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Orthography

The orthography of the English Language is attended with much uncertainty and perplexity. But a considerable part of this inconvenience may be remedied, by attending to the general laws of formation; and, for this end, the reader is presented with a view of such general maxims in spelling primitive and derivative words, as have been almost universally received.

Rule I. — Monosyllables ending with f, l, or s, preceded by a single vowel, double the final consonant; as staff, mill, pass, &c. The only exceptions are, of, if, as, is, has, was, yes, his, this, us, and thus.

Rule II. — Monosyllables ending with any consonant but f, l, or s, and preceded by a single vowel, never double the final consonant; excepting only, add, ebb, butt, egg, odd, err, inn, bunn, purr, and buzz.

Rule III. — Words ending with y, preceded by a consonant, form the plural of nounsj the persons of verbs, verbal nouns, past participles, comparatives, and superlatives, by changing y into i; as, spy, spies; I carry, thou carriest; he carrieth or carries; carrier, carried; happy, happier, happiest.

The present participle in ing, retains the y, that i may not be doubled; as, carry, carrying; bury, burying, &c.

But y, preceded by a vowel, in such instances as the above, is not changed; as, boy, boys; I cloy, he cloys, cloyed, &c; except in lay, pay, and say; from which are formed, laid, paid, and said; and their compounds, unlaid, unpaid, unsaid, &c.

Rule IV. — Words ending with y, preceded by a consonant, upon assuming an additional syllable beginning with a consonant, commonly change y into i; as, happy, happily, happiness. But when y is preceded by a vowel, it is very rarely changed in the additional syllable; as, coy, coyly; boy, boyish, boyhood; annoy, annoyed, annoyance; joy, joyless, joyful, &c.

Rule V. — Monosyllables, and words accented on the last syllable, ending with a single consonant preceded by a single vowel, double that consonant, when they take another syllable beginning with a vowel: as, wit, witty; thin, thinnish; to abet, an abettor; to begin, a beginner.

But if a diphthong precedes, or the accent is on the preceding syllable, the consonant remains single; as, to toil, toiling; to offer, an offering; maid, maiden, &c.

Rule VI. — Words ending with any double letter but l, and taking ness, less, ly, or ful, after them, preserve the letter double: as, harmlessness, carelessness, carelessly, stiffly, successful, distressful, &c. But those words which end with double l, and take ness, less, ly, or ful, after them, generally omit one l, as, fulness, skilless, fully, skilful, &c.

Rule VII. — Ness, less, ly, and ful, added to words ending with silent e, do not cut it off: as, paleness, guileless, closely, peaceful; except in a few words: as, duly, truly, awful.

Rule VIII. — Ment, added to words ending with silent e, generally preserves the e from elision: as, abatement, chastisement, incitement, &c. The words judgment, abridgment, acknowledgment, are deviations from the rule.

Like other terminations it changes y into i, when preceded by a consonant: as, accompany, accompaniment; merry, merriment.

Rule IX. — Able and ible, when incorporated into words ending with silent e, almost always cut it off: as, blame, blamable; cure, curable; sense, sensible, &c.; but if c or g soft, comes before e in the original word, the e is then preserved in words compounded with able: as, change, changeable; peace, peaceable, &c.

Rule X. — When ing or ish is added to words ending with silent e. the e is almost universally omitted: as, place, placing; lodge, lodging; slave, slavish; prude, prudish.

Rule XI. — Words taken into composition, often drop those letters which were superfluous in their simples; as, handful, dunghil, withal; also, chilblain, foretel.

The orthography of a great number of English words, is far from being uniform, even amongst writers of distinction. Thus, honour and honor, inquire and enquire, negotiate and negociate, control and controul, expense and expence, allege and alledge, surprise and surprize, abridgment and abridgement, and many other orthographical variations, are to be met with in the best modern publications. Some authority for deciding differences of this nature appears to be necessary; and where can we find one of equal pretensions with Dr. Johnson's Dictionary? though a few of his decisions do not appear to be warranted by the principles of etymology and analogy, the stable foundations of his improvements. — “As the weight of truth and reason,” (says Nares in his 'Elements of Orthoepy,') “is irresistible. Dr. Johnson's Dictionary has nearly fixed the external form of our language. Indeed, so convenient is it to have one acknowledged standard to recur to; so much preferable, in matters of this nature, is a trifling degree of irregularity, to a continual change, and fruitless pursuit of unattainable perfection; that it is earnestly to be hoped, that no author will henceforth, on light grounds, be tempted to innovate.”

The plural number of nouns is generally formed by adding s to the singular: as, dove, doves; face, faces; thought, thoughts. But when the substantive singular ends in x, ch soft, sh, ss, or s, we add es in the plural: as, box, boxes; church, churches; lash, lashes; kiss, kisses; rebus, rebusses. If the singular ends in ch hard, the plural is formed by adding s; as, monarch, monarchs; distich, distichs.

Nouns which end in o, have sometimes es added to the plural; as, cargo, echo, hero, negro, manifesto, potato, volcano, wo: and sometimes only s; as, folio, grotto, junto, nuncio, portico, punctilio, tyro.

Nouns ending in f, or fe, are rendered plural by the change of those terminations into ves: as, loaf, loaves; half, halves; wife, wives; except grief, relief, reproof, and several others, which form the plural by the addition of s. Those which end in ff, have the regular plural: as, ruff, ruffs; except, staff, staves.

Nouns which have y in the singular, with no other vowel in the same syllable, change it into ies in the plural: as, beauty, beauties; fly, flies. But the y is not changed, when there is another vowel in the syllable: as, key, keys; delay, delays; attorney, attorneys.

