[Spellyans] th/dh

Daniel Prohaska daniel at ryan-prohaska.com
Sun Nov 21 15:13:07 GMT 2010

-----Original Message-----
From: Michael Everson
Sent: Sunday, November 21, 2010 1:07 PM

“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:”


And you are not interpreting Lhuyd’s writings?


“pazuârdhak ‘fourteen’ AB: 134c

pemdhak ‘fifteen’ AB: 135a

huettag ‘sixteen’ AB: 147b

seitag ‘seventeen’ AB: 148c

eitag ‘eighteen’ AB: 105b”


You say Lhuyd is influenced by his native Welsh. Why then does he write pemdhak ‘fifteen’ (cf. W pymtheg), what is it Welsh influence or not? Just an example.


“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,” 


This is an empty claim. I could as easily say, you are over-interpreting the MSS texts, as they don’t distinguish <dh> and <th>. How do you arrive at a phonemic /ð/ : /θ/ contrast at all? Argumentation has to go both ways. 


“and you haven't offered a counter explanation for why -th turns up in some words and -dh in the same words.” 


Yes, I have. You archive everything, I’m sure you’ll find it. 


“We have: Welsh influence.” 


Hence <pemdhak> and <noweτ>… unconvincing.


“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.”


And guess where <noweτ> occurs, at the end of the sentence, before the full stop.


“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.” 


This also works the other way round, so where he writes <dh> where Welsh has <th> he’s also writing what he hears (if this isn’t over-interpretation). Why don’t you believe him, when he writes <diuadh> in a colloquial phrase (<pa thera diuadh an vledhan>) that he surely heard? Is <vledhan> also owing to Welsh influence? 


“If he wavers between -th and -dh, it is likely that Welsh influence can be seen.” 


SWF diwedh is only spelt with <th/τ> three in JCH, twice before a voiceless consonant and once where a pause is possible. In all other 7 occurrences of this word he writes <dh/δ>. This is statistically relevant. 


“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.”


I find this “influence of Welsh” argument to be special pleading. Wherever it suits your theory the examples are accepted, but where they don’t they are attributed to Welsh influence, except he doesn’t always write <δ> and <τ> where Welsh has <dd> and <th>, not in stressed nor in unstressed syllables. Maybe the development and situation in LC was a little more complex that your explanation. Anyway, there are a lot of maybe, too many for me, to accept the implementation of one man’s theory.   


“Otherwise you have no explanation for the occasional -th.”


I do. I’ve mentioned it here. 


“And the k/g distinction above bears exactly the same thing out.” 


The k/g distribution is not in dispute; it already looks less sure as far as the p/b distribution is concerned, and is even more difficult to ascertain with the conflicting evidence, or rather the evidence conflicting with lack of evidence in the MC MSS, what the situation really was. I remain unconvinced and highly sceptical.  


“Essentially Lhuyd started from Welsh, and saw Cornish as a set of derogations from that.” 


I do not believe that this statement is true. He went to Cornwall specifically to record Cornish, not Welsh. I believe you are over-interpreting his work. Nowhere did he state that he took Welsh and derogated when weir Cornish forms cropped up. Unconvincing, Michael.


“This explains many inconsistencies which otherwise have pretty much no explanation at all.”


 Have you considered the influence the MSS spellings may have had on his spellings. After all he was confronted with MSS that didn’t distinguish /ð/ from /θ/ at all and wrote <th>. Only PA has <ȝ> but this is also inconsistently used. 


OK, we have established where we stand on this issue respectively, I guess you’ll have to wait, until I find the time to argue this rigorously at some later date. For the time being we’ll have to accept that there are several school of thought on this issue and that no absolute truth can be drawn from the scanty evidence.



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