[Spellyans] gawas 'to get'

Daniel Prohaska daniel at ryan-prohaska.com
Thu Sep 8 15:00:20 BST 2011

   I hear your criticisms and indeed there is no justification for writing
SWF <nowyth> with <th> for voiceless /?/, but SWF <menydh> with <dh> for
voiced /ð/. These words should either be written <nowyth, menyth> or
<nowydh, menydh> to be consistent. 
   Having said that, it is far from certain and provable that the final
consonant in these unstressed syllables was indeed unvoiced /?/. Lhuyd’s
spellings show a voiced consonant in both words:
menydh in Lhuyd’s corpus:
with <dh>
monedh 3x
†menydh 2x
menedh 3x
with <th>
meneth  2x 
other graphs:
mener 2x 
nowyth in Lhuyd’s corpus:
with <dh>
with <th>
   Now it has frequently been stated by many, including Nicholas and
Michael, that Lhuyd’s spellings are owing to Welsh influence. But I have my
reservations about this assumption. It is just as possible that Lhuyd
actually heard [ð] in the words and transcribed them with <dh>. He also
writes them with <th> which he read in the texts that were available to him
and may also have heard [?]. This may mean that words final /ð/ may have
been voiced in some environments (e.g. at the end of stressed syllables
always, at the end of unstressed syllables in voiced environement), and
unvoiced in others (e.g. absolute final position in unstressed syllables and
in unvoiced environemts). 
   One way or the other, Lhuyd’s vidence cannot simply be discarded. To me
it is just as likely that Cornish had voiced [ð] in unstressed position as
it is likely that it didn’t. In the absence of native traditional speakers
we just don’t know, and may never know. 
   Since it is secure that Cornish at some point in history had voiced /ð/
in these words and those with similar etymology (derived from British /d/ or
/j/ in hiatus), it may be prudent to spell them with <dh> and, if desired,
devoice them in pronunciation by rule in unstressed syllables.
   Furthermore, since we have the alternating pair <ew> ~ <ow> (as in
bewnans ~ bownans) perhaps nowyth really belongs into this lexical set,
which would give SWF *newydh ~ nowydh. My rationale behind this is not just
attestations (newyth (PA), neu?edh (Lhuyd), neu?ydh (Lhuyd), newith
(Pryce)), but also derivation Common Celtic *nowijos > British *nowið- > Old
South-Western British *nøw?ð > OC *new?ð > MC <nowyth, newyth>. Schrijver
(in ‘Brythonic Celtic’, Munich Studies in Historical Linguistics, 2011)
poses the idea that in Cornish OSWBr /ø/ from i-affected /o/ may have
unfronted before /w/ rather than unrounded giving OSWBr *nøw?ð > OC *nœw?ð >
MC now?ð. But that would leave MC <newyth> unaccounted for, unless there was
dialectal variation, which is always a possibility. 
A further indication that nowyth may have been part of the bewnans ~ bownans
lexical set is that original ow + vowel became ['u?.?] in LC as we find in
MC <lowen> > LC <looan, lûan>. But we do not find LC **nooath or **nûadh.
This means that KS would probably have to spell nêwyth ~ nôwyth.
Thanks for bearing with me, 
-----Original Message-----
From: spellyans-bounces at kernowek.net [mailto:spellyans-bounces at kernowek.net]

On Behalf Of Craig Weatherhill
Sent: Thursday, September 08, 2011 9:54 AM
To: Standard Cornish discussion list
Subject: Re: [Spellyans] gawas 'to get'
“With regard to final -dh, it was my understanding the SWF was devised with
an aim of being unambiguous to learners.  There are several places where it
fails to achieve this, one being the inconsistent use of -dh and -th.  For
example, it has nowyth, but also menydh.  Surely, in these bisyllables where
the final is unstressed these should both be shown as unvoiced -th, only
going to -dh when a further syllable is added, e.g. menydhek, 'hilly'.
In monosyllabic words, where obviously stressed, we have fordh, but also
porth.  Some claim that voicing is indicated by the traditional dropping of
the final, as in for' (for'eglos, 'churchway'), but this isn't so, either.
Porth is always spelt with unvoiced -th (although there are early spellings
with pord), and yet there are numerous instances of por'  (Par, Por'loe,
To someone like me, the use of -th and -dh in SWF appears to be more a
matter of whimsy than of thought.  This needs to be addressed in 2013.
On 8 Gwn 2011, at 07:10, Daniel Prohaska wrote:
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> Ray a scrifas:
> “I have never liked final 'dh' and that is where the crux of the  
> matter lies. Clearly scholars cannot agree where final 'dh' should  
> be applied and no doubt there is also disagreement about where final  
> 'f' should be sounded as 'v'.  In view of this I prefer to stick to  
> the more authentic historical spellings.”
> Actually the scholars pretty much agree that the final ‘dh’ and ‘v’  
> were voiced word-finally in stressed syllables. There is some  
> dispute over whether they were also voiced word-finally in  
> unstressed syllables.
> Writing <f> or <ff> word finally rather than <v> or <u> word-finally  
> had to do with the scribal practices of the time, rather than with  
> accurate phonological representation. There were restrictions about  
> what <u, v> could mean in this position, and it was usually /u/ or / 
> w/, but not /v/.
> Perhaps Cornish originally had a similar system to Modern Breton,  
> where voiced consonants unvoice in absolute final position and in  
> unvoiced environments, while they remain voiced before a following  
> word beginning with a vowel and in voiced environments. This amount  
> of phonological detail is difficult to retrieve so it will always  
> remain a theory. This system, if it existed at all, broke down by  
> the Late Cornish period where final consonants (at least in stressed  
> syllables) appear to have become voiced and remained so even in  
> absolute final position.
> Ray, what you don’t like is the ‘look’ of final <dh> and <v>, and I  
> understand that. One can get very used to a certain look of a  
> spelling system and feel estranged when that changes.
> Dan
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