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Origins of the Language
The Cornish language is one of six surviving related ‘Insular Celtic’ languages, and is most closely related to Breton and Welsh. It relatedness to these languages stems historically from the victory of the Saxons at the Battle of Dyrham (some ten miles north of Bath) in AD 577, which effectively split the southern Britons into two peoples, the ancestors of the present-day Cornish and Welsh.
The subsequent advance of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Wessex into the southwestern peninsula of Great Britain, the territory of Damnonia, resulted in population movements from the Dorset and Devon areas overseas into Brittany and Galicia (northwestern Spain). In Brittany, British speech survives as Breton to the present day. Trading links and exchange of population of related speech continued between Cornwall and Brittany from the sixth century until the sixteenth - and in some form even up to our own times.
Subsequent defeats of the southwestern Britons brought early English influence as far as the River Ottery in north Cornwall in 682; and to southeastern Cornwall between the Tamar and Lynher rivers in 710. In 722 a Cornish victory regained territory and stemmed English advances, subsequently reversed in defeats in 753, 815 and 838. This period probably represents a period when a Cornish rather than a Damnonian or British identity was in course of formation. In 936 Athelstan's decisive defeat of the Cornish resulted in their final expulsion from Exeter and elsewhere in Devon, fixing the boundary at the Tamar, where it has remained more or less ever since.
The absorption of Cornwall within the Kingdom of England was not immediate. Cornwall was regarded as a separately named province, with its own subordinated status and title under the English crown, with separate ecclesiastical provision in the earliest phase. There were subsequent constitutional provisions under the Stannary Parliament, which had its origins in provisions of 1198 and 1201 separating the Cornish and Devon tin interests and developing into a separate parliament for Cornwall maintaining Cornish customary law. From 1337, Cornwall was further administered as a 'quasi-sovereign' royal Duchy during the later medieval period. (1)
The implications of these processes for the Cornish language was to ensure its integrity throughout this period. It was until early modern times the general speech of essentially the whole population and all social classes. The situation changed rapidly with the far-reaching political and economic changes from the end of the medieval period onwards. Language-shift from Cornish to English progressed through Cornwall from east to west from this period onwards.
The numbers of Cornish speakers during this period have been estimated by Dr Ken George from various sources. (2) He regards the numbers of speakers as coincident with total population more or less between the Domesday enumeration of 1086 and the early thirteenth century, with numbers estimated between 15,000-20,000.
Growth continued with some divergence from total population to a likely peak of 38,000 before the demographic reversal of the Black Death in the 1340s. Thereafter numbers of Cornish speakers were maintained at around 33,000 between mid-fourteenth to mid-sixteenth centuries against a background of substantial increase of the total Cornish population. From this position the language then inexorably declined until its cessation as community speech in its last local areas at the end of the eighteenth century.
During this middle period, Cornish underwent changes in its phonology and morphology. An Old Cornish vocabulary survives from 1100, and manumissions in the Bodmin Gospels from even earlier c. 900. Placename elements from this early period have been 'fossilised' in eastern Cornwall as the language changed to English, as likewise did Middle Cornish forms in Mid-Cornwall, and Late Cornish forms in the west. These changes can be used to date the changeover from Cornish to English in local speechways, which together with later documentary evidence enables the areas within which Cornish successively survived to be identified.
Middle Cornish is best represented by the Ordinalia, which comprise a cycle of mystery plays written in Cornish, it is believed at Glasney College in Mid Cornwall, between 1350-1450, and performed throughout areas where the language was still extant in open-air amphitheatres (playing-places or 'rounds' - plenys-an-gwary in Cornish) which still exist in many places.
There is also a surviving religious poem Pascon agan Arluth (The Passion of our Lord) which enable a linguistic corpus of Middle Cornish to be ascertained. Later miracle play compositions include: Beunans Meriasek (the Life of St. Meriadoc) datable to 1504; and William Jordan of Helston's Gwreans an Bys (The Creation of the World). These may hark back to older forms of the language, for other writings in the sixteenth century show the language to have been undergoing substantial changes which brought it into its latest surviving form (Late or Modern Cornish). These writings include Tregear's translation of Bishop Bonner's 'Homilies' c. 1556.
