[Spellyans] SWF (t) and Maga web site

Michael Everson everson at evertype.com
Fri Aug 17 11:16:40 IST 2012

On 17 Aug 2012, at 01:03, A. J. Trim wrote:

> Dan asked, ”What do you think?”
> I think that the SWF is almost acceptable as a compromise orthography, providing that the traditional graphs are being used.

There is much wrong with it. 

> I would abandon SWF/K and promote SWF/T as the official form.

That would result in fixing part of the aesthetic fault of the SWF. It would not make the SWF more accurate, however.

> We are then left with some minor faults in the SWF like the distribution of i and y.

That is a major fault. 

> I would have i for long and y for short, 

That was proposed in KS1, but what was decided for the SWF was that ‹i› would be used for [iː] in stressed monosyllables and their derivatives. We have been able to take that and a few other rules in KS and come up with a system which is attractive, readable, teachable, and memorable. 

> and y at the end of a word.

You didn't say what you would do at the beginning of a word. 

> An i in polysyllables like pitsa “pizza” would be long with no need of the circumflex. The KS bës/bÿs words would become bes/bis words.

That doesn't solve the problem. It just shifts it. There are three classes of words. We have monosyllables in [iː] and monosyllables in [eː] and monosyllables which can be either [iː] or [eː]. By shifting ‹bÿs› to ‹bis› as you propose, you just shift the ambiguity of the bÿs/bës class from the "mes"-type words to the "mis"-type words. So there again, you'd have to have bïs/bës in order to mark this class. 

> You may want to spell these like beis 

That umbrella graph could have worked, but there was resistance to it.

> or just have them as unmarked optional spellings as we do for KS triga/trega words. 

The monosyllabic class is much larger, and more problematic. 

> As we have seen on this forum, and from new publications in KS, it is clearly superior to mark vowels with diacritics, especially for the letter u. KS does an excellent job at distinguishing the vowels but I believe that the SWF and place-names on signposts will remain diacritic-free for the foreseeable future. Perhaps, we’ll find out next year!

Diacritics must be "permitted" and not "proscribed" as they are at present. Or there is no chance of a solution. But an orthography which omits diacritics doesn't help learners to remember the correct sounds. That was one of the criticisms levelled at Unified Cornish back in the 80s, and the resulting "solution" was KK, which at least made a stab at dealing with the problem of vowel length. (Doubling consonants before short vowels yielded a hideous orthography; the rules we have in the SWF are a bit messy (and too complex and confusing where the nasals are concerned), but the rules we have in KS are quite user-friendly and in fact take advantage of L1 English speech habits in order to achieve correct vowel lenth in stressed monosyllables.)

> As for -v, I would spell this -f. Stressed -f would then need to be -ff.

That train has left the station, I think. I don't see the KK people wanting to shift to that, for starters. 

> As for -dh, I would spell this -th, except where we know it to be voiced. The digraph dh is not a traditional graph any more than hw is. dh  deviates from the traditional language. dh should be used only where a th is known to have been voiced (or where it has been generally agreed that it should be voiced), e.g. fedh “faith” but not in words such as menydh. This should be menyth, but that is just my (not very-well informed) opinion.

I would rather use the paradigm we have in KS. Certainly the time for arguing whether "dh" is a legitimate graph is long over. It is a part of Cornish and we're keeping it. The argument is about ð/θ in final position in unstressed syllables, where I believe we have a stronger, more accurate, more easily taught paradigm than the other one which has been put forward. 

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

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