DIRECTOR   Lola Metropolis-Hastings


Of the Quantity and Quality of Vowels. The first distinction of sound that seems to obtrude itself upon us when we utter the vowels, is a long and a short sound according to the greater or less duration of time taken up in pronouncing them. This distinction is so obvious as to have been adopted in all languages, and is that to which we annex clearer ideas than to any other; and though the short sounds of some vowels have not in our language been classed, with sufficient accuracy, with their parent long ones, yet this has bred but little confusion, as vowels long and short are always sufficiently distinguishable; and the nice appropriation of short sounds to their specific long ones is not necessary to our conveying what sound we mean, when the letter to which we apply these sounds is known, and its power agreed upon. The next distinction of vowels into their specific sounds, which seems to be the most generally adopted, is that which arises from the different apertures of the mouth in forming them. It is certainly very natural, when we. have so many more simple sounds than we have characters by which to express them, to distinguish them by that which seems their organic definition; and we accordingly find vowels denominated by the French, ouvert xu&ferme't by the Italians, aperto and chiuso; and by the English, open and shut. But whatever propriety there may be in the use of these terms in other languages, it is certain they must be used with caution in English, for fear of confounding them with long and short. Dr. Johnson and other grammarians call the a in father the open a; which may, indeed, distinguish it from the slender e in paper; but not from the broad a in water which is still more open. Each of these letters has a short sound, which may be called a shut sound; but the long sound cannot be so properly denominated open, as more or less broad} that is, the a in paper, the slender sound • the a in father, the broadish or middle sound, and the a in water, the broad sound, Th* same may be observed of the o. This letter has three long sounds, heard in move, note, nor; which graduate from slender to broadish, and broad, like the a. The i also in mine, may lie called the broad i, and that in machine, the slender i i though each of them is equally long; and though these vowels that are long may be said to be more or less open, according to the different apertures of the mouth in forming them, yet the short vowels cannot be said to be more or less shut: for as short always implies shut, (except in verse) though long does not always imply open, we must be careful not to confound long and open, and close and shut, when we speak of the quantity and quality of the vowels. The truth of it is, all vowels either terminate a syllable, or are united with a consonant. In the first case, if the accent be on the syllable, the vowel is long, though it may not be open: in the second case, where a syllable is terminated by a consonant, except that consonant be r, whether the accent be on the syllable or not, the vowel has its short sound, which, compared with its long one, may be called shut: but as no vowel can be said to be shut that is not joined to a consonant, all vowels that end syllables may be said to be open, whether the accent be on them or not (550) (550.