[Spellyans] th/dh

Michael Everson everson at evertype.com
Sat Nov 20 11:31:58 GMT 2010

On 20 Nov 2010, at 11:01, Daniel Prohaska wrote:

> Sorry Nicholas, I didn’t mean to hostile against you – it was probably just a little frustration creeping in because I wasn’t getting through to you.

Nicholas and I both understand you.

> What I meant was, that if your solution is implemented orthographically, Cornish will write final <dh> in stressed syllables and final <th> (for etymological /ð/) in unstressed syllables.

That's final <dh> (for etymological /ð/) in stressed syllables and final <th> (for etymological /ð/) in unstressed syllables. Because the evidence (of /ð/ as well as /f/ and the stops) suggests that in unstressed syllables the consonant devoices. 

> Thus your theory is manifested orthographically, basically forcing the Cornish learner to accept it for real because s/he will not know which final <th> in unstressed syllables is etymological /θ/ and which is /ð/.

People speak synchronically. 

> This is fine, of course, for speakers who devoice in this position and for people who believe the phonemic contrast to have been lost in this position.
> For those who don’t, i.e. the speakers who devoice only in pause or don’t devoice etymological /ð/ at all, the orthographic representation of your theory is useless.

Who are these people, Dan? You speak as though there is a community of native speakers out there, passing the language on from generation to generation. If George hadn't revised the phonology according to his preference (etymologize in the direction of Welsh and Breton) this wouldn't be an issue. But George's phonology wasn't taken up, apart from errors like [ɪ] for what we write <ÿ>. 

> While the former would be able to read their [ˈdɪʊəθ] as <dyweth> (or <diweth>), they would wonder why the word is thus spelt when saying [pæn ˈɛɾə ˈdɪʊəð ən ˈvlɛðən].

Where do you get this Breton-style sandhi across word-boundaries from? I don't believe there is evidence for it in the texts. 

> The latter group would be puzzled anyway because they wouldn’t understand why their final [ð] in syllables would be written <dh> in stressed syllables, but <th> in unstressed syllables.

> My solution to write <dh> but devoice by rule is much more inclusive, will give speakers a choice, help the learner make a connection between simplex and derivative.

But it abandons traditional orthographic forms (as Ray has noted) and in fact, although it is all very nice for you to say "they can learn a rule that says 'devoice in final unstressed syllables' the reality of it is that such a spelling will inevitably lead to people voicing the segment, which we don't in fact recommend. Because the evidence of the texts suggests that it was devoiced. Your rule is not orthogonal to the way other consonants are treated in the orthographic system. Kernowek, Kernoweger. Nowyth, nowodhow. 

> People who generally devoice in final unstressed position can easily do so by rule,

They'll fail and start saying /ð/ just as the KKers fail to say dÿdh with a long vowel. 

> speakers who devoice only in pausa and before voiceless consonants can do so by rule and context, people who generally don’t devoice use a reading pronunciation of the orthography.

Again you talk as though there were a community of native speakers. 

> My solution is more inclusive, it is less “dogmatic” (because it doesn’t force one theory upon the speaker), and it is workable. Since <dh> wasn’t used in the MC MSS anyway it is not even less authentic or traditional.

I don't believe that Lhuyd's examples prove your case. As I have said, the simpler explanation for his anomalous use of both <dh> and <th> in the same words is influence of Welsh on the former. 

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

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