[Spellyans] dictionnaire de l'Académie française

Michael Everson everson at evertype.com
Sat Jan 29 23:10:40 GMT 2011

On 29 Jan 2011, at 21:46, Christian Semmens wrote:

> I have no problem with diacritics. The lack of them in Cornish as a reviving language has been to its detriment.


> In KS I see a good orthography, somewhat marred by its relocation onto the form of the SWF as its base (I preferred old KS1 to be honest). However, I feel the biggest problem KS has to deal with is the use of diacritics. Particularly it is with those diacritics that mark, not a particular sound value, but a sound variance, the diaresis and the  circumflex when not being used to show vowel length.

The vowel in "bras" is long by nature (vowel before [z]). When we write "brâs", the vowel remains long by nature, but the mark shows that this word may be pronounces [bræːz] or [brɒːz]. Marking quality instead of quality here is not superfluous. How else are you going to write [bræːz]~[brɒːz]?

> I appreciate the function of these, but feel that they are superfluous. The diaresis is especially unpopular.

Unpopular? That's a statistical assertion, isn't it?

> I understand that late users will need a different spelling to represent their sound, but I would be happy to see that different spelling.

I don't follow. You shouldn't make the mistake of hiving off "Late" so completely from the rest of the Revival. In fact there is a continuum, "Middle", "Tudor" and "Late" (1500, 1600, 1700, more or less), and it's wrong to think that there is a tiny minority of users only who use Late forms. In fact, you may have noticed that Nicholas in his translations nearly always favours the "ë" forms (except for "ÿs" 'corn', "ÿst" 'east' and some bird terms). Now plenty of people say [biːz], don't they? But absent a diacritical mark, Nicholas' writing, for a very large class of words, would always look like [beːz] to  them. You seem to suggest that everybody'd be writing "bys" and that a few Late users would have to adjust -- but the adjustment is necessary for everybody, and (again) this is a very large class of words. Sure, KS1 wrote "ei" which would have been unambiguous, but the SWF gives everybody "e"~"y" (distinct from "e" and "y") and, well, what is one to do?

But more below. 

> When one writes dialect in English it must, perforce, be in a phonetic spelling. The context is what gives the word its value, and such a tiny degree of inexactitude I feel is a small price to pay for not using the diaresis. The context of the word will usually disambiguate the meaning.

The other thing about the diaeresis is that for the letter y, it marks length. Remember, "bys" is [bɪz] and "bÿs" is [biːz]. If you don't mark it you're going to get everybody doing exactly what KK users do: pronounce *ALL* of the words in this (very large) class with a short [ɪ]. 

RMC users can pronounce both "ë" and "ÿ" as [iː]; RLC users can pronounce them both as [eː]. RTC users are likely to write "ÿ" when they mean [iː] and "ë" when they mean [eː]. 

> As I said before, I understand the reason for its inclusion, but feel that its presence actually undermines the arguments for the traditional basis for KS. OK, no other diacritics were traditionally used, but their use saves us from having to distort the traditional word forms with peculiar graphs and are used in all other British Celtic languages.

I would like to remind you that Welsh uses grave, acute, circumflex, and diaeresis, and that Nance used macron and diaeresis. Scottish Gaelic uses grave and acute, Manx uses cedilla, Irish uses acute and formerly dot-above. Jenner used circumflex, and Lhuyd used circumflex, dot above, and dot below. 

The thing is that in Revived Cornish we have dialects which reflect differences in the traditional corpus. And as we mark "brâs" with a single umbrella graph (in preference to "bras"~"broas"), so we mark "bÿs"~"bës". I'm sorry if it troubles you, but I can't see an alternative. 

> Unfortunately for the diaresis, I feel it is one of the least, if not actually the least liked parts of KS. I would not be sad to see it go.

I really don't think that removing it would solve problems; rather it would re-introduce ambiguity. 

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

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