[Spellyans] bat

nicholas williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Sat Nov 28 20:12:40 GMT 2009

With tycky Duw we have a plural tycky Duwas.
To be consistent ought we say eskelly grehynas?

Although I should prefer eskelly grehyn as a plural, it is possible  
that traditional Cornish did indeed have a separate plural.

In Irish the word for 'wolf' is mac tíre, literally 'son of the land'.  
The plural should be mic tíre 'sons of the land', but in Irish  
the form is sometimes mactírí where the whole phrase is pluralised, or  
even mictírí where both parts are put into the plural.
The word is not known by contemporary speakers, because there are now  
no wolves in Ireland.

Similar the word for 'lizard' (Ireland's only reptile is the common  
lizard (Lacerta vivipara)) is earc luachra 'little creature of the  
rushes' or each luachra 'horse of the rushes'. The second form has  
arisen by popular etymology, since the word earc is otherwise unknown,  
whereas each uisce 'water horse'  containing the element each  
'horse' (cf. Cornish eb-ol 'colt'), occurs in speech.
Earc luachra has a regular plural earca luachra. I have, however,  
heard the plural eachluachraí of each luachra, where the
whole phrase has been pluralised.

We thus have two nouns, the second used adjectivally. Correctly the  
first should be pluralised but it must have
been common in the Celtic languages to pluralise the whole nominal  
phrase. If we are going to pluralise, eskelly grehynas is
possibly the better plural. It also possible that Lhuyd's skelli  
grehan was actually used as a plural, and that the singular *askal  
grohan or *askal grehan
existed, but he didn't hear it.

There may be another example in Cornish of such a compound where the  
first element is in the plural.

The UC word kykesow means 'Cornish heath' (Erica vagans). The word is  
attested in dialect as kekezza.  Nance thinks this is a collective. I  
am not so sure.
It seems to me more likely that we are dealing here with two separate  
words and that the underlying form is clegh kesow 'bells of the turf',  
where the singular
would have been clogh kesow. 'Turf' in this case means 'peat', cut for  
fuel, and indeed various species of Erica do grow in acidic turbaries.  
Notice that 'bells of the turf' is a credible name for Erica vagans,  
because the inflorescence is in the form of little bells; compare the  
closely related Erica cinerea, which is often known as 'bell heather'.
It is possible that the simplification of *clegh kesow to *kegh kesow  
(kekezza) may have taken place in English. The first element would,  
however, seem to
be plural, as does the second, being the plural kesow of the singular  
kesen 'a sod of turf'.

I am sure there are further compounds of this kind in Cornish plant,  
animal and bird names.


On 28 Du 2009, at 13:45, Ray Chubb wrote:

>  'eskellyas grehyn'.

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