[Spellyans] 'pound' in Cornish

nicholas williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Mon Sep 12 09:40:19 BST 2011

The Cornish word for ‘pound’ (money and weight) is puns; cf. Welsh punt.
Puns is attested 5 times, buns once, pvns once; the plural punsov occurs once; 
In Later Cornish u unrounds to [i] <y> and we find bynsow ‘pounds’ at CW 740.
In Late Cornish one finds pens x 2, penz x 11.

George, however, thought that MC [u] meant eu and that
LC e in pens was a result of unrounding. KK and in consequence the SWF write *peuns, *peunsow.  
These forms do not account for CW bynsow, nor do they agree with the Welsh form punt. There is no Breton equivalent.
They have the further disadvantage in that English speakers pronounce them with a long vowel, when the vowel is short.

We have pyns(ow) in CW and pens, penz in further later texts.
We seem therefore to have an alternation pyns ~ pens.
It is not uncommon in Cornish at all periods for [i] to alternate with [e] before [ns]. Here are some random examples.

kyns PA 51a ~ kens PA 254b ‘before’
prince BM 3899 ~ prence BM 516 ‘prince’
myns a vynny BM 2576 ~ mens a vynny PC 590 ‘as much as you want’
dyns BK 493 ~ dens SA 60 ‘teeth’
syns PC 1773 ~ sens BM 4308 ‘holds’.
yns BK 279 ~ ens  TH 16a [not imperfect!] 'they are'.

I assume that MC puns was [pyns]. When the u unrounded, pyns [pins] alternated with pens and the Later spelling <pens> was the result.

George’s *peuns, *peunsow, is, I believe, without basis.


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