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Colloquial Doesn’t Mean Corrupt
Observations on contemporary Revived Cornish

colloquial-not-corrupt

By Neil Kennedy

First edition, 2019. Dundee: Evertype. ISBN 978-1-78201-246-7 (paperback), price: €13.95, £11.95, $15.95.

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William Scawen, writing in the seventeenth century when Cornish was still the vernacular, compares Cornish with other Celtic languages, and says that Cornish is “lively and manly spoken”. When we hear the majority of present-day Cornish speakers, however, this can rarely be said—particularly when considering the “lively” part.

Rod Lyon believes that for a number of years matters have been getting worse. He therefore has undertaken some research to find out why this appears to be the case. Inevitably his research has led him to study in depth the traditional Cornish texts. Present-day teaching methods and a particular approach to the texts seem to be the main causes of the problem.

As Lyon illustrates in this book, current teaching of the language is concentrated far too heavily on the lin­guistic structure of the old texts, which were by and large all theological works, often following strict poetic measures and by their very nature, lacking in any idiomatic, everyday Cornish. This approach of mainly written, academic thinking towards the language has resulted in the most important aspect of any language—fluent and lively conversational Cornish—being sidelined or even ignored. This is proven by the number of people who can write lengthy, academi­cally perfect passages of Cornish, but are unable to string to­gether a sentence in an impromptu everyday conversa­tion.

Are these above reasons then solely to blame for the lack of lively speakers? Although they point to the root problem, Lyon also highlights other aspects of the revived language which are strong contributing factors.

   

 
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