[Spellyans] The suffix -el
njawilliams at gmail.com
Tue Mar 7 17:43:25 GMT 2017
I agree wholeheartedly with Neil My objection to the use of the suffix *-el is not that it is a bound
morpheme, but that it is so very rare. I assume that -el is to be identified with -yl, which as far as I
am aware is attested only in skentyl PA 9a, etc. It might seem curious that -ol is so common in
Welsh and -el in Breton, but is extremely rare indeed in Cornish. The reason, I believe, is fairly obvious.
In the Old Cornish period, long before OCV was written, the -l in the suffix -ol > -yl had the effect of
strengthening a following lenis consonant to a fortis. Such consonants were as a result of
the strengthening not susceptible to assibilation. It is for this reason we find: skyans PA 1c and skyansek BM 377
but skentyl and skyantoleth TH 6a. The same blocking of the assibilation of -nt- before following l can be seen in
antell PA 19a, kantyll TH 17a and kuntel BM 1508. Following l also appears to block the assibilation of
preceding -d- in Nadelik Gwavas, padal BK 1132 and scudel PA 43c. Moreover folllowing l seems to strengthen
g > k, for example in drog but drockoleth TH 5.
We can assume, I think, that Cornish speakers were wary of using the suffix -ol > yl/*-el precisely because it
seemed to obscure the relationship between the simplex and the derived adjective, since the first would in so many
cases be assibilated but the second would not. As a result they used -ek,-ak and -us instead.
There are apparent exceptions to the blocking effect of following l on assibilation of the cluster -nt. The form
sansoleth occurs at BM 137, etc. We must assume that the suffix -oleth was added to sans after assibilation had occurred.
It is interesting that there is no example of *sansyl or *santyl (Breton santel), however. Similarly, in spite of
drockoleth we have no example of *drockyl.
We must also assume that the suffix -yl/el > -al was added to gwyns ‘wind’ after assibilation to give guinzal.
It must also be admitted that names of tools in -el, -al are not common. As far as I am aware guinzal AB 60a is the only
example. Again this is probably the result of reluctance to use as a productive suffix a morpheme that could
disturb the surface shape of related words.
It also seems that the other sonants r and n could block assibilation. Thus we have hus ‘magic’ but huder ‘magician’
and the pair gweder < uitrum but gwrys < the metathesised form *writum, where there was no following r. Similarly we find
fenten and gwaynten where a following n appears to have strengthened preceding -nt- and thus prevented its being assibilated.
Examples of -yel are not relevant here since the -el follows a vowel and thus could not block assibilation. There was therefore no reason not to use it in toponyms.
I have discussed the whole question of assibilation and its being blocked in my recent book: The Cornish Consonantal
Finally I repeat my original observation. Native Cornish speakers were reluctant to use the suffix -yl/*-el for a perfectly
good reason. If we want the revived language to resemble the traditional Celtic speech of Cornwall, we too should eschew adjectival *-el.
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