dissabte, de juny 04, 2005

Reflections on Cornish (English / Cornish)

In response to a long running thread on yahoo's Kernewek group entitled "Kemmyn is a religion."

It is very interesting to sit by as the "omniscient" (yes, this is meant sarcastically...) outsider and watch these debates ensue time and time again and imagine what they actually produce in the grand scheme of things.

I can posit several ideas from the several different camps with which I share points of view. At the end of the day my mind is still not made up about how I feel in a unified way about Cornish, or a common way, oh never mind, I'll stop with that bit of ad hominem before I get carried away.

Here are my points for what they're worth as a person who speaks Welsh, teaches three foreign languages (Spanish, French and German) professionally and Welsh semi-pro, who has a background in linguistics and sociology (my doctoral program had a three pronged approach, literature, linguistics and society and culture - alas I'm one more of thoses dreadful and baleful lifelong ABD's), and someone with a literary background in French Arthuriana. After each one of my points I offer my own mental POV - point of view....

1) These debates demonstrate a passion about the language, that interest hasn't waned in Cornish, rather people feel very strongly about leaving the most Cornish legacy behind, the best kind of Cornish, the most pure, etc. They obviously serve a higher purpose than just wasting bandwidth! (POV: American Celto-maniac)

2) There never was a pure Cornish. Don't bother looking for it, and for godsakes, don't lose sleep over maintaining a certain veneer of authenticity. It's out of the academics' hands. Cornish is, while still in rehabilitation, a living language now, again, still, depending on how you view things. As a living language it will grow and change in the mouths of its speakers, as language is want to do and most of its speakers won't care too much about being absolutely correct all the time; come to America and listen to us speaking English, especially people from Newark, NJ, oy vey.... (POV: part time linguist).

3) My observation is that as Cornish has moved toward official recognition, the orthography questions become more and more moot. Sooner, rather than later, they will cease to have any relevance whatsoever. Nature will, and is taking its course in this. (POV: part time linguist and Welsh teacher concerned about other Celtic languages).

4) Cornish must reinvent itself constantly in order to remain relevant, new forms, borrowed forms, they're all good; some will stick, some will vanish and older more "Cornish" forms will return, no need to get wickedly twisted over these things. (POV: part time linguist)

5) Outside of the direct proponents of these intriguing pedanticisms, no one drinking a pint cares a whole hell of a lot about Nance, Lhuyd, Williams, and certainly not about Meriasek or his bewnans, or whether they have arghans or mona in their pocket, or whether they went to the aghantti, banc or monaji to get it. They want to be able to ask their mate for some dough to buy another beer. If Cornish comes to both speakers first, then any currently used form that will fulfill the desired communicative intent will suffice. (POV: part time linguist mixed with cautiously hopeful pragmatic realist who's concerned both for future of all endangered languages and with getting a pint of beer).

6) These debates also show, perhaps, a real need for a homegrown Cornish speaking academe in Cornwall, a country without a full fledged university. These electronic fora are nice to chewing the fat, but they don't lead to a whole lot of institutionalization of protocols, standards, etc. A Cornish speaking academy could help form compromises, standards, etc, that could then be accepted or rejected by the everyday speakers of the language. It would at least give a basis for education in the language, a point which come closer and closer to the crisis level in the coming years as Cornish does move into a wider audience. (POV: American professor concerned with a lack of universally accepted standards, especially when thinking about how dreadful it would be to try and teach a whole class in Cornish)

7) The Medieval Era was great, makes for interesting and bloody bed time reading; digging around in dusty old manuscripts for sexual symbolism has always been a favorite passtime of mine, can't beat those gay knights after all. Moreover it is important to all Celtic nations 'cos it was one of "our" (I feel Celtic-ish most days and have spoken Welsh more than half my life, so I will latch on to a certain degree of posession, like it or not) epic moments, if not the time period for all current Celtic national epics. Still, we can't live in the past. It's no longer acceptable to talk about bathing our spear tips in the blood the Saxons... Mind you, I have used that line from time to time just to watch English people blanche a little bit... hehehe (POV: part time French Medievalist with a bumper sticker on his car that reads: Ask me about Yvain and his lion.)

8) Just don't forget bois bach (and isn't it funny so few women (are there any??) in the throes of this online debate...), people like me who are fond of Cornish, even study it from time to time (hell, I had a bunch of Intermediate French students this semester so interested in Cornish I taught them some. I actually had a student from Japan who would ask me "Fat'l osta?" or shout, "Dohajydh da!" when walking past me in the hallway), have nothing invested in all these debates. What we want is a language we can learn, can use, and periodically swear at strangers in at the grocery store. At the end of the day, don't forget you have a public to whom you, as the self appointed guardians of Cornishdom, must answer. (POV: someone who likes to swear at strangers in foreign languages)