[Spellyans] vocabulary

Daniel Prohaska daniel at ryan-prohaska.com
Wed Jun 23 07:51:57 BST 2010

Comments inserted below…



From: Ceri Young
Sent: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 1:48 AM


Thanks Ewan,

(Sorry to Spellyans for deviating in this thread, it's still in the vein of Craig's post.)

The thing is Ewan that the word 'great' even rehashed as 'grêt' isn't Welsh. (You won't find it in a Welsh dictionary to attest for it being Welsh (the Welsh themselves to my knowledge have never chosen to include the word), yet you'll find it frequently in Welsh texts, novels, magazine articles and every other episode of Pobol y Cwm etc.). Yet if you asked someone who regularly used it in their colloquial Welsh if it was 'Welsh', I doubt they'd even concede that it was. They know what it is. It's English, and it's in a particularly English habit that they use it. Thankfully, Welsh is sufficiently understood and documented by Welsh speakers to defend itself against outsiders presuming that such a word is deemed to be Welsh by the Welsh themselves.


Yet of course, if every Welsh speaker and dictionary vanished, and just a handful of texts or records survived... Presumably alien intelligences might write the word 'grêt' into a Welsh dictionary, presuming the Welsh truly regarded that as a formal part of their language... 


I thought as much. Thanks for this little excursion into Welsh Welsh life. I’ve always enjoyed watching Pobol y Cwm and other Welsh TV and film productions and have noticed the many spontaneous Anglicisms (“Mae pizza yn sort o ethnic!”).


“A clear phenomenon exists where the Welsh will use English words, even Cymricise English words in pronunciation and spelling in full knowledge of what those words are with complete (yet tacit) acknowledgement that those words are not Welsh. How then, do the academics of the Cornish revival account for the possibility that this pheonomenon existed in Cornish? Surely, the answer is that they can't. (You can't trust every English word depoyed in Welsh to be a wholly accepted and encorporated part of the Welsh language - so why would you ever do so in Late Cornish?)

Best wishes,



Again you assume that it is only Late Cornish that incorporated loans. As mentioned in my previous post, most English loan words are actually attested in Middle Cornish. I completely agree with you that the encroaching English language would have lead to a large portion of the Cornish speaking community to become bilingual and then code switching would have been quite normal. I would regard Tregear’s Cornish as a perfect example of this. Because of the lack of learned ecclesiastical vocabulary he used the terms current in English, also rhetorical devices and many of these I would say are spontaneous and it would be wise to look ate them critically and imitate him only where his wording can be corroborated in other texts. His grammar, however, is an essential part of the Revival as it is our only MC prose text. So, no, I don’t think “academics” would discard the possibility of code switching phenomena in bilingual Cornwall.




From: ewan wilson <butlerdunnit at ntlworld.com>
To: Standard Cornish discussion list <spellyans at kernowek.net>



I can understand why some English 'loans' make the more literate/articulate/purist Welsh cringe at times! I have native Welsh speaking friends in Aber who deplore such usage as 'downright lazy' or 'perverse' when perfectly good Welsh equivalents exist. However others seem almost to glory in doing so and insist theu're just as 'Welsh'! 

If a word like 'gret' gets sucked into the language in particular contexts when does it become 'naturalised' and how do we decide it's NOT part of the language when it's being used in front of us. 

English as we all know is a real mongrel language with its rich Norman/Latin strand and surely that has enriched it. Cornish seems to be nowhere near as 'penetrated' with borrowings but those it does have seem to have been absorbed into the very Celtic syntax and even mutations system so that as you point out it'd be practically impossible to spot in a fluent speaker's discourse. 

The very small number of as good as 'native' Cornish speakers who still use the tongue regularly must be a good pointer as to its natural development, whether they be 'literate' speakers or not. Can one assume the former would have a larger lexical base for pure 'Celtic' fluency without resort to plugging the gaps with (inevitably English) borrowing?

