Hello Mister :-)
Replies: 62 - Last Post: Jul 4, 2012 6:49 AM Last Post By: Laszlo
Jul 4, 2012 3:03 AM
60I still admire the efforts of those trying to revive such languages.
Good luck to them, as far as I am concerned - and I wish it was done with many more languages, too.
Isn't Welsh in a VERY different situation from Cornish and Hebrew though? ASFAIK it's still spoken by a significant percentage of their population as first language, while the other two had died out and needed to be revived from scrap.
I've just remembered that I've heard similar initiatives about the Isle of Man. Though if I remember correctly, there it's still largely limited to putting up Manx place names (with tourism in mind?) rather than reviving the language. And that language died out later than Cornish.
Funny thing about place names.
In Australia, they are even more exotic - even in places where there are virtually no Aboriginals left. They surely add lots of local color, and are a constant reminder that we are not in England - we can't be in the UK somewhere called Wagga Wagga or Cootamundra, can we! :-)
In fact, old place names are one of the major sources of info on past distribution of now extinct languages/peoples, too.
Jul 4, 2012 3:26 AM
61Welsh definitely is a living language, Laszlo, and though it had retrenched into the deep countryside, and the number of speakers had dropped drastically, it was still going when the revival began, and that's very important.
Hebrew, meanwhile, had a huge literary underpinning for its revival, which Cornish didn't. For Cornish there was a meagre library of odds and ends, a few miracle plays and poems, some word-lists and the occassional religious text.
With only a couple of thousand self-proclaimed speakers, there is now far more Cornish literature than there ever was when everyone in the county spoke the language...
Agree about Australia too - renaming is a powerful act of possession, so it's always interested me how well Aboriginal names have endured in the landscape there.
About placenames as markers of extinct language, that's true in Cornwall too - you'll find a few "Cornish" names up into Devon (Cornish was, of course, simply the western dialect of the "British" spoken before the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons. The "wall" in Cornwall is an Anglo-saxon term, with the same etymology as "Wales". It's from "Wealas", which means "foreigner". Until about 1000 years ago Cornish, Welsh and Breton were virtually the same language).
Then you can trace the retrenchment of the languge - in the top northwest corner of the county English placenames dominate, then the further west you go the more "exotic" the nomenclature becomes, and once you pass the Carnmenellis granite into the far west of the county, where the language lasted many generations longer than it did further east, then its the occassional places called "Newmill" or some-such that look out of place...
You can even trace this retrenchment in the current local accents – in the eastern half of Cornwall there are key accent markers that are common to the entire Southwest UK, the classic Westcountry “bumpkin” accent. But in the far west, where I come from, although the accent is still a “farmer” accent, some of those Westcountry markers are missing. And this, it is theorised, is because down there we learnt English not by means of a steady creep through the villages and market places from the east from people who already had Westcountry accents, but from sailors and from the landed gentry, who probably didn’t have Westcountry accents…
Jul 4, 2012 6:49 AM
62I think the main factors in Hebrew's success were not so much the existing body of literature (mostly in archaic, religious texts, right?) as the fanatic determination to create a new nation, and the need for a lingua franca in a country made up from immigrants from all kinds of ethnic and linguistic groups, united by religious background only. Neither of the above exist in Cornwall, plus English must be one of the hardest languages to "fight" these days.
Cornish is one of the best-documented examples of language extinction. I think I have maps showing its retreat, with neat "borderlines" and dates, in several books about that subject. It's less popular as an example of revival - those people need to work harder to try and convince the likes of you! ;-)
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