[Spellyans] ragtho, rygthy

Daniel Prohaska daniel at ryan-prohaska.com
Fri Nov 19 00:31:17 GMT 2010


From: nicholas williams
Sent: Thursday, November 18, 2010 10:19 PM


“And George can't, I take it. He certainly never has properly defended his phonology—quite simply because it is mistaken from the ground up.”


I think there’s a lot of wishful thinking and all to technical and over-regularised problem solving involved in the construction of the phonological base of KK, but going back to a pre-Middle Cornish phonology you and he don’t even differ that much. 


“It cannot be defended. In his "defence" of KK in KKC21 he says a. the prosodic shift took place in the early seventeenth century (i.e. when the language was moribund) b. the prosodic shift shortened some vowels and lengthened others.

If any serious historical linguist were to accept either of those two propositions, he or she would need his or her head examined.

You, Dan, know that KK is ineluctably flawed and so does Albert. Why then should allowances be made for any part of it in the SWF?”


Yes, there are many flaws in KK, especially in the phonological base or the eagerness to “correct” the MMS spellings to a form more in line and explicable through the other Brythonic cognates. There are features and distinctions in the orthography which can be useful for the revived language and I’m certainly not talking about the untraditional graphs, but meaningfully distinguishing <y> and <i> is useful and has, even in KS, been taken on. Also other features already used in RC such as <dh> and <j> etc. Also, and this is something in which the basic idea of the SWF differs from KS, the SWF has a diachronic approach to Cornish establishing an MC base and an LC base. I’m well aware of your opinion on the somewhat artificially exaggerated differences between MC and LC and I’m completely with you on that, but nonetheless the SWF has this dichotomy of a rather conservative MC variant and the more progressive LC variant. The feature of umbrella graphs and showing distinction which are reflected in LC etc. are something completely new and unheard of in KK, such as the treatment of the <iw, yw, ew, ow> diphthongs -  A synchronically overladen system in both MC and LC, but reflecting distinctions maintained until LC.     


“Yet so many aspects of George's phonology are in the SWF, notably the pretended difference between iw and yw and the the whole v/dh business.”


Excuse me Nicholas, this is not pretended. Again Lhuyd can be looked to for confirmation and since Lhuyd’s description of Cornish differs from Welsh we can assume he was describing Cornish and not contaminated by his native Welsh: /iw/ (MC <pyv, pu, pew>, <lyv, lyw, lew>, <deweth, dyweth, diweth, dewathe>; Lhuyd: <piụ>, <liụ>, <diụadh>) remained distinct until LC while /ɪw/ (MC <byv, byw, bev, bew, bewe>; Lhuyd <bêụ>) fell in with /ew/ (in monosyllables; MC <tew, tev>; <rew>; Lhuyd: <têụ>, <rêau, reụ>) and old /ew/ (MC <bewna(n)s>; <tevlel, tywlel, teulel, tovlel, tewlall, towlall>; Lhuyd <boụnaz>; <teulel, tyụlel, (vb.adj.) toụlyz>) in polysyllables fell in with /ow/ (MC <dour, dowr>; Lh <doụr>). 

Having said that, though, there are many examples where KK writes <iw> where I don’t believe it to be correct, such as KK/SWF <diwes> (which I would spell <dewes>) or KK <piwas> which the SWF luckily spells <pewas> (an I may claim some influence in that). 

I don’t believe the contrast /iw/ : /ɪw/ was maintained for a long time as /ɪw/ fell in with /ew/ early, but this /ew/ (/ɪw/ + /ew/) remained distinct from /iw/ until LC. 


“To say nothing of the meaningless distinctions between say lyver and niver and between gwelyn and melin. I can see no reason for rewriting Tregear's gyffras as gyfres simply because of George's erstwhile fiat.”


Lyver and niver are problematic, but only because of the uncertainty of the existence of a phonemic contrast of /ɪ/ and /e/ in the stressed open syllable of a polysyllabic word. I would consider the SWF spellings etymological and useful in suggesting to MC and LC users alike what they can say. Lyver is well attested and appears in LC as <levar>. Niver is a bit more difficult to analyse because of its poor attestation in LC. The verb nivera, however is attested in LC and appears with <i> (Lh: nivera) as does its verbal adjective nivyryz. The latter is most likely a respelling of MMS <nyfyrys> (OM, RD). Lhuyd gives leverva for “library”  and the vowel in the pre-tonic syllable is <e>.  

