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Broadcast English

There has never been a British equivalent of the Académie Française to prescribe, however vainly, the rules of the written and spoken language, nor any attempt to correspond to the Prussian imposition of standardised orthography on the German language in the latter part of the nineteenth century.
        But there has been the British Broadcasting Corporation. 'Proper' speech has been known as 'BBC English' since the early days of radio broadcasting: clear enunciation of the 'received southern standard' dialect. As the following paper shows, this did not happen by accident. The BBC took a conscious decision to implement some standardisation in pronunciation at a very early stage and commissioned a report from a committee of experts, of whom the best known now is undoubtedly George Bernard Shaw, and chaired by no less than the Poet Laureate, Robert Bridges (1844-1930). Bridges had been one of the founders of the Society for Pure English, a much less proscriptive body than its name suggests. The SPE had already been concerned about the potential effects of the telephone and of broadcasting on spoken English. In particular, as Bridges himself wrote (SPE Tract XXI, 1925), broadcasting 'must, we think, encourage a stricter standardization than otherwise would have been possible or might have seemed desirable; also a clearer and more distinct articulation of syllables than is generally practised: and this points to its making a differentiation of dialects on the scientific basis of their acoustical merits, which implies the utilitarian recognition of an aesthetic standard which has hitherto been scouted as a vain fancy of educated taste.' 
        As if to reassure the population north of Watford that this did not mean adopting the language of the London toffs as standard, Bridges added: 'The slipshod pronunciations fashionable in Southern English, against which we have sometimes protested, will have their actual defects exposed: indeed we hear that this has already been recognized.'

The report that the committee produced and the BBC published in 1929 included a short list of 322 recommended pronunciations. The version in SPE Tract XXXII included a commentary on the opinions expressed by five persons to whom the list was submitted for comment. These five raised objections to 99 of the recommendations.




Since the earliest days of broadcasting the B.B.C. has recognised a great responsibility towards the problems of spoken English. These are vexed but intriguing. They might have been evaded, leaving both general principles and particular words to chance. Tendencies might have been observed and either reinforced or resisted. As the broadcaster is influential, so also is he open to criticism from every quarter in that he addresses listeners of every degree of education, many of whom are influenced by local vernacular and tradition. There has been no attempt to establish a uniform spoken language, but it seemed desirable to adopt uniformity of principle and uniformity of pronunciation to be observed by Announcers with respect to doubtful words. The policy might be described as that of seeking a common denominator of educated speech.
       With this in view, the B.B.C. decided in 1926 to seek expert advice, and was fortunate enough to secure the active co­operation of a Committee under Mr. Robert Bridges, the Poet Laureate, as Chairman, with the following members: Sir Johnstone Forbes-Robertson, Professor Daniel Jones, Mr. A. Lloyd James, Mr. George Bernard Shaw, and Mr. Logan Pearsall Smith. The Committee has held several meetings, as a result of which it has enunciated certain principles for general guidance, and has considered some hundreds of words of which the pronunciation is doubtful. The present pamphlet is the first official publication embodying the findings of the Committee. It remains for me to commend it to the listening public and to thank the Committee for their assistance, and in particular Mr. A. Lloyd James, whose labours as Honorary Secretary have been indefatigable.






The language that had its birth in these islands, and was for centuries confined to them, is now more widely spread over the world than any other language; and its history is an epitome of the nation's history. We who speak it, however, are but little concerned with its past; we are responsible, though unconsciously, for its present, and we steadfastly refuse to contemplate its future. In our study of the growth of the Empire we forget that this territorial expansion of our language sowed the seeds of its disintegration. In our review of the social advance­ment of the nineteenth century, we forget that compulsory education and universal reading have begun to break up our historic dialects, and given to the printed word a degree of authority that it never possessed before. In our outlook upon the future we cherish the delusion that our language will remain as we know it now, the optimistic even seeing in it a future world-language.

It requires a peculiar refinement of the historical sense to see history in our every-day life, and an exercise of the imagination to see in broadcasting a feature of our national life that may have a permanent influence upon our language. It is not improbable that this general dissemination of the spoken word may tend to counteract the disintegrating influences that have hitherto always disturbed the unity of a language when that language has, through the political expansion of a nation, become scattered over an area larger than that which gave it birth.


