[Spellyans] tavas in early Middle Cornish

Daniel Prohaska daniel at ryan-prohaska.com
Thu Jul 14 14:07:04 BST 2011

-----Original Message-----
From: spellyans-bounces at kernowek.net [mailto:spellyans-bounces at kernowek.net] 
On Behalf Of Michael Everson
Sent: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 11:42 PM
To: Standard Cornish discussion list
Subject: Re: [Spellyans] tavas in early Middle Cornish
“On 13 Jul 2011, at 21:42, Jed Matthews wrote:
> That's very interesting.
> Is there a wider lack of distinction between ɨ and ə across the texts? As an LC speaker one of my main concerns about KS is unstressed y representing schwa where it possibly shouldn't.
I think you've been sold a pup. I think you've put a lot of store into something that isn't significant in Cornish.”
Rather than a buyer of a pup, I think, Jed, you may have misunderstood something. Ken George maintained that at his central date of Cornish ca. 1500 that in closed unstressed syllables the vowels /ɪ/ : /ɛ/ : /a/ : /ɔ/ : /o/ : /u/ were distinguished. 
/ɪ/ can be spelt <i y u> in KK (kegin, melyn, seythun);
There was never a distinction proposed between the words spelt with <i> and those spelt with <y>, though he does give an unstressed vowel system for ca. 1225 that maintains a distinction between /i/ and /ɪ/ (‘Cornish’ by K.George in ‘The Celtic Languages’, Routledge 1992, 2002, ed. Martin J. Ball). 
“By and large in unstressed final closed syllables you get /ə/. Now there seems to be evidence that there are three colours of this, namely [ᵻ] and [ə] (perhaps [ɐ]) and [ᵿ]. Dick Gendall's orthography masks the colouring distinction as much as anything else. He writes (as I said previously) <kegen> with <ān> right alongside <kettermen> <ẏn> and termen <en>. According to his own key he intends these to correspond to [ɒ] and [ə] and [e]. I'm afraid that here, at least, his recommendations are not coherent. 
Michael, some of the symbols didn’t come through, so I’ll have to guess what they mean. My take on the unstressed vowels in Middle Cornish between ca. 1450 and 1550 is /ɪ/ : /ə/ : /ʊ/. The first two remained distinct in LC with partial redistribution, while /ʊ/ was lost, falling in with /ɪ/ or /ə/.
/ɪ/ : SWF <i y> in kegin, melyn;
/ə/ : SWF <e a o> in gwedhen, holan, colon;
/ʊ/ : SWF <o ou u> in cavos, chambour, arludh; 
The lack of clear orthographic distinction between /ɔ/ : /ʊ/ is obvious here, too.
“Certainly his recommendation that "kegen" has a low back vowel (effectively "kegon") is at odds with your view that it should have a high front vowel. 
The reason kegin has an i in the SWF is that Ken George thought it was better because in British Latin it was cocîna. His recommended pronunciation is [ˈkɛɡɪn]. Ken George writes <melyn> because Welsh does, and he says the pronunciation is [ˈmɛlɪn]. He writes <melin> because in Latin it was molîna, and he says the pronunciation is [ˈmɛlɪn]. No difference in pronunciation.”
In Gendall's 2007 dictionary he writes <melin> 'yellow' [ˈmelin], <belin> 'mill' [ˈbelin], and he writes <kegen> 'kitchen' [ˈkegǝn]. But in CW <gegen> rhymes with <onyn>, which is in SWF written <onen> and <onan>. If there were really such a distinction even in RLC, you'd want to write <onin>, wouldn't you?
Kegyn/kegen/kegin are all pronounced as in "The frog he went a-beggin'." Whether that's realized as [ˈbɛgᵻn] or [ˈbɛgɪn] or [ˈbɛgən], all allophonic. English "melon" is the same. Makes no difference whether it's realized as [ˈmɛlᵿn] or [ˈmɛlən] or [ˈmɛlən].”
There is a tendency in LC to distinguish between <a> and <e>. The e-words often show spellings suggesting a higher front and back vowel in MC, whereas the a-words appear to be the reflex of the middle row <e a o>.  
LC e-words: verbal adjectives in -ez (< -ys); kegin (cf. keghin (VC), gegyn (BM), gegen (BM, CW, Lh)); arludh (cf. arluit (VC), arluth (PA, OM, PC, RD, BM, BK, TH, SA, CW, J.Keigwin, W.Rowe), arloth (OM), arlud (BM), arloyth (BK), arleth (W.Rowe, W.Gwavas, T.Boson, J.Boson), arlyth (N.Boson), arlith (T.Boson), arlydh (Lh), arlụidh (Lh)); gwenton (cf. gwaintoin (VC), guainten (Lh), gwainten (Pryce)); 
LC a-words: var. endings -az (< -es, -as, -os); holan (cf. holoin (VC), holan (J.Boson, Lh, Gwavas, Tonkin, Pryce), hollan (O.Pender), halan (Pryce)); colon (cf. colon (VC, PA, OM, PC, RD, BM, Keigwin, Pryce), colen (OM), colyn (BM), colan (BM, BK, TH, SA, CW), collan (N.Boson), kolan (Lh, J.Boson), kalan (Lh), kolon (J.Boson); the plural has <o> only); chambour (cf. chammbour (OM), cham̃ber (BK), tshombar (Lh)); cavos (cf. cafos (PA, OM), caffos (PA), cafes (OM), kafus (OM, TH), cafus (OM, PC, RD, BM, TH), caffus (OM, RD), cawas (BM, CW, W.Rowe), cafas (BK, SA), kafas (TH), kavas (Keigwin), gouas (T.Boson), gowas (Jenkins, Chirgwin), koụaz (Lh), kaụaz (Lh) … among others); 
The MC system of /ɪ/ : /ə/ : /ʊ/ was further reduced in LC to /ɪ/ [ə] : /ə/ [ɐ]. The words that had /ʊ/ were reanalysed and are found with either /ɪ/ or /ə/. There must have been some redistribution among /ɪ/ and /ə/ as well, which is what Lhuyd describes.  
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