[Spellyans] More on bys/bes words and diacritical marks

nicholas williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Thu Jul 10 13:24:36 IST 2008


The OCV is not wholly in Old Cornish. nt has already become ns in cans  
'hundred' and eunhinsic, camhinsic, etc. OCV is probably transitional  
between Old and Middle Cornish.
In which case we might wish also to assume that OC /I:/ is already  
being lost from the series /i: I: e:/. Usually /I:/ fell together  
with /e:/ but in certain contexts it may be that a variant in /i:/  
existed and that both [bi:z] and [be:z] were possible pronunciations  
of the word 'finger' (and indeed of the word for 'world' as well).
If this were so, the two phenomena 1. assibilation of nt and 2. the  
collapse of /i: I: e:/ > /i: e:/ would be early. The OCV is probably  
mid-twelfth century. Both phenomena I take to be the result of the  
anglicisation of Cornish pronunciation after the Norman Conquest.   
This is why I date the Prosodic Shift to before our earliest Middle  
Cornish texts.
In which case the SWF's catering for "Revived Middle Cornish" with  
half-length and long consonants is inauthentic.

Nicholas
----------

On 10 Jul 2008, at 12:43, Jon Mills wrote:

> Bodewryd' spelling "beez" is consistent with Lhuyd's "bêz" [be:z].  
> But as Nicholas points out, [bi:z] is also a plausible pronunciation  
> of "beez".
>
> If  OCV "bis truit", is Cornish, then how do we account for the  
> alternation of  <-i-> and <-e-> in Old Cornish?
> Jon
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "nicholas williams"
> To: "Standard Cornish discussion list"
> Subject: Re: [Spellyans] More on bys/bes words and diacritical marks
> Date: Thu, 10 Jul 2008 10:21:03 +0100
>
> But in the Bodewryd glossary we find the following:
>
> beez — finger
> beez meas — thumbe
> beez beean — litell finger
> beez creese — middle finger
> beez nessa beean — next to littel.
>
> I am not as sure as Jon that <bis> in the OCV is indeed Welsh. We  
> find in the OCV bis truit 'toe' [Allax]. Truit is definitely
> Cornish not Welsh; cf. truit 'foot' [Pes] and godentruit 'sole of  
> foot' [Planta] in the same text.
>
> Can we be completely sure that a pronunciation [bi:z] did not occur  
> in Cornish?
>
> Nicholas
>
>
> On 10 Jul 2008, at 09:31, Jon Mills wrote:
>
>> Vocabularium Cornicum (76) gives "bis" glossing 'digitus'; this is  
>> Welsh not Cornish. The Cornish word for finger is found at VC78:  
>> "bess" glossing 'digitum'. In Beunans Meriasek this word is written  
>> "besse". Lhuyd (AB18c) notes that several Welsh words containing  
>> <y> have an <e> in Cornish and notes "W. Bŷs, A Finger or Toe;  
>> Corn. Bêz." The Cornish word for finger should be written 'bes'.
>> Jon
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Jon Mills"
>> To: "Standard Cornish discussion list"
>> Subject: Re: [Spellyans] More on bys/bes words and diacritical marks
>> Date: Thu, 10 Jul 2008 08:08:47 +0000
>>
>> I agree that we do not need diacritics to disambiguate homonyms.  
>> The meaning of bys/bes words is normally deduced from the context.  
>> Words have no meaning until they are used in a context. Consider  
>> the English word 'ring'. On its own it has no meaning, but place it  
>> in context: 'I heard the phone ring', 'wedding ring' 'drugs ring',  
>> 'boxing ring', etc. I would prefer to see 'beys' (world) which is  
>> attestested (Ordinalia, Beunans Meriasek, Jordan).
>> Jon
>>
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "A. J. Trim"
>> To: "Standard Cornish discussion list"
>> Subject: [Spellyans] More on bys/bes words and diacritical marks
>> Date: Wed, 9 Jul 2008 21:49:33 +0100
>>
>> I know that we have covered this topic previously but some further  
>> discussion is required.
>>
>> I assume that we want to write bÿs/bës & bys in KS because the SWF  
>> has bys/bes & bys, and we consider that to be “broken”, i.e. a  
>> poor feature of the SWF.
>>
>> Firstly, this is because bys [bi:z]~[be:z] “world” or  
>> “finger” could also mean [biz] “until”, so we should like to  
>> spell them differently from each other.
>>
>> However, Mary said, “I don't think I've ever muddled up these  
>> words, I don't know the clever way to say it, but they're just not  
>> words you confuse, they don't come in the same places if you follow  
