[Spellyans] The quantity system

nicholas williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Tue Jun 24 10:54:17 BST 2008

Thank you for that, Jon.
It is generally agreed that revived Cornish has two lengths of vowel  
and one of consonants.
If people wish to distinguish n, m, r, l from their 'long' equivalents  
they can do so with nn, mm, rr and ll.
I am myself unhappy about mm as /m:/ because m is ipso facto a fortis.  
The lenis m was lenited to v
in the pre-Cornish period.

I think we all agree that long consonants (apart possibly from nn, ll,  
etc.) are a fiction and do not need to
be marked or catered for.

The next question is whether to accommodate three long hight front  
vowel i: I: and e: as is the case at present in
the SWF specification. The SWF allows bI:z for 'world', for example,  
which nobody actually says.
This matter involves the distribution of <i> and <y> (both for long  
and short vowels) and will need a lot of attention.


On 24 Jun 2008, at 10:18, Jon Mills wrote:

> Adherents of KK maintain that KK is easier to learn because it is  
> supposedly phonemic. However KK entails a phonology that, for most  
> learners is, in fact, difficult to achieve: 3 vowels lengths and  
> geminate consonants. As a result, KK is more difficult to learn than  
> the other forms of Cornish.
> Actual realisations of vowel length do not neatly fit in to 2 or 3  
> lengths. For example, with regard to English, Trager and Smith  
> (1957) observed 5 different vowel lengths in the set, bit bid bin  
> hiss his. They write, "The vowel quality is in each case lower high  
> front unrounded: [I]. In bit there is the shortest vowel,in his the  
> longest for most speakers; bid and bin have fairly long vowels too  
> -- some speakers have the longest varieties here, sometimes even  
> with a drawling off-glide effect; in hiss the vowel is longer than  
> in bit, but considerably shorter than in his or bid; in bin there is  
> a marked nasalization of the vowel ...."
> However, within the phonological system of English, only 2 vowel  
> lengths operate. These are determined by minimal contrast pairs:
> bit - beat
> bid - bead
> his - he's
> etc.
> With regard to Cornish then, if one wants to argue for either 2 or 3  
> vowel lengths, minimal contrast sets (extracted from the historical  
> corpus) need to be presented. But even this method is questionable  
> because the corpus is written and the actual pronunciation of any  
> forms contained therein is conjectural.
> The only sensible and practical pedagogy is surely for learners to  
> be taught 2 vowel lengths and 1 consonant length. But should the SWF  
> make provision for those who aspire to 3 vowels lengths and long  
> consonants? I cannot imagine that these aspirants are very numerous.  
> My guess is that, given the choice, the vast majority of KK learners  
> would opt for a phonology that is easier to learn.
> Jon
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "nicholas williams"
> To: spellyans at kernowek.net
> Subject: [Spellyans] The sounds of Cornish
> Date: Mon, 23 Jun 2008 17:12:04 +0100
> 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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> _____________________________________
> Dr. Jon Mills,
> School of European Culture and Languages,
> University of Kent
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