[Spellyans] gawas 'to get'

Michael Everson everson at evertype.com
Thu Sep 8 18:38:12 BST 2011

On 8 Sep 2011, at 17:36, Hewitt, Stephen wrote:

> Your argument presupposes that there was an opposition between /ð/ and /θ/. The orthographical traditions suggest extremely strongly that there wasn’t.

I don't agree, because English also did not and does not distinguish between /ð/ and /θ/ orthographically. 

> Just as intervocal or post-sonorant /s/ and /f/ became [z] and [v], I suspect much the same happened with /θ/.

But we're talking about the final segment in unstressed syllables. Nicholas has written elsewhere about how the evidence shoes that /f/ did not voice as a final segment in unstressed syllables. 

/s/ and /z/ in final position are difficult, but the problem is that some finals are English plurals <-ys> and some e.g. inherited participle endings <-ys>. 

> Certainly Old Breton /θ/ in those positions became breathily voiced in Middle Breton: /ð̤/; /θ/ was only found under conditions of provection: /koːð̤, koθɔx/ ‘old, older’. The /θ/ <zz, zh, -tz>, /ð/ <z>  and /ð̤/ <z> phonemes appear to have been maintained well into the 18th and even early 19th centuries, when they finally fell together with /s < θ/, /z < ð in Leon/, /h < θ, ð̤ in Gwened/ and /- < ð outside Leon/. Just as /v̤ < f/ in the southern two-thirds of Brittany became confused with /v/, I believe that /ð̤/ and /ð/ became confused in Leon before both coalescing with /z/ under French influence (there is testimony of English-like dental fricatives among poor people in Leon in the first half of the 19th century, unlike good “bourgeois” speakers, who had /z/. Why would such “neo-lenition” not have affected /θ/ in Cornish?

Remember that in Cornwall there was the influence of English phonology, just as in Brittany there was the influence of French. 

> The confusion of graphemes suggests it very strongly. The only evidence for distinct /θ/ and /ð/ in Middle and Late Cornish is Lhuyd’s transcription, which may have been influenced by his knowledge of Welsh.
> Surely it is unlikely that, at least internally, /f, s, x/ should become /v, z, h/, but that /θ/ should not become /ð/.

But we're talking about the final segment in unstressed syllables. I've no problem with meneth pl menydhyow.

Michael Everson * http://www.evertype.com/

More information about the Spellyans mailing list