definition of Wikipedia
|Native speakers||a few under 20 years (2003)
600 L2 (2003)
|Standard forms||Standard Written Form|
|Recognised minority language in||United Kingdom|
|Regulated by||Cornish Language Partnership|
cor – Modern Cornish
cnx – Middle Cornish
oco – Old Cornish
Cornish (Kernowek or Kernewek) is a Brythonic Celtic language and a recognised minority language of the United Kingdom. Along with Welsh and Breton, it is directly descended from the ancient British language spoken throughout much of Britain before the English language came to dominate. The language continued to function as a common community language in parts of Cornwall until the late 18th century. Some children used the language to converse in, and families used it as a language of the home through the 19th century and possibly into the 20th. Some elderly speakers were known to be still living into the 20th century including one still alive in 1914. A process to revive the language was started in the early 20th century, continuing to this day.
The revival of Cornish began in 1904 when Henry Jenner, a Celtic language enthusiast, published his book Handbook of the Cornish Language. Jenner's work was based on Cornish as it was spoken in the 18th century, although his pupil Robert Morton Nance later steered the revival to the style of the 16th century, before the language became more heavily influenced by English. This set the tone for the next few decades; as the revival gained pace, learners of the language disagreed on which style of Cornish to use, and a number of competing orthographies were in use by the end of the 20th century.
Nevertheless, many Cornish language textbooks and works of literature have been published over the decades, and an increasing number of people are studying the language. Recent developments include Cornish music, independent films and children's books. A small number of children in Cornwall have been brought up to be bilingual native speakers, and the language is taught in many schools. Cornish gained official recognition under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages in 2002, and in 2008 a Standard Written Form was agreed in an attempt to unify the orthographies and move forward the revival. The first Cornish language crèche opened in 2010.
Cornish is one of the Brythonic languages, which constitute a branch of the Celtic languages. This branch also includes the Welsh, Breton, the extinct Cumbric, and perhaps the hypothetical Ivernic languages. The Scottish Gaelic, Irish, and Manx languages are part of the separate Goidelic branch. Cornish shares about 80% basic vocabulary with Breton, 75% with Welsh, 35% with Irish, and 35% with Scottish Gaelic.
Cornish evolved from the British language spoken throughout Britain south of the Firth of Forth during the Iron Age and Roman period. Some scholars have proposed that the language split into Western and Southwestern dialects, perhaps after the Battle of Deorham in about 577. This Southwestern Brythonic dialect later evolved into Cornish as well as Breton, while Western Brythonic became the ancestor to Welsh and Cumbric.
The proto-Cornish language developed after the Southwest Britons of Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall became linguistically separated from the West Britons of later Wales after the Battle of Deorham in about 577. The area controlled by the Southwest Britons was progressively reduced by the expansion of Wessex over the next few centuries; in 927 Athelstan drove the Dumnoni Britons/Cornish out of Exeter and in 936 he set the east bank of the Tamar as the boundary between Anglo-Saxon Wessex and Celtic Cornwall. "Exeter was cleansed of its defilement by wiping out that filthy race" (William of Malmesbury, writing around 1120). There is no record of him taking his campaigns into Cornwall. It seems probable that Hywel, King of the Cornish, agreed to pay tribute to Athelstan and thus avoided more attacks and maintained a high degree of autonomy. The Cornish language continued to flourish well through the Middle Ages, reaching a peak of about 39,000 speakers in the 13th century. However, the number of Cornish speakers is thought to have declined thereafter.
The earliest written record of the Cornish language, dating from the 9th century , is a gloss in a Latin manuscript of De Consolatione Philosophiae by Boethius, which used the words ud rocashaas. The phrase means "it (the mind) hated the gloomy places".
In the reign of Henry VIII we have an account given by Andrew Borde in his Boke of the Introduction of Knowledge, written in 1542. He states, "In Cornwall is two speches, the one is naughty Englysshe, and the other is Cornysshe speche. And there be many men and women the which cannot speake one worde of Englysshe, but all Cornyshe." 
In 1549, when Parliament passed the first Act of Uniformity, people in many areas of Cornwall did not speak or understand English. The intention of the Act was to replace worship in Latin with worship in English, which was known by the lawmakers not to be universally spoken throughout England. Instead of merely banning Latin, the Act was framed so as to enforce English. The Prayer Book Rebellion, which may also have been influenced by the retaliation of the English after the failed Cornish Rebellion of 1497, broke out, and was ruthlessly suppressed: over 4,000 people who protested against the imposition of an English prayer book were massacred by King Edward VI's army. Their leaders were executed and the people suffered numerous reprisals.
