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The First and Second parts of the Wakefield Spelling Book contain a number of graduated Lessons for the use of Junior classes; the Third and Fourth parts, of which the present volume consists, are designed for more advanced classes and for pupil teachers.
If a linguist, acquainted with the modern European languages, examine the Italian and Spanish, he will find them spelled in almost entire conformity with their pronunciation, the elementary sounds being almost uniformly represented by the same letters, and the orthography being so closely in accordance with the phonic principle, as to cause little difficulty in writing them. If he examine the French and German languages, he will find the phonic principle of writing words as they are pronounced to be more widely departed from, and the difficulties to be further increased by the existence of two phonic forms for one element, as in the German words aal, ahn, see, seh, moor, mohr, or as in our English words steel, steal, fair, fare, coat, cote, phiz, fizz, &c. The French also presents other difficulties from the great number of silent letters, and of letters that are either silent or sounded according to the circumstances in which they are placed ; and were it not for the regularity of the rules which govern these irregularities, French orthography would be very difficult indeed.
On examining English, however, the first impression is that its orthography is too irregular to allow of its being reduced to system or rule, -that good spelling must be the result of practice, memory, or eyesight,—that we must spell words as we have seen them in books, and that it is a hopeless task to attempt to frame laws for spelling correctly unknown English words, or to put foreign words into an intelligible English dress. A deeper insight into our noble language will show us, however, that it is far more phonic in its character than is generally believed, and that of our forty thousand words about three-fourths are constructed on certain fixed principles, and that the phonic principle prevails in a greater or less degree in the remaining fourth. There is not a word in the language of which it may not be affirmed that it is, or was once, written according to its pronunciation. Such words as man, remnant, antagonist, incompatibility are perfectly phonic and easy to write ; whilst such irregular words as knee, knight, dough, might, were pronounced five hundred years ago as they are now written, the k being sounded, and the gh also being sounded as a guttural whispered sound, like the ch of the Germans.
When we SEE a word, we are able to pronounce it, if we know the powers of the letters of which it is composed ; this is the principle of phonic reading. If we HEAR a word, we are able to write it, if we make use of the letters which indicate its sounds; this is the principle of phonic spelling. The principle of phonic reading is the converse or complement of phonic spelling, and both must be true or both false.
The insufficiency of the English alphabet, with its twentysix letters to indicate about forty sounds, has necessitated the use of many expedients to show vowel sounds to be long by writing two vowel letters as in leaf, vowel sounds to be short by doubling the succeeding consonant, as in robbery; by using the h with another consonant to indicate sounds for which there is no single letter, as in shall, chin, then, &c., and these expedients must be considered as forming part of the English system of spelling by sound. It is the object of the first portion of this work entitled the PRINCIPLES OF SPELLING, to endeavour to lay down rules how words ought to be spelled. These rules and examples are too long to be committed to memory, but might be used with advantage in being written out as home lessons, and the pupil afterwards examined in them. In schools where etymological spelling-books are in use, this work is not intended to supersede them but rather to be used in conjunction with them. The object of the PRINCIPLES OF SPELLING is to teach the correct orthographical form of a word apart from its meaning, while the object of etymological works is to trace the meaning of a word through all its derivatives apart from its orthographical form. Many new facts have been brought forward in reference to the elementary sounds of speech, but the author has subjected them all to the test of careful experiments, and their accuracy may be relied upon.
The latter portion of the work, entitled the PRACTICE OF SPELLING, consists of a copious vocabulary of those difficult words which are spelled in two or more ways, and this is followed by a collection of Extracts from the best authors, for dictation. Figures are attached to all those words which are pronounced exactly alike and spelled differently, as heir4 suggests the four ways of spelling that word, namely, air, heir, ere, e'er. An asterisk is attached to those words which are pronounced rather differently by careful speakers, or which differ by aspiration alone, as, stalk*, which*, metal*, and*, suggest the words stork, witch, mettle, hand. The passage Our2 Father* which* art* in2 heaven, suggests also the words hour, farther, witch, hart, heart, inn. These extracts may be copied out as home lessons, the pupil being told to make a list of all the suggested words with a short definition; or they may be used for dictation in School; or some of the extracts may be used as reading lessons, for the purpose of expressive or elocutionary reading; every member of the class reading the same passage, with comments by the master, and then reading the same simultaneously; or they may be committed to memory for the purpose of strengthening that faculty. The quality of the extracts is such as to improve the taste as well as the spelling, and the master will be able to make them available for instruction in many different ways.
The passages from the poets are printed in the prose form in order to save space, but the termination of the line is shown when necessary by a short dotted line, as “What is