[Spellyans] definite and indefinite

Nicholas Williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Fri Mar 28 14:11:56 GMT 2014


I have mentioned this before but it is perhaps worth repeating.
When I was recently at the Kescùssulyans I noticed a little book for
children on the stall of the Cowethas/Kowethas.
The title was
 
STERENN AN KOLIN KERNOW.

I think that this title was meant to be understood as 
'Sterenn the Cornish Puppy'. Unfortunately it cannot bear that sense.
If it means anything it could possibly mean 'The star of the puppy of Cornwall', but the syntax is still wrong.

The problem arises from the difficulty in the Celtic languages of having indefinite
nouns dependent on definite ones. 

In Irish for example to say 'a king of France' one has to say rí de ríthe na Fraince i.e. a king of the kings of France,
and for 'a city bus' (as distinct from a country bus) one has to say bus de chuid na cathrach
i.e. 'a bus of the share of the city'.

The same rule applies in Cornish, though Nance did not seem to have understood it properly
so he writes *an Yeth Kernow for Yeth Kernow 'the language of Cornwall'
and Lyver *an Pymp Marthus Seleven for Lyver Pymp Marthus Seleven.
Since Kernow and Seleven are both definite, the nouns dependent upon them are all definite. 

If one wants to say 'Sterenn, a Cornish puppy'
one would need to write (and I am using the orthography of the author) one of the following:

STERENN, KOLIN DHIWORTH KERNOW
STERENN, KOLIN A GERNOW
KOLIN A GERNOW, STERENN Y HANOW

If one wants to say 'Sterenn, the Cornish puppy' one would need to write:

STERENN, AN KOLIN A GERNOW
STERENN, AN KOLIN DHIWORTH KERNOW
though neither is very happy since either could mean 'the Star of the puppy of Cornwall'.

Perhaps 

AN KOLIN A GERNOW, STERENN Y HANOW would be the best rendering.

The expression Yeth an Weryn is objectionable for the same reason.
It can only mean 'the Lanuage of the People' and is ipso facto definite.
It is of doubtful validity anywhere since gweryn has been borrowed from Welsh
and is unattested in Cornish. In more authentic Cornish the phrase would be
Tavas an Bobel or possible Yêth an Bobel.

i have recently heard AN GOOL PYRAN. This is also incorrect.
Pyran is a proper noun and is definite. The article is not merely unnecessary, it is incorrect.

On Youtube there is a video from 1964 of the first wedding ever in Cornish, which took place in the parish church of St Piran, Perranaworthal.
The commentary begins with a shot of the church, the flag of St Piran fluttering in front of it and the spoken words:
AN EGLOS SEN PYRAN. This is incorrect; the narrator should have said EGLOS SEN PYRAN 'the church of St Piran' or better still
EGLOS PYRAN 'the church of St Piran'.

Pyran is a proper name, it is therefore definite; any noun governed by it is therefore also definite; the definite artice is not required and indeed is incorrect.

Nicholas


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