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Introduction to Practical Modern Cornish

This course in Modern Cornish is designed to take the learner forward in two stages, beginning with an introduction to the language in Part 1, Foundations, where the basic vocabulary, speech patterns and rules are taught, founded on practical, everyday words and phrases. On completion of this part, the learner should be able to "survive" in everyday situations in the home, and matters concerned with everyday living, including family relationships, the home, food, drink, health, and so on, yet also a few steps beyond the garden gate. The essential grammar will now have been learn', and with the help of a dictionary this can be built upon.

In part two, Development, knowledge of the language will be consolidated and extended and the learner taken into the wider scene outside of the home, into society, work, leisure, travel and the world, with an ever wider vocabulary and increased skills in handling the idiom, with more emphasis on style and the niceties of syntax. With both parts assimilated students can extend themselves indefinitely and follow their own preference, whether in social life or that of literature.

At all stages, the aim of Practical Modern Cornish is to become familiar with and use the Vernacular Cornish Language, as spoken and written by Cornish people during the period of Modern Cornish.

The vocabulary of Modern Cornish is already richer than that of any other period of the history of the language, as it is the culmination of continued assimilation and development from all ages, but there are inevitable gaps when it comes to technical terms and new concepts that have only come into use in any language sine the 18th century. Many of these gaps can be filled by re-using already existing words in new contexts, or combining them as phrases. Some words must be taken directly from whatever other modern language can supply them, which includes terms such as radio, television, rocket etc. This was always the practice throughout the history of living Cornish, and one adopted also by welsh, English, French, Spanish and all vital European languages, the technical vocabulary of all these being largely composed of words from neighbouring countries, and particularly from Latin and Greek. Without this direct borrowing, languages would be greatly impoverished. Nevertheless., there are a few words that can be constructed from existing roots, but these are kept to a minimum.

The matter of orthography is perhaps, and surprisingly, the most difficult to deal with. The only attempt to provide a systematic spelling standard was made by Edward Lhuyd following his visit to Cornwall in 1700, and while it was not generally accepted, it did influence one or two later writers to some degree. nevertheless, it is interesting that William Bodinar's letter written in 1776, shows no influence from Lhuyd whatsoever, and is very much in keeping with the best and most typical examples of Cornish from the previous century.

The orthography used by native writers prior to 1700 is, however, so full of variations that for purposes of modern use it is essential to standardise it., and this is done by choosing from existing examples those that are either commonest or most representative of the character and sounds of the language, while at the same time retaining a degree of dignity.

The writers drawn upon as exemplars are William Rowe of Sancreed, and Nicholas and Thomas Boson of Newlyn, with some useful ideas taken from Edward Lhuyd and a few other contemporaries.

Richard Gendall, Tregill
October 2003


Copyright Teer ha Tavaz 2003, Based on the book Practical Modern Cornish by Richard Gendall (ISBN 0-9537710-5-9)