Aspects of consonant description in the nineteenth century, with special reference to the ancient Indo-European Languages, Sanskrit, Greek and Latin
This thesis is intended as a contribution to the study of the history of phonetic
knowledge in the nineteenth century; in particular it aims at identifying some of the
processes through which physiologists and philologists, i. e. Indo-European comparativists,
came closer to each other and shared some of their learning. The thesis offers a detailed
analysis of specific aspects of the pronunciation of consonants in the ancient Indo-European
languages, Sanskrit, Greek and Latin, as described by nineteenth century European scholars.
It concentrates on three specific aspects of the subject, `gutturals, `aspirates' and W.
The term `guttural' (throat-sound), borrowed from Hebrew grammar, was used by
most scholars throughout the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth for sounds we
now know as `velar', `uvular', `pharyngeal' or `glottal'. The gradual recognition of the
cardinal points along this continuum by nineteenth century scholars is discussed, together
with their precise place of articulation. Palatal sounds, both the phonetic sounds formed at
the hard palate and the ca series of Sanskrit consonants, are also discussed.
The term `aspirate' was used by various nineteenth century scholars for the aspirated
stops of Sanskrit and Greek, and by some scholars also for fricatives. There were
differences of opinion as to the exact pronunciation of the Greek and Sanskrit aspirates;
some scholars regarded them as aspirated stops and some as fricatives, while yet others
regarded them as stops followed closely by a fricative, whose nature again was disputed:
either a homorganic fricative or an h. There were also those who regarded the h element as
an aspirated, or delayed, onset to the following vowel.
The nature of h also caused controversy. There were those who regarded it as a full
`letter', and those who saw it as merely one of several possible initial vowel sounds. This
argument was influenced by the fact that in written Greek h appears as a superscript diacritic,
the spiritus aspen, which has a corresponding spiritus lenis, regarded by some scholars as a
glottal stop. There seems to have been no doubt that the voiced Sanskrit h was a full