[Spellyans] vocabulary

nicholas williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Wed Jun 23 11:55:38 IST 2010

Neil and I hardly knew one another when he wrote his review and I have  
since explained what my thinking was in writing the English-Cornish  
dictionary. It was and remains perfectly obvious to me that Cornish  
does not need an exact equivalent for every English word in every  
context. It was also clear to me that certain elements in the revival  
were attempting to invent or devise words  for Cornish (largely on the  
basis of Breton). Since this was so and the attempts were not always  
completely acceptable, it seemed a good idea to me to circumvent such  
ad hoc devisers of terminology and suggest words coherently and  
rationally.  I know I wasn't wholly (possibly not even largely)  
successful but I did provide a lexicon, which for all its faults,  
advanced the use of Cornish by suggesting words where none existed  
previously. Some of my suggestions have indeed gained general  
currency. The word Kescowethyans 'Partnership' is, I believe, mine as  
is kesassoylyans 'compromise'. I notice also that Rod Lyon uses  
awedhyans 'influence' in the phrase in dadn awedhyans alcohol 'under  
the influence of alcohol'. Awedhyans is my coinage on the basis of  
aweth 'watercourse', and was suggested by Welsh dylanwad.

Somebody on this list has suggested that as an Englishman I am not  
sensitive (as a member of the 'imperialist oppressor' nation) to the  
Celtic dislike of English borrowings. This is not only insulting, it  
is just plain silly.
Cornish is full of English borrowings that the Cornish were probably  
not aware of as borrowings, e.g. nefra 'never', hernen 'pilchard'.  
Moreover speakers do not when talking or writing say, "Mustn't use  
that, an English borrowing". Besides Celtic nationalism in the modern  
sense is a recent phenomenon. In medieval and reformation times people  
did not think in nationalist categories. The absence in former times  
of Celtic nationalist sentiment is clear in the British Empire which  
was created, sustained and administered as much by the Scots, and and  
the Welsh as by the English. Just think of the names: Nova Scotia in  
Canada, Dunedin (Edinburgh) in New Zealand and New South Wales in  
Australia. Celtic nationalism has arisen only since the empire has  
been dismantled.
In Ireland, where I have lived since 1968, the main force for  
anglicisation has not been the English (who left in 1922), but  
elements in the native establishment.

Tregear uses English borrowings, not because he wants to offend his  
nationalist parishioners, but because he wants to impress on them how  
learned he is.

When talking about borrowings it is important to distinguish between  
words borrowed and assimilated to Cornish phonetic type, like trailya  
'to turn', qwestyon, pl. qwestyonow 'question', jùnya 'to join' on the  
one hand and words used holus bolus in their unassimilated form.
For my own part when translating into Cornish, which I do quite a bit,  
I always try to situate an obvious borrowing like confessya or  
ùnderstondya, for example, in a context where there are noother  
obvious borrowings. This is a question of sensitivity and style.

As Dan says, most of the English borrowings are in earlier Middle  
Cornish. For example, in the first four stanzas of PA, one finds the  
following borrowings from English:

re wronte (< graunt 'to grant'); y basconn (< pascon 'passion');  
rebekis (< rebuk 'to rebuke'); dyspresijs (< dispraise 'to despise');  
fastis (< faste'to fasten'); virtu (< virtu 'virtue'); zyttyas (<  
dyghte 'to dight, arrange'); paynys (< paines 'pains); zeserya (<  
desir 'to desire); mevijs (meve 'to move'). Indeed there are more  
borrowings in PA than in either Rowe or Nicholas Boson's writing.


On 23 Efn 2010, at 09:15, Ray Chubb wrote:

> Neil suggested that Nicholas had gone too far in trying to find a  
> suitable word for every single word of English when in fact Cornish  
> words have a wide range of meanings.

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