[Spellyans] Spellyans, KS, and reconstruction

deliabrotherton at aol.com deliabrotherton at aol.com
Tue May 29 18:43:30 IST 2012

The difficulty is that officers of the language organisations are ineligible which takes out many of those who may have been willing to take on such a task.  There was a hope, I believe, that Neil Kennedy and/or Andrew Climo might allow their names to be put forward?

Delia Brotherton

-----Original Message-----
From: Ken MacKinnon <ken at ferintosh.org>
To: 'Standard Cornish discussion list' <spellyans at kernowek.net>
Sent: Tue, 29 May 2012 18:35
Subject: Re: [Spellyans] Spellyans, KS, and reconstruction

A gowetha-oll,
Re points made concerning the SWF review further below, do we know who from this 
roup is likely to be going forward in response to Jenefer's reminder? See 
mmedately below, and attachment..
- an ken Ken
A gowetha,

wreugh perthi kov, mar pleg, bos linen-varow rag ombrofya avel esel an Gesva 
zaswel an FSS yw diwedh an seythen ma. Mar mynnowgh ombrofya, an kedhlow yw 
tegys omma.

his is a reminder that applications for membership of the SWF Review Board need 
o be received by the end of this week. If you wish to apply, the details are 

n lel,

enefer Lowe
yghtyor/ Manager.

----Original Message-----
rom: spellyans-bounces at kernowek.net [mailto:spellyans-bounces at kernowek.net] On 
ehalf Of Michael Everson
ent: 28 May 2012 19:27
o: Standard Cornish discussion list
ubject: Re: [Spellyans] Spellyans, KS, and reconstruction
stOn 20 May 2012, at 12:40, Daniel Prohaska wrote:
>> One of the most aggravating things about "reconstruction" in our context is 
t practically asks for every bloody KK spelling that turns up in the SWF to be 
 I agree that it was not the best decision to use KK as a starting point rather 
han examining every word a new and starting fresh. May I remind you that you 
id the same with KS? You simply used UCR as a starting point. 
That isn't true. We used the SWF specification as our starting point. KS is not 
CR with a set of derogations. KS1 wasn't even UCR with a set of derogations. 
KS took the SWF specification for rules about spelling, and derogated from that. 