But however indifferent we are to language as a whole, most of us are far from indifferent to our own speech. On the contrary, it is nowadays considered essential that those who aspire to be regarded as cultured and educated should pay a due regard to the conventions that govern cultured and educated speech. It would appear that this interest in the niceties of our language is more alive now than ever before, and it has been suggested that broadcasting is in some way responsible for this quickening.

We now have a certain type, or rather a carefully chosen band of types of English, broadcast over the length and breadth of our country, so that, although many listeners hear daily a type of speech with which they are familiar, and which they habitually use, many others hear a type that is different from that which they usually hear and use. This in itself is enough to ensure abundant criticism: the man who is familiar with the broadcast pronunciation will be inclined to criticise any discrepancy between it and his own. The man who realises that the pronunciation of the loudspeaker is not his own, and not one that he hears about him in his every-day life, may resent the fact that an alien dialect is inflicted upon him. The one may accuse the broadcast speaker of ignorance or affectation: the other may make a general condemnation of the unfamiliar speech, calling it cockney, or Manchester, or Oxford. There are, for instance, current in modern English many ways of saying the word "dance": they can all be divided into two main classes, viz.:

     (i) those that use the short vowel of "Dan,"
     (ii) those that use the long vowel of "darn."

Speakers who use the first variety often accuse the others of being cockney: those who use the second accuse the others of being provincial. Criticism does not end here, for those members of either group whose precise shade of vowel sound is not to the satisfaction of other members of the same class may be called affected, or uneducated.

The Englishman claims many birthrights, not the least of which is his right to speak his own language as, subject to the goodwill of his friends, it pleases him to do; perhaps next in importance must be ranked his right to think whatever he pleases of any style of speech that is different from his own. Every man is a law unto himself in this matter, having one standard of conduct and one alone—that which he and his fellows invariably do, this being, for that reason, the right thing as far as it concerns him. He dresses like his fellows, and any conspicuous variation in the colour or shape of a garment is usually ridiculed: the style associated with one class, or with one occasion, is not deemed fitting in another class, or upon a different occasion. The kilt is as conspicuous in Piccadilly as the silk hat upon the moors: there are, however, occasions when a black tie is considered suitable by all classes. What is true of dress is in some degree true of speech, for both are governed by local convention and public taste, with a necessary reverence for historical tradition and the original purpose for which they were designed.

Affectation and pedantry are to be found wherever language is spoken; they are not confined to any one local or class variety of speech. The indiscriminate use of h, for instance, among some uneducated speakers is a pretension to superiority that may merely amuse us. Such pronunciations as nevaa, faa, waaliss, for never, fire, wireless, will appear an offensive affectation to those who are unacquainted with the class variant of which these pronunciations are so characteristic a feature.

Perhaps it may help us to view this question of taste in language in its proper setting if we realise that it is the same, in its fundamental principle, all the world over. Even in the primitive communities of Africa there are dialects, and it is often a matter of grave concern, when the language has to be written for the first time, and books have to be printed, which particular dialect shall be chosen. The speakers of all but the chosen one will resist the attempt to force upon them and their children a fashion of speech which is not that of their tribe, of their fathers, of the heroes of their legend.

Local pride and prejudice in speech, therefore, are not confined to the more civilised communities; it would appear, however, that the higher a community climbs in the social scale, the greater is the degree of uniformity in the speech. Wherever language is spoken, there is present in the minds of the speakers the notion that there is a "right way" of speaking it, and the larger the community using the given language, the greater the number of right ways." Every district will have its "right way"—not that the speakers of that district will think of it as a "right way"; they merely conform to the local way. Every social class will have its right way, so much so that a man's social class will be more evident from the fashion of his speech than from any other fashion he adopts. So it is with English, and since English is, geographically, the most widely spread language in the world, it follows that the problems common to all languages are more acute here than they are elsewhere. It needs but little imagination to realise that when oral communication with all parts of the English-speaking world becomes, through the wireless medium, a daily event, there will have to be a greater degree of toleration shown towards the language of the loud-speaker than is at present shown by some of its critics. But though we may say that "correct" and "right" are not proper terms to use in these questions of pronunciation, yet there are exceptions; for where the different considerations of propriety, instead of conflicting, all lead to the same conclusion (and that is not uncommon), we may conveniently use the terms right and wrong.

The question of a standard pronunciation is bound to arise wherever language is spoken. English has a further question, arising from the absence of any recognised authority in its pronunciation. This is the question of alternative pronunciations. The two questions are intricately connected, but we may for convenience examine them separately.

