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Dictionary of Languages Extra

Especially for readers of Dictionary of Languages (Bloomsbury, 2005) here are some added and expanded entries. They are in alphabetical order. Click here for a page of language links and here for a further reading page To find a particular word or name anywhere on this page, click on 'Edit : Find' in your browser. Please tell me if entries need further correction or improvement!

Cornish, Kernewek

expanded entry, now with bibliography and links

The former native speech of Cornwall is a Celtic language closely related to WELSH and even more closely to BRETON.

Cornwall was an independent Celtic kingdom until it was conquered by Wessex in 936. Its autonomy melted away under English bishops and Norman earls. It became a poor and isolated region, where people made their living in local ways - mining for tin, fishing, and sometimes wrecking. The language survived because Cornwall was a backwater. But by 1600 travellers noted that almost all speakers were bilingual. Parents were discouraging their children from learning Cornish, and that was the beginning of the end. By 1800 it was difficult to find anyone who knew any Cornish at all. A group of old women of Mousehole, near Penzance, were thought to be the very last people who spoke the language regularly. Most reference books say that when Dorothy Jeffrey or 'Dolly Pentreath', the last survivor of them, died in 1777, the Cornish language died with her. In reality, the last speaker who learnt some Cornish in early childhood was John Davey of Zennor, who died in 1891. He learnt it from his grandfather - who must have lived in the generation after Dolly Pentreath. As in some other cases, it was men, not women, who held on longest to a disappearing language.

Now a revival of Cornish is gaining momentum. Many learn it at school and in evening classes. You can learn to cook in Cornish and to swear in Cornish, and a few children have grown up bilingual in Cornish and English, so it is once more a mother tongue. It has been recognised as a regional minority language by the Council of Europe and the European Union.

As yet there is no agreed spelling system. Rival orthographies include Common Cornish, Unified Cornish and the unwisely-named Late Cornish; for examples see my IFAQ page or look at the Cornish Branch of the European Bureau of Lesser Used Languages, whose brand new website you can choose to read in English or in these three different orthographies of Cornish.

The oldest scraps of Cornish language are gravestones; one at Fowey may mark the tomb of Tristan, famous in Arthurian legend. Later there are manuscript glosses and wordlists. The longest surviving classic text is the cycle of religious plays from the 15th century, the Ordinalia. The Story of John of Chy-an-Hor, written by Nicholas Boson about 1670, is in Nance's Cornish reader. The printed texts of Ordinalia and John of Chy-an-Hor (see bibliography) include 'translations': these are in very odd English, but they do help you to understand the Cornish.

Numerals 1 to 10 in Cornish: onen, un; deu, dyw; try, tyr; peswar, peder; pymp; whegh; seyth; eth; naw; dek

Cabmdhavas e metten, glaw yu etn --
a rainbow in the morning, rain is in it.

This rhymed Cornish proverb of about 1700, noted by William Gwavas of Paul, is close in rhythm to the English

Red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning;
Red sky at night, shepherd's delight

and to the French

Araignée du matin, signe de chagrin;
Araignée du temps tôt, signe de cadeau;
Araignée du soir, signe d'espoir.

European Union

new listings

The official languages of the EU before 2004: Danish; Dutch; English; Finnish; French; German; Greek; Italian; Portuguese; Spanish; Swedish.

The nine new official languages of 2004: Maltese; Latvian; Lithuanian; Czech; Polish; Slovak; Slovene; Estonian; Hungarian.

The four new official languages of 13 June 2005: Basque; Catalan; Galician; Irish.

Links to three official European databases of regional minority languages.

CLICK HERE TO BUY DICTIONARY OF LANGUAGES FROM AMAZON.COM OR AMAZON.CO.UK

TODAY'S QUOTATIONLiterary MenusAlphabet of RecipesHistorical PrescriberIFAQs
Bacchus ExtraDangerous Tastes ExtraDictionary of Languages ExtraFood in the Ancient World ExtraGuide to World Language Dictionaries ExtraNotes in the Margin Extra

STREET OF THE BOOKSELLERS

HOMETHE BOOKSHELVESTHE DICTIONARYLANGUAGE INDEXWORK BY ANDREW DALBYLINKSWEB SEARCH