The Decline of Cornish
The period between the Tudor Accession and the Civil War was a period of considerable political and economic change. During this period the Cornish - as a people - rose three times in conflict with the highly centralising English state of which Cornwall now formed a very definite part. In the preceding later Middle Ages under the Normans and their successors the Cornish economy developed based on its three staples of fish, copper and, especially, tin.
This last was regulated by the Stannary Parliament which had a far-reaching and independent legislative role in Cornwall. This engendered some stability for Cornwall and for its language. There is also some evidence that suggests that the language re-established itself to some extent westwards once again. (3) However, there was a major rising in 1497 on the issues of central control of the tin trade, confiscation of the Stannary charters and suspension of Stannary government - this against a general background of Tudor centralisation at home and expansion abroad.
Any sense of identity with the Tudor monarch and the Arthurian heritage was shattered by a popular uprising against additional taxation for war with Scotland. The rising led by Thomas Flamank, lawyer of Bodmin, and Micheal Joseph 'An Gof', blacksmith of St. Keverne ended in failure. It was, however, commemorated five hundred years later in 1997 by Kerskerdh Kernow 'Cornwall marches on'. This was a mass march from St. Keverne to Blackheath. The 'Prayer Book' rising of 1549 had an explicit language-dimension. The Reformation and the concomitant changes in the newly independent Church of England led to the removal of images from parish churches and the imposition of an English-language prayer-book in place of the accustomed liturgy in Latin. The petition to the king was explicit that: '...we the Cornyshemen, whereof certain of us understande no Englyshe, utterly refuse thys new service.' (Article 13) The rising was suppressed with some fercocity and summary execution of prisoners. Several thousands perished, and the aftermath was particularly severe. (4)
These risings have been likened to the 1715 and 1745 Jacobite Rebellions in Scotland - with similar implications for the language. (5) Cornwall's efforts during the Civil War may have won some degree of temporary local autonomy but were on the whole a period of destabilisation for the Cornish language. The later outcome of the imprisonment and acquittal of Bishop Trelawny (1687) provided Cornwall with an icon who with popular support won over adversity.
During this period of unrest and rising the language was unrecognised by any official translation of liturgy or scripture. From 1560 catechisms and sermons were allowed in Cornish-albeit instrumentally-where English was not understood, but these measures were insufficient to give a literary and religious base for the language, as was the case in Wales. Cornish versions of the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments and the Apostle's Creed date from these provisions. However, without the mainstays of a Cornish Bible and Prayer Book, standardisation of the language did not occur. Thus a full literary corpus of Cornish of this period was not enabled to be transmitted. Without a stabilising or conserving standard the language in its latter phases continued to develop increasing disparity from its pre-Reformation manifestations in miracle play and religious literature.
Writers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries continued to develop the language as a literary medium, even though by this period it was in substantial decline demographically. The genres within which the language was developed extended to: biblical translation; technical writing; transcriptions of traditional oral lore; letters; verse; epitaphs; topography and history. These writings of the 'Newlyn School', and in particular the Boson family, comprise much of the corpus of Late Cornish literature.(6)
In 1700 Edward Lhuyd (1660-1709), Welsh-speaker, antiquary, philologist and Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford visited Cornwall as part of his researches into the six 'Celtic' countries. These were published in 1707 as Archaelogia Britannica. (7) From this four month visit stems: much of our knowledge of the of the pronunciation of Cornish in its last vernacular form; the preservation of much Late Cornish literature (which would have been greater save for a destructive fire at his printers); and indeed the earliest identification of the Celtic languages as such. (8)
By Lhuyd's time Cornish was spoken only in the utter extremities of Cornwall. In these last areas it persisted tenaciously into the last decades of the eighteenth century. Its last reputed speaker, the celebrated Dolly Pentreath, died in 1777 - although examples of Cornish speakers are attested later.
