[Spellyans] 'measles' in Cornish

Nicholas Williams njawilliams at gmail.com
Thu Feb 16 13:24:22 GMT 2017

I have just seen something in Lhuyd’s manuscript vocabulary which appears to have gone unnoticed hitherto.

On page 97 of his manuscript Lhuyd writes:

Leveldhzia y vrêch gôch Rubiola

From the Welsh and Latin glosses of the word it is clear that Lhuyd’s Leveldhzia means ‘measles’ —Rubiola in Latin and y frech goch in Welsh. The group -ldhz- I take to be an error for -ldzh-. If so, the Cornish form in Middle Cornish orthography would be *levelgya. This I take to be a variant of lovrygyan ‘leprosy’ seen in BM:

yma ortheff lovrygyan cothys ha ny won fetla ‘leprosy has come upon me and I don’t know how’ BM 1356-57.

*Leveljya is clearly a spoken form which Lhuyd heard in Cornwall. The development was presumably lovryjyan > *lovyrjyan > lovyljyan with metathesis and where the r has been assimilated to the initial segment /l/. The first syllable, being unstressed, was pronounced with schwa, which Lhuyd writes as <e>. The loss of the final n is also not astonishing. The word, a collective plural (like measles, pox < pocks) has by analogy been reshaped as the name of a disease in the singular, and so similar to English terms like odontalgia ‘toothache’ and cephalalgia ‘headache’ known in Lhuyd’s day. As for the sense, it should be noted that in Welsh brech, y frech with or without further epithet is used for smallpox, syphilis, measles and leprosy. The apparent difference in sense between lovrygyan ‘leprosy’ and *lovyljya/leveljya ‘measles’ should not astonish us.

Whether we can use lovryjyon to mean ‘leprosy’ and leveljya for ‘measles’ is another question.

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