Cornish at its Millennium:
An Independent Study of the Language
Undertaken in 2000
An important aspect of the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ in 1999 was the recognition of The Irish and Ulster Scots languages in Northern Ireland, and the signature and ratification of the European Charter of Minority or Regional Languages. This very swiftly led to demands for inclusion of Welsh, Gaelic and Scots, which were rapidly accepted. As the result of prompt parliamentary action by Andrew George, MP for St. Ives, the government commissioned an independent academic study on Cornish with a view to consideration of inclusion of Cornish within the United Kingdom’s ratification of the Charter. Accordingly, on 22nd.December 1999 the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions commissioned EKOS Limited (economic consultants, Inverness), and SGRUD Research (language-planning and research service in the Black Isle) to undertake an independent study of Cornish, reporting to Government Office of the South West.
The remit was to establish the position on the use and currency of the Cornish language historically and contemporarily, and provide a sound factual basis for informing consideration of policy issues by various government departments. The study objectives were to report factually and impartially on: the historical position of Cornish to the present day; the ways in which Cornish is ‘traditionally used’ in Cornwall and elsewhere, including numbers, fluency and use in everyday life; learning, study, teaching and qualifications in the language; the body of literature; organisations promoting the language; and sources of funding and support.
The research was undertaken between January and February 2000 principally by the present author, involving desk research at research centres and archives in Cornwall and London, face-to-face and telephone interviews of 50 organisations and individuals associated with the promotion of Cornish. Discussions with three focus groups of Cornish speakers (representative of the three main revived language varieties) provided contact with a further 48 persons. The principal researcher also attended and participated in Cornish-language events and meetings during (and subsequent) to this survey period.