[Spellyans] A little essay for "Penny"

Jon Mills j.mills at email.com
Wed Feb 11 16:45:38 GMT 2009

Thank you, Michael. That's a lot clearer.

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Michael Everson" <everson at evertype.com>
> To: "Standard Cornish discussion list" <spellyans at kernowek.net>
> Subject: Re: [Spellyans] A little essay for "Penny"
> Date: Wed, 11 Feb 2009 14:49:37 +0000
> On 11 Feb 2009, at 13:17, Jon Mills wrote:
> > You write, "The phonemic distinction is voiceless and voiced."
> >
> > Phonemes are determined by minimal contrast. Thus /p/ and /d/ are 
> >  determined to be separate phonemes of English in the minimal  
> > contrast pair 'pie' and 'die'. However a phoneme is not 
> > necessarily  determined by contrast of only one distinctive 
> > feature. /p/ has the  features: bilabial, plosive, fortis and 
> > voiceless. /d/ has the  features: alveolar, plosive, lenis and 
> > voiced.
> It is equally true to say that all of the features are not 
> necessarily  relevant to determining a phoneme. In English, /p/ and 
> /b/ are  distinct because of voicing. /p/ whether fortis or lenis 
> is still / p/; /b/ whether fortis or lenis is still /b/.
> > I still do not understand why you maintain that "It is unlikely 
> > that  Dolly Pentreath or her contemporaries were speaking English 
> > or  Cornish with fortis and lenis consonants ...." Since 
> > Proto-brythonic  and Proto-germanic were not spoken in the time 
> > of Dolly Pentreath,  they have little bearing on whether Dolly 
> > Pentreath distinguished  fortis and lenis consonants.
> The discussion was with one of our Kebmyn colleagues. They believe  
> that fortis and lenis were active features throughout much of the  
> Middle Cornish period.
> > If the language contact to which you are referring is between  
> > Cornish and English, and you are supposing that the phonology of  
> > English somehow influenced Cornish phonology, then one must 
> > assume  that Dolly Pentreath would have distinguished fortis and 
> > lenis,  because English did. Or are you seriously suggesting that 
> > Dolly  Pentreath pronounced /p/, /t/ and /k/ as voiceless but not 
> > fortis,  and /b/, /d/ and /g/ as voiced but not lenis?
> I'm saying that fortis and lenis are ancillary to the phonology of 
> the  English phonemes (as is aspiration, cf. "pit" and "spit") and 
> that  even if fortis and lenis were a stronger feature in the 
> phonemics of  earlier Cornish, certainly by 1750 (indeed doubtless 
> by 1650) the  fortis/lenis distinction had been assimilated to 
> voiceless/voiced due  to mutual contact with English. That there is 
> no trace of anything  like a strong fortis/lenis distinction in the 
> English of Cornwall  suggests that it could not have been a salient 
> feature of Tudor or  Late Cornish.
> (Fortis and lenis are salient features in some northern dialects of 
>   English; interestingly and not surprisingly one finds similar 
> features  in Danish.)
> Michael Everson * http://www.evertype.com
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Dr. Jon Mills,
School of European Culture and Languages,
University of Kent

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