[Spellyans] tavas

Nicholas Williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Fri May 17 15:59:00 BST 2013

What Gendall says is not wholly true. All the plays, the Ordinalia, Beunans Meriasek, the Creation of the World and now Bewnans Ke are in the form of dialogue. The distinction which Gendall and others make between "literary" Middle Cornish and "colloquial" Late Cornish cannot be sustained. Look for example at the following random examples from the plays (I respell in KS):

Wheth wàr gamm—venjans i'th las! 'Careful with your blowing—vengeance in your guts!' PC 2716
Taw, taw, harlot, dhe'th cregy! A dhrog-dheweth re vyrwhy. In mes a'm golok omden! 'Silence, silence, scoundrel! Hang you! May you die an evil death. Get out of my sight!' BK 472-74
A mollath dhe'n horsen cabm ha dhe jy inwedh ganso! 'O, curse the crooked bastard, and you as well with him!' CW 804-05
Ow! Medhow yw an javal pò gockyhës by my sowl! Oh, the wretch is drunk, or out of his mind upon my word' BK 354-55
A, pennow medhow! Owt in ow dedhyow criaf warnowgh ladron dreus! 'Ah, you drunkards. In my day I cry out upon you, perverse thieves!' BM 1045-47.

And here are two random quotations from "colloquial" Late Cornish (again respelt in KS):

Der taclow munys yw brës tus godhvedhys, avell in taclow brâs. Drefen in taclow brâs ma anjy menowgh ow hedha aga honen, bùs in taclow munys ema anjy ow sewya aga has aga honen 'By the little things men's minds are known more than in great things. For in great things they often exert themselves, but in small things they follow their own inclinations' Pryce
Ma cov dhèm cavos tra a'n par-ma in lyver Arlùth an Meneth adro dh'y dyscans Latyn. Hag obma mar pedhama cubmyas dhe gwil semblans gan Alsen coth brâs… 'I remember finding something similar in Montaigne's book about his education in Latin. And here, if I am allowed to use great ancient Ausonius as an example…' NBoson.

The fact is that the differences between the Cornish of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries on the one hand and the language of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries on the other are almost entirely a matter of orthography. But a difference in spelling is not the same as a difference in language. If one were to "run the two forms together" that would not "produce an unreal alloy with no historical basis." The two are barely different stages in the same language. To have treated them as differently and thus to spell them differently was, in my view, not the most sensible choice.

On 17 May 2013, at 09:32, Chris Parkinson wrote:

> 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.

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