[Spellyans] Spellyans

Hewitt, Stephen s.hewitt at unesco.org
Sat Jun 7 12:18:56 BST 2008

Steve Hewitt

Specialist in Breton, where I have a long-standing interest in 
orthographical questions, and have developed my own 
Middle-Breton-based "etymological orthography" which does a much 
better job than even the Interdialectal (Etrerannyezhel) orthography 
of predicting dialect reflexes. I have a good knowledge of Welsh, and 
some basic Irish.

I am not certain that a phonemic SWF using only authentic, attested 
graphemes, and at the same time catering to several stages of the 
language, is entirely feasible, but I am certainly interested in the 
attempt. That being said, authentic graphemes are not necessarily the 
only solution; Modern Breton works very largely with several basic 
principles which are definitely not traditional <k>, hard <g>, and 
for ZH and OU orthographies <-s-> = /s/. If the Welsh system is 
largely authentic, this is because the traditional orthography 
performed amazingly well, and in many ways constituted a good 
supradialectal norm catering to both North and South Welsh.

One question I have tried to ask on Kernowak, but was quickly shot 
down, concerns why medial <th> is thought to have remained 
consistently voiceless, whereas medial (and even initial) <s> and <f> 
are generally agreed to have become voiced. In Breton, the 
corresponding phonemes in <difenn> "defend", <kaseg> "mare", and 
<brezhoneg> "Breton" all became voiced in most dialects. Since the 
grapheme <th> is demonstrably ambiguous for /th/ and /dh/, how can 
anyone tell?

With regard to KS, I feel uncomfortable about the strong preference 
for marking pre-occlusion, with the idea that users preferring 
earlier stages could simply ignore it. The more usual solution in 
such cases is to allow divergent pronunciations to be derived from 
earlier forms. For instance, both Icelandic and Faroese have 
widespread pre-occlusion, but neither marks it in the orthography; it 
is automatically derived.

Steve Hewitt

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