>> me.”
>>
>> I think that Mary is correct. It’s “world” and “finger”  
>> that is the more likely pair of meanings to get confused. We have  
>> many words in English that could be confused but somehow people  
>> don’t confuse them very often. For example, “dear” can mean  
>> cherished or it can mean expensive. Then we have “deer” which  
>> means kind of beast, often with antlers. I do not believe that the  
>> stated reason holds. How many other bÿs/bës type words have  
>> another meaning with a different pronunciation?
>>
>>
>>
>> Secondly, if you were to use ether one of these two spellings (i.e.  
>> bys or bes), you couldn’t see that the alternative form also  
>> exists, whereas if the choice is bÿs or bës, you can.
>>
>> The graphs <ÿ> & <ë> help the reader to understand and to  
>> pronounce text that has been written in the alternative dialect.
>>
>> Unfortunately, this benefit is at the expense of making Cornish of  
>> either dialect (Middle or Late) more difficult to spell correctly,  
>> and more difficult to type.
>>
>> The measure of a good “spell-as-you-say-it” orthography is that  
>> you don’t need the dictionary to spell words that you know how to  
>> say.
>>
>> In this case, however, some of the expected <i> become <ÿ>, and  
>> some of the expected <e> become <ë>. We shall all be left to wonder  
>> which do, and which don’t.
>>
>> The forms bïs/bës & bys would be more logical as <ï> is long but  
>> the problem of knowing which <i> or <e> have diereses and which  
>> don’t would be the same.
>>
>>
>>
>> I’m not saying that diacritical marks should not be used in  
>> Cornish, only that their use should be minimised. The dieresis, as  
>> proposed for bÿs/bës words, could be avoided through the use of  
>> <ei>. This would give us the choice beis & bys. That would be  
>> simpler but the spelling problem would remain.
>>
>> The SWF designers objected to diacritical marks of any kind, and  
>> they rejected beis but they failed to give good reasons.
>>
>> In view of this, perhaps it would be best for KS to adopt beis,  
>> regardless of the current SWF.
>>
>> The spelling <ei> should become more acceptable within the next  
>> five years because, by then, the reason for its rejection will have  
>> faded, and it would already be in use, at least to some extent.
>>
>> Opposition to diacritical marks could increase within the next five  
>> years. This is because (hopefully) more people will be using  
>> Cornish, and they will have got used to writing Cornish without  
>> writing any diacritical marks. This is because they will be using  
>> the current SWF or continuing to use KK, UC or UCR, none of which  
>> uses diacritical marks. (Perhaps some people will be using KS & LRC  
>> too but they would be a small proportion only.)
>>
>> Also, the use of electronic mobile devices as an important means of  
>> communication is likely to increase over the next five years. These  
>> devices tend to cater poorly for accented characters. Perhaps this  
>> is because you type with one finger or a stylus. Perhaps the  
>> producers assume a USA market (where diacritical marks aren’t used  
>> much.)  Either way, those who might otherwise write diacritical  
>> marks will tend to leave them off when using these devices. I  
>> believe that those habits will soon invade the language as a whole.
>>
>> We already see a parallel effect with text messaging abbreviations  
>> being used in company e-mails. A full keyboard is available for the  
>> e-mails, so it is a habit that has migrated from the mobile phone.
>>
>> I think that we shall see this effect with the partial loss of  
>> diacritical marks.
>>
>> By the way, and I don't know whether this is related but I heard  
>> that France has considered reducing use of the circumflex, Germany  
>> is losing its double-s <ss> (ß), and Scottish Gaelic appears to be  
>> losing its acute accents.
>>
>>
>>
>> Regards,
>>
>> Andrew J. Trim
>>
>>
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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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>
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>
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> University of Kent
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