[Spellyans] gwyw

Michael Everson everson at evertype.com
Tue Jul 26 21:08:46 BST 2011

On 26 Jul 2011, at 13:54, Daniel Prohaska wrote:

>> I cannot see what reason there is for spelling this word with <iw> in the SWF, apart from gwiw in Common Cornish. This is based upon Welsh gwiw and Breton gwiv.
> While I believe you are right in saying the SWF spelling is based upon KK, it is the whole distribution of <i> and <y> that was largely taken over from KK. 

It was not taken over because of any extended discussion and principled consensus that George's distribution of the two letters had any merit. It was taken over because there were twice as many KK users in the AHG than UC/R and RLC users, and because there was no time to examine the question thoroughly.

Having examined it, we find no merit in George's etymological distribution. Quite the contrary: we find teachers criticizing it because the sound is no guide to the spelling and vice-versa.

> As far as I can gather, Nicholas, you say that <y> and <i> are allographs in MC.

In many contexts. There are, however, *no* instances of <iw>. 

> So I would conclude that any systematic or regular distribution decided upon for RC is arbitrary and per se a feature of modern RC orthography and not ‘spelling as the texts’.

The contribution of Ben and Albert was to distinguish <i> and <y> as [iː] and [ɪ] in stressed monosyllables and in their derivatives. (Their system obliged us to distinguish <ÿ> and <ë> for [iː] and [eː] in a class of stressed monosyllables, but at least we have no ambiguity.) Both Crist and Cryst may be found in the texts indifferently, but having settled on a distribution does not mean that one would just settle on anything. 

>> Everybody pronounces gwyw to rhyme with 'alive', which the SWF spells byw and bew.
> I don’t know if this is true. The SWF/M form <gwiw> has /gwiw/ which is pronounced [gwiˑʊ], while SWF/M <byw> is /bɪw/ pronounced [beˑʊ]. 

Excuse me? First: there is *no evidence* for half-length in the phonology of Revived Cornish. Second: The SWF does not mandate that /ɪw/ is pronounced [eʊ]. 

The SWF says that <iw> is RMC [iʊ], TC [ɪʊ] (here it is wrong), and RLC [ɪʊ] (which also appears to be wrong; Gendall gives liu [liu] for 'colour' and [iu] is not [ɪʊ].

The SWF says that <yw> is RMC and TC [ɪw] which might be right (in theory) for KK but is incorrect for UC/R, since people say [iʊ]. UC/R and TC speakers do not distinguish "du" 'black' and "duw" 'god' and "dyw" 'two', and all three of these rhyme with "lyw"/*"liw" 'colour'. UC/R and TC speakers do not distinguish words which in SWF are written <iw> from words which in SWF are written <yw>. And nobody in the AHG could do it either. Trond asked everyone in turn to distinguish a range of such words and no one could do it. 

(I am of course aware that some speakers especially older ones say [juː] rather than [iʊ], but as you know this is no longer recommended.)

The SWF says that <ew> is [ɛʊ] for everyone and so it is.

The SWF's table is such a mess because it does not recognize the bÿs/bës class of words, and so tries to use <y> as an umbrella graph (which is objectionable enough to begin with). But it cannot do this consistently because of its rule with <y> and <i> in stressed monosyllables. This incoherence is a structural flaw in the SWF, and no amount of making excuses for it can fix it. 

The SWF says that RMC has "lyw" for 'rudder' and RLC has "lew" for rudder, but this is also false. UC, UCR, and RLC all have "lew" for 'rudder'. The SWF's attempt to blot out UC and UCR with KK forms by assuming that KK is RMC and UC/R do not exist is just another fault of the SWF. 

>> Would it not be sensible therefore to spell 'worthy' gwyw and gwew?
> I would like to see SWF/L <gwew> either dropped or replaced by <gwev>.

I have pointed out the pronunciation of "kniv" Norwegian and Danish as an indication that such s shift is fairly normal. 

> I could accept SWF/M <gwyw> if we were to spell <tyr> ‘land’ and <hyr> ‘long’, but if we have <tir> and <hir>, <gwiw> makes sense on a systematic level.

No, it doesn't, because there is no alternation [ɪʊ] vs [iʊ], so there is no need to distinguish <yw> from <iw>. This is part of Ken George's "aspirational" /i/ vs /ɪ/ vs /e/ and such a triad simply is not a part of the Revived language. Even if it were a part of the dialect continua in traditional Cornish, it is nowhere in the orthography distinguishable. And twenty-five years of KK have proved that it is not possible to teach such a three-way distinction. 

For this reason we in Spellyans took the decision long ago to discard such fictions as we began to examine the shortcomings in the SWF. 

> If, however, we are discussing the redistribution of <y> and <i> in general, I’m open to discussing other options and suggestions.

We have made it easy. 

i- at the beginning of words. 
-y at the end of words.
y [ɪ] in stressed monosyllables and [ɪ] in their derivatives
i [iː] in stressed monosyllables and [ɪ] in their derivatives
y [ɪ] elsewhere in polysyllables
î [iː] elsewhere in polysyllables

This is extremely easy to learn. And if you can pronounce a word, you can most likely spell it.

Of course we also have ÿ~ë [iː]~[eː] in that class of words (this is essentially separate from the distribution of i and y). This complication could have been avoided with <ei>, but that umbrella graph was not accepted by the AHG.

> I do not find the KS solution workable in an ‘interdialectal’ orthography such as the SWF as it doesn’t take into account the differences between MC and LC based forms.

Where's your list? This criticism doesn't mean anything to me. Certainly Jowan Hir Silver speaks LC. Of course the more different one wishes to make the two dialects, the more differences one will wish to build into the orthography. In our view there were some differences which were 

> RLC users, other than myself, have said as much. 

Hurrah, unattributed criticisms without examples. 

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

More information about the Spellyans mailing list