1. Is there a standard dialect of English?

The listener who writes to the B.B.C. asking why the London announcer pronounces "d a a n c e" for "dance" is, in reality, protesting against having an alien fashion of speech thrust upon him. The listener who complains that the London announcers are obviously affected is registering, in all probability, his protest against having thrust upon him the fashion of speech peculiar to a class of society, to a locality, or to a type of character, with which he is not in daily touch. Both critics imply that there is a "better way" of speaking than that adopted by the announcers. The listener who writes to ask the "correct way" of pronouncing a word quite evidently assumes that there is a "correct way." In all these queries and criticisms there is implied the idea of a standard pronunciation. We have a standard yard, a standard pound weight, a standard sovereign, and a standard pint. The yard does not vary from Aberdeen to Plymouth, and the pint pot contains as much in Mayfair as in Bethnal Green. Unfortunately speech is not capable of rigid measurement, and there is no standard of pronunciation. Pronunciation varies from district to district, from class to class, from character to character, in proportion to the local, social, or moral difference that separates them. Certain general observations may be made upon this aspect of the question without going into details, e.g.:—
1. There are district variants of speech in every social class, and class variants in every district.
2. Local variants become increasingly unlike one another as we descend the social scale.
3. They become more alike as we ascend.
4. The greater mobility of educated people tends towards the elimination of some of their local peculiarities.
5. The general spread of education tends to bring about the unification of the social variants in all districts.
6. Out of the broad band that comprises all district and class variants, there is emerging a considerably narrower band of variants that have a very great measure of similarity.
7. This narrow band of types has more features in common with Southern English than with Northern English.
8. Those who speak any one variety of the narrow band are recognised as educated speakers throughout the country. They may broadcast without fear of adverse intelligent criticism.

There may be other conclusions, but it is quite evident that we are not entitled to conclude that there is one standard pronunciation, one and only one right way of speaking English. There are varieties that are acceptable throughout the country, and others that are not.

2. Alternative Pronunciations.

Germany has attempted to lay down certain principles to be followed by actors in the countries where German is spoken: it is obviously desirable that two members of the same cast should, unless it is expressly desired that they should not, speak the same variety of German. The Conservatoire in Paris, with the support of the National Theatres and the State Opera, exercises a control over the style of pronunciation to be used on the stage. In both these countries there is a "right way," or at any rate a very powerful tradition.

In Great Britain there is no such officially inspired authoritative tradition, and consequently our language is particularly rich in alternative pronunciations of equal authority. The B.B.C. has no desire to accept or to dictate any standard of pronunciation other than the current usage of educated speakers. But where there is diversity of opinion among works of reference, and diversity of practice among educated speakers, it is evident that no solution of doubtful questions can be attained that will meet with universal approval. The function of the Advisory Committee on Spoken English is to suggest to the Corporation, for the use of announcers, solutions that shall be in accordance with one accepted usage.

With the question of a standard language, this question of alternative pronunciations is involved, and the relationship between the two questions is best understood by reference to particular cases. Is dance to have the long vowel or the short vowel? Speakers of the Northern acceptable varieties favour the short vowel, while Southerners favour the long. Both pronunciations must stand: both are common among educated speakers. It is probable that the Southern variety will prevail, merely because it is the Southern variety, and is current in the metropolis. There is no standard dialect, but here, as in all communities, the educated speech of the capital starts with a heavy handicap in its favour.

Is laboratory to have the accent on the first syllable or on the second? Here there is no question of district variants: the two pronunciations are heard in all parts of the country. This is a question of alternative pronunciations, and, since most of the work of the Advisory Committee is concerned with alternative pronunciations, it will be well to examine very briefly the causes that give rise to these alternatives in our language.


To begin with, it must be borne in mind that the language of a modern civilised community embraces the spoken or oral language, and the written or visual language. The visual language is generally an attempt to represent by means of visible symbols the sounds of the spoken language. Since it is impossible to make sounds visible, it follows that the relationship between the sounds and the symbols must be a conventional one; furthermore, since the same set of symbols has to serve for all the local and class variants of any given tongue, there will be a variety of conventions. Observance of these conventions is what is known as correct spelling; and, as a general rule, it may be stated that the greater the degree of uniformity prevailing in the conventions of any language, the simpler is its spelling, which is but another way of saying that the language is highly phonetic.

The arts of reading and writing are, in essence, nothing more than the understanding and the observance, respectively, of the conventional relationships that exist in language between the sounds used in the spoken language and the symbols used in the written language to represent these sounds The conventions are necessary because sound and sight are fundamentally different; no system of symbols can ever represent speech adequately or accurately.

