[Spellyans] Nicholas' review of the SWF Glossary (A-D)

nicholas williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Sun Aug 14 15:59:29 IST 2011

I have no preference for loan words. I just prefer items that we know formed part of the lexicon of the traditional language to borrowings and coinages. I am wholly unsympathetic to the argument that this or that item has been in use for eighty years and is thus part of Revived Cornish. We are reviving a language that was once spoken and written, and we should attempt as far as we can to speak and write it as
native speakers and writers did. 
I suspect many people ignore what is in traditional Cornish because they are unwilling or unable to read the texts. No one is compelled to read all Cornish literature at all. But I do think if someone has not read the texts, he or she should refrain from criticising lexical items or idioms that are attested. This is true for inflection as well as vocabulary.

Nance also reconstructed verbal forms unnecessarily. It is quite possible to do as the writers of traditional Cornish did and use the auxiliaries bos, gul, mydnes, gallos, godhvos and dos. Then inflected forms of other verbs are hardly necessary.

Nance's desire for full inflection in all verbs was regrettable. His willingness to ignore analogical forms as being 'incorrect' was even worse. Sometimes he didn't even understand analogical forms at all. At JCH §4, for example, Nance did not realise that Panna weale 'lesta geeal/Panna huêl allosti guîl 'What kind of work canst thou do?' contained the 2nd person singular present indicative gyllys of gallos. He thought it was the imperfect used as present. Yet it was obvious from such forms as rag ty ny vethys dowtyes 'thou shalt not be feared' CW 523 and cayme na vethys in della 'Cain, thou shalt not be thus' CW 1178 that the second singular desinence -yth was being reshaped as -ys by analogy with other tenses and the second singular present os of bos.

Nance's filling the Cornish verbal system with reconstructions was as inauthentic as it was unnecessary. It has been taken to its logical conclusion by Kesva an Tavas Kernowek in Cornish Verbs (3rd edition 2011). Here you will see such wholly improbable forms as dismykki, difeutthewgh and hwibensys. Moreover Cornish Verbs goes further than Nance in providing the defective verb pewy (KK *piwa) with autonomous forms. We thus find in Testament Nowydh an ro herwydh an pyth a *biwor mes nyns yw herwydh an pyth na *biwor, which is intended to mean 'the gift according to what is posessed but it is not according to that which is not possessed.' I don't think any speaker of traditional Cornish would have been able to make any sense of it. 

Cornish Verbs still contains *piwor, *piwer, piwvedhes, etc. which can hardly be called Cornish in any real sense. Cornish Verbs was first compiled by the late Ray Edwards. He had not apparently made any detailed study of the texts when he produced the work. In fact he based his lists on Browns UC grammar, which in turn was based on the paradigms in Cornish for All.
It is a pity, I believe, that Cornish Verbs is still being re-issued. Its relationship to the traditional language is at best tangential.


On 2011 Est 14, at 12:37, Daniel Prohaska wrote:

>  Many developments in RC are reactions to previous attempts at codifying the language. Nance reacted to Jenner’s Late Cornish based variety by going further into the past and concentrated on early Middle Cornish. Nicholas, your, I should almost say preference, for loan words is a reaction to the excessive purism that has been part of the lexical ‘Ausbau’ (and ‘Umbau’) of Cornish for the past 80 years, while George reacted to Nance’s preference in ‘mining’ Welsh for loans and loan translations by looking towards Breton, and Gendall reacted to Nance’s overuse of the letter <y> by getting rid of it altogether despite its being well attested in the LC material.

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