[Spellyans] gawas 'to get'

nicholas williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Thu Sep 8 17:56:12 BST 2011

I was amused last Saturday in Helston to see some of the temporary notices directing us to GORSEDH KERNOW and others to GORSETH KERNOW.

We have, Dan, as you know, been round and round this question many times and tempers have frayed and intemperate language has been used.
One last point. We cannot tell the exact nature of final th/dh because native Middle Cornish and indeed Late Cornish had only one graph for writing both, i.e. <th>.
In this respect Lhuyd's dh ~ th was and remains useful and indeed was adopted by Gwavas and others.
The problem of dh ~ th is closely related to that of v ~ f, but v ~ f is a different question, since Middle Cornish to some degree and Late Cornish to a much greater  degree had two graphs: <v> and <f>.
The fact is that there are no examples at all of genev, uarnav, orthiv, ezhov 'I am' from any native writer of Cornish. They *all* come from Lhuyd.
Genev is nowhere attested in native Cornish but genevy is not uncommon, being attested six times in BM. Similarly wortha ve, ortha ve(e) is attested 7 times in CW and later texts.
Warnavy occurs once in BM. Tregear writes wortha ve, wartha ve and Mar petha ve.
This all makes me think that Lhuyd did indeed hear warnav, orthav and genev but as warna vy, ortha vy and gene vy but he syllabified wrongly, quite simply because of his own native Welsh speech habits. 

There is further evidence (we have been through all this before!): 
In CW we find genaffa 'with me' CW 271 and ny sewenaffa 'I shall not succeed' CW 1285.
These look to me like genef+ve and sewenaf+ve progressively assimilated.
Such assimilation could not have occurred unless the final segment in genef and sewenaf had been voiceless.

If we allow that genef and sewenaf contained a voiceless final continuant, it would be reasonable from a systematic point of view
to allow that nowyth, dyweth, meneth had voiceless finals. Of course in all cases of both -ef and -eth we have a further problem,
namely that the final segment is frequently lost and not just in LC. Tregear writes ran sheppardys, hen ew bugula devas at 33a, for example.
For 'mountain' Lhuyd gives menedh, which is what he expected to hear, but also mener, where the final consonant is r not th or dh. Moreover Lhuyd explicitly tells us that the plural used to end in -edh as in Welsh, e.g. in brederedh, abesteledh, eledh, but is currently in Cornish written -es and pronounced -ez (AB: 243a). Lhuyd is saying that final -edh did exist in Cornish once but no longer, since it has been changed to <es> [ez]. One of the etyma he cites is eledh 'angels'. We know from Rowe that in West Penwith the plural of this word was indeed elez:

Mero, Elez Neeue a desquethaz
mero Elez Neue theath tha Joseph
E ra ry tha e Eelez an Pohar an hanesta
ha mere Elez neve theth, ha droze thotha (all from Rowe)

This suggests that evidence from Lhuyd for eledh and therefore abesteledh, etc. is not what it seems.

All in all it seems simpler to me to posit k, p, th and f after unstressed vowels and g, b, dh and v after stressed ones.
s ~ z is a slightly different question and need not be settled here immediately, since many of the examples of final <s> are English
plurals with voiced [z].

Arguments about sandhi and what happens in Breton don't really convince me I am afraid. Breton is closely related to Cornish,
but its history is utterly different. Beside Breton does not retain -af having nasalised it to -añ, something which is unknown in Cornish. 


On 2011 Gwn 8, at 15:37, Daniel Prohaska wrote:

> If we look at the evidence it is as likely as it is unlikely. We don’t know. There is evidence that points towards Cornish having retained the distinction and some that indicates it may not have. I

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