[Spellyans] Some words from an outsider

Michael Everson everson at evertype.com
Sat Feb 6 12:29:32 GMT 2010

About a fortnight ago, over on Cornwall24, a long-time lurker using  
the Welsh nickname Rhywun-Arall (Somebody Else) wrote the following on  
the list. I was quite heartened by what this person wrote, and I wrote  
privately and asked if I might forward the discussion to Spellyans.  
The person agreed, and has since joined Spellyans, though has not sent  
an introduction, so I'll preserve anonymity.

Rhywun-Arall said:

I wonder just how many people silently follow these debates in  
consummate bemusement.

It disappoints me to read factotum supposing that applying two broad- 
sweeping orthographic changes to Cornish would produce fewer  
differences than there are between the Northern & Southern dialects of  
Welsh – thankfully the few dialectal differences in Welsh are  
lexical, and not orthographic (though this suggests he knows little  
about Welsh). Thankfully the Welsh had these debates (and its  
orthography essentially fixed) in the century following Wales' access  
to the printing press, by a time period not too far from when Jordon's  
'Creacion' was written in Cornish. Although I see KS1 (and its  
proposed basis upon that work) has been abandoned, it would have been  
interesting if Cornish had been fixed at around this point in time  
also, albeit retrospectively.

On that note though, if these debates are anything to go by, I hope  
time proves to make the passionate and dilligent collaborative  
scholars behind the recommendations of Kernowek Standard Cornwall's  
answer to Wales' own William & Henry Salesbury, Bishops Richard Davies  
& William Morgan and of course our dear Dr. John Davies of Mallwyd.  
Arguably their legacy; the girdle of standardised orthography which  
they gave to Welsh is one of the factors which permitted Welsh to  
survive to be the strongest of all the Celtic languages today. I hope  
when 2013 comes – Cornish will finally be bestowed with that strength  
and solidity too.

Going back to the thread's original theme; What could be done to get  
more people speaking Cornish. Looking at some of the success stories  
in Wales, I'd look to the Urdd – the promise of activities for the  
youth of Cornwall (within the Cornish medium) at some kind of hostel/ 
camp site network could surely help? (Even if it would require a lot  
of funding to establish permanent, exclusive camps – surely there are  
private hostelries which could be pre-booked to stage such events?)  
Another suggestion might be to look to the format of http://www.SaySomethingInWelsh.com 
  – a purely internet-based MP3 audio course that gained over 7,000  
new members in a single year. Its forums which permit learners to  
discuss matters amongst themselves, or pose questions to experts are  
proving very useful too.

Looking elsewhere, I'd suggest youtube could be a great place to  
upload soap-opera like samples of colloquial cornish being used – if  
you could find amateur dramatists fluent in Cornish who'd volunteer to  
play some part in that… I suspect if their pronunciation can be  
coached towards ideal standards – it might prove very useful to  
isolated or long-distance learners.

I said:

KS1 was based on Jordan, and that means that in some measure so is the  
SWF. The chief elements of KS1 which are not in the SWF are (1) some  
of the distribution of i and y and (2) KS1's use of beis for the bÿs/ 
bës words. I and y are always problematic, but since the SWF decided  
that i was [iː] and y was [ɪ] in stressed monosyllables (except it  
breaks its own rules on the bÿs/bës words), we decided we had to  
start from that when revising the SWF. And of course since they gave  
us bys/bes (a large class of words) alongside bys 'until which does  
have a short vowel and no alternative form, and res which does have a  
long vowel but no *rys form—we were obliged either to accept the  
ambiguity (a bad idea with every speaker a learner) or to use  
diacritics. The reason we use ÿ and ë and not ŷ and ê is that older  
Mac and PC fonts do not have ŷ. Although if we were to decide to "not  
care" about old fonts we could then use the circumflex to mark the uŝy/ 
uĵy words. But no one seems to care to do that. I'm Michael Everson.  
Pleased to meet your avatar, and thank you for your kind words. You're  
welcome over on Spellyans.

