Alys in Pow an Anethow in Kernowek - Alices Adventures in Wonderland in Cornish

A new forum dedicated to Kernewek - the Cornish language, Cornish culture and the history of the Duchy of Cornwall
Pokorny
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Post by Pokorny » Mon Feb 09, 2009 2:15 pm


pennysquire said:

[quote=Pokorny]In fact at one point during AHG deliberations, Trond suggested that the SWF be officially based on known common features in the pronunciation of Revived Cornish as used by a majority of fluent speakers today. His proposal did not find agreement with the AHG.

Quite. This and the fact that he had collaborated with Everson in the past raised suspicions among many of us that he was pushing Williams' and Everson's agenda.
[/quote]

But he wasn't! I was there at the time and had the opportunity to discuss the topic with him. His idea was simply to side-step the conflict between proponents of strongly differing reconstructions and (as he put it) "transfer power from the gurus and linguists to the actual speakers".

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Evertype
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Post by Evertype » Mon Feb 09, 2009 2:23 pm


pennysquire said:
Admit it, Evertype: you have repeatedly said that the SWF should not represent an aspirational phonology and you have repeatedly criticised Kernewek Kemmyn as being 'aspirational'. You appear to subscribe to the theory of language development by incremental error and wish to institutionalise it.

I have criticized Kernowek Kebmyn's phonology for being unlikely in the first place and impractical in the second. Twenty five years and Ken George himself can't pronounce Cornish with geminates. None of the KK users in the AHG could distinguish iw from yw from uw from -u. We know from the texts that these sounds fell together, and early too. Should people "aspire" to distinguish between them, particularly when their native language makes it impossible for them to do so?

No. Speakers of Revived Cornish should "aspire" to pronounce vowel length correctly, and they should "aspire" to pronounce long vowels as pure vowels, rather than as diphthongs. That is both achievable, and in concord with a reasonable phonology for Revived Cornish, which happens to be the one everyone uses anyway.

Pennysquire
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Post by Pennysquire » Mon Feb 09, 2009 2:34 pm


Pokorny said:
[quote=pennysquire]
[quote=Pokorny]In fact at one point during AHG deliberations, Trond suggested that the SWF be officially based on known common features in the pronunciation of Revived Cornish as used by a majority of fluent speakers today. His proposal did not find agreement with the AHG.

Quite. This and the fact that he had collaborated with Everson in the past raised suspicions among many of us that he was pushing Williams' and Everson's agenda.
[/quote]

But he wasn't! I was there at the time and had the opportunity to discuss the topic with him. His idea was simply to side-step the conflict between proponents of strongly differing reconstructions and (as he put it) "transfer power from the gurus and linguists to the actual speakers".[/quote]
However the idea was not original as Williams and Everson had been banging on about this for years and no doubt raised it in their submissions which he presumeably read. That, surely, is what prompted him to make that suggestion.

I am willing, in light of your comments, to accept the possibility that he was not pushing the Williams/Everson line, but floating it.

However, it speaks volumes for his lack of understanding of the Cornish movement that he would even entertain the idea.

Cornish speakers are aware that they are raising the language by its own bootstraps, and so are aware that pronunciation needs improvement.

An orthography based on a descriptive phonology of Revived Cornish (if that were possible, given the huge variation in pronunciation) would stifle that development.

- Penny

Morvran
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Post by Morvran » Mon Feb 09, 2009 4:12 pm


Pokorny said:
[quote=pennysquire]
[quote=Pokorny]In fact at one point during AHG deliberations, Trond suggested that the SWF be officially based on known common features in the pronunciation of Revived Cornish as used by a majority of fluent speakers today. His proposal did not find agreement with the AHG.

Quite. This and the fact that he had collaborated with Everson in the past raised suspicions among many of us that he was pushing Williams' and Everson's agenda.
[/quote]

But he wasn't! I was there at the time and had the opportunity to discuss the topic with him. His idea was simply to side-step the conflict between proponents of strongly differing reconstructions and (as he put it) "transfer power from the gurus and linguists to the actual speakers".[/quote]

I'm sure that's correct Pokorny. Unfortunately, I think Trond misjudged the stage the Cornish Revival has reached. For someone used to working with endangered languages, which nevertheless still have some degree of intergenerational transmission, or at least a 'traditional' knowledge of the phonology, this mistake is easily understandable. Revived languages are something of a rarity, and have "special needs".

With a surviving language, linguists and learners alike can follow their natural instinct to treat the older members of the community and the most fluent speakers as the best authorities. Once full transmission has broken down, and all that is left are 'semispeakers', much more caution is needed however.

In the case of a revived language, things have gone futher still. There are no traditional native speakers. The 'last recorded speakers' were in all likelyhood mostly semispeakers, so their testimony must be used with caution. Hence in our case the caution with which Late Cornish sources are used. If there are older records, from a time when the language was still largely intact and fully competent, then it is better to step over this dying phase, as indeed was found to be the case in our revival.

