Rules to be Observed by the Natives of Scotland for Obtaining a Just Pronunciation of English
Author(s): Walker, John
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THAT pronuniciation which diſtinguiſhes the inhabitants of Scotland is of a very different kind from that of
Ireland, and may be divided into the quantity, quality, and accentuation, of the vowels. With reſpect to quantity, it
may be obſerved, that the Scotch pronounce almoſt all their accented vowels long. Thus, if I am not miſfaken, they
would pronounce .habit, hay-bit ; tepid, tee-pid ; ſinner, ſee-ner ; conſcious, cone-ſhus ; and ſubject, ſoob-ject : it is not
pretended, however, that every accented vowel is ſo pronounced, but that ſuch a pronunciation is very general, and
particurlarly of the i. This vowel is ſhort in Engliſh pronunciation where the other vowels are along ; thus evaſion,
adheſion, emotion, confuſion, have the a, e, o, and u, long ; and in theſe inſtances the Scotch would pronounce them like
the Engliſh; but in viſion, deciſion, &c. where the Engliſh pronounce the i ſhort, the Scotch lengthen this letter by
pronouncing it like ee, as if the words were written vee-ſion, decee-ſion, &c. and this peculiarity is univerſal. The
beſt way, therefore, to, correct this, will be to make a collection of the moſt uſual words which have the vowels ſhort,
and to pronounce them daily till a habit is formed.
With reſpect to the quality of the vowels, it may be obſerved, that the inhabitants of Scotland are apt to pronounce
the a like aw, where the Engliſh give it the ſlender ſound: thus Satan is pronounced Sawtan, and fatal, fawtal. It
may be remarked too, that the Scotch give this ſound to the a preceded by w, according to the general rule, without
attending to the exceptions, Principles, No. 88; and thus, inſtead of making wax, waft, and twang, rhyme with tax,
ſhaft, and hang, they pronounce them ſo as to rhyme with box, ſoft and ſong. The ſhort e in bed, fed, red, &c. borders too
much upon the Engliſh ſound of a in bad, lad, mad, &c. and the ſhort i in bid, lid, rid, too much on the Engliſh ſound
of e in bed, led, red. To correct this error, it would be uſeful to collect the long and ſhort ſounds of theſe vowels,
and to pronounce the long ones firſt, and to ſhorten them by degrees till they are perfectly ſhort ; at the ſame time
preferring the radical ſound. of the vowel in both. Thus the correſpondent long ſounds to the e in bed, fed, red, are
bade, fade, rade, and that of the ſhort i in bid, lid, rid, are bead, lead, reed ; and the former of theſe claſſes will naturally
lead the ear to the true ſound of the latter, the only difference lying in the quantity. The ſhort o in not, lodge, got,
&c. is apt to ſlide into the ſhort u, as if the words were written nut, ludge, gut, &c. To rectify this, it ſhould be remembered,
that this a is the ſhort ſound of aw, and ought to have the radical ſound of the deep a in ball. Thus the radical
ſound correſponding to the o in not, cot, ſot, is found in naught, caught, ſought, &c. and theſe long ſounds, like the former;
ſhould be abbreviated into the ſhort ones. But what will tend greatly to clear the difficulty will be, to remember
that only thoſe words which are collected in the Principles, No. 165, have the o ſounded like ſhort u when the accent
is upon it : and, with reſpect to u, it may be obſerved, that the pronunciation peculiar to the Engliſh is only found in
the words enumerated, Principles, No. 174.
In addition to what has been ſaid, it may be obſerved, that oo in food, mood, moon, ſoon, &c. which ought always to
have a long ſound, is generally ſhortened in Scotland to that middle ſound of the u in bull ; and it muſt be remembered,
that wool, wood, good, hood, ſtood, foot, are the only words where this ſound of oo ought to take place.
The accentuation, both in Scotland,and Ireland, (if by accentuation we mean the ſtreſs, and not the kind of ſtreſs) is
ſo much the ſame as that of England, that I can ſcarcely recollect any words in which they differ. Indeed. if it were
not ſo, the verification of each country would be different: for as Engliſh verſe is formed. by accent or ſtreſs, if this
accent or ſtreſs were on different ſyllables in different countries, what is verſe in England would not be verſe in Scotland
or Ireland; and this ſufficiently ſhows how very indefinitely the word accent is generally uſed.
