[Spellyans] New member introduction

Thomas Leigh callanish at gmail.com
Mon Dec 8 20:55:26 GMT 2008


Lowena dhewgh!

My name is Thomas Leigh. Several list members already know me. I'm American,
raised in the Boston suburbs, currently living near Hartford, Connecticut
(roughly halfway between Boston and New York City). I have a longstanding
passion for languages in general, dating back to my youth, and a deep
interest in Celtic languages (and a few others) in particular. I have an MA
with Honours in Gaelic Studies from the University of Aberdeen (1998). I
speak Scottish Gaelic fairly fluently (though it gets ever rustier due to
lack of opportunities for use on this side of the pond), a fair bit of Manx,
and some Cornish. I've got a decent passive knowledge of Irish and read it
with a dictionary, though I have a hard time actually producing it.

I think I first discovered Cornish in the Aberdeen University library, where
there were several books on the language, including Jenner's Handbook and
Ken George's PSRC. While at home during one of the summer holidays I found
"Holyewgh an Lergh" and Caradar's "Cornish Simplified" in the local
foreign-language bookshop, though of course I knew nothing of UC versus KK
at the time, and was confused by the different spellings. I also later on
got hold of the KDL lessons for grades 1-3, and passed the first grade exam
back in 1999 or 2000. I believe it was the summer of 1997, when I was about
to enter my final year in Aberdeen, that I met and became friends with Ben
Bruch, who is the only real Cornish teacher I've had. I ended up studying
mostly KK, since that was the variety of Cornish that Ben used, and also the
variety that the majority of publications seemed to be written in —
practical rather than ideological reasons, in other words. I've since ended
up with a decent passive knowledge of Cornish — I read KK, UC and UCR with a
dictionary — but my active knowledge is much poorer, to my embarrassment (if
you think finding opportunities to speak Gaelic in North America is hard,
try finding opportunities to speak Cornish!)

I've been to Cornwall twice, once in 2000 for my honeymoon, and again in
2002 with Ben for the Pennseythun in St. Austell. It was there that I
discovered that my (and Ben's) very textbook KK pronunciation was vastly
different from how every Cornish person there spoke, which caused me quite a
bit of anxiety for a long time afterwards (should I try to speak like folk
in Cornwall do, which was wrong from the prescriptive KK standpoint, or
should I continue to speak "proper" KK and not sound like anyone in
Cornwall?).

I first heard Late Cornish four or five years ago, thanks to Dan Prohaska,
whom I met (so to speak) in some of the online Cornish forums and who very
generously took the time to send me scans of the first 40 or 50 pages of
Richard Gendall's "An Curnoack Hethow" (sp?) along with copies of the
cassette recordings, and I was instantly smitten. Listening to Gendall and
Dan speaking Cornish was quite a revelation for me, and I've since been
trying to learn as much as I can about Late Cornish — I managed to procure
copies of two of Gendall's more recent books ("Tavaz A Ragadazow" and
"Practical Modern Cornish 1"), and I discovered that orthographic vagaries
aside (though I rather like the look of Gendall's earlier orthographies,
perhaps because they remind me a lot of Manx, which is probably my favourite
language in the world) Late Cornish is really not at all so very different
from Middle Cornish. I'm having some trouble trying to adjust my speech,
though — some MC phonological features, such as front rounded vowels, are so
ingrained in my pronunciation habits that I can't seem to get rid of them. I
suspect I'll end up being completely "inauthentic" (eccentric?) and using
front rounded vowels, preocclusion, and third person plural conjugated
prepositions in -ans.

As far as this list goes, I'm more interested in questions of usage and
style than in amending the SWF, though I want to remain current with your
(plural) work as one of my long-term goals in Cornish is to help produce
(write, translate, proofread, etc.) books in Cornish and for that I shall
have to know both the SWF as-is and SWF revised/KS, depending on who is
putting them out! So I will likely end up reading more than participating,
but I'm sure I'll have questions from time to time.

Gans oll ow holon vy,
Thomas / Tobmas
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