[Spellyans] 'every day'

nicholas williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Thu Aug 4 11:01:50 IST 2011

I have just come across pupteth used by Nance himself. In An Balores (1930) he writes Ha pupteth oll y a wre hy ladra and the English translation facing says 'And every day they robbed it'.
The use of ladra is incorrect here, since ladra means 'steal'. 'To rob' in Cornish is robbya:

Ny yl den mones then fer na vova robijs in suer BM 2063-64. 

The root of robbya is well established in Cornish because robior 'raptor' is attested in OCV.
Could it be that Nance's purism led him to use ladra rather than robbya and thus make an error?

Nance's Cornish in An Balores is rather imperfect. Presumably in 1930 he was still working out the details of UC.
Among further infelicities in the work one might cite:

page 1

An justys, yu esedhes, a-lavar 'The justice, who is seated, speaks'. The Cornish as it stands can only mean 'The justice is seated, speaks'.

rag an ydhyn drok-na 'those wicked birds' should really have been an drok-ydhyn-na.

le mayth esa trygys an balores voghosak 'where the poor chough lived'. The sense of 'poor' here is 'pitiful, wretched' but in Cornish bohosak means 'impoverished, indigent' only. Truethek might have been a better word here.

Ny, *an dus Kernow 'We, the people of Cornwall'; this is mistaken and should read Ny, tus Kernow. Oddly he has tus Kernow 'the folk of Cornwall' a few lines later.

Pandr'a-dal bos Arthur bew, marow mar pe y davas? 'What is the use of Arthur being alive, if his tongue is dead?' The syntax is curious. Pandr'a dal is present indicative, so the condition is a real one in present time. Nance would have been wiser to have written marow mars yu y davas 'if his language is dead'. Though in typical fashion Nance inverts. It might have been simpler to write: mars yu marow y davas.

An edhen dek gwyryon-ma, kemmys a garsyn, marow yu 'This lovely innocent bird, we loved so much, is dead'. There are two Nancean inversions here: kemmys a garsyn and marow yu. It might have been simpler to have written a garsyn kemmys, yu marow. Though perhaps again the verb might well have been a garen kemmys with the imperfect. The real problem here is that edhen is masculine and should not, I think, be followed by lenition in the adjective. An edhen tek gwyryon might have been preferable.

Nyns-on-ny devedhys omma rak golsow dhe ufereth a'n par-na 'We haven't come here to listen to stuff like this.' Nance seems to have forgotten here that the verbal noun is golsowes not golsow and that the verb is followed by orth, not dhe: golsowugh orth iubyter agis tassens an berth north BM 2327-28.

page 4
Jowan Connek, an den es ow-sevel ena, o, yndella a-gowsas 'it was Jack Smart, the man that stands there, that said so.'
This sentence is unclear without reference to the English. An den is definite, so the verb after it should perhaps have been usy ow sevel.
O yndella a gowsas is intended to mean 'was he who spoke thus', but this is not immediately clear. For clarity's sake Nance might have inserted an antecedent before a-gowsas and perhaps might have dispensed with the inversion as well: o an den a gowsas yndella. Even so, the sentence is not really correct. The man spoke once on one occasion. It might have been better to have written Jowan Connek, usy ow sevel ena, a vue an den a gowsas yndella. Nance seems never to have got the hang of the difference between o and bue 

A ylta sy gul kepar del leversys y vos y'th hallos dh'y wul? 'Can'st thou do as thou said'st that it was in thy power to do?'; y vos y'th hallos dh'y wul seems unnecessarily complicated and the dhe in dh'y wul is not justified. One could equally well have written kepar del leversys y vos y'th hallos y wul. Indeed the simplest translation of the English would have been A ylta sy gul kepar del leversys ty dhe allos gul?

Saw my a-lavaras dedhy [sic], yn tefry, yth-esa onen a'm kentrevogyon ow-leverel y-halsa gul yndella 'But I told her, indeed, there was one of my neighbours saying he could do so.' In reported speech in the past one does not use the conditional but the imperfect; cf. taw an el a bregewthy a'n wethen hag a'y vertv a'y frut a wrello dybry y fethe kepar ha dev 'silence, the angel preached whoever should eat of the fruit of from the true and of its power, would be like a god' OM 229-32. It might have been more accurate to have written: Saw my a lavaras dedhy yn tefry, yth esa onen a'm kentrevogyon ow leverel y hylly gul yndella.

Pan vy sy ef, ytho, cows dhem, a goweth Pencales mas… 'Since thou be he, then, say to me, good friend Hardhead…'
Cows is followed by orth not dhe. But the sense requires lavar, not cows. The problem here, however, is the beginning of this sentence. Pan vy sy, pan followed by the present subjunctive, can only mean 'when thou art, shalt be'. But the sense required here is present indicative. Hardhead is who he says he is. It might have been better to have written: Aban os jy/osta ef. 

Na-allaf yn-gwyryoneth, syr arluth justys, na nefra ny-wruga leverel y halsen-vy gul tra a'n par-na. Again y halsen should really have been y hyllyn. The main difficulty is that nefra is not used with verbs in the past tense. This is clear from all the texts right until the death of the language because William Bodinar writes: No rig avee biscath gwelles lever cornoack 'I never saw a Cornish book'. Nance should have written na bythqueth ny-wruga leverel or perhaps na ny wruga bythqueth leverel.

That is enough, though it should be noted that Nance says an traow-ma 'these things' on the next page (p. 8). Traow is unattested in traditional Cornish, the plural of tra being tacklow or tacklennow.

Nance was a meticulous scholar and did great work for Cornish. Unlike Jenner, however, he was not a natural linguist. Nance did not start working on Cornish until the 1920s when he was almost fifty. One gets the feeling when reading his Cornish that it is a bit of a struggle for him. He hides behind inversions, convoluted syntax and linguistic purism, because he is not really at his ease in Cornish. His older contemporary, Jenner, and his younger contemporary, Caradar, were far better linguists than he. One wrote a ground-breaking handbook, the other wrote the best introduction to Cornish (Cornish Simplified) to say nothing of Nebes Whethlow Ber, Whethel an Seyth Den Fur, An Awayl herwyth Sen Mark and Trystan hag Ysolt. Nance wrote an Balores and Lyver an Pymp Marthus Seleven. Errors aside, neither is much fun to read. Jenner and Smith both had a wide knowledge of other Celtic languages which Nance seems to have lacked. Regrettably Nance dominated the revival rather than either of them. In my view, this was a great pity.


On 2011 Est 3, at 20:11, Ray Chubb wrote:

> To be honest I was unaware of 'pupteth' in Nance and have always used 'pup deth', I suspect that many other speakers do the same because Nance 38 was not generally available until 1990.

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