[Spellyans] tavas

Michael Everson everson at evertype.com
Wed May 15 12:57:06 BST 2013

On 15 May 2013, at 09:45, Linus Band <linusband at gmail.com> wrote:

>> I don't believe for a minute that the etymological value you got from the fact that Brythonic languages are related had anything to do with the specific reconstructions of **final unstressed syllables**.
>> And even if it does help you, you'd be less than 99.8% of people who want to learn Cornish. They deserve a system that is an actual system, not a system based on a hypothetical relationship to two other systems seen through the lens of a reconstructed language predating all of them by centuries.
> Just like Deiniol I found knowing Middle Welsh and Breton (and to some extent Proto-Brythonic to connect them) useful when learning Cornish.

Sure. For root words. But for final unstressed syllables? I don't believe it. 

> Now that I have started learning Modern Welsh I find that my knowledge of Cornish is helping me a lot.

I did Breton before I did Middle Welsh. The syntax of Middle Welsh seems closer to that of Modern Breton than the syntax of Modern Welsh. That's an impression I have from that time of study; I haven't studied either for a long time.

> I would like to add that first saying that you find Germanic etymology and the knowledge of multiple Germanic languages very useful when learning another Germanic language,

For root words, for vocabulary building, on the level of Abteilung/afdeling, sure. Not for the kinds of things that Ken George engineered into unstressed suffixes. That is a huge qualitative difference. 

> but then dismissing somebody else's claim that they experience the same when learning a Brythonic language, is a prime example of double standards. 

See above. I do not believe for a minute that anybody's knowledge of Welsh taf-od helps them to recognize a Cornish tav-es. 

> Talking about double standards, the assumption that final unstressed syllables contained a *ə is also merely hypothetical, yet we roll with it.

It has been there since the beginning of the Revival. It's what is in what people actually speak. And, if you will have read the many pages Nicholas has devoted to this question, the Prosodic Shift is the one hypothesis which helps to explain all of the big questions in Cornish phonology. A few researchers try to put the date of the PS impossibly late, but nobody disputes it. And the result is schwa in unstressed syllables.

> So why is it so difficult to accept that at an earlier stage (that some people indeed attempt to speak) was more of a *ɛ, which, by the way, can be derived from an even earlier *œ that would neatly connect Cornish tavas to Breton teod, and even a bit further back to the ancestor of Welsh tafod.

George's attempt to introduce pronunciation change in the 1980s on the basis of his theories has largely failed. No one uses half-length or geminate consonants in the way that KK recommends. No one distinguishes /i/ from /ɪ/ or /o/ from /ɔ/ in the way KK recommends. 

Where the SWF fails in in any of the remnants of its trying to support both KK phonology and RMC/RTC/RLC phonology. KS supports the latter—and successfully, practically, and usefully. KK doesn't even support KK phonology accurately. KK aspirations are for nothing. They've had 30 years to try to teach that stuff and it's been a colossal failure. 

> I don't really understand the argument here. KS bases itself on a stage of Cornish where we can be fairly sure that unstressed vowels were reduced to a schwa. 

Nicholas dates that reduction to a fairly early period, and the plethora of written vowels for unstressed syllables bears up that early date. OM has both "taves" and "davas". There's no good argument that an intermediate ɛ on the spectrum of œ > ɛ > ə is preserved in OM, given those spellings. 

> All that Dan and Nicholas are saying is that there was an earlier stage of *œ for the final syllable of Cornish tavas. This is generally agreed upon.

Yes, but it has little to do with a practical orthography for the Revived Language. 

> I find an intermediate stage of *ɛ between earlier *œ and later *ə only logical, since [ɛ] is simply the unrounded and therefore more relaxed version of [œ]. It shows that the sound is already on its way to become [ə].

I hear revivalists saying [ˈtævəs] or [ˈtævəz]. I do not hear them saying [ˈtavɛs]. And the same goes for all those KK -es plurals which were -as in UC. 

There are no double standards here. But neither are we interested in preserving or shoring up the fictions of a failed experiment of 1980s linguistic engineering.

Michael Everson * http://www.evertype.com/

More information about the Spellyans mailing list