A warm welcome to the forum, Dan - your input here will clearly be hugely valuable to Cornish learners looking for insight above and beyond the SSiCornish lessons…
Glad to see you’ve fine-tuned this a little with Owain’s useful input - we don’t host any confrontational stuff on this forum, which in practice usually means that we end up asking people who want to express differing opinions (which we value greatly) in a particularly careful, polite manner - it’s so easy for tone to be misconstrued in text-only conversations, and we find that generously over-egging the politeness is the most effective way to keep this environment warm and friendly…
I’m interested: is Cornish equally “first language” to you as German is as well? And, more curious: you speak German, English and Cornish obviously … any more languages?
I’m asking because I find it interesting how language-rich our community is. Many people here can speak or at least learn several languages at once and I always find it interesting what languages one can speak or they learn it.
I was raised to be bilingual in English and German. Cornish is an acquired language. I learnt French and Latin at school, forgotten most of my French, though I could probably get by in everyday situations, have reading knowledge of other Romance language such as Italian and Spanish. I’m fluent in Low German (which is a lot closer to Dutch than to German), and through that a fair command of Dutch. I’m conversant (but with limited vocabulary) in Icelandic, and I did the first course of the SSiW (North) in Welsh, I know enough Greek to get by on holidays. Dabbling in other languages include Romanian, Frisian (North and West), Latvian, Japanese, but never got very far with them.
Funny you should mention Slovenian. It was actually the first Slavic language I considered looking into. I was living in Klagenfurt/Celovec for five years and tried to get in contact with the local Slovenian language organisations and inquire about courses and resources, but alas they were less than enthusiastic about supporting an outsider to the Slovenian community learning the language in their institutions as they wanted to focus in getting community members, especially children, speaking Slovenian. It put me off a little, though I do understand their goals. I always thought I must learn some Russian at some point… also Czech… especially with my name!
I wasn’t trying to brag about the number languages I speak, most of them are below conversation level and really just an assortment of phrases, knowing the phonology and how the grammar “works”. I’m comfortable in conversing in 5 on a good day…
Oh, yes, I completely understand you regarding Slovenian community in Celovec. There were quite strong Pro-Austrian forces in the past with Heider at the lead so people maybe this for wanted to focus exclusifely to native Slovenians who didn’t speak the language. I’m happy that Cymreig people are much wider opened to us - foreigners - for learning the language and much more supportive then Slovenians will ever be. Almost each of us in Slovenia speak at least one foreign language (most English, but there are other languages too) so we in general obviously don’t feel our language should be taught. But I - for a change - think it should be taught and in minority it even is. I know in the summer there is camp organized somewhere in Slovenia where those foreigners who’re learning language are gathering and spend a week or two (I dont’t know) in kind of educational “bootcamp” learning the language or upgrading their knowledge of it.
But, I’d be happy if you’d be encouraged one day to try to learn Slovene again. I’d be glad to asist the course if it ever comes to development so we’d have one SSiS more - SSiSlovene.
As Aran has already said - welcome to the forum: expertise on a language learners’ forum is gold dust!
And please let me apologise for a slighty clumsy use of language: I certainly didn’t intend to label Cornish courses other than ours as esoteric, but I can understand how what I wrote could be interpreted to say that. My intention was to reassure the original poster that we weren’t teaching some made-up form that would be different to whatever else they came across in real life.
I’m really excited about the potential future of Cornish, and particularly proud that SSi can make a contribution to it. The last thing I’d want is to contribute to some of the negativity that can become part of any minority language scene, and that Cornish has certainly suffered from in the past.
Meur ras dhewgh a’gas geryow cüv! Thank you for your kind words. I have said above that I may have been a little blunt in my reaction to your use of “esoteric” and slight misunderstandings of the sort do crop up more often in on-line conversations than they would in a face-to-face encounter, so I’ll just say, let it be water under the bridge…
The Cornish language community is a small network of people and of course I was very enthusiastic when I got wind that a SSiC course was in preparation and I volunteered to help wherever I could. Since I was familiar with the excellent SSiW course I was hoping to help out in with the Late Cornish based pronunciation/accent/dialect in the way that SSiW offers a course for Northern and Southern Welsh learners. The MAGA people involved however said that this was not desired. Fair enough, so I went off and did my own thing. The method of my course is similar, comparable also to the Pimsleur method, but of course I didn’t want to get into trouble with possible copyright infringements. I changed the pace of my course and concentrated on teaching along the usual path in the Revived Late Cornish community - a small but loyal bunch of people.
