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

Craig Weatherhill craig at agantavas.org
Mon Mar 27 14:55:51 IST 2017


I'm certain that no traditional Cornish speaker ever pronounced R as Wella Brown does it.  I heard it at a Gorsedh one year and, frankly, cringed and wished I was elsewhere.  UC <rak> was pronounced by him as: r-r-r-r-r-r-rak!  It sounded like a trials bike revving up!

I used to get hay from a farmer, Ron Jelbert of Keigwin, Morvah, who had a wonderful West Penwith accent and, from him, I heard how <carn> should really be pronounced.
He did not pronounce the word to rhyme with "barn" or the increasing English version "bahn"
The A was as in "cat" but very slightly drawn-out, and the R was distinctly pronounced.

I have several CD recordings of the West Penwith accent, and often compare these to Lhuyd's phonetic code.  Richard Gendall carried out a study of Lhuyd and, from it, wrote his excellent "The Pronunciation of Cornish".
He was careful to consult a book whose title and author I can't now recall, without seeking out my copy of Gendall's study, but it it was a book that examined how English was pronounced over several centuries.
So, when Lhuyd writes "pronounced as English", he means English of c.1700, not of today, and Gendall catered for this.

In the end, Lhuyd is the only real guide we have to the pronunciation of Cornish, and his findings (as clarified by Gendall) influence my own pronunciation of the tongue.  You will also hear it the Cornish speech of Richard Gendall, Neil Kennedy and Dan Prohaska, and it SOUNDS Cornish.

I hear many modern speakers (naming no names at all), and what they are saying does not sound remotely like Cornish, but contrived, alien, and often rather English in fashion.
I can't help thinking of the English spy posing as a French policeman in "'Allo, 'Allo!" who mispronounces French terribly (but they do it in English, to hilarious effect -   " 'Allo!  I was jist pissing pest your deer."  (Hello, I was just passing by your door.)
  
Craig



On 2017 Mer 27, at 13:51, Anthony Hearn wrote:

> 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 approximant.
> 
> 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
>>> 
>>> On Fri, 24 Mar 2017 at 18:16, Nicholas Williams
>>> <njawilliams at gmail.com> wrote:
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