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fiderably from the fixed point of purity, and the harmony of its construction may be materially injured, before those minute changes, which affect only fingle words or fyllables, shall have attracted the public obfervation.
In an enlightened and improving age• much, perhaps, is not to be apprehended from the inroads of mere caprice: at fuch a period it will generally be perceived that needlefs irregularity is the worst of all deformities; and that nothing is fo truly elegant in language as the fimplicity of unviolated analogy. Rules will therefore be obferved, fo far as they are known and acknowledged ; but at the fame time the defire of improvement having once been excited, will not remain inactive; and its efforts, unlefs affifted by knowledge as much as they are prompted by zeal, will not unfrequently be found pernicious; so that the very perfons whose intention it is to perfect the inftrument of reason, will deprave and disorder it unknowingly. At
fuch a time, then, it becomes peculiarly neceffary that the analogy of language fhould be fully examined and underftood; that its rules fhould be carefully laid down; and that it should be clearly fhown how much it contains which, being already right, fhould be defended from change and violation; how much it has that demands amendment; and how much that, for fear of greater inconveniences, muft perhaps be left unaltered, though irregular.
So complete a view of the whole analogy of language, fo far as it exists, and of its want of analogy, fo far as it is yet unremedied, must be the best fecurity that can be provided against corrupt or injudicious innovation.
Happily for language, that part of it which is highest in importance is the leaft liable to fuffer from the attempts of innovators. Its internal or grammatical ftructure, being founded on the folid principles of reafon, powerfully refifts depravation. Barbarifm alone can delight
delight in deviating from laws fo evidently just as thofe of general grammar, or fo evidently neceffary as those of particular grammars fuperadded to them: and this part of the English language, as its dignity demands, has already been treated in fuch a manner as to make further attempts unneceffary.
The external form of language, that part which refpects the found and the power affigned to the letters, having been fixed originally by arbitrary affignment, may be changed in any manner with lefs apparent violence: yet changes, even of this kind, are attended with confiderable inconvenience. Every writer, or at least every good writer, in profe as well as verse, accommodates his periods or his numbers to the pronunciation and accentuation which he confiders as eftablished. Other circumstances being equal, he conftantly prefers one word to others of the fame or fimilar import, in confideration of its form and found: if, then, the found be changed, his purpose is in part defeated, and the harmony of his
compofition injured. In every fpecies of English verse, of which the rhythm is wholly accentual, the tranfpofition of an accent will generally deftroy the meafure. In our rhymed verfes, if the pronunciation of the final words or fyllables be altered materially, the rhyme will be loft, and the couplets or ftanzas fo mutilated will disappoint the ear.
Thus, by changes the most trivial in appearance, may thofe writings gradually be disfigured, on the elegance as well as excellence of which depends no mean part of our national estimation. It is therefore a matter of general concern, that we should, if poffible, protect our writers from the danger of such an injury. But even in the common use of language, it is disgusting to hear continually the fame words differently pronounced in the mouths of different speakers; and if at any time the propriety of pronunciation be enquired, to be condemned to liften to an endless difpute maintained by the induction of equivalent,
equivalent, and therefore indecifive analogies, is yet more painfully provoking. Yet what better termination do we ever find, as matters now are, to the difcuffion of the right pronunciation of any word, than the counterpoife of detached and contrary examples, supplied by casual recollection; the confirmation of every disputant in his former notions; or the hopeless confeffion of uncertainty on all fides?
Such being the inconveniences of a varying pronunciation, and such the neceffity of rules for this part of language, as clear and as definitive as those which are established in grammar, the Author of this Treatife has endeavoured, as far as he could, to fupply the deficience, The fubject has indeed been often handled, but it has not been exhaufted, nor has it perhaps been treated hitherto in fuch a method as is neceffary to produce the effects required; namely, to refift capricious innovation, to direct the efforts of thofe who would reform, and