[Spellyans] dictionnaire de l'Académie française

Michael Everson everson at evertype.com
Sun Jan 30 14:11:46 GMT 2011

On 30 Jan 2011, at 13:15, Eddie Climo wrote:

> I agree with Nance (and the KS proposal) that in lexicographic, reference and didactic material the use of diacritics is a good idea.
> However, unlike Nance, I propose that KS suggests diacritics MAY be for 'imitation in ordinary use', entirely at the discretion of the w[r]iter or publisher. Which means, of course, that they sometimes will not employed  'for imitation in ordinary use.'

Well, I think this is a naïve view. Cornish is a real language. As real as French and Hungarian and Irish and German and Spanish. It is absurd to suggest that Cornish should have some sort of orthographic "opt-out". That doesn't help readers, or writers, or publishers. 

When I publish in Irish or French (or Swedish, or German, or Italian, or Esperanto, or any of the other languages I have published Alice in, for instance), I don't have to worry about options in terms of the orthographic use of diacritics. Words have their spellings, and I follow them. 

I do the same for Cornish.

> But for 'ordinary use', I agree with Jenner's very balanced view (Handbook, 1904, pp.ix-x, para.2):
>> …and to modern learners, whose ovject in linguistic rather than philological, a fairly regular system of orthography is almost a necessity.

Yes. We agree with Jenner. Indeed, the irregularities of the SWF are why we have proceeded with KS.

>> The present system is not the phonetic  ideal of "one sound to each symbol, and one symbol for each sound," 

Neither is KS, obviously. As a traditionally-based orthography, we use "c" and "k" and "q" for [k], and "c" and "s" for [s], and "s" and "z" for [z], and so on. There are rules to help explain the distribution of these graphs.

>> but it aims at being fairly consistent with itself,

KS is quite consistent, I believe. We have endeavoured to make it so.

>> not too difficult to understand,

The rules of KS are not too difficult to understand, nor too difficult to explain. An explanation is found in Skeul an Tavas, and other materials are being prepared. 

>> not too much encumbered with diacritical signs,

This appears to be all you are worried about. For my part I don't think that Jenner would have disapproved of KS. And I have read his work fairly closely.

>> and not too startlingly different from the spellings of earlier times…"

As has been discussed many times, the advantage of using diacritical marks is that it permits a modern orthography to remain closer to traditional orthography (and we have seen since the 1980s what happens when one is forced to use other means, such as double consonants to mark short vowels, and novel vowel graphemes to indicate vowel quality).

> Notice how his statements are qualified rather than absolute: "…fairly regular … fairly consistent … not too difficult … not too much encumbered with diacritical marks … not too startlingly different …". He shows no sign of the dogmatic orthodoxy expressed in the present-day Revival by both extreme diacritophiles and diacritophobes alike.

Oh, give over, Eddie.

We do not use diacritics because we are "diacritophiles". We use them because we are linguists. They are used for linguistic reasons, in order to offer an orthography which will allow people who prefer whatever dialect to recognize and accurately pronounce any text which they encounter. I have responded outlining the linguistic reasons for the various choices. Indeed, I have done this more than once. 

Dogmatic orthodoxy? What is dogmatic about a principled view that learners and speakers of Cornish should have an orthography they can rely on? About a view that it is simpler to say "here is how to spell" (as they do in French and Hungarian) and not to say "but you can do whatever you want if you think you just don't like it"?

In the earliest KS1 we had no "bÿs" forms at all. We abandoned them entirely and had only "bës" forms. In that scenario we wrote them all "bes". We were criticized for this (it was not inclusive of RMC), and so chose in KS1 the Jordan-based umbrella graph, and wrote all of the words in this class "beis". That was an example of inclusivity. Any user preferring any dialect could say "beis" as [biːz] or [beːz] as he or she preferred. But that solution was not preferred by the AHG, who offered only bys/bes, which unfortunately is ambiguous with regard to all the y-words with short vowels and to all the e-words which do not have an y/e alternation. (There are many words of both kinds.) That ambiguity is not good for learners. So we marked those words with a diacritical mark which is widely available in fonts and on operating systems, and so is unproblematic for those reasons. 

How does that measured and considered response to dialect preference and accuracy become an "encumbrance"? "I think it's too many" is not an answer. 

> In the view of some of us on this forum, KS as currently proposed is (to quote Jenner) 'too much encumbered with diacritical marks'. I, for one, shall not support it being so excessively encumbered.

I should prefer it if you would respond to linguistic argument with linguistic argument, rather than by just repeating the same assertion over and over again. Yes, I heard you the first time when you said you think there are "too many diacritics". I have taken pains to explain the linguistic reason we have chosen to use the ones which we used, in the context of responding to the SWF. You've ignored that, and are just back here citing Jenner as though that were a response to a linguistic argument. Perhaps you wish to imply that Jenner's principles damn KS for being "too much encumbered" but in my view at least they do not: our use of marks is consistent with Jenner's principles, given the requirement for inclusivity in dialect which we have tried to respect. 

What you have proposed (not marking the bÿs/bës words) just adds back ambiguity into the orthography for a very large class of words. I don't see how that offers any advantage to learner, to reader, to writer, or to publisher. 

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

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