CORNISH

The Cornish Language: an Kernowek or an Kernewek.


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Cornish, the language of Kernow (the Cornish name for Cornwall), is a Celtic language. It has some similarities to Welsh and Breton, which were once closely related to it. The historical Cornish language is divided into three periods:

  1. Old Cornish, up to 1150 AD;

  2. Middle (or Medieval) Cornish, from 1150 to 1500 AD;

  3. Modern Cornish, from 1500 to 1800.

Cornish ceased to be the vernacular of Kernow in approximately 1800, due to economic, social and other factors. It has been revived in this century and is now spoken again in Kernow.

The remains of Old Cornish consist only of a list of vocabulary and several scholarly notes in the margins of Latin texts. Middle Cornish is represented by several miracle plays. It is reputed that miracle plays were performed until the early seventeenth century. There is also a long religious poem and a couple of fragments. Modern Cornish is preserved chiefly in several prose texts, including letters, as well as lists of vocabulary.

This site undergoes development from time to time, and new pages containing stories and other material on the language will be added as they are prepared. With regard to the stories, the Cornish version is followed by the translation and then by the list of Cornish vocabulary and its translation. Voice and songs will be added as time permits. The French, German and Italian pages are also under development and material will be added to those when possible.

The stories presented here are written either in Modern Cornish of the time of John Tregear in the sixteenth century or in the dialect of Modern Cornish as it was spoken in Penwith and Kerrier (the western part of the Cornish land) in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Those stories marked with the capital letter A are written in the language of Tregear; all those marked with a capital B are in dialect. Tregear's language is used as the standard language in the Cornish section of this site. However, there are several stories which are written in dialect. Cornish of the early Modern Period is being revived in Cornwall along with Medieval Cornish of a couple of centuries earlier. The different stages of the language are similar in many ways, the main differences being in the verbal system. The differences in the spelling systems and the phonology are superficial differences although they tend to be more noticeable than the important differences in the grammar and syntax.

If you wish to learn Cornish, there are several organizations which teach it, chiefly in Kernow. Some addresses to apply to are available on the Internet.

For questions concerning Cornish, contact: infoatkernowekdotcom

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Introduction   :   Literature 1350-1611   :   Literature in Dialect   :   Stories   :   Site Coordinator   :   History   :   English Home   :   Links

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The Cornish Language: an Kernowek or an Kernewek.

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