Oriental and Linguistic Studies.
The East and West; Religion and Mythology; Orthography And Phonology; Hindu Astronomy.
William Dwight Whitney,
1874.How shall we spell?
How our English words shall be spelt is a matter concerning which the great mass of those to whom the language is native appear to have pretty fully made up their minds. They intend to tolerate no change in the present orthography. Those who put forth proposals for its alteration, whether in certain words and classes of words only, or upon a wider scale, are set down and laughed at without mercy. The public sentiment is perhaps stronger and more unanimous upon the subject than ever before. There was a time when the movement toward a consistent spelling, of which the Fonetik Nuz [В1] was a conspicuous exponent, wore in the eyes of many persons a threatening aspect ; but it now seems dangerous to nobody. Reaction, even, is the order of the day. The orthographical " improvements " made by that unscrupulous radical, Noah Webster, have been one by one abandoned and ignored by his editors. The writing of honor for honour, and the like, was once pretty well established throughout America, and making progress in England itself ; at present it is quite crushed out in the latter country, and many American scholars and publishers are giving it up, in shame and confusion of face. And yet there are, from time to time, voices raised also upon the other side of the question ; even efforts seriously made doubtless with some hope of a successful issue to bring about that sweeping revolution which we, the English-speakers at large, are determined neither to encourage nor to allow.
To mention only one or two of those which have last come under our notice : a company has been formed at Mendota, in Illinois, " with a capital of $35,000," for carrying through the great national reform in spelling, and introducing a new and strictly phonetic alphabet ; the American Philological Society l (in and of New York) has put forth, as a feeler of the public pulse, if not as the direct suggestion of reform, a phonetic allegory on the late war and its causes, the " History of Magnus Maharba " (Abraham) ; and a senator of the United States has moved to devote a part of the superfluous public funds to paying a mixed commission, which shall devise and report a plan for a consistent orthography. The subject, then, is still in some degree an open one before the public mind. Or, if we are to regard the influence of these few unquiet spirits as too insignificant to be made much account of, we may at any rate take a satisfaction in reviewing the position we hold against them, and realizing anew its strength and security.
[В1]Isaac Pitman. Few, if any, remember that shorthand was only one of Pitman's schemes, and in his eyes probably not the most important. He was also a spelling reformer. He published a paper in its interests, called if my memory serves me, "The Fonetik Nuz," and issued a series of classical English works in "fonetik". spelling, of which "The Vicer of Wac- j field" was one.