An Outline of English Speech-craft

An Outline of English Speech-craft

William Barnes
William Barnes

Author: Barnes, William, 1801-1886
English language — Grammar
An Outline of English Speech-craft
The cover image was produced by the transcriber, and is placed in the public domain.



Præsens Angli sermonis forma magis magisque recedit a stirpe antiquâ’—Lexicon Frisicum, by Justus Halbertsma, under ‘Dunsi’


(The rights of translation and of reproduction are reserved)


This little book was not written to win prize or praise; but it is put forth as one small trial, weak though it may be, towards the upholding of our own strong old Anglo-Saxon speech, and the ready teaching of it to purely English minds by their own tongue.
Speech was shapen of the breath-sounds of speakers, for the ears of hearers, and not from speech-tokens (letters) in books, for men’s eyes, though it is a great happiness that the words of man can be long holden and given over to the sight; and therefore I have shapen my teaching as that of a speech of breath-sounded words, and not of lettered ones; and though I have, of course, given my thoughts in a book, for those whom my voice cannot reach, I believe that the teaching matter of it may all be put forth to a learner’s mind, and readily understood by him, without book or letters. So, for consonants and vowels, as letters, I put breath-pennings and free-breathings, and these names would be good for any speech, of the lettering of which a learner might know nothing. On the grounds here given, I have not begun with orthography, the writing or spelling of our speech, or of any other, while as yet the teaching or learning of the speech itself is unbegun.
I have tried to teach English by English, and so have given English words for most of the lore-words (scientific terms), as I believe they would be more readily and more clearly understood, and, since we can better keep in mind what we do than what we do not understand, they would be better remembered. There is, in the learning of that charmingly simple and yet clear speech, pure Persian, now much mingled with Arabic, a saddening check; for no sooner does a learner come to the time-words than he is told that he should learn, what is then put before him, an outline of Arabic Grammar. And there are tokens that, ere long, the English youth will want an outline of the Greek and Latin tongues ere he can well understand his own speech.
The word grammar itself seems a misused word, for grapho is to write, and graphma, worn into gramma, means a writing, and the word grammatikē meant, with the Greeks, booklore or literature in the main, and not speech-teaching alone.
Whether my lore-words are well-chosen is a question for the reader’s mind. I have, for better or worse, treated the time-words, and nearly all the parts of speech, in a new way. I have clustered up the time-words as weak or strong on their endings, rather than on their headings, which had nothing to do with their forshapening or conjugation. Case I have taken as in the thing, and not in the name of it, as case is the case into which a thing falls with a time-taking, and case-words (prepositions) and case-endings are the tokens of their cases. The word preposition means a foreputting, or word put before; but then from and to, in herefrom, and therefrom, and hitherto, and thereto, are postpositions.
I have tried, as I have given some so-thought truths of English speech, to give the causes of them, and hope that the little book may afford a few glimpses of new insight into our fine old Anglo-Saxon tongue.
To any friend who has ever asked me whether I do not know some other tongues beside English, my answer has been ‘No; I do not know English itself.’ How many men do? And how should I know all of the older English, and the mighty wealth of English words which the English Dialect Society have begun to bring forth; words that are not all of them other shapes of our words of book-English, or words of their very meanings, but words of meanings which dictionaries of book-English should, but cannot give, and words which should be taken in hundreds (by careful choice) into our Queen’s English? If a man would walk with me through our village, I could show him many things of which we want to speak every day, and for which we have words of which Johnson knew nothing.
Some have spoken of cultivated languages as differing from uncultivated ones, and of the reducing of a speech to a grammatical form.
What is the meaning of ‘cultivate’ as a time word about a speech? The Latin dictionary does not help us to its meaning, and it might be that of the French cultiver, from which we should have, by the wonted changes, to cultive. The Romans said colere deum and colere agrum, but not agrum cultivare; and we may believe that colo, with deus or ager, bore the same meaning, ‘to keep or hold (with good care),’ and a speech is cultivated by the speaking as well as by the writing of it, and a speech which is sounding over a whole folkland every moment of the day cannot be uncultivated. ‘Not with good care,’ it may be said. Yes; most people speak as well as they can, as they write as well as they can, from the utterer of a fine rede-speech (oration), and the clergyman who gives unwritten sermons, down to the lowly maiden who dresses as finely as she can; and to try to dress herself well is a token that she will try to express herself well.
King Finow, of the Tonga Islands, gave a fine speech, as Mr. Mariner tells us, at his coming to the throne; and it may be well said that he made it, as he had made it in thought, ere he came to the meeting.
What is meant by the reducing of a speech to a grammatical form, or to grammar, is not very clear. If a man would write a grammar of a speech, of which there is yet none, what could he do but show it forth as it is in the shape which its best speakers over the land hold to be its best? To hold that a tongue had no shape, or a bad one, ere a grammar of it was written, seems much like saying that a man had no face, or a bad one, till his likeness was taken.


