[Spellyans] tavas in early Middle Cornish

Daniel Prohaska daniel at ryan-prohaska.com
Thu Jul 14 12:42:58 IST 2011


-----Original Message-----
From: spellyans-bounces at kernowek.net [mailto:spellyans-bounces at kernowek.net] 
On Behalf Of Michael Everson
Sent: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 8:26 PM
To: Standard Cornish discussion list
Subject: Re: [Spellyans] tavas in early Middle Cornish
 
“On 13 Jul 2011, at 18:54, Hewitt, Stephen wrote:
 
> Such an opposition is extremely stable in European Portuguese:
> <banqueta> /bɐ̃ˈketɐ/ ‘banquet’
> <banquete> /bɐ̃ˈketə/ ‘foot-stool’
> The /ə/ is often realized halfway towards [ɨ], thus helping to keep them distinct.
 
Very well, but the phonology of European Portuguese is very complex. And those are open syllables. 
 
> As Dan has shown us, such an opposition is also stable in German.
 
He didn't show it; he just said that it was. There are lots of dialects of German of course. I'm guessing the ɐ is the -er and the ǝ is the -e. Which are also open syllables.”
 
Yes, this is not some obscure dialect of German, but the standard language:
<reite> /ˈraitə/ [ˈʀaetʰə] ‘(I) ride’;
<Reiter> /ˈraitər/ [ˈʀaetʰɐ] ‘rider’;
 
The distinction is maintained, usually by dropping the schwa, in the dialects such Northern Germany [riːtʰ] : [ˈriːdɛ], Vienna [ʀæet] : [ˈʀæetɐ]. It would be interesting to know what the Highest Allemannic dialects in the Swiss do, I can only guess, because it would depend on what verbal class <reiten> would belong to and there are three possibilities with two first person endings: *[ˈritu] or *[ˈritɛ] which would probably contrast with *[ˈritɛr(ɛ)] or something similar – you mentioned the wealth of dialects in German ;-)
 
“Dan says */ˈtavɛz/ > */ˈtavəz/ > LC */ˈtævɐz/ though I don't know what periods he posits the first to. And he doesn't give a complete chain.”
 
Well I was giving the chain as complete as it was necessary for our discussion.  
 
“One might say */ˈtavot/ > */ˈtavœts/ > */ˈtavɛts/ > */ˈtavəz/ > LC */ˈtævɐz/. 
Or */ˈtavot/ > */ˈtavɔts/ > */ˈtavəz/ > LC */ˈtævɐz/.”
 
I’m sure it was OC */ˈtavɔd/ or */ˈtavœd/ with final /d/ as /t/ would have been lenited before the suffix was dropped in Late British, (cf. W tafod, B teod). I can’t say whether assibilation happened before fronting of /ɔ/ > /œ/ or after, but I assume the latter, so we have assibilation /d/ > /ʣ/: /ˈtavœʣ/ > /ˈtavœz/ > /ˈtavɛz/ between ca. 1200 and 1350. Then /ˈtavəz/ thereafter. The latter form is basically the phonological shape as it survived into LC with realisations such as the suggested [ˈtævɐz], but also considering all the nuances of a fronted stressed /a/ and a lowered, a-coloured /ə/. I shouldn’t have given the phonological form /ˈtævɐz/ in my first post, I meant LC [ˈtævɐz] for /ˈtavəz/. 
 
“I don't think that the single attestation in OM suggests /ɛ/ so strongly.” 
 
It’s there, it’s attested, it existed. I have absolutely nothing against the spelling <tavas> or <tavaz> - they are attested and authentic and linguistically explicable. By the same token the spelling <taves> is. There is nothing wrong with <taves>, which is what I have been trying to point out several times here on this list. Whatever your reason for disliking this form, the SWF hasn’t been able to find a consensus and allows both <taves> and <tavas> - an unnecessary set of variants in my opinion.  
 
“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.”
 
Yes, that is the question. It was, however, decided as one of the rules for the SWF. One can like this rule or not, think it is unnecessary or not. All Cornish orthographies distinguish more unstressed vowels in writing than in the spoken word, take <ow holon> ‘my heart’  and <ow holan> ‘my salt’ – I say [ə ˈhɔlɐn] for both. UC, UCR, KK, and KS make this distinction, Gendall’s RLC has <colan> and <holan> respectively and doesn’t. One could ask why UCR and KS do although the recommended pronunciations are /ˈkɔlən/ and /ˈhɔlən/ respectively. KK actually (rightly or wrongly) proposes a difference in pronunciation: /ˈkɔlɔn/ and /ˈholan/.
The e ~ o alternation in -ek ~ -ogyon is similar to -es ~ -osow on a systematic level, so here’s the underlying ‘sense’, though probably only to someone with experience in historical linguistics, not to the average learner.
Dan
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