But, beſides the miſpronunciation of ſingle words, there is a tone of voice with which theſe words are accompanied,
that diſtinguiſhes a native of Ireland or Scotland as much as an improper ſound of the letters. This is vulgarly, and,
if it does not mean ſtreſs only, but the kind of ſtreſs, I think, not improporly called the accent.* For though there is
an aſperity in the Iriſh dialect, and a drawl in the Scotch, independent of the ſlides or inflexions they make uſe of, yet
it may with confidence be affirmed, that much of the peculiarity which diſtinguiſhes theſe dialects may be reduced to a
predominant uſe of one of theſe ſlides. Let any one who has ſufficiently ſtudied the ſpeaking voice to diſtinguiſh the
ſlides, obſerve the pronunciation of an Iriſhman and a Scotchman, who have much of the dialect of their country, and
he will find that the former abounds with the falling, and the latter with the riſing inflexion †; and if this is the caſe, a
teacher if he underſtands theſe ſlides, ought to direct his inſtruction ſo as to remedy the imperfection. But as avoiding
the wrong and ſeizing the right at the ſame inſtant, is, perhaps, too great a taſk for human powers, I would adviſe a
native of Ireland, who has much of the accent, to pronounce almoſt all his words, and end.all his ſentences with the
riſing ſlide; and a Scotchman in the ſame manner, to uſe the falling inflexion: this will, in ſome meaſure, counteract
the natural propenſity, and bids fairer for bringing the pupil to that nearly equal mixture of both ſlides which diftinguilſhes
the Engliſh ſpeaker, than endeavouring at firſt to catch the agreeable variety. For this purpoſe the teacher
ought to pronounce all the ſingle words in the leſſon with the falling inflexion to a Scotchman, and, with the riſing to
an Iriſhman; and ſhould frequently give the pauſes in a ſentence the ſame inflexions to each of theſe pupils, where
he would vary them to a native of England. But while the human voice remains unſtudied, there is little expectation
that this diſtinction of the ſlides would be applied to their uſeful purpoſes.
Beſides a peculiarity of inflexion, which I take to be a falling circumflex, directly oppoſite to that of the Scotch,
the Welch pronounce the ſharp conſonants and aſpirations inſtead of the flat. (See Principles, No. 29, 41.) Thus
for big they ſay pick ; for blood, ploot ; and for good, coot. Inſtead of virtue and vice, they ſay firtue and fice ; inſtead
of zeal and praiſe, they ſay ſeal and prace; inſtead of theſe and thoſe, they ſay thece and thoce; and inſtead of azure
and oſier, they ſay ayſher and oſher; and for jail, chail. Thus there are nine diſtinct conſonant ſounds which, to the
Welch, are entirely uſeleſs. To ſpeak with propriety, therefore, the Welch ought for ſome time to pronounce the flat
conſonants and aſpirations only; that is, they ought not only to pronounce them where the letters require, the flat
ſound, but even where they require the ſharp ſound; this will be the beſt way to acquire a habit and when this is
once done, a diſtinction will be eaſily made, and a juſt pronunciation more readily acquired.
There is ſcarcely any part of England remote from the capital where a different ſyſtem of pronunciation.does not
prevail. As in Wales they pronounce the ſharp confonants for the flat, ſo in Somerſetſhire they pronounce many of
the flat inſtead of the ſharp. Thus for Somerſetſhire, they ſay Zomerzetſshire ; for father, vather ; for think, THink;
and for ſure, zhure ‡.
There are dialects peculiar to Cornwall, Lancaſhire, Yorkſhire, and every diſtant county, in England; but as a
conſideration of theſe would lead to a detail too minute for the preſent occaſion, I ſhall conclude theſe remarks with a
few obſervations on the peculiarities of my countrymen, the Cockneys; who, as they are the models of pronunciation
to the diſtant provinces, ought to be the more ſcrupulouſly correct.
FIRST FAULT OF THE LONDONERS. — Pronouncing s indiſtinctly after ſt.
The letter s after ſt, from the very difficulty of its pronunciation, is often ſounded inarticulately. The inhabitants
of London, of the lower order, cut the knot, and pronounce it in a diſtinct ſyllable, as if e were before it; but this is
to be avoided as the greateſt blemiſh in ſpeaking: the three laſt letters in poſts, fiſts, miſts, &c. muſt all be diſtinctly
heard in one ſyllable, and without permitting the letters to coaleſce. For the acquiring of this ſound, it will be proper
to ſelect nouns that end in ſt or ſte ; to form them into.plurals, and pronounce them forcibly and diſtinctly every day.
The ſame may be obſerved of the third perſon of verbs ending in ſts or ſtes, as perſiſts, waſtes, haſtes, &c.
