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analyze these words afnd ascertain the parts of which
they are composed, or to learn their letters. The
words first selected for analysis should be short,
should represent some familiar object, and should
be composed of letters which are easily learned ;
such as ox^ coxv^ cat^ hoy, hen, kc. In analyzing words
into letters, books, cards, slates, blackboards, and
letter-blocks may be used as described when speak-
ing of the ABC method. Pupils, having been


made familiar with the letters composing certain
words, can make the words on slates and blackboards,
or form them with letter-blocks.

Several reasons may be given in favor of the "Word
method of teaching the Alphabet.

It is the natural method. Children use words in
speaking, and the transition seems natural from
spoken words to written words, and then to the
letters of which words are composed. If we com-
mence with letters, there can be no immediate con-
nection between that knowledge of language which
the pupil has and that which he is expected to ac-
quire. Besides, the Word method follows the order
in which written language was invented. Characters
were first used for objects, next for words, and last
for letters.

It possesses more interest for children. A child
cannot be made to take much interest in abstract,
arbitrary forms like a, h, c ; while all children delight
in talking about a hird^ a dog^ a hell^ a coach^ and con-
sequently may be pleased to learn the words for
such objects, and the letters composing such words.
Teachers unconsciously show the truth of what is
here said, when they tell their pupils that a stands
for apple, h for boy, and d for dog, &e.

It aids pupils in learning to pronounce. The
pupil necessarily learns the pronunciation of some
words in learning the Alphabet, but the benefit
claimed has reference to the habit he acquires of
associating the names of words with their forms ;
and it will be shown in the article on methods of
teaching pronunciation that the learner is more de-
pendent for his skill in pronuciation upon such


associations tlian upon the names or the sounds of
the letters.

Two additional suggestions will close the discus-

The names and the sounds of the letters should
be taught cotemporaneously. If the ABC
method be adopted, the powers of the letters should
be taught before attempting to teach pronunciation,
for the names of the letters are of little use in pro-
nouncing. Practice will prove moreover that both
the names and sounds of letters can be taught
in nearly the same time that either can be, and
hence dictates the policy of teaching them together.
If the Word method be adopted, the -analysis of
words into the letters of which they are composed,
and into their component sounds, will prove each an
advantage to the other. The variety this double
analysis will furnish w^ill add interest to the lesson,
and since the eye is engaged in one, and the ear in
the other, the process cannot be wearisome. Noth-
ing need be said specially in regard to the methods
of teaching the sounds of the letters, as their names
and sounds must be taught substantially in the same
manner. The sounds of letters, however, are more
difficult to utter than their names, and the teacher
must train his pupils to utter them after him, and
carefully guide them i^ placing their organs of
speech in the proper position to do so.

The capital and small letters should be taught at
the same time. Those letters which are alike will
be remembered from their resemblance ; and those
that differ, from contrast; and one class of letters
will be needed by pupils about as soon as the other.



Pronunciation consists in naming words upon
seeing the cliaracters which compose them, or hear-
ing uttered the names of these characters or the
sounds represented by them. In reading, words are
usually pronounced upon seeing the characters which
compose them. A familiar word can be pronounced
without seeing it, if some one name the letters of
which it is composed; and the pronunciation of all
words is but the combination of their elementary

The orthographical peculiarities of the English
language render the work of acquiring its pronun-
ciation exceedingly difficult. If there was a single
character to represent every elementary sound in the
language, the name and sound of the letters would
be identical, and the pronunciation of a word would
merely consist in a synthesis of its elementary sounds
and could present no serious impediment to the pro-
gress of a learner. But we are to speak of methods
of teaching the Pronunciation of the English Lan-
guage, and must therefore accept it as it is.

Pronunciation may be taught in two ways ; first,
by causing the pupil to name or notice the characters
composing words, and utter in combination the
sounds they are intended to represent. This may
be called the Synthetic method. Second, by causing
the pupil to associate the names of words with their
forms. This may be called the Associative method.

