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H.L. Mencken (1880–1956). The American Language. 1921.

Page 207

Worse, it is impossible to represent a great many of these shades in print. Sweet, trying to do it,  3 found himself, in the end, with a preposterous alphabet of 125 letters. Prince L.-L. Bonaparte more than doubled this number, and Ellis brought it to 390.  4 Other phonologists, English and Continental, have gone floundering into the same bog. The dictionary-makers, forced to a far greater economy of means, are brought into obscurity. The difficulties of the enterprise, in fact, are probably unsurmountable. It is, as White says, “almost impossible for one person to express to another by signs the sound of any word.” “Only the voice,” he goes on, “is capable of that; for the moment a sign is used the question arises, What is the value of that sign? The sounds of words are the most delicate, fleeting and inapprehensible things in nature. …. Moreover, the question arises as to the capability to apprehend and distinguish sounds on the part of the person whose evidence is given.”  5 Certain German orthoëpists, despairing of the printed page, have turned to the phonograph, and there is a Deutsche Grammophon-Gesellschaft in Berlin which offers records of specimen speeches in a great many languages and dialects, including English. The phonograph has also been put to successful use in language teaching by various American correspondence schools.
  In view of all this it would be hopeless to attempt to exhibit in print the numerous small differences between English and American pronunciation, for many of them are extremely delicate and subtle, and only their aggregation makes them plain. According to a recent and very careful observer  6 the most important of them do not lie in pronunciation at all, properly so called, but in intonation. In this direction, he says, one must look for the true characters of “the English accent.” Despite the opinion of Krapp, a very competent authority, that “the American voice in general starts on a higher plane, is normally pitched higher than the British voice,”  7