearly ungrammatical,) so now that it may be said to have arrived at its maturity, the very same reason seems to entitle the present age to alter it; that is, I mean the pronunciation of it, by substituting my pronounced like me in its stead.

The disagreeable sound which mine has, in these cases, to the ear, has inclined several readers to pronounce it min ; but by thus mincing the matter (if the pun will be pardoned me) they mutilate the word, and leave it more disagreeable to the ear than it was before. Readers therefore seem to have no choice but to pronounce it always as it is written, and to let the author be answerable for the ill sound ; or, in all language, but that of scripture, to change it into my pronounced like me. Shakspeare seems to have used this word ludicrously in the Merry Wives of Windsor, where Falstaff says, Mine host of the garter ;-truly mine host, I must turn away some of my followers :" and the host, by requesting Falstaff to speak scholarly and wisely, seems to intimate that this use of the word mine before a vowel or an h was the most correct way of speaking.

But though thy, in familiar or ludicrous language, will admit of being changed in sound to the,-mine will on no occasion suffer an alteration into min. When it is used familiarly, it is always a burlesque upon the grave use of it, and therefore requires the grave sound to be retained, or the humour of it would be lost.

The indistinct sound of the word Not. From the frequent pronunciation of this word without the least necessity of placing an accent on it, we find it sometimes fall into an indistinctness which almost reduces the sound of it to nothing. When it is emphatically opposed to something positive, as, Though he asserts it is so, I assert it is not so ; here the word has its genuine full sound, rhyming with hot, shot, lot, &c.; but when there is no such opposition in the sense, we often hear it dwindle into nut, as This is a hint which I have nut observed in any of our writers on this subject. Here we shall find the generality of readers lay an accent upon have, and pronounce the word not in the obscure manner I have been describing: where it may be observed, though there ought not to be any emphasis on it, as in the former example, it should certainly be sounded exactly in the same distinct manner in both places.

That the word not in a simple negative sentence does not require an accent, but is pronounced like an unaccented syllable of the word that precedes it, may be gathered from the colloquial contraction of the negative phrases cannot, shall not, do not, into ca’n’t, sha'n't, don't, &c. It is true that these contractions ought never to appear in print, except in comedies and farces, where the language of the lowest vulgar is often adopted ; ' but it is perhaps impossible to refuse them a place in spoken language, where the subject is common and familiar; though even here they should be indulged as little as possible: but be this as it may, they certainly tend to show that a simple negative lays no stress on the negation, or custom would never have so much obscured it in the contraction. It may be observed in passing, that as these contractions have disappeared in print, they have been gradually vanishing from polite conversation ; and as they ought never to have place in publick speaking, so those speakers in private may be looked upon as the most elegant, who make the least use of them.

How to pronounce the participial termination ing.

The participial termination ing is frequently a cause of embarrassment to readers who have a desire to pronounce correctly : nor is it easy to solve the difficulty. We are told, even by teachers of English, that ing in the words singing, bringing, and swinging, must be pronounced with the ringing sound which is heard when the accent is on these letters, in words of one syllable, as king, sing, and wing, and not as if written without the g, as, singin, bringin, and swingin. No one can be a greater advocate than I am for the strictest adherence to orthography, as long as the publick pronunciation pays the least attention to it; but when, , from the nicest observation of the best speakers, I find letters given up, with respect to sound, I then consider them as ciphers. It is from observation I can assert, that our best speakers do not invariably pronounce the participial ing so as to rhyme with sing, king, and ring, but sometimes only as the preposition in. In the first place, whenever the verb ends with ing, as, to sing, to bring, or to fling, the repetition of the ringing sound in the syllables immediately following each other would have a very bad effect on the ear, and, instead of singing, bringing, or flinging, our best speakers universally pronounce them singin, bringin, and flingin : for the very same reason, we ought to admit the ringing sound when the verb ends with in; for if, instead of sinning, pinning, and beginning, we should pronounce sinnin, pinnin, and beginnin, we should fall into the same disgusting repetition as in the former examples. That ing should not always have its ringing sound, when a participial termination, is not very wonderful, when we consider how much it is the custom of pronunciation to shorten and obscure vowels, in final syllables, that are not under the stress. What a trifling omission is the g after n in these sylJables, to the mutilation of oient in the plurals of French verbs into a! But trifling as it is, it savours too much of vulgarity to omit it in any words but where the same sound immediately precedes, as in singin, bringin, flingin, &c. ; without saying any thing of the ambiguity it may possibly form by confounding it with the preposition in

Writing, reading, and speaking, therefore, are certainly preferable to writin, readin, and speakin, wherever the language has the least degree of precision or solemnity, and more particularly in reading or speaking in public. How to pronounce the word To, when succeeded by


You. I have frequently observed some little embarrassment in readers, when they have met with these words without any accentual force on them; as in the phrases, “ I spoke to you about it long ago.”—“He went to about some important business.”—In these phrases,


« VorigeDoorgaan »