[Spellyans] Ian Jackson: introduction

Michael Everson everson at evertype.com
Tue Dec 15 17:04:31 GMT 2015

On 15 Dec 2015, at 14:36, A. J. Trim <ajtrim at msn.com> wrote:

> The MAGA on-line dictionary gives:
> ponya
> ponya
> vb run / trot
> M: 
> ‘pɤnja

Gosh, I really do love this fiction. In the Revived Language, despite the influence of most speakers’ native English-language dialect, the short and long forms of phonemes “aimed at” is simple, and not more difficult than most languages, including English. After study of this, in KS we specify and recommend:

/a/ [æː æ]
/i/ [iː ɪ]
/e/ [eː ɛ]
/o/ [oː ɔ]
/u/ [uː ʊ]
/ɒ/ [ɒː ɔ] 
/ø/ [øː œ]~[eː ɛ]
/y/ [yː ʏ]~[iː ɪ]

Here both quantity and quality differ for Cornish long and short vowels — in a common 

The "Middle Cornish” transcription of short /o/ here is simply unrounded to /ɤ/ rather than lowered to /ɔ/. I think it is too fine a distinction, and [oː ɤ] to be far more rare than [oː ɔ] for it to be plausible. Even in Received pronunciation, /ɤ/ is found as an allophone of /ə/ between velar consonants. 

> L: 
> ‘pʊnjɐ

More fiction! How is this [ɐ] to be distinguished from [ə]? How could anyone demonstrate that it is “near-open central” (ɐ) rather than mid central (ə)? Even in Received Pronunciation, [ɐ] is more often transcribed [ʌ].

As Nicholas has pointed out, short o and short u may well have been in free variation regionally or temporally or both while Cornish was still spoken as a native language. Is it necessary or desirable to try to maintain this (non-)distinction in the Revived language? In KS we are cognizant of the important pronunciation markers of RLC, but some of them, where there was free variation throughout Cornish history, do not seem to be important enough to retain. We write bÿs~bës because distinctiveness in long stressed vowels is important. We could write pùnya alongside ponya, but this would multiply the number of word-forms rather a lot for little gain.  

I don’t believe that the evidence for traditional Cornish permits such fine phonetic detail; the scheme KS offers as shown in the table above is simpler, more likely, and easier for English-speakers to manage. 

We would transcribe ‹ponja› as [ˈpɔnjə]. Were there a ‹pùnya›, we would transcribe it as [ˈpʊnjə]. 

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

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