[Spellyans] tavas in early Middle Cornish

Daniel Prohaska daniel at ryan-prohaska.com
Thu Jul 14 12:42:58 BST 2011

Thank you Nicholas, 
I was aware of Lhuyd’s description. Gendall has also based his “The Pronunciation of Modern Cornish” on Lhuyd’s material and descriptions. I think that the regular development of unstressed MC /ɪ/ > LC [ə] and MC /ə/ > LC [ɐ], with some redistribution, owing to the fact that the vowels were similar. Maybe Lhuyd also had difficulties keeping them apart, just as English and Swedish native speakers find the German distinction between [ə] : [ɐ] extremely difficult to hear and reproduce, even when they have very good German. 
We see other patterns of redistribution and also analogy such as <steren> ‘star’ which would have been something like [ˈstɛɾɐn] on LC while the plural suffix with stressed /ɛ/ -ennow was analogically remodelled on the singular giving <sterradnou> (J.Boson).

From: spellyans-bounces at kernowek.net [mailto:spellyans-bounces at kernowek.net] On Behalf Of nicholas williams
Sent: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 10:31 PM
To: Standard Cornish discussion list
Subject: Re: [Spellyans] tavas in early Middle Cornish
“Lhuyd published AB in 1707 but his Cornish material was collected in 1700.
Lhuyd makes it quite clear that the unstressed -ys of the MSS is either -ez or -az.
He says: 
"I am sensible that the Modern Pronunciation of the Cornish, does not confirm the Termination of this Participle's being always
in yz: For they generally end it in ez, Saying Kreiez, Called, Trehez, Cut, Miskemerez, Mistaken; Dylîez, Reveng'd, Guerhez, Sold, &c.,
and sometimes in az: As Ledhaz, Slain; Kyrtaz, Delayed; Guesgaz, Worn; tho' not seldom in yz: As Devedhyz, Come, Bidhyz, Drowned; Kelmyz, Bound; Huedhyz, Swoln." AB: 248b.
In the spoken Cornish of his day, then, Lhuyd heard three separate realisations of historic -ys of the verbal adjective, i.e. [ez], [iz] and [az].
I don't believe that the phonology of Cornish changed radically between Middle Cornish and the later period. It seems very likely that -ys in the Middle Cornish period was sometimes pronounced as though it were -as. This explains the Middle Cornish spelling
malegas 'accursed' for *mylegys and the universal spelling benegas 'blessed' for benegys—in both cases the word was lexicalised and not felt to be a verbal adjective.
It also explains why flehes 'children' is often spelt flehys but also flehas. Notice also the following from the Middle Cornish texts:
calys x 8
cales x 7
calas x 6.
cleves x 24
clevas 7 [of which the first three are in the Passion Poem]
bestes  x 12
bestas x 14
benenes x 9
benenas x 12 [the first 7 examples are from the Passion Poem, the others are from TH and BK.]
Clearly -as for -es was not just a Late Cornish phenomenon.
On 2011 Gor 13, at 19:25, Michael Everson wrote:

I don't think that the single attestation in OM suggests /ɛ/ so strongly. And I ask again, what practical good does this depth of etymologizing do for the orthography? I can't find sense in it in the broader context of the whole system. And I'm fairly familiar with that system.”

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