Visual languages are of two main kinds, viz.—
(a)   those in which no attempt is made to represent the sounds—Chinese;
(b)   those in which some such attempt is made—English, Greek, Sanskrit.

Languages of the first class require a separate sign for every word; reading and writing are not possible until the beginner has learned some hundreds of signs. It takes a Chinese student many years to learn the thousands of characters he requires in order to read a newspaper.

In languages of the second class an attempt is made to represent the pronunciation by means of letters, each of which is supposed to have a certain value when translated into sound. There are usually more sounds than letters, with the result that the ideal of one sound per letter is seldom attained-unless indeed this happy state prevails in Korean. The same letter may have several values: e.g. the letter "s" stands for the "s" sound in picks, for the z" sound pigs, and for the "zh" sound in measure. The same sound may be represented in many ways; e.g. the "f" sound is represented by "f" in feel, by "ph" in philosophy, and by "gh" in laugh. A single letter may stand for one or more groups of sounds; thus the letter "x" represents the sounds "ks" in six, and the sounds "gz" in exist. A single sound may require a group of letters, and the same group of letters may represent several sounds: e.g. the two letters "th" represent one sound in thick, another sound in then, and yet another sound in thyme.

These discrepancies arise from the very simple fact that a language may have more sounds than letters. English uses the Roman alphabet, with certain additions, and has twenty-six letters to do duty for its sounds. Our language comprises at least thirty main essential sounds, for which symbols are indispensable. Unless a language is fortunate enough to have an alphabet that can provide one letter per sound, then there is bound to be established a conventional relationship between some sounds and some symbols. In time the conventions are observed differently by different districts, and variant pronunciations will begin to arise.

No system of symbols, then, can represent a system of sounds without a series of conventions; and it follows, therefore, that the ideally phonetic language does not exist. This truth must have been realised very early, for, although written language starts as an avowed attempt to reproduce the spoken language, it soon abandons the effort, and tends more and more as time goes on to persist unchanged, ceasing to register the very considerable ravages made by time upon the spoken idiom. The havoc wrought upon the sounds of our language before our own time is accepted complacently, but we are all inclined to resist vigorously the inroads that are being made in our own day.

We are thus faced with the additional anomaly that the visual language is not really a picture of the language as it is now, but rather of the language as it was when the visual language began to become popular. In the case of English, we possess in our visual language a picture of what our pronunciation was, in its main features, in the century that immediately succeeded the introduction of printing.footnote The further removed we are in time from the date of the popularisation of our visual system, the greater will be the discrepancy between the spoken and the written languages. Tibetan orthography was fixed in the seventh century, and is still current as then fixed, so that a word which appears written as dbyus is pronounced "ü." In our own time the word written plough is now spoken as plow, rough is spoken as ruff cough as coff. What we now see as dough, we speak as dô, having to make a new word to represent a pronunciation that the letters "dough" once represented. The new word is duff. Sound and symbol are by their very nature irreconcilable, and their very nature serves to make them still more irreconcilable as time progresses. Sounds are vague and ethereal things that cannot be crystallised: they arise, in language, from muscular habits of the organs of speech, and change from generation to generation with a constancy in which some scholars have professed to see the regularity of natural law. The inevitable law of spoken language is change, because sound is sound, and because the impression of sound upon the mind is not as enduring as the impression of sight. The equally inevitable law of written language is persistence, because the eye has become accustomed to see, and the hand to make, certain signs in certain orders, and the mind has become accustomed to read them silently with little or no reference to the sounds they were intended to represent. Any alteration of the existing visual language will disturb the smooth working of two processes, reading and writing, that have taken years to bring to perfection. It is conceivable that the two processes would be more easily acquired if there were some attempt to reconsider the conventional relationships existing between sound and symbol; it is possible that if no such reconsideration ever takes place, the discrepancy between spoken and written language will increase with time until the conventions are so numerous that there will be one convention per word, as in modern Chinese. As against this, it is not surprising that there is now a steadily increasing tendency to make the visual language a standard, and to pronounce words, not according to their later acquired pronunciation, but according to their traditional spelling. Whereas the writing was originally designed to represent the sounds, we are now trying to make the sounds conform to the symbols. Thus there has come about a strange inversion of the original processes.

