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

Jon Mills j.mills at email.com
Mon Jul 14 09:51:13 IST 2008

The idea that <i>/<y>~<e> found in the traditional corpus represents dialectal variability is an interesting notion. However this alternation might equally well represent allophonic variation.

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Michael Everson" <everson at evertype.com>
> To: "Standard Cornish discussion list" <spellyans at kernowek.net>
> Subject: Re: [Spellyans] More on bys/bes words and diacritical marks
> Date: Sun, 13 Jul 2008 14:26:21 +0200
> 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.
> --
> Michael Everson * http://www.evertype.com
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Dr. Jon Mills,
School of European Culture and Languages,
University of Kent

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