[Spellyans] vocabulary

Ceri Young rcr_young at yahoo.co.uk
Wed Jun 23 13:35:03 BST 2010

Nicholas, I have to offer my sincerest apologies if any offense was taken from what I said, none was intended - but I'd noted in earlier posts that there were accusations of bias and prejudice in those who might wish to avoid what they might naturally regard as 'unnecessary' Anglicisms. I just happen to believe that the instincts to avoid such unnecessary Anglicisms are neither so sinister nor unnatural as has been implied (although I happily concede they're non-academic), irrespective of how recent the phenomenon of Celtic (or indeed Cornish) nationalism is. I simply felt the relatively hostile-sounding accusations of prejudice in such word selection was insensitive in itself - it isn't even necessarily indicative of Anglophobia, but simply of a national identity having been comprehended (if not imagined) as a counterpoint (and yes, in post-imperial times) to Englishness, and for it to be asserted (perfectly innocently) along those lines.

I don't believe offense has been intended in either direction here, but accusations of nationalist Anglophobia in mere word selection are surely unhelpful to Spellyans, or the wider Cornish Revival. People will naturally regard Cornishness as a counterpoint to Englishness, with no malace, ill will or snub intended - but as an assertion of individuation for its own sake. (The very sense of individuation which I suspect lies somewhere in the motivations of many Cornish people seeking to learn and help revive their national language.)

Dan, where I said 'Late Cornish Anglicisms' I really meant those which appeared later on, where earlier more authentically 'Cornish' alternatives are attested, sorry if that was vague, I appreciate and respect that there are some very ancient and to that extent more legitimate Anglicisms in Cornish.

Best wishes,

From: nicholas williams <njawilliams at gmail.com>
To: Standard Cornish discussion list <spellyans at kernowek.net>
Sent: Wed, 23 June, 2010 11:55:38
Subject: Re: [Spellyans] vocabulary

Neil and I hardly knew one another when he wrote his review and I have since explained what my thinking was in writing the English-Cornish dictionary. It was and remains perfectly obvious to me that Cornish does not need an exact equivalent for every English word in every context. It was also clear to me that certain elements in the revival were attempting to invent or devise words  for Cornish (largely on the basis of Breton). Since this was so and the attempts were not always completely acceptable, it seemed a good idea to me to circumvent such ad hoc devisers of terminology and suggest words coherently and rationally.  I know I wasn't wholly (possibly not even largely) successful but I did provide a lexicon, which for all its faults, advanced the use of Cornish by suggesting words where none existed previously. Some of my suggestions have indeed gained general currency. The word Kescowethyans 'Partnership' is, I believe, mine as is
 kesassoylyans 'compromise'. I notice also that Rod Lyon uses awedhyans 'influence' in the phrasein dadn awedhyans alcohol 'under the influence of alcohol'. Awedhyans is my coinage on the basis of aweth 'watercourse', and was suggested by Welsh dylanwad. 

Somebody on this list has suggested that as an Englishman I am not sensitive (as a member of the 'imperialist oppressor' nation) to the Celtic dislike of English borrowings. This is not only insulting, it is just plain silly.  
Cornish is full of English borrowings that the Cornish were probably not aware of as borrowings, e.g. nefra 'never', hernen 'pilchard'. Moreover speakers do not when talking or writing say, "Mustn't use that, an English borrowing". Besides Celtic nationalism in the modern sense is a recent phenomenon. In medieval and reformation times people did not think in nationalist categories. The absence in former times of Celtic nationalist sentiment is clear in the British Empire which was created, sustained and administered as much by the Scots, and and the Welsh as by the English. Just think of the names: Nova Scotia in Canada, Dunedin (Edinburgh) in New Zealand and New South Wales in Australia. Celtic nationalism has arisen only since the empire has been dismantled.
In Ireland, where I have lived since 1968, the main force for anglicisation has not been the English (who left in 1922), but elements in the native establishment.

Tregear uses English borrowings, not because he wants to offend his nationalist parishioners, but because he wants to impress on them how learned he is.

When talking about borrowings it is important to distinguish between words borrowed and assimilated to Cornish phonetic type, like trailya 'to turn', qwestyon, pl. qwestyonow 'question', jùnya 'to join' on the one hand and words used holus bolus in their unassimilated form. 
For my own part when translating into Cornish, which I do quite a bit, I always try to situate an obvious borrowing like confessya or ùnderstondya, for example, in a context where there are noother obvious borrowings. This is a question of sensitivity and style. 

As Dan says, most of the English borrowings are in earlier Middle Cornish. For example, in the first four stanzas of PA, one finds the following borrowings from English:

re wronte (< graunt 'to grant'); y basconn (< pascon 'passion'); rebekis (< rebuk 'to rebuke'); dyspresijs (< dispraise 'to despise'); fastis (< faste'to fasten'); virtu (< virtu 'virtue'); zyttyas (< dyghte 'to dight, arrange'); paynys (< paines 'pains); zeserya (< desir 'to desire); mevijs (meve 'to move'). Indeed there are more borrowings in PA than in either Rowe or Nicholas Boson's writing.


On 23 Efn 2010, at 09:15, Ray Chubb wrote:

Neil suggested that Nicholas had gone too far in trying to find a suitable word for every single word of English when in fact Cornish words have a wide range of meanings.

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