[Spellyans] reDistribution of <i> and <y>

nicholas williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Wed Jul 23 16:02:08 IST 2008

I agree with Michael here.
The idea that LC has -en where MC has -yn is a fiction. We are talking  
about [I] or an i-coloured schwa.
The word for 'morning' in Middle Cornish is

myttyn x 9
vyttyn x 3
meten x 1 (Beunans Meriasek)
vetten x 1 (Beunans Meriasek)
metten x 1 (Consistory Court 1572)

Late Cornish forms are:

mettin x 4
mettyn x 1
metten x 11

These all look like variant spellings of the same word ['mItIn] or  
['metIn]. It might be sensible to allow both mettyn and myttyn. But to  
attempt to
distinguish the unstressed syllable would, in my view, be folly.


On 23 Jul 2008, at 13:56, Michael Everson wrote:

> At 09:40 +0200 2008-07-23, Daniel Prohaska wrote:
>> I would like to hear everyone's opinions on the
>> following idea for redistributing <y> and <i> in
>> the SWF. I would write <i> where bother Late and
>> Middle Cornish have /i/ and /i:/, and write <y>
>> ~ <e> (in dictionaries <ÿ> ~ <ë>) where Middle
>> Cornish has /I/ and /I:/, but Late Cornish has
>> /e/ and /e:/.
> I can't see how this would work. In the first
> place, in stressed syllables, we have [i:] words
> (like <mis> and we have [e:] words (like <res>
> and we have [I] words like <bys>. No problem
> here: we write <i> and <e> and <y> for these. We
> also have in stressed syllables words [i:] and
> [e:] alternate; no problem here: we write <ÿ> and
> <ë> regularly.
> Not in dictionaries. Regularly. Nance's "write
> the marks in the dictionary but leave them off in
> plain text" is *not* something to be emulated. We
> know that Revivalists learning from Unified made
> mistakes in vowel length when there was no system
> to mark it; we know they made mistakes
> distinguishing between /y/ and /u/ when there was
> no system to mark it.
> Both KS and the SWF correct the first problem
> because they have a system where regular vowel
> length is marked by consonant quality. The SWF
> fails to be able to mark irregular vowel length,
> but KS corrects this failing by using the grave
> <`> for anomalous short vowels and the circumflex
> <^> for anomalous long vowels.
> The SWF fails to correct the second problem
> because it cannot distinguish between /y/ and /u/
> since the graph used is <u>. I do not believe
> that <ou> can be used throughout for [u:] and [U]
> alike; it is absurd to contemplate writing <Louk>
> for 'Luke' [lu:k] and <louck> for 'luck' [lUk].
> KS corrects this failing by using u-circumflex
> <û> for [u:] <Lûk> and u-grave <ù> for [U]
> <lùck>. (Both KS and the SWF take advantage of
> using <k> and <ck> to mark final vowel length
> redundantly.)
> I do *not* believe that we can recommend that
> diacritical marks be optional. That "philosophy"
> is childish, and does nothing to help learners or
> fluent readers either. Let's accept that a mature
> orthography for Revived Cornish must accept
> diacritics due to the nature of the language, and
> neither apologize for it nor try to weasel out of
> it by offering them as "optional". To write
> correct Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Breton, or
> Cornish, diacritical marks are *required* and
> *obligatory*.
>> Examples:
>> SWF <brentin>; RMC /"brentin/, RLC /"brentin/;
>> SWF <kegyn>; RMC /"kegin/, RLC /"keg at n/;
>> SWF <tir>; RMC /ti:r/, RLC /ti:r/;
>> SWF <bys> ~ <bes>; RMC */bI:z/ = [bi:z] ~ [bIz] ~ [beIz] etc., RLC / 
>> be:z/;
> I think Dan is really mixing up things here,
> because on the one hand he is talking about
> stressed monosyllables and on the other
> unstressed final syllables. These are not the
> same things.
> KS writes <tir> and <bÿs>~<bës> in monosyllables.
> We all know that [bI:z] is a failed
> "aspirational" pronunciation of KK, which is
> either realized as [bi:z] with correct vowel
> length or as [bIz] in erroneous hypercorrection.
> [beIz] would, I think, be an English-influenced
> [be:z] and so need not be listed.
> But KS is happy with <tir> and <bÿs>~<bës>.
> Where Dan has seemed to me to mix things up is in
> his other examples. What does /'brentin/ mean?
> Surely ['brEnt at n] though likelier ['brEnt1n] with
> i-coloured schwa. How does this differ from
> /'kegin/? Surely this is ['kEg at n] though likelier
> ['kEg1n] with i-coloured schwa. That is to say,
> the two words are pronounced identically in both
> RMC and RLC -- both with [1], i-coloured schwa as
> in English <wicket> ['wIk1t].