The rebels' document claimed they wanted a return to the old religious services and ended 'We the Cornishmen (whereof certain of us understand no English) utterly refuse this new English' (altered spelling). Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, replied to the Cornishmen, inquiring as to why they should be offended by services in English when they had them in Latin, which they also did not understand. Through many factors, including loss of life and the spread of English, the Prayer Book Rebellion proved a turning-point for the Cornish language. Indeed, some recent research has suggested that estimates of the Cornish-speaking population prior to the rebellion may have been low, making the decline even more drastic.
By this time the language must already have been in decline from its earlier heyday, and the situation worsened over the course of the next century. Richard Carew in his 1602 work The Survey of Cornwall, notices the almost total extirpation of the Cornish language in his days. He says; The principal love and knowledge of this language liveth in Dr. Kennall, the civilian, and with him lieth buried. Towednack is claimed to be the location of the last church in which services were conducted in the Cornish language (in 1678), though the same claim has been made for Ludgvan and for Landewednack. Carew also said Most of the inhabitants can speak no word of Cornish, but very few are ignorant of the English; and yet some so affect their own, as to a stranger they will not speak it; for if meeting them by chance, you inquire the way, or any such matter, your answer shall be, "Meea navidna caw zasawzneck", "I can speak no Saxonage". 
It will probably be impossible to establish who the definitive "last native speaker" of Cornish was owing to the lack of extensive research done at the time and the obvious impossibility of finding audio recordings dating from the era. There is also difficulty with what exactly is meant by "last native speaker", as this has been interpreted in differing ways. Some scholars prefer to use terms such as "last monoglot speaker", to refer to a person whose only language was Cornish, "last native speaker", to refer to a person who may have been bilingual in both English and Cornish and furthermore, "last person with traditional knowledge", that is to say someone who had an extensive knowledge of Cornish from traditional sources but had not studied the language per se.
The last known monoglot Cornish speaker is believed to have been Chesten Marchant, who died in 1676 at Gwithian. It is not known when she was born. William Scawen, writing in the 1680s, states that Marchant had a "slight" understanding of English and had been married twice.
In 1742, Captain Samuel Barrington of the Royal Navy made a voyage to Brittany, taking with him a Cornish sailor of Mount's Bay. He was astonished that this sailor could make himself understood in Breton. In 1768, Barrington's brother Daines Barrington searched for speakers of the Cornish language and at Mousehole found Dolly Pentreath, a fish seller then aged about 82, who "could speak Cornish very fluently". In 1775, he published an account of her in the Society of Antiquaries of London' journal Archaeologia, entitled "On the Expiration of the Cornish Language". He reported that he had also found at Mousehole two other women, some ten or twelve years younger than Pentreath, who could not speak Cornish readily, but who understood it. Pentreath, who died in 1777, is popularly claimed to be the last native speaker of Cornish. Notwithstanding her customary words, "Me ne vidn kewsel Sowsnek!" ("I will not speak English!"), she spoke at least some English.
Peter Berresford Ellis poses the question of who was the last speaker of the language, and replies that "We shall never know, for a language does not die suddenly, snuffed out with one last remaining speaker... it lingers on for many years after it has ceased as a form of communication, many people still retaining enough knowledge from their childhood to embark on conversations..." He also notes that in 1777 John Nancarrow of Marazion (Cornish: Marghasyow), not yet forty, could speak the language, and that into the next century some Cornish people "retained a knowledge of the entire Lord's Prayer and Creed in the language". Both Pryce, in his Archaeologia Cornu-Britannica (1790), and John Whitaker, vicar of Ruan Lanihorne, in his Supplement to Polwhele's History of Cornwall (1799), mention two or three people, known to them, able to speak Cornish. Polwhele himself mentions in his History of Cornwall, vol. v (1806), an engineer from Truro called Thompson, whom he met in 1789. Thompson was the author of Dolly Pentreath's epitaph and is said to have known far more Cornish than she ever did.
The Reverend John Bannister stated in 1871 that "The close of the 18th century witnessed the final extinction, as spoken language, of the old Celtic vernacular of Cornwall". However, there is some evidence that Cornish continued, albeit in limited usage by a handful of speakers, through the late 19th century. Matthias Wallis of St Buryan certified in 1859 that his grandmother, Ann Wallis, who had died around 1844, had spoken Cornish well. He also stated that a Jane Barnicoate, who had died c. 1857, could speak Cornish too. J. Gwyn Griffiths commented that "there were Cornish immigrants who spoke the language in the leadmine villages of North Cardiganshire, Mid-Wales, in the 1850s". Mary Kelynack, the Madron born 84-year old who walked up to London to see the Great Exhibition in 1851 and was presented to the Queen, was believed to have been a Cornish speaker. In 1875 six speakers all in their sixties were discovered in Cornwall. John Tremethack, died 1852 at the age of eighty-seven, is believed to have known Cornish and passed some of it on to his daughter. George Badcock, grandfather of Bernard Victor of Mousehole, taught some Cornish to his grandson. The farmer John Davey, who died in 1891 at Boswednack, Zennor, may have been the last person with some traditional knowledge of Cornish. However, other traces survived. Fishermen in West Penwith were counting fish using a rhyme derived from Cornish into the 20th century.
