[Spellyans] tavas in early Middle Cornish

nicholas williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Wed Jul 13 21:30:53 IST 2011

Lhuyd published AB in 1707 but his Cornish material was collected in 1700.

Lhuyd makes it quite clear that the unstressed -ys of the MSS is either -ez or -az.
He says: 

"I am sensible that the Modern Pronunciation of the Cornish, does not confirm the Termination of this Participle's being always
in yz: For they generally end it in ez, Saying Kreiez, Called, Trehez, Cut, Miskemerez, Mistaken; Dylîez, Reveng'd, Guerhez, Sold, &c.,
and sometimes in az: As Ledhaz, Slain; Kyrtaz, Delayed; Guesgaz, Worn; tho' not seldom in yz: As Devedhyz, Come, Bidhyz, Drowned; Kelmyz, Bound; Huedhyz, Swoln." AB: 248b.

In the spoken Cornish of his day, then, Lhuyd heard three separate realisations of historic -ys of the verbal adjective, i.e. [ez], [iz] and [az].
I don't believe that the phonology of Cornish changed radically between Middle Cornish and the later period. It seems very likely
that -ys in the Middle Cornish period was sometimes pronounced as though it were -as. This explains the Middle Cornish spelling
malegas 'accursed' for *mylegys and the universal spelling benegas 'blessed' for benegys—in both cases the word was lexicalised and not felt
to be a verbal adjective.

It also explains why flehes 'children' is often spelt flehys but also flehas.
Notice also the following from the Middle Cornish texts:

calys x 8
cales x 7
calas x 6.

cleves x 24
clevas 7 [of which the first three are in the Passion Poem]

bestes  x 12
bestas x 14

benenes x 9
benenas x 12 [the first 7 examples are from the Passion Poem, the others are from TH and BK.]

Clearly -as for -es was not just a Late Cornish phenomenon.


On 2011 Gor 13, at 19:25, Michael Everson wrote:

> I don't think that the single attestation in OM suggests /ɛ/ so strongly. And I ask again, what practical good does this depth of etymologizing do for the orthography? I can't find sense in it in the broader context of the whole system. And I'm fairly familiar with that system.

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