A revived language must start from nothing, no tradition, no speakers. The first revivalists will of necessity have only a shaky reconstruction, will not be competent speakers, and will make many mistakes. Therefore for a language to be revived, we cannot hold up the "founding fathers" as models. Each generation of learners must build on the achievements of those who came before, and do better. I can see no other way for a language revival to progress. The early experiments are necessary to provide the basis for others to do better, as the language is slowly (very slowly!) bootstrapped back into existence. But while honouring the efforts of our pioneers, we must avoid at all costs the natural tendency to put them on pedistals, and to imitate their actual pronunciation etc.

To some extent we are the victims of our own partial success. That the language has been revived at all is a wonder. Politically there are strong pressures to both deny that the language ever died (but it surely did), and to pretend that the Revival has gone further than it has. This is because politicians and even some linguists don't believe revival is possible, so it's better to pretend the languge never quite died and get treated as part of the now fashionable "endangered languages" business. Psychologically, in order to learn and use Cornish, one also has to partly suspend disbelief, and pretend that it is already a normal spoken language. This is not as daft as it may sound, it will hopefully become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Unfortunately this can lead to the perception, both inside and outside the movement, that Cornish is now a 'normal' living language. Good from the POV of inspiration and politics, but bad if taken too literally. Because Cornish is not yet anything like a 'normal' language. There are probably no situations bigger than isolated households, and very few of those, where Cornish is the normal everyday speech. Most situations where Cornish is spoken still have to be contrived. Most people still learn Cornish sitting in a classroom, and are middle-aged. The few children that have learned from their parents etc. have on the whole not been recruited back into the language community. All these matters of course need serious and immediate attention if the Revival is to go forward -- it's no use pretending that "Cornish is now revived", it hasn't been. It exists in a strange limbo between 'life' and 'death' as a "taught language".

But coming round to "Trond's mistake". He believed a little too much of our propaganda and concluded that there was a large body of fluent speakers whose objective phonology could be taken as a standard. Maybe if the Revival had progressed faster and further that might have been the case. But in fact it is not the case. The revived language, especially its pronunciation, is far from stable, and far from self-propagating. Many of the best existing speakers seek to improve, although some of course either do not or cannot.

So taking an objective survey of current phonology would give a very strange picture, rather like say, surveying the phonology of English people who have learned French at school. Some will approach the 'correct' standard, but there will be many more at every stage of learning. If and when there is a large body of Cornish speakers, and many uncontrived situations where they use the language naturally and regularly, then and only then can we claim that the use of Cornish in Cornwall has been "normalised" (as the current jargon has it). At that stage, Revived Cornish, whether 'authentic' or not, will indeed be a language in its own right, and will set its own standards, independent of the past.

However, that happy situation is still a long way off.

War yow!




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Evertype
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Post by Evertype » Mon Feb 09, 2009 5:30 pm

Evidently we agree on many things, Keith. Just not the phonology which should be taught to Revivalists.

We are realists. We believe that a phonology for Revived Cornish should be actually achievable by its learners. The KK project offered a difficult phonology, which failed to take root. You can't deny it. Some of your teachers don't even know what half-length is, and one certainly doesn't hear these geminates in the mouths of anybody speaking Cornish.

We happen also to disagree with George's thesis that geminates were a major feature of the language for very long after the shift from Old to Middle Cornish. Language contact between English and Cornish (including the learning of Cornish by English-speakers) certainly affected the phonology of the language, just as the learning of Irish by Norse-speakers did in the Isle of Man. Indeed, the processes leading to pre-occlusion are likely to have been very similar in Cornish and in Manx.

The Revival has problems enough without trying to force a difficult phonology on people. And you've had PLENTY of time to try your experiment.

On the one hand, we have the phonology of Jenner, Nance, Caradar, Williams, Kennedy, and Gendall. That is one phonology, give or take a few details here and there. Neutral consonants. long and short vowels.

On the other hand, we have George's phonology. He stands alone recommending long and short consonants, and his recommendations haven't taken root even in his own pronunciation.

Well, as a realist, I'm sticking with the mainstream. Cornish is a language in its own right, and its traditional phonology is no detriment to it. George's geminate phonology is nothing but a potential cause of difficulty to learners and teachers alike.

Time to give up on the phantasy for realism.

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Taran
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Post by Taran » Mon Feb 09, 2009 9:26 pm


morvran said:
All these matters of course need serious and immediate attention if the Revival is to go forward -- it's no use pretending that "Cornish is now revived", it hasn't been. It exists in a strange limbo between 'life' and 'death' as a "taught language".



Careful morvran you'll get pietercharles and pennysquire asking you trivial nit picking questions about what authority you cite for the status of the revival, and by what criteria you would judge a language to be revived.


pennysquire said:
So, in your opinion, what criteria does the language have to satisfy in order to become 'revived' rather than being 'in the process of revival'?




pennysquire said:
(a) do you believe that those currently speaking a language which they hold to be Revived Cornish are, in fact, wrong?