e also did not start out by examining every word according to its etymology. 
> I see no problem, however, with allowing the study of historical phonology to 
nform the study and reconstruction of Cornish for the purpose of its Revival. 
I see a problem when it is used to shape the orthography, rather than to check 
n item here and there. 
>> Was there a *Meurth? The texts don't show evidence for it. 
 Well there's Welsh ‹Mawrth› which makes */œ/ all the more likely. I don't 
hink this is really in dispute, only the formalism of saying the attested  form 
verrules the construction, even if it is very likely.
How do you know it was likely? There are plenty of things in Cornish which are 
ot in Welsh and Breton. And there are things in Breton which are not in Cornish 
nd Welsh. And there are things in Welsh and Cornish which are not in Breton.
> It is not so much the question of whether one is more 'correct' than the 
ther, but rather how to deal with this issue in the case of Revived Cornish. 
aking your view to the extreme and used only attested spellings,
That has NEVER been my view. 
> it would be very difficult to achieve a standardised orthography in the first 
And yet as I have said, it is not 1904 (or even 30 years prior). We are not 
tarting from scratch. 
> How far to take this issue of allowing non-attested spellings for the benefit 
f standardisation is a matter of discussion, consensus and agreement. 
If you base a Cornish orthography on exactly what you would expect if every 
egular sound change implied by modern Welsh and modern Breton were implemented, 
hen what you are going to get is a nice tidy conlang, which is not the same 
hing as a normalization, regularization, and standardization of the corpus. I 
uess we don't have a *Murth attested, though. Must we have *Meurth? Isn't Merth 
ood enough?
>> They do not publish etymologies justifying their tinkering; they expect 
verybody to take it on faith.
 No, anything can be doubted and discussed. there's no faith involved. Just 
ome capacity of informed judgement. 
Where is your list of corrections you have applied to the SWF on the basis of 
our examination of the KK material? If there isn't a list, no one will know 
hat corrections you have applied, or why?
>> "Ah, yes, those fellows over there, they know their Brythonic, they're doing 
ll the checking of the reconstructions just fine." But there aren't any 
ublications showing the work.
 That's not entirely true. Albert, Nicholas, Ben and Talat are publishing, 
ackling questions such as vocalic alternation, consonants, prosodic shifts 
tc., etc. . 
In the general broad view, yes, Dan. But not in examining individual etyma in 
he SWF. You're going through the KK wordlist, it seems, and judging George's 
econstructions as against the SWF specification. All behind closed doors, with 
ll of that getting in to the editor's books. But you're not documenting it for 
he public. 
>> Eric Hamp used to publish paragraphs about individual etymologies. 
ascinating stuff. Made his case. Do we have this in Cornish linguistics? No. 
re changes being made already to the SWF in light of such unpublished work? It 
ppears so, at least in the background. 
 Fine, perhaps this is something Cornish Studies departments at e.g. Exeter can 
oncentrate on… 
You're missing the point.
>> In Spellyans we have worked since 2008 in an endeavour to meet the brief 
uoted above. We didn't wait five years for... whomever to use the SWF and find 
ut what is wrong with it. It was obvious from the publication of the SWF spec 
hat was wrong with it.
 Michael, you had a very clear agenda then, some of your views on Cornish 
pelling and phonology are ideologically charged (as are mine!) have to do with 
 preference for phonological theories that can be interpreted to fit the 
vidence, but so can other theories.
I'm fairly sure that the phonological model we use for the revived language is 
obust and practical. We do not indulge in "aspirational" phonology that has no 
onnection the revived language. And we manage not to have to deviate much from 
he look of traditional Cornish.
> There are certain features you wanted to see in the SWF and were so adamant 
bout that you derogated from the SWF right after the AHG meetings. 
We did not. We began discussing the need for derogation and the shape that 
erogation might take after the SWF specification was published. Until then we 
