One of the entries in this notebook demonstrates his delight with words and sounds that is found in his writing throughout his career. It may be his first thoughts and writing relating to the study of phonetics.
I've been wanting to write something on the sounds of words for a long time so here goes:
In our English language we have words whose pronunciation suggests the meaning. I believe that even to a person who could speak no word of English or understand it, some words would convey their meaning.
The foremost example of this is the word "Awkward". Was there ever a word invented whose letters were arranged in such a - well - an awkward way? "Awk"! Isn't it ungainly in appearance? "Awk"! Doesn't it break discordantly upon the ear? Did you know that there is a bird named the Awk, and that it is built clumsily and disproportionately and is the most "awkward" creature that exists in the polar regions. Awkward certainly expresses its meaning in its pronunciation
But this is only one of many such words. Take "smooth" for instance. Does it not slide smoothly (CVR drew a bar over the top of the "oo") off the tongue? Is it not a pleasure to write the double 'o' that consititutes the accented syllable. Say the word slowly and you will recognize this truth. The verb "cut" expresses its meaning quite well, too. When you say the word you bring your tongue up sharply against the teeth which may signify its meaning. Then the sound of a jacknife "cutting" thru a small stick seems to show its meaning.
added June 22, 1997