[Spellyans] Rules for the apostrophe

Michael Everson everson at evertype.com
Thu May 20 10:13:39 IST 2010


On 20 May 2010, at 07:05, Eddie Climo wrote:

> On 20 Me 2010, at 00:00, Michael Everson wrote:
> 
>>> On 19 May 2010, at 21:59, Eddie Climo wrote:
>>> No, Nicholas, Nance was a fine linguist,
> 
>> He did not have scientific linguistic training (as we use the word "linguist" today)
> 
> Unfortunately, your use of the word 'we' does not include the fine linguists in the Oxford Dictionary team. Their American edition says:
> 
>> linguist |ˈlɪŋgwɪst|
>> noun
>> 1 a person skilled in foreign languages.
>> 2 a person who studies linguistics.
> 
> No mention of 'scientific' or 'training' there.

How very clever of you to use a dictionary definition, Eddie. But in today's world, when talking about language revival (for instance), the term "linguist" is used, not as a gloss for "polyglot", but to refer to a person who has had academic linguistic training. You may wish to use "linguist" to mean "polyglot", but most people do not, and certainly you ought to know by now the meaning that I, or Nicholas, or Ken George, or Jon Mills, or Christian Semmens, or Trond Trosterud, or any of the Commissioners, make of this word. When we say "linguist" we do not mean "a person skilled in foreign languages". We mean a person who has had a particular kind of training.

Nance did not have such training. However much you may admire him, it still does not mean that he was a linguist or had linguistic training.

>> in the way which Jenner did. "Philologist" is a more accurate description for someone with the background that Nance had.  There is nothing wrong with philology. But it isn't the same as scientific linguistics. 
> 
> The same red herring: nothing in the AOED about 'scientific linguistics'.

And the AOED is not the arbiter of meaning. Why do you wish to use "linguist" in a way other than the rest of us are using it? So you can score points or "win" an argument?

> And the vocabulary lesson is unnecessary, thanks, as I've been studying languages (and linguistics) for many decades. Why, I even know what a lexicographer is as well!
> 
>> His compiling a dictionary makes him a lexicographer, not a linguist.
> 
> Piffle! it made him both a linguist (in both senses of the word) and a lexicographer. Lexicography is part of Linguistics, as is Philology.

Nance shows no evidence of having any modern linguistic training. He shows evidence of having a good education which included Latin. 

>>> Nance, Jenner, Smith, Chirgwin, Hooper and many others of that generation — their place in the history of the Revival is secure.
>> 
>> It does not, however, confer infallibility upon them,
> 
> Another red herring: we never said it did.

Then why get all defensive when they are criticized? Because that's what you're doing. We say a word of criticism; you either race to defend them or you attack us for being like the Kemmynites.

This is tiresome.

>> and none of them, I believe, would be happy to be beatified by later generations.
> 
> You and Nicholas need to co-ordinate your hyperbolic slurs:

Do we, indeed?

> if any of these people were 'deified' they'd scarcely be in line for the lesser 'honour' of beatification, would they?

Give me a break, Eddie. This isn't grammar-school debating. I'm not here to score points off of you or Nance or anybody. Your rhetoric is all about winning an argument.

> Anyway, this is another red herring: nobody suggested either 'deification' or 'beatification'; a modicum of respect would be in order, though.

I respect Nance's achievement. I also recognize that he made many mistakes. I also can tell the difference between a person who has had linguistic training and a person who has not. I do not mind saying that Nance's achievement was all the more remarkable for the fact that he did not have such training. But a number of the faults in UC result from that lack nonetheless. 

> As someone (Isaac Newton?) famously said, if we see further it's because we stand on the shoulders of giants. We don't stand there so we can gratuitously kick them in the face.

Criticizing Nance or pointing out his mistakes is not "gratuitously kicking him in the face". It's a matter of professionality. Do you want Cornish to be accurate? Some of us do. Does this mean correcting errors in Jenner's Cornish? Or in UC? Or in UCR? Or in the SWF? By thunder, it *does* mean correcting such errors. 

For example, you can argue till you are blue in the face whether "yn whir" is a suitable expression in Revived Cornish or not. It doesn't change the fact that (UC spelling) "yn whyr" is unattested with the adverbial particle and mutation, and that the functionally equivalent phrase which *does* occur is (UC spelling) "yn gwyr" without mutation and with the preposition. Nance's use of "yn whyr" does not mean it's part of the corpus. Nance's use of "yn whyr" is an unnecessary invention, since what the Cornish *said* was "yn gwyr". So we criticize Nance for this, we recommend the use of "yn gwyr", and we move on.

We don't beatify Nance by making arguments about how great a linguist he was. We dare to have the temerity to treat him like a man, a nice fallible man who did great things and who also made mistakes. Just as we may make mistakes. 

Words like "beatify" and "deify" have arisen in this discussion because every time a bit of criticism is made you jump at us as though we have no right to do so. Same thing happened when we issued some short stories translated by Caradar re-spelt in KS. For some reason (and I've never seen a plausible one) you (and Ray, and maybe even a number of people on the Agan Tavas committee) seem to think that Caradar was "special" in some way, so "special" that his words must be written in the spelling he used. Now, nearly everybody prints Shakespeare in modern spelling; nobody but a few specialists use the First Folio spellings. Is Caradar more "special" than Shakespeare? We don't see that there are any reasons to believe so. We do not believe that editing his texts for modern readers is an unholy bastardization of his work. We do not believe that we denigrate or besmirch his memory or his work by doing so, either.