In his Archaeologia Cornu-Britannica of 1790 Dr William Price of Redruth provided a review of the language in its last phase, its last writers such as Tonkin and Gwavas, and its last everyday users who outlived Dolly Pentreath. (9) These included Thomson the composer of her epitaph in 1789 - and others too.(10) However, by the turn of the century Cornish had almost certainly ceased both as vernacular and community speech. It may well, however, have survived longer in family transmission.
"Apostolic Succession": Cornish in the Nineteenth Century
Knowledge of Cornish did not cease with the passing of the last native speakers. Its knowledge and cultivation were however maintained for over a century by other means. Cornish words, phrases and formularies were passed on orally by ordinary Cornish working people and Cornish language studies were progressed by a number of academic scholars.
There are numerous reports of Cornish being used for counting - especially of fish in west Cornwall. These numeral sets required the name for the fish in question to stand for the numeral 'one', and 'two' was generally rendered by the Cornish word for 'next'. Collections of Cornish words still in use in fishing, children's pastimes and more generally were made by a number of scholars throughout the nineteenth century and even into the twentieth.
Berresford Ellis reports scholars such as Edwin Norris, who collected the Cornish Creed in 1860, W.D. Watson in 1925 with reports of numerals and the Lord's Prayer, J.H. Nankivell in 1865 on traditional numerals, Rev W. S. Lach-Szyrma in 1864 reporting the word collections of Couch and Thomas Garland, as well as researches of his own. Lach-Szyrma introduced Henry Jenner (1848-1934), a Cornishman working in the British Museum, to informants at Mousehole. Further contacts, including sources amongst his relations by marriage led to his further work in collection of vernacular Cornish from amongst its last tradition-bearers, and laid the basis for his pioneering work in language-revival.
J. Hobson Matthews, librarian of St. Ives reported John Davey, schoolmaster of St. Just and Boswednack, near Zennor, (1812-1891) as the last person with sufficient traditional knowledge of Cornish to be able to speak some, and recorded a short piece of original verse. (11) Tradition has it that Davey kept his Cornish alive by speaking to his cat. From within the speech-community of the last semi-speakers came a Memoranda of Old Cornish Words still current in Mousehole and Newlyn in 1868 collected by Jacob George, Methodist class-leader of Mousehole. (12)
Cornish scholarship developed in this period with publication of Cornish texts and dictionaries. In 1859 Edwin Norris published his edition of the Ordinalia as The Ancient Cornish Drama. Davies Gilbert published John Keigwin's version of Pascon agan Arluth in 1826, and the latter's translation of Jordan's Gwreans an Bys in 1828. The discovery of Buenans Meriasek in Wales led to its editing and publication in 1872 by Whitley Stokes. The discovery of the 'Charter Fragment' by Jenner on the verso of estate charters in from Mid Cornwall led to its publication in 1877. (13)
In 1880 Miss M. A. Courtney and T. Quiller Couch published a Glossary of Words in Use in Cornwall. Frederick Jago's Ancient language and Dialect of Cornwall appeared in 1882, and his English-Cornish Dictionary in 1887. This built upon earlier lexicographical work: Charles Rogers's Vocabulary of the Cornish Language of 1861, and the Rev Robert Williams's Lexicon Cornu-Britannicum of 1863. Collections and meanings of Cornish names were published by R. S. Charnock in 1870, and by Rev John Bannister in 1871. These efforts were followed by Lach-Szyrma's The Last Lost Languages of Europe in 1890, which even contained some elementary lessons in Cornish.
References to and knowledge of the existence of the language was kept in public consciousness by popular folk literature such as the collections of folk tales by Hunt and Bottrell.(14) Use could even be made of the language in other fiction such as children's stories.(15) Likewise local scholarship in parish histories and the like communicated further knowledge of the language. (16) Recollection of the language had been perpetuated amongst ordinary Cornish working people and the public had been reminded of the presence of the language around them. The grounds were thus fairly well set for revival. The 'apostolic succession' had been secured - the phrase is Charles Thomas's (1963) - and recovery of the language was a possibility.