That Cornish is good at coining new terms that seem to stick with greater  facility I'd say than in Welsh where they can sound odd ( pellgowser, pellwollok, golghva-kerry) also acts as a protection from Anglo- infection!!




----- Original Message ----- 

From: Ceri Young <mailto:rcr_young at yahoo.co.uk>  

To: Standard <mailto:spellyans at kernowek.net>  Cornish discussion list 

Sent: Tuesday, June 22, 2010 8:59 PM

Subject: Re: [Spellyans] vocabulary


Although I have no qualifications to chip in, I agree with Craig here (and having itched to comment earlier I'm very glad to read his response). When I hear a comment like Nicholas' "My preference is for the language of the texts rather than for some reCelticised fantasy" I can't help being reminded that to some, the whole Cornish Revival is just one elaborate fantasy of reCelticisation; of salvaging lost Celticity from the desolation of a tragic, sustained, ethnocidal assault. It also then strikes me that it's perfectly natural to regard nurturing those late Anglicisms is somewhat contrary to the general ethos of such a fantasy of reCelticisation. Surely, just because a word is borrowed, doesn't make it a formal part of the language. Welsh speakers will routinely throw English loanwords like the adj. 'grêt' (great) (although they'll be using it as an interjection) into their speech and even write it into informal texts, but that doesn't mean 'grêt' is a Welsh word to be found in or even inserted into a Welsh dictionary as a translation of 'great'.


Even if I totally understand the need for the strictest academic rectitude in the revival, I can also see why some might harbour an instinct to purge such late Anglicisms from their own useage of Revived Cornish. It may not be remotely impartial or academic, but I can quite understand an uneasy attitude towards Anglicisms in Celtic languages in general, stemming from a sense of nationhood being established and complete from a given point that precludes influence from a resented imperial oppressor. (Perhaps as an Englishman, Nicholas simply doesn't see or feel this.) As a Welshman, I see the Welsh nation as one of Romano-British origins (and would have assumed the Cornish might be justified in thinking similarly) and so, as Ken George is accused of here, I can understand a bias towards Celtic & Latin words, and some unease towards Anglicisms.


Beyond that, if those Anglicisms entered into Cornish via borrowing and were legitimised by Cornish language users taking them into their linguistic currency, what would be so wrong with Revived Cornish speakers borrowing from Cornish's sister languages (along academic lines of their own) - and legitimising any reCelticisation of their language which they see fit? I guess that simply can't happen until the language is flying naturally of its own accord, and finally out of the hands of academics.


Best wishes,





From: Craig Weatherhill <craig at agantavas.org>
To: spellyans at kernowek.net
Sent: Tue, 22 June, 2010 18:56:22
Subject: [Spellyans] vocabulary

I'm concerned over one or two views that have been expressed re. vocabulary.  On one hand I'm hearing support for tota Cornicitas, and on the other, I'm hearing that a word only attested in OCV and not in the MC/Tudor texts shouldn't be used (stevel being an example that immediately springs to mind; use rom instead is the advice).  I don't agree with this.  Here's an example to illustrate why I think this way.

Dyek (SWF: diek), 'lazy' occurs on OCV as 'dioc', and not in MC at all.  Until the 80s, when Dick Gendall was the first to look at Late Cornish in depth, it was being assumed that the word didn't survive into MC.  In fact, it must have survived into Late Cornish because it turns up in dialect as 'jack'.  So, if the word made it to Late Cornish and dialect, it follows that it must have existed in MC.  We just don't have a text that features it and, let's face it, we only have a fraction of the texts that must once have existed.  Attestation in MC texts supports the use of a word; absence from what survives of the MC texts is not a reason for rejection.  It only tells us that the word isn't found in those few texts; not that it didn't exist.

For me, tota Cornicitas is essential.

I'm afraid that some words being put forward will never find use with me.  I don't see the point of 'valy' for "valley", when so many Cornish words for different types of valley already exist. Nor am I minded to reject lyw/liw (or however we're spelling it) in favour of 'color'.  I want to write Cornish.  I already know English.

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