[Spellyans] The quantity system

nicholas williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Tue Jun 24 11:06:16 BST 2008

On 24 Jun 2008, at 10:59, Michael Everson wrote:

> At 09:18 +0000 2008-06-24, Jon Mills wrote:
>> Adherents of KK maintain that KK is easier to learn because it is
>> supposedly phonemic. However KK entails a phonology that, for most
>> learners is, in fact, difficult to achieve: 3 vowels lengths and
>> geminate consonants. As a result, KK is more difficult to learn than
>> the other forms of Cornish.
> It would be easier if learners were Estonians. ;-)
>> Actual realisations of vowel length do not neatly fit in to 2 or 3
>> lengths. For example, with regard to English, Trager and Smith
>> (1957) observed 5 different vowel lengths in the set, bit bid bin
>> hiss his. They write, "The vowel quality is in each case lower high
>> front unrounded: [I]. In bit there is the shortest vowel,in his the
>> longest for most speakers; bid and bin have fairly long vowels too
>> -- some speakers have the longest varieties here, sometimes even  
>> with a drawling off-glide effect; in hiss the vowel is longer than
>> in bit, but considerably shorter than in his or bid; in bin there is
>> a marked nasalization of the vowel ...."
> For me this is an overstatement. I'd have bit/hiss as short, and
> bid/bin/his as longer. I don't detect more subtlety than that without
> a whole lot of persnicketiness. The bit/bid distinction is easy to
> teach to English speaking learners however, and that's one of the
> reasons it is the core of the vowel system in KS and by adoption the
> SWF.
> English bit/bid is an allophonic distinction, of course, not a
> phonemic distinction.
>> However, within the phonological system of English, only 2 vowel
>> lengths operate. These are determined by minimal contrast pairs:
>> bit - beat
>> bid - bead
>> his - he's
>> etc.
> I am not sure if I agree with this analysis. Bit and beat differ in
> quality, not in quantity. Bid and bead differ in quality, not in
> quantity. Same with his and he's, and piss and peace.
>> With regard to Cornish then, if one wants to argue for either 2 or 3
>> vowel lengths, minimal contrast sets (extracted from the historical
>> corpus) need to be presented. But even this method is questionable
>> because the corpus is written and the actual pronunciation of any
>> forms contained therein is conjectural.
> Quite so.
>> The only sensible and practical pedagogy is surely for learners to
>> be taught 2 vowel lengths and 1 consonant length. But should the SWF
>> make provision for those who aspire to 3 vowels lengths and long
>> consonants? I cannot imagine that these aspirants are very numerous.
>> My guess is that, given the choice, the vast majority of KK learners
>> would opt for a phonology that is easier to learn.
> I agree. And the fact that they are English speakers makes the above  
> relevant.
> In English we have qualitative phonemes:
> /I/ "bit [bIt], bid [bI.d], piss [pIs], his [hI.z] with allphonic  
> lengthening
> /i/ "beat [bit], bead [bi.d], peace [pis], he's [hi.z] with allphonic
> lengthening
> In Cornish we have quantitative phonemes:
> /i/  myn [mIn], gwyll [gwIl], loss [lOs] with allphonic lowering
> /i:/ min [mi:n], gwil [gwi:l] los [lo:z] with allphonic raising
> With the quantity rules in KS/SWF, teachers should be able to use
> English phonology to teach and to improve the pronunciation of
> Cornish phonemic quantity.
> Is this scheme agreeable to everyone? (This is key; as editor I will
> use IPA symbols to show both quality and quantity in phonetic
> transcription.)

It is fine with me.
> -- 
> Michael Everson * http://www.evertype.com
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