[Spellyans] th/dh

Daniel Prohaska daniel at ryan-prohaska.com
Mon Nov 22 12:31:28 GMT 2010

-----Original Message-----
From: Michael Everson
Sent: Sunday, November 21, 2010 5:18 PM

"On 21 Nov 2010, at 15:13, Daniel Prohaska wrote:

> 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?


Syntax issue. It is not the fact that one reads and interprets Lhuyd's transcriptions that is mistaken, but your interpretation of them is mistaken, in my view. Nicholas' arguments are simply better than yours, and he supplies lists of examples. You have not.”


 I have cited plenty of examples. I have not written a paper about this yet, though. So much is true. If you think my view is mistaken, that’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it. That doesn’t make it so.


> “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.


Are you then arguing that we should trust Lhyud here and write peswardheg and pemdheg?”


No, I was wondering what you make of <dh> in <pemdheg>. Is that also Welsh influence, or what does that mean?


“I have already said: when Lhuyd shows devoicing in final unstressed syllables, he is describing what is going on in Cornish. When he is not, he is being influenced by his Welsh.”


Now that sounds like special pleading to me… so by the same token Cornish must have had /ˈpɛmðək/ then. Would you be prepared to spell <pemdhek>?


“If, on the other hand, Cornish and Welsh are the same, and the Cornish are saying -dh and -g and the Welsh are saying -dd and -g, then you have to explain why Lhuyd writes -th and -k.”


And you would have to explain why the voiced : voiceless opposition is not as rigorously adhered to where final b is concerned. Here ar some examples:



With final <b>:

worthyb (BK)  4x

gorthyb (BM)   

gorthyb (BK) 4x

gurryb (TH)  

gorrub (TH)   

orybe (SA)          

gorryb (CW) 3x         

gorthib (CW)             

wotheb (Pryce)              

gorib (Pryce) 2x   


With final <p>:

worȝyp (PA)      

worthyp (RD)  

gorthyp (PC) 2x

gorthyp (BK)

gurryp (TH)     

gorthyp (Pryce) 2x




with final <b>:

eneb (OCV)            

eneb (Pryce)      


with final <p>:

enap (Lh)  5x             

enep (Lh)       

enap (Pryce) 2x

enep (Pryce) 



with final <b>

ebscob (PA)

epscob (PC)

escob (BK)

ebscob (BK)

epscob (TH) 5x

ebscob (Hawke)


with final <p>

escop (OVC)

epscop (OM) 8x

epscop (PC) 9x

escop (BM)

epscop (BM) 32x

epscop (TH) 11x

escop (Pryce)



ispak (Lh) 4x

ispak (Pryce) 2x



with final <b>:

heveleb (TH) 6x


with final <p>

hevelep (OM)

hyuelep (RD)

hevelep (BM)

hevelep (TH) 6x

hevelep (SA)

hevelep (Lh) 4x

hevelep (Pryce) 




with final <b>:

modereb (OCV)

modryb (Lh)

modereb (Pryce)


with final <p>:

modrap (Lh) 2x


morrep attested once with <p> in Pryce.


“And I don't think you can. 


I can at least show that the p/b pair doesn’t show the relative consistency in distribution the k/g pair has.


“> “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.


Arguing about whether there are phonemes at all is a bit of a red herring. It is easy to trust BM and the Charter Fragment and Lhuyd in terms of initial and medial th- and dh- for instance. Arludhy (BM arlyȝy, Lhuyd Arlẏdhi) well attested, as is dhodho (BM ȝoȝo, dhodho). We have consensus about this. Everybody has consensus about this.”


BM writes <ȝ> for: 

/ð/ (<ȝe, arlyȝy, ȝoȝo, dyȝyow, ȝymmo, ȝys, ȝegy, ȝynny, ȝyn, ȝeth, ȝyvgh, ȝovt, seȝovg, gorȝewar, ȝum, ȝysk, veȝaf, heȝyv, vlyȝan, ȝybbry, ȝadder, worȝy, ȝue, ȝiso>); 


/θ/ (<yȝyv, benyȝa ~ bynyȝa, leȝerow, ov ȝos, coweȝa, vȝyll, yȝof, ...ov ȝas, >); 


/x/ or /θ/ (<myȝternas>); 


/d/  (<a ȝus>)


/j/ (<ȝurlys, ȝeys, ȝeheys ~ ȝehas ~ ȝehes ~ ȝehays, ȝurl ~ ȝurle, ȝesseys, ȝethewon, ȝeyn, ȝethov>)


“The difficulty is in final unstressed syllables, where Lhuyd is inconsistent. An explanation must be found for the inconsistency. 


We hold that devoicing is systematic in Cornish as it is in German and Breton and Russian and other languages. We hold that Lhuyd's -th shows that he heard the devoicing, and that -dh (and -g in eitag) shows influence from his Welsh.”


But Breton and German devoicing, for example, if fundamentally different. Breton has external sandhi while German does not. In German, final devoicing is absolute and occurs before voiced and voiceless consonants of the following word alike. Breton final consonants are voiced when followed by a vowel or other voiced consonants. 


“If devoicing is not systematic in Cornish, then what is your explanation for Cornish -k and -dh in Lhuyd?” 