id not know what would or would not be in it. There were things promised to be 
n it which were not, for example. 
>> It had a Traditional Form that used non-Traditional graphs (the ban on final 
y in stressed monosyllables).
 I agree this is very unfortunate. 
So we derogated.
>> It shifted ambiguity from ‹u› to ‹o›.
 And ended up with both ambiguity in ‹u› as well as ambiguity of ‹o›. This 
eeds to be tackled in the 2013Review. 
We decided to tackle it in 2008.
You see, the Cornish Language Partnership and MAGA do not own the Revival, or 
he language, any more than the Kesva did. 
They were bound to use the SWF unchanged for five years. We were not. We were 
ree to use UCR or even KK if we wanted to. Instead we wanted to contribute 
meaningfully*. That meant accepting the political SWF for what it was and 
mproving it on the basis of linguistic scrutiny. 
>> It introduced ambiguity between the bÿs/bës words and the bys and res words.
 Yes. I hope this, too can be tackled in the Review. But your own view on the 
ÿs/bës words, even the phonetic transcriptions you use, are to some extent 
deologically charged. Whether archived, achievable or not, there are those who 
spire to make a three-way-front-vowel distinction in RC, something that 
icholas says was abandoned early after the prosodic shift and was no longer 
alid for Middle Cornish.
Unachievable phonemes are of no interest. They are not practical. And they are 
ot necessary, as those who are aspiring to them but not achieving them are able 
o communicate with other Cornish speakers just fine. 
> But there are people who do not espouse Nicholas' views on the PS, rightly or 
If it is wrongly, what is the point? Do you believe that his dates on the 
rosodic Shift are right, or don't you? Don't sit on the fence, Dan. Tell us. 
et us know where you stand. I have looked at the arguments and I agree with 
icholas that the late date Ken gives for the shift is ludicrously late, and 
ntirely implausible. 
That means an early date for PS and that leads us to a phonology which is pretty 
uch just what Jenner recommended in 1904, and what we recommend now -- and what 
evivalists actually do. All the theory and even the implementation of KK in the 
980s and after hasn't changed that phonology. 
> This is my problem with many KS spellings. They're not neutral in the context 
f their spelling system, they are very much choices made on the base of 
icholas' views on historical Cornish phonology.
And the views of me, and of others, vis à vis the reality of the revived 
anguage. In order to write we could not sit on a fence. It is impossible to try 
o have an orthography that supports both Ken George's unachieved phonology and 
he real phonology which I hear at the Lostwithiel conferences, where everybody 
rom all sorts of backgrounds is speaking. That's one of the reasons I go to the 
ostwithiel conferences -- to listen to the Cornish spoken by people. 
> And some of the KS spellings "enshrine" this theory in spelling, whether it's 
he i/y/e distribution, final voiceless/voiced fricatives etc. etc. etc.  
Would you rather that the SWF "enshrines" your theories, then? You proposed in 
hree lines an i/y/e distribution on this forum in July 2008. It wasn't accepted 
y the Spellyans group in part because it would have meant a major shift from 
he basis i/y distribution used in monosyllabeles in the SWF, and it was part of 
ur brief to tread lightly on the SWF. 
You've never since tested your distribution by showing people texts written in 
t. If you produce some, perhaps on the basis of some KS text or other, we might 
ut them on the website for scrutiny. But I don't believe still that your 
istribution is practical or simple enough to taught easily to learners. 
With regard to the distribution of fricatives, if you want, we can start a 
hread on that and discuss it publicly. As far as I can tell you have made 
laims about Lhuyd but have not backed those up with data, or with a discussion 
f the phonotactics of your theory in the whole context of the language. I would 
elcome such a discussion.
>> It omitted the useful graphs ‹ai› and ‹au› for a set of loanwords.
 Yes, I would like to seem them, or equivalent graphs introduced in the SWF, 
hough I may have some minor issues with their distribution across lexemes...
Make your list and share it, if you want people to evaluate it. 