1. The Synthetic Method. — The names of all
words are syntheses of their elementary sounds. If
each linguistic sound was represented by a single


letter, and the name and sound of the letter were
the same, the teaching of Pronunciation would con-
sist: first, in acquainting the pupil with the elemen-
tary sounds ; second, in impressing upon his memory
the characters by which these sounds are repre-
sented ; and, third, in teaching him to pronounce
words by uttering the sounds in combination. This
is strictly a process of synthesis.

"With respect to the English language, each sound
is not represented by a single letter, and the names
and sounds of the letters are seldom identical. Our
present task is to show how the Pronunciation of
such a language can be taught synthetically. As
might be supposed, the Synthetic method has as-
sumed several forms, each of which will be dis-
cussed in its order.

1st. The Alphabetic Method. — To commence pro-
perly the work of teaching Pronunciation according
to this method, the pupils must know the names of
the letters of the Alphabet. When able to point out
and name all the letters presented individually, they
are required to point them out and name them as
they occur in words, and then to pronounce the
words. At first, monosyllabic words which contain>y
no silent letters are selected, and afterwards the
pupils are gradually introduced to more difficult
monosyllabic, dissyllabic, and polysyllabic words.

This is the method generally practiced in our
schools; but it will require little argument to show
that it cannot be the best that might be adopted.
The radical error underlying it is the assumption that
the name of a word is a synthesis of the names of


the letters composing it — a thing which is not true
of a single word in the English language. A child
cannot know upon merely naming the letters in a
word, what sounds they represent, whether other
letters may not represent the same sounds, or
whether they represent any sounds at all. Take
such simple words as at^ go^ me ; name the letters,
and then combine the sounds nttered ; and there
will be formed a result wholly unlike the names
of these words. If the simplest words cannot be
pronounced by combining the names of their com-
ponent letters, still less can words like leisure, vic-
tuals, phthisic, hnife, yacht, ycleped, and thousands of
others whose pronunciation could hardly be guessed
from a knowledge of their orthography.

It must be admitted, however, that pupils do learn
to pronounce in schools where no other method of
teaching Pronunciation than the Alphabetic is used.
The proper explanation of this fact is that the
teacher supposes he is teaching according to one
method when he is actually teaching according to
another. The child is not guided to the pronun-
ciation of a word by naming its letters, as many
teachers seem to think, but he learns to associate
the name of the word which the teacher gives him
with its form, the parts of which he has named.
Every teacher who has used this method will testify
that after pupils had named the letters composing a
word, he had to give them its pronunciation, and
sometimes to repeat it again and again, before it
became fixed in their minds. In stating this, it is
not intended to be denied that naming the letters
may sometimes aid the pupil in pronouncing.



The names of letters may do something to suggest
their power, when practice has made these powers
partially familiar; and so far as this can be the
case, some advantage in pronouncing may be de-
rived from the Alphabetic method.

2nd. The Phonic Method. — According to the Pho-
nic method, the teacher first imparts to his pupils a
knowledge of the sounds of the language. His
next object is to teach them to combine sounds.
This he may do by uttering individual sounds, and
then showing how they can be combined; and after-
wards requiring his pupils to utter sounds and make
combinations of them. Such lessons are valuable,
and children may be taught in this way a correct
oral pronunciation.

