[Spellyans] *ow qwil

Nicholas Williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Mon Aug 22 17:05:06 BST 2016

Yes, I think that is exactly it. 

There are certain things that are not attested because they almost certainly didn’t exist. I am thinking for example of the use of huny to mean ‘one’ in *an huny du for example.
There is no evidence that huny can be used other than with pub, kettep and lies. We have enough examples of huny for us to be fairly sure that huny is in Cornish always qualified by an adjective.  
We have enough examples to know that the plural of chy ‘house’ is treven, not *chyow.
The plural of tiak is tiogow, not *tiogyon.
The plural *traow of tra is an invention of Lhuyd’s based on Breton. The native plural is taclow, taclennow.

The absence of provection in ow qwil on the other hand is more likely to be a function of the limited nature of our sources.
We would all nowadays, I think, write yma hy worth ow hara ‘she loves me’ but ow hara is unattested, though Tregear writes worth ow cara ve/vy seven times.

In his Handbook Jenner writes gwîl throughout and he also says that ow provects. He does not mention, however, that ow qwîl is unattested.
To do so and to make it a rule that ow qwil ought to be ow gwil and worth ow hara vy should always be replaced by worth ow cara vy would, I think, be to introduce unnecessary complications for learners.
Though revivalists could perhaps be a little less gung-ho about initial mutation. 

People criticised my translation of the Bible for ignoring initial mutation—the very opposite of your original observation. 

CW has lenwys a glorye ‘full of glory’ and gwethan gloryes ‘glorious tree’ and pur gloryous ‘very glorious’.
Tregear writes ow glorifia ‘glorifying’. 

In cases like that where the word was so clearly a borrowing, initial mutation was avoided so as not to distort the word too much.

Nicholas Boson appears to have dropped initial mutation in many if not most cases.
In Nebbaz Gerriau, for example, he writes:

tho merwal akar ‘to die out’
durt termen tho termen ‘from time to time’
tho vose guthvethez ‘to be known’
tho guthvaz ‘to know’
tho gwellaz ‘to see’
tho cummeraz ‘to take’, etc.

and that is just with initial lenition.

He writes both tho weel ‘to do’  x 1 and tho gweel ‘to do’ x 3.

It may well be that the weakening of the inherited system of initial mutations was a factor in the appearance of permanent 
mutation in LC for example in quachas [John Tonkin] < gwetyas, gowas [Rowe, JJenkins] < cawas and worriance [Rowe, JBoson] < gordhyans.

In fact I have noticed one example of permanent lenition of cafus in TH: Ny yll henna gafus du thy das ‘That man cannot have God for his Father’ TH 39a.


> On 22 Aug 2016, at 16:24, Harry Hawkey <bendyfrog at live.com> wrote:
> Thank you Nicholas. So, you're saying that although 'ow quil' is unattested, it (or some similar spelling) probably would be if we had more texts, and (some) speakers would (probably) have been saying [kwi:l] (amongst other variations), due to our knowledge of how the mutation system worked (or didn't) and how other 'gw-' verbs are known to have been spelled? 

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