[Spellyans] Blejyow or Flowrys?

ewan wilson butlerdunnit at ntlworld.com
Sun May 30 23:10:38 BST 2010


You mention your work on lexical stuff and I wonder if that means you are 
intending eventually to produce a new dictionary. I ask mainly because I'm 
thinking of investing in Nicholas' most recent (UCR) dictionary to help me 
with his New Testament which I'm also hoping to acquire. If the latter's 
going to end up in SWF or KS then perhaps I should hold off.
My own ultimate aim is to attempt a translation of the Westminster 
Confession of Faith and Shorter Catechism into Cornish. I've made a start to 
the Catechism but it's halting work!! Is the Book of Common Prayer available 
in Cornish?

Gorhemmynadow a'n gwella,

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Michael Everson" <everson at evertype.com>
To: "Standard Cornish discussion list" <spellyans at kernowek.net>
Sent: Sunday, May 30, 2010 9:35 PM
Subject: Re: [Spellyans] Blejyow or Flowrys?

> On 30 May 2010, at 18:11, janicelobb at tiscali.co.uk wrote:
>> Will somebody please explain to my limited intelligence why, if two words 
>> are known to have existed for something, we have to ration ourselves to 
>> one.
> It's a good question, Jan. What Nicholas has been saying that he believes 
> that the context of word usage is important. In Old Cornish -- a different 
> language from Middle/Late Cornish (which are two ends of the spectrum of 
> registers of a single language) -- the word "enep" is attested with the 
> meaning 'page' (of a book). A good word. It's not attested in Old Cornish 
> as meaning "a person's face", though. The word that we know Cornish 
> speakers did use for that is the very widely attested [fæːs] (in KS 
> spelling fâss).
> Nance, for some reason (Nicholas suggests that it was purism or archaism), 
> decided he didn't want to recommend "fâss" for 'face', but rather "enep". 
> Nance didn't suppress the word "fâss", but he and some other early 
> revivalists tended not to use it.
> Nichola doesn't suggest we suppress "enep". He just thinks that Revived 
> Cornish should be as like the traditional language as possible -- and that 
> means he prefers in his own translations, and prefers to recommend to 
> others, that the word "fâss" be used for a person's face, and "enep" for 
> flat surfaces of other kinds.
> To my mind, that's all to the good. "Enep" has a place. "Fâss" has a 
> place. Our Cornish is more accurate if we use words the way the native 
> speakers did.
> Sometimes this means that someone like Nicholas, now, after studying new 
> texts which have come to light and studying the works of earlier 
> Revivalists, finds that the usage of the earlier Revivalists isn't as 
> close to the way that native speakers of Cornish used the language. In my 
> opinion, it's perfectly fine to criticize the earlier Revivalists when 
> they are found to have erred. Caradar criticized a number of features of 
> Nance's Unified Cornish, and Nicholas and I, at least, agree with 
> Caradar's criticisms. Why shouldn't we? Nance wasn't perfect. Neither was 
> Caradar. Neither was Talek. Neither is Nicholas. Neither am I. But what we 
> in the present generation can do is to try to do better than those in 
> previous generations did. That sometimes means saying, boldly, "This 
> feature in UC is mistaken, and shouldn't be perpetuated, since we now know 
> that in Traditional Cornish they did something else." Or it might mean 
> saying "This feature in UCR is mistaken, and shouldn't be perpetuated". 
> And one day, certainly, there will be grounds to say "This feature in KS 
> is mistaken, and shouldn't be perpetuated".
> There's nothing wrong with criticizing mistakes in Nance. There's nothing 
> wrong with criticizing mistakes I make. I for my part just don't 
> understand why Eddie gets all upset about it. Nance did a lot of very good 
> things. He was a fine lexicographer. Linguistically, however, his 
> orthographic system has a number of features in it which it is quite 
> legitimate to criticize.
> (1) Unlike Jenner, Nance did not recognize a phonemic distinction between 
> /y/ and /ø/. We know from the history of sound changes that Middle Cornish 
> words in /y/ unround to /i/ in Late Cornish, and that Middle Cornish words 
> in /ø/ unround to /e/ in Late Cornish. So it was a mistake for him not to 
> recognize this distinction. I believe it was Caradar who first pointed 
> this out -- this criticism is not new. UCR, and KK, and KS1, and KD, and 
> SWF, and KS all distinguish the two phonemes. UC is the odd man out.
> (2) Nance tended to write voiceless consonants (k, t, p) after long vowels 
> in stressed monosyllables. This feature of writing is found in the 
> Ordinalia, but elsewhere it is quite common to find voiceless consonants 
> (b, d, g) written in those words, and voiceless ones after short vowels in 
> final unstressed position. Nance writes "fōk" 'hearth' pl. "fogow" and 
> "crȳk" 'crack' pl. "crygow"; he actually writes "fōk(g)" and "crȳk(g)", so 
> it's clear that he knew that both forms were there. But he recommended the 
