A new forum dedicated to Kernewek - the Cornish language, Cornish culture and the history of the Duchy of Cornwall
When I look at the verse texts the older texts seem 'purer' in the sense that the later texts show old and newer features mixed. Several layers superimposed. Even the latest Middle Cornish text, Gwrians an Byz, has many known passages from the Ordinalia, and many more that could be just as old. Scribal errors accumulate, partly because of recopying, partly because the language was slowly changing, and partly because the Middle English derived spelling system allowed things to look right that we can see were not. E.g. rhymes could be fudged and the scribes seem only to have cared that it looked right. While some material may have been added during the period that the mss were being copied and re-copied, my impression is that almost all the material we have in verse (Tregear is a separate matter) was composed at or before the time of our earliest ms, that is the Ordinalia, and that within limits a standard system of sounds, rhymes etc was in use by the authors. This could quite easily have evolved independently of written versions of the texts, in an oral, or at least semi-oral context. Judging by the number of playing places around Cornwall and the length of time during which they were in use, there must have been a vast amount of material composed, adapted and performed. All we have preserved is a tiny sample. Indeed it could well be that permanent mss for preserving the texts were only produced as the tradition was beginning to falter. As long as the plays were a normal, vital part of annual local traditions no one would think to make a lasting record, even though working texts may have been used e.g. when a new scene was introduced. That at least would explain why the later texts appear to be echos of material from the earliest period (with more or less errors) rather than more accurate representations of a later tradition. I therefore aim to understand the system used at this early period (relative to the existing verse texts), and as far as possible recover the texts in the form in which they seem to have been composed. That is what I've been trying to do, and the spelling I use is intended to reflect the 'classical' Middle Cornish in which the Passion and the Ordinalia were *composed* along with IMO most of the other material we have. This is the only way I can come up with a stable system. Nance muddled everything up together and produced a bit of a mess. KK attempted to take an average date, notionally c1500 c.e. while NJAW went for the end of the Middle Cornish period, c 1600 in an attempt to unify Middle and Late Cornish. Different aims giving different results. I should add that I haven't gone for the oldest period out of some mystical antiquarian sympathy, simply because this approach yields the most stable and satisfying results. Middle Cornish is in any case a bit of a misnomer. Compared to Welsh it corresponds to their Early Modern period, the point at which their classical poetic forms, still used today, were largely fixed. Also since Cornish died out even in its last hold-outs over 200 years ago, a modern learner has no feeling for one form being much more archaic than another. 200 years or 400 makes little difference, especially all the really significant changes in daily life have happened since 1700, the time of Lluyd, by which time Cornish was no longer viable.
Yma elvenn a wiryonedh y'n pyth a leverydh. Y fydh res dhymm knias kil war hemma.
'Against a promontory my ship' Rump L. Stiltz-Kinn
'With regret I feel that unless you have a serious change of heart your presence at the Mennaye on Cornish Pirates match days is no longer desired.'
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