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ERIC Number: ED497422
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1999
Pages: 21
Abstractor: Author
Reconstructive Phonology and Contrastive Lexicology: Problems with the "Gerlyver Kernewek Kemmyn"
Mills, Jon
Online Submission, Cornish Studies VII p193-218 1999
In July 1988 the Cornish Language Board adopted the orthography known as Kernewek Kemmyn. This shift in orthography brought about a need for new pedagogical materials including a new dictionary. In 1993 The Cornish Language Board published the "Gerlyver Kernewek Kemmyn." Since its publication, there has been a great deal of controversy concerning the new orthography (Penglaze 1994; George 1995; Williams 1995; Deacon 1996; Williams 1996; Dunbar & George 1997). Some people might argue that, on the one hand, Kernewek Kemmyn is to be preferred since its phonemic nature makes it pedagogically advantageous; and that, on the other hand, the reconstructed phonology on which Kernewek Kemmyn is based has a sound academic foundation grounded in the study of the traditional historic corpus of Cornish literature. However it is clear that neither of these claims stands up to scrutiny. Not only is George's reconstructed phonology academically unsound but the phonemic nature of Kernewek Kemmyn together with the respelling of place names according to their putative etymologies actually entails certain disadvantages. Furthermore the English translation equivalents and neologisms given in the Gerlyver Kernewek Kemmyn entail a contrastive lexicology that is at odds with traditional practice as attested in the historical corpus of Cornish. It is clear that the prescribed canon encoded in the "Gerlyver Kernewek Kemmyn" is linguistically naive and is, therefore, not a suitable pedagogical basis for Revived Cornish. Whilst a standardised spelling system may be beneficial for the pedagogical basis of Revived Cornish, it is vital that this is based on the scholarly study of the historic Cornish texts. George's methods cannot determine the phonology of historical Cornish; they only provide a basis for speculation. Furthermore when one compares the data reported by George with the primary sources, they do not match. His results and conclusions are, therefore, spurious. Since George's investigation of Cornish phonology is badly flawed, the switch to Kernewek Kemmyn seems to have been an expensive waste of time and energy. People who start to learn Cornish need the assurance that the form that they are being taught is indeed Cornish and not the product of some individual's fertile imagination. Systems which respell Cornish words, such as Kernewek Kemmyn, are liable to be criticised by some people as being artificial and not Cornish. We do not have an agreed phonology of Cornish; reconstructions of Cornish phonology are at best conjectural. Consequently it would seem likely that theories concerning Cornish phonology will be in a state of flux for the foreseeable future. A disadvantage with a phonemic spelling system is that it has to be changed every time a new phonological theory comes along. The introduction of Kernewek Kemmyn caused a split in the revival movement that has resulted in three spelling systems in current use. There are alternatives to using an invented phonemic orthography to serve the Cornish language revival. One need not presuppose that there must be a direct correlation between phonemes and graphemes. There are other issues apart from phonology to be taken in account when standardising the orthography of Cornish. Variations in spelling may contain useful clues to a word's etymology. If one wishes actually to be literate in a language, instead of merely conversational, it is not unreasonable that one understand more of words than simply their most common meaning and sound. (Contains 80 notes and references.)
Publication Type: Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A