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

Michael Everson everson at evertype.com
Mon Jul 14 14:16:18 IST 2008

At 12:16 +0000 2008-07-14, Jon Mills wrote:
>Do you advocate, then, a form of Cornish that is 
>at odds with traditional Cornish, since you 
>imply that traditional Cornish is of no 

I advocate practicality.

I really don't believe that [e:] and [i:] were 
genuinely allphonic variants *across the board*. 
We would see a *lot* more chaos than we do if 
that were really the case. Lhuyd is able to 
distinguish the sounds easily. And in Revived 
Cornish the RMC schools have tended to favour and 
teach [i:] for the bÿs/bës class, and the RLC 
school has favoured and taught [e:].

I don't think there's any undoing this. This 
isn't 1904. It's 2008. Whether these might have 
been allophonic in Traditional Cornish or not 
(and that's a big "whether") they're dialectal 
now. The SWF and KS both accept the dialectal 
variation in Revived Cornish, though the SWF 
doesn't use the word "dialect". For isntance Ray 
Chubb says [mi:z re:z di:d] and Neil Kennedy says 
[mi:z re:z de:d]. And even Kebmyn theory 
distinguishes [mi:z re:z dI:d], though in 
practice this results in [mi:z re:z dId] except 
for Kebmyn advocates like Ken George himself who 
has UC [mi:z re:z di:d].

No dialect of Revived Cornish has [mi:z ri:z 
di:d] or [me:z re:z de:d]. No free variation is 
in current use. And I don't believe that 
Traditional Cornish did either. (Burden of proof 
is on you.)

Now in 2008 we have a SWF that can't distinguish 
<bys> [bIz] from <bÿs> [bi:z]~[be:z]. That's a 
fault of the SWF. KS has now got a solution to 
that fault.

You've asked a theoretical question: Revived 
Cornish in the matter of <bÿs>~<bës> treats them 
as a dialectal alternation; would it disturb me 
if it were "proved" that in Traditional Cornish 
they were in free variation? The answer is no, 
not all that very much. Because we would be back 
where we are now: How would you then spell 
'month' and 'necessary' and 'finger' and 'but'?

KS is descriptive of Revived Cornish, respectful 
of Cornish linguistics in trying to get it right, 
and will offer a recommended pronunciation which, 
I believe, will be both theoretically sound and 
realistically practical.
Michael Everson * http://www.evertype.com

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