But the argument you turn to increasingly is that we are not your friends. That we do not champion Traditional Cornish. That we are becoming no better than the Kemmynistas.

You forget that it was Nicholas' "A Problem in Cornish Phonology" in 1990 that fired the first great salvo against the Ken George's frolic. The second was Peter Pool's magnificent "Second Death of Cornish" of course. The third was "Cornish Today" in 1995. Do you forget two editions of the UCR dictionary? Do you forget the four volumes published in 2006 for the benefit of the Commissioners, which -- I dare to say -- helped them to understand that "the numbers game" was not sufficient grounds to select KK as the SWF? 

> I recall that Ken George used precisely this technique of trying to rubbish the scholars of Nance's generation (and of all the preceding ones, right back to Glasney College) in an attempt to enhance the status of KK.

Criticizing aspects of Nance's work, and pointing out that he lacked a certain kind of training, is not "rubbishing" Nance, or his work, or his educational background. Would you prefer that I or Nicholas lie, and say that it was a really great idea that Nance used "enep" for 'face" when (KS spelling) "fâss" is what Cornish speakers actually said? We don't happen to think that it was a really great idea. In our publications, we use "fâss". ("Enep" has its uses, but not for people's faces, as we see it.) 

See, we're not going to lie to you about our linguistic opinions. Neither are our opinions based on random desires to attack Nance. Our opinions are based on our professional experience and training. To criticize is to understand, and to improve upon.

> It saddens me to see people using exactly the same tired old trick to try and do the same with KS.

On the one hand you have the one person in the Revival who knows the corpus better than anyone else alive. Nicholas has read, and re-read, and re-read, and re-read, the whole of the corpus dozens if not scores of times. In conversation when you mention a word he will often know exactly where it comes from. On the other hand you have me, with an international reputation as an expert in writing systems. From KS1 through SWF to KS, I have had a care for a system, which is really very tight. We (the collective groups UdnFormScrefys and Spellyans) took it as our brief to ensure that the spelling was as unambiguous as possible. I've done what I can to ensure that the system *is* a system, something that can be taught and learnt easily.

We two are your editors. We've produced a number of books, as you know. We're preparing a teaching grammar and a short dictionary. It takes time to do that because we have to try to be careful about edge-case words. As I pointed out yesterday, there is a difficulty with identifying polysyllables that have long vowels, since the general rule is that all vowels shorten in polysyllables. You do want us to be careful, don't you?

Maybe you think that a certain ambiguity is just fine in an orthography. I believe that within the Spellyans group that is a minority view. But in any case, even that's not specific enough to help the editing team make choices. Yesterday Craig said he was worried about the distribution of "i" and "y". I explained the specific rules KS uses for the distribution. They are similar to Jenner's in some ways. The only thing that it would make sense to change from

7a. Use i- in initial position in all but 6 words.

to

7x. Use y- in initial position in all words.

But that does not address the criteria of inclusivity, since one of the reasons for rule 7a is to increase the visibility of the letter "i" in deference to a strong preference amongst RLC users. Since i- is well-attested traditionally, it seems to us that it is reasonable to implement 7a rather than 7x. (This is similar to the concession which was made changing "ue" to "eu" in deference to a strong preference amongst KK users.)

> Rak meth dheugh!

Well, that's about as patronizing as one can get. Shame on us? Yes, that's right. Not that I see anyone else raising their hands to wield the editor's pen. Please, go right ahead. Take the SWF spec and analyse it and devise a systematic and linguistically robust set of alterations to it that result in an academically acceptable practical orthography for Cornish. 

But shame on us for doing our jobs. Shame on us for daring to point out shortcomings in Nance, or in the SWF. Say, Nicholas, maybe we ought to abandon the Revival and just go publish books in Irish.

Talk about hyperbole.

Perhaps you want to go on using unreformed Unified Cornish. Go right ahead. It's not linguistically accurate -- it even misses out an entire phoneme of the language. But do what you want.

Or perhaps you want to use the SWF/T, a splendid example of a difficult political compromise, which unfortunately forces those who prefer /T forms to use some forms which are not /T, and which unfortunately takes over a great many "etymological" vowels just because there was so little time in the AHG that they decided to take KK spellings as the base forms for unstressed vowels, rather than on any phonetic or other rational basis. It's leaky, and hard to learn, and it's bound to be criticized and altered, but it's sort of authentic, except in all those places where it's not.

Or perhaps you want to use a form of Cornish that has been reviewed by expert professionals, who, standing on the shoulders of giants, are nevertheless not afraid to point out that sometimes the corpus disagrees with what the giants were recommending. A form of Cornish that is as good as we can make it, given all we know about the traditional language and the revived language. 

I notice what Nicholas said yesterday:

>> KS is an attempt (as was Jenner's orthography) to bridge the gap between Middle and Late Cornish. As such, KS is very close to Jenner. So in 2010 a spelling system is being used that is very similar to Jenner (1904). Interestingly KS is not particularly far from SWF/T though it shuns <iw> and unstressed -ev and -edh (e.g. *genev and *menedh), and avoids "etymological" spellings like <melin> and <niver>. It is also tighter and less leaky in other ways. Michael deserves great credit for the way he has applied his expertise in writing systems to the spelling of Cornish. Still, in the Cornish revival one never gets praise, just criticism, carping and disparagement.


Ain't that the truth. And now because we don't find that there is a road back to Unified Cornish, or even to UCR, we've got Eddie saying that we're just as bad as the Kemmynistas.

Rag sham, in gwir.

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



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