[Spellyans] The sounds of Cornish

A. J. Trim ajtrim at msn.com
Tue Jun 24 01:39:54 BST 2008

I assume that we are setting out to improve on the SWF. If so, we need to cater for all real Revived Cornish pronunciations from Early Middle Cornish till Dying Late Cornish, as that is what the SWF has set out to do. These pronunciations are known. All unreal (i.e. "aspirational") Revived Cornish pronunciations need not be catered for. These pronunciations are also known.

Unfortunately, we don't know what the Traditional Cornish pronunciations were, especially for periods prior to Lhuyd. Revived Cornish pronunciation may therefore change if/when new information comes to light.

I am quite happy to base the spelling on that found in Tudor Cornish.

I am happy with the assumption that there are only two lengths for vowels (long & short). However, Traditional Cornish sometimes used double consonants. Perhaps, some of these were pronounced long, especially in comparative/superlative adjectives (e.g. the th in cotha "older") and in some verbal endings where a pronounced distinction would have been useful to clarify meaning. If this was the case, then all current speakers are wrong if all current speakers ignore this possible feature. For example (according to "Cornish Simplified"), "to say" is leverel, the 3rd person imperfect is levery, the 2nd person present subjunctive is leverry. Perhaps the double r would have been pronounced long. If so, I would be surprised if the sound of the preceding e were not affected in some way. I would expect it to become less obscure if not shorter. There are other examples: cara and carra; gweleugh and gwelleugh. I'm not sure which are re-constructions.

When I say jyn, my tongue finishes farther back in my mouth than when I say pen where the tongue ends closer to my teeth. I think that the n of jyn is a little longer - though not a long nn.


Andrew J. Trim


From: nicholas williams 
Sent: Monday, June 23, 2008 5:12 PM
To: spellyans at kernowek.net 
Subject: [Spellyans] The sounds of Cornish

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?



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