[Spellyans] <l>, <ll>, and <lh> in Sacrament an Alter (1576)

Daniel Prohaska daniel at ryan-prohaska.com
Fri Jul 23 23:03:29 IST 2010

Nicholas wheg, 

Here’s what Pokorny (Albert Bock) posted on Cornwall24 in response to your posting here. Since neither of you are subscribed to one and the same list, I thought I’d post it here, if you had anything to say to it. 



“I see that Nicholas has replied to my short paper on the Spellyans list. Unfortunately there is no single list or forum that he and I are both subscribed to, so I will have to answer here.

"Albert says that <lh> is only ever written in SA for /l+h/ or /ll+h/. This may be true in SA, but it is not true in MC as a whole. I have counted <ellas> ‘alas’ 82 times in the texts. <elhas> occurs 21 times. It would be rash to suggest, then, that <lh> and <ll> are phonetically distinct in Middle Cornish."

What Nicholas does not mention is that in no Middle Cornish text both <ellas> and <elhas> are found. If the sounds represented by <ll> and lh> were not phonetically distinct, it would have been possible to use them interchangeably. 

Yet the scribes either went for one spelling of the word or the other and then stuck with one representation. PAA and BK have only <elhas>, but the Ordinalia and BM have only <ellas> (and <elles>, <ellys> once). To me, this does not suggest that the sounds represented by <ll> and <lh> were phonetically identical in Middle Cornish- but rather that the scribes of PAA and BK pronounced the word ellas differently from the way their peers did. The treatment of /l:/ and /l+h/ may in fact be a convincing candidate for dialectal variation. In this, it seems, Nicholas and I are agreed.

In intervocalic position historic /l/ and /l:/ are indeed phonemically 
different in some of the MC texts.

I have checked the figures supplied by Ken George, and they seem to be accurate (+/- 1% due to different treatment of edge cases). /'VlV/ and /'VllV/ are very clearly phonemically different in the language of the scribes of PAA, the Ordinalia, BM, BK, TH, and SA. It may be argued that PAA and BK represent a variety of Middle Cornish that showed a tendency towards devoicing of /ll/ and /nn/, but phonemically there is no doubt about the persistence of the distinction. Unetymological spellings of /n/, /l/, /nn/, and /ll/ in all these texts are very rare indeed. 

L and n are not completely parallel here. CW confuses historic /l/ and /l:/, writing them both as <ll>. It has not, however, conflated /n/ and /n:/ since in CW historic /n:/ has been pre-occluded.

CW is different in that intervocalic /ll/ is represented 'correctly' in only 86% of cases, and /l/ in 90% of cases. But the text was written by a native speaker of early Late Cornish who used double consonant spellings to indicate vowel shortness much more often than any of the earlier scribes. Incidentally, the number for /nn/ isn't much higher than that for /ll/ - it is 87% 'correct', even though we know that pre-occlusion would have prevented /nn/ (> /dn/) and /n/ from falling together.”



From: nicholas williams
Sent: Friday, July 23, 2010 6:53 PM


<telhar> is attested x 5 in Nebbaz Gerriau. <tellar>, <teller> is also attested in LC.

 Notice that SA writes <tillar> x 2 




On 23 Gor 2010, at 17:45, Michael Everson wrote:

I hear you say [lh] in telher, 


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