[Spellyans] th/dh

j.mills at email.com j.mills at email.com
Mon Nov 22 11:29:59 GMT 2010

Dan (Sat, Nov 20, 2010 5:16 pm) writes

".... Yet Lhuyd is thonly available evidence for <dh> there is, and by your line of reasoning you should abandon writing <dh> at all and spell <th> only. The evidence of the MC texts (outside PA) actually shows us that there was no /ð/. 
All we have is grounds to assume that /ð/ existed from a few occurrences of <ȝ> in PA – and Lhuyd of course, whose evidence you dismiss if it doesn’t fit your theory."
".... Michael, you have no evidence for /ð/ at all. How can you tell whether there was or was no contrast between [ð] and [θ] in final position (any position for that matter)? There is no sufficient reason to spell <dh> at all going by the MC MSS. You cannot know for a fact that Lhuyd’s Welsh interfered with his Cornish – you can assume, you can postulate, you can theorise, but you cannot know. That is my point. That’s why doubt remains as to whether final devoicing occurred for /ð/ and if it’s not the safer, more careful, more inclusive way of dealing with this problem in an orthography for RC."

I agree with Dan that Lhuyd is the only real source for establishing a minimal pair /ð/ and /θ/. Lhuyd (1707: 222) writes, “po kotha Lavar an Enez-ma” 'or the older speech of this island'. Lhuyd (1707: 250a) also writes “hui dho Kodha” 'that you fall'.  So we have a minimal pair kotha ~ kodha. However, in order to accept this minimal pair, one also has to assume Lhuyd's testimony to be reliable. If, on the one hand, one believes Lhuyd to be unreliable, then there is no reliable evidence for this phonemic dictinction. It follows then that we should write <th> everywhere. If, on the other hand, we accept Lhuyd's testimony as reliable, we adopt the minimal pair, /ð/ and /θ/, and write these <dh> and <th>. However one is disingenuous if one accepts Lhuyd's testimony only when it supports one's hypothesis, and rejects Lhuyd when his testimony doesn't suit.

Ol an gwella,

Dr. Jon Mills, 
University of Kent


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