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

nicholas williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Thu Jul 10 17:04:11 IST 2008

The argument that a phoneme  is midway between Y and Z and is  
therefore written X is not one that carries much weight.
If there is a phoneme X then the scribes will tend to spell it by the  
closest graph available. They may
write two different sounds in the same way, e.g. <u> for /oe/ and /y/  
in Middle Cornish. But the idea that
<e> and <i> mean something in between both is naive. Ken George  
noticed the hesitation between
s and g and suggested the absurd /tj/ and /dj/. The most likely  
explanation is that both /dZ/ and /z/ occurred and this seems
to be the case in Late Cornish and in toponyms.
If there had been a sound *[dj] the scribes would have devised a  
combination of letters  to write it.

Res 'necessity' is indeed written rys and ris. Just as 'given' is  
reys, rys, ris and res. <res> is much commoner for 'necessity' than  
for 'given'.

There are several problems here. One is that the scribes learnt to  
write rys for 'given', but may have said res. As a result there was
confusion between <e> and <i> in long stressed syllables. This is  
probably the cause of dith in Tregear. Lhuyd gives dêdh as the only  

My own view is that some words had variant pronunciations, e.g. bys  
'world' was eith bi:z or be:z. I do not believe that Middle Cornish
had i: I: and e:. Such a threefold opposition would be unique in  
Brythonic and inherently unstable


On 10 Jul 2008, at 16:36, Tom Trethewey wrote:

> --- On Thu, 10/7/08, Michael Everson <everson at evertype.com> wrote:
> <res> necessary is never *<rys>.
> I understand that you have a data-base of spellings in the texts,  
> Michael.
> Please consult it.
> Tom
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