[Spellyans] i ~ y

Hewitt, Stephen s.hewitt at unesco.org
Wed Feb 4 17:02:13 GMT 2009

I think we have both been using somewhat imprecise shorthand - /θ/ and /ð/ being used to mean the simple historical phonemes inherited from Old Cornish, not the special case of /θ/+/h/ found in <cotha>, cf. Middle Breton <coz> /ko:ð,/, but <cozzaff, cozhaff> /koθãv/, and also on the analogy of the behaviour of other originally voiceless fricatives in the comparative/superlative, such as <brasa, brassa>, where /s/ would, for the same reasons not have become /z/.

This is why I am convinced, pace several on this list, that it is useful always to bear the closest sister-language of Cornish, Breton, in mind. In Breton, voicing or lenition of historically voiceless fricatives internally (after and before vowels and/or sonorants) was carried through in Breton fairly consistantly for all historically voiceless fricatives /f/, /θ/, /s/ and /x/ (with a partial, and not fully understood exception for /f/ in SW dialects).

I have never understood why Cornish specialists all agree that historic /f/, /s/ and /x/ were generally lenited internally to /v/, /z/ and /h/, but have almost never bothered even to ask the question about /θ/, for which we can all agree that the historical spellings provide no reliable clue.

Steve Hewitt

-----Original Message-----
From: spellyans-bounces at kernowek.net
[mailto:spellyans-bounces at kernowek.net]On Behalf Of nicholas williams
Sent: 04 February 2009 17:32
To: Standard Cornish discussion list
Subject: Re: [Spellyans] i ~ y

But earlier today you wrote: "I am not convinced that  / θ/ and /ð/  
are separate phonemes of Cornish"
What exactly are you claiming, Jon? You appear to be saying different  
things at different times.
If the two were phonemically distinct ca 1700, they were almost  
certainly distinct before that, i.e. in Middle Cornish.


On 4 Feb 2009, at 15:45, Jon Mills wrote:

> the evidence from Lhuyd suggests that in 1700 /θ/ and /ð/ were  
> separate phonemes.

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