[Spellyans] th/dh and Lhuyd

nicholas williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Sun Nov 21 15:07:25 GMT 2010

The idea that the pronunciations dh/th alternate according to position is something which I cannot accept. Indeed the idea seems to me to an example of special pleading. In any language that contains such an alternation, it is always systematic. In German with orthographic b is pronounced p in final position but b before a vowel: ich komme ab but Abort. The same is true of t/d as in Hand/Hände and k/g in, say, Tag but Tageszeitung. The alternation works across all the relevant consonants. The same is true in Breton: beleg has k finally but is beleg before vowels. The same is true of t/d, p/b and f/v. 
In Irish pausa forms of all verbs end in i or -ig; but before personal pronouns the final segment is schwa or is lost: imeoig but imeo sé; cheannaig but cheanna’ sé, beig but bei’ sé. In any form that can exhibit the alternation, the alternation appears.
	In Cornish, however, some commentators on this list accept the alternation of unstressed vowel + voiceless consonant versus stressed vowel + voiced consonant for mab/morrep, rag/carrek,  and even ev/genef. But in the case of dh/th uniquely and outside this otherwise accepted system, we are asked to believe that <dh> is [D] before vowels but [T] in pausa.
	There are two reasons for positing such an unsystemic alternation: 1) that George in 1986 decided to write diwedh, etc. rather than dyweth, etc.. 2) Lhuyd in JCH in particular shows some slight preference for unstressed vowel + dh before vowels but th in pausa (or so it is said). 
	Only the second of these reasons has any validity. The first, without further corroborative evidence, can be dismissed.
	So we need to look at Lhuyd’s spellings to see whether such a positional alternation has any validity at all. It doesn’t appear to have. In the first place Lhuyd himself admits that forms like brederedh, eledh were not in use in his day. In the second place Lhuyd mistakenly writes *kywedh for kyweth at AB: 49a, kydhman ‘mate’ for kythman at AB: 14a, 151b and *pemdhak ‘fifteen’ for pemthak AB: 135a. Clearly Lhuyd’s use of th/dh is not always accurate. 
	In the third place Lhuyd often writes a word with both <dh> and <th>, for example: 
neuedh ‘new’ AB: 96b; neuydh AB: 100c; noueth AB: 251a, 252a

monadh ‘mountain’ AB: 19b; monedh brâz AB: 93c; meneth AB: 49a; menedh AB: 242b; moneth brâz AB: 295a; meneth bîan AB: 294

diuadh ‘end’ AB: 54a, 59c, 251a, 251a, 251a, 253a, 253a; dyuadh AB 118c; diuedh AB: 229a, 252a; diuath AB: 252a.

Many of these instances occur in wordlists, where one would expect only the pausa form to appear. This is particularly true of the ‘mountain’ words.

There are also words where by positional alternation one would expect <dh> and one finds only <th>.

arleth ‘lord’ AB: 55b (no examples of <dh> found in this word)

volyndzheth AB: 224; volenegeth AB: 222 (no examples of <dh> found in this word)

Moreover Lhuyd’s use of dh/th is inconsistent internally:

newothow ‘news’ AB: 228c but neuydho AB: 228c; noadho AB: 242c

medhek ‘surgeon’ AB: 47c, 87c, 240c but methik AB: 240c; methik AB: 241a

kitha ‘to hide’ AB: 245c but dho kidha AB: 50c

If we wish to follow Lhuyd in the matter of final voiced/unvoiced consonants, we will get into all kinds of difficulties.
Lhuyd writes kranag ‘frog, toad’ AB: 9b, 11c, 33a, 45a, 136b, 240c but the SWF has kronek. If we insist on following Lhuyd, shouldn’t it be *kroneg? The same question could be asked about the following items where the final consonant is written voiced by Lhuyd and there are no examples without voicing:
eitag ‘eighteen’ AB: 105b; huettag ‘sixteen’ AB: 147b; seitag ‘seventeen’ AB: 148c; temmig ‘small part’ AB: 113c, 243b; meppig ‘little son’ JCH §45.

The SWF writes kulyek, but why not *kulyeg? After all Lhuyd usually has a voiced final segment in this word: kuliog ‘cock’ AB: 13c; kulliag AB: 16b, 62c, 240c, 241b; kulliag godho ‘gander’ AB: 43a; kuliag gini ‘turkey’ AB: 88a; kuliag hâz ‘drake’ AB: 241b. The SWF has marhek but Lhuyd writes both marhag ‘horseman’ AB: 57a and marhak AB: 240c. The SWF has manek ‘glove’ but Lhuyd writes both manak AB: 47c; manak AB: 241a; manek AB: 243a; and manag ‘glove’ AB: 15b. Lhuyd writes ydn lygadzhak ‘one-eyed’ AB: 10b; ydnlagadzhak AB: 93c, 176c but also ydn lygadzhiag AB: 82c. Lhuyd is even inconsistent after stressed vowels: gurêk brederys ‘diligent wife’ AB: 243c; gurêk vohozhak ‘poor wife’ AB: 243c but gurêg ‘wife’ AB: 95b, 179b.

I prefer to take the alternation th/dh to be identical with that of p/b, k/g and f/v. I write the voiceless member after an unstressed vowel and the voiced one after a stressed vowel: mab but morrep; rag but carrek; ev but genef. And thus dëdh but dyweth.

Nothing I have read on this list has yet made me believe that this is not the correct explanation and the simplest spelling for the various consonants in question.

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