[Spellyans] Country Tracks

Nicholas Williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Sun Feb 12 16:23:52 GMT 2012

Nance wrote byghan for 'small' and George followed him. In my view the spelling <byghan> was not sensible. Here is a short quotation from a forthcoming handbook of mine:

For ‘small, little’ in revived Cornish some speakers use the word byghan.
It should be pointed out, however, that this form is not attested in the
Cornish texts, though it does occur in place-names. Two examples of
beghan  in Pascon agan Arluth  are the only examples in the texts of a medial
-gh-  in this word. There are a few examples of byhan  and behan , with
medial -h- . By far the commonest spellings for ‘small’ in early Middle
Cornish, however, are byan  or byen . TH and CW write this form bean,
while Lhuyd writes bîan  passim. This is an important point: it is apparent
that the pronunciation of this word in Middle an Late Cornish was [ˈbiːən]
rather than *[ˈbɪxən]. There is no need, therefore, to attempt in this word
to pronounce -gh-  [x] between vowels, a sound which is difficult for many
speakers of English


On 12 Feb 2012, at 15:49, Ray Chubb wrote:

> I can't say that I have ever heard Mick pronounce 'byan' in that way.  Perhaps there was a certain amount of distortion through the radio.  One thing I have noticed about Mick's pronunciation is that it has a distinct Breton twang, I asked him about this and he thinks it probably goes back to his time as a child in St Ives when he used to swim out to the Breton fishing boats, be invited on board and listen to Breton being spoken.

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