[Spellyans] Front unrounded vowels, was: The quantity system
everson at evertype.com
Tue Jun 24 16:58:46 IST 2008
At 14:48 +0300 2008-06-24, Owen Cook wrote:
>The variable (I:) was, if nothing else, a useful fiction at an earlier
>stage of KS, when we wrote <ei> to indicate alternations between /i:/
>and /e:/ in words like 'deidh' and 'preis'. This compromise was
>abandoned in the SWF, however, which allows users to choose between
>'dydh' or 'dedh', 'prys' or 'pres'.
I'd put it this way: original /I:/ from Old
Cornish (and possibly the earliest Middle
Cornish) ends up as either [i:] or [e:]; original
/i:/ stays [i:] and original /e:/ stays [e:].
>So now there is a problem in the SWF for Middle Cornish, where <y>
>normally indicates the short vowel /I/, but, because of the rejection
>of <ei>, is also pressed into service for the long vowel in 'dydh' and
>'prys' (which is theoretically /I:/ for Kemmyn users, and in practice
>/i:/ for revived Middle Cornish users generally).
That's correct. Since an umbrella graph <ei> was
rejected, we end up with a situation analogous to
pre-occlusion/non-pre-occlusion: we have optional
>The latest incarnation of KS uses <ÿ> to indicate this long y,
>alternating with /e:/. Again (I:) here appears as a distinct variable.
I don't think I follow you here. Revision 16 had
only <ei>. When during negotiations it became
clear that the KK camp could not accept <ei>, it
was proposed that only <y> be used as an umbrella
graph for the bys/bes words. That did not last,
however, and now <y> is used for... well, it's a
§3.5 of the SWF gives a table showing <y> used
for RMC [I(:)] and RTC/RLC [i:], [I], [e:], [E].
It says "The graph <y> is used for a vowel that
is realised as [I(:) i(:)] by speakers of RMC and
as [E e:] by speakers of Revived Late and Tudor
This seems to say two things at the same time. In
the chart RMC is [I(:)] and in the text it is
[I(:) i(:)]. In the chart it gives the KK
fiction, and in the text it gives that fiction
plus standard UC and UCR practice.
>But there's something really incoherent about
>requiring the special character <ë> in 'dedh'
>and 'pres', as the latest version of KS does.
I don't believe so. :-)
>Either we should allow alternation, by which <ÿ> and <e> can coexist
No. Here's why not.
There are words with original /I:/ from Old
Cornish (and possibly the earliest Middle
Cornish) which end up as either [i:] or [e:].
These can be written <ÿ>~<ë>, with the same kind
of alternation we have in <mm>~<bm> and <nn>~<dn>
There are words with original /i:/ which stay [i:]; write these with <i>.
There are words with original /e:/ which stay
[e:]; write these with <e>. Remember... <res> is
always [re:z], never *[ri:z]
>(and remember, here we need the accent on <ÿ> to show length)
That's not correct. The consonant quality tells
you that for the bÿs/bës words. This is where the
SWF is really very problematic. It writes <gwin>
for [gwi:n] where the single <n> as well as the
<i> shows the vowel to be long; it writes
<gwynn>~<gwydn> for [gwIn] where the double
<nn>~<dn> as well as the <y> shows the vowel to
be short. (So far so good.) Then it shows us
<gwydh>~<gwedh> which by the SWF's rules would be
(That is, if I can figure out the SWF's rules
here. A vowel should be long before <dh> (§3.17
Rule 2.d). There is, however, no explicit mention
of <i> = [i:] and <y> = [I] in monosyllables (and
their derivatives), though the SWF's authors
definitely made it clear to us that this was what
The accent on the <ÿ> tells you that this is a
different letter from <y>. The accent on the <ë>
tells you that this is a different letter from
We're not just writing sounds here. We're also
giving the reader information which will help him
or her know what the intent of a writer is, since
that writer may speak a different dialect of
Revived Cornish. <e> is [e:] when long. But some
words with long [e:] may be have the alternate
pronunciation [i:]; marking this <ë> indicates
>... or else we should use an umbrella graph to cover both alternants, for
>example <ei> or <ë>. If <ë> were used as an
>umbrella graph by everybody, well and good. But
>I fail to see any point in having <ë> alternate
But here we have RMC and RLC preferences to
account for. RMC users didn't want to write
pre-occlusion; RLC users did. RMC users (we have
asked) don't want to write <e> where they say
[e:]; RLC users don't want to write .
Also we have the SWF, which says that people can
write <bys> or <bes> for 'world'. The ambiguity
is intolerable, since we also have <bys> [bIz]
'until' (never *[be:z] and <res> [re:z]
'necessary' (never *[ri:z]). If there is no
<beis> (and there is not) then the only advice I
can give is to accept the SWF's <bys>~<bes> with
the disambiguating diacritic as <bÿs>~<bës>.
>My own opinion is that for a SINGLE written
>form, umbrella graphs should be preferred to
>alternation wherever practical.
Sure, but we lost on <ei>.
>In that sense, (I:) has its uses and could still
>be accommodated. I argued for <ei> last summer,
>and my feelings have not changed. True, <ei> has
>shanghaied into use for the diphthong in 'kei',
>'chei', 'crei', but this is found in a different
>environment (open syllables only) and we shall
>no doubt have reason to discuss whether it is
>necessary or useful for such words in the first
We could adopt <beis>, but that would introduce a
pretty massive systemic difference between KS and
the SWF. I don't think that is wise. The
diaeresis is not really very obtrusive, however,
and diacritiphobes can omit them if they must.
Michael Everson * http://www.evertype.com
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