For, this purpoſe, the Rhyming Dictionary, where all the words are arranged according to their terminations, will be
found peculiarly uſeful.
SECOND FAULT. — Pronouncing w for v, and inverſely.
The pronunciation of v for w, and more frequently of w for v, among the inhabitants of London, and thoſe not always
* See this more fully exemplified in Elements of Elocution, vol. II p.13.
† Or rather the riſing circumflex. For an explanation of this inflexion, ſee Melody of Speaking Delineated, page 16.
‡ See change.
of the lower order, is a blemish of the firſt magnitude. The difficulty of remedying this defect is the greater, as the
cure of one of theſe miſtakes has a tendency to promote the other.
Thus, if you are very careful to make a pupil pronounce veal and vinegar, not as if written weal and winegar, you
will find him very apt to pronounce wine and wind, as if written vine and vind. The only method of rectifying this
habit ſeems to be this: Let the pupil ſelect from a dictionary, not only all the words that begin with v, but as many as
he can of thoſe that have this letter in any other part. Let him be told to bite his under lip while he is ſounding the v
in thoſe words, and to practiſe this every day till he pronounces the v properly at firſt ſight: then, and not till then,
let him purſue the ſame method with the w; which he muſt be directed to pronounce by a pouting out of the lips
without ſuffering them to touch the teeth. Thus, by giving all the attention to only one of theſe letters at a time, and
fixing by habit the true ſound of that, we ſhall at laſt find both of them reduced to their proper pronunciation in a
ſhorter time than by endeavouring to rectify them both at once.
THIRD FAULT. Not ſounding h after w.
The aſpirate h is often ſunk, particularly in the capital, where we do not find the leaſt diſtinction of ſound between
while and wile, whet and wet, where and were, &c. The beſt method to rectify this is, to collect all the words of this
deſcription from a dictionary, and write them down; and inſtead of the wh to begin them with hoo in a diſtict ſyllable,
and ſo to pronouce them. Thus let while be written and ſounded hoo-ile; whet, hoo-et; where, hoo-are; whip, hoo-ip,
&c. This is no more, as Dr. Lowth obſerves, than placing the aſpirate in its true poſition before the w, as it is in
the Saxon; which the words come from; where we may obſerve, that though we have altered the orthography of our
anceſtors, we have ſtill preſerved their pronunciation.
FOURTH FAULT. — Not ſounding h where it ought to be ſounded, and inverſely.
A ſtill worſe habit than the laſt prevails, chiefly among the people of London, that of ſinking the h at the beginning
of words where it ought to be ſounded, and of ſounding it, either where it is not ſeen, or where it ought to be ſunk.
Thus we not unfrequently hear, eſpecially among children, heart pronounced art, and arm, harm. This is a vice perfectly
ſimilar to that of pronouncing the v for the w, and the w for the v, and requires a ſimilar method to correct it.
As there are ſo very few words in the language where the initial h is ſunk, we may ſelect there from the reſt, and,
without ſetting the pupil right when he miſpronounces there, or when he prefixes the h improperly to other words, we
may make him pronounce all the words where h is ſounded, till he has almoſt forgot there are any words pronounced
otherwiſe. Then he may go over thoſe words to which he improperly prefixes the h, and thoſe where the h is ſeen but
not ſounded, without any danger of an interchange. As theſe latter words are but few, I ſhall ſubjoin a catalogue of
them for the uſe of the learner. Heir, heireſs, herb, herbage, honeſt, honeſty, honeſtly, honour, honourable, honorably, hoſpital, hoſtler,
hour, hourly, humble, humbly, humbles, humour, humouriſt, humorous, homorouſly, humourſome. Where we may obſerve,
that humour and its compounds not only ſink the h, but ſound the u like the pronoun you, or the noun yew, as if written
yewmour, yewmarous, &c.
Thus I have endeavoured to correct ſome of the more glaring errors of my countrymen; who, with all their faults,
are ſtill upon the whole the beſt pronouncers of the Engliſh language. For though the pronunciation of London is
certainly erroneous in many words, yet, upon being compared with that of any other place, it is undoubtedly the beſt;
that is, not only the beſt by courteſy, and becauſe it happens to be the pronunciation of the capital, but beſt by
better title; that of being more generally received: or, in other words, though the people of London are erroneous in
the pronunciation of many words, the inhabitants of every other place are erroneous in many more. Nay, harſh as the
ſentence may ſeem, thoſe at a conſiderable diſtance from the capital do not only miſpronounce many words taken ſeparately,
but they can ſcarcely pronounce with purity a ſingle word, ſyllable, or letter. Thus, if the ſhort ſound of the letter
u in trunk, ſunk, &c. differ from the ſound of that letter in the northern parts of England, where they ſound it like
the u in bull, and nearly as if the words were written troonk, ſoonk, &c. it neceſſarily follows that every word where
that letter occurs muſt by thoſe provincials be miſpronounced.
