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History of Cornish
Cornish today by Kenneth MacKinnon
With only a few hundred speakers today, it's hard to believe that once Cornish was the everyday language of as many as 38,000 people. However, thanks to the efforts of the revivalist movement, Cornish, while still an endangered language, continues to claw its way back from the brink of extinction.
A reasonable estimate of the current number of speakers able to use Cornish effectively for everyday purposes is around 300 in Cornwall itself, with a further 50 reported for the London area. The language is spoken in a wide variety of situations: the conduct of business in Cornish organisations; in cultural events; in a wide variety of social settings; and most importantly in the homes of a handful of families. It is also used increasingly in public worship and in public ceremonies and ritual. There are over 40 organisations which promote Cornish, such as the Cornish Language Fellowship and Gorseth Kernow.
Contemporary written Cornish is also continuing to develop in quantity and quality. There have been a number of literary publications which have developed the essay, the short story and poetry in Cornish. More recently novels have been produced, along with an increasing amount of children's publications. In terms of output and publications per head of language users this may constitute a record even higher than Icelandic. Texts from medieval times, especially drama, have also been revived in modern performances, allowing plays enjoyed centuries ago to find new contemporary audiences.
Education, at both school and adult levels, plays a crucial role in the revival of any minority language. There are currently 32 formal adult education classes in Cornish, mostly organised by further education colleges or Cornish advocacy groups. It is estimated that over 200 people are attending these classes. There are classes held in London and overseas, as well as a correspondence course organised outside Cornwall.
Twelve primary schools in Cornwall include some Cornish in their lesson plans. However recent changes to the national curriculum has seen the demise of Cornish as a subject at GCSE level due to low participant numbers.