[Spellyans] convedhes 'to understand'

nicholas williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Mon Aug 22 14:36:31 IST 2011

Some revivalists dislike the word ùnderstondya for ‘to understand’ and prefer convedhes. Convedhes, however, is a Late Cornish word only and it really means ‘perceive, see, grasp’ as much as ‘understand’. Here are all the examples I can find:

sera ny won convethas ‘sir, I do not understand’ CW 1232
me ny allaf convethas y bosta ge ow hendas ‘I cannot understand that you are my grandfather’ CW 1610
gans dean penvo convethys worthaf ve sertan ny dale bos mellyes a vgh neb tra ‘when it is perceived by somebody, it will not be worth messing with me indeed above all things’ 1620
henna yth ew convethys der an discans es thymma reis gans an tas es a vghan ‘that can be understood by the teaching given to me by the Father above’ CW 2153-55
Der taklow minniz ew brez teez gonvethes ‘By little things is the mind of people perceived’ ACB E e 4v.

Lhuyd does not seem to know this word, and s.v. Intelligo ‘to perceive or understand’ he gives the Cornish word adzhan (i.e. aswon) AB: 72a.

We now have two examples of convedhes in its Middle Cornish form:

Ema Arthur devethys ha ny gansa canfethys ‘Arthur has come, and we perceived by him’ BK 2794-95
Rag kueth, pan i’n canfethis, me re jangyas ow holor ‘For grief, when I noticed it, I changed my colour’ BK  3129-30.

The verbal noun of this verb is unattested but it would probably have been *canfos or *canvos, cf. Welsh canfod ‘to perceive, to behold, to see’. Cornish *canfos, Welsh canfod are related to Old Irish cétbuid ‘act of seeing, sense’, Modern Irish céadfa ‘sense’, and are compounds of *cant- ‘with’, cf. Cornish gans ‘with’, and the verbal noun bos, bod ‘to be’. Canfos can therefore be set alongside the other compounds of bos ‘to be’ in Cornish, gothfos ‘to know’, wharfos ‘to happen’,  and *darfos ‘to happen’. 

The present future of *canfos would have been *canfethaf, *canfethyth, *canfyth and the verbal adjective was canfethys (see the first example from BK above). From this inflected stem canfeth- was extracted a new verbal noun *canfethes, which appears in CW and Pryce as convethes. The unstressed a in canfethes has been rounded by the following f/v. Notice also that Pryce’s form gonvethes seems to have acquired permanent initial lenition.

Since convedhes really means ‘to perceive, see’ rather than simply ‘to understand’, I shall continue to use ùnderstondya with a clear conscience.

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://kernowek.net/pipermail/spellyans_kernowek.net/attachments/20110822/b7acfcae/attachment-0001.html>

More information about the Spellyans mailing list