[Spellyans] SWF vowel inconsistencies

Michael Everson everson at evertype.com
Wed Jul 2 21:35:56 IST 2008

At 12:15 -0600 2008-07-02, Terry Corbett wrote:

>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.

Their real spelling preferences are for <kw> and <hw> and <k> everywhere.

>If they insist on that being their preferred 
>pronunciation, and they have a hard time using 
>it then pronunciation is their problem.

That's just a fantasy, and it's not fair to force 
the rest of the Revival to put up with it. It has 
long been noticed that KK users don't understand 
the theoretical phonology, and that they speak 
with a phoneme /i/ realized as [i:] when written 
<i> and [I] (not {I:} when written <y>. In fact, 
that feature is now a part of the SWF as well as 

The "theoretical" [I:] is now written in KS as 
<ÿ>/<ë>. But we will not say that it can be 
pronounced [I:]. That pronunciation cannot be 
recommended. Most English speakers can't manage 
it, and naturally shorten it to [I]. It's 
[di:D]~[de:D], not *[dID}.

>Since I don't see how the various manuscripts 
>can be dated with any precision, I don't believe 
>that it is possible to define the start of 
>Middle Cornish. After all it is a construct that 
>has no real natural relation to the language. No 
>one woke up on some day and started speaking 
>"Middle Cornish".

Apart from the OCV, all of our texts are Middle 
Cornish until after Jordan. But as Nicholas has 
shown, EVERY feature found in Late Cornish is 
also found somewhere in Middle Cornish, often 
very early. the structure of MC/LC words differs 
considerably from that of OC. If LC had continued 
using the traditional orthography Jordan 
inherited it is likely in my opinion that we'd be 
using a different terminology.

>I think it is preferable to include all 
>pronunciations from post Old Cornish Vocabulary 
>onward. For some Cornish speakers this is 

But George is the only one who thinks there are 
two i's and two o's. And the evidence doesn't 
support his theory.

>The SWF seems to do this except for a few cases 
>( for example the [ o ] when it is not [ u ] in 
>Late Cornish).

Not quite. SWF and KS both write <oo> as an 
umbrella graph, like KS <ei> was. Consider:

Using umbrella graphs:
<mis> [mi:z] 'month'
<bys> [bIz] 'but'
<mes> [me:z] 'thumb'
<mès> [mEz] 'but'
*<beis> [bi:z}~[be:z] 'world'

<bos> [bo:z] 'be'
<bòs> [bOz] 'bush'
<Lûk> [lu:k] 'Luke'
<lùck> [lUk] 'enough'
<boos> [bo:z]~{bu:z] 'food'

Using alternate graphs:
<bÿs> [bi:z}~[be:z] 'world'
<bës> [bi:z}~[be:z] 'world'
*<bös> [bo:z]~{bu:z] 'food'
*<büs> [bo:z]~{bu:z] 'food'

(But of course we do not need to use <ö> or <ü>.)

>I personally prefer Lhuydian spellings and 
>pronunciations. It is the closest thing we have 
>to what Cornish sounded like at any period of 
>its existance.

Splendid! You'll be happy writing <bës> and <boos> then. ;-)

>I know that Albert and Ben recognize that the SWF has problems.

It does, and they do. Albert once told me that he 
thought that KS was the best orthography ever 
devised for Cornish. They haven't subscribed to 
Spellyans, however.

>What is surprising is that considering how it 
>was developed it isn't even far worse than it is.

There are two reasons for that. First, there is 
all the work UdnFormScrefys did devising KS. 
Second, there is the agenda I gave to Trond 
before the first AHG. This isn't a secret: all 
the AHG members know that I wrote that list of 
topics that had to be discussed. (I wrote it in 
conjunction with members of UdnFormScrefys. This 
isn't about me.)

>It's more like a piece of legislation passed by 
>the US Congress than a well developed 
>orthography. This is to be expected considering 
>the fluky way it was put together.

Indeed. But what is wrong with it is not hard to put right.
Michael Everson * http://www.evertype.com

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