[Spellyans] vocabulary

ewan wilson butlerdunnit at ntlworld.com
Thu Jun 24 22:43:32 BST 2010

I think Nicholas speaks a lot of godd, common sense here.
Re neologisms it must surely be the case that a language keeping abreast of new thinking and technology etc MUST coin terms to cover these concepts/things and that SOME INDIVIDUAL has to cook them up! I'm quite sure just about every lanaguage has such a phenomenon and that the result might be one widely accepted coinage and a  few alternatives.
In English, for example, we might refer most commonly to 'a car' but could also say 'motor', 'motor-car', 'automobile', and in lower register even 'wheels'! In Glasgow there is a definite class distinction, with more 'middle class' talking of their cars whereas in 'working class' ( for want of a less offensive term!)  freely talk of their 'motors'!
I think Welsh has a lot of very well established terms that were coined by eminent figures such as Iolo Morganwg. Isn't 'geiriadur' one such very useful coinage?
Thus the coinages Nicholas mentions here are perfectly acceptable and  particularly so if they get adpoted readily by others. Who, I wonder, coined the 'pellwollok' and 'pellgowser' for instance? I'd say that they sound  'just right' in Cornish, over the more 'international' terms. In French I'd say it's the other way round!
So far as borrowings go, it is also worth bearing in mind many of the so called 'Anglicisms' are themselves derived from Norman French and Latin, the old ubiquitous lingua franca. I don't think Cornish is so fragile either grammatically or in its phonetics that it cannot accommodate and 'cornicise' many of the terms that have historically fed into its system without being 'swamped'. However I can understand the nervousness of some that this is a potential danger. 
The question is why do bilingual speakers 'code mix'? Could it be a simple lack of linguistic comptence/literacy rather than the intrusive pressure of the bigger neighbour over the lesser? One wonders just what the average number of  lexical items the less literate monolingual English speaker has? A common complaint of old from English teachers was the need to extend one's vocabulary!! It'd be interesting to compare the average size of lexicon that a bilingual speaker has of his two tongues!
Is lapsing into English phrases and words during a Gaelic conversation a sign of the minority tongue's erosion or greater incomptence in that tongue? Well read, more highly educated Gaels tend not to need to  splice their conversation liberally with mixing and can access specialised registers in their minority tongue.

As for anglicisation it is surely the case that as Nicholas says, this can result as much from 'self-loathing' and self despising neglect of one's native tongue as from active 'foreign' oppression? Some Welsh are the worst foes of the language! Weren't Leo Abse and George Thomas notorious in this respect? And the Irish certainly do not appear to have  infused their native tongue with any great communal strength for all its being shored up in the educational system.

Happily there is no doubt that Cornish is a very supple, resilient language!


  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: nicholas williams 
  To: Standard Cornish discussion list 
  Sent: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 11:55 AM
  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 phrase in 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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