There is good evidence that at least three native speakers outlived John Davey junior: Jacob Care of St Ives (died 1892); Elizabeth Vingoe of Higher Boswarva, Madron (died 1903 and who taught at least some Cornish to her son); and John Mann, who was interviewed in his St Just home by Richard Hall (himself Elizabeth Vingoe's nephew) in 1914, Mann being then 80. He told Hall that, when a child in Boswednack, Zennor, he and several other children always conversed in Cornish while at play together. This would have been around 1840-1850. They would certainly have known Cornish speaker Anne Berryman (1766–1854), also of Boswednack. In 1935 a retired policeman, Mr Therris, reported that when he was a youth in about 1875 he used to go to sea fishing with some Newlyn fishermen who were in the habit of speaking Cornish while on the boat and held conversations which lasted up to ten minutes at a time. The foreman supervising the launching of boats at St Ives in the 1920s would shout "Hunchi boree" which means Heave away now! possibly the last recorded sentence of traditional Cornish.
Further into the 20th century we get Arnie Weekes, a Canadian-Cornishman, who claimed that his mother's family came from an unbroken line of Cornish speakers. It was found on his several visits to Cornwall in the late 1990s that either he or his parents had learned the Unified form of revived Cornish and therefore any trace of traditional Cornish was lost. In 2007 it was reported by an R. Salmon of New Zealand, on the BBC's Your Voice: Multilingual Nation website, that "Much Cornish was passed down through my family" giving the possibility that other families of Cornish extraction around the world possess traditional knowledge of Cornish.
In 2010 Rhisiart Tal-e-bot disputed the death of Cornish saying that the grandparents of a student of his had spoken Cornish at home. He said: “It’s a myth. There was never a time when the language completely died out, people always had some knowledge of the language although it went quite underground.” Likewise Andrew George MP for St Ives has stated that "In the early part of the century, my grandparents on the Lizard were speaking Cornish in a dialect form at home".
In the 20th century a conscious effort was made to revive Cornish as a language for everyday use in speech and writing (see below for further details about the dialects of modern Cornish).
This revival can be traced to the work of Jenner, who in 1904 published his work A Handbook of the Cornish Language. This formed the basis for the language revival and learning. According to the sociologist Kenneth MacKinnon, Jenner wrote "There has never been a time when there has been no person in Cornwall without a knowledge of the Cornish language."
The number of Cornish speakers is growing. Determining a figure for the number of Cornish speakers depends on how the ability to speak the language is defined. One figure for the mean number of people who know a few basic words, such as knowing that "Kernow" means "Cornwall", was 300,000; the same survey gave the figure of people able to have simple conversations at 3,000. The Cornish Language Strategy project commissioned research to provide quantitative and qualitative evidence for the number of Cornish speakers: due to the success of the revival project it was estimated that 2,000 people were fluent (surveyed in spring 2008), an increase from the estimated 300 people who spoke Cornish fluently suggested in a study by Kenneth MacKinnon in 2000.
Cornish continues to survive in the place-names of Cornwall, as well as in Cornish surnames, and knowledge of the language helps the understanding of these ancient meanings. Many Cornish names are adopted for children, pets, houses and boats. There is now an increasing amount of Cornish literature, in which poetry is the most important genre, particularly in oral form or as song or as traditional Cornish chants historically performed in marketplaces during religious holidays and public festivals and gatherings. Cornwall Council's (Cornish: Konsel Kernow) policy is to support the language. A motion passed in November 2009 approved the council's use of Cornish. The policy notes the "place of the Cornish language as a unique cultural asset" and requires the council to promote Cornish in line with the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. One effect of the policy is that worn out road signs are replaced by bilingual ones.
There are regular periodicals solely in the language such as the monthly An Gannas, An Gowsva, and An Garrick. BBC Radio Cornwall has a regular news broadcast in Cornish, and sometimes has other programmes and features for learners and enthusiasts. Local newspapers such as the Western Morning News regularly have articles in Cornish, and newspapers such as The Packet, The West Briton and The Cornishman also support the movement. There is now also an online radio service in Cornish called Radyo an Gernewegva. It publishes a half an hour podcast per week, based on a magazine format. It includes music in Cornish as well as interviews and features.