Perhaps I cannot conclude theſe obſervations better than by quoting a paſſage from Dr. Campbell's Philoſophy of
Rhetorick, where what is called national, or general uſe in language, is treated with the greateſt depth, clearneſs, and
vivacity. To which I would premiſe, that what he obſerves with reſpect to England as diſtinct from the provinces,
may, with very few exceptions, be applied to London — the centre of them all.
."In every province there are peculiarities of dialect, which affect not only the pronunciation and the accent, but even
"the inflection and the combination of words, whereby their idiom is diſtinguished from that of the nation, and from that
"of every other province. The narrowneſs of the circle to which the currency of the words and phraſes of ſuch dialects
"is confined, ſufficiently diſcriminates them, from that which is properly ſtyled the language, and which commands a
"circulation incomparably wider. This is one reaſon, I imagine, why the term uſe on this ſubject is commonly accom"panied
with the epithet general. In the generality of provincial idioms there is, it muſt be acknowledged, pretty
"conſiderable concurrence both of the middle and of the lower ranks. But ſtill this uſe is bounded by the province,
"county, or diſtrict, which gives name to the dialect, and beyond which its peculiarities are ſometimes unintelligible,
"and always ridiculous. But the language properly ſo called is found current, eſpecially in the upper and middle ranks,
"over the whole Britiſh empire. Thus, though in every province they ridicule the idiom of every other province, they
"all vail to the Engliſh idiom, and ſcruple not to acknowledge its ſuperiority over their own.
"For example, in ſome parts of Wales (if we may credit Shakeſpeare in his character of Fluellin in Henry V.) the
"common people ſay goot for good; in the South of Scotland they ſay gude; and in the North, gueed. Wherever one
"of theſe pronunciations prevails, you will never hear from a native either of the two; but the word good is to be heard
"every where from natives, as well as ſtrangers; nor do the people ever dream that there is any thing laughable in it,
"however much they are diſpoſed to laugh at the country accents and idioms which they diſcern in one another. Nay
"more; though the people of diſtant provinces do not underſtand one another, they moſtly all underſtand one who
"ſpeaks properly. It is a juſt and curious obſervation of Dr. Kenrick, in his Rhetorical Grammar, that the caſe of
"language, or rather ſpeech, being quite contrary to that of ſcience; in the former, the ignorant underſtand the
"learned better than the learned do the ignorant; in the latter it is otherwiſe."
But though the inhabitants of London have this manifeſt advantage over all the other inhabitants of the iſland, they,
have the difadvantage of being more diſgraced by their peculiarities than any other people. The grand difference
between the metropolis and the provinces is, that people of education in London are free from all the vices of the
vulgar; but the beſt educated people in the provinces, if conſtantly reſident there, are ſure to be ſſtrongly tinctured with
the dialect of the country in which they live. Hence it is, that the vulgar pronunciation of London,' though not half
ſo erroneous as that of Scotland, Ireland, or any of the provinces, is, to a perſon of correct taſte, a thouſand times more
offenſive and difguſting.
Cite this Document
Rules to be Observed by the Natives of Scotland for Obtaining a Just Pronunciation of English. 2022. In The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved May 2022, from http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/cmsw/document/?documentid=149.
"Rules to be Observed by the Natives of Scotland for Obtaining a Just Pronunciation of English." The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2022. Web. May 2022. http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/cmsw/document/?documentid=149.
The Corpus of Modern Scottish Writing, s.v., "Rules to be Observed by the Natives of Scotland for Obtaining a Just Pronunciation of English," accessed May 2022, http://www.scottishcorpus.ac.uk/cmsw/document/?documentid=149.
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Rules to be Observed by the Natives of Scotland for Obtaining a Just Pronunciation of English
|Title||Rules to be Observed by the Natives of Scotland for Obtaining a Just Pronunciation of English|
|Year of publication||1791|
Author information: Walker, John
|Year of birth||1732|
|Place of birth||Colney Heath, Middlesex, England|
|Mother's place of birth||Nottingham, England|
|Occupation||Lexicographer, orthoepist, elocutionist|
|Locations where resident||London|