[Spellyans] tavas

Craig Weatherhill craig at agantavas.org
Tue May 14 11:53:05 BST 2013

The word also occurs in two place-names:

Tavis Vor (coastal feature at Mousehole):  no early forms available.

Hantertavis (Mabe, a settlement named after a rock formation):  Hantertavas 1522; Hanterdeves, Henterdeves 1535; Hanter Davys 1565.  Seems to become confused with <deves>, "sheep (pl.)".

I saw no reason for KK changing the final vowel and, as Nicholas says, e > o takes some explaining.  I'm still spelling it <tavas>.


On 2013 Me 14, at 11:40, Nicholas Williams wrote:

> In the texts 'tongue' is almost always tavas, Late tavaz. The form taves is attested once only (OM 767).
> The attested plural is tavosow x 3 or tavosaw x 1. The form in OCV is tauot.
> It certainly appears that the native scribes believed that the unstressed vowel in this word was a mid or low back vowel
> rather than the etymological e which might have been expected. Indeed taves is attested once only.
> We do not actually know the precise nature of the segment written -v- or -u- in this word.
> It might have been a labio-dental similar to English /v/, but it might also have been an approximant, closer to English /w/.
> Consider that the rarely attested word for 'river' in Cornish is not *avon (pace Nance) but auan (Lhuyd) and awen in Awen-Tregare (hydronym). 
> Remember also that cawas, cawys appears to be a variant of cavos 'to get' and indeed the form in -w- is attested earlier than cavos: cawys in RD
> and cawas in BM, whereas cavos is first met in CW.
> It would perhaps be reasonable to assume that in the word for 'tongue' the internal consonant
> was acoustically speaking close to [w]. In which case OC tauot where the unstressed vowel is a mid-high
> fronted vowel might have been prevented by the preceding [w] from unrounding to e (hence the rarity of <taves>)
> but instead developed as a > schwa when unstressed and o when stressed. This would regularly have
> given tavas in the singular and tavosow in the plural. For the rounding effect of a preceding /w/ consider
> such English forms as wash, swap, quarter or Latin soror < IE *swesor, etc., etc.
> On balance it seems to me on phonetic grounds (to say nothing of the attestations in the texts) that it is
> better to write <tavas, tavosow> than <taves, tavosow>, where the alternation e ~ o is unexplained.
> Nicholas
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