[Spellyans] tavas

Michael Everson everson at evertype.com
Fri May 17 10:17:34 BST 2013

On 17 May 2013, at 09:32, Chris Parkinson <brynbow at btinternet.com> wrote:

> 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. 

There's no benefit in having the Revival split like that. 

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

That's all very well, but his newest orthography doesn't offer any advantages to the Revival as a whole. 

> 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.

Well, I might criticize Gendall for using the 18th-century orthographies at all, since they differ so much from the scribal tradition which is richer and more robust. Look at Chapter 40 in Desky Kernowek. It's full of Late Cornish texts, all re-spelt in KS without serious distortion. When we (in UdnFormScrefys) started working with both RMC and RLC users, we found that in settling on 1600 as a target, and CW as a base for the orthography, the whole of the Cornish language spectrum could be accommodated. It came as a surprise -- but also as no surprise -- when we discovered that the choices we made were very much the same choices Jenner had made a century before. 

> 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.

I wouldn't say "the spoken language" but rather "an informal register of the language". It's just as easy to say "yth esof vy" as it is to say "th'erof vy". 

> 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.

As I say, I don't find "yth esof vy" to be over-formal, though it is the more formal of the two. 

> 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.

I look forward to the day when people stop considering themselves RMC users or RLC users, and instead just consider themselves to be RC users. 

> 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.

Yes, but in my view concentrating on the division between the two ends of the linguistic spectrum is not doing the Revival any favours. I believe that a fusion is the way forward. What's the worst thing about RMC? Perhaps the belief of some revivalists that every verb can and should be conjugated in all persons, tenses, and moods. What's the worst thing about RLC? Perhaps the belief that elided particles like "ow" or "a" or final consonants that are dropped must also be dropped in writing. 

> It should not be dismissed as a corrupted and unworthy form of the parent language. Was this Nance’s view?

I don't know. He admired the earliest texts and considered them richest. And it is not untrue to say that some of the latest texts show signs of a language on the wane. Any language with a shrinking population of speakers will suffer that. 

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

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