[Spellyans] KK ha'n SWF - pronunciation

Penny Squire pennysquire at ymail.com
Fri Aug 8 17:46:47 BST 2008

I don't know that I have heard many Cornish speakers with RP English accents, although one hears some strange sounds at the Gorsedd - but these are only people reading their lines, not Cornish speakers, surely.  Certainly most Cornish speakers that I have heard are coming from a Cornish dialect of English, more or less - the more one goes through the English education system, the more the tendency for the native dialect to become diluted.

Even if one were to start from the assumption that 20th century Cornish dialect sounds were appropriate for Revived Cornish (which I certainly would not) decisions would still have to be made. I don't know if anyone has attempted to catalogue the different dialects (or possibly sub-dialects) within Cornwall, but there is considerable variation to my ear. In North and East Cornwall, for instance, 'quarry' isn't too far from RP, but around Camborne the 'au' sounds like Eng. 'awe'. There are a lot of differences in the vowel sounds throughout Cornwall. 

In any case, I don't think the fact that all Cornish speakers have to overcome their habits of speech in (usually) English is sufficient reason for abandoning what our scholars have discovered about Cornish pronunciation. (Of course, firstly one has to reach conclusions about which scholar or scholars one finds the most credible!)

By the way, I find Dick Gendall's pronunciation very pleasant to listen to - he has a dignified, resonant delivery and on the recordings I have heard he speaks very naturally and easily (I have never heard him 'live', so I don't know if he is like that in spontaneous conversation). 

However, I hear little in his Cornish which isn't found in the speach of English speaking Cornish people of his generation.  Cornish of the 1700s, 1600s and 1500s would not have sounded like that - after all, the English spoken then didn't, either!


----- Original Message ----
From: Christian Semmens <christian.semmens at gmail.com>
To: Standard Cornish discussion list <spellyans at kernowek.net>
Sent: Friday, 8 August, 2008 4:31:01 PM
Subject: Re: [Spellyans] KK ha'n SWF - pronunciation

This is an interesting point about the revival. Although we have many
guides to pronunciation, a great deal of the Cornish speakers fail to
follow these guides, at least in part. Their spoken Cornish is more
coloured by their English accent (ususally RP - which makes my hair
stand on end when it is used to speak English let alone foist it on to
any other language) than by their chosen orthography's pronunciation
guides. If someone were to utilise modern cornish vowel sounds (and by
that I mean early to mid 20th century rather than the pallid, RP
affected, facsimilie becoming current in the 21st Century population)
then I would think that would be an infinite improvement over the
efforts of the RP affected revival community. And that 'accent' is the
only living fragment of the Cornish that was once spoken, you should
cultivate it.

What constitutes 'Good Spoken Cornish'?
Does a French man with a thick French accent speak good English? Perhaps..
Is this a good role model to teach others how to pronounce English?
..... I'm not so sure.

Matthew speaks fluently, but somehow it sounds.....awkward, like French
spoken with English RP sounds would sound. By the way I do not wish to
denigrate his efforts or cast aspersions upon his capabilities in any
way, merely question using him as a pronunciation exemplar.

It is, of course, *necessary* to hear others speak, especially for
those of us far away most of the time, so that we can understand
current usage. However the value of using these examples as a
reference to guide our own efforts at pronunciation I think is

What we are missing is good *Reference* recordings. I have heard some
of Dick Gendall's recordings and they 'felt right', but I haven't been
able to locate any recently. We do need something along the lines that
Penny is suggesting. I would suggest that a repository of reference
recordings and associated transcriptions is a vital part of the

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