The language has financial sponsorship from many sources, including the Millennium Commission. A number of language organisations exist in Cornwall including (in alphabetical order) Agan Tavas (Our Language), the Cornish sub-group of the European Bureau for Lesser-Used Languages, Gorseth Kernow, Kesva an Taves Kernewek (the Cornish Language Board), Kowethas an Yeth Kernewek (the Cornish Language Fellowship), and Teere ha Tavas (Land and Language). One organisation, Dalleth (now defunct), promoted the language to pre-school children. There are many popular ceremonies, some ancient, some modern, which use the language or are entirely in the language. The language has been officially recognised as one of the historical regional and minority languages in Europe (see European recognition below).
UNESCO's Atlas of World Languages classifies Cornish as "critically endangered". UNESCO has acknowledged that a previous classification of 'extinct', which came under fierce criticism from Cornish speakers, "does not reflect the current situation for Cornish".
On 5 November 2002, in answer to a Parliamentary Question, Local Government and Regions Minister Nick Raynsford said:
After careful consideration and with the help of the results of an independent academic study on the language commissioned by the government, we have decided to recognise Cornish as falling under Part II of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
The government will be registering this decision with the Council of Europe.
The purpose of the Charter is to protect and promote the historical regional or minority languages of Europe.
It recognises that some of these languages are in danger of extinction and that protection and encouragement of them contributes to Europe's cultural diversity and historical traditions.
This is a positive step in acknowledging the symbolic importance the language has for Cornish identity and heritage.Cornish will join Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Irish, Scots and Ulster Scots as protected and promoted languages under the Charter, which commits the government to recognise and respect those languages.
Officials will be starting discussions with Cornwall Council and Cornish language organisations to ensure the views of Cornish speakers and people wanting to learn Cornish are taken into account in implementing the Charter.
In June 2005, after much pressure from language groups and others such as the Gorseth Kernow, the government allocated £80,000 per year for three years of direct central government funding to the Cornish language. There have been complaints however that in the same period Ulster Scots is being allocated £1,000,000 per year of direct government funding. This comes after the British government acknowledged in its 1st European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages compliance report that: "There are no current demands from within the school system for Ulster-Scots to be taught as a language. There have been concerns that while the ECRML Level II Cornish language remains in the slow lane, the Ulster-Scots language is to be made a ECRML Level III language."
The Southwestern Brythonic, or Southwestern Brittonic, language evolved into Cornish, shrinking from the whole southwest of England into the western tip of Cornwall with time. Kenneth H. Jackson has divided this long period into several sub-periods, each having different linguistic innovations.
"Primitive Cornish" existed between about 600 and 800 AD, but nothing survives from this time. The "Old Cornish" period was between 800 and 1200 AD, for which there is a Cornish-Latin dictionary (the Vocabularium Cornicum or Cottonian Vocabulary; MS. Cotton Vespasian A.xiv) and various 10th century glosses in Latin manuscripts such as the Bodmin manumissions giving the Cornish names of freed slaves.
Prophetiae Merlini (Prophecy of Merlin) a manuscript dating from about 1150 written in Latin by John of Cornwall, contains some marginal notes in the Cornish language. The original manuscript is unique and currently held in a codex at the Vatican Library. The manuscript attracted little attention from the scholarly world until 1876 when Whitley Stokes undertook a brief analysis of the Cornish and Welsh vocabulary found in John's marginal commentary.
The "Middle Cornish" period between 1200 and 1578 has many sources of information, mostly religious texts. There are about 20,000 lines of text in total. Various plays were written by the canons of Glasney College, intended to educate the Cornish people about the Bible and the Celtic saints.
The "Late Cornish" period from 1578 to about 1800 has fewer sources of information on the language. In this period there was considerable input from the English language. In 1776 William Bodinar, who had learnt Cornish from fishermen, wrote a letter in Cornish which was probably the last prose in the language. However, the last verse was the Cranken Rhyme written in the late 19th century by John Davey of Boswednack.
This is an example of Cornish written by the hand of a native speaker . The text is also interesting from a sociolinguistic point of view in that Bodinar speaks about the contemporary state of the Cornish language in 1776.
Below it is written in Bodinar's original spelling, then in modern Cornish spelling (SWF), then a translation in English:
Bluth vee ew try egance a pemp.
Thera vee dean bodgack an puscas.
Me rig deskey Cornoack termen me vee mawe.
Me vee de more gen seara vee a pemp dean mouy en cock.
Me rig scantlower clowes eden ger Sowsnack cowes en cock rag sythen warebar.
