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

Tom Trethewey tom.trethewey at yahoo.co.uk
Thu Jul 10 17:15:31 IST 2008

At 12:30 +0000 2008-07-10, I wrote:>>So when the word for 'finger' is spelled both <bis> and <bes> in Old Cornish,>>it means that the vowel was between [i:] and [E:]. Michael Everson commented:>You sound very sure. Occam's razor. The same vacillation is seen in Old Breton for words containing /I/, sometimes spelled with <i> sometimes with <e>. They eventually settled down as /E/. In Cornish the continuing variation of spellings shows the continuation of the phoneme. >Well, the fact is that Revived Middle Cornish speakers say [bi:z] (almost all of them even if a "tiny minority" of them manage [bI:z] and Revived Late Cornish speakers say [be:z] (and the same for <dÿdh>~<dëdh>). And everybody says [re:z] which never goes *[ri:z] or *[rI:z]. That may well be the case. But it would be foolish to base an orthography on the speech-habits of a small unstable community of second-language learners.  >There is a class of words which has this alternation in
 Revived Cornish, and that's not up for negotiation. The SWF too recognizes this distinction, and allows people to write <bys> or <bes>. The problem is that there are words like <bys> [bIz] 'but' and <res> [re:z] 'necessary which are not part of that class. The textual spellings do not support the last assertion.Tom

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