[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
Cornish mutations (was: Plural Problems)
At 19:26 9/11/97, Padraic Brown wrote:
>On Sat, 8 Nov 1997, Raymond A. Brown wrote:
>> No - sorry, my mistake: I mis-counted. AFAIK Andrew hasn't added the
>> fourth mutation of Breton or Cornish!
>Can you describe this extra Cornish mutation for me? My Cornish source is
>about 200 to 250 years old,
And my meager knowledge Cornish is only of the modern revival! All the
mateial I have is in 'Unified Cornish'; I must update myself with later
developments of 'Kernewek Kemmyn' & 'Curnoack'.
The Cornish revival was begun by Jenner in the late 19th cent. The early
revivalists based their work on the middle Cornish texts of 12th to 15th
cents. Unified Cornish was put together by Robert Nance in the 1930s as a
unified orthography for revived Cornish & and became a generally accepted
However, knowledge of linguistics & of the Celtic languages in particular
had improved since that time; between 1981 & 1984, Dr Ken George undertook
a study of the phonology of traditional Cornih & its application to revived
(middle) Cornish. His ideas were published in 1986 "The Pronunciation and
Spelling of Revived Cornish". In July 1987 the Cornish Language Board
decided to amend Unified Cornish according to Dr George's research. This
became known as 'Kernewek Kemmyn' (Common Cornish) & is now the most widely
In the 1970s & 1980s there was a growing interest in the late Cornish of
the 17th and 18th centuries; its supporters felt that its simplified
grammar & changed pronunciation & spelling gave it a more popular feel.
Richard Gendall, a prominent authority on Cornish, took the lead in the
development of Modern Cornish which, I believe, is called Curnoack.
I understand that the same mutations occur in all three versions of Cornish
(the only slight differences being in the spelling); this is not surprising
as the same four survive in modern Breton (which I'm told is the most
widely spoken modern Celtic language).
Below is the table given in Unified Cornish textbooks where the mutations
are usually referred to as '2nd state', '3rd state' &c., the 1st state
being the original form. Sometimes names are given, thus:
1st state 2nd state 3rd state 4th state 5th state
(soft) (aspirate) (hard) (mixed)
p b f . .
t d th . .
c,k g h . .
ch [tS] j [dZ] . . .
qu gw wh . .
b v . p f,v
d dh . t t
g -,w . c,k h
gw w . qu w,wh
m v . . f,v
In speech there is also a second state mutation of f to v and of s to z,
but these are not shown in writing (Unified Cornish doesn't use 'z'). I
think Kemmyn & modern do show this in their orthographies, but I haven't
been able to confirm this. As far as I can ascertain the only orthographic
difference is that modern Cornoack use 'th' for the voiced sound, not 'dh'.
ch and j denote the English sounds in 'chat' & 'jet'; th is the voiceless
th of think and dh the voiced sound of English 'the'.
The dots denote no change (i.e. same as 1st state or unmutated form).
Initial g- is normally lost in the 2nd state or soft mutation, as in Welsh,
but does change to w- sometimes, principally in words beginning go-.
The 2nd & 3rd states correspond to the Welsh soft and spirant mutations
respectively. The 3rd state (hard mutation) has no equivalent in Welsh &
the 5th or 'mixed' corresponds in part, in it use, to the nasal of Welsh.
Breton, as I said above, has a similar set of mutations:
Unmutated Soft Spirant Hard Mixed
p b 'f . .
t d z . .
k g h . .
b v . p v
d z . t t
g h . k h
gw w . kw w
m v . . .
f 'f 'f . .
s z z . .
ch [S] j [Z] j . .
c'h [x] h h . .
This is in the modern 'Orthographie Universitaire' approved 16th June, 1955.
ch & j are used with their French pronunciations.
c'h = Irish & Scots Gaelic hard 'ch' (German ach-laut) and h is the voiced
equivalent, i.e. Irish & Scots Gaelic hard gh or dh. The older
'traditional' orthography of 1650 writes both sounds as c'h.
The initial 'f is practically the same as v; the orthography is, I think,
(a) keeping to the traditional spelling of f and (b) helping to distinguish
different mutations which result in speech in /v/. The 1650 orthography,
like Unified Cornish, does not show the mutations of f & s in writing.
Hope this is of interest,