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

Craig Weatherhill weatherhill at freenet.co.uk
Sun Jul 13 20:58:06 IST 2008

I thoroughly agree with Michael here.  There are those who do not 
believe that Cornish had regional dialects, on the grounds that Cornwall 
is geographically small.  But you must bear in mind that Cornwall is 
also elongated.  For me, the clincher in this argument is that, up to 40 
or 50 years ago, you could distinguish, say, a Mousehole man from a St 
Ives man by his speech.

Cornish most certainly did have regional dialects, probably several.


Michael Everson wrote:
> At 12:30 +0000 2008-07-10, Tom Trethewey wrote:
>> When words are sometimes spelled with <i> or <y> and sometimes with <e>,
>> there are two explanations.  The one favoured hitherto on this forum 
>> has been that there were two different pronunciations, [i:] and [E:] 
>> for the words with long vowels.
> This is not correct. The distinction we make is [i:] and [e:], not 
> [E:]. The overwhelming majority of speakers of every variety of 
> Revived Cornish have two phonemes: /i/ [i:]~[I] and /e/ [e:]~[E].
>> I find this explanation naive compared with its alternative, that 
>> the mixture of <i~y> and <e> (and indeed <ey>) represents a sound 
>> intermediate between [i] and [E], say [I].
> Ken George is the only researcher who tried to impose a three-way 
> phonemic distinction onto Revived Cornish. One of the reasons he did 
> so is that he felt uncomfortable with the <e>~<i>~<y> alternation. It 
> appears to me that since he rejected dialect differences a priori he 
> was therefore obliged to end up with a three-way phonemic distinction 
> in his "reconstruction" of Middle Cornish. Revived Cornish has /e/ 
> and /i/ however, even despite two decades of attempts to get KK users 
> to have three phonemes.
> Evidently George felt the same discomfort about dialect variation 
> with regard to <s>~<j> alternations, which led him to posit the 
> phonemes /dj/ and /tj/. This was disproved, but George has not put 
> his discomfort aside and now tries to change Revived Cornish by 
> suggesting that the phoneme was /Z/. I don't believe that any of the 
> textual evidence we have supports this view.
> What this means to me is that traditional Cornish, like Revived 
> Cornish, had dialect differences with regard to these phonemes. KS 
> supports this analysis, which is also supportive of current practice 
> amongst Revivalists.

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