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Twentieth Century Cornish Lexicography and Language Revival

Mills, Jon (1998) Twentieth Century Cornish Lexicography and Language Revival. In: 1998 Henry Sweet Society Colloquium, Wednesday 16 September to Saturday 19 September 1998, University of Amsterdam. (Unpublished) (KAR id:8386)


In this century the Cornish language has been revived so that today Cornish is spoken by many Cornish people as a second language. Moreover a few people currently living in Cornwall have been raised as bilingual from birth. Texts from the Middle Cornish (1200 to 1575 AD) and Modern Cornish (1575 to 1800 AD) periods form the basis upon which Cornish has been revived in the twentieth century. Dictionaries have made an important contribution to the pedagogical basis of this revival. The Williams’ (1865) dictionary and Lewis’ (1923) grammar form the basis of later twentieth century pedagogical dictionaries. Both Williams and Lewis are Welsh and have been led astray by analogy with the Welsh language on a number of issues. As a result, some subsequent dictionaries are not faithful to native Cornish practices. Analogy with Welsh and Breton has also led some revivalists to adopt Middle rather than Modern Cornish as the basis for standardising Cornish spelling and grammar. Furthermore Welsh and Breton have been used as sources for borrowing new words into twentieth century Cornish. Other writers, notably Jenner (1904) and Gendall (1997), have shown a preference for Modern Cornish as a pedagogical basis for the revival of Cornish. Jenner chose to take up the language where it had left off and disapproved of the inclusion of Welsh and Breton borrowings for which no authority exists in Cornish (Jenner 1904: xv). Jenner also adapted Modern Cornish orthography along loosely phonetic lines in order to create a consistent spelling system. Gendall (1997), on the other hand, has selected a single preferred spelling for each lexeme from those spellings that are attested in the historical literature. The result is that today there are three different standardised spelling systems in common usage amongst revivalists.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Paper)
Subjects: P Language and Literature
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
Depositing User: Francis Mills
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2011 14:43 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 09:46 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Mills, Jon.

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