[Spellyans] An Abecedary Kernowek

Michael Everson everson at evertype.com
Mon Mar 30 15:46:40 BST 2009

Oh, what fun!

Summe writen .g.h. in summe wordis, whiche wordis ben writen of summe  
o3ere with a yogh þat is figured þus .3.; as sum man writeþ þus  
þese termes, doughter, thought, where anoþer writiþ hem þus,  
dou3ter, thou3t. But for as miche as þe carect yogh, þat is to seie . 
3., is figurid lijk a zed, 3erfore alle þe wordis of þis table þat  
biginnen wiþ þat carect ben set in zed, which is þe laste lettre of  
þe a. b. c.

(that gives zed a Middle English pedigree).

Browsing the online Middle English dictionary I found lots of things.  
No complete abecedary, but
On 30 Mar 2009, at 13:08, Owen Cook wrote:

> Michael wrote:
>> I had a chat offline with Eddie and so far he and I still think the  
>> best run is:
>> â, bê, cê, dê, ê, ef, gê, hâ, î, jê, kê, ell, èm, èn,  
>> ô, pê, cû, èr, èss, tê, û, vê, wê, ex, yê, zê

Alphabet is "abece", so that gives us a, be, ce
In the Ormulum de occurs

In Titus D.17 at least the following occur:
em, en, o, pe, cu, er, es, te, u, ix, wi

Doble W occurs in 1465.

"wi" there is "y". Conceivably "wy" could stand for Cornish  

Interestingly, but irrelevantly to Cornish, is the use of the name  
thorn for both þ and ð in the Codex Titus D.17:
þ: thorn; Ð: thorn; ð: thorn..Iste tres þ Ð ð littere thorn sunt  
nominate et ponuntur pro th, et cetera
Also the letter wynn is named wen in Titus D.17

On the other in the Stowe 57 abecedarium, wen, ðet, and þorn are  
used. Is this for proper wynn ƿ or w?

OED confirms the earlier Latin name of h was "ha"

OED says of K: "Although now generally pronounced (keɪ), the  
pronunciation (kiː) was formerly also current."

OED says of Q: "Latin kū (probably c200 A.D. in classical Latin,  
though explicit evidence is lacking). quu is found in early Middle  
English. The modern English pronunciation /kjuː/ probably reflects  
derivation of the letter name immediately < French."

OED says of Y:   The name of the letter in the Romanic languages,  
‘Greek i’ (e.g. F. i grec, Sp. i griega), and the Ger. name  
ipsilon, It. ipsilon, -onne (‡yssilonne), and Pg. ypsilon, preserve  
the fact of its Greek origin. The English name wy (waɪ) is of obscure  
origin. The earliest available English evidence is in the MS. of the  
Ormulum, col. 109 (l. 4320), where ƿi is written, app. in the first  
hand (c 1200), over ẏ, the fifth letter of the name IESOẎS. Nothing  
certain is known about the historical relationship of the English name  
to the name vı or uı attributed to ‘the Greek y’ in the  
grammatical treatise (a1150) contained in the Edda, or to the ui or  
gui of some OF. systems. Gawin Douglas rhymes Y with sky (see quot.  
1513 in sense 2 below); other early references to the name are: 1573  
BARET Alv., Y hath bene taken for a greeke vowel among our latin  
Grammarians a great while, which me thinke if we marke well we shall  
finde to be rather a diphthong: for it appeareth to be compounded of u  
and i, which both spelled togither soundeth as we write Wy. 1580  
BULLOKAR Amendm. Orthogr. 8 The olde name of :y: (which is wy).

OED says that zed, zedde are both attested as far back as the mid 1400s.

>> ... though whether cû or kyû is better remains uncertain.
> Rather than cû, I'd float the suggestion cu. RMC speakers would say  
> this as [ky:], while RLC speakers would make it [kIw]. This makes a  
> happy medium between the French and English names, and is consistent  
> with Cornish phonetics. For much the same reason, the name of u  
> should be u -- thus [y:] and [Iw] -- rather than û.

Your [kIw] is my [kiːu] and neither are English [kjuː] which will be  
the L1 form of course. However as the OED says, if this came from  
French, it would have been [ky], so "cu" would seem to be  

> I would prefer hâ (or hâch) and kâ to hê and kê. Though it's our  
> inheritance, having most of the consonants end with ê is  
> impractical; it creates difficulties when spelling things over the  
> phone, etc, so a bit of variation is all to the good. For the same  
> reason, zàd or zèd would be better than zê, and jâ or jòd would  
> be better than jê.

Well, "ef" and "ess" are worse over the phone. I wouldn't object to hâ  
and kâ; intersting that the OED says that [kiː] was formerly used in  
English. That would be ky = dog of course.

> Wê and yê seem a little odd to me. For the first, I'd suggest  
> either dobel-vê (dobel-u?) or waw; for the second, î grew or  
> ypsilon or why.

I guess "dobyl û" would be "sane". Regarding Y, as noted above "wy"  
would be "historical" in terms of a potential borrowing from Middle  
English. Both of these would be departures from other uses in Revived  
Cornish, though "... dobyl û, ex, wy, zèd" is a good match for L1  

Other opinions, please.

Michael Everson * http://www.evertype.com

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