[Spellyans] SWF (t) and Maga web site

Michael Everson everson at evertype.com
Thu Aug 9 21:24:46 IST 2012


On 9 Aug 2012, at 15:14, Daniel Prohaska wrote:

>> *Piw rather than pyw,
> 
> I respect your sentiment, but there are some things which aren't so clear cut. The graphs ‹i› and ‹y› and were interchangeably used in traditional Cornish and it is only sensible to assign specific functions or positions to ‹i› and ‹y› in Revived Cornish. You have done this for KS, and the SWF has done it, too, albeit differently. Since in traditional Cornish ‹y› and ‹i› were used interchangeably I have no problem with writing ‹iw›. 

It is true that we distinguish these vowels in monosyllables as in ‹gwin› [ɡwiːn] and ‹jyn› [dʒɪn], and that the traditional language did not divide the letters according to this function. (Please do not quibble about my using KS spellings here.) Nevertheless we do not distinguish ‹pyw› 'who' and ‹pyw› 'owns' because there is no pronunciation difference between them: [piʊ], [piʊ]. 

>> *melin rather than melyn,
> 
> The SWF has the rule of the etymological vowel. I don't think you will contest that Brythonic borrowed this word from Latin ‹molina› with */i/ rather than */I/. Since traditional Cornish wrote ‹y› and ‹i› interchangeably I don't see a huge issue, also considering the fact that the recommendations for pronunciation of the SWF specifically say that ‹i› and ‹y› are to be pronounced the same in unstressed syllables. 

It is an issue because this "rule of the etymological vowel" for ‹i› and ‹y› serves no useful function whatsoever. It simply invites learners to make a spelling error. Now in words like ‹colon› [ˈkɔlən], pl ‹colodnow› [kəˈlɔdoʊ] we preserve a distinct written vowel because that vowel reappears under stress. And so for ‹melyn› [ˈmɛlən], ‹melynyow› [məˈlɪnjoʊ]. But I don't know of any words where in this pattern (polysyllables in -in or -yn) exists where [iː] returns under stress. In the pattern which we have observed, [iː] is always long, as in ‹despît› [dəˈspiːt], ‹despîtya› [dəˈspiːtjə]. 

The only reason for writing SWF ‹colyn› 'puppy' and SWF ‹melin› 'mill' is that Ken George thought it was cool to know that one word has the origin of Common Celtic *koligno- and the other word has the origin of Latin molîna. But who the hell cares? Most learners of Cornish don't have any Latin, and nobody can learn Common Celtic because it's entirely reconstructed. Now, etymology helped me learn Danish very quickly, because when I started I had English and Old English and German. I could apply sound changes in my head and got good results. I don't think that etymology is much of a help for learners of Cornish or Breton or Welsh -- well, that's not true, there are many things about some consonants and vowwls which can be rather helpful. Perhaps it would be more precise to say that I don't think that the etymological vowels of **these unstressed final syllables** helps anybody in the least bit.  

>> *menedh rather than meneth,
> 
> The spelling ‹menedh› is SWF/L, alternatively ‹mena›. The SWF/M has ‹menydh›. This spelling follows Lhuyd who was the only one to make distinction between the phonemes /D/ and /T/ in Cornish. He has several spellings with ‹dh›. 
> 
>> *genev rather than genef,
> 
> Again, Lhuyd has several spellings with final ‹v›. 
> 
>> *orthiv rather than orthyf
> 
> Lhuyd and Pryce have ‹orthiv›.
> 
>> for example, are not neutral. Nor are they authentic.
> 
> They cannot be said to be inauthentic in the light of the attestations. 

Taking these three together, Dan, I have to say to you again that yes, it can be argued (as you always do) that there is some room for doubt if you take Lhuyd's spellings at face value. But then we come to the area of language structure and practical phonotactics. We have offered -- based on our observation of what is in the texts -- a phonological model of Cornish where final consonants are very often voiced in stressed monosyllables, but which devoice in unstressed final position.

[ɡ] rag, teg, kig
but
[k] marhak, carrek, uthyk

[b] mab, glëb, me a dÿb
but
[p] methêwnep, morrep, modryp

[ð] sedh, bëdh, scoodh, rudh
but
[θ] gorseth, meneth, nowyth, arlùth

[v] gwrav, nev, gov, cuv
but
[f] manaf, genef, orthyf (often drops to Ø)

[z] bos, tas, in mes (original tad)
but (at least earlier)
[s] gwelys, gweles, myternes (original gwelet)

We also think that the influence of final voiced ‹s› in English plurals is the cause of the general voicing of  final ‹s› in later Cornish. 

This is a structured pattern, which fits the data. It is coherent, easily explained, and indeed, easily taught. Do you have a different description for these pairs, Dan? If so, shouldn't you wish to explain it to us? Or have you not thought about the phonotactics of Cornish?

It's true that Lhuyd writes -v in ‹a hanav›, ‹a yuhav›, ‹dredhev›, ‹genev/ᵹenev›, ‹orthiv›, ‹ragov›, ‹ụarnav›, ‹olav›, but this -v is **not found in traditional Cornish** (though -ff and -f and Ø are) and so the most likely reason for this is the influence of Welsh. He heard "gene vy" and the thought it was like Welsh "genef vy". 

It's true that Lhuyd writes -dh or -ꝺ sometimes -- but he also writes -th and -ꞇ, and the texts all write either -th or -ȝ. So the most likely reason for this is the influence of Welsh. 

For your view to be taken seriously, shouldn't you wish to produce a coherent argument which takes the linguistic system into account? You'd have to have a convincing reason why we have g/k and b/p (and probably z/s) on the one hand but ð/ð and v/v on the other. Because so far, Dan, while we have shown a coherent and systematic linguistic structure, you have just said "it's doubtful because of what's in Lhuyd, and so we should have dh and v throughout". That's not a structural argument. And infeed, it would only approach being a convincing argument if you were to list **all** of the words in -dh and -ꝺ and -th and -ꞇ in Lhuyd, with a following word in instances of words within a sentence or phrase. Really, there aren't all that many. To know what the implications of Lhuyd are (since there is doubt because of his Welsh) the only way to deal with it is exhaustively.

Now, we know that the reason KK has -i is that Ken George was very impressed by Welsh and Breton. Ken George said as much in his Linguistic Advisor submission to Albert and Ben and Trond. He said:

> I advise against <-y>. Welsh and Breton both write <-i>.

The reason the SWF (via KK) has -dh and -v is that Welsh has them. 

You suggested that perhaps there could be a rule for people who say [ˈɡɔɹsəθ] that they could learn to devoice -dh in some positions. And you said, I believe, that there was evidence in Lhuyd that some of these words were voiced in intervocalic position. I don't think there is much evidence of that, and you haven't produced a complete analysis with exhaustive examples (the sort of thing Nicholas does), but even so. 

The easier rule, the safer rule, the rule that is more certain in terms of Traditional orthography, is to spell -th and -f as the texts do (for then we know we are not erring), and to allow these sounds to be voiced in intervocalic position. Most people including KK users whom I hear speak say -əθ or -ɛθ for these words. Maybe they voice them intervocalically. But they don't in absolute auslaut. 

(We don't have to worry about -dh and -v in stressed monosyllables because we all agree that they were voiced.)

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



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