This discrepancy between sound and symbol, then, is a fertile cause of uncertainty in pronunciation. The letters "ei" have one sound in eight and another in receive. Therefore we may expect uncertainty as to their value in unfamiliar words, e.g. inveigle. It is unnecessary to multiply examples, for many of the alternative pronunciations recorded in English dictionaries are examples of this uncertain relationship between sound and symbol.


Into this chaos of conflicting relationships there must be thrown, according to some, a further convention, namely, a relationship between the value of the symbol in the modern language and the value it had in a classical language. Cinema derives from a Greek word that began with the "k" sound, therefore, it is alleged, the English word must have the "k" sound. footnote

The number of people who are familiar with the original phonetic values of these letters is small; and there is often uncertainty as to what these original values really were. In view of the complicated nature of the already existing relationship between sound and symbol in English, it would appear advisable not to add a further complication by this consideration of ancient values. But so long as this consideration is regarded as desirable, it will be a fertile source of alternative pronunciations.

To some extent the same is true of modern foreign languages from which our vocabulary continues to enrich itself. What is to be done with the countless words that come to us from these sources? Are we to keep the foreign pronunciation? Or are we to read the words as though they were English words? This question bristles with difficulties, and little can be said about it here, beyond registering the view that the question is not one to be dismissed in the summary way that is not uncommon. In early days such words were read as English words. French was read as though it were English, and the matter ended there. But since we have begun to learn French and to speak it with some attempt at giving our effort a French sound, it is thought desirable to give French words as near an approximation to their French pronunciation as possible. The approximation is often a poor one, because French sounds are not English sounds, and because the rhythm and accent of French are alien to English. So it comes about that however laudable our intention to preserve the French pronunciation, the result is a collection of those already existing English sounds that most nearly approximate to the French. The only French sound in the average English pronunciation of the word restaurant is the "s," which is the same in English and French.

In the case of other languages less familiar than French, there is usually less attempt to reproduce the native pronunciation, especially when that attempt involves the production of sounds which are usually considered difficult. Most people are aware that the initial consonant in the name Wagner sounds like an English "v," and most of us pronounce it as such, because there is a "v" sound in English. Bach is less fortunate, for his name contains a sound that English people have forgotten for some centuries how to make; he is therefore frequently called Baak. The further afield we travel, the more hopeless becomes the attempt to reproduce the native pronunciation, and he would be a bold man who would recommend that we should adopt the initial sound that the Arab uses in the word Koran, or the initial click that the Zulu uses in Cetewayo. A language will seldom accept or embody either sounds or rhythms or accents that are alien to those which are its historical heritage. Isolated speakers may use these exotic sounds, but the bulk of the people will reject them.


There must also be noticed another source of alternative pronunciations with which the Advisory Committee is very much concerned. This is the nature and position of the stress or accent in modern English. Concerning the nature of this stress, little is known beyond the fact that its function is to give prominence to certain syllables; these syllables tend in connected speech to recur at regular intervals of time, this regularity constituting that essential feature of our language, its rhythm. This prominence, which is popularly believed to be due to loudness, may owe its origin to other sources. For example, the syllable may be made prominent by its tone, by its length, or by the quality of the vowel sound it contains. What is important to remember is that any question concerning stress may be concerned with length or vowel quality.

As to the position of the stress, English offers an example almost unique in the world of languages, for there is no known principle that governs the incidence of stress. The words photograph, photographer, photographic, have the stress on the first, second and third syllables respectively. Some words, e.g. convict, increase, are nouns if the stress falls on the first syllable, and verbs if it falls on the second syllable. We are all agreed as to where the stress falls in many words, e.g. agree, belong, prominent, independent. But there is no uniformity with regard to magazine, apologise, which differ in the North and South, or with laboratory, peremptory, and hundreds of others. There would appear to be a popular tendency to place the stress in long words as near to the beginning as possible, with the result that the remaining syllables suffer by the distortion or loss of their vowel sounds. The only disadvantage of this tendency is that the resultant distortion or loss of unstressed vowel sounds frequently brings into awkward contact numbers of consonants, and leads, especially in broadcast speech, to confusion and unintelligibility. Laboratory when broadcast with the stress on the first syllable is liable to be heard by a listener as lavatory; it is therefore desirable, at any rate in broadcast speech, to avoid throwing the stress too far back. Against this tendency to throw back the stress as far as possible, there is also another principle which is active in determining the accent of polysyllables; that is, the utilitarian principle of keeping the original accent of the root on all its derivatives. This latter principle seems now in favour, driving out older pronunciations, but as it cannot be always observed it will have to win its victories word by word, in the general rub: thus indispútable is winning from indísputable, because of dispute. For an example of anomalies, compare omniscience and omnipotent with omnipresence.


