[Spellyans] "understand" in Cornish

nicholas williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Mon Feb 23 09:12:27 GMT 2009


Not everybody is happy with the use of the word ùnderstondya 'to  
understand' in Cornish.
Ùnderstondya is very well attested:

vnderstandia  x 3 (SA)
vnderstondia x 24 (TH)
vndyrstondia x 2 (TH)
vndirstondia x 1
wonderstondia x 1 (TH)
wondyrstondia x 1 (TH)
vnderstondya x 3 (TH)
vnderstondya x 1 (TH)
camvnderstondia x 1 (TH)

The related word vnderstonding is attested x 22 (TH), vndyrstonding x  
1 (TH) and vnderstandyng x 1 (SA).

This means that the root understand/understond- is attested 60 times  
in tradtional Cornish.
Moreover the compound camvnderstondia at TH 18 seems to indicate that  
the word
had been so fully integrated into Cornish, that it could be used to  
produce a derivative.

The only other word for 'to understand' is *convedhes. The verbal noun  
convethas occurs
twice in CW and the verbal adjective convethys twice in the same text.
The verbal noun verbal adjective <gonvethes> (with permanent lenition)  
is also attested
in a short passage in Pryce:

Der taklow minniz ew brez teez gonvethes, avel an tacklow broaz;  
dreffen en tacklow broaz, ma
angy mennow hetha go honnen; bus en tacklow minnis, ema angye suyah  
hâz go honnen — By
small things are the minds of men discovered, as well as by great  
matters: because in great things, they will [often]
stretch themselves; but in small matters, they follow their own nature.

Pryce translates gonvethes as 'discovered', not 'understood'.

We thus have the verb understondya 'to understand', attested in two  
sixteenth-century texts no fewer than 37 times
and convethes, gonvethes 'to understand, to discover' attested five  
times from one seventeenth-century text and one
from the eighteenth century.

We may find understondya, understandya too English to be really  
acceptable. It would be difficult
to claim that it was not the ordinary word for 'to understand' in some  
forms of Middle Cornish.

Other borrowings in -ondya are not uncommon in Middle Cornish:

londia 'to land'  BM
comondia, commondia, commandia  'to command'  OM, BM, TH, SA, CW
demandea 'to demand' SA
recommaundia 'to recommend' Bodewryd glossary.

If we don't like understondya 'to understand' or convedhes 'to  
discover', we can, in some contexts, use percevya.

Nicholas









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