[Spellyans] SWF vowel inconsistencies

nicholas williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Wed Jul 2 20:38:12 IST 2008

If the SWF set out to cater for the pronunciation of all speakers of  
revived Cornish, that would be fine.
It does not. It claims that there are long consonants in revived  
Cornish in kemmyn and in pottow for example,
which nobody uses. It also allows for three long high front vowels i:  
I: and e:. Such a series exists nowhere
in Brythonic and no revived Cornish speaker has ever systematically  
used the middle vowel /I:/. Certainly Ken
George, who was the first person ever to suggest that Middle Cornish  
had such a phoneme distinct from i:, does
not use it.

Those of us who have training in historical linguists understand how  
inferences can be made from
texts that are fairly secure. George in his book The Pronunciation and  
Spelling of Revived Cornish does
not attempt to show that MC had half-length and long consonants. He  
merely takes them for granted
since such things exist in Breton. This is not good enough.

George's inexperience in historical linguistics has been amply  
remarked upon by others (notably
Penglase and Mills). It led him into many further errors:

1. the notorious tj and dj
2. the bizarre belief that Cornish long i: underwent the Great Vowel  
Shift of 15th century English!
3. the creation of such unattested MC forms as *ynys, *klywes, *bywnans
4. his apparent aporia in the face of tevy, trega/tryga and even gu  
'spear' (see his GKK for details)
5. his curious view that iw yw and ew were entirely separate in spite  
of all the evidence to the contrary.

These errors all flow naturally from his mistaken phonology.

The view of all other linguists (apart uniquely from George) was that  
Middle Cornish had two lengths
only and no long consonants. They all Jenner, Nance, Caradar, Gendall  
accepted Lhuyd's analysis.
George did not .

KS accepts the same underlying phonology as the mainstream. But  
George, though adopting an idiosyncratic
and mistaken phonology as the foundation stone of his orthography,  
himself uses the phonology
set out by Nance. He does not speak Kernewek Kemmyn and has admitted  
that he does not. Ken George's Cornish
is a rather anglicised Unified Cornish. Kernewek Kemmyn it is not.

The spelling preferences of users of KK are based on error. Their  
phonology, however, is Unified.


>> I don't see how an orthography can be inclusive if it excludes the
>> spelling preferences of a good part of the Revived Cornish
>> community.If they insist on that being their preferred
>> pronunciation, and they have a hard time using it then pronunciation
>> is their problem.

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