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23 September 2014
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Cornish today
History of Cornish

Your comments

Angus Harris from Australia
If the Jewish can revive Hebrew, then surely we can revive kernewek. Even though we may apparently never be exactly sure how Old Cornish was pronounced, I think it can pieced together with enough accuracy to make it perfectly legitimate.

Jim from Coventry
Some of the above posters seem to think there is no point learning Cornish (as we know it now) as it is too far removed from old Cornish. I have a question to Cornish speakers: Do you think you would be able to comunicate with a monoglot speaker of old Cornish? If so, then that is good enough for me. Also as a separate suggestion: I think the promotion of your language can be helped by making as much educational material as possible freely and easily available.

Tim Dyer, Cornish in Bangkok
The best place to practice your Cornish is west Brittany. It is the closest language to Cornish, and has been commonly used up until now. The Breton will enjoy to converse with you too. Cornish did not disappear completely as a language, nor is it extinct. It died out as a common language, but continued in slang, technical terms, and idionmatic expressions. It survived in pieces throughout all Cornish families. The Cornish have spread out over the world, due to our history, which further broke the regular conversation of it. Of course the English did try to wipe our seperate culture out in the middle ages, then later we needed to trade with them, intermarried and then they came to out settle us. From Kernow, Cornish is reborn, and the spirit of the language is there, as best it can be. The 'gap' of use as a continuing language is there, but one that is being bridged as close as can be, though this does not matter since all languages evolve organically, not by rule. Cornish was a growing language from Roman times to the 18th century, and the modern version has to grow again to add vocabulary of daily things we now do or have. The more people who share a language for any reason, and by any means, the more important it is. With the internet, American, African, Australasian Pobel an Kernewek can unite our heritage, even if just for a few words, to awaken the ancesters of our blood. In doing that, Cornish is alive. Many of the people in or out of Corwall have little Cornish blood, but want to share in this heritage. Britain allows other cultures to assimilate, and adapted its language accordingly with them, provided those peoples respected the shared identity and value system, and work together for the common cause. I believe that this custom was taught to Britain by the Roman Celts. Us Cornish should welcome others to join us who want to share in the beauty and history of this language.

William Baxter in Aberystwyth.
I read that John Tregear (17th Century) is the last monolingual speaker of Cornish. Dolly Pentreath understood English, and would say 'Ni vinav cowz Sawzwek' meaning 'I will not speak English' when addressed in English. I have made a spelling plan for Cornish with Nouns spelt to indicate grammatical Gender. The Cornish Studies Centre (and some other libraries) has a few of my books.

Aidan Work from Wellington,New Zealand.
In reply to the comment by Harry from Glasgow,Scotland,I would like to point out that the modern Hebrew of today is nothing like the Ancient Hebrew language.Modern Hebrew has borrowed from the languages spoken by the various Jewish communities in Europe & the ex-U.S.S.R. states such as Russia & Ukraine. Modern Cornish,on the other hand, is very strongly influenced by both Breton & Welsh.Is there any influence of Old Cornish (which was spoken by Dolly Pentreath) on the Modern Cornish language? Could someone from Cornwall,please try & answer this question?

Michael. Penryn
I am Cornish born and bred and proud of it and have no problem with the old language being taught. What I do find annoying are all the Neuvo Cornish jumping on the bandwagon. Walk down the street and just listen to the younger people talking of this alvo,crimbo, wa'er, wevver, and the like, even the old dialect I grew up with is dying.

Tim in Bristol
Dydh da oll, The main thing is our language is still here - lets not all get heated up over good old Dolly - we all know who writes the history books! The greatest difficulty is using Cornish in a day to day setting - that is why the idea of the badges is a good one - so fellow speakers can identify each other. I have forgotten a lot of the Cornish I had learnt but still use bits when I can. I guess many will ask what is the importance of a language little used - in fact this was raised over Xmas in my house. To some it will have no importance. But as we all know identity, a place of belonging, is important to all. The Cornish language is part of that. It is not the sole or even central part but it is still an important part. Language is more than just an instant communicator, it is a capsule for history, culture and identity. To simply abandon a language because it is used by only a few is to deny the next generation the wealth of knowledge and identity entwined within it. Just wish my Cornish was good enough to allow me to write all that in Cornish - kernewek yn scrifya. Drog yw genef rag kernewek drog. Dew Genes, Tim.

Críostóir from Ireland
I completely agree with Davey Eddy - I am Cornish, not English. I am delighted that Katy Mather's daughters are being taught Cornish, and hope it is a sign of a significant change in official attitudes. Cornish was not taught at my school and I had to learn my ethnic language in my teenage years. I contacted the present headmistress of my old school a few years ago and she said she would "look into after-school classes for those interested". I doubt she has. Lastly, Cornwall is blighted by emigration - seventy five per cent of my family (including myself, seven years gone), all Cornish, have left - leading to an outflow of Cornish speakers.

Matthew Clarke
Hilary is incorrect to say the last native speaker died in 1700s. There were others recorded until the late 1800s. Dolly P was possibly the last of the monoglots. There is also nothing wrong with 'reinventing language' especially when you consider English is a reinvented language. English was actually on the verge of dying out 400 years after the Norman conquest as French was used more. Writers of the time actually 'invented' words to try and fill holes that had emerged during Norman times. English is also currently changing through both organic methods and invention. Also, look at Welsh, which totally overhauled the way they count. English speakers tend to have a very blinkered view of their history!

