[Spellyans] The two roles of â (a-circumflex) in Kernowek Standard

A. J. Trim ajtrim at msn.com
Tue Sep 17 22:52:02 BST 2013

I would like to minimise the number and types of diacritical mark (which
are a useful yet non authentic feature of Revived Cornish.)

Introducing the ring would add to the types of diacritical mark. So I'm not 
in favour.

I favour: bräs, brässa, cläv, clävjy, äls.

I do not think that it is necessary to mark êw/ôw but if you do, ëw/öw would
be more logical, and it would match the use of ë/ÿ.

The circumflex would then always mean a long vowel, and the diaeresis  would
always mean a vowel with two pronunciations.

The two dots would be a good reminder of two pronunciations.


Andrew J. Trim

-----Original Message----- 
From: Philip Newton
Sent: Monday, September 16, 2013 7:30 PM
To: Standard Cornish discussion list
Subject: [Spellyans] The two roles of â (a-circumflex) in Kernowek Standard

Dear all,

I must say that I find the dual role of "â" (a-circumflex) in KS
rather confusing.

Not only does it indicate anomalous (or unpredictable) length, as in
_fâss_ or _shâp_, but it also indicates an optional pronunciation with
[ɒ:] ([Q:]) as in _brâs_.

I found this confusing because when I see the symbol, I keep having to
wonder which particular meaning is intended.

(On the other hand, I can keep ê "unpredictably long e" and êw "ew~ow
alternation" apart fairly easily, no doubt because of the -w in the
second case.)

I thought that "å" (a-ring) might be a good candidate graph for the
second function, since it's used for a similar sound in some other
orthographies and has a certain iconic value to it, and had a look to
see whether it had been suggested already.

And indeed it had, e.g. in

However, this was rejected as "unnecessary" and "inauthentic" (e.g. in
, http://www.cornwall24.co.uk/language-culture/topic3856-30.html#p73465
, and http://www.cornwall24.co.uk/language-culture/topic3856-15.html#p73314

An explanation I found was in

"There's no need to use two different accents for this. KS marks
anomalous vowel quantity and quality. Where the quantity is
anomalously long it is marked with the circumflex. If by the rules a
vowel would be long anyway and there appears a circumflex, the rule
will be that it is a question of quality."

I suppose this does account for words such as _brâs, clâv_ since those
are long anyway, so the â cannot mark length.

And I suppose it even makes a certain amount of sense in derived words
such as _brâssa, clâvjy_ (where the "æ/ɔ" is short since it's a
two-syllable word, but the spelling with "â" is kept from the
monosyllable as with the "i" in words such as _tir, tiryow; gwir,
gwiryoneth_). Even if it is a bit disconcerting to me that _brâssa_
and _fâss_ look so similar yet the â has different functions in both.
(So you always have to know whether it's a derived word or not.)

However, in the KS edition of _Skeul an Tavas_, I see in the
pronunciation section that _âls_ is to be pronounced "[ælz]~[ɒlz]".

And that is a situation where this breaks down.

Followed by two consonants (that aren't "st"), an "a" in that position
must necessarily be short. Hence, an "â" in that position must signal
unpredictable length… except that in this word, apparently, the vowel
stays short but may have an alternative quality.

At which point, KS "â" seems nearly as capricious to me as SWF "y" (is
_bys_ long or short? does _glyb_ rhyme with _ryb_? etc.).

Is it possible to resolve this part of KS in a way which enables one
to predict the pronunciation of a word unambiguously given the
spelling? Whether by splitting the two current roles of "â" or in some
other way?

Personally, I would be for å.

"Unnecessary" I do not think it; as for "inauthentic", I believe the
same applies to ë and ÿ, yet they are useful spellings. (The two dots
as a diacritic may occur in traditional Cornish, but do they occur on
those letters or for that purpose? I imagine not, yet the distinction
is useful even if "inauthentic". Or, for that matter, can the spelling
"penn" be called authentic? Yet it, too, is useful.)

Or is it too late to change KS?

It might well be, given that much of the discussion was in 2008, five
years ago. In which case this not-entirely-phonemic corner of the
orthography must remain, and students encountering an "â" must
continue to guess.

Philip Newton <philip.newton at gmail.com>

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