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A Handbook of the English Language by Latham

That the sound of theta differed from that of tau


This,

too, is the reason for z coming last of all. It was restored for the purpose of spelling Greek words. But as its original place had been filled up by g, it was tacked on as an appendage, rather than incorporated as an element.

X in _power_, coincided with the Greek xi; in _place_, with the Greek _khi_. Its _position_ seems to have determined its _form_, which is certainly that of X rather than of [Xi]. The full investigation of this is too lengthy for the present work.

s. 165. It should be observed, that, in the Latin, the letters have no longer any _names_ (like _beth_, _baeta_), except such as are derived from their powers (_be_, _ce_).

s. 166. The principles which determined the form of the Roman alphabet were, upon the whole, correct; and, hence, the Roman alphabet, although not originally meant to express an Italian tongue at all, expressed the language to which it was applied tolerably.

On the other hand, there were both omissions and alterations which have had a detrimental effect upon the orthography of those other numerous tongues to which Latin has supplied the alphabet. Thus--

a. It is a matter of regret, that the differences which the Greeks drew between the so-called _long_ and _short_ e and o, was neglected by the Latins; in other words, that [omega] was omitted entirely, and [eta] changed in

power. Had this been the case, all the orthographical expedients by which we have to express the difference between the o in _not_, and the o in _note_, would have been prevented--_not_, _note_, _moat_--_bed_, _bead_, _heel_, _glede_, &c.

b. It is a matter of regret, that such an unnecessary _compendium_ as q = cu, or cw, should have been retained from the old Greek alphabet; and, still more so, that the equally superfluous x = cs, or ks, should have been re-admitted.

c. It is a matter of regret, that the Greek [theta] was not treated like the Greek [zeta]. Neither were wanted at first; both afterwards. The manner, however, of their subsequent introduction was different. _Zaeta_ came in as a simple single letter, significant of a simple single sound. _Thaeta_, on the contrary, although expressive of an equally simple sound, became th. This was a combination rather than a letter; and the error which it engendered was great.

It suggested the idea, that a simple sound was a compound one--which was wrong.

It further suggested the idea, that the sound of [theta] differed from that of [tau], by the addition of h--which was wrong also.

s. 167. The Greek language had a system of sounds different from the Phoenician; and the alphabet required modifying accordingly.

The Roman language had a system of sounds different from the Greek and the alphabet required modifying accordingly.

This leads us to certain questions concerning the Anglo-Saxon. Had _it_ a system of sounds different from the Roman? If so, what modifications did the alphabet require? Were such modifications effected? If so, how? Sufficiently or insufficiently? The answers are unsatisfactory.

s. 168. The Anglo-Saxon had, even in its earliest stage, the following sounds, for which the Latin alphabet had no equivalent signs or letters--

1. The sound of the th in _thin_.

2. The sound of the th in _thine_.

It had certainly these: probably others.


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