[Spellyans] tavas

Daniel Prohaska daniel at ryan-prohaska.com
Tue May 14 22:04:46 BST 2013

On May 14, 2013, at 6:32 PM, Michael Everson wrote:

> On 14 May 2013, at 14:57, Daniel Prohaska <daniel at ryan-prohaska.com> wrote:
>> 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.
> KK's "etymological" vowels are part of the problem of the SWF. They make things hard for people to lear or to teach. 

I don't think teaching ‹taves, tavosow› is any easier or harder than teaching ‹tavas, taosow›. I largely agree where the issue is with KK ‹y› : ‹i› in unstressed syllables, though I would prefer a sulution different from the one you propose in KS.

>> 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. 
> It is POORLY attested in the texts,

You have printed examples of Cornish words and neologisms that are far poorer attested than ‹taves›. I don't understand why this word is so particular and difficult. 

> and its attestation has nothing WHATSOEVER

no need to shout...

> to do with any underlying sound in languages which pre-date those text by hundred and hundreds of years. All the vowels (a, e, i, o, u/v, y) are found in unstressed position where they all mean /ə/ or 

or… what? I thought we agreed that during the later MC period three unstressed vowel are distinguished, a central a high-front and a high-back vowel (cafas, cafus, kefys). 

>> 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. 
> We do use etymological principles -- WHERE IT MATTERS.

I know "we", I mean YOU do. But this was not what was agreed in the SWF. For all intents and purposes SWF and KS are viewed as related, but nonetheless different orthographic systems. 

> We could write colon, colan, colen, colyn for 'heart', but we write the former because under stress that vowel returns, colodnow.

No dispute here. 

> (There is nothing new here.) If *tavesow were attested,

It is not. But ‹taves› is attested and so is the plural ‹tavosow›. This is a regular pattern. It is diachronically explicable.  

> that might be one thing. But it's not. So using ‹e› in that word does not buy anyone ANY advantage.

‹tavas, tavosow› is attested and so is ‹tavasow› …. new food for thought...

> Except conlangers and reconstructionists. 

No, as ‹taves› IS attested. 

> Nicholas argument about the value of /v/~/β/~/w/ altering an expected tavasow to tavosow is a good against *taves in the singular. 

‹taves› is attested, there's no need for the asterisk….

> In my view, you use the trivially-attested "taves"

Not, trivially, ‹taves› in OM fits very nicely into the general development of Cornish as it is a relatively early and conservative text from a scribal perspective. PA is earlier, but often less conservative for example (orthographically, not grammatically).  

> as an excuse that George's etymological choices were right after all.

No, I'm not defending George, I'm just saying there's nothing wrong with ‹taves› in the context of the SWF. 

> But while reconstructions of people like Schrijver or Jackson or anybody else might be interesting, they aren't PRACTICAL in terms of an easily teachable orthography for Revived Cornish. 

As I said earlier, ‹taves, tavosow› is no easier or harder than ‹tavas, tavosow›. So where's your advantage in KS over the SWF?

>> Number of attestations can surely not be an argument in this case, as it is ignored elsewhere as well. 
> True. But the rationale for *taves is poor. 

No, it is not. It lines up nicely to the generally accepted phonological development of Cornish unstressed vowels. Yes, it is an early and conservative form, the mid-high and low unstressed vowels fell in with each other in the 15th century at the latest, so all instances of historical, unstressed /e/ : /a/ : /o/ became what we assume to have been *[ə] which was mostly spelt ‹a› in the 15th and 16th century texts and later. Some environments may have delayed this development as -ek was retained longer than -es, for examples, but eventually they were all written with ‹a› by the LC phase. 

>> Also the singular-plural alternation is not unexplained, but entirely expected and quite regular from a diachronic point of view. 
> Not in a way that makes sense to any genuine learner of the language.

It occurs in other cases such as ‹marhek, marhogyon›, ‹-er, -oryon› etc. 

> WE HAVE NO ATTESTATIONS for the "expected" things like */tawœd/ or */tavœd/. Every one of these reconstructions are possibilities. 

We have OC ‹tauot›, which is generally agreed to mean */tavœd/ (or possibly according to Nicholas */tawœd/ or */taβœd/). 

>> The relationship between the singular form ‹taves› and the plural form ‹tavosow› works exactly like the relationship between ‹marhek› and ‹marhogyon›.
> We write marhak and marhogyon, because we preserve the a/o alternation, and so wrtiting tavas and tavosow is exactly the same.

This is a KS rule. This does not exist as a rule in SWF which has ‹taves, tavosow› and ‹marhek, marhogyon› which is also a regular pattern and no easier or harder to teach than the KS rule. 

> We would only wrote marhek if the plural were marhegyon.

PC has ‹marregyon›, RD has ‹marreggyon, marregion, marregyon›, Lhuyd also cites one of these forms. So why don't you standardise ‹marhek, marhegyon›? Wouldn't that be easier for the learner? 

> We do the same sort of thing with the -er/-eryow vs the -or/-oryon words. It makes things easier for learners. It is practical and useful. 

Again, this is a KS rule. It is neither reflected in the texts where there is no such practice, nor in the SWF, which has ‹-er ~ -or, -oryon›. 

>> 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.
> Yes, it is. The "decision" to use KK vowels, and to use the "principle" of "etymological spelling" was not a decision taken by a large group of people after careful consideration.

It was a decision noetheless. It invites questioning, I agree with you there, but once established it is consistent within the framework of the SWF.

> There was not time to do anything like discuss vowel distribution, of i/y or of any other set, at Treyarnon, and Trond/Albert/Ben just took KK as a "default" because it was "popular". 

As an ‹-as, -osow› pattern is no more or less advantageous to the "popular" one, why shouldn't the latter be used? It is attested after all, if once in this case, but generally more often if similar cases are counted into this category. 

>> According to the pronunciation rules suggested for Revived Tudor Cornish and Revived Late Cornish ‹taves› and ‹tavas› ought to be pronounced identically as /ˈtavəz/.
> /ˈtævəs/ or /ˈtævəz/. In our view /s/ participated in the voicing/devoicing pairing in unstressed final syllables during the earlier period (like v/f, ð/θ, ɡ/k) though the influence of the English plural -es /əz/ led to re-voicing in unstressed final syllables in the later period. 

This is just a theory which needs this interpretation and the employment of "English influence" to explain re-voicing of final ‹s›. We cannot know the MC situation as the MC texts did not distinguish /s/ from /z/ orthographically. 

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

As is yours that I'm defending George's etymologies. Personally, I don't care whether "we" spell ‹taves› or ‹tavas›, all I'm saying is, that there is nothing wrong with spelling ‹taves›, and that ‹e› is the correct etymological vowel. Nicholas also says that the etymology isn't disputed here. 

> However, when one examines George's unilateral changes of vowels in unstressed syllables in the 1980s, one finds that in general the UC system was more logical and more useful. 

To a certain extent, yes, and I also agree that it was a mistake to introduce the public to the overly reconstructionist (and sometimes mistaken) KK. An orthography based on and evolved from Nance, or better yet Jenner, would have been preferable, but that's not what happened. 


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