There remains finally to be mentioned the relationship between the stress and the quality of the vowel sound in English. This may best be understood by considering an example. The vowel in the word man, as the word is said usually, possesses a certain acoustic quality and a certain length; if the word is placed in a position where it does not carry what we know as the stress, e.g. postman, the quality and length of the vowel are altered. The stressed vowel is different from the unstressed vowel: indeed, as we have said, this difference of itself may constitute no small part of the nature of the English stress. This difference is not due to any carelessness of speech; it is an inevitable consequence of that very peculiar feature of our language known as the stress or accent. Any attempt to pronounce English, giving to the unstressed vowels the exact quality they possess when stressed, results in a pronunciation that is not recognisable as English. The degree of difference between stressed and unstressed vowels varies in different parts of the country: there is usually less difference in Yorkshire than in London, with the result that, or possibly because of the fact that, the rhythm of Yorkshire English is different from that of London English. It is impossible to say which is cause and which is effect.

This modification of the vowel sound of unstressed syllables is a source of much anxiety to those who are concerned with speech. Most of us agree that the final vowels of singer, actor, banana, are the same in sound, although they are differently represented in writing. Some speakers rhyme palace with Paris, audible with laudable; others make a difference, being guided by a recollection of the appearance of the words. Speakers who hear unstressed vowels that differ from their own are inclined to be very critical, asking, for example, why wireless orchestra is pronounced wireliss orchistra.

The unstressed vowels in English are working out their own destiny, and it is impossible to predict what the future has in store. One has only to compare the havoc wrought upon unstressed vowels in other languages, e.g. French, to realise that in a language that has a strong stress the quality of the stressed vowel is but little guide to the quality of the same vowel when it is unstressed. The Advisory Committee believes that this distortion should be as little as is consistent with the rhythm of Southern English.


It will be seen that the question of making any decisions upon English pronunciation is not one to be investigated without much thought. The considerations that have been outlined in this introduction are, so to speak, the academic or scholastic background of the problem, and with these the average educated speaker of the language is rightly not much concerned. But they are the considerations that are ever present in the minds of those who are responsible for the pronunciations recorded in our standard dictionaries.

But dictionaries disagree among themselves, some offering alternatives that others ignore, some giving first choice to one alternative, some to another If the B.B.C. quotes one standard dictionary, the critic quotes another, and there is no end to argument.

Moreover, dictionaries grow out of date: the Oxford English Dictionary has been some forty years in the making, and its early volumes already need revision. New words appear that are not recorded in the early volumes; new pronunciations of old words arise, and gain so great a measure of currency that they must be admitted into our speech. For it must not be forgotten that a pronunciation is not bound to be "right" merely because it appears in a dictionary: it appears in the dictionary because it was "right" in the view of the lexicographer at the time when he made his dictionary.

Most of the words that follow admit of more pronunciations than one; they are all words that have caused difficulty to announcers, or words that have given rise to criticism from listeners. The Advisory Committee on Spoken English has discussed each word on its merit, and it recommends that announcers should use the pronunciations set out below. It is not suggested that these pronunciations are the only "right" ones, and it is not suggested that any special degree of authority attaches to these recommendations. They are recommendations made primarily for the benefit of announcers, to secure some measure of uniformity in the pronunciation of broadcast English, and to provide announcers with some degree of protection against the criticism to which they are, from the nature of their work, peculiarly liable.

A. Lloyd James.



*In English, the main features of our spelling became fixed in the sixteenth century, so that the far-reaching changes in our pronunciation which took place during the next three centuries are, of course, unrecorded in our orthography.—Wyld, Historical Study of the Mother Tongue, p.15. return

*About the middle of the last century the classicists made a conscientious effort to "improve" the traditional English pronunciation of words derived from Greek and Latin, by fitting them out with what they thought were the original sounds. The rightness of this procedure was then so little questioned that there was? a sort of shamefaced panic among scientists who had not learned the dead languages. The principle involved is now rightly discredited: we preserve one or two acceptable results, but in most cases have to deplore pedantic anomalies. [R. B.] return


Source: SPE Tract No XXXII (Oxford: Clarendon Press, Third impression, 1931)

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