[Spellyans] RLC <h> for <gh>

Jon Mills j.mills at email.com
Thu Jun 26 15:52:13 BST 2008

You are correct in saying that Lhuyd's transcriptions are phonetic. However not every Cornish word written in Archaeologia Britannica is phonetically transcribed in Lhuyd's General Alphabet. Some items are quoted as they are spelled in the Middle Cornish texts. So care needs to be taken when citing Lhuyd as an authority for any proposed pronunciation. Using minimal contrast, it would be possible, as you suggest Owen, to extrapolate a phonemic inventory from Lhuyd's Archaeologia; though this would not be entirely free of problems. The results might come as a surprise to many. For example, I have so far been unable to find a minimal contrast pair for Lhuyd's <dh> and <th>. This suggests that in 17th century Cornish, [D] and [T] are allophones, not separate phonemes. In English, [D] and [T] can easily be demonstrated to be distinct phonemes by minimal contrast:
word initially - 'thy' ~ 'thigh',
word medially - 'either' ~ 'ether',
word finally - 'mouth' (noun) ~ 'mouth' (verb).


> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Owen Cook" <owen.e.cook at gmail.com>
> To: "Standard Cornish discussion list" <spellyans at kernowek.net>
> Subject: Re: [Spellyans] RLC <h> for <gh>
> Date: Thu, 26 Jun 2008 14:38:29 +0300
> Personally I would have no problem taking Lhuyd's transcriptions as
> phonetic. They must be the main raw materials for forming our ideas of
> the phonology of Cornish. The scribal tradition can also give strong
> hints about how that phonology might have stood at earlier stages than
> circa 1700.
> For example, Lhuyd's <i> and <y> (the undotted one) might be taken as
> representing [i] and [I]. We might then find, let us say, that [i] and
> [I] do not contrast with each other in any minimal pair, and therefore
> take them as allophones of /i/. Comparison with the scribal tradition
> will reveal that many words at an earlier stage were written with <u>
> which later fell in with our /i/. Provided that no conditioning
> factors can be found which would otherwise account for <u>, we posit
> /y/. (For example, <u> might represent a conditioned variant of /i/
> after labials, let's say. But this isn't the case, and the
> distribution of /y/ can't be predicted based on other factors, so the
> previous existence of /y/ remains an extremely robust hypothesis.
> Strengthened, one might add, if it accords with our reconstruction of
> proto-Brythonic, our knowledge of Middle French phonology, and so
> forth.)
> It's true, Middle Cornish phonology can't be established by minimal
> pairs of words collected by a linguist in the field. But by an
> incredible stroke of good luck, Late Cornish phonology can. And it's
> possible to triangulate back to Middle Cornish with varying degrees of
> confidence.
> Oll an gwelha,
> ~~Owen
> 2008/6/26 Jon Mills <j.mills at email.com> rug scrifa:
> > How else do you intend to determine the phonemes of Cornish?
> [snip]
> > My post was not intended to be an attack. I am merely trying to 
> > point out what I consider to be
> > an important weakness in the underlying theory. Since my article 
> > in Cornish Studies 7, various
> > people have shied away from the term 'phonemic'. However 
> > labelling KS or the SWF 'phonetic'
> > does not solve the issue.
> > Jon
> >
> > _____________________________________
> > Dr. Jon Mills,
> > School of European Culture and Languages,
> > University of Kent
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> Spellyans at kernowek.net
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Dr. Jon Mills,
School of European Culture and Languages,
University of Kent

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