[Spellyans] Is there a future for the SWF?

ewan wilson butlerdunnit at ntlworld.com
Tue May 15 21:11:25 BST 2012

Hi, Craig!

Does this mean you reckon P. Schrijver's book, which  initially sounds most tantalising, may not be worth tracking down and shelling out for? 

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Craig Weatherhill 
  To: Standard Cornish discussion list 
  Sent: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 10:43 AM
  Subject: Re: [Spellyans] Is there a future for the SWF?

  "Conventional wisdom" has to be treated with care, too.

  "Conventional wisdom" said, for a long time - and still does in certain quarters - that the Celts and their language originated in mid-Europe and only "invaded" Britain at the onset of the Iron Age.  This all arose from a misreading of Herodotus, who believed the Celtic homelands to be near the headwaters of the Danube.  If Victorian and later commentators had troubled to read on, they'd have found that Herodotus also believed the Danube to rise in the Pyrenees.  In which case he was pretty well right, and much-quoted sites like Halstatt (c.800 BC) and La Tene (c.200 BC) are much too late in date to be relevant to origins.  There was no large scale "invasion" at the start of the Iron Age.  That this "conventional wisdom" was so long-lived is quite astonishing.

  It is now held (Cunliffe, Renfrew, Koch, Waddell et al) that proto-Celtic developed from Indo-European on the Atlantic fringes of Europe in the late Mesolithic or early Neolithic and spread northward (much in parallel with the megalith-building tradition) to Britain and Ireland as a common language of the Neolithic sea-trading nations.  Division into Q-Celtic and P-Celtic is now tentatively placed in the Bronze Age.

  (I shall be working with Prof. Sir Barry Cunliffe soon, as he's intending to do work at Chun Castle, and he's been in touch with me about it.  I hope to learn a whole lot more).


  On 15 Me 2012, at 10:10, Linus Band wrote:

    I'm afraid that I must disagree on the date of divergence.No trait has been found that distinguishes Cornish from Breton, or the other way around, before the appearance of the Vocabularium Cornicum (somewhere between 1100-1200). (Cf. P. Schrijver, 'Old British', Brythonic Celtic, from Medieval British to Modern Breton, Elmar Ternes (ed.) (Bremen 2011) 4, 34 f.)
    As for the significance of reconstructed forms, they are an important tool that can help us make sense of Traditional Cornish spelling. It is of course not 100% foolproof, but so is the analysis and interpretation of graphemes. Both should be used with care.

    Kind regards,


    2012/5/15 Michael Everson <everson at evertype.com>

      On 15 May 2012, at 09:22, Craig Weatherhill wrote:

      > I used the word "largely", having our 5th-10th century inscribed stones in mind.  Many of the names on them are British, albeit slightly altered to suit Latin orthography.  Taking that into consideration, they represent our only known written British.
      > Charles Thomas's book on Cornish and Welsh inscribed stone: "And Shall these Mute Stones Speak" (University of Wales Press 1994) is of great assistance in this subject.

      I haven't seen that book, but conventional wisdom is that by 600 CE British had already developed into forms of Welsh, Cumbric, Cornish, and Breton. I'd be surprised if 10th-century stones were in much older language. But I really ought to get hold of that book, if for no other reason but to see if there are fonts that could be designed from it. :-)

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

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