[Spellyans] gawas 'to get'

Michael Everson everson at evertype.com
Thu Sep 8 21:01:43 BST 2011

On 8 Sep 2011, at 18:36, Daniel Prohaska wrote:

> Yes. Welsh influence is observable in Lhuyd’s descriptions, but there also many genuinely Cornish features he describes. So, whatever you say, his spellings with final <dh> in word-final position in unstressed syllables cannot be dismissed as such without unambiguous proof to the contrary from other writers, and that is impossible to provide as the native writers didn’t distinguish between /θ/ and /ð/. Am I repeating myself? Sorry.

I think that it is because of his Welsh that the fact that he wavers between -th and -dh in final unstressed syllables is suspect. As a Welshman with -dd and -th he will certainly never have written -th in meneth unless he heard it. But he might easily have written menedh by analogy with his Welsh. If he'd heard both in free variation, I would think that he would have mentioned it. 

>> “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>.
>> Even if he didn't hear it, he might think he did because that's the corresponding segment in Welsh.”
> Just here, or wherever it doesn’t suit your particular opinion of Cornish phonological developments?

(That seems unnecessarily snide.) 

I think that on balance, the evidence suggests that it is in the question of devoicing in final unstressed segments that Lhuyd is unreliable and where he assumes that Cornish is like his Welsh. Nicholas has shown this with -f which is [f]~Ø and not [v]. He and I think that with -th it is [θ]~Ø and not [ð]. 

> He heard more native traditional Cornish than we unfortunately ever will. It’s not that I want to believe him, or justify someone else’s theory, as you so often hint at, - it’s just there in the sources we have, whether we explain it away by implying Welsh influence or not. I’m certainly not taking it at face value, but <dh> occurs too often in Lhuyd to ignore it.

I don't ignore it, but I think that like -f it can be explained by influence from his Welsh. If as you say in final unstressed position it was -ð, there's no reason for him ever to have written -θ. But if it was -θ or Ø, the simple explanation for his -ð is the same as his -v: he expected the same sound as in Welsh, and so wrote -dh.  

>>> “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).
>> Keith Bailey plays the Breton game in his version of KK, writing voiced consonants in final position in unstressed syllables and evidently devoicing them in absolute auslaut and voicing them in sandhi. Your suggestion is more or less the same thing, isn't it?”
> No, it isn’t, so you don’t score any points with this remark and attempt to through me off. In Keith’s books Cornish sandhi works exactly as in Breton. I never said this was the case.

If you say that /ð/ is voiced at the end of unstressed syllables in voiced environment then you are saying "in sandhi with the following word" which is the same thing Bailey is saying. 

>> “I'm not suggesting that you're a conlanger like Keith, but the argument is the same.”
> No, it is not. I looked at the sources and there are indications that /ð/, /v/ and /z/ existed in this environment.

Are you writing this up for Cornish Studies?

>> “And in this matter, he's consistent, writing mab and methewneb, neb and heveleb, hweg and karreg, mog and galloseg, dov and warnav, nev and enev, ov and esov, gradh and nowydh, badh and gelwydh.”
> Yes, in a problematic way…

In a Breton way. What's problematic about it?

> “On the other hand we write mab and methewnep, neb and hevelep, wheg and carrek, mog and gallosek, dov and warnaf, nev and enef, ov and esof, gradh and nowyth, badh and gelwyth, according to the standard analysis: that final consonants in unstressed syllables are devoiced.”
> Whose standard? Yours? Nicholas’? 

I consider Nicholas' analysis to be the standard analysis. He has written more than anyone on the phonology of Traditional as well as Revived Cornish. George wrote a big book once which informed his "orthographic profiles", but I do not believe that his description of Cornish phonology is "the standard analysis" regardless of the use of the KK orthography by some Revivalists. 

> Well, without the hard facts it is impossible to say for sure and all remains theory.

Nevertheless Revived Cornish exists and has a phonology which is consistent with the standard analysis. 

> “Your suggestion, Dan, that ð/θ operates differently from the other consonants isn't, in my opinion, convincing, or tempting.”
> I said ‘fricatives may have maintained the opposition’ – that’s not just one consonant. This is a whole set of consonants. We know from native sources at least that /z/ was possible in LC.

Yes, but that one is problematic as there are two sources for final unstressed [s] and [z] in Cornish: inherited words and English plurals. 

>> “The standard analysis is easier for learners, and with the pronunciation of Revived Cornish. Everyone I heard at Gorseth Kernow says [ˈɡɔrsəθ] -- everyone, including those who learned KK.”
> Because the original spelling in Revived Cornish was <Gorseth> in UC. The pronunciation was passed on. Whether it is correct, in the sense  that native traditional Cornish speakers would have pronounced it, we cannot say.

