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Cornish Studies Seven

edited by Philip Payton
University of Exeter Press (1999)

  This is a bumper number of Cornish Studies as far as the language debate is concerned. Cornish Studies Seven contains three articles strongly critical of Kernewek Kemmyn.
Jon Mills is lecturer in Linguistics in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Luton. His article (Cornish Studies Seven, pp 193-218) is called "Reconstructive Phonology and Contrastive Lexicology: Problems with the Gerlyver Kernewek Kemmyn." Mills submits Kernewek Kemmyn to the scrutiny of modern linguistics and has some devastating things to say about Ken George's work on Cornish. Here are a few of his observations:
 "It must be concluded that George's phonology is largely invention."
 "It is not for an individual to propose an orthography based on his putative reconstruction of Cornish phonology and then shift the burden of proof by requiring that others demonstrate its shortcomings."
 "To demonstrate individually that each of George's analyses is wrong would take a very long time, simply because there are a lot of analyses and there is very little that could be said to be right about any of them" [Speaking of Ken George and Paul Dunbar, Kernewek Kemmyn: Cornish for the Twenty-First Century (Saltash 1997)].
 "Such omissions and inaccuracies are typical and not the exception in George's analyses. Consequently, one can have little confidence in George's conclusions" [Speaking of Ken George's orthographical profiles in George and Dunbar (1997)].
 "People who 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."
 "Furthermore, when one compares the data reported by George with the primary sources, they do not match. His results and conclusions are, therefore spurious. George's work thus makes claims about Cornish phonology which are not really justified. 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."
N.J.A. Williams writes on pp 219-41 on the way the title 'Saint' is dealt with in Cornish. He discusses the way in which the title Sen is not normally used in traditional Cornish with Celtic saints. He then continues by reviewing the list of over 500 place-names produced by An Gannas in 1995 under the title Henwyn Tylleryow Kernewek (HTK). The authors of this list are Graham Sandercock, Julyan Holmes, Ken George (the inventor of Kernewek Kemmyn) and Pol Hodge. The authors' work on the toponymy is a continuation of a regular column by Pol Hodge and it would seem that Hodge is the chief author of the list.

Williams shows that the use of Sen in the HTK is inconsistent and inauthentic, since the researchers have failed to distinguish in their sources between the Latin and English forms of the place-names on the one hand and the genuine Cornish forms on the other.
 Williams concludes:
 "Whatever the reasons for it, the policy of the compilers of HTK is ill considered. They would have been better advised to pay greater attention both to the toponyms that are actually attested in the Cornish texts on the one hand and to the Welsh, early Breton and other Celtic parallels on the other. As it stands, HTK is very unsatisfactory and cannot be recommended."
On pp 242-53 Michael Everson of Evertype has a review article of Ken George's dictionary, the Gerlyver Kres (1998). Quoting from the dust jacket Everson calls his review "An Event of Great Signicance [sic]: A Review of George's Gerlyver Kres". It appears that nobody troubled to proof the dust jacket!

Everson begins by saying: "The publication of a new dictionary for a Celtic language is generally a cause for celebration. Ken George's new dictionary, appearing five years after his Gerlyver Meur, is rather a disappointment, as it is defective in two essential features: its form and its content."

Everson continues by discussing first the form of the Gerlyver Kres and finishes the section by saying, "Typographically, this dictionary is a disaster."

The reviewer then discusses the content and finds it wholly wanting.

In a third section Everson discusses Kernewek Kemmyn which he calls "a socio-linguistic disaster."
 He concludes his detailed review as follows:
 "The Gerlyver Kres is certainly no substitute for Nance's 1938 and 1955 dictionaries, as it omits much which can only be found in them. Its claims to comprehensiveness are unfounded. Its appearance at this time does little to advance the Cornish language revival, not least because it is presented in the experimental orthography known as Common Cornish (Kernewek Kemmyn), a form that has experienced sustained criticism from Celtic scholars and must be regarded as flawed."
 Michael Everson's review in its entirety can be downloaded here.
 Cornish Studies Seven can be obtained from:
 Institute of Cornish Studies,
Hayne Corfe Centre,
Truro, TR1 3ND,
©1996-2007 Nicholas Williams
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