[Spellyans] tavas

Daniel Prohaska daniel at ryan-prohaska.com
Tue May 14 14:57:46 BST 2013

Dear all, 

I sympathise with those who wish to keep the spelling ‹tavas› from Unified Cornish. But I would rather redirect the energy and impetus of SWF-reviewing to more pressing issues. There is nothing "wrong" with the spelling ‹taves› "except" that it is the form used in KK. It is attested as such in the texts as well as being the etymologically expected form. 

Of course one may question whether it is necessary to have a standard orthography that is based on etymological principles, but this is something that was decided for the SWF and probably not the worst one considering the variety of unstressed vowel graphs found in the texts. 

Number of attestations can surely not be an argument in this case, as it is ignored elsewhere as well. 

Also the singular-plural alternation is not unexplained, but entirely expected and quite regular from a diachronic point of view. 

According to most etymologies a Proto-British form *tau̯āt- (Pr-Cl. *tangʷāt-, cf. OI tengae) can be reconstructed. In Late Pr.-Br. the base form for the Brythonic languages would be something like *tawɔd which in Old Cornish would regularly become */tawœd/ or */tavœd/ (cf. OC ‹tauot›). The latter form regularly unrounds the unstressed /œ/ > /ɛ/, and /d/ is assibilated to /z/ giving MC */tavɛz/ (cf. ‹taves› (OM)). As most other post-tonic unstressed vowels this /ɛ/ is centralised to [ə] and falls in with other unstressed vowels originally /a/ and /o/. 

The relationship between the singular form ‹taves› and the plural form ‹tavosow› works exactly like the relationship between ‹marhek› and ‹marhogyon›. The texts show different spellings here, some show ‹o› which points towards unfronting in the original /œ/ to [ɔ], while forms with ‹e› show a retained */œ/ which is often unrounded to ‹e› /ɛ/, though there is also a possibility that the ‹e› is analogically used in the plural. This also happens with ‹tavosow› in later texts which show ‹tavasow› (or similar spellings with ‹a›). 

All in all this is not one of the pressing matters where the SWF review is concerned as the forms used in the SWF are attested and thus achieve all the criteria demanded of the SWF. According to the pronunciation rules suggested for Revived Tudor Cornish and Revived Late Cornish ‹taves› and ‹tavas› ought to be pronounced identically as /ˈtavəz/.

I can only assume personal dislike for KK and a familiarity with UC ‹tavas› and RLC ‹tavaz› are responsible for rejectig the spelling ‹taves›. 


On May 14, 2013, at 12:40 PM, 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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