[Spellyans] The Pronounciation of 'r' in traditional Cornish

Anthony Hearn a.d.hearn at blueyonder.co.uk
Mon Mar 27 13:51:20 BST 2017

I hesitate to venture in in where there are far more knowledgable folk 
than I, but nonetheless I hazard these thoughts:

In Late Cornish:

1) the voiced 's' in 'esof' (etc.) was rhotacized.

2) the weak fricative ('gh') adjacent to 'r' tended to be expressed as 
'th' ('marth' for 'margh' etc.)

I would argue that these progressions were highly unlikely were the 'r' 
being pronounced as the West English alveolar approximant [ɹ], in which 
the articulation pulls away from the teeth, than as a dental tap [ɾ] 
which is adjacent to both [z] and [θ].

To my ears it is the use among learners and speakers of the West Country 
English [ɹ] which makes so much spoken Cornish sound less than 
convincing. I think, too, that had Lhuyd heard this sound he would have 
mentioned it. In alluding to an occasional aspirated articulation, he is 
surely likening it more to the Welsh predental than to an English 

Tony Hearn

On 27/03/17 12:38, Harry Hawkey wrote:

> Here's some comments from Jackson, 'Language and History in Early 
> Britain', pg 477-478: (slightly edited, may contain OCR errors...)
>     In Cornish...no distinctions in l and r were recognised in the
>     orthography...there is some trace of a voiceless initial r- [...]
>     as has been pointed out by Forster [...] where he quotes /Hret
>     Winiau/ "the Ford of Winiau" ... in an AS[Anglo-Saxon] document of
>     969, and /Hryd/ in one of 960   and /Hryt/ in another of 967, both
>     in Cornwall.
> And here's what Lhuyd has to say (AB, pg 229)
>     The Cornish very rarely asperate their Initial r, saying /Risk ha
>     reden rydh/ [Bark and red Fern]  and not as in Welsh /Rhîsk a
>     rhedyn rhydh/; but they had this aspiration I suppose formerly,
>     for I have frequently observ'd them to say Rhag [ For] as well as
>     Rag.
> Also, there are various examples of internal 'rh' spellings in the 
> texts which also seem to indicate devoicing.
> So, possibly a voiceless r sound  [r̥] (as in Welsh) existed as an 
> allophone of the 'normal' voiced r [ɹ] in Cornish.
> Perhaps an actual linguist will reply later and give a better analysis...
> On 27/03/17 09:06, G ROBERTS wrote:
>> How would 'r' have been pronounced in traditional spoken Cornish?
>> Are there any pointers to this?
>> Meur ras,
>> Gorwel Roberts
>> Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android 
>> <https://overview.mail.yahoo.com/mobile/?.src=Android>
>>     On Fri, 24 Mar 2017 at 18:16, Nicholas Williams
>>     <njawilliams at gmail.com> wrote:
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