[Spellyans] iw

Daniel Prohaska daniel at ryan-prohaska.com
Tue Nov 23 18:42:53 GMT 2010


From: nicholas williams
Sent: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 5:54 PM


“List all the examples from the texts and I will tell you.

In the meantime answer me this:


Is the word for 'flood' an yw word?

It appears as lew at TH 7.”


SWF liv (lyw) ‘flood’; KS liv (lyw); 

lyf (OM)           6x  

lyfow (OM)

lew (TH)   

levyaw (CW)      

lyvyow (CW)    

lywe (CW)        4x

lyw (CW)         2x              

lyvyow (CW)          

lyv (Lh)           

lyv (Pryce)               

lyfow (Pryce)          


The most common form of this etymon in the texts is <lyf> and <lyw>. I believe there were two pronunciations: *[liːv] (cf. B liv-, W llif), then a variant [lɪʊ] with vocalised /v/. I give the variants liv and lyw in my dictionary. In TH [ɪʊ] is often spelt <ew> which is a common graph in English for contemporary [ɪʊ].


“Is lyw 'colour' an yw word?

It occurs as lew at CW  1051.”


Yes. SWF liw, KS lyw ‘colour’ has:

liu (OCV)         3x

lyw (PA)          2x

lyv (PC)           2x

lyw (PC)           3x

lyw (RD)          2x

lew (CW)  

liu (Lh)     

liụ (Lh)            2x

lyw (Pryce)   

liu (Pryce)       2x 

lyu (Pryce)  


In English <ew> is a common graph for [ɪʊ] in the 16th and 17th centuries. As with SWF liv ‘flood’, the spelling with <ew> doesn’t occur before the 16th century by which time the Middle English diphthongs /ɪʊ/ and /ɛʊ/ had coalesced, resulting in [ɪʊ] (which continued to develop into [juː] in Modern English). It is not surprising that Cornish /ɪʊ/ would be spelt <ew> from the time after the English merger onwards. Lhuyd shows that the nucleus of the diphthong remained high.   

Since the development of the byw/bew-words parallels the development of the bys/bes-words, the lyw-words seem to parallel the mis-words. I see no reason why liw shouldn’t be the spelling for this stable diphthong, but if we have a way of distinguishing the byw/bew-words I certainly wouldn’t mind writing lyw. 


“Is pyw 'who?' an yw word?

It occurs as pew at TH 7, 11, 28a, 36, 43a, BK 100, 209, CW  1462, etc., etc.


Yes, the <ew> spellings occur for the same reason as above, and not before the 16th century. 


SWF piw, KS pyw ‘who’:

pv (PA)            2x     

pu (PA)            3x

pyv (PA) 

pyw (OM)        3x

pyv (OM)                      

pyv (PC)          4x

pyw (PC)     

pyw (RD)         3x 

pyv (RD)          4x

pyv (BM)         14x                  

pew (BK)          6x            

pew (TH)         8x   

pew (SA)          2x

peu (CW)      

pyw (CW)   

pew (CW)        2x

pew (Chirgwin) 

piụa (Lhuyd)  3x

pu (Lhuyd)                  

piụ (Lhuyd)                

piu (Lhuyd)     4x               

peu (Lhuyd)    2x      

pee (J.Boson)  

pu (J.Boson)  

piu (Pryce)                

piua (Pryce)    5x

pua (Pryce)                 

pyv (Pryce)                 

pyw (Pryce)     3x        

pyu (Pryce)                 


“Is gwyw 'worthy' an yw word?

It occurs as guew at BK 204, 835, 1320, etc.”


SWF gwiw ‘worthy’

gyw (PA)          3x

gweff (PA)  

gvyw (OM)        

guyw (OM)      2x

guyv (PC)         5x

gvyw (PC)    

gwyw (PC)   

gvyw (RD)        2x

guyw (RD)        2x

gvyf (BM)   

guyff (BM)  

gvew (BK)        2x

gwew (BK)       2x

gyvyw (BK) 

gvyv (BK) 

gwev (BK)   

gvyw (BK)        3x 

wyw (BK) 

gwyv (BK)   

gweffa (CW)  

guyw (Pryce)   2x


Yes, gwiw was also spelt with <ew> for the same reason as the other cases, because English <ew> could also stand for /ɪʊ/ as ME /ɪʊ/ and /ɛʊ/ had fallen in with each other. We see 15th and 16th century gwyw (PC) and in the 16th century also gwew (BK).   

The spellings with <f> and <ff> are also interesting and I can imagine two possible explanations for this. One, /iw/ may have been in (free?, dialectal?) variation with /iv/, or two, a comparative or superlative form may have assimilated the old cluster */iwhaµ/ > [efːə] whence possibly a newly formed */gwiːv/ or */gweːv/.


“I really don't understand what is meant by your request.”


I wanted to know whether you accept the historical, phonological and orthographical distinctiveness of lyw-words and bew-words.


“I believe that Cornish (both Middle and Late) had <yw> [Iw] and <ew> (e.g. tew 'thick').”


I agree.


“I also believe that the first of these was frequently written <ew> and in many cases <u>.”




“There was never in Middle or Late Cornish a threefold series /iw Iw ew/.”


I agree. There was, however, an earlier threefold series. By MC the latter two had fallen in with each other.


“In consequence the spelling <iw> is as unnecessary as it is inauthentic.



It’s not inauthentic, after all <iw> occurs in TH. It’s just very rare because mediaeval scribes would have resisted writing <iu> or <iw> because of minim. The SWF has to distinguish a threefold series, this could be called an archaism or historicising, but I believe any Cornish orthography needs to distinguish lyw-words and bew-words. Writing <lyw> and <byw> in the same text in an orthography that claims to be phonetic or even phonemic is, in my view, incorrect. It’s OK in an orthography that merely claims to normalise traditional spellings and has no claim to phonemicity.  



“On 2010 Du 23, at 16:38, Daniel Prohaska wrote:

Please Nicholas, explain why lyw-words and byw/bew-words are different historically, have different LC reflexes and shouldn’t be distinguished (by whatever graphs)?”


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