Do you wish to change the pronunciation of Revived Cornish in this matter? I think it is unlikely 

> “Why should there be a special rule for -dh that people can devoice it? Why shouldn't they just write -th as they say it?”
> Didn’t say that. Said ‘fricatives’.

I'm still happy to write -v and -dh in monosyllables and -f and -th in polysyllables. And I'm happy to leave -s alone. And I don't think that an orthography for Cornish that writes -v and -dh generally is better, or more accurate, or more useful, than the one which we are using. 

> “I think that the only reason we're discussing this is that Ken George thought to impose his interest in etymology on Cornish.”
> Uh, no. That’s what we had our tiff over before, remember?

Uh, yes. Because if the standard analysis had been adopted in the SWF nobody'd be worrying about voicing in sandhi. 

> “That's the only reason -dh is in the SWF in unstressed syllables, and the only reason you bothered to look for a rationale for it.”
> Maybe, but it got me thinking.

Exactly why I said the only reason we're talking about it is Ken's interest in etymology.

> It doesn’t mean I need to rationalise it. The evidence is there, in Lhuyd, whether I try to rationalise something or not. Closing your eyes saying no, no, no, won’t make it go away.

I am not closing my eyes to anything, thanks very much. I disagree with your analysis of the data. However, I ask again, are you writing this up comprehensively for Cornish Studies, so it can be evaluated?

> “You say you think you've found one in Lhuyd; I say that the evidence really doesn't support that view.”
> What view. He writes <dh> and <v> and <z> in that position – as well as <th> and <f> and <s>. Maybe it’s an opposition, maybe it’s free variation. It’s still there.

But dh/th and v/f are easy to explain given Lhuyd's Welsh. z/s are not, but then Welsh wouldn't interfere there in any case. This is why Nicholas and I treat z/s differently from the other two. 

>>> “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.
>> It is more prudent to spell them with <th>,”
> Why?

Because it is congruent with the Revived language for one thing. And because it is paradigmatic and requires no special rule for voicing or devoicing. 

> “and, if desired, voice them in pronunciation by some rule, if you want to do that.”
> Sorry, that’s not only illogical, that’s also impossible for a non-linguist learner. Such a person would need to know where /ð/ is possible in words spelt with <th>. It’s much easier the other way round, by spelling <dh> and saying it’s pronounced /θ/ in word-final position of unstressed syllables.

It's much easier for the learner, linguist or not, to write -dh and -v in stressed monosyllables and -th and -f in final position in unstressed syllables. 

See, I don't think we want to teach people to start voicing across word-boundaries (as they do in Breton). First we start by saying "Write meneð, but say meneθ except voice it to meneð when the next word begins with a vowel" and the next thing the learner will do is generalize this for all the other consonants....

So not only am I not convinced by your reading of Lhuyd, but I think that this scheme will end up causing confusion where none really exists in the Revived language. 

>> “We do not want to do that, and we do not teach that pronunciation in our books.”
> So?! If you are confronted with something that isn’t provable, in what way is your theory more valid than someone else’s, except your own opinion on likelihood. It’s difficult to understand…

From a practical point of view, we want to give good advice to learners. We are satisfied that -f and -θ in unstressed syllables is a feature of the Revived language now, and we don't think that this needs to be changed. Moreover, we don't agree that your analysis offers enough grounds to want to make such a change. This is why we consider that the distribution of f/v and th/dh in the SWF needs to be changed. 

The Grand Bard says Gorseθ. He learned to write Gorsedh. No reason to write -dh when the pronunciation is -th. Same thing with modrep and the rest. 

>> “There is no reason -th should differ from -k and -p and -t and -f in unstressed position.”
> I gave you a reason. I said fricatives retained a voiced/voiceless opposition while stops didn’t.

Well, put all the evidence together and publish it in Cornish Studies if you have the courage of your convictions. Because my reading of the evidence does not lead me to the same conclusion. 

>> “Having looked at Lhuyd myself and listened to your arguments, I am still convinced that etymological [ð] is devoiced to [θ] in final position in unstressed syllables.”
> It’s an opinion. Belief, if you will. No more, no less. The possibility that there was an opposition exists.

It doesn't exist in the Revived language though. 

> You want to see your theory codified in writing, while I want to keep options open and let the teacher/learner/speaker make his or her own choice, because I, too, cannot say for certain that my opinion/belief is correct.

We are, as you know, writing Cornish with f/v and th/dh distributed as discussed. We've just published 815,000 words using that orthography. I hope you enjoy them. ;-)

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

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