[Spellyans] SWF vowel inconsistencies

Jon Mills j.mills at email.com
Wed Jul 2 13:03:14 IST 2008

It is not until the Middle English period that vowels start to become
schwa in unstressed syllables. This first occurred in word final vowels:
'soote', 'roote', 'yonge', 'sonne'. Follow this link to hear some
Chaucer: http://www.vmi.edu/english/audio/GP-Opening.ram . Middle English
did not have the preponderance of weak forms that appear in today's
English. Weakening of vowels in unstressed syllables would appear to be
an areal feature that affected both English and Cornish. It is possible
that it even started to occur in Cornish before English.Jon

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: "nicholas williams"
  To: "Standard Cornish discussion list"
  Subject: Re: [Spellyans] SWF vowel inconsistencies
  Date: Wed, 2 Jul 2008 12:22:54 +0100

  Welsh pronunciation is very un-English and native speakers of Welsh
  pronounce English likeWelsh not vice versa. They say, for example,
  kri:w for crew and ni:ws for news [nju:z]. They have troublewith [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 willpronounce toponyms in their Welsh form. We
  say bang-g@ for Bangor, but  native Welsh speakers sayBangor 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 ithad been and thus less like Welsh.
  The Welsh name is Caradog with three clear syllables whereasthe
  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 ofBM 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' recharacterisesthe latter as gansans. 
  The first stage in the anglicisation of Cornish phonology was the
  assibilation of tad > tadz > tas/taz. This came aboutbecause 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 isto 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 tillmuch 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>

      There is really no way round the difficulty. Revived

      Cornish even when


      sounds like English in both phonemic inventory and


      The problem is exacerbated by the inevitable tendency to



      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'


    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,

    Spellyans mailing list
    Spellyans at kernowek.net

  Spellyans mailing list
  Spellyans at kernowek.net

Dr. Jon Mills,
School of European Culture and Languages,
University of Kent

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