[Spellyans] SWF vowel inconsistencies

nicholas williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Wed Jul 2 12:22:54 IST 2008

Welsh pronunciation is very un-English and native speakers of Welsh  
pronounce English like
Welsh not vice versa. They say, for example, kri:w for crew and ni:ws  
for news [nju:z]. They have trouble
with [z] and will say [hausIs] for houses and 'I saw a Sebra in the  
soo'. Indeed zoo is written sw in Welsh.

The intonation of Welsh is very different from English and even in  
English Welsh speakers will
pronounce toponyms in their Welsh form. We say bang-g@ for Bangor,  
but  native Welsh speakers say
Bangor with the stress on the first syllable but a rise in tone on the  
second syllable and a clear o vowel.

The whole point about the Prosodic Shift in my view is that it made  
Cornish closer to English than it
had been and thus less like Welsh. The Welsh name is Caradog with  
three clear syllables whereas
the Cornish equivalent Caragek after the shift would have been  
k at raedZ@k with schwa in the unstressed syllables.

The weakening of unstressed syllables to schwa is already noticeable  
in PA and the Ordinalia. By the time of
BM it is complete. The scribe of BM writes dotha 'to him' because his  
final unstressed syllables were all schwa.

The next stage is seen in TH who in order to keep gansa 'with him'  
apart from gansa 'with them' recharacterises
the latter as gansans.

The first stage in the anglicisation of Cornish phonology was the  
assibilation of tad > tadz > tas/taz. This came about
because the Brythonic distinction between fortis and lenis was  
replaced by the English opposition of stop and affricate.

A later stage in the anglicisation of Cornish was the phenomenon known  
as pre-occlusion. The distinction between n and n:
survived long enough in some forms of Cornish to undergo sound  
substitution: n: > dn. A similar phenomenon is
to be seen in Manx, which is Gaelic (which has long consonants) in the  
mouths of Norse speakers.
Pre-occlusion in Manx goes back to the beginnings of Manx in the ninth  
century, but does not appear in writing till
much later.

If we Cymricise Cornish we will, I believe, do violence to the  
phonology of the language, which has been closer to English
than to Welsh since the beginning of the Middle Cornish period.


On 2 Jul 2008, at 11:37, John Sheridan wrote:

> --- On Wed, 7/2/08, nicholas williams <njawilliams at gmail.com> wrote:
>> There is really no way round the difficulty. Revived
>> Cornish even when
>> fluent
>> sounds like English in both phonemic inventory and
>> intonation.
>> The problem is exacerbated by the inevitable tendency to
>> sound-
>> substitution.
>> Matthew Clarke ...
> Matthew Clarke is perhaps the best case in point.  With his Radyo an  
> Gernewegva, he is building up a substantial inventory of news  
> reports with (sometimes) accompanying text transcriptions.  It is  
> admirable work and a true boon to the Cornish speaking community. In  
> some ways, he is becoming the Cornish voice of Cornwall.  So perhaps  
> that's really what 21st-century Cornish sounds like.
>> The best Cornish I have ever heard was Neil Kennedy's
>> before he left
>> for Brittany and
>> Dan's JCH. Dan has the great advantages
>> of being 1. a trained linguist; 2. a professional actor.
>> Perhaps Dan should be employed to produce learners'
>> materials.
> Hear, hear!  As an aside, I've also thought that someone should  
> produce a filmed version of the Tregear homilies with Dan playing  
> the preacher.
> But Dan also has the advantage of being bilingual from birth and  
> living abroad, thus having a facility with language and not  
> influenced by UK dialects.
> It interests me, Nicholas, that you chose to learn Irish, because I  
> have often thought: perhaps I should learn Welsh and model my  
> Cornish pronunciation after Welsh.  At least then it would be  
> modeled after some Brythonic language.  But Welsh itself for all I  
> know may be heavily influenced by English; and besides, as it has  
> been said umpteen times by many on this list, Cornish is not Welsh  
> (or Breton)!
> Yn lel,
> -John
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