>> It imposed KK's etymological vowels, particularly difficult in unstressed 
inal syllables (kegin v. kegin).
 ‹kegin› v. ‹kegin›, not sure what you mean here.
‹kegin› v. ‹colyn› etc. Sorry for the typo.
> I think this is definitely something we can sort out in the Review, but my 
pproach would be to take the two dialects of RC into account and find a way to 
epresent the differences and commonalities where they are useful to speakers of 
hese respective dialects.
I'm afraid that your approach would increase the distance between RMC and RLC 
ialects. Needlessly.
>> It lacked a phonotactic rationale for its use of -dh/-v in unstressed 
onosyllables. Its distribution of ‹i› and ‹y› was entirely arbitrary (unless 
ne had learnt KK).
 No, this is an opinion, a point of view. I have already stated, which you can 
ake on faith ;-) or not, that this has to do with the phonological and 
ositional contrasts that Cornish was capable of.
I don't know what your "it" refers to here. 
> Sure, native Cornish phonology was augmented by loans from English which 
idn't conform to the native system, but the native phonology contrasted the 
losives only in initial position whereas in internal and final position there 
as no phonological contrast.
List a dozen examples, please. 
> The fricatives however retained this contrast, at least in internally and so 
t is disputable whether it was or wasn't given up in final position.
How can you tell? List your examples, please. 
> Yes, your phonotactic rational for an initial and internal stressed voiced v. 
nstressed voiceless contrast is neat, but it is not unambiguously borne out by 
he evidence in the texts.
First, I have asked you to explain your phonotactic model. Second, there is 
mbiguity in nearly EVERY feature of EVERY vowel and consonant in the texts, so 
hy should this be particularly damning of our model? 
> An orthographic solution in RC for a distinction may be called for, and leave 
he ideological approach to a set of rules that can be applied. This is what a 
tandard (maybe not for everybody but for the greatest number possible) should 
spire to, and leave "being right all along" out of the discussion where the 
vidence is not absolute and unambiguous. 
The safest thing to do in this case is to spell -th as the texts do, and if you 
ant to have a rule that people who have learnt KK can voice these if they wish, 
ou may. But I tell you, at Lostwithiel I have listed with particular care to 
peakers who used KK orthography, and they do NOT voice -dh in final unstressed 
>> From the end of the first month after announcing Spellyans we had 27 members; 
e now maintain 51 observers. People like Albert Bock and Ben Bruch and Tony 
ak, who are concerned with (i.e. in positions of authority concerning) the SWF, 
o not participate, and do not observe as members. They don't see the 
iscussion: they don't engage with the Traditionalist community. Have they read 
ny of the publications in KS? I wouldn't know. 
 And maybe they have their reasons for not participating or even leaving this 
iscussion. Maybe they feel it's too one sided. maybe they feel you are coming 
n too strong on certain issues and fining you difficult to talk to at times. 
ot speaking for them, but saying what I feel occasionally.
We have never had meaningful dialogue and discussion with them. What we say 
eems to fall on deaf ears. 
> I can get over it, but maybe others don't find this so easy. This, is probably 
lso the reason why several people didn't want you on the AHG meetings. I know 
othing concrete, but it's the feeling I get from people who said they had no 
esire to sit at a conference table with you. I'm certainly not one of these 
eople, but I am wondering, if an exercise is diplomacy wouldn't have got some 
f your points across more easily... 
One can hardly address the might-have-beens of 2007.
>> What is an orthography for? A Cornish orthography that has all this etymology 
uilt into it... is... to help people do what? To learn Cornish? Or to use the 
ornish they've learnt to bolster their investigations into Brythonic? 
 Again the pro- and contras-etymology-thing is now becoming idealogical.
No. It is a matter of practicality. There is no reason to write ‹kegin› because 
f a medieval Latin ‹cucîna›. It serves no function but to confuse the writer as 
o when to write -in and when to write -yn, which is common in many other words. 