The Early Revival
The work of Henry Jenner (1848 –1934) was basic to restoring the Cornish language. His ‘Handbook of the Cornish Language’ was published in 1904 (and was recently reprinted) (ref). It formed an effective basis for language revival and learning. The back cover observed: '...There has never been a time when there has been no person in Cornwall without a knowledge of the Cornish Language.' (18) Jenner approached this work from the background of a previous study of Manx. He had become a bard of the Welsh Gorsedd in 1899, and of the Breton in 1903.
In these encounters there had been some resistance to the acceptance of Cornwall as a Celtic nation following the loss of the language as a living everyday speech. Jenner had argued for recognition at Lesneven to the Union Regionaliste Bretonne in 1903. This was to be forthcoming at the Caernarfon Celtic Congress in 1904 when Jenner spoke to the theme of 'Cornwall - a Celtic Nation', produced his 'Handbook', and arranged to receive a congratulatory telegram in Cornish. He successfully vindicated his point.
Undoubtedly, Cornwall today owes its sense of Celtic identity to this initiative. In 1907 he formulated a Cornish Gorsedd ceremony but the inauguration of Gorseth Kernow, at Boscawen-Un stone circle did not follow until 1928. It has been held annually since and has become an important institution in Cornwall's cultural and civic life. It has stimulated a great deal of artistic production, including much in Cornish, promoting literary competitions from 1940 onwards. From 1932 it has acknowledged fluent Cornish speakers by admitting them as bards.
Associated with Jenner in the earliest phase of the revival was L. C. Duncombe-Jewell who inaugurated the Kowethas Kelto-Kernuak (or Celtic-Cornish Society) on the pattern of revivalist organisations in other Celtic countries. It was short-lived but influential. In its two or three years of active existence it initiated much that was taken on board by later organisations and it secured the publication of Jenner's 'Handbook'. It thus cemented in place the foundation of the revival. (19)
Henry Jenner is widely acknowledged as 'the father of the Cornish revival', but Robert Morton Nance (1873 – 1959) was undoubtedly the leading figure in the first half of the twentieth century. He was born in Wales of Cornish stock in 1873, settling in the St Ives area in 1906. Jenner had based his revival of Cornish on 'where it had left off', i.e. Late or Modern Cornish. His ideas on spelling and pronunciation had been influenced by Lhuyd and the tradition of speaking Cornish of its last semi-speakers.
Together with Jenner, who had settled at Hayle, Nance founded the first Old Cornwall Society at St Ives in 1920. By 1925 the society had grown into a federation throughout Cornwall, and the first issues of its journal 'Old Cornwall', which continues today, spelt out a radical 'gathering of the fragments of the past' in order to initiate a forward-looking agenda whereby Cornwall's national identity, culture and language could be secured in the context of what really amounted to a political agenda and an appeal to youth and the coming generation.
A youth movement was in fact established: Tyr ha Tavas (Land and Language). The movement also produced a literary magazine Kernow (Cornwall) between 1934-36, which was the vehicle for a lively revived Cornish language literature, featuring stories, articles and verse of some literary quality, together with republication of the classic texts, and articles on language-revival. This provided an additional incentive for learning Cornish: there was something worthwhile to read.
The reasons why Nance broke with Jenner's ideas on taking Cornish forward from where it left off deserve to be better researched and understood. Surviving colleagues of Nance and Jenner were unable to shed much light (20), but it seems fair to say that Nance wanted a sense of connectedness to Cornwall's classic literature, and an idiom and spelling system which would enable the religious drama and verse of the late medieval period to be accessed.
Modern scholars such as Richard Gendall draw attention to a greater corpus of material in Late or Modern Cornish. However, its literary merit may be parlous and its spelling system much different from the Ordinalia and Pascon agan Arluth. Nance's ideas on the medieval basis for the revived language was assisted by Henry Lewis's Llawlyfr Cernyweg Canol (Handbook of Middle Cornish, published 1923, second edition 1946) despite its appearance in Welsh. (21) There does not seem to have been a personal rift between Nance and Jenner - they continued to correspond: but whereas earlier correspondence was in Jennerian Cornish, later correspondence was in English.