For fluent speakers the differences between the Revived Late Cornish and Revived Middle Cornish varieties are easy to get used to, and I had no trouble making myself understood within the wider community of Cornish speakers. Learners who have only been confronted with one variety may find the other a little unusual at first, but the differences aren’t too difficult to overcome. The relationship between Revived Middle Cornish and Revived Late Cornish are similar to the way standard literary Welsh, based on the first Welsh Bible, relates to the modern colloquial dialects. The relative “raciness” of Revived Late Cornish is what initially attracted me to learning this variety, but of course it was also the variety that Richard Gendall, my first Cornish teacher, spoke and as in all things educational, the teacher is very important, and Gendall being a very friendly, charismatic person surely influenced me in my preferences.
If you want to find out a little more about my course, feel free to visit my website:
Another thought on accent in Cornish is that English in Cornwall came from the West Saxons, so although a modern Cornish accent would be closer to a pre-Saxon accent than Queen’s English is, we can’t say that all the differences between a modern Cornish accent and Queen’s English are from Cornish originally.
Hello Daniel Prohaska
Yes, I like your audio course, because of how you try to make your pronunciation authentic. I like the idea of speaking medieval Cornish, because it’s older and there are elements that were lost later, so it would be speaking a language that’s degenerated less, bringing back what was lost. I would also find it fun to be speaking medieval English. I prefer your course though, because of the pronunciation. You said you chose early modern Cornish to continue the language where it left off.
I’m a bit concerned that if the Cornish language is brought back in the wrong accent, then it’ll be hard to then correct the accent, if people want to say it how it’s said in modern day, rather than how it used to be said, like how in Historical Fencing a lot of people call a two-handed sword a longsword, they think that’s the proper name, and think using longsword for a long one-handed sword is a modern invention, even though that’s not true, and using “longsword” for a two-handed sword is a direct translation from the German “langen schwert” that was used by people translating medieval German books on fighting with the two handed sword, but people can get used to it and not want to use the older names for different types of swords any more, even though they originally changed what they called it because they thought it was authentic, but now they just want to say what other people are saying, even if it’s not authentic.
Just thinking on the topic of getting the pronunciation “right”, I would say in my experience of speaking with and listening to other Cornish speakers, there are a lot of minor (and sometimes major) variations in pronunciation — not just between Revived Middle and Revived Late Cornish, but even between people who are speaking the same revived form.
Take the word “tus”, meaning “people”, for instance. According to the dictionaries I’ve seen, the RMC pronunciation should be with the vowel as in French “tu” — a sound that we don’t really have in English, but something like a very short, compressed “ee” sound with the lips rounded — and a “z” sound at the end. The RLC pronunciation is with a longer “ee” sound, as it was spelled as “teez” in Late Cornish texts. But in practice, most Cornish speakers I’ve heard pronounce it as something like “toose”, to rhyme with “loose” — and I recently heard one speaker, who’d apparently grown up speaking it at home, pronouncing it as “tuss”, to rhyme with “bus”. It’s all rather confusing… I think a lot of it depends on when one first learned Cornish (there have been changing theories as to how certain words were originally pronounced) and with which teacher(s) and in which version.
But you know… it’s not that pronunciation doesn’t matter at all, but I really think it may not be the most important thing. Not as important as having more and more people learning and using and loving the language. The fact is that even with the best scholarly efforts to work out how a word “should” be pronounced, we don’t have a time machine and we can’t go back and hear how actual native speakers sounded when it was originally spoken in any particular period. And of course pronunciations shifted over time and perhaps even between different local areas, as has happened with English and other languages over time and in different regions. The English we speak now isn’t exactly the same, in pronunciation or word usage, as the English that was spoken 200 years ago, let alone longer.
