[Spellyans] The sounds of Cornish

nicholas williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Mon Jun 23 17:12:04 BST 2008

Before any discussion of how the SWF may need to be emended, could we  
first establish which pronunciation or varieties of pronunciation
we are going to use as our basis. The SWF specification does not  
adhere to the pronunciation of current speakers of revived Cornish, but
posits three differing forms, Middle Cornish, Tudor Cornish and Late  

I have in the past been severely criticised for even suggesting the  
term Tudor Cornish, since such an entity never existed as a separate
form of the language. I meant it simply as a convenient way of  
referring to the foundation texts of UCR: Beunans Meriasek, Tregear  
and the Creation (we can now add BK).
I have never suggested that Tudor Cornish was an entity in itself.

Now, however, Bruch and Bock do just that, in order it seems to allow  
the pronunciation suggested for KK, which has both
half-length and long consonants. Since *no speaker* of revived Cornish  
has half-length or long consonants (I do not include either
bm, dn or lh here), can we please make it clear from the outset that  
any orthography for Cornish should attempt to represent
the language as it is spoken by *all* speakers, i.e. with only long  
and short vowels, and only one unmarked length for consonants?

Thus the a in tas is long and the a in tasow is short. There is  
moreover no difference between the n in jyn 'engine' and penn  
'head' (if not pre-occluded).
If we insist on these two points at the outset, we are doing nothing  
new. We are merely accepting the sounds of Cornish as first
suggested by Jenner, and agreed by Nance, Caradar and Gendall.

The odd man out in this whole question is George, who posits a long m  
in kemmyn for example and half-length in tasow.
He does not, however, use his hypothetical pronunciation in his own  
speech and has indeed admitted that he does not.

Revived Cornish (whatever orthography it uses) when spoken has no half- 
length and no long consonants.
In which case the following "phonemes" mentioned in the Specification  
are merely "aspirational" and should be removed:

/l: m: n: r: k: p: t: x: s: T:/ (see the Spec. page 18 § 4.0.

We cannot devise an accurate orthography if we need to distinguish in  
writing sounds which 1) did not exist in the traditional language and
2) certainly do not exist in contemporary speech and 3) do not even  
exist in the speech of those who claim that they do.

Would it not be a good idea before we start to be honest about the  
sounds of the revived language?

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