[Spellyans] The Cornish for 'cousin'

Craig Weatherhill craig at agantavas.org
Tue Jul 29 20:11:41 BST 2014

I saw it, Thomas, and thought you did a decent job.  Some fluent speakers do worse in my view.  Too many sound like English folk speaking an unfamiliar language; rounded Os,  "rudh" pronounced "roodh", and with an unnatural delivery.  Dan (although Austrian) is the best in the videos submitted for "Speak Cornish Week"  (I had a crack at it, too!)


On 2014 Gor 29, at 19:39, Thomas Leigh wrote:

> I don’t normally respond to this list (though I read everything) simply because I don’t feel I have the expertise or experience to do so in any way that would contribute much to the conversation. However, I am very interested in the subject of pronunciation and phonology, so I’ll offer some of my own thoughts and experiences (though perhaps we should start a new topic for this, as we’ve drifted away from the Cornish for “cousin”!). 
> I’ve talked about this before a long time ago, in other Cornish language fora, but I learnt Kemmyn first, to the point of doing the first grade exam in it (I did get up to a second or third degree level in terms of grammar, but I never acquired the vocabulary for those levels, so I never sat any higher exams). Learning the language far outside of Cornwall, with literally no contact with Cornish speakers (apart from Ben Bruch, who learnt the language in the same way) I took the information in the books quite literally — not just as how Cornish “ought” to be pronounced, but as how Cornish WAS pronounced — and I had as close as I could get to a textbook Kemmyn pronunciation, with geminate consonants, alveolar tap /ɾ/ for <r> in all positions (and a trill /r/ in initial position), a six-way vowel distinction between /ɪ ɪː/, /ɛ ɛː/ and /i iː/… the works. Then I went to Cornwall for a Pennseythun Kernewek and was honestly shocked to discover that literally NO ONE spoke Cornish like I did. From the point of view of my learning materials, I was the only person pronouncing Cornish correctly; from the point of view of all the Cornish people, no matter how fluent my speech might have been, I undoubtedly sounded extremely and conspicuously foreign and non-Cornish. Once that shock wore off, though, the thing that struck me, and which has stuck with me, is that everyone there, no matter what version of Cornish they wrote or regarded themselves as using, spoke Cornish very similarly. I came to the conclusion that over the century plus of the Cornish language revival, there has developed to a large extent a common (but not Common/Kemmyn) pronunciation for the revived language, and different though it might be from that of historical Cornish, it serves its purpose more than adequately. The same is true of modern Hebrew, whose phonology is markedly different from that of Biblical Hebrew — it has lost phonemic vowel length, geminate consonants, and a whole slew of consonant phonemes — yet it has worked perfectly fine for generation after generation of L1 speakers in Israel. I can't imagine anyone going up to an Israeli and saying, “You’re speaking Hebrew wrong”. 
> Though I’ve lost a lot of my Cornish through disuse (I got very discouraged by the polarization and exclusion which emerged during the SWF process, and let it drop) I have tried over the years to bring my own pronunciation more in line with what I heard in Cornwall. I've dropped consonant gemination entirely, and try to use /ɹ/ for <r> in many positions (though I still mostly use /ɾ/ intervocalically). I've also adopted the "ow" variants for words like <Kernowek> and <clowes>, and I try to use the variants with long <e> rather than the Kemmyn long <y> in words like <dedh> and <bes> (though I confess the pronunciation /dɪːð/ for that one word is particularly difficult to overwrite). I do still regularly use front rounded vowels /ø/ and /y/ (though I suspect I realize them rather as short [œ ʏ] and long [øː yː]) and I do pronounce long <e> and <o> as monophthongs [ɛː]/[eː] and [ɔː] rather than as the diphthongs [eɪ] and [oʊ] that I hear from a lot of Cornish speakers (I try to aim for [eː], though prescriptive Kemmyn [ɛː] still comes out unconsciously a lot of the time). In syntax I try to use dell/fatell to introduce subordinate clauses, although I seem to be in a minority there; I will adapt and use the subject + dhe + verbal noun construction, depending on the person I’m talking to.
> I don’t know if anyone on this list has seen my short video for Speak Cornish Week, but I would be interested to know how my current spoken Cornish sounds to fluent Cornish speakers in Cornwall. Does anything in it sound “properly” Cornish to you? What sounds “off” or not Cornish?
> Changing the subject a bit, I’d like to know more about the L1 speakers of Cornish that Ray mentioned, as I’ve never met any. He says that “their Cornish is spoken in an entirely different way to nearly all second language speakers”. I wouldn’t expect their pronunciation to be much different, as they would have gotten it from their L2 Cornish-speaking parents. So what exactly in their Cornish is so different? I’m genuinely curious.
> Another thing, which perhaps I oughtn’t wade into as I don’t want to incur ire, but it’s honestly bothering me: continued aspersions cast against “self-styled academic ‘experts’” (as if there’s anything wrong with being an academic!) or “*learners*…” — emphasized, but how can learning Cornish be a bad thing? We are all learners, save for that small number of L1 speakers that Ray mentioned — “…who set themselves up as ‘experts’ in the Revival… [who] don't even speak Kernewek… telling all the other learners [what] they shouldn't use”. I usually see such remarks lobbed at Nicholas, despite the fact that he does speak fluent Cornish (I’ve heard him) and has probably written more words of Cornish than any other single person in the history of the Revival. Even if you don’t agree with his opinions, surely he deserves some modicum of respect for that. 
> And I can’t help wondering, do I belong in this category? I’m a foreigner, my spoken Cornish is decidedly limited and clumsy at this point in my life, though it was better once, I am certainly academic by inclination even though I do not work in academia as a profession, and I have not exactly been reticent about expressing my opinions regarding the pronunciation of the Cornish speakers I’ve encountered or the relationships and/or discrepancies between various orthographical systems and pronunciations actually employed by speakers. I have been on the receiving end of many a brusque comment in the past in Cornish language discussions online. Anyway, I would respectfully suggest that such ad-hominem remarks are not constructive and ought to be held in check. Not to say that people shouldn’t feel what they feel, of course, just let’s disagree without insulting each other. 
> I realize my email is very long, but if anyone’s read all the way through, I thank you and look forward to your replies.
> Oll an gwella,
> Thomas
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