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A Handbook of the English Language by Latham

Peahen means a hen that is a pea pfau or pavo


Real reduplications of consonants, as in _h['o]p-p['o]le_, may have the same parity of accent with the true aspirates: and for the same reasons. They are rare combinations that require effort and attention.

s. 364. The second class of exceptions contains those words wherein between the first element and the second there is so great a disparity, either in the length of the vowel, or the length of the syllable _en masse_, as to counteract the natural tendency of the first element to become accented. One of the few specimens of this class (which after all may consist of double words) is the term _upst['a]nding_. Here it should be remembered, that words like _haph['a]zard_, _foolh['a]rdy_, _uph['o]lder_, and _withh['o]ld_ come under the first class of the exceptions.

s. 365. The third class of exceptions contains words like _perch['a]nce_ and _perh['a]ps_. In all respects but one these are double words, just as _by chance_ is a double word. _Per_, however, differs from _by_ in having no separate existence. This sort of words we owe to the multiplicity of elements (classical and Gothic) in the English language.

s. 366. _Peacock_, _peahen_.--If these words be rendered masculine or feminine by the addition of the elements -cock and -hen, the statements made in the beginning of the present chapter are invalidated. Since, if the word _pea-_ be particularized, qualified, or defined by the words -cock and -hen, the _second_ term defines or particularises the _first_, which is contrary to the rule of s. 356. The truth, however, is, that the words -cock and -hen are defined by the prefix _pea-_. Preparatory to the exhibition of this, let us remember that the word _pea_ (although now found in composition only) is a true and independent substantive, the name of a species of fowl, like _pheasant_, _partridge_, or any other appellation. It is the Latin _pavo_, German _pfau_. Now if the word _peacock_ mean a _pea_ (_pfau_ or _pavo_) that is a male, then do _wood-cock_, _black-cock_, and _bantam-cock_, mean _woods_, _blacks_, and _bantams_ that are male. Or if the word _peahen_ mean a _pea_ (_pfau_ or _pavo_) that is female, then do _moorhen_ and _guineahen_ mean _moors_ and _guineas_ that are female. Again, if a _peahen_ mean a _pea_ (_pfau_ or _pavo_) that is female, then does the compound _pheasant-hen_ mean the same as _hen-pheasant_; which is not the case. The fact is that _peacock_ means a _cock that is a pea_ (_pfau_ or _pavo_); _peahen_ means a _hen that is a pea_ (_pfau_ or _pavo_); and, finally, _peafowl_ means a _fowl that is a pea_ (_pfau_ or _pavo_). In the same way _moorfowl_ means, not a _moor that is connected with a fowl_, but a _fowl that is connected with a moor_.

s. 367. It must be clear that in every compound word there are, at least, two parts; i.e., the whole or part of the original, and the whole or part of the superadded word. In the most perfect forms of inflection, however, there is a _third_ element, viz., a vowel, consonant, or syllable that joins the first word with the second.

In the older forms of all the Gothic languages the presence of this third element was the rule rather than the exception. In the present English it exists in but few words.


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