Na riga vee biscath gwellas lever Cornoack.
Me deskey Cornoack moas da more gen tees coath.
Nag es mouy vel pager po pemp en dreav nye ell clapia Cornoack leben,
poble coath pager egance blouth.
Cornoack ewe oll naceaves gen poble younk.
Further information on traditional Cornish can be obtained from the place-names (toponyms) of Cornwall that not only reflect meaning but also language change throughout the period in which Cornish was spoken in Cornwall. The place-names have been analysed into elements for which meanings have been inferred.
William Scawen produced an epic manuscript on the declining Cornish language that continually evolved until he died in 1689, aged 89. He was the first person to realise the language was dying out and wrote detailed manuscripts which he started working on when he was 78. The only version that was ever published was a short first draft, but the final version, which he worked on until his death, is hundreds of pages long. At the same time a group of scholars, led by John Keigwin (nephew of William Scawen), of Mousehole, tried to preserve and further the Cornish language. They left behind a large number of translations of parts of the Bible, proverbs and songs. This group was contacted by the Welsh linguist Edward Lhuyd who came to Cornwall to study the language.
Early Modern Cornish was the subject of a study published by Lhuyd in 1707, and differs from the medieval language in having a considerably simpler structure and grammar. Such differences included the wide use of certain modal affixes that, although out of use by Lhuyd's time, had a considerable effect on the word-order of medieval Cornish. The medieval language also possessed two additional tenses for expressing past events and an extended set of possessive suffixes. Edward Lhuyd theorises that the language of this time was heavily inflected, possessing not just the genitive, ablative and locative cases so common in Early Modern Cornish, but also dative and accusative cases, and even a vocative case, although historical references to this are rare.
John Whitaker the Manchester-born rector of Ruan Lanihorne, studied the decline of the Cornish language. In his 1804 work the Ancient Cathedral of Cornwall he concluded that: "[T]he English Liturgy, was not desired by the Cornish, but forced upon them by the tyranny of England, at a time when the English language was yet unknown in Cornwall. This act of tyranny was at once gross barbarity to the Cornish people, and a death blow to the Cornish language.".
Robert Williams published the first comprehensive Cornish dictionary in 1865, the Lexicon Cornu-Britannicum. As a result of the discovery of additional ancient Cornish manuscripts, 2000 new words were added to the vocabulary by Whitley Stokes in A Cornish Glossary. William C. Borlase published Proverbs and Rhymes in Cornish in 1866 while A Glossary of Cornish Place Names was produced by John Bannister in the same year. Dr Frederick Jago published his English-Cornish Dictionary in 1882.
During the 19th century the Cornish language was the subject of antiquarian interest and a number of lectures were given on the subject and pamphlets on it were published. In 1904 the Cornish Revival began with publication of Henry Jenner's Handbook of the Cornish Language. The publication included Cornish spelling as it was last used when Cornish was a community language in the 18th century. This orthography had never been standardised and so had many variants. In response to this a unified system of spelling was needed, and, in 1929 Robert Morton Nance standardised a form of Cornish with Unified Cornish based upon written Middle Cornish from the Medieval period. Nance was a purist who tended to prefer older ‘Celtic’ forms rather than the historically more recent forms deriving from Middle and Early Modern English. Nevertheless, Nance's system became the standard form for Cornish and remained so until the 1980s, when people started to challenge Unified Cornish feeling that it too was flawed.
Ken George studied the sounds of Cornish based on the early works of Lluyd, and had sought to create a bridge between Unified and Late Cornish, as had been used by Henry Jenner, but instead George devised a new system on realising the flaws in Unified Cornish. This was held to have the advantage of the written word accurately representing the spoken word based upon George’s own theories. George's system, or the phonemic system as it later became known, was officially named Kernewek Kemmyn (Common Cornish) and after a one year discussion the Cornish Language Board agreed to adopt it in 1987. This decision caused division in the Cornish language community, especially since people had been using Nance's old system for years and were unfamiliar with the new one.
These divisions continued when Kernewek Kemmyn was itself challenged in 1995 by Nicholas Williams in his book "Cornish Today" that listed 26 major flaws in Kernewek Kemmyn and devised yet another new form of Unified Cornish, namely "Unified Cornish Revised". A dictionary of Unified Cornish Revised appeared later, selling enough to merit a second edition, and to date this is considered the most comprehensive dictionary of the Cornish language. A reply to "Cornish Today" appeared soon after in the book "Kernewek Kemmyn – Cornish for the Twenty First Century" by Ken George and Paul Dunbar to which a reply appeared in 2007.
