It is hoped that this simplified version of 'The Art of
Speech' has given the reader who has had the patience to
peruse it some idea of the nature of this remarkable hook.
It may he as well at this point to remind him that what he
has seen of 'The Art of Speech' in the present,treatise is
a simplified account, since most of the neologisms which in
the original descend on the reader's hrain like so many strokes
of a bludgeon have been suppressed. In the field of wordcreation
alone Montanus' achievement could hardly be paralleled .
What is even more astonishing, however, is that with the sole
aid of his powers of observation and a system of logic, now
largely outdated, one man should have been able to make so
many contributions to the knowledge of a difficult subject.
It is, of course, easy for us to see where he went astray. We
may deplore his frequent appeals to 'reason' and the extent
to which he used the syllogism to reinforce his observations,
sometimes allowing it to interfere with them, and his childlike delight in calculating the number of possible 'genera and
species' of vowels and consonants, incongruously coupled with
the belief, shared by many later generations, that by drawing
up a list of the sounds of his own language with a few foreign
sounds thrown in to fill 'the empty places' he had set up a
'pronunciation and alphabet of all languages'.
We can hardly blame him, however, for taking the 'letter' or
'speech sound' for granted without attempting to justify
segmentation, or for working upward from sound to sentence
instead of descending from the complete utterance to the
smallest unit, since few modern writers feel the necessity
to do so. Whatever its faults, the descriptive system set up
by Montanus is admirably coherent and carefully thought out
and the inconsistencies in it are almost negligible.
In spite of his contempt for the work of his predecessors
he appears to have been well acquainted with it, witness his
treatment of the subordinate elements of diphthongs as
consonants, his analysis of all types of units into 'principal
and less principal halves3, his remarks on the orthographical
vices, the origin of the shape of F and the mark for spiritus
asper, and a number of other topics.
The influence of tradition is most clearly discernible in his
retention of the distinction between the acute and the circumflex accent for strong stress (and pitch change?) on 'short'
and 'long' vowels, respectively, and the sections dealing
with 'metaplasms3, which have been summarized in the present
treatise solely for the purpose of giving a clear and unbiased
picture of the merits and demerits of Montanus' book.
Apart from the distortion of some of the facts due to his
desire for symmetry, Montanus' most notable failures are his
belief that [g] is an unusual way of pronouncing the letter g
and that there are pauses between words, his analysis of
German sch- as a 'double consonant' and of butch [f] and [v]
as labials, his ignoring of [a] and his inconsistency over
[j] and [w].
However, these are more than counterbalanced by his recognition
of [h], [?], [nj] , and other sounds, his handling of the voice/
breath opposition, which, although incorrect, is extremely
intelligent and interesting, touching as it does on the
vexed lenis/fortis problem, his generous account of the
organs of speech, his introduction of such nineteenth century
concepts as glides and sonority, his analphabetic
notation, his elaborate rules for assimilation, his description
of syllable structure, his criticism of the Graeco-Roman and
Hebrew classifications, his treatment of junction and stress
(and pitch?) phenomena, his anticipation of modern phonology,
and a number of short references to other interesting topics,
such as ingressive speech. (It is rather surprising that
whisper is not mentioned in 'The Art of Speech'.)
Though some writers had dealt with some of these subjects
before him, Montanus' views on most of them were far superior
to theirs and he was certainly the first phonetician to
realize the complexity of the subject and to discuss such
a large number of problems in a single treatise.
It would be idle to speculate on the course that the study
of phonetics might have taken, if Montanus had been read.
The work done by the brilliant Royal Society group (Wallis,
Lodwick, Wilkins and, above all, Holder) did not prevent
most of their contemporaries and successors from producing
a considerable amount of rubbish, and it is not likely that
they would have availed themselves of the opportunity
provided by The Art of Speech of skipping two centuries.