A.S.D. Smith (1883 – 1950), a Welshman who took the bardic name of Caradar, was the third of the leading early revivalists, acquiring his Cornish from Nance's 'Cornish for All' (22). Caradar's publication 'Lessons in Spoken Cornish' (1931) was influential in promoting the first generation of Cornish revivalists who acquired the language in order to speak it. His Cornish course 'Cornish Simplified' is still available and first appeared in 1939.
Other phrasebooks were published by W.D. Watson 'First Steps in Cornish' (1931) and by Edwin Chirgwin 'Say it in Cornish'. (1937) By the outbreak of war there were Cornish language classes in both Cornwall and London which had formed the basis of a small group of people who were able to speak and write to each other in Cornish. (23) The language was being used in public ceremony at the annual Gorseth meeting and from 1933 in an annual church service. In the words of Morton Nance: 'One generation has set Cornish on its feet. It is now for another to make it walk.'
The revival seemed set fair to continue on these lines. In the words of A.S.D. Smith after the vicissitudes of war: 'The decline of Cornish...need not be regretted...we have a compact medieval language, whose idiom is Celtic and little likely to undergo further change...Cornish will be as fully intelligible 1,000 years hence as it is in the present year of grace, 1947.' (24) Forty years on things were to be very different.
The More Recent Revival and the Tripartite Split
The post-war period was one of consolidation and gradual growth for the language movement. The revived language began to engage in a process of language development, with neologisms being coined and gaining parlance. It was a period also of development of the written literature, encompassing publication of newly-discovered texts from the classical period, short stories, translations of scripture and work from other languages such as Welsh, drama, and verse.
With Caradar's death in 1950, the intended continuation of Kernow was no longer a feasibility, and a new all-Cornish periodical An Lef Kernewek (The Cornish Voice) was launched in 1952 and continued into the 1970s. A further all-Cornish occasional magazine Hedhyu (Today) appeared between 1956-1961.
These magazines also became vehicles for articles on Cornish and other issues. Hence this was a period of some extension of the genres within which the literary language expanded considerably. An anthology of literary Cornish of all periods Kemysk Kernewek (A Cornish Miscellany) was published in 1964. (25) New textbooks for this new phase of the revival appeared by P.A.S. Pool Cornish for Beginners in 1961, and by Richard Gendall Kernewek Bew (Living Cornish) in 1972.
In 1951 a group of language bards and former members of the pre-war Tyr ha Tavas and Young Cornwall organisations formed Mebyon Kernow (Sons of Cornwall) as a pressure group seeking further self-government for Cornwall. This later turned in to political party, Mebyon Kernow - the Party for Cornwall. It has a strong political and economic agenda - but has always placed linguistic and cultural matters to the forefront in its public appeal. In 1969 a Cornish National Party was formed.
In 1967 the Gorseth and the Federation of Old Cornwall Societies set up Kesva an Tavas Kernewek (The Cornish Language Board). This was intended as an examining authority and language academy. In its composition it lacked academic representatives - at least such as would be recognised by university Celtic scholarship. Such may have been desirable in view of Charles Thomas's earlier reservations and his later call for an authoritative historical dictionary covering all periods of the language, together with diplomatic editions of the classic Cornish texts.(26)
Growing criticism of the 'Nancean Synthesis' was beginning to be felt. There had been criticism of the deficiencies in Middle Cornish being supplied by Welsh and Breton cognates in Unified Cornish. These, and the lack of a 'down to earth literature', were criticisms made by Tim Saunders in 1972. (27)
The academic world had always been cautious of the revived language. Academic study of Cornish - perforce in institutions outwith Cornwall - had concentrated upon the medieval language. In 1972 Cornwall gained its own research institution, the Institute for Cornish Studies. Its first director Charles Thomas regarded Nance's 'Unified' as never having been sufficiently explained, neologisms as insufficiently using placename and dialect resources, and the pronunciation based upon shaky models. (28)
Dissatisfaction with the spