Volapük in the Black Press, 1888

American Philological Association

By Prof. W. S. Scarborough, LL.D.

I was absent from the association this year, which has just met at Amherst College, but my paper entitled “Observations on the Fourth Eclogue of Vergil,” was read by Dr. L. H. Elwell, professor of Greek and Sanscrit at Amherst, to whom, with Dr. John H. Wright, of Harvard, I am kindly indebted for the data of two other articles that I shall write for the RECORDER. The twentieth annual session of this body opened in Walker Hall, Amherst, July 120th. [?]

Dr. I. H. Hall, of the Metropolitan Museum of New York City, president of the association, delivered the annual address on the subject, “the Legacy of the Syrian Scribes,” in the Athena room of Williston Hall, before a large audience, many of whom were students of Professor Montague's Summer School of Languages. Dr. Hall began by making a brief reference to the work of Justin Perkins, a graduate of Amherst College, a pioneer missionary in Persia, who had spent a long and prosperous life in diffusing light and truth through that community. “He reduced,” said he, “the language of the people to a written form; for the first time translated the Bible in to their native tongue and gained imperishable fame by helping the world to great stores of manuscripts of ancient languages. The literary remains of the Syrians began before the Christian era, and covered the country which is now Turkey in Asia. They reached their golden age in the fourth century, but died as a spoken language in the twelfth to the fourteenth. The Syrian scholars were learned in the Greek and Latin as well as in the Persian, besides maintaining a select heathen school. The writers were mostly Christians, and they sent mission to the interior of China, the Malabar Coast and Nubia. Their great office was the transmission of the Bible along with the best of Greek and Roman writings in philosophy and science and the works of the Christian fathers. Syriac literature carried over to the Arabs all they knew, and Syriac translations of Roman civil law carried to all oriental Christian nations their systems of civil and ecclesiastical law and doctrines of public and private rights. Our Syriac Biblical and MSS. are, as a class, the oldest MSS. of the kind extant, and many Greek and Roman classics, which in the original are only partially extant, are preserved very fully in Syriac. In the eighth century James of Edessa introduced Greek words in Syriac in place of the old vowel points, thus perpetuating testimony as to ancient Greek pronunciation and gave a mass of testimony unequalled in that line. Ordinary Hellenists have not recognized the immense treasures of knowledge thus contained in the work of Syrian scribes, but the best scholars have taken advantage of them and used them in New Testament and other Greek works. Syriac literature exists for the most part in MSS. only and offers much work to editors and generous publishers. Its Bibliography is a piece of excellent work. There has always been a small knot of scholars about every collection of these MSS who have been very generous in furnishing transcriptions and collections of them. The largest collection is now in the British Museum.

After the admission of new members and the report of the secretary and treasurer, Prof. John H. Wright, of Harvard, the reading of papers was begun. The following is the programme and the order given: “On the Lex Curiata de Imperio,” and “On the Locality of the Salters Teutoburgienses,” by Prof. Wm. F. Allen, of the University of Wisconsin. “The Authorship of the Cynicus of Lucien,” by Josiah Bridge, Ph.D., Harvard University, Cambridge. “On Impersonal Verbs,” by Julius Goebel, Ph.D., John Hopkins University, Baltimore. “Peculiarities of Affix in Latin and Greek,” by Prof. Chas. S. Halsey, M. A., Union Classical Institute, Schenectady, N.Y. “A History of the Medicean MSS. of Cicero's Letters,” by Prof. R. F. Leighton, Ph.D., Brooklyn, N.Y. “Changes in the Roman Constitution Proposed by Cicero (De Legg. III. 3, 6-5, 12),” by Prof. Wm. A. Merrill, of Belmont College Hill, O. “A Consideration of the Method Employed in Lighting the Vestal Fire,” by Morris H. Morgan, Ph. D., of Harvard University, Cambridge. Theories of English Verse,” by Rev. Jas. C. Parsons, Prospect Hill School, Greenfield, Mass. “Observations on the Fourth Eclogue of Virgil,” by Prof. W. S. Scarborough, Wilberforce University. “The Adrasteia in Plato's Republic,” and “Note on Hour, a 52,” by Prof. T. D. Seymour, Ph. D., of Yale University, New Haven. “The Cure Inscriptions from Epidanrus,” by James R. Wheeler, Ph. D., Harvard University. “A New Theory in the First Book of The “Faerie Queen,” by J. Earnest Whitney, Yale University. “On the Date of the Episcode of Ceylon in Athenian History,” by Prof. John H. Wright, Ph. D., Harvard University. “English Pronunciation, how Learned,” and “Volapuk,” by Prof. F. A. March, LL. D. L. H. D., Lafayette College, Easton, Pa. “On the Accent and Meaning of “Arbutus,'” by Prof. F. P. Brener, of Grinnell College, Iowa. “Goethe's Homeric Studies,” by Prof. George M. Richardson, Harvard University. “The Identity of Words,” by Prof. L. L. Potwin, of Adelbert College, Cleveland, O. The reader will get some idea from the printed programme of the variety and depth of the subjects discussed, with the mercury in its nineties, perhaps.

Prof. Brewer's paper, though short, provoked as much discussion, perhaps, as any on the programme. He wished to have “arbutus” inserted in the dictionaries, meaning not the common Mayflower, but a small tree or shrub, growing to the height of twelve feet, not found in this country, but common in Europe. He would have it accented on the first syllable and would give up to popular usage, “arbus” meaning “Mayflower,” pronounced with the accent on the middle syllable. This drew out much protest, Professor Seymour advocating the classical pronunciation of the word: Professor Perrin citing Gray's Botany as an authority for the accent on the first syllable. Prof. F. D. Allen, of Harvard, claimed that he had always pronounced it with the accent on the first and always would do so. Librarian Fletcher, of Amherst, suggested that it was to preserve the u sound that the accent was given to the middle syllable. I might throw in, parenthetically, that my own custom has been to pronounce the word, arbutus, with the accent on the first syllable, though our dictionaries all seem to accent on the second. In the introductory ode of Horace, which is what is familiarity know to scholars, “Asci-piadean verse,” syllable, “Munc viridi membra sub arbuto stratus,” etc.- “His limbs now 'neath the green arbutus spread,” etc. The meaning of the word seems to be, that of a strawberry tree, a beautiful flowering shrub, sufficiently large for one to lie under its shady boughs, as did the happy-go-lucky-fellow in this case. Wilberforce University.

SOURCE: Scarborough, W. S. “American Philological Association,” The Christian Recorder (Philadelphia), August 9, 1888.

American Philological Association

By Prof. W. S. Scarborough, LL.D.

In this paper on “English Pronunciation,” Dr. March among other things said that in order to learn sound, we must have a clear and distinct conception of it in the mind. We do not make a conscious effort to move the various muscles which make a particular sound, but we have become so well acquainted with it that we simply will the sound as conceived and the muscles arrange themselves in the right way without conscious direction on our part. So in learning to speak a foreign tongue, alter forming a concept of a word, it is necessary to practice its pronunciation frequently before fluency is obtained. The law of the least effort modifies the speech of all people. We try to get along in walking with as little effort as possible. This law of the least energy makes a sound neutral and then drops it: Carolina becomes Carliny; difference changes to diffrunce. It also leads to sluggish movements where the sound wavers and breaks. This is due to the fact that we do not give enough volume to fill out the vowel chambers and makes them full and resonant. If a word as spelled gives a clear concept of its sound, the speaking and writing of it are easier than when spelling and pronunciation differ widely.

* * *

English spelling, however, is so bad that our ideal of pronunciation is oratory and the utterances of the trained speaker, and not conversational style. The best way to teach foreigners pronunciation is to make them familiar with standard spelling and pronunciation of our language and then let them learn its conversational usages. Col. W. T. Higginson, in commenting on this paper, said that the “Biglow” papers of Mr. Lowell would be received by future generations as the standard of New England pronunciation in the nineteenth century as the “Uncle Remus” papers will be the standard for the Negro dialect. As for my part, I certainly object to taking “Uncle Remus” papers or any other papers so highly colored and over drawn and in many cases the most baseless fabrications as standard Negro English. The trouble is that there is no difference made whatever in all of these philological discussions between the ignorant and the intelligent. These distinctions must be observed, as it seems to me, before the conclusions can be in any sense justified.

So far as the language of the stage is concerned, I think Col. Higginson is correct. He says: “In Paris young students are told to go to the theatre for correct standards, and in our own country a third rate actor speaks better English than the ordinary preacher, orator or college president.” While I am opposed to the theatre, the criticism, nevertheless, holds. Again says he, “If the Frenchman thinks the Englishman swallows three-fourths of his words, the Englishman thinks the American swallows seven-eighths of his. A noted English teacher said that he met only one man from America who rightly pronounced the name of his country. He failed to tell us, however, the man's name.

Volapuk came in for a few criticisms. It is proper to state here that as a body neither the Philological Association nor the Modern Language Association has paid any attention to this new so called universal language in the sense that they endorsed it or otherwise. No action has ever been taken in this country or Great Britain commending it. Individual members have expressed their views, as in this case Prof. March thought that Volapuk is weak in that its author had not taken in account the law of least effort, which neglect would assuredly knock its grammatical variations and moral signs into “pi” and it would come out modified as the English has been. Again, another point of weakness is the method of substituting compound words for simple ones and of naming things from their accidental interest of their essential attributes.

Prof. F. D. Allen, Ph.D., of Harvard, read a paper on “Contamination as a Term Applied to Latin Comedy,” and explained contamination in this connection to mean a defilement by contact, that is the introduction of a part of one comedy into another. Rev. Jas. C. Parsons, in considering the different theories of English verse, preferred the accentual to the quantative view. He gave also a critical analysis of Sidney Lanier's volume on “English verse.” This gave rise to a great deal of discussion. I remember that this same subject came up at our Hew Haven meeting and was thoroughly discussed and sifted, accent being preferred to quantity.

During the meeting, a letter was read from Professor Brewer, of Grinnell College, suggesting the co-operation of the members of the association in collecting new words for the historical dictionary soon to be published in London and proposing that a half-dozen pages in the proceedings of the society be devoted each year to the collection of new words or new uses of old ones. The plan is a good one and will doubtless be followed. Professor March stated that the spelling reform committee had been in correspondence with the Philological Ass. of London with a view to issuing an annual dictionary under the authority of the society and that an effort is being made to secure the services of Professor Skeete as editor of the work, as his appointment would insure its success. I suppose that the Ten Rules for amended spellings will be incorporated in this new work and that it be largely phonetic. Professor March is chairman of the committee and president of the Spelling Reform Association, but there will hardly be any radical changes for the present, at least.

One of the pleasant social features of the Philological and Modern Language Associations is the number of entertainments and excursions given by the resident members and committees to visiting members of the association. This year the monotony was broken into in the Philological Association by a brilliant receipt on given by Professor and Mrs. Ellwell at the Psi Upsilon house in honor the association. Wilberforce, O.

SOURCE: Scarborough, W. S. “American Philological Association,” The Christian Recorder (Philadelphia), August 16, 1888.

Language of the World

An English correspondent gives as a reason for possibility that the English language will become the “world speech” the mental slowness of the Anglo-Saxon race in learning two languages. They traverse the globe unaffected of speech. The English speaking countries have an area of more than one-fifth of the whole habitable globe. English is the language of the high seas, and is spoken in every maritime port. What demand can there be for Volapuk? - Boston Budget.

SOURCE: “Language of the World,” The Christian Recorder (Philadelphia), November 15, 1888.

Note: Boldface and paragraph breaks supplied by RD.

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