How do you account for final <b> in gorthyb, epscob, heveleb, modereb? Is this an indication of systematic devoicing?


“And if you want to write the latter <dh>, why do you not want to do as Bailey does and write Kernoweg with the same rule to de-voice that?”


No, as the k/g is fairly consistent. Even Ken George realised that and couldn’t bring himself to write final g in KK.


“> “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.


That's the dodge Bailey tries. Give your explanation or admit that you haven't got one. If devoicing is not systematic in Cornish, then what is your explanation for Cornish -k and -dh in Lhuyd?”


No, read my posts again. I just don’t see the need to repeat myself as often as you do. I said systematically in word final position the native vocabulary did not have the voiced : voiceless opposition the fricatives had, even in stressed position. The situtation in unstressed position is more difficult to ascertain, as there surely was final devoicing in this position. What is unclear, and this is what all this was about, is when the final devoicing is counteracted. It is my suspicion that it is in voiced environment.


“> “We have: Welsh influence.”


> Hence <pemdhak> and <noweτ>… unconvincing.


Those are examples of Lhuyd getting it right.”


Oh yeah? 


“>> “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.


Then why is this alternation not found for all the rest of the consonants? The model you propose is extremely unlikely. Other languages which devoice regularly do so... regularly. Your analysis of Lhuyd makes Cornish into a chimera.”


It is not found in k/b. It is found in other consonants. Why would extrapolate the whole situtation for consonants from the k/g pair alone?  


“> “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).


Then you can't explain why he writes -th.”


I can offer suggestions, but I cannot prove them until my working hypothesis has been fleshed out.


“> 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?


You forget that he is not transcribing from tape. He has been working with Cornish for some time, and has been writing it and may have been following orthographic choices he made, consciously or unconsciously.”


And you’re dodging the question. 


“> “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


Our theory holds for a wide variety of languages which devoice consonants in final position regularly.”


You’re wrong about German and Breton. The devoicing and voicing processes are fundamentally different in these two languages.  


“> 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.


No, he sometimes writes -dh and he sometimes writes -th even for the same words. Throughout his book, not just in one rather short transcription. And many times the words are written in pausa (as in the vocabulary lists) where your theory ought to be borne out -- but it isn't.”


That’s because I haven’t done it yet. I was offering a working hypothesis, food for thought. I though that this list was about that, that’s how we worked on KS.1. Soembody offered a hypothesis, others went about to see if this were possible or not, then it was discussed and eventually taken on board or dropped. I see that the nature of this list is a completely different one. I have learnt from this experience: “Only offer an opinion when you have written a paper or thesis about it.” Fine. Have it your way. I will not mention the other lesson learnt here as it might come acroos as a discourtesy. 


“> 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.


That's a pity, but I am sure that eventually the penny will drop.”


Any more condescending remarks you would like to share... ? 


“> “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.


So instead of a regular linguistic pattern you have a chimera, a language which doesn't devoice regularly, but does so by treating one consonant differently from the others. And the phonological motivation for that is...?”


Whatever the phonological motivation is, is what one would have to work out in a thesis, I was only commenting on what it in the texts, and there we also occasionally find graphs that are generally used for voiced sounds in the position in question.


“> “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.


That doesn't mean he didn't treat Cornish as a variety of Welsh. I speak Spanish and German, and when I approach Portuguese and Dutch, I see them through the lenses of my Spanish and German. One resists interference, but it is inevitable until one attains fluency.”


Well, maybe other people have other talents. We don’t alllarn languages the same way.  


“> 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.


Lordy, Dan.”


Lordy, Michael.


“He hasn't got to state this for observers after the fact to *see* Welsh influence in his phonology, grammar, and syntax. You make it sound as though we want to rubbish Lhuyd as a whole. No. We don't.” 


“We” maiestatis or modestiae, or sumat else entirely. 


“But there is evidence for interference from Welsh. Indeed there would *have* to be interference from Welsh. It could hardly be otherwise. As good investigators we have to take this into account in order to do a better job rather than a worse one at interpreting Lhuyd.”


Of course, but to ascibe everything in Lhuyd that doesn’t suit your (too bad there in’t no pl./sg. Distinction i Engish or thi pronoun...) theory to Welsh influence, doesn’t work for me. 


“In the matter of final unstressed -dh/-th he is inconsistent, and the simplest explanation is not some complex array of sandhi environments operative only on /ð/ but simply that he is being influenced by Welsh.”


Or that that he may have heard a voiced sound in Cornish. Your maybes are no better than mine, Michael. 


“You already agreed that he was influenced by Welsh in writing -ev since the segment had become -e by his time.”


I believe he was reading the older Cornish MSS and though the endings –Vf and –Vff where /Vv/ by analogy wi th Welsh, yes. 


> “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.


This is incorrect. Yogh is used in the Charter Fragment. in PA, and in BM. There are 284 different words using yogh in PA and 60 different words in BM."”


Yes, and they don’t all stand for /ð/, but also for /θ/, /j/ and in one case /d/. So again /ð/ and /θ/ are not sufficiently distinguished even in the MSS that use yogh. Going by the texts alone, one could argue that there was no distinction between /ð/ : /θ/ in traditional Cornish. Not that I hold this position, but it shows that we’re all interpreting the texts according to what we expect from them. 




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