[Spellyans] Country Tracks

Eddie Climo eddie_climo at yahoo.co.uk
Sun Feb 12 18:32:33 GMT 2012

On 2012 Whe 12, at 16:23, Nicholas Williams wrote:
> Nance wrote byghan for 'small
This statement is not wholly true. It is indeed what Nance wrote in his two English-Cornish dictionaries, the 1934 and the 1952. However, it is NOT an accurate citation of what he wrote in both of his Cornish-English dictionaries, the 1938 and the 1955, where we find:
> byghan, bȳan. small, little

> In my view the spelling <byghan> was not sensible. Here is a short quotation from a forthcoming handbook of mine:
In that quotation, we see the following forms cited as being attested:
> beghan, byhan, behan, byan, byen, bean.
Given this range of attested forms, I think Nance was quite sensible to offer as normalised forms both byghan and bȳan.

> ... it is apparent that the pronunciation of this word in Middle an Late Cornish was [ˈbiːən]rather than *[ˈbɪxən].
'Apparent'? I doubt it: why was the word ever written beghan/byhan/behan? These attested spellings show clearly that there was some aspiration between the two syllables, at least in the speech of some speakers. Again, Nance shows the clarity of his judgement in offering both an aspirated and an unaspriate form of the word with byghan/bȳan.

> 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.
Indeed, no need at all: some L1 English speakers would doubtless pronounce  the [x] as a 'k' (as in Scots Loch /lok/, and the word would be homophonous with E.'beacon'. I've heard a few Cornish speakers pronounce 'byghan' with a guttural throat clearance in the middle.

However, that's not the only possibility, as I've heard many more pronounce it with a simple /-h-/  in the middle, as one would in English *'bee-han'. Personally, I find this pronunciation helpful to differeentiate 'byghan/byhan' from the near homophone 'büan' quick, lively, and it's the one I try to use.

Eddie Climo

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