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Second Day's Proceedings.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 30, 1879. The Department met at the same place at 3} P. M. Dr, TAPPAN Occupied the chair. Prof. Francis A. MARCH, LL. D., of Lafayette College, Easton, Pa., read the following paper on
ORTHOGRAPHY IN HIGH SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES. In none of our schools is the orthographic position more embarrassing than in our High Schools and Colleges. It is generally taken for granted that collegians hav learnd to spell; but every one who sees their written exercises knows how far this is from the fact.
Conscientious teachers ar greatly troubled by this state of things. Much stress is laid on perfect spelling as a sign of a thoroly-educated person, and professors often feel as tho they hav not done their duty by a graduate who cannot spell. They think sometimes that they ought to keep up the methods of the primary schools, and hold spelling classes and spelling matches; and hav frequent examinations of the whole college in this art of arts.
Most of us, however, settle down in the conviction that there is no time for such methods, and that they would not accomplish the result aimd at. A student who has come to collegiate years a bad speller will never learn the 120,000 spelling problems which the English dictionary contains. The attempt would be sheer loss of time and patience. It is to be rememberd further that while there ar so many thousand words in the language, each person's own vocabulary is made up of comparativly few, perhaps 3000 or 4000, possibly no more than a few hundreds. And a grown man in real life is practically a good speller if he spells the words of his own vocabulary correctly. If he hav occasion now and then to use strange words, he can look them up when he uses them.
From this point of view it would seem, that the common method of teaching spelling in High Schools and Colleges is substantially scientific and sufficient. This method is the correction of the mistakes in spelling which each student makes in the themes and other written papers which he prepares in connection with his studies.
If the misspelt words ar simply checkt in each paper, and the student required to hand in the paper a second time with the corrections made, every attentiv student will learn and correct his own habitual mistakes.
To this the professor may add an occasional exposure to the whole class of the most frequent and most absurd of the blunders to which members of the class ar prone.
If to this be added an examination at the close of cach term, not on spelling in general, not on the recondite puzzles of the dictionary, but on the very words which hav been misspelt in the essays of the term, a reasonable amount of attention will hav been paid to orthography in its narrower sense, i, e., the art of spelling English according to the dictionary and spelling-book.
The science of orthography is, however, well worthy of more extended study in college, and is every way fitted to excite interest and develop important thought, and lead to valuable practical applications. It treats of the representation of spoken language by visible signs, and includes a systematic history of such signs, and a discussion of the principles according to which they should be made and used.
The student of this science will learn about picture-writing first, and how pictures ar abbreviated to what we call letters; then the principles of alphabetic writing, of which some of the most important ar that a perfect alphabet must hav one character and only one for each elementary sound; and that all considerations connected with the embod ying of history and giving beauty of form ar of little consequence in comparison with phonetic convenience.
He will be taught the history of the English alphabet. The AngloSaxon speech was reduced to writing in Roman letters by the missionaries who converted the people to christianity. The letters were used in their Roman values, and new letters were added for the sounds of a in fat, th in thin, dh, i, e., th in thine, and w. After the Norman conquest, when the Normans and Saxons fused into English, a large part of the words of each race were difficult for the other race to pronounce. Scholars inclined to spell in the old book fashion, but many undertook to represent the corrupt pronunciation, often by ill-conceived combinations of letters. The Normans gave up the special Anglo-Saxon characters. Then followd a change in the whole gamut, so to speak, of the vowel sounds. The close vowels changed under the accent into diphthongs by taking an a sound before them. The old i as in machine has thus changed to ai, as in mine ; u, as in rule, has givn rise to au, as in house. The open and mixt vowels hav become closer: a, as in far, changing to a (i. e., e) in fate or wall, or to o in home (A-S. hâm); e as in they, changing to e (i. e., i) in me; o as in foe, changing to 00 (i. e., u) as in moon (A-S. môna). Single characters hav thus come to stand for diphthongs, and the long and short sounds, which go in pairs in other languages, ar denoted in ours by different characters, and come from different sources. Intermediate between the old a (far) and e (met) has become establisht a in fat, fare; between a (far) and o (note), o in not and nor; and the sounds of u in but, burn, hav also arisen. All these hav no special signs. Five consonants sh, zh, th, dh, ng, ar in the same condition.
Meantime printing was introduced with a force of Dutch printers, who set up from the manuscripts, as best they could, the same word being printed often with many different spellings on the same page. But the necessities of the great printing-houses gradually led to uniform habits, and these at last received the stamp of authority from Dr. Johnson's Dictionary.
The people hav long since ceast to feel any necessity for keeping sounds and signs together. Changes go on without any record in the writing ; etymologists slip in new silent letters, on the ground of imaginary derivations; old monsters, fertil in the popular fancy, propagate themselys in the congenial environment; and, altogether, we have attaind the worst alphabetic spelling in the world. For the history of all these changes, see Ellis's History of English Pronunciation (London, 1867) ; SWEET's History of English Sounds (London, 1874); HALDEMAN'S Analytic Orthography (Philadelphia, 1858); March's Anglo-Saxon Grammar (New York, 1870).