I’d need to lay this out more extensively and write more about this, but for a working hypothesis alone this points to a relative chronology of /ɪ/ in lyver ‘book’ (<liuer, lyvyr, lever>) falling in with /e/ in lever ‘says’ (<leuer, lever>). After this merger which may have only affected part of the Cornish speaking area, vowels in polysyllabic word were generally shortened. Giving /ˈlevər/ and /ˈnɪvər/. But because of the uncertainty resulting from the merger of old /ɪ/ + /e/ as well as the counteracting force of secondary i-mutation pushing old /e/ up to /ɪ/, I believe the phonemic distinction between /ɪ/ and /e/ was blurred and highly idiosyncratic resulting in great variation dialectally and idiolectally. This coalescence was old, maintained throughout MC and LC (somewhat in favour of /e/) and even carried over into Anglo-Cornish, words like ‘bit’ can be pronounced [bɪt] or [bɛt].

The question, indeed, remains whether lyver and niver need this etymological spelling if they tend to fall in with each other, so this may be an interesting problem to tackle. In other positions the distinctive ness of /i(ː)/ and /ɪ(ː)/ > /e(ː)/ is easier to establish.    


“Tregear writes blythes 'wolves' twice at TH 19a. George didn't like that plural which he thought was from English, so he arbitrarily changed the plural to *bleydhi in KK,” 


Silly, in respect to the attested form …


“which, he said, had the advantage of keeping the plural of bleydh 'wolf' separate from bleydhes 'she wolf' (an unattested word). In  his most recent dictionary he has changed his mind and gives both bleydhi and bleydhes as the plural of bleydh 'wolf', as well as the word bleydhes 'she wolf'. So in the new (and one hopes the last) hypostasis of KK bleydhes 'wolves' and bleydhes 'she wolf' are no longer distinguished in writing. So George is not even consistent with his arbitrary rewriting of Cornish. And yet the SWF follows him. Why?”


It doesn’t. The SWF plural of bleydh is bleydhes. *Bleydhi is nowhere to be found in the glossary… 


“I could understand the SWF starting with UC, since Nance was a meticulous scholar, if an indifferent linguist. Why was KK ever even considered as a suitable starting point?”


Because the KK people didn’t have any qualms about using KK as a basis, of course. Actually the commission suggested to use KD as the bases and use KS to inform and bring about a compromise, but few had read the KS specification and even fewer the one about KD, so KK was used instead. I agree it would have been prudent to go back to UC and move on again from there as this would have been the common denominator of the early 80s Revival. 


Your question, Nicholas, puzzles me. How can you even ask why KK was considered a suitable starting point. Surely you must realise that KK users were perfectly happy with this orthography and didn’t perceive a problem with it, even if others did. I think it is this unwillingness to look into the other group’s perspective that may prevent communication. In order to understand where people holding other opinions are coming from, you have to understand them and be able to see things from their perspective, even if you think it may be mistaken. That is the problem when two groups respectively say “Why can’t they see the truth?  Why don’t they simply adopt my views because they are correct?” A bit like the Catholic church and other religious groups and their certainty about being in possession of the absolute truth. 

I’m not saying that this is the case with you, but it may explain the inability to discuss phonological and orthographical problems without the ideological baggage that has been accumulating for the past 20 years or longer …


“In the long run the SWF (like UC and KK) is unlikely to survive—at least in its present incoherent forms. I say forms, because there is SWF/M and SWF/T and both have Middle and Late variants. Four standards for the price of one. No wonder the "Single Written Form" has become the "Standard Written Form".”


Yes, it has to, but I continue to see this as a process rather than something written in stone. A gradual reduction of variants, preferably with the traditional graphs, continued work, but I definitely stand by the decision to have an LC based variant on par with the MC variant.  


“I am not completely happy with all aspects of KS, but it is phonetic and systematic. And I know that because I have used it very extensively.

The SWF on the other hand is neither phonetic, nor traditional, nor coherent.”


There are many aspects of it that aren’t, you are correct, and I hope this can be gradually remedied in the future, but it has the advantage of being an orthography that came about by consensus, a group effort that brought together people who were separated by petty bickering. I support the SWF because I support the idea of the SWF to have a widened base to it and not lay the entire revival and with it the spelling of the language into one man’s hand, be it yours, Ken George’s or anybody else’s.    


“I won't write ki, whi, bri nor genev, orthiv, nor diwedh, diwes or any of the other spurious forms demanded by the SWF. But I can actually read the Cornish texts and have done so many times.

Nicholas “


Yes, and that is your prerogative. I’m unhappy with <ki> etc. as well, especially in the SWF/t form as it would have been no problem to formulate the rule that all instances of SWF final <i> should be spelt <y> in SWF/t. 

I disagree with you that <diwedh> is a spurious form. You are dismissing evidence. I’m with you on <diwes>.

I’d be very happy to work with you to find a solution or at least a couple of good suggestions for the 2013 adjustments, but I think KS has moved too far along its own path as to suggest simply taking over that. 





“On 2010 Du 18, at 19:12, Daniel Prohaska wrote:

Ogh, that’s cause we know Nicholas can defend himself …



-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://kernowek.net/pipermail/spellyans_kernowek.net/attachments/20101119/4a751a32/attachment-0001.html>

More information about the Spellyans mailing list