Free Breathings 1
Breath-pennings 2
Word-strain and Speech-strain 3
Thing-names 4
Thing-sundrinesses 4
Thing Mark-words:
Sex 5
Kindred 5
Size 5
Tale 6-9
Outshowing Mark-words 10, 12
Persons 11
Suchness 12
Pitches of Suchness 13
Time-taking and Time-words 14
Intransitive 14
Transitive 15
Cause Time-takings 15
Time-giving 15
Words in -ing 17
Strong and Weak Time-words 18-26
Sundriness of Time-taking 26
Helping Time-words, can, may, shall, must 27
Person, Tale, Mood, Time 27, 30
Historic Time-wording 30
Case 31
Way-marks and Stead-marks 33
Thought-wording, Speech-wording 35
Twin Time-takings 35
Speech-trimming 36
Miswording 36-42
Word-sameness 38
Odd Wordshapes 42, 43
Wordiness 44
Hard Breathing 44
Mark Time-words (Participles) 45
Words of Speech-craft, and others 47
Power of the Word-endings 83
Goodness of a Speech 86


Speech-craft (Grammar), called by our Saxon fore-fathers Staef-craeft or Letter-craft, is the knowledge or skill of a speech.
The science of speech in the main, as offmarked from any one speech (Philology), may be called Speech-lore.
Speech is the speaking or bewording of thoughts, and is of sundry kinds of words.
Speech is of breath-sounds with sundry breathings, hard or mild, and breath-pennings, which become words.
(1) A freely open breathing through the throat, unpent by tongue or lips, as in the sounds A, E, O, OO, which are pure voicing. The main ones in English are—

  • 1. ee, in meet.
  • 2. e, in Dorset speech.
  • 3. a, in mate.
  • 4. ea, in earth.
  • 5. a, in father.
  • 6. aw, in awe.
  • 7. o, in bone.
  • 8. oo, in fool.

Besides this open speech-breathing there are two kinds of breath-penning.
(2) The dead breath-penning, as in the sounds AK, AP, AT, AG, AB, AD, which end with a dead penning of the sounding breath.
In AK and AG it is pent in the throat.

In AP and AB with the lips.
In AT and AD on the roof.
K, P, T are hard pennings; G, B, D are mild pennings, the breathing being harder in the former and softer in the latter.
Then there are half-pennings of the sounding breath, which is more or less but not wholly pent, but allowed to flow on as through the nose in

  • AMH,
  • ANH,
  • AM,
  • AN,
  • ANG;

as in the half-pent sounds—

ALL (Welsh), AL,
ASH, AJ (French),

half-pent by the tongue and mouth-roof.
For a hard breathing the mark is H, as and, hand; art, hart.

Dead Pennings,
Dead Pennings,
(1) C, K(Throat) (5) KH German and Welsh (14) G (18) GH
(2) NK in ink (6) F (15) NGH like NG in finger, not singer (19) NG
(3) P (Lip) (7) MH (16) B (20) V, BH Irish
(4) T (8) TH in thin (17) D (21) M
(9) LL Welsh (22) TH in thee
(10) RH Welsh (23) L Welsh
(11) S (24) R Welsh
(12) SH (25) Z
(13) NH (26) J French
(27) N