In order to end this ceaseless in-fighting and polemics that many feel have hindered the Cornish language's revival, it was decided to aim for a Standard Written Form once and for all. The fourth and final Standard Written Form draft was generated on 30 May 2008. Another step forward came on 17 June 2009, when it was reported that for the unity and future of the Cornish language a decision was made by the bards of the Gorseth Kernow at their annual meeting under the leadership of Grand Bard Vanessa Beeman. By an overwhelming majority and after two decades of debate they adopted the Standard Written Form (SWF) for their ceremonies and correspondence. From the earliest days under Grand Bards Henry Jenner and Morton Nance the 'Unified Form' has been used for the Gorsedd ceremony.
The first codified Cornish orthography was the work of Robert Morton Nance outlined in his work "Cornish For All" in 1929, called Unified Cornish or UC (Kernewek Uny[e]s, KU). It was based mainly on Middle Cornish (the language of the 14th and 15th centuries — a high point for Cornish literature), with a standardised spelling and an extended vocabulary based largely on Breton and Welsh. A dictionary of Unified Cornish was published by Nance in the 1930s. For decades, this was the only orthography in use, and is still used by some speakers.
Shortcomings in Unified Cornish had to do in part with the stiff and archaizing literary style Nance had employed, and in part with a realisation that Nance's phonology lacked some distinctions which further research showed must have existed in traditional Cornish. A shift on emphasis from the written to the spoken language further revealed UC's flaws.
In the early 1980s, Richard Gendall, who had worked with Nance, published a new system based on the works of some of the last Cornish writers before the language's extinction. This system, called Modern Cornish (Kernûak Nowedga) by its proponents, differs from Unified Cornish by using the more English-influenced orthographies of the 17th and 18th centuries, though there are also differences of vocabulary and grammar. It is sometimes called "Revived Late Cornish" or RLC as well. The main proponent of RLC was Cussel an Tavas Kernuak, although the orthography underwent numerous orthography changes and never achieved more than a minority of users.
In 1986 Ken George developed a revised orthography and phonology for Revived Cornish, which became known as Kernewek Kemmyn or KK (lit. Common Cornish). It retained a Middle Cornish base but made the spelling more systematic by applying phonemic orthographic theory, and for the first time set out clear rules relating spelling to pronunciation. KK can be said to have been the most contentious orthography; while it was adopted by a majority of Cornish speakers (various estimates put it at around 55-80%), it came under fierce criticism by academic linguists for its phonological base, as well as those who found its novel orthography too different from traditional Cornish spelling conventions.
In 1995 an alternative revision of Unified Cornish known as Unified Cornish Revised or UCR (Kernowek Unys Amendys, KUA) was announced by Nicholas Williams. UCR built on Unified Cornish, making the spellings regular while keeping as close as possible to the orthographic practices of the medieval scribes. In common with Kernewek Kemmyn, UCR made use of Tudor and Late Cornish prose materials unavailable to Nance. However like RLC, it never achieved more than minority support.
In practice these different written forms did not prevent Cornish-speakers from communicating with each other effectively. However, the existence of multiple orthographies was unsustainable with regards to using the language in education and public life, and no single orthography ever achieved a wide consensus. In response to this, the Cornish Language Partnership initiated a process to agree on a Standard Written Form of Cornish. In 2007 an independent Cornish Language Commission consisting of sociolinguists and linguists from outside of Cornwall was formed to review the four existing forms (UC, RLC, KK, and UCR) and consider whether any of those could be suitable to be a standard form for Cornish, or whether a new fifth form should be adopted. Two groups made proposals of compromise orthographies:
On Friday, 9 May 2008, the Cornish Language Partnership met with the specification for the Standard Written Form as the main item on the agenda. All four Cornish language groups, Unified Cornish, Unified Cornish Revised, Common Cornish and Modern Cornish were represented at this meeting. Reactions were mixed from the various language groups, Kowethas an Yeth Kernewek, Cussel an Tavaz Kernûak, Kesva an Taves Kernewek and Agan Tavas, but the majority wanted resolution and acceptance. The Cornish Language Partnership said that it would 'create an opportunity to break down barriers and the agreement marked a significant stepping stone in the Cornish language.'. The vote to ratify the SWF was carried and on 19 May 2008 it was announced that the single written form had been agreed. Eric Brooke, chairman of the Cornish Language Partnership, said: "This marks a significant stepping-stone in the development of the Cornish language. In time this step will allow the Cornish language to move forward to become part of the lives of all in Cornwall."
The pronunciation of Cornish is based on the records of the linguist Edward Lhuyd who visited Cornwall in 1700. The traditional texts are also used to extract the pronunciation, since many early texts are poems and many of the later texts were written phonetically due to the lack of both an orthographic standard and an education in Cornish. The traditional Cornish dialect and accent of English is also used for clues as to the pronunciation, and has been shown to match phonological characteristics of the traditional language.