The point of difficulty with the Phonic method
is to apply it to written words. As applied in
teaching the pronunciation of the German language
(and this method comes to us from Germany), it
answers a good purpose, because nearly all the Ger-
man letters have but a single sound, and where this
is not the case, the power of the letter can gene-
rally be determined by the notation. The peculia-
rities of the Orthography of the English language,
wdth the same characters representing several
sounds, and the same sounds represented by dif-
ferent characters, its silent letters, and its double
consonants, must render the application of the Pho-
nic method to the teaching of the pronunciation of
our language a work of much difficulty. Indeed,
it is scarcely possible to do it to any useful extent,
without employing the aid of orthographical rules,

proxun"ciatio:t. 183

classifications of words, and systems of notation ;
but with these auxiliaries many teachers esteem it
the most philosophical and practical of the methods
now in use. The leading features of the method
when thus used must be described. Vs^

As already stated, the first step in the Phonic
method is to impart a knowledge of the elementary-
sounds of the language and the characters by which
they are represented ; and as there are more than
twenty-six of these sounds, and some of the letters
of the Alphabet have several sounds, some system
of notation must be adoptecL /

The second step in this method is to teach pupils
to combine these elementary sounds so as to form
words. The work of combining sounds may com-
mence as soon as pupils become acquainted with
a sufficient number of them to forrn combinations.

It is evident that these two steps constitute the
whole work of teaching Pronunciation, but in prac-
tice many difficulties will be encountered of which
something must be said.

It is best to teach first the short sounds of the
vowels: as a in at^ e in en^ z*in zV, o in ox^ u in ws.
Next should be taught the sounds of the simple
consonants : as &, cZ, /, Z, m, n, p, &c. Then come
words of two letters; as an, at, in, ox, &c. ; or combi-
nations that form parts of words : as ad, et, in, ol, up,
&c. ; and afterwards words composed in the same
way of three or four letters may be given. The
word-tables composed of such monosyllables as ha,
ma, le, he, si, no, tu, hla, hie, had, mad, &c., as found
in our old-fashioned spelling-books, could be made
very useful as exercises in phonic synthesis.


The preceding paragrapli points out what is
appropriate in lessons for beginners. In advancing
further, it will be best to choose a spelling-book in
which words are arranged according to their analo-
gies in respect to some peculiarity in sound, and
presented in an order progressing from the easy to
the difficult. Interest may be added to first lessons
by introducing words that represent objects and
actions familiar to children.

In giving first lessons in Pronunciation according
to this method, cards, letter-blocks, and blackboards
may be advantageously used. As an example of
the mode of teaching such lessons, an exercise upon
a blackboard will be described. Let the teacher
draw a letter, say a, upon the blackboard, and re-
quire the pupils to give its sound ; then t may be
placed on the right side of it, its sound given, and
the two sounds combined; and, afterwards, r may
be placed upon the left side of it, its sound given
also, and the whole word, rat^ pronounced. Erasing
r, 5,/, m^ 71, s, OYv may be substituted, and the pupils
required to pronounce the new combinations. The
other letters composing the word can be changed in
a similar way, and other words can be chosen and
built up or taken apart in a manner, when performed
by an ingenious teacher, that never fails to engage
the attention of pupils. At times, it may be well
for pupils to point out or draw in their order the
characters which represent particular sounds, uttered
by the teacher, and then combine them into words;
or the combinations may be made without the
characters. As soon as pupils are made thoroughly
acquainted with the elementarv sounds of the Ian-


guage, and the characters used to represent them,
and have attained some facility in combining them
into syllables and monosyllabic words by practicing
a series of exercises designed to accomplish that
end, they may take up the more formal lessons of a
well-arranged spelling-book. In such a book the
words are carefully classed according to their analo-
gies of sound, and the character or combination of
characters which is used to represent the sound,
common to the whole, is placed prominently at the
head of the lesson, and serves as a key to the pro-
nunciation. For example «, as in fate, might be the
key, and then the lesson would contain such words
as aid, gay, they, veil, break, guage, ^c. ; or the sound
of sli in ship, might be made to indicate the pro-
nunciation of a large class of words in which that
sound is represented by ti, si, ci, ch, s, ce, se, and sch.

After pupils have learned the pronunciation of
the words of a lesson by making a synthesis of their
elementary sounds, they must have much practice
in naming words without uttering the individual
sounds of which they are composed. The division
of words of more than one syllable into syllables
is proper for children in their first efforts to pro-
nounce ; but the same words should be immediately
pronounced without such division. A Spelling-
Book, arranged in conformity with the method of
teaching Pronunciation now indicated, should con-
tain many miscellaneous exercises, in w^hich all
classification and all notation should be discarded.

From what has been said, it is evident that the
Phonic method of teaching Pronunciation is more
philosophical than the Alphabetic method. It pre-



sents the subject in a series of well-graded exer-
cises. It is consistent with itself, systematic, and
logical. There are, however, some objections to it
"which must be noticed.

It is objected that the classes of words required
by this method, if made according to their analogous
sounds, would be so numerous that few children
could remember them. Besides, if all the words
belonging to a particular class were to be always
arranged in a single lesson, it would bring together
both easy and difficult words in a manner that could
not fail to perplex the learner. The authors of
Spelling-Books, it would seem, might easily obviate
this objection.

It is objected further that pupils taught to rely
upon analogy of sounds or a sj^stem of notation
for the pronunciation of words, would find them-
selves greatly perplexed in dispensing with these
helps when it became necessary in general reading.
The miscellaneous exercises in pronouncing referred
to on a preceding page would remove this objection.

It is objected finally that there are many words
in the English language that do not admit of classi-
fication with other words in any way that would be
useful to a learner, and whose Orthography is so
peculiar that a synthesis of their elementary sounds
would scarcely aid him in remembering their Pro-
nunciation. This is the most serious objection that
can be brought against the Phonic method of teach-
ing Pronunciation, and I see no way of answering
it. It would seem that the Pronunciation of such
words can be best learned by a difierent method.

proxunciatio:n-. 187

3d. The Phonetic Method. — It is generally agreed
tliat there are over forty elementary sounds in the
English language. Our Alphabet contains but
twenty-six letters. The advocates of the Phonetic
method of teaching Pronunciation generally use
the letters of our present Alphabet, each to repre-
sent one sound, and invent others as signs for the
sounds unrepresented.

The first step in the application of this method
is to teach the elementary sounds and the characters
which have been agreed upon to represent them.

The second step is to teach pupils to combine
sounds wdien uttered by the teacher or suggested
by their appropriate symbols. These combinations
consist at first of two sounds, then of three, and
thus on, until the}^ include all of those found in the
longest words. Spelling-books and spelling-cards
suited to this method have been prepared and can
be used as in the other methods. The same advan-
tage, too, may be derived from the use of black-
boards and letter-blocks.

The third step consists in having pupils make
the transition from the pronunciation of words
spelled phonetically to those spelled in the common
way. This transition may be made by placing the
same words spelled in both ways in parallel columns
or in alternate lines. There is so strong a resem-
blance or so o^reat a contrast between the two modes
of spelling that ^Dupils do not find much difiiculty,
it is claimed, in passing from the phonetic word-
symbols to the common word-symbols.

It is but just to say that experiments have been
made, and apparently with fairness, designed to


test the relative advantages of the Phonetic and other
methods of teaching Pronunciation ; and results
have been reported decidedly favorable to the former.

Upon the other hand, other experiments have failed
to yield the same results and some very strong objec-
tions have been urged against the Phonetic method.

It is alleged that a pupil taught to pronounce
upon the principle that every letter is sounded and
that every sound is represented by a single character,
w^ould be completely bewildered in attempting to
dispose of the silent letters, and the numerous char-
acters used to represent the same sound, and nu-
merous sounds represented by the same characters,
which are incident to our English Orthography.
In consequence, it is denied that the transition from
the pronunciation of words spelled Phonetically to
the pronunciation of those spelled in the ordinary
manner can be easily made, or made at all without a
departure from the principle of the Phonetic method.

It is maintained, too, that pupils taught according
to the Phonetic method, will experience great diffi-
culty in learning to spell. Practicing phonic ana-
lysis exclusively, they would be apt to make the
number of letters in a word equal to the number
of its elementary sounds, and this would tend to
introduce errors into their Orthography.

2. The Associative Method. — According to the
Associative Method, Pronunciation is learned by
associating the names of words, with their forms.
'No conscious synthesis of the names of letters or of
sounds represented by them is made, but the pupil
is taught at once the written signs for oral words.


Children can be tanglit to i^ronoiince by this
method. Oral language exists. Children can talk.
They use words. "Written language was designed
to be the medium of communication between the
ear and th£_ eye — to convert the products of the
forroer sense into forms recognizable by the latter.
It is a matter of history that various forms of writing
have prevailed at different periods, and it is well
known that in Stenography and Telegraphing the
common w^ord-signs are not used. Besides, it is
plain that any arbitrary symbol may be agreed upon
to represent a word, and by familiar association be
made to suggest it. It is upon this principle that
the Associative Method of teaching Pronunciation
is based, and it has no reference to the component
letters, or the component sounds of words.

Since the association between the names of words
and their forms is arbitrary, the irregularities of the
Orthography of the English language present no
difficulties in the way of acquiring its pronunciation
that would not be presented in a language strictly

Teaching, according to this method, will be suc-
cessfal in proportion as it succeeds in making a
lasting association between the names of words and
their forms. Much skill will be required on the
part of the teacher to attain this end.

It is best to select for first lessons words which
stand for things in which children are most inter-
ested, as hoy^ girl, dog, cat, whip, tree, &c. These may
be given first in connection with pictures, but after-
wards without the pictures.

The second class of lessons should contain such
words as of, in, a, to, an, the, and, is, are, has, have, &c.


The third class of lessons may embody the same
words in short sentences. These should be so con-
structed as to interest children.

In all these lessons, books and cards suitably
prepared, letter-blocks, and blackboards may be
advantageously used. The forms of words must be
impressed upon the pupils' memories by describing
and analyzing them, talking about the objects they
represent, and making their names familiar by
frequent repetition.

The lessons which succeed these, containing more
difficult words, should be arranged upon the same
principle, and instruction given in them in the
same manner. Each lesson should consist of a
proper number of words, and when the pupil is
familiar with their pronunciation individually pre-
sented, he can be taught to pronounce them in
sentences intermixed with words learned in pre-
ceding lessons.

In estimating the value of this method, it must be
admitted that no one can pronounce words with
facility who has not formed a familiar association
between their names and their forms. The attempt
to do this directly, in the manner proposed by the
Associative Method encounters some difficulties.

It would be a task of great difficulty to acquaint
pupils with the immense vocabulary of the English
language without the aid of phonic synthesis or the
analogies of the language. It would be subject to
the same objections as the Verbal System of writing
practiced by the Ancients, or the clumsy word-signs
of the Chinese.

It would also involve the additional labor upon


the teacher of pronouncing every word for the
pupil. In strict accordance with the method, the
pupil could not aid himself in pronouncing by
naming letters, giving sounds, seeking out analo-
gies, or searching Dictionaries.

Sufficient has been said of each of the methods
of teaching Pronunciation when applied indepen-
dently. It has been seen that difficulties lie in the
path of all of them, and it remains to be ascertained
whether some of these may not be removed by a
judicious union of methods. The method thus
formed may be called the Eclectic 3IetJiod. Some
repetition may be necessary in describing it.

A word is the simplest subdivision of discourse.
A child uses words when he begins to talk, not
sentences on the one hand, or letters or elementary
sounds on the other. It is most natural, in learning
written language, that the pupil should also com-
mence with words — that he should translate words
he can understand by sound into words he can
understand by sight. So far as the first lessons in
Pronunciation are concerned, then, I would follow
the Associative Method. It may be followed to the
extent of teaching pupils to read short sentences.

As soon as pupils are able to pronounce a certain
number of words at sight, or while they are learn-

Online LibraryJames Pyle WickershamMethods of instruction .. → online text (page 12 of 31)