[Spellyans] iw

Daniel Prohaska daniel at ryan-prohaska.com
Sat Nov 20 11:27:48 GMT 2010

-----Original Message-----
From: Michael Everson
Sent: Friday, November 19, 2010 10:30 PM

"On 16 Nov 2010, at 16:46, Daniel Prohaska wrote:

> Since <i> and <y> have been redistributed both in KS and SWF I see little problem with writing <iw>, even if it does not occur in MC. Note that <iu> occurs in Lhuyd though who distinguishes it from <eu> found in etyma that frequently have <yw> in MC. If you can stand the general redistribution of <i> and <y> I don’t see what the problem is bearing with <iw> if it’s useful.


“What exactly is it useful for?” 


It distinguishes graphically a sound which remained distinct throughout the history of the Cornish language. 


“It is useful for a system which says "pronounce these words [iʊ], and these words [ɪʊ],”


No I didn’t say that. I didn’t suggest a pronunciation. My transcriptions in this context were phonemic. My contention was that it remained phonemically distinct – and if you want to believe Lhuyd in this respect, it did. The argument that Lhuyd was contaminated by his native Welsh doesn’t count here because the diphthong inventory he gives of Cornish is different from the one in Welsh, so we can be quite sure he was describing Cornish as it was. I’m not suggesting a need to distinguish /iw/ : /ɪw/ : /ew/ in speech, as the latter two fell in with each other very soon – I would say along with /ɪ/ and /e/ falling in with each other and we already see the beginnings of that in the OCV so the process likely started in the 12th century. Having said that, in OC and before these diphthongs were separate. When Nicholas says there was no difference between <iw> and <yw> he’s talking about the graphs in the texts, but going by the history of the etyma, the loss of difference was really between /ɪw/ and /ew/ not /iw/ and /ɪw/. 

Again, I’m not suggesting a three-way contrast for MC, just a reflection of the fact that /iw/ (however pronounced) remained distinct, while /ɪw/ fell in with /ew/ giving the two-way contrast we fine in MC and LC. 

I don’t really care so much how you write /iw/, I could easily accept <yw>, but to write <lyw> and <byw> is, in my view, mistaken. Lhuyd gives <liụ> and <bêụ>. I have no problem writing <lyw> and <bew> as in UCR, or <liw> and <byw ~ bew> as in the SWF, but I cannot in good conscience ( :-) ) write or recommend <lyw> and <byw>.  


“and those words [ɛʊ]. But we don't have such a distinction in the Revived language. We have [iʊ]~[ɪʊ] (allophonically) and [eʊ]~[ɛʊ] (allophonically).”


Yes. See above. I wasn’t arguing against that.  


“Lhuyd's "iụ" is just our "yw" [iʊ].” 


As stated above, my contention is not with the actual graphs, but with the sequence of graphs and their systematic distribution.


“Sure, in absolute auslaut we use three graphs, but we don't need four. We have -yw, and we have -uw, and we have -u. But that's sufficient for all the distinctions we need to make. We have "dyw" [diʊ] 'two' and "duw" [diʊ] 'god' and "du" [diʊ] 'black'. There's no need for a "diw".”


As long as you reflect the fact that the lyw-words and the bew-words are spelt distinctly I have no problem with the distribution of these graphs. 


“The distinction between <iw> (which is unattested in Cornish and is justifiable only by Breton <iv>) and <yw> is a fiction. We said this on 17 February 2008 and it is as true today as it was then."”


No it is not a fiction. It is a real, provable etymological fact that the three-way distinction was a part of earlier Cornish phonology, but was no longer part of what we categorize as Middle Cornish. I believe the process of coalescence of /ɪ/ and /e/ (and /ɪw/ and /ew/ along with it) started sometime in the 12th century and was probably complete sometime in the 14th or 15th century. To date the completion of the sound change is difficult because, while we have bew-words spelt with yw-type graphs in the earlier MC texts, there are considerable forces intervening in the regular sound change /ɪ/ > /e/ such as secondary i-umlaut to which /e/ was prone to. 

So yes, the three-way distinction proposed for KK with a phonological base of 1500 is too archaic, but fiction it is not as it is part of the earlier language. 

My point being, the lyw-words and the bew-words remain separate until the expiration of traditional Cornish. 




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