[Spellyans] th/dh

Michael Everson everson at evertype.com
Sun Nov 21 12:07:25 GMT 2010

On 21 Nov 2010, at 11:14, Daniel Prohaska wrote:

> I was initially dismayed over the SWF choice of writing <dh> word-finally in unstressed syllables, because like you, I had accepted Nicholas’ theory and the general logic of the voiced/stressed v. unvoiced/unstressed opposition.


> But working on my dictionary, literally checking every word against the textual attestations, I stumbled across more and more of Lhuyd’s spellings that showed <dh>.

Yes, but the mistake you made has been in interpreting what Lhuyd's transcriptions reveal. As Nicholas showed:

pazuârdhak ‘fourteen’ AB: 134c
pemdhak ‘fifteen’ AB: 135a
huettag ‘sixteen’ AB: 147b
seitag ‘seventeen’ AB: 148c
eitag ‘eighteen’ AB: 105b

Lhuyd is not consistent with final consonants in unstressed position. This isn't surprising: he wasn't attempting to do what we attempt to do, and the linguistic environment he did his remarkable work in was one in which people were still comparing Irish and Phoenician. 

You've over-interpreted Lhuyd, and you haven't offered a counter explanation for why -th turns up in some words and -dh in the same words. We have: Welsh influence. If you take that into consideration, you're back at a logical description with a voiced/stressed v. unvoiced/unstressed opposition. If you don't, then you still have to explain the voiceless transcriptions.

If Lhuyd writes -th where Welsh has -dh, you can be sure that's what he heard, because he'd never make that mistake otherwise. If he wavers between -th and -dh, it is likely that Welsh influence can be seen. And given the context of the voiced/stressed v. unvoiced/unstressed opposition, if there are other examples of -dh where we wouldn't expect it, it's not unreasonable again to attribute this to interference from Welsh.  

Otherwise you have no explanation for the occasional -th. 

And the k/g distinction above bears exactly the same thing out. Essentially Lhuyd started from Welsh, and saw Cornish as a set of derogations from that. This explains many inconsistencies which otherwise have pretty much no explanation at all. 

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

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