[Spellyans] iw

Hewitt, Stephen s.hewitt at unesco.org
Wed Nov 24 14:40:12 GMT 2010


North Welsh, that’s right. I’m not certain that the motivation is correctly interpreted – the “clear y” vowel became centralized quite independently of its use in the diphthong.

 

For Breton, no, the distinction is in both the nucleus and the coda. It is very clear, with no possibility of confusion.

 

In éw the first part is higher than standard /e/, but not quite /ɪ/ and not centralized at all. (I say not quite /ɪ/, but my English wife finds the Treger Breton pronunciation of deg [de̝k] “ten”, with a short vowel clearly higher than cardinal 2, absolutely hilarious, as she hears it as English “dick”.)

 

In ew the first part is probably mid-way between standard /e/ and /ɛ/; it is also somewhat lengthened in stressed final syllables.

 

The closing, rounding diphthongs <aw, ew, aou (ow), éw, iw> [aˑo, ɛˑo, əu, eu, iu] all head towards the same imaginary point off the right edge of the vowel chart; because the last three start somewhat higher, it is convenient to note the coda with [u] rather than [o].

 

Once you have heard the difference between béw and blew, you could not call them close together.

 

So a three-way opposition is quite possible, and even stable, as it seems to be present in a majority of Breton dialects.

 

That is not to say that this ought to apply to Cornish. I find the arguments for a two-way <yw/ew> distinction quite cogent. The KK <iw/yw/ew> opposition makes numerous KK <yw> words correspond to Breton <ew> rather than <éw>, which seems unlikely. Comparison with Breton and Welsh suggests to me that Cornish <iw> and <yw> did indeed fall together as <yw>, leaving an <yw>/<ew> opposition only.

 

Steve Hewitt

 

________________________________

From: spellyans-bounces at kernowek.net [mailto:spellyans-bounces at kernowek.net] On Behalf Of nicholas williams
Sent: Wednesday, November 24, 2010 3:11 PM
To: Standard Cornish discussion list
Subject: Re: [Spellyans] iw

 

Actually, Stephen, the three diphthongs in Breton seem to corroborate my thesis.

North Welsh has three diphthongs, but <yw> does not contain a high front vowel but a centralised one.

This is because the series /iw Iw ew/ was too crowded, so the middle diphthong has moved its nucleus backwards in the mouth.

In Breton the distinction to which you refer does not seem to be in the nucleus but in the coda.

Because the members of the series would otherwise be too close together, in those dialects that distinguish three diphthongs

one finds iw/ew/eo. I cannot see from the three maps for which you provided links that

there is anywhere a series iw/Iw/ew. The distinguishing feature of ew~éw is in the second part of the diphthong, not

the first. Have I understood this correctly?

If I have then my thesis stands. George's series /iw Iw ew/ is without parallel in Brythonic.

 

Nicholas

 

On 2010 Du 24, at 13:45, Hewitt, Stephen wrote:





Not true; that is Standard Breton, which is a fabrication with little authentic basis in the spoken language.

Even though this is not indicated in the main standard grammars, many dialects of Breton do in fact have a three-way opposition (the second term –éw found in a relatively small number of words).

 


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