[Spellyans] The sounds of Cornish

nicholas williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Tue Jun 24 09:48:49 BST 2008

There probably were long ~ short n m l in Cornish. These survive as dn  
bm and lh or ll.
I was careful to mention these in my first statement. Lhuyd also  
suggests that initial r was
voiceless [hr]. In which case there was probably an oppositin rh/R ~ r  
in Cornish as well.
My objection is to the positing of long stops for the SWF and s: T:  
(the voiceless continuant)
and x:, which nobody uses.
Can we agree that these last items are not part of the language and do  
not need to be accommodated?


On 23 Jun 2008, at 20:08, Owen Cook wrote:

> 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
> Ben?
> Just my thoughts.
> ~~Owen
> 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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