nd here's something that speaks to your analyses of Ken George's etymological 
pellings. He has ‹kolen› 'puppy'. SWF now has ‹colyn›. Why the change from 
‹en› to -‹yn› in that word? Ken George also has ‹kegin› 'kitchen', Why doesn't 
he SWF change this -‹in› to -‹yn›?
We have ‹colyn› pl ‹kelyn› and ‹kegyn› pl ‹kegydnow›, by the way. 
> The texts don't distinguish between ‹y› and ‹i› although certain differences 
ust have been there to warrant LC forms that occur, deciding the vowel in the 
nstressed syllables has to do with this issue as well. You distinguish ‹mis› 
rom ‹bÿs›, but the texts have ‹mys› and ‹bys›.
Yes, but the texts do not have ‹mes› alternating with ‹mis› as you know. We 
istinguish ‹mis› [miːz] from ‹bÿs› [biːz]~[beːz]. The texts also have ‹bes›, 
beys›, and ‹bis›. 
> You also claim that the two vowels had fallen in with each other in some 
arieties of Cornish (or certain texts thereof), but the same can be said for 
he ‹melin› : ‹melyn› contrast.
I don't follow you. We have ‹melyn› 'mill' pl ‹melydnyow› (variant ‹belyn›!), 
nd we have ‹melen› 'yellow' with a derivative ‹melender› 'yellowness', and a 
ird name ‹melenek›, pl ‹melenegas› 'Carduelis chloris, green linnet". The 
hoice of written for the [ən] in the final unstressed syllable of the singular 
inges upon the colour of the vowel when stressed. It's true that the derived 
ords for 'yellow' are neologisms of Nance (or earlier), but nevertheless they 
re there. In this matter we followed the "colon"/"colodnow" rule we came up 
ith in KS1, if you recall, when we were tending to default to -an in final 
nstressed syllables. 
There is no contrast in the singular. The words rhyme in the singular. Our claim 
bout [ɛ] and [ɪ] being often in free variation is more relevant to stressed 
yllables. Was this not clear? It's in ‹lyver›/‹lever› where that seems to 
perate (from a very early period indeed). 
The point is that for this very large class of words it is difficult to see any 
ense in giving both forms or in writing them ‹lÿver›/‹lëver› because the class 
s so large. Much larger than the ‹bÿs›/‹bës› class, which is important to mark 
ecause without doing so the ‹bÿs› words regularly get mispronounced with a 
hort vowel, which is a serious mistake. [lɪvəɹ]~[lɛvəɹ]: free variation 
biːz]~[bɪz]: error.
A standard orthography should mark what *must* be distinguished. 
(Regarding the linnets, as far as I can tell Ken George re-analysed Nance's 
lynek› pl ‹lynegas› to give his ‹linoges› pl ‹linogesow›, and he saw fit to 
hange ‹melenek›, pl ‹melenegas› 'green linnet' to ‹melynek›, pl ‹melynoges› 
goldfinch'. I don't see what's wrong with ‹melenek›, pl ‹melenegas›.)
> If ‹i› and ‹y› are distributed according to given rules in RC, but were not in 
raditional Cornish, you are doing something different from what the Cornish 
cribes did.
In making *any* 20th/21st-century normalization we are all doing something 
ifferent from what the Cornish scribes did. 
> So, the arbitrary ‹i› : ‹y› distribution in TC (traditional Cornish) is 
tandardised according to certain rules in RC, big deal, so discuss how to 
tandardize them.
We've done that. We've discussed them. Years ago, Dan! We had a "tread lightly 
n the SWF" policy in 2008, and that is one of the reasons we did not accept 
our proposed redistribution. We chose a different one. And we implemented it. 
ow long do you think this ought to be in flux? 
> I don't see much pick up for the KS solution, so let's discuss how we can 
ring our respective views together.
As far as "pick-up" is concerned, Desky Kernowek has only now been published. 
ut, seriously, what is it that you want to do? Do you want us to trade the 
e-distribution of i/y/e which we have implemented and published in, for your 
e-distribution, for which we have not actually seen any sample texts since 
008? If you produce sample texts, do you think they will convince us? (By "us" 
 mean "Spallyans".) Or are you open to altering your view on this and coming on 
See there are four options with regard to the SWF anyway.
1) Do nothing with i/y/e in the SWF and leave it as the KK mess it is. I suspect 
hat Maga and former KK users would prefer that.
2) Implement the Spellyans re-distribution which has already been seen and read 
y many people and which is quite easy to explain, to teach, and to use.
3) Implement your re-distribution (perhaps after seeing examples) which would 
ot only change KS but change the SWF and probably confuse everybody.
4) Enter into SWF discussions offering both 2) and 3) as incompatible options, 
hich is likely to guarantee that 1) will be chosen. 
> That's what I meant when I asked you whether you were open to compromises. You 
on't seem to be, you seem to want to push the KS solution onto the SWF because 
ou see them as the only possible (or at least very best way) of dealing with 
he issues. This again, is a matter of opinion, and as you know, opinions can 
And I asked you, what changes or compromises do you think we ought to be open 
o? I mentioned being open to ‹ei› replacing ‹ÿ›~‹ë› (not thinking it very 
ikely), and you said that it would be impossible because ‹ei› in hiatus is [əɪ] 