Some nouns become plural by changing the a of the singular into e: as, man, men; woman, women; alderman, aldermen. The words, ox and child, form oxen and children: brother, makes either brothers, or brethren. Sometimes the diphthong oo is changed into ee in the plural: as, foot, feet; goose, geese; tooth, teeth. Louse and mouse make lice and mice. Penny makes pence, or pennies, when the coin is meant; die, dice (for play); die, dies (for coining). The following words, which have been adopted from the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin languages, are thus distinguished with respect to number.

Singular Plural Singular Plural
Cherub. Cherubim. Diaeresis. Diaereses.
Seraph. Seraphim. Ellipsis. Ellipses.
Antithesis. Antitheses. Emphasis. Emphases.
Automaton. Automata. Hypothesis. Hypotheses.
Basis. Bases. Metamorphosis. Metamorphoses.
Crisis. Crises. Phenomenon. Phenomena.
Criterion. Criteria. Appendix Appendices, or
Appendixes.
Arcanum. Arcana. Lamina. Laminae.
Calx. Calces. Medium. Media.
Datum. Data. Magus. Magi.
Effluvium. Effluvia. Memorandum. Memoranda, or
Memorandums.
Encomium. Encomia, or
Encomiums.
Radius. Radii.
Erratum. Errata. Stamen. Stamina.
Genius. Genii.* Stratum. Strata.
Genus. Genera. Vortex. Vortices.
Index. Indices, or
Indexes†

* Genii, when denoting aerial spirits: Geniuses, when signifying persons of genius.
Indexes, when it signifies pointers, or Tables of contents: Indices, when referring to algebraic quantities. — Murray.

The following observations relate to English and Scotch orthography, temp. Hen. VIII.: —

A is frequently used in Scottish orthography for o; as, aith for oath, ane for one, twa for two, hame for home, quha for who.

Qu is in Scottish commonly substituted for w, as, quha for who, quhair for where, quhilk for which.

U is in Scottish usually substituted for the English oo, as, guid or gude for good, stude for stood.

V and W, at the commencement of words and syllables, are used indiscriminately, and sometimes also at their termination, as, foryew for foryeve; w is in Scottish also substituted for u in the middle of syllables, as, swt for suit.

Y in Scottish almost always used for th (being corrupted from the Anglo-Saxon thorn: þ), and its place supplied by z.

Z is in Scottish constantly used for y, being corrupted from the Anglo-Saxon Anglo-Saxon// G//.

Verbs. — The following are some of the most commonly used irregular verbs, having a preterite and participle varying from those in use at the present time: —

To Be — in the second person singular Bes; in the third person Beis, Beth, or Beeth; in the third person plural Am, Be, Ben, Been, Bene, Byn, or Er; in the third person plural of the preterite Werne.

To Bid — in the preterite Bode; in the participle Bode, Boden.

To Bind — in the preterite Bonde; in 'the participle Band, Bond, Bounde, Bounden.

To Bite — in the preterite Bote.

To Con or Can, to be able — in the third person singular Conith, — Michel can, to be powerful.

To Climb in the preterite Clomb, Clame, Clambe, Clombe, Clomben.

To Cling — in the preterite Clong.

To Ferme (Sc.) to establish — in the participle Fermen.

To Fet, to fetch — in the preterite Fetten; in the participle Fette, — Ferfett, farfetched.

To Flete (Sc.) to float — in the preterite Flet.

To Forbede or Forbid — in the preterite Forbod; in the participle Forboden, Forbode, Forbodden.

To Gar or Ger (So.) to cause — in the preterite and participle Gart, Gert.

To Geve, Gif, or Gyf, to give — in the preterite Gaf; in the participle Giffin, Gone, Gouun, or GyfFen.

To Glide — in the preterite Glode.

To Kithe (Sc.) to prove — in the preterite Kidde.

Man, Mone, or Moten (Sc.) — must.

To Mow, Moue, or May, to be able — in the preterite Mot, Mought, Moght, or Mowght; in the future Shall mow or may; subjunctive May mow; To mow in the infinitive.

To Owe — preterite Ought; as “He oweth to pay,” “They owe to come,” — “D. ought him thirty shillings,” “He ought suit,” “Kindness ought to us.”

To Preif or Pryve (Sc.) to prove — in the preterite and participle Prewit or Pryved.

To Recet or Receipt (Sc.) to harbour a criminal — in the participle Reset, Resettit, or Receipted.

To Rede, to advise — in the preterite Radde.

To Reve, RefTe, or Riffe (Sc.) to rob — in the preterite Reft; in the participle Reft, Raved, or Revin.

To Tyne, Tyin, Tyn, or Tynte (Sc.) to lose — in the participle Tint, Tynt.

To Vys or Wis, to know — in the preterite Vyst or Wist.

To Wete, Wite, or Wit, to know — in the preterite Wote; in the imperative Wateth, Witeth, know thou.

To Will — in the preterite Willed, Woled, Wold, or Wolde; preterpluperfect Had wold; future Shall will.

To Yeve, Yew, or Yeove, to give — in the preterite Yaf, Yave; future Shall or will Yeve; active participle Yeving; passive participle Yeven, frequently, and sometimes Yewin, Yoven, Yeoven, Yevin, and Yevyn.

Yede, Yode, went, preterite of A. S. gan to go.

To Yield — in the preterite Yald, Yalt, or Yold; in the participle Yelde, Yold, Yolde, Yolden.

His, or sometimes Is, is used after a masculine substantive as the sign of the genitive case, and occasionally united with the substantive, as, Kinghis. It occurs sometimes, though rarely, after a feminine substantive, as, “The Queen his affairs,” “The Queen is favour; “but her is more commonly used in that case, as, “Elizabeth Holland her house.”

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