Rhywun-Arall said:

Thank you very much for the message Michael! It's a pleasure to meet  
you! I only wish I could help at the Spellyans, alas my knowledge of  
Cornish is limited to mere overviews of the Standard Written Form PDF,  
Kernowek.net's original suggestions PDF (which was amazing), and some  
of the passages online which permit an aesthetic comparison of the  
various forms of Cornish. I only understand it at all from what I know  
of Welsh and from those grammar summaries unfortunately, but despite  
that have, like many Welsh people a natural curiosity in Cornish (or  
even Breton, although in the case of Breton find its orthography  
offputting). I'm afraid all I can do is wish you and the SK2 team the  
very best of luck for 2013. (I hope as much of KS2's recommendations  
do make it into SWF2 as possible.) I've been quietly following the  
debates on Cornwall24 for about a year, and as someone who comes to it  
impartially, having learned no form of Cornish (as yet), can see that  
Nicholas and yourself and those developing or supporting the  
development of KS2 are clearly the superior advocates in the debate,  
not only academically but morally too, as you are so clearly happy to  
collaborate, cooperate and clearly work so arduously and passionately  
for the cause of Cornish and its SWF. The sad, circular arguments  
you're up against are truly dismaying to onlookers like myself. I  
don't think diacrits should ever be a problem, in Wales we tend to use  
free software like "To Bach" - if possible, but if circumstances force  
us to write at a keyboard without that, or if we're writing  
informally, or in a bit of a rush, we normally just omit them - to no  
real detriment to what we intend to say. I was extremely impressed  
with the KS1 PDF - the advocation of an informal & literary register  
of the language was an absolute joy to see as someone familiar with a  
diglossic Celtic language like Welsh. Diglossia shouldn't have been  
too problematic either, and would at least have afforded Cornish a  
similar surviving form to that of surviving Celtic languages and a  
seemingly natural and authentic connection both to Medieval and Modern  
Cornish registers. Diglossia in Welsh is what permits a Welsh speaker  
to hold a phone conversation with a friend in modern colloquial Welsh  
one moment, and then read a bit of 13th Century Dafydd ap Gwilym the  
next and yet still know the two forms are of the same language. It  
gives the language an air of timelessness; a reassurance of the  
potential of its immortality - which might be of some comfort to the  
Cornish nation. Despite this, KS2 or the SWF2013's apparent course  
into one language, if it is likely to be fixed roughly to the forms of  
the early 17th Century (as in Jordan's 'Creacion') - it is at least  
the same bridging point as that of Literary Welsh, and will prove  
useful in making authentic Middle & Late forms more accessible (as  
experience in Welsh will readily prove). I will admit I was very  
surprised to get a message from you, and wish you all and the whole  
Kernowek Standard team the success you all deserve in influencing the  
2013 revisions of the SWF.

I said:

If you give me your e-mail address I'll put you on Spellyans. You  
needn't do anything but lurk, but you can see what good your message,  
as an external reviewer means. Sometimes one gets disheartened  
battling with the know-nothings. Your note came as comfort and  

Rhywun-Arall said:

Ah, well thank you very much! As I said, lurking, is what I've been  
doing on Cornwall24 re the Cornish language threads, so I'd love to  
see the developments on Spellyans! Thank you for that! My e-mail  
address is rcr_young at yahoo.co.uk I'm glad to hear my words are of  
comfort and encouragement, it only saddens me that someone of your  
expertise and talents working with a group of such similar expertise &  
talents should ever be so downhearted by the blinkered obstinacy of  
the Kemmyn group. As I alluded to in the discussion thread - I suspect  
all those prepared to sit around the table, collaborate and compromise  
in the run up to 2013 stand to see their names go down in Cornish  
history, rather like the forefathers of the standard literary Welsh  
language (although that process was somewhat more organic). The  
democratic, and transparent processes by which the KS2 group are  
working should, with all justice, legitimise what you're doing. I  
think any credit and authority which can be drawn to yourselves though  
working by this means should be mustred together - a gauntlet needs to  
be thrown down, and it needs to be known for the record, who was and  
who wasn't qualified and prepared to collaborate and compromise  
towards the 2013 resolution. It's a travesty self-appointed  
'authorities' have been able to monopolise the SWF deliberation  
process - I also wish your team the best of luck in mustering the  
collective authority to contend with this.

That's it. As I said, I found it encouraging. Back to work now...

Michael Everson * http://www.evertype.com/

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