[Spellyans] byghan

nicholas williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Wed Sep 7 09:45:36 BST 2011

I pointed out recently that byghan, the UC and KK way of spelling the word for 'small' was not attested in the texts.
Craig rightly observed that <byghan> was  not unknown in place-names.
It should be observed that the SWF does not write <byghan> but <byhan> and <bian>.

The objection to <byghan> is not without force. If one listens regularly to Radyo an Gernewegva,
one hears people (I name no names) who have learnt UC or KK trying to say ['bix at n] and instead
saying ['bik at n]. 

The fault is certainly in the spelling. Nance himself, however, in Cornish for All (1949, page 2) says:

"gh is a faintly guttural h, tending to become quite silent, e.g. mogh ha porghelly would be almost
moha purelly. Maraz(ion) preserves the sound of Marghas; what is historically the same sound—the strong
ch of Welsh, the weaker c'h of Breton—in some positions is made h in Cornish, e.g. hollan, while Welsh
chw, Breton c'hou, is made wh, e.g. whel, whylas and tends to sound as w, e.g. dheugh-why was also spelt

Similarly Caradar spells the word byghan with a macron over the y (Cornish Simplified 1955, page 18) but tells his learners
to pronounce it bee'-an. 

If the -gh- is indeed silent, then <byan> or at least <byhan> would have been better spellings in UC.

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