[Spellyans] tavas in early Middle Cornish

Daniel Prohaska daniel at ryan-prohaska.com
Wed Jul 13 13:15:45 BST 2011

What is the source of the englyn? I was under the impression that it was
recorded by Lhuyd. Could he have been responsible for the Cymricisms? 
As for the unstressed <a> in <tavas> (BK, SA, Hawke, N.Boson, J.Boson,
Pryce), we have the OC form <tauot> (VC) which I take to mean */'tav?d/ or
*/'tavod/. The expected development would be */'tav?z/ > */'tav?z/ > LC
*/'tav?z/. Are you proposing that <taves> (OM) */'tav?z/ passed through a
development stage */'tavaz/ at the time of composition of the englyn before
going on to */'tav?z/ and */'tav?z/ after the prosodic shift?

From: spellyans-bounces at kernowek.net [mailto:spellyans-bounces at kernowek.net]

On Behalf Of nicholas williams
Sent: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 11:41 AM
To: Standard Cornish discussion list
Subject: [Spellyans] tavas in early Middle Cornish
In Cornish Studies 15 (2007) 11-26 I published an article on the Cornish
englyn. The best known example in Cornish of this metrical form is recorded
three times and begins An lavar coth yw lavar gwyr.
In my article I suggested that the original form of the englyn was probably:
An lavar coth yw lavar gwyr:
byth dorn re ver, byth tavas re hyr;
mes collas den heb davas y dyr.
Here there is alliteration in den, davas and dyr.
There is also internal rhyme between collas and davas.
It is even possible, though I did not suggest this in my article, that the
original form of the englyn may have been:
An lavar coth yw lavar gwyr:
byth dorn re ver, byth tavas re hyr:
mes collas den heb davas dyr
'The old saying is a true saying:
a hand is wont to be too short, a tongue is wont to be too long;
but the man without a tongue lost ground.'
Here the verb collas rhymes with davas and davas and dyr alliterate.
Dyr is lenited because it is the object of an inflected verb collas.
This syntax has not been attested in Cornish but is normal in Welsh.
The whole englyn, in whatever form, is archaic in the following ways.
1. It is in englyn metre, an inherited verse form, which is rare in Cornish.
2. The verbs byth, byth and collas are used without particle. This seems to
be a feature of gnomic verse.
3. There is alliteration and internal rhyme (common Brythonic features)
4. The word for 'short' is ber, rather than the more usual cot. Elsewhere in
Cornish ber is used only in fixed expressions like a ver spys.
Yet davas, with assibilated final, rather than Old Cornish tauot, shows that
the englyn was composed in Middle Cornish, .
I think it very likely that this englyn dates from the earlier part of the
Middle Cornish period.
I would put it in the early thirteenth century.
Notice that the word tavas has unstressed -a- in the englyn, which rhymes
with collas.
In the earliest Middle Cornish 'tongue' was tavas, not taves.
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