The students who hav been made acquainted with such facts and laws may be continually interested in the application of them to the spelling of particular words. I take it for granted that they will study the AngloSaxon language and the great English classics, SHAKESPEARE, CHAUCER, Cadmon, BEOWULF, according to the methods of philological study which hav within the last ten years become almost universal in our higher schools of learning.
They will notice as they study these early English classics, the emergence of the prodigies of spelling, and learn their history and the causes which produce them ; for sheer blunder has its causes always, just as truly as the fittest products of reason, and the exposition of man's blunders goes far toward his total history. They will observe and study, for example, the first appearance of l in could, of in island, of w in whole, of c in scent, of r in bridegroom, of b in limb, thumb, crumb, of ue in tongue. They may pry into the eig of sovereign or foreign, or into all the mystery of delight, righteous, shamefaced, women, or the freaks of accede, proceed, precede, exceed, and the like. They may study the obscure vowel sound before p as in sir, her, burr, myrrh, earth, where we seem to hav filld in with any letter that occurd to us; we use a, e, i, o, u, or y with delightful impartiality; friar, speaker, nadir, actor, sulphur, zephyr run from our pens with equal ease. There ar ten thousand words containing this puzzle, and no man has ever masterd them all. The scholar looking for rules among them might think himself sure that names of personal agents from English verbs end in er, like defender, feeder, lover, but he would go amiss in beggar, liar, sailor, etc. The Greeklings think they ar on firm ground in writing y for Greek U, as zephyr from équpos, but how about butter and Boútupov, Latin butyr-um, purse and Búpou, Latin byrsa.
Then there ar the doubled consonants, all the time wrong for the sound, * and half the time for the etymology. We all see the point when the Rt. Hon. ROBERT Lowe, formerly Minister of Education in England, chal lenged the House of Commons that not half a dozen members could spell off-hand the word “unparalleled.”
Such studies as these hav a twofold advantage. In the first place the curious observation of these queer blunders servs to fix them well in mind, so that we learn to spell well in the old way.
Then they dispel the sacred character which has too much surrounded the standard spelling. They induce a reasonable judgment in favor of the amendment of our spelling, so as to make it simple, regular, and reasonable, according to the principles of the science of orthography.
Students thoroly taught will find it easy to follow the fashion of the day among the scholars, and appear as Spelling Reformers.
* There is a handful of words with “held” or half-doubled consonants, like no in meanness.
This paper was listened to with marked attention and was briefly discussed by President Hays of Pennsylvania and Dr. GREENE of Massachusetts.
Dr. Hays of the committee on the nomination of officers for this department for the ensuing year made the following report which was unanimously adopted :
President-ELI T. TAPPAN, LL. D., Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio.
Vice-President–LEMUEL Moss, D. D., Indiana State University, Bloomington, Ind.
Secretary-E. BENJ. BIERMAN, A. M., Lebanon Valley College, Annville, Pennsylvania.
These gentlemen were also according to custom duly constituted the Executive Committee to lay out the work for the ensuing year.
First Day's Proceedings
TUESDAY, JULY 29, 1879. The Department was called to order by the President, W: F. PHELPS, of Minnesota, who made a brief address.
PROFESSOR PHELPS'S ADDRESS. After a vacation of two years we have again assembled to consider some important questions relating to the preparation of teachers for their important work. In common with the other higher departments of our public system of instruction, the Normal Schools have during the past two years been the objects of severe criticism, and exposed to the dangers of hostile legislation. The “popular sovereigns” who awake on some January morning to find themselves so far famous as to be members of the Legislature, are, unfortunately not all statesmen. They must justify the people's choice by doing something and so they fall upon the expedient of tinkering the school laws. For does not every body know all about education ! But quite as unfortunately, the people themselves are not always able to discern clearly those things which make for the welfare and glory of the country in the management of public affairs.
There is good reason for the conviction that the vital relations which education sustains to the general welfare and happiness is yet very inadequately appreciated, and that many truths deemed of prime importance in the early days of the republic are becoming in the minds of the people little less than stale platitudes. It is for these reasons, coupled with the financial stringency of the times, the greed of gain and the hostility to public education in many cases, that unfriendly criticism and hostile action have been directed to our Normal and High Schools.
Thus the opposition to both classes of schools has in many respects a common origin and a common spirit. There are not a few educated and influential men, who, while professing to believe in the necessity of elementary schools for the masses of the people, are yet opposed to the Normal and High Schools, without which there is no possibility even of thorough elementary instruction. If we could have training schools for the preparation of some of our governors and legislators in the elements of statesmanship, they would meet a great want and prove a blessing to