[Spellyans] SWF vowel inconsistencies

nicholas williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Wed Jul 2 15:20:04 IST 2008


The classic article on this question is Kemp Malone, "When did Middle  
English begin?" (1930)
see http://www.jstor.org/pss/521990
There are many later accounts. I googled "Late West Saxon" and  
"unstressed" and got many references.

Nicholas


On 2 Jul 2008, at 14:25, Jon Mills wrote:

> I'd be grateful for any references in the literature to this.
> Jon
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "nicholas williams"
> To: "Standard Cornish discussion list"
> Subject: Re: [Spellyans] SWF vowel inconsistencies
> Date: Wed, 2 Jul 2008 13:44:20 +0100
>
> Not so, Jon. There is evidence for the collapse of unstressed vowels  
> as schwa in Late West Saxon.
>
> Nicholas
> On 2 Jul 2008, at 13:03, Jon Mills wrote:
>
>> 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 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.
>>
>> Nicholas
>>
>>
>>
>>
>> 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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>>
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>>
>> _____________________________________
>> Dr. Jon Mills,
>> School of European Culture and Languages,
>> University of Kent
>>
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>
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> School of European Culture and Languages,
> University of Kent
>
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