> We may have need for <ÿ>~<ë> distinction in some
> short vowels, but not, I think, in short
> unstressed vowels. I don't believe that a
> <kegÿn>~<kegën> distinction is found in Revived
> Cornish -- and if we were to mark this, we would
> certainly be multiplying the use of the diaeresis
> many many many times.
> I don't believe that the distinction KK makes
> between <i> and <y> in unstressed final syllables
> is defensible. <-yn> and <-in> in unstressed
> position are pronounced identically. KS writes
> <-yn> for these words and uses final <-in> in
> words where that final syllable is stressed and
> the vowel is long, as in <desin> [dE'zi:n]
> 'design', constrin [kOn'stri:n] 'constrains'.
> The <-yn>/<-in> distinction in the SWF is indefensible. Here's why:
> In GKK 1993, George explains (p. 20) that KK <i>
> /i/ is [i:] when stressed, and "when half-long
> and short, the same but reduced in duration". He
> also explains that when unstressed it is [I]. He
> then explains that KK <y> /I/ is [I] when short,
> and "when half-long and long, the same sound
> extended appropriately". So in 1993 he says
> nothing about unstressed <y>.
> In the Gerlyvrik 2005, however, he gives the following table:
> <i> when stressed is [i:] [i:\] [i], when unstressed [I]
> <y> when stressed is [I:] [I:\] [I], when unstressed [I]
> Then he writes <bryntin> ['brIntin] and <kegin> ['ke:\gIn].
> What does this mean? That the suffix in the first
> word is *stressed* but in the second
> *unstressed*? Yet George writes both <-in>. How
> is the learner to make any sense of this? And the
> SWF doesn't even write both <-in>: it
> distinguishes them. How? On the basis of the
> Gerlyvrik's phonetic respellings? Why is it
> <brentin> not <bryntin> then?
> On this matter I have no confidence in the SWF.
> And if I can't work out how these choices were
> made, what choice has any learner in working out
> when to write one letter and when to write the
> other? I don't believe the AHG decided explicitly
> on this alternation <-yn>/<-in>. I have a feeling
> it has to do with the word "etymology" -- and
> since that concept is left undefined in the
> context of these choices, it is no wonder that
> there are problems.
> We have heard that the Partnership has recognized
> a series of edge-cases. For once I am copying the
> authors of the SWF and the CLP officer in charge
> of the process. The problem of the edge cases
> most likely has to do with the word "etymology"
> which was probably introduced into the AHG
> discussions by Andrew Climo, on the basis of work
> we had done on KS.
> In that context, we had said we would retain
> "etymological" spellings in words like <colon>
> because in the derived form the unstressed vowel
> was restored as <colonow>. (We needed to describe
> this because the earlier drafts of KS would use
> <-an> throughout for final [@n]. The context here
> is important.) This use of the word
> "etymological" was mine, and it was imprecise.
> Somehow, however, it seems to have been taken to
> mean "as in Ken George's KK reconstructions". As
> such it is a recipe for conflict. Why should
> <tavas> be respelt <taves>? On the basis of
> "etymology", in that the form "should" be
> <taves>? In Revived Cornish, the word has two
> plurals: UC has <tavasow> and we have <tavosow>
> from Tregear which was unknown to Nance.  The
> Welsh is <tafod> pl <tafodau>; the Breton is
> <teod> pl <teodoù>. Old Cornish <tauot>. In the
> texts <tavas> is something like 5 times more
> common than <taves>. On the same "etymological"
> basis as <colon>/<colonow> we might write the
> wholly unattested *<tavos> but of course, neither
> *<tavos> nor *<tavesow> are known.
> And from here the whole enterprise brings us to
> the question "Do we trust George's
> reconstructions and etymologies?" And the answer
> is No. We do not. Not everything is wrong. Of
> course not. How could it be? But KK has been
> under sustained academic criticism since it was
> introduced. It is not "safe" enough to serve as
> the base for the distribution of vowels in
> unstressed position. The "edge cases" are not
> really "edge": this is a fairly fundamental
> problem.
> In any case, to get back to Dan's original
> question... I do not believe that a distinction
> <kegyn>~<kegen> is defensible. KS can write <-yn>
> for final unstressed i-coloured schwa and <-in>
> for final stressed [i:].
> -- 
> Michael Everson * http://www.evertype.com
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