Aidan Work from Wellington,New Zealand
Cornish is in the same language family as Welsh & Breton.It is good to hear that Cornish is undergoing a revival.The same thing cannot be said for the Scots-Gaelic language here in New Zealand,however.

davey eddy
Accept that we are being influenced by english propaganda! the truth is out there - i am cornish not english and i thank god there is that difference.

wella, pennskol kergront
I think in cornwall we are still suffering from poor education, confusion and ignorance on such matters. The end of 'traditional cornish' is very messy which makes it hard to sum up, dolly pentreath being one of the last recorded 'monoglots' (complications with the phrase here) but a knowledge of the language continuing long after though not in common use eg. john davey talking to his cat (1890?), also add in the many words apparantly used in dialect and then cornish used as a 'techical volcabulary' in fishing perhaps continuing until 1940 in limited use. But Long before this, (victorian) the revival and research into the language had begun, hence "there has ever been a time when there was no-one in cornwall who could speak cornish" that you do hear. The popular myth that the cornish language dropped dead in 1777 is nothing more than that, but it was very very ill.Without the 'revival' it would probably have sunk into history without a trace, as it was the remaining traditional scraps were gathered together, and thanks to the suprising amount of liturature that survived cornish has clawed back an existance for itself. Kernow bys vykken!

R.Salmon NZ
History records Dolly Pentreath as the last Monoglot speaker. That means she spoke no English,only Cornish. There is much confusion simply because most English speakers don't know what 'monoglot' means. Poor speakers of English are hardly in a place to comment on any other language,until perhaps they have studied their own a little.Much Cornish was passed down through my family and I imagine many other families throughout the world.

Paddy Gallagher from Truro
I was born in Cornwall and proud to be Cornish. I heard very little about the differences in cornish culture and language whilst i was growing up. There was no Cornish difference taught at school! how wrong this is, akin to cultural genocide! "maybe a little strong." However after moving from Cornwall for work i have realised how different we are, with our songs/traditions/food and language... Hilary seems to be missing the point or perhaps jealous that she cant speak Cornish! Regardless of the history of Cornish language, hilary again flawed as a letter from William Bodner was written in cornish after Dolly Pentreath's death, It is here to stay. More and more companies are adopting it as new selling angle, more and more people are learning it! It is a great language, and I have a lot of fun trying to use it where ever possible! I hope with time more, Harry, people will take time to learn Cornish as a Hobby and a patriotic stance, and use it in its full glory! KERNOW BYS VYKEN!

Harry from Glasgow
Absolutely nothing against the proponents of Cornish, good luck to them, but they shouldn't deceive themselves or anyone else. The fact is that Cornish died out centuries ago, and certainly before Dolly Pentreath -- apart from the question of how good her command of Cornish may have been, and who was to know, how can a language be considered alive if it has only one speaker? Comparisons with Hebrew are completely misleading: Hebrew genuinely has been brought back from the grave, and is now spoken as a native language by many thousands of people in all areas of life, while Cornish is spoken as a hobby or a patriotic statement by a handful of people. Nothing wrong with that, but it's very wrong that the article, which one would assume was reasonably objective, tries to imply that the language never quite died out -- the first sentence, and phrases like "the brink of extinction" disingenuously imply a continuous tradition, which is just not true. The Cornish language revinvented in the 20th century in its various competing versions had to deal with one big problem: simply put, no-one knows how Middle Cornish was pronounced, and no-one knows the grammar of Modern Cornish. The result is that Cornish speakers today speak a mixture of Middle Cornish grammar, as documented in a very scanty literature, and modern Cornish pronunciation, as guessed at -- a language that never was. This is a very different situation to nearly all the other languages listed on this site.

Conan Jenkin from Truro
Hilary is partly right. The last native speaker died in the late 1700s although elements of the traditional language have been passed down to the present day. The revival began seriously in 1904 so us Cornish language speakers can now celebrate a century of Cornish being a revived language, a distinction of which it shares with Hebrew. I very much enjoy using Cornish whenever I can.

Thomas from Bristol
Hiliary is quite wrong to perpetuate the myth that Dolly Pentreath (whom the plaque in Mousehole refers too)was the last speaker of cornish before the revival. It is true that Cornish almost reached extinction and the cornish were often bilingual but it never became extinct per se. Kernewek(depending on location within Cornwall) was still used for more prosaic tasks such as fishermen counting their catch. It was this living use of Cornish that inspired the late 19th century cornish revivalists to begin cataloguing and reviving our language culminating in the strong, officially recognised position it enjoys today. Kernow Bys Vyken!!

katy mather from truro
My two daughters are currently being taught Cornish. They both opted for the lessons. Maybe we should make them part of the curriculum, each region has their own language taught at school. It's such a shame that our heritage is forgotten.

Hilary from Manchester
Native Cornish has been extinct since the 1700's. In Mousehole there is a plaque on the wall to the last recorded mother tongue speaker The current Cornish speaking population represents a 20th century revival Whilst I live in Manchester I was born in Cornwall Regards Hilary


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