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

Tom Trethewey tom.trethewey at yahoo.co.uk
Thu Jul 10 18:40:05 IST 2008

--- On Thu, 10/7/08, nicholas williams <njawilliams at gmail.com> wrote:

Nicholas Williams wrote:
>The argument that a phoneme is midway between Y and Z and is therefore written X is not one that carries much weight. 
Indeed.  If there is no obvious graph available, then it is likely to be written sometimes Y and sometimes Z.
>If there is a phoneme X then the scribes will tend to spell it by the closest graph available. 
If it lies between Y and Z, but closer to Y, one might expect more Ys than Zs.  If it lies closer to Z then Z would be commoner than Y.
>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.
On the contrary, it is commonsense.
>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.
But is this the most likely explanation?  Chaudhri points out that ose is followed within thirty line in OM. by oge, and in BM. we find dewgys and dewsys within six lines.  It is not absurd to suggest that we are dealing here with a single sound which is not [z] but not far from [z], and which is not [dZ] but is not far from [dZ].  [Z] would fit the bill.
If there had been a sound *[dj] the scribes would have devised a combination of letters  to write it.
> But you just said that "the scribes will tend to spell it by the closest graph available."  You cannot have it both ways.  :-)
>Res 'necessity' is indeed written rys and ris. 
Also <reys>
>Just as 'given' is reys, rys, ris and res. <res> is much commoner for 'necessity' than for 'given'.
You would be well advised to check the veracity of this statement.
>There are several problems here. One is that the scribes learnt to write rys for 'given', 
Pure speculation.
>but may have said res.
Pure speculation.
>My own view is that some words had variant pronunciations, e.g. bys 'world' was either bi:z or be:z. I do not believe that Middle Cornish had i: I: and e:.  
You made that clear in your book Towards Authentic Cornish.  Yet the spellings in the texts are compatible with just such a threefold distinction.
Tom Trethewey

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