This is a table of the phonology of Revived Cornish as recommended for the pronunciation of Unified Cornish Revised (UCR) orthography, using symbols from the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).
|plosive||p b||t d||k ɡ|
|fricative||f v||θ ð||s z||ʃ ʒ||x||h|
|Front||Near- front||Central||Near- back||Back|
|Front||Near- front||Central||Near- back||Back|
1 Before unrounded vowels (i, y, e, a), l, and r + unrounded vowel.
² Before rounded vowels (o, u), and r + rounded vowel.
|Third||ev, 'e (masc.),
|anjei, jei, i|
Traditional Cornish would have probably had regional varieties, but due to the nature of revival, modern varieties have more to do with differences of opinion.
There are, essentially, four orthographic 'dialects' of Revived Cornish, but in linguistic terms, Unified Cornish and Common Cornish reflect Middle Cornish grammar and pronunciation while Revived Late Cornish favours Late Cornish grammar and punctuation. UCR stands somewhere between but closer to the Middle Cornish end of the spectrum. The two new proposed compromise orthographies, Kernowak Standard and Kernowek Dasunys attempt to represent both dialects of Revived Cornish.
It is also possible that a variety of Cornish was spoken in Devon as late as the 14th century: Then President of the Devonshire Association, Sir Henry Duke, said in 1922 that "various writers have made (assertions) of the continuance of British occupancy and of the British tongue in South and West Devon to a time well within the reigns of the Plantagenets. Risdon, for example, says that the Celtic tongue was spoken throughout the South Hams in Edward the First's time".
Some people from Devon have begun to learn a language based on Joseph Biddulph's booklet, A handbook of Westcountry Brythonic, which attempts to recreate the hypothetical southwestern Brythonic tongue which would have been spoken in the southwestern peninsula in around 700AD.
This table compares the spelling of some Cornish words in different orthographies (Unified Cornish, Unified Cornish Revised, Kernewek Kemmyn, Revived Late Cornish, the Standard Written Form, and Kernowek Standard).
|cadar, chayr||chayr, cadar||kador||cader, chair||kador, cador||chair, cadar||chair|
|codha||codha||koedha||codha||kodha, codha||codha||(to) fall|
|chȳ||chȳ||chi||choy, chi, chy||chi, chei||chy||house|
|aber, ryver||ryver, aber||aber||ryvar||aber||ryver, aber||river mouth|
|megy||megy||megi||megi||megi, megy||megy||(to) smoke|
|whybana||whybana||hwibana||wiban, whiban||hwibana, whibana||whybana||(to) whistle|
|whēl||whēl||hwel||whêl 'work'||hwel, whel||whel||quarry|
|arghans, mona||mona, arhans||muna||arghans, mona||arhans, mona||mona||money|
The following table compares Cornish words with their equivalents from its sister Brythonic languages of Welsh and Breton and its cousin languages Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Manx, along with an English gloss.
|Cornish (SWF)||Welsh||Breton||Irish||Scottish Gaelic||Manx||English|
|yn-mes||tu fas, tu allan||er-maez||amuigh||a-muigh||mooie||outside|
|kodha, codha||codwm, syrthio||kouezhañ||tit(im)||tuit(eam)||tuitt(ym)||(to) fall|
|aber||aber||aber||inbhear||inbhir||inver||mouth of a river, estuary|
|megi, megy||ysmygu||mogediñ||tobac a chaitheamh||smoc(adh)||toghtan(ey)||(to) smoke|
|hwibana, whibana||chwibanu||c'hwibanat||feadaíl||fead(ail)||fed(danagh)||(to) whistle|
|arhans, mona||arian, pres||moneiz||airgead||airgead||argid||money|
Yma pub den genys frank hag equal yn dynyta hag yn gwyryow. Ymons y enduys gans reson ha keskans hag y tal dhedhans omdhon an eyl orth y gela yn sperys a vredereth.—Article I of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Agan Tas ni, eus y’n nev,
bennigys re bo dha hanow.
Re dheffo dha wlaskor,
Dha vodh re bo gwrys y’n nor kepar hag y’n nev.
Ro dhyn ni hedhyw agan bara pub dydh oll,
ha gav dhyn agan kammweyth
kepar dell evyn nyni
dhe’n re na eus ow kammwul er agan pynn ni;
ha na wra agan gorra yn temptashyon,
mes delyrv ni dhiworth drog.
Rag dhiso jy yw an wlaskor,
ha’n galloes ha’n gordhyans,
bys vykken ha bynari.
