[Spellyans] tavas

Chris Parkinson brynbow at btinternet.com
Fri May 17 09:32:03 BST 2013

I agree that Dick Gendall’s problems with finding a suitable orthography for
RLC have caused learners great difficulty over the years  and that RLC users
have to make a special effort to be able to read the older literature in the
original. But that can be done. 

In any case, Gendall has finally settled on an orthography based on Lhuyd.

However, I think it unfair to accuse him of moving the goal posts during the
time  he was working out how best to describe Late Cornish. Nicholas asks
‘Are Middle and Late Cornish so different as to require separate treatment,
or are they differently spelt forms of the same language?’  This is a very
misleading question because  neither of the presuppositions behind the
alternatives are strictly true. In the self-same Preface to his A Student’s
Grammar of Modern Cornish ! (1991) Gendall says that the idioms associated
with Modern Cornish were ‘probably already present in everyday speech in the
15th century’ (p.1)  The earlier texts he says ‘must be seen as in literary
language’, the result of two centuries of tradition which came to an end at
the reformation. He is quite aware that RLC derives historically from that
literary language and I think it needs to be stated  clearly that RLC is the
spoken language, with all the characteristics that  spoken languages show to
varying degrees. As such, Gendall decided that it would make a better basis
for learning to speak Cornish fluently and merited separate treatment in its
description. I’m not sure about the ‘unreal alloy’ metaphor which he used
well over 20 years ago. But certainly, one wouldn’t use the formal literary
form of the language in the same context as the informal spoken form. 

I think Richard Gendall has done a great service to the revival in drawing
attention to RLC and we, its users, would welcome constructive input from
Celtic scholars as regards any flaws and inconsistencies. And it needs to be
recognised that spoken language is a valid topic for linguistic study and
that it has its own rules and inner logic. It should not be dismissed as a
corrupted and unworthy form of the parent language. Was this Nance’s view?



From: Spellyans [mailto:spellyans-bounces at kernowek.net] On Behalf Of
Nicholas Williams
Sent: 16 May 2013 11:13
To: Standard Cornish discussion list
Subject: Re: [Spellyans] tavas


Gendall certainly made Cornish seem less archaic, less quaint and more a
real language that could

actually be spoken. His approach, however, had some severe disadvantages.


One of my greatest problems with Gendall's choice of seventeeth century

he made it very difficult for those who had learnt his orthography to read
the overwhelming bulk of Cornish literature.

One could read the Bosons and Rowe/Kerew but not the Ordinalia or Beunans


It always seemed to me also that Gendall had a tendency to move the
goalposts when explaining what

he was trying to do.


In the Preface to his A Student's Grammar of Modern Cornish (Tregrill Vean,
Menheniot 1991) page 1,

he quotes a passage from Nebbaz Gerriau of Nicholas Boson beginning 

Rag me a hunnen ve gennez en Collan an powma eu an Curnooack mouyha cowsez


And immediately thereafter he quotes BM lines 4293-300

which begin:


In kernov me ambeth chy

ryb maria a cambron

thum wyles neb a thue dy

me as aquit purdyson

kyn fo ov corff in ken le

in keth plasna neb a beys


Gendall then says: "There are two articulate forms of the Cornish language
known: Mediaeval Cornish and Moern Cornish. Depending

on the context: these may seem relatively alike or so different as to appear
different languages, but their dissimilarities are on the whole

so great that they require treating independantly [sic], as it the case with
the mediaeval and modern forms of any other European language.

To run the two forms together would be to produce an unreal alloy with no
historical basis" (Student's Grammar 1) [my emphasis].


In Tavaz a Ragadazow (Tregrill Vean, Menheniot 2000), however Gendall


"The Cornish language as it was used in its final form in the early 18th
century was known then as Modern Cornish, today sometimes called Late
Cornish, but Cornish can be termed Modern Cornish as far back as 1500 A.D.,
so the language as last used can be referred to as Late Cornish is best
referred to as Late Modern Cornish" (TaR 001).


In 1991 Gendall seems to be saying that the Middle Cornish of BM and the
Late Cornish of Nicholas Boson are so different that to attempt to run them
together "would be to produce an unreal alloy with no historical basis." 


In 2000 Beunans Meriasek of 1504 is really "Modern Cornish."


Which is true? Are Middle and Late Cornish so different as to require
separate treatment, or are they differently spelt forms of the same


Most of the features that we associate with Late Cornish are already present
in the Middle Cornish texts. Pascon Agan Arluth, for example, exhibits such

as genama 'with me'; ve 'me' for me; danon 'to send'; kenyver tra
'everything'; and note the remarkable: prag y hysta vy 'why have you
forsaken me' PA 201c, where the object pronoun is suffixed. 

The only distinctively features I can find in the Late texts, i.e. that are
not attested in Middle Cornish are the following:


1 angy, anjei as a full pronoun; although forms like inansy 'in them' are
found in 16th century Cornish.

2 forms like pa thera for pan era, pan esa. This seems to have come about
with the reduction of pan 'when' to pa, which itself occurs as early as the
Ordinalia, e.g. pa na vynne gorthyby 'since he would not answer' PC 1820

3 dort for dhyworth. This is based on the 3rd singular dhyworta, dyworta.
Though it should be noted that vght for a-ugh is already in Tregear. Similar
the form gen for gans (from genef, genes, etc.) is not found in Middle

4 the use of ny alga for ny ylly. Although ef a alsa is found in Middle
Cornish, it is a conditional. In Late Cornish, presumbly under the influence
of English 'could' which is both past and conditional, gylly has yielded to
galsa (*galja). 


Apart from those features, the rest of what we now consider Late Cornish is
already present in Middle Cornish. 

The differences between the two are a question of spelling. 

That brings me to my greatest difficulty with Gendall's approach.

Having acknowledged that Tregear may be classified as Late Cornish, he uses
words and forms from TH in his dictionaries and grammars, but he respells
Tregear in the orthography of Nicholas Boson. I am not convinced that this
is really legitimate.

If Tregear is admissible as "Modern Cornish", shouldn't the revived language
base its spelling on the orthography and forms of Tregear and his near
contemporaries? If Tregear is "Modern Cornish", his orthography is "modern"
as well.






On 16 May 2013, at 10:09, Michael Everson wrote:

No. Much of what Richard Gendall considered to be "different" in Late
Cornish vis à vis Middle Cornish are features found as far back as the
Passion Poem. Gendall tried to use various late orthographies (and could
never decide which one to use) and in my view did a disservice to the
revival in doing so. 


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