When I hear Cornish speakers come out with quite different pronunciations from each other, I just remind myself that actually, there are a lot of varying pronunciations and accents in the different dialects of English too and that doesn’t in itself mean one is “right” and the other is “wrong”. After all, when I speak English myself it’s Australian English, because that’s where I come from. It doesn’t sound the same as the many forms of English I hear in Britain, where I now live, but that doesn’t make it wrong — any more than any of the dialects native to this country are wrong. (Not to mention American English, Canadian English, New Zealand English, South African English or any of the other varieties out there.) Everyone understands me and no-one ever tries to correct me, thank goodness!
So although pronunciation in Cornish does matter, I have to conclude it’s not the most important thing — I’d rather have lots of variant pronunciations and everyone still understanding each other and enjoying using the language, than constant corrections and arguments to the point where new learners get put off speaking it at all. It’s officially a living language again and more people are starting to learn and value it, and that’s what matters more than anything.
I love what Pol Hodge has to say in his Cornish-English Phrase Book: “An unsel leveryans kamm yn Kernewek yw taw! The only incorrect pronunciation in Kernewek is silence!”
Thank you for sharing your thoughts in the matter. Yes, pronunciation is important to me and it was for many years the focus of my Cornish studies. “Authentic” is a bit of a buzz-word in the Cornish speaking community because many a verbal battle was fought over which variety/pronunciation/orthography/vocabulary is the more/most authentic. So, I’d avoid using it in argument, mainly because of the fact that while we can reconstruct a great deal about traditional Cornish phonology from various time periods, there are aspects of pronunciation that we cannot reconstruct, as traditional Cornish died out before the invention of any recording devices. That doesn’t mean it should be an anything goes approach, but we have to be aware that we are reviving a language that had at some point expired and lost its traditional pronunciation, accent, manner of delivery, intonation etc. Now the Cornish revival is over a hundred years old and has come up with its own pronunciation traditions, some pronunciations gravitating more towards a model of Middle Cornish phonology (14th to 16th c), some based more on a model of Late Cornish (17th, 18th c), a time in which Cornish underwent a number of significant changes in pronunciation. And, as Courtenay has pointed out, variation within these varieties. While we can, as teachers of the language, encourage learners to achieve a pronunciation more in line with the various reconstructed models, and avoid pronouncing Cornish as English, second language learners have a differing interest and talent in leaving their own native phonological system and embrace a new one, especially adult learners. We have a similar situation in Brittany or Ireland today, where second language Breton and Irish speakers respectively have pronunciations that are greatly influenced by their native languages French and Irish-English respectively. To native speakers these acquired varieties may sound off, heavily accented, or just wrong, but it doesn’t change the fact that these learners invested a great deal of time and effort to becoming conversational in their second languages. Another aspect we may want to consider are cultural differences in teaching and correcting. In the English-speaking world it’s a cultural No-No to correct adults, so you get into a conflict as a teacher between helping learners learn from mistakes on the one hand, but presenting them with the “correct” alternative, unless they themselves make an effort to point out that they want to be corrected. You also don’t want to discourage the learner by nitpicking a sentence to death. Mistakes themselves are actually a great teacher, if you are guided into realising where you went wrong. The SSiW course does a great job at pointing this out and building confidence. In other cultural contexts, such as the German speaking area, and Germany especially, it’s culturally more acceptable to correct people. This is often misinterpreted as Germans being bossy or know-it-all, but it’s actually considered to be an aid to the corrected from preventing him/her to make a fool of themselves the next time round. If a German corrects you, s/he probably thinks s/he’s doing you a favour. In the world of academia it is essential that matters presented are put right where they can be seen to fly in the face of available evidence. It is a scientist’s duty to point this out. I think many of the hardcore issues within the Cornish Revival concerning the “authenticity” of Revived Cornish and the rejection of certain forms on principle, entrenchment of certain positions stem from this intercultural misunderstanding between a layperson’s language learning and the academic scrutiny some Celticists have applied to what Cornish Revivalists have produced, be it in literature, resource material or the spoken word.
A quick remark on the sword-issue. There are I think two areas that you are conflating. There is a German term “Langschwert” (“Longsword”), which is a late mediaeval two-handed sword, i.e. the claymore, or a similar sword… then there is the fencing style “langes Schwert” (“a long sword”) which involved gripping the sword at the hilt, whereas “kurzes Schwert” (“a short sword”) refers to the style where you hold the sword at the blade thus shortening it.