> wrong ones! It's now generally accepted that in these words the consonant 
> was voiceless, so "fōg" and "crȳg" are the better spellings. In my opinion 
> it's particularly important because learners of Cornish tend to shorten 
> vowels before voiceless consonants and lengthen them before voiced ones --  
> like in English "back" vs "bag", where the first vowel is a bit shorter 
> than the second. Nance's spellings of these words tend to encourage wrong 
> pronunciation. UCR, and the SWF, and KS all use the voiced consonant.
> (3) Nance in some cases used unattested reconstructed words instead of the 
> attested loanwords which native speakers of Cornish used. OK, you might 
> say, what does it matter? Well, first, if we use words as the native 
> speakers used them, we're not making any mistakes and our Cornish is 
> authentic. That just speaks to what it is someone as a learner wants to 
> do. I don't think it's wrong for Nicholas to encourage learners to imitate 
> the native speakers rather than to imitate the early Revivalists. Like 
> him, I recommend that people use "in gwir" since that's attested, instead 
> of "yn whir" which is not. They mean exactly the same thing. Why would you 
> prefer a Revivalist's mistake (no matter how well intentioned or logical) 
> to something that a native speaker used? For my money, the latter is more 
> authentic. But -- and here is where Nicholas suggests that Nance's choice 
> did some harm to the Revival -- when people decide not to want to use 
> attested words, but instead to use "pure" Celtic words, then they are 
> changing the language.
> Nicholas didn't say that everything Nance did was harmful to the Revival. 
> Eddie seemed to me to portray it that way, and it's just not what Nicholas 
> intended, I believe. But look at what Ken George does. He regularly 
> suppresses attested loanwords in favour of his own concoctions. But where 
> did he learn that habit of purism? Oh, it's much worse than what Nance 
> ever did... but this "puristic" aspect of Nance's work seems to have had 
> later, negative ramifications. And that is exactly what Nicholas said:
>> Nance didn't [use the attested words for the attested meanings, and leave 
>> the archaisms for poetry and elevated writing] because of his idées fixes 
>> about what constituted "correct" Cornish.
> I think the record shows that Nance *did* have strong ideas about what 
> constituted "correct" Cornish. Unfortunately, in some cases we can see 
> that what Nance recommended goes against what we find commonly in the 
> corpus. Why shouldn't it be all right to point this out?
>> Nance's purism nourished later less scholarly purism and has, in my view, 
>> done the revival immense damage.
> Of course Nance was not a villain. He could not have forseen what "later 
> less scholarly purism" would do. But at least some of the purism which 
> Nance did embrace had very unfortunate ramifications for the Revival later 
> on. And that later purism, building on Nance's has been very harmful, as 
> we all know from the last two decades.
> So what does Nicholas recommend? He recommends that we try to use whatever 
> words we have attested in the same way that the native speakers did. 
> That's not "purism". It's authenticity.
> There is plenty of room for other neologisms and Celtic and non-Celtic 
> borrowings. But the words we have attested are precious. Shouldn't we use 
> those as much and as well as we can? It's great that we have "awen" and 
> "dowr" in place-names. It's great that we have "ryver" as a general-use 
> word. I can't think of reasons (apart from rhyme in poetry) to want to use 
> "awen" and "dowr" as general-use equivalents of 'river'. The closer to the 
> native speakers we strive to be, the richer and the more authentic the 
> Revival will be. If that means saying "Whoops! 
> Nance/Smith/Hooper/Palmer/Gendall/Williams/George/Bailey/Everson/Climo/WHOEVER 
> got it wrong! Let's follow the texts instead!" then so be it!
> And Eddie: Criticism is not slander. To recognize errors in the work of 
> earlier Revivalists is, in fact, to do their work *honour*. Much, indeed 
> most, of what all of them did was rock-solid and the best they could 
> offer. But that doesn't mean that it was any of it holy writ. When an 
> element of the work of a scientist is proved wrong, a good scientist says 
> "Thanks for that correction! Now we are closer to getting it right!" 
> Someone who just digs his heels in and says "What I've done should not be 
> criticized or changed!" is not a good scientist.
> To praise Nance: I have been doing A LOT of lexical work and I can say 
> that Nance's indications of anomalous stress, and of vowel length in 
> polysyllables (especially multisyllables), is simply amazing. We don't 
> talk about it, because we take it for granted. His is the standard. But 
> that does not mean he got right items (1), (2), and (3) above. It's 
> appropriate for those items to be criticized, and it honours his work when 
> we do it.
> Michael Everson * http://www.evertype.com/
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