[Spellyans] Spellyans, KS, and reconstruction

Michael Everson everson at evertype.com
Wed May 16 10:33:25 IST 2012

The thing about reconstruction is that it's not 1904 any longer. There is a revived language, and it has been the goal of this group to serve a practical function, namely to *improve* the Standard Written Form which was, devised by 8 people after 5 days of discussion. To excerpt from the kernowek.net homepage:

> The “Outline of the Standard Written Form of Cornish” recognizes that adjustments will need be made to the Standard Written Form in order “to better serve the needs of the contemporary Cornish-speaking community”. While Cornwall County Council and other public bodies, now have an orthography they can use, the Standard Written Form has, in our view, shortcomings which make it less attractive to many for personal use. The range of “alternative traditional graphs provided for writers who would like to use more traditional spellings” is not yet extensive enough to permit truly authentic spelling. And more importantly, we in UdnFormScrefys perceive there to be linguistic inconsistencies and indeed errors in the specification. We believe that the general public requires an adapted version of the SWF in which these are rectified.
> [...]
> Outside of official contexts, Cornish users are of course free to write in any orthography they choose. In recognition of this and in anticipation of emendations to the Standard Written Form at a future stage of the Partnership process, we believe that discussion of corrections and improvements to the Standard Written Form should begin without delay. In the interim, we would like to offer the public an adapted version of the Standard Written Form for immediate use. We do not ourselves believe that recognized inconsistencies and errors should be taught, if they can be identified and put right.

One of the most aggravating things about "reconstruction" in our context is it practically asks for every bloody KK spelling that turns up in the SWF to be examined. And when people do that, they make all sorts of assumptions. They assume that everyone else has read Jackson and Schrijver and whoever else. Not the texts, which are in Middle and Late Cornish. But those books are full of the reconstructions of linguists who aren't interested in *modern* forms of Cornish for the use of *modern* people. They are interested in reconstructing Brythonic and Proto-Brythonic and Proto-Celtic and the Italo-Celtic unity and so on back to the kurgans. 

Ken George didn't go back all that far. While occasionally he mentions some Brythonic form, mostly he re-spells Cornish because a form in the texts doesn't look like something in Breton. Was there a *Meurth? The texts don't show evidence for it. 

The other aggravating thing is that those interested in the ramifications of the reconstructions of Jackson and Schrijver and George and whoever else is that they do not publish their work. They do not publish etymologies justifying their tinkering; they expect everybody to take it on faith. "Ah, yes, those fellows over there, they know their Brythonic, they're doing all the checking of the reconstructions just fine." But there aren't any publications showing the work. Eric Hamp used to publish paragraphs about individual etymologies. Fascinating stuff. Made his case. Do we have this in Cornish linguistics? No. Are changes being made already to the SWF in light of such unpublished work? It appears so, at least in the background. 

In Spellyans we have worked since 2008 in an endeavour to meet the brief quoted above. We didn't wait five years for... whomever to use the SWF and find out what is wrong with it. It was obvious from the publication of the SWF spec what was wrong with it. It had a Traditional Form that used non-Traditional graphs (the ban on final -y in stressed monosyllables). It shifted ambiguity from ‹u› to ‹o›. It introduced ambiguity between the bÿs/bës words and the bys and res words. It omitted the useful graphs ‹ai› and ‹au› for a set of loanwords. It imposed KK's etymological vowels, particularly difficult in unstressed final syllables (kegin v. kegin). It lacked a phonotactic rationale for its use of -dh/-v in unstressed monosyllables. Its distribution of ‹i› and ‹y› was entirely arbitrary (unless one had learnt KK).

From the end of the first month after announcing Spellyans we had 27 members; we now maintain 51 observers. People like Albert Bock and Ben Bruch and Tony Hak, who are concerned with (i.e. in positions of authority concerning) the SWF, do not participate, and do not observe as members. They don't see the discussion: they don't engage with the Traditionalist community. Have they read any of the publications in KS? I wouldn't know. 

What is an orthography for? A Cornish orthography that has all this etymology built into it... is... to help people do what? To learn Cornish? Or to use the Cornish they've learnt to bolster their investigations into Brythonic? 

Have we done a good enough job? Is there a list of etyma that we still need to argue about? Are there serious shortcomings that render KS unworthy of academic support? 

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

More information about the Spellyans mailing list