[Spellyans] The sounds of Cornish

Owen Cook owen.e.cook at gmail.com
Mon Jun 23 20:08:52 BST 2008

For Middle Cornish, I would not be at all surprised if there had been
a set of lenis sonorants /m n l r/ alongside a set of fortis
sonorants, which at the risk of queering our SAMPA conventions I think
we may need to write as /M N L R/. The reason I think the fortis
sonorants may have existed in Middle Cornish is that there are
different realizations of them in late Cornish -- most importantly
preoccluded /bm dn/, but also sporadically some aspirated /lh/. I
don't think that this scenario can totally be dismissed out of hand
for Middle Cornish in terms of inherent implausibility, although I'm
sure Jon and Nicholas will demand to see evidence which I regrettably
can't provide. For one thing, my facsimile of Archaeologia Britannica
is in storage nine thousand kilometres away.

Now nobody has /M N L R/ in their phonetic repertoire in revived
Cornish today (with the possible exception of Ben Bruch?), so these
items are relevant only as far as their Late Cornish reflexes go. That
means preocclusion, and in certain cases optional aspiration (I'm
thinking for example of tolh, which Lhuyd wrote with an inverted
lowercase L).

/k: p: t: x: s: T:/ certainly do not exist as segments, the way they
were assumed to in KK (ott, stopp, klokk, etc) but arise from
sequences of /k+h p+h t+h h+h s+h T+h/ which commonly occur in
comparatives and subjunctives. But does anyone really pronounce them
at all differently from their non-geminate counterparts today? Perhaps

Just my thoughts.

2008/6/23 nicholas williams <njawilliams at gmail.com>:
> 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
> Cornish.
> 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?
> Nicholas
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