[Spellyans] Cornish letter names

iacobianus at googlemail.com iacobianus at googlemail.com
Tue Apr 24 22:30:49 BST 2018

Many thanks, Michael, for the alphabet in recitable form.


For a naming proposal of my own (see Gerlyver Kescows page 7: no suggestion
it is official in any way or has any claim to exclusivity) I first
formulated 6 principles, then applied them. From the point of view of
language planning, that seemed to have advantages of transparency and


As this is another system that has appeared in print, I think it is only
right to circulate how it was arrived at. For what it’s worth.


Principles in descending order of priority:


1. Every name should be unique to a single letter and monosyllabic –
thinking here of simplicity and recitation, and need to avoid any ambiguity

2. Every name should contain the letter it names once and once only (so no
geminates) – thinking here of children’s visual learning especially, and
educational letter-games like the old Letterland for English, and conscious
that geminate m or n would raise spectre of pre-occlusion (either both
written and pronounced, or not written but still pronounced)

3. Every name should be a syllable that is actually written in a Cornish
word – i.e. nothing alien, thinking here of authenticity (in broad sense)

4. Voiced and voiceless simple stops may be distinguished only by the
consonantal element of the name because this follows naming in many
languages, including English, going back to Latin (inconvenience mitigated
by parallel Alpha-Bravo-Charlie systems). But other sound distinctions that
can be hard for a listener to catch may still be marked by the vowel element
– thinking here that the Cornish alphabet should at least be no more
ambiguous over a ‘crackly phone line’ than any other

5. Diacritical marks in KS orthography should be kept to a minimum –
thinking again of simplicity, so I have not gone for the option of the
‘distinguishing’ circumflex as in kê! go! – but KS grave accents required in
some cases as Principle 5 cedes to higher Principle 2

6. For UC / UCR it should be possible to remove KS diacritical marks with no
other adjustment – thinking here of practicality as all three spelling
systems are in active use among members of Agan Tavas


The result is a be ce de e ef ge ha (cf German ha, *he too similar to ke,
Principle 4) i je ke (*ka echoing original Greek kappa, e.g. German ka,
would breach Principle 3 in traditional Cornish; it would also break vowel
symmetry for names of simple stops) èl èm èn o pe qwo (echoes original Greek
koppa, *qwû with vocalization based on English would break Principle 3;
unfortunately Principle 6 is broken because UC / UCR must write quo, but
that is inevitable given higher Principle 3) èr ès (so pronunciation will be
[ez] because s is single – geminate here would breach both Principle 2 and
Principle 6) te u / û (KS alternatives, the latter reflecting pronunciation
necessary if u not pronounced as [ü], to distinguish from i) ve we ex ye zèd
(this last outside the Principles because not a Cornish letter for some
traditionalists, so kept conservatively in line with long practice for
naming this letter going back to original Greek zeta; *zet avoided really
only because of 2014 recommendations for SWF(t) where we would have to write
*zett which looks horrible, to me anyway – 2014 recommendations not accepted
by Agan Tavas, but Kesva / Kowethas / Academy all claim they are now binding
regardless, though on what justifiable basis is a mystery to me; ze echoing
American English zee could be preferred in order to stay within Principle 3,
but any attempt to respell that as *se by those not actively using the
letter z would breach Principle 2 and, crucially, Principle 1 if given its
natural pronunciation, as a monosyllable, of [se] rather than [ze], because
then homophonous with ce).


Ian Jackson


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