[Spellyans] puns, pens

Daniel Prohaska daniel at ryan-prohaska.com
Sat Jul 16 16:20:05 IST 2011

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

On Behalf Of nicholas williams
Sent: Saturday, July 16, 2011 1:19 PM
To: Standard Cornish discussion list
Subject: [Spellyans] puns, pens
“The vowel of the Cornish word for 'pound' is not clear to me. Cornish puns
must be the same word as Welsh punt.” 
I would tend to agree.
“And this is probably identical with Irish punt, punta. It would seem that
the word was borrowed into Welsh and Cornish from Old English pund (with a
long vowel).” 
OE originally had a short vowel in pund (cf. OFrisian pund, OSaxon pund,
German Pfund); the vowel only became long at the end of the OE period (10th
– 11th c.), /nd/ (OE pund, bindan > pu¯nd, bi¯ndan > pound, bind), along
with other instances of vowel lengthening before homorganic clusters /ld/
(Anglian OE ald > a¯ld > ModE old), /mb/ (OE climban > cli¯mban > ModE
climb), /rð/ (OE eorðe > e¯orðe > earth), /rl/ (OE eorl > e¯orl > earl),
/rn/ (OE leornian > le¯ornian > learn). 
Cornish and Welsh must have borrowed OE pund after the lengthening to pu¯nd,
as borrowing the short vowel would likely have given Welsh **pwnt. As of the
latter half of the 6th century Late British would not have had a long [u?]
as older Brit. *u¯ (< au, eu, ou, oi, + Lat. u¯) had become /y/. I’m
assuming Welsh (and Cornish) speakers would have substituted their /y/ when
pronouncing OE pu¯nd. 
“The borrowing must have been early enough for the vowel to front to [y] in
Brythonic and for the final [nd] to become [nt]. This then was assibilated
in Cornish to [ns].”
See above, the fronted vowel may have been substitution. The absence of the
etymon in Breton may indicate a later borrowing into W and C, as an early
borrowing would also have been part of Breton. It is always possible that
the word was lost in Breton later without ever having been recorded. 
“The attested forms in the Cornish texts are puns, punsov, bynsow, pens.
What is the evidence for SWF peuns, peunsow?”
The evidence for SWF peuns is the LC form pens, penz; MC /œ/ > LC /?/ where
MC freuquently writes <u> for /œ/; hence the assumption that LC <e> would go
back to MC /œ/ rather than /y/. However LC /?/ and /?/ were not always kept
separate. Pryce also record a curious poyns, poynsew but this may be a
contamination with poys ‘weight, pound weight’.
On the other hand I see no other example how and why OE pund or pu¯nd should
have become Prim.C */p?nt/ > OC */pœnt/ > MC */pœnz/. So, while the LC form
penz suggests *peuns, I find it very doubtful. The alternative is always to
allow MC variant puns and LC variant pens.
“In BK we find try myl bowns i’n blethan (BK 2103). Is this the plural of
pownd < NE pound?
Mil is normally followed by the singular and indeed we find Awos myl buns ny
vynsen at BK 1211. Is bowns a spelling for *buns contaminated by English
Yes, I should think it is a contamination of puns with the vocalism of
English pound.
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