n RLC. (In terms of orthographic design there would be complementary 
istribution of the sounds, so it would in fact work.) 
I do hope that we have a discussion on dh/th and v/f, because I believe that you 
ill eventually see that the weight of the evidence is against you. 
>> Have we done a good enough job? Is there a list of etyma that we still need 
o argue about? Are there serious shortcomings that render KS unworthy of 
cademic support? 
 You've done a great job in your publications and the amount of Cornish being 
Which I judge to be better for the Revival than doing nothing for five years. 
> You have not done a great job in supporting a consensual form of Cornish, 
ecause you don't agree with some issues that in your view render the 
rthography unusable.
If it is unusable, its use cannot be justified. It has mistakes in it, and 
hings which are not Cornish. Why should we consent to use something like that? 
e were kept out of genuine participation in the discussions which formed the 
WF. We owe that process little. 
The SWF compromise was remarkable and admirable from a political point of view. 
 number of KK underpinnings of the SWF are as wrong in the SWF as they were in 
K. Having edited two editions of SWF/K and SWF/T grammar books, we are quite 
ell aware of those problems. There are things in the SWF you can't learn, 
nless you know the rationale for them in KK. Those things tripped us up again 
nd again. 
Get it? We (Ray, Nicholas, and I) failed to be able to write accurately in the 
WF, not because we didn't know Cornish. But because we didn't know about the 
rbitrary choices Ken George has made. 
We *have* supported the compromise, Dan. We (Nicholas and I, and perhaps others 
n Spellyans who may wish to name themselves) have moved on from UC and UCR and 
o not see a road back to them, because the corrected form of the SWF is at once 
ore accurate and more inclusive than either, if one sees at its core the period 
550-1650 as a *standard*, a magnet attracting both ends of 1500 and 1700 toward 
 centre. From an ideological perspective, that is what the Revival needs. Not 
ore fragmentation. 
> There's no list of etyma that we need to deal with in KS,
I am not sure what you mean by "deal with". KS1 was a proposal for discussion. 
S has been a solution to problems in the compromise orthography. The spellings 
n KS are facts, and I would recommend that you not ignore things like spellings 
n the Beybel Sans. By which I mean, you should not "deal with" UC and UCR but 
gnore KS. We have published well over a million words in Cornish. They should 
e taken into consideration. 
> but as I potter along with my dictionary and check and come across KS forms 
hat I may find problematic, I'll bring them to your attention for further 
iscussion, if you want.
You are welcome to do so. You have always been welcome here though you seem to 
ave recused yourself for a long time a few years ago. 
> I do the same with the SWF and Albert's dictionary. We are in frequent 
ommunication about such issues. 
I see. 
> As far as shortcomings,
Where? In the SWF?
> I don't think there are many, but there are some issues that cannot be 
nswered as there are no traditional speakers of Cornish and only those would be 
ble to answer these issues.
In which case, where a choice must be made, a sound phonotactic theory should 
olster the choice. I really would like to see the th/dh f/v issue put to rest. 
> So in the context of RC they become matters of opinion and later are somewhat 
deologically charged.
Perhaps. Nevertheless some form of standardization is required. In the matter of 
h/dh for instance, our Standard Cornish is founded on what we hear amongst 
peakers of RC from all camps, and we have a phonotactic theory which fits well 
ith the evidence of the texts and with the realities of RC. In Common Cornish 
n the other hand we have a distribution here which is based on cognates in 
reton and Welsh, and I have yet to see the theory that explains how those fit 
n with the behaviour of the other consonants in similar contexts. 
> This is something where I think we can find some room for common ground to 
llow the SWF to somewhat open for interpretation, while giving users guidelines 
y rule to make them pronounce the language as correctly as we can determine at 
his date.
I believe what we believed when we developed KS1: That the orthography should be 
s accurate as possible while remaining true to the texts. And we have to take 
he phonology of the revived language into account. It's not 1904. People are 
lready pronouncing the language. (Yes, you will remind me of their English [əɯ] 
iphthongs and so on. We know about those and of course we advise the use of 
pure" vowels.) 
I hope that when you receive your copy of Desky Kernowek you will study the 
ection on phonology and orthography very carefully. I believe that we 
Spellyans) have devised a system which does exactly what you describe above: It 
as rules sufficient to enable a learner to accurately pronounce words which he 
r she sees, and which enable him or her to write Cornish accurately.
Michael Everson * http://www.evertype.com/

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