[Spellyans] The Cornish word for 'Bible'

nicholas williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Sat Mar 26 10:07:50 GMT 2011


Some people are querying the use of Beybel for 'Bible' in Cornish and are pointing out that 
both UC and indeed UCR used Bybel. *Bybel is Nance's coinage and first appears in his 1938 Cornish-English Dictionary.

*Bybel (KK Bibel) is borrowed from Modern Breton Bibl and seems to me to be an impossible form in Cornish.

George in his most recent dictionary suggests that Bibel is from English from French.
Since the vowel is long [i:] the word would have been borrowed before the English Great Vowel Shift,
i.e. before the fifteenth century. But before the shift the word would have ended with final schwa,
and would have therefore have been borrowed into Cornish as [bi:bl@], written
<<Byble, Bybla, Bibla>>. This is the form in which the Middle English word was borrowed into Irish: Bíobla.

In the Cornish texts (OCV, PC, RD, Beunans Meriasek, Tregear, Sacrament an Alter, Lhuyd's Preface) the Bible is referred to as an scryptour or an scryptours. There are about 80 examples.

If the word 'Bible' was borrowed into Cornish from English, and there are no attested examples, it was almost certainly borrowed after the Reformation. It was as a result of the Reformation that the scriptures were translated into the vernacular and thus one-volume portable Bibles became common. Only after the Reformation would a word for 'Bible' have been necessary in Cornish.  If the word was borrowed into Cornish at or after the Reformation, it would have been taken from English and would have contained a diphthong in the stressed vowel: [b at ibl]. Such a form would naturally have been written <<Beybel>> in Cornish. This is exactly the form in which it appears in Welsh: Beibl. It is for this reason that our Cornish version of the Bible bears the title AN BEYBEL SANS.

The Cornish for 'Bible' is Beybel. Cornish *Bybla, *Bîbla from Middle English is a possibility (though unattested). UC, UCR Bybel, KK Bibel is, I believe, mistaken.

Nicholas

 
 
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