Oh, sorry, no you won't, my mistake. :roll:

By the way, I have to say I agree with a lot of what you have just said. Research, discussion, theory and counter theory. All these feed information into the revival process. None of this need delay the uptake of the language in the same way that science classes teach current theory, and change their teaching as the 'facts' change. Those that stay current adjust their thinking in line with the evidence presented or new theories (this does not mean blind acceptance, but reasoned acceptance or rejection). The Flat Earthers and Creationists of course are beyond reason.







edited by: Taran, Feb 13, 2009 - 08:42 AM

Pennysquire
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Post by Pennysquire » Mon Feb 09, 2009 11:39 pm


Taran said:
[quote=morvran]All these matters of course need serious and immediate attention if the Revival is to go forward -- it's no use pretending that "Cornish is now revived", it hasn't been. It exists in a strange limbo between 'life' and 'death' as a "taught language".



Careful morvran you'll get pietercharles and pennysquire asking you trivial nit picking questions about what authority you cite for the status of the revival, and by what criteria you would judge a language to be revived.


pennysquire said:
So, in your opinion, what criteria does the language have to satisfy in order to become 'revived' rather than being 'in the process of revival'?




pietercharles said:
(a) do you believe that those currently speaking a language which they hold to be Revived Cornish are, in fact, wrong?



Oh, sorry, no you won't, my mistake. :roll:

By the way, I have to say I agree with a lot of what you have just said. Research, discussion, theory and counter theory. All these feed information into the revival process. None of this need delay the uptake of the language in the same way that science classes teach current theory, and change their teaching as the 'facts' change. Those that stay current adjust their thinking in line with the evidence presented or new theories (this does not mean blind acceptance, but reasoned acceptance or rejection). The Flat Earthers and Creationists of course are beyond reason. [/quote]

Hmmmm.

As Tim Saunders said, learning a language is not an intellectual process but the acquiring of a performing art (or something along those lines).

Modifying ones theoretical understanding in line with current thinking is not difficult. We are actually programmed to do so - intellectual development from the cradle onwards involves modifying theories in order to make sense of the world. This is a rational process.

Effective language acquisition is rather different. It involves internalising the vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar of a language and embedding it deep in various parts of the brain including those areas which house the subconcious. Thus first language speakers and effective second language speakers develop an instinctive and intuitive facility.

It is not an intellectual process, but involves deep memorisation and the development of instinct, quite different from having an intellectual understanding of a theory. Instant response - dropping a hot object, or engaging in normal conversation, uses electrical processes within the brain. Thinking - 'figuring things out' - uses chemical processes which are far, far slower - an excellent reason for avoiding formal grammar in language learning.

'Bad habits', when they have been deeply embedded in ones thought processes, are notoriously difficult to correct. As with learning a musical instrument, it pays to avoid learning faulty technique.

Even fairly small changes to recommended pronunciation, spelling and grammar can be difficult for established users to internalise. With a revived language changes will be recommended from time to time as scholarship develops, so we must expect it - however the language community needs time and help (teaching, retraining) in order to minimise the disruption and loss of confidence which otherwise might occur.

It is not a light and easy matter, although non-speakers usually fail to appreciate the fact. Hence the monoglot enthusiasm at Tremough.

- Penny

Oh, I disagree with Morvran, by the way - in my opinion Cornish has been revived, even though it is largely a taught language. However, unless we define 'revived' our arguments will be circular.

Morvran
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Post by Morvran » Tue Feb 10, 2009 12:37 am

I would add, that having a body of people who can speak Cornish, even with errors, and so who have internalised at least some of the rules, allows us to gain new insights into the texts. We don't have 'native insight' but we do approach closer to it than scholars who simply studies the language in theory and can't speak it. So there's a feedback mechanism here. Speaking the language a bit, helps us to see more clearly how the traditional language worked, which helps us to speak better ...

No, I'm not going to argue with Penny over definitions, and clearly different people understand "revived" in different ways. This can lead to confusion. To people thinking that Cornish is back on its feet, when it's still on a drip, if no longer in intensive care. There are a lot of languages in a worse state than Cornish that's a sad truth. However it would be wrong to think (as some might) that there are established and stable communities of Cornish speakers (well if there are please tell me!) and that if classes stopped tomorrow the Revival would sustain itself -- it wouldn't.

That's why I think pissing about with "corpus planning" and suchlike is missing the point. The sort of planning we need is to locate existing clusters of speakers, especially families with kids, and put them in touch and channel resources to them. We also need to very seriously invent some reasons why kids/young people might want to go on using any Cornish they'd learned in school or in the family. If we're ever going to take the language out of the classroom we need to build institutions and communities that work using the language as opposed to talking about the language. [Sur, my a woer, my a woer fest yn ta!]. And we need to get a move on because none of us are getting any younger.

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Evertype
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Post by Evertype » Tue Feb 10, 2009 1:50 am

Thinking. Not your strong point, is it, Little Weasel?

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Marhak
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Post by Marhak » Tue Feb 10, 2009 7:38 am

If the Liskeard shop was Gwynn ha Du, Mike, then it's not surprising - that'll be Pawl (Penny when he's in drag) and a buddy, most likely Keith (Morvran).

Kernowek was spoken in our pub on Saturday and again last night.

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