[Spellyans] <y>, <i>, etc

nicholas williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Sat Jul 26 16:42:02 IST 2008

I agree I followed Nance in my dictionary and cited nans 'valley', but  
I should be reluctant to do so now.
I do not dispute that the word nans occurs in toponyms to mean  
'valley'. Of course it does.
Nans is attested in the texts in adverbial phrases only. The only word  
for 'valley' is in connected traditional Cornish is valy.
It is quite common that an old word survives in toponyms but is lost  
in speech.
The word auon 'flumen, fluvius' occurs in OCV and is cited by Lhuyd as  
auan. It is unattested in the texts, however,
where 'river' is either ryver (BM and TH) or dowr (RD, BK).
I am reminded of the IE word for 'sea' which is muir in Old Irish but  
has been replaced (except in fossilised phrases) in speech
by farraige in Irish and by cuan and keayn in Scottish Gaelic and  
Manx. I think also of the Celtic word for 'island'  inis < *inista-
in Irish, which occurs in toponyms but has been replaced in speech by  
oileán (not a borrowing from English by the way).
Given that nans is unattested outside toponyms and adverbial phrases,  
I no longer use it in prose (verse would be a different matter).

I avoid nans 'valley' for the same reason that I avoid enep 'face',  
stevel 'room', kenedhel 'nation', etc.
i.e. because we have no evidence for any of them in either Middle or  
Late Cornish.


> 	Upon checking, I find that in Craig Wetherill's various writings on  
> Cornish place-names, he cites amongst others Trenant, Trenans, Nant  
> Gover, Nant Wedhen, Nans Bèrres, Nans Kersys, Nans Fenten. It's  
> difficult to see what else this means other than 'valley'; and I  
> know of no good reason to reject a straightforward toponymic lexeme  
> like this for everyday use in revived Cornish.
> It's hard to imagine traditional Cornish speakers restricting the  
> use of the word nans/nant exclusively to toponyms and adverbial  
> phrases, and all refusing to use it as a simple noun (especially as  
> there's no such restriction on its cognates in Welsh and Breton).  
> But, even if they did, nans/nant=valley is a perfectly respectable  
> lexeme to add to the revived lexicon.
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