Society for Pure English, Tract 03 (1920) eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 25 pages of information about Society for Pure English, Tract 03 (1920).

3.  Besides the class of words indicated in Mr. Pearsall Smith’s paper, there is another set of plural forms needing attention, and that is the Greek words that denote the various sciences and arts; there is in these an uncertainty and inconsistency in the use of singular and plural forms.  We say Music and Physics, but should we say Ethic or Ethics, Esthetic or Esthetics?  Here again agreement on a general rule to govern doubtful cases would be a boon.  The experience of writers and teachers who are in daily contact with such words should make their opinions of value, and we invite them to deal with the subject.  The corresponding use of Latin plurals taking singular verbs, as Morals, should be brought under rule.

4.  The question of the use of ae (ae) and oe ([oe]).  Our Society from the first abjured the whole controversy about reforms of spelling, but questions of literary propriety and convenience must sometimes involve the spellings; and this is an instance of it.  On the main question of phonetic spelling the Society would urge its members to distinguish the use of phonetic script in teaching, from its introduction into English literature.  The first is absolutely desirable and inevitable:  the second is not only undesirable but impracticable, though this would not preclude a good deal of reasonable reform in our literary spelling in a phonetic direction.  Those who fear that if phonetics is taught in the schools it will then follow that our books will be commonly printed in phonetic symbols, should read Dr. Henry Bradley’s lecture to the British Academy ‘On the relations between spoken and written language’ (1913), and they will see that the Society’s Tract II, on ‘English Homophones’, illustrates the unpractical nature of any scheme either of pure phonetics in the printing of English books, or even of such a scheme as is offered by ’the Simplified Spelling Society’; because the great number of homophones which are now distinguished by their different spellings would make such a phonetic writing as unutilitarian as our present system is:  moreover, if it were adopted it would inevitably lead to the elimination of far more of these homophones than we can afford to lose; since it would enforce by its spelling the law which now operates only by speech, that homophones are self-destructive.

5.  Mr. Pearsall Smith has returned to the question of dialectal regeneration mentioned in Tract I, in which we invited contributions on the subject.  In response we had a paper sent to us, which we do not print because, though full of learning and interesting detail, it was a curious and general disquisition calculated to divert attention from the practical points.  What the Society asks for is not a list of lost words that are interesting in themselves:  we need rather definite instances of good dialect words which are not homophones and which would conveniently supply wants.  That is, any word proposed for rehabilitation in our practical vocabulary should be not only a good word in itself, but should fall into some definite place and relieve and enrich our speech by its usefulness.  It is evident that no one person can be expected to supply a full list of such words, but on the other hand there must be very many of our members who could contribute one or two; and such contributions are invited.

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Society for Pure English, Tract 03 (1920) from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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