Yndella re bo!—Pader Agan Arloedh, The Lord's Prayer
The spelling and pronunciation below use the Standard Written Form:
|Myttin da||[ˌmɪtɪn ˈdaː]||"good morning"|
|Dydh da||[ˌdɪˑð ˈdaː]||"good day"|
|Fatla genes?||[ˌfatla ˈɡɛnɛs]||"how are you?"|
|Yn poynt da, meur ras||[ɪn ˌpɔɪntˈdaː ˌmœˑrˈraːs]||"Well, thank you"|
|Py eur yw?||[pɪ ˈœːr ɪʊ]||"What time is it?"|
|Ple'ma Rysrudh, mar pleg?||[ˈplɛː ma rɪzˈryːð mar ˈplɛːɡ]||"Where is Redruth please?"|
|Yma Rysrudh ogas dhe Gambron, heb mar!||[ɪˈmaː rɪzˈryːð ˈɔɡas ðə ˈɡambrɔn hɛb ˈmaːr]||"Redruth is near Camborne, of course!"|
The Celtic Congress and Celtic League are groups that advocate cooperation amongst the Celtic Nations in order to protect and promote Celtic languages and cultures, thus working in the interests of the Cornish language.
There have been many films, some televised, made entirely, or significantly, in the language. Many businesses use Cornish names. The overnight medical service in Cornwall is now called Kernow Urgent Care.
Cornwall has many cultural events associated with the language, including the international Celtic Media Festival, hosted in St Ives in 1997, with the programme in Cornish, English and French. The Old Cornwall Society has promoted the use of the language for many years at annual events and meetings. Two examples of ceremonies that are performed in both the English and Cornish languages are Crying The Neck and the annual mid-summer bonfires.
Cornish is taught in some schools; it was previously taught at degree level in the University of Wales, though the only existing courses in the language at University level are as part of a course in Cornish Studies at the University of Exeter, or as part of the distance-learning Welsh degree from the University of Wales, Lampeter. In March 2008, Benjamin Bruch started teaching the language as part of the Celtic Studies curriculum at the University of Vienna, Austria.
Cornwall's first Cornish language creche "Skol dy'Sadorn Kernewek" was established in 2010 at Cornwall College, Camborne. The nursery teaches children aged between two and five years alongside their parents, to ensure the language is also spoken in the home.
The Cornish language has been recognised as a minority language by the UK government under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. This follows years of pressure by groups such as Mebyon Kernow and Kesva an Taves Kernewek.
A first complete edition of the New Testament in Cornish, Nicholas Williams' translation of the Testament Noweth agan Arluth ha Savyour Jesu Cryst, was published at Easter 2002 by Spyrys a Gernow (ISBN 0-9535975-4-7); it uses Unified Cornish Revised orthography. The translation was made from the Greek text, and incorporated John Tregear's existing translations with slight revisions.
In August 2004, Kesva an Taves Kernewek published another Cornish translation of the New Testament (ISBN 1-902917-33-2), translated by six Bards of Gorseth Kernow under the leadership of Keith Syed; it uses Kernewek Kemmyn orthography. It was launched in a ceremony in Truro Cathedral attended by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
A few small publishers produce books in Cornish which are stocked in some local bookshops.
BBC Radio Cornwall gave over 15 minutes of airtime on Sunday mornings for a programme called Croder Croghen until the early 1990s. It was replaced with a five minute news bulletin called An Newothow (though it was regularly misspelled in the press as Ad Newothow. The bulletin is presented every Sunday evening by Rod Lyon. Pirate FM ran short bulletins on Saturday lunchtimes from 1998 to 1999. Matthew Clarke presented the bulletin. In 2006, Matthew Clarke launched a web-streamed news bulletin called Nowothow an Seythun and, in 2008, Radyo an Gernewegva (RanG) was added.
English composer Peter Warlock, an enthusiast of the Celtic languages, wrote a Christmas carol in Cornish (setting words by Henry Jenner). Cornish musician Jory Bennett (born Redruth, 1963) has composed "Six Songs of Cornwall" for bass and piano, a Cornish song-cycle, settings of Cornish language poems by Nicholas Williams /trans. E. G. Retallack Hooper (f.p. Keele University, 7 May 1986). The Cornish electronic musician Richard D James has often used Cornish names for track titles, most notably on his DrukQs album. Gwenno Saunders is a multilingual Welsh-born musician and a Cornish speaker. Skwardya has produced four CD albums in Cornish in a modern pop/rock/blues/dance style.
|Cornish language edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia|
|For a list of words relating to Cornish, see the Cornish language category of words in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
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