Words are of breath-sounds, and some words are one-sounded, as man; and others are tway-sounded, as manly; and others many-sounded, as unmanliness.
There is word-strain and speech-strain.
The high word-strain (accent) is the rising or strengthening of the voice on one sound of a word, as man´ly.
The high speech-strain (emphasis) is the rising or strengthening of the voice on a word of a thought-wording.
The voice may both rise and fall on the same sounds, as .
In English and its Teutonic sister speeches the strain keeps on the root or stem-word, as man, man´ly, man´liness; though in clustered words, with their first breath-sounds the same, the strain may shift for the sake of clearness, as ‘Give me the tea´pot’—the teakettle is given, and thereupon the bidder may say ‘the teaPOT´,’ not the teaKETTLE.
In Greek the accent shifts in word-building, and likes mainly to settle at about two times or short breath-sounds from the end of the word; and in Welsh it settles mostly on the last breath-sound but one, as eis´tedd, a sitting; eistedd´fod, a sitting-stead; eisteddfod´an, sitting-steads, or bardic sessions.
Besides the word-strain (accent) and the speech-strain (emphasis), there is a speech-tuning (modulation) of the voice (voice-winding), which winds up or down with sundry feelings of the mind, and with question and answers and changes of the matter of speech.
Things may be matterly (concrete) or bodies of matter, as a man, a tree, a stone; or

Things may be unmatterly (abstract), not bodies of matter, as faith, hope, love, shape, speed, emptiness.
It is not altogether good that a matterly and unmatterly thing should be named by the very same word, as youth, a young man, and youth, youngness.


Things are of many kinds, as a man, a bird, a fish; an oyster, a sponge, a pebble; water, air, earth; honey, gold, salt.
The names of things may be called Thing-names.
But there are one-head thing-names (proper names), the names each of some one thing of its kind; as John, the miller; Toby, the dog; Moti, the lady’s Persian cat.
With Christian names may be ranked the so-called patronymics, or sire-names, taken from a father’s name, as William Johnson, Thomas Richardson; or in Welsh, Enid Verch Edeyrn; or in Hebrew Jeroboam Ben-nebat.

Thing Sundriness and Thing Mark-words.

Mark is here to be taken in its old Saxon meaning, mearc—what bounds, defines, describes, distinguishes.
The Welsh call the adjective the weak name or noun, enw gwan.

Sundriness of Sex, Kindred, Youngness, and Smallness.

Marked by sundry names or mark-words, or mark endings.


The stronger or carl sex, as a man; the weaker or quean sex, as a girl; the unsexly things, as a stone.

Husband, wife.
Father, mother.
Brother, sister.

In Saxon the sexes in mankind were called halves or sides, the spear-half and the spindle-half.

Man, woman.
Boy, girl.
Buck, doe.
Stag, hind.
Ram, ewe.
Cock, hen.
He-goat, she-goat.
King, queen.
Duke, duchess.
Kindred, Youngness, or Smallness.
Father, son.
Mother, daughter.
Mare, foal.
Hind, fawn.
Cat, kitten.
Duck, duckling.
Goose, gosling.
Ethel, etheling.
Small Things.

By forlessening mark-endings:
y, –ie.

Lass, lassie.
Dog, doggie.


Man, mannikin.

el, –l.

Butt, bottle (of hay).
Pot, pottle.
Nose, nozzle.

By mark-words:
A wee house, a little boy.
For bigness the English tongue wants name-shapes.

We have bul, horse, and tom, which are mark-words of bigness or coarseness.

  • Bulfinch.
  • Bullfrog.
  • Bulhead (the Miller’s Thumb. Pen-bwll, Welsh).
  • Bulrush.
  • Bulstang (the Dragonfly).
  • Bullspink.
  • Bulltrout.


  • Horse-bramble.
  • Horse-chesnut.
  • Horse-laugh.
  • Horse-leech.
  • Horse-mushroom.
  • Horse-mussel.
  • Horse-tinger.
  • Horse-radish.


  • Tomboy.
  • Tomcat.
  • Tomfool.
  • Tomnoddy.
  • Tomtit.

The words bul and horse are not taken from the animals.

Sundriness in Tale.

By tale mark-words, as one, five, ten, and others onward.

Sundriness in Rank.

By rank-word, as first, fifth, tenth, last.
An, a, the so-called indefinite article, is simply the tale mark-word an, one.

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An Outline of English Speech-craft
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Saxon, an man.
Ger., ein mann.
West Friesic, in.
East Friesic, en.
Holstein, en.