[Spellyans] PS re last native speakers

Ken MacKinnon ken at ferintosh.org
Fri Mar 24 12:49:18 GMT 2017


Below you refer to ‘at least two native speakers did not die until the early
years of the 20th century.  One was still alive (aged 80) in 1914, 10 years
after Jenner's handbook.‘


Do we know his name and place of decease?   Is there a record of death or


-        Ken

From: Spellyans [mailto:spellyans-bounces at kernowek.net] On Behalf Of Craig
Sent: 24 March 2017 10:34
To: Standard Cornish discussion list
Subject: Re: [Spellyans] Yn...wir?


I'e always maintained a soft spot for Late Cornish and have to say that the
Late version of SWF actually does look rather good - far easier on the eye
than Main Form.


Of course, it's not a "different language".  It's merely a later development
of an ever-evolving tongue.  That it's associated with West Cornwall is, of
course, because native speakers tended to be located there as the relentless
domination of English pushed its use ever further west.

There is no evidence to suggest that it survived well into the 19th century,
and that at least two native speakers did not die until the early years of
the 20th century.  One was still alive (aged 80) in 1914, 10 years after
Jenner's handbook.  He stated that Cornish was the language used between
children at play in the parish of Zennor where he was brought up, especially
Boswednack, so he would have known Anne Berryman and John Davey (senior and
junior).  This would have been during the 1840s.  The other lived within
sight of my house:  Elizabeth Vingoe of Higher Boswarva, Madron, who died in
1902.  It was her nephew, Richard Hall, who interviewed Richard Mann of
Boswednack and latterly St Just, in 1914.


We used to think that Mann's forename was John, but that was his brother who
emigrated to America.  John Ellery Bodrugan discovered that his name was


The 18th and 19th century antiquarians only seem to have looked around the
fishing ports, like Mousehole and Newlyn for native speakers.  They never
went near remote parishes like Zennor, or the moorland parts of Madron!
There's a very strange late 18th century discrepancy, in that Dr William
Borlase, rector of Ludgvan, stated that he knew of no one who could speak
Cornish, and yet his own brother Walter, just 3 miles away at Castle
Horneck, not only knew Dolly Pentreath, but wrote of her, and her Cornish
speech to Daines Barrington!  It's not as though the two brothers never
conversed.  They must have done, as William built his mineral grotto at
Castle Horneck (it's still there!).


Last year, the St Ives Times and Echo published an extensive article over 2
weeks about John Davey, Junior, and J. Hobson Matthews who, it seems,
conversed at length in Cornish.  The article was entitled "The Last
Conversation in Cornish" and is quite detailed.









On 2017 Mer 24, at 09:47, Daniel Prohaska wrote:

Lowena dhe whei oll! 


Thank you for the interesting discussion. Very insightful and, as usual,
Nicholas’s examples help a lot. And indeed this is what RLC speakers have
been following, e.g. using ‹gwir› without the particle, dropping mixed
mutation in favour of lenition, except common phrases such as ‹et ta›. 


On 23 Mar 2017, at 21:45, Michael Everson <everson at evertype.com> wrote:


On 23 Mar 2017, at 20:08, Harry Hawkey <bendyfrog at live.com> wrote:

Not quite sure what you mean. The adverbial particle 'yn' does not seem  to
cause mixed mutation in late Cornish. Instead, if Lhuyd's examples are
anything to go by, the mixed mutation is replaced by lenition, at least
after 'yn’.

I don’t usually consider “Late Cornish” to be a different language. There
are “late" features found in Pascon agan Arluth. Too much is made of the
differences when it’s clear there are continua of varying features in the
texts we have.


Indeed. What is often called a “Late” feature is often something Nance
simply didn’t standardise in Unified Cornish. I do not consider Middle
Cornish to be a different language from Late Cornish in as much as I do not
consider literary Welsh to be a different language from a colloquial and/or
dialectal form of Modern Welsh. I enjoy writing the Late Cornish based
variant of the SWF because this is the pronunciation I prefer and I also
like sticking up for the underdog ;-) 

Typically we have “yn tâ” ‘well’, “yn few” ‘alive’ in Cornish though “yn
vew” is also attested. Throughout all MSS of all periods we have a lack of
expected mutation written. 

Are you saying that, because there is no mixed mutation, it is not in fact
the adverbial particle, but something else? Please explain.

I don’t know whether Lhuyd could distinguish what we write as “in” vs what
we write as “yn” or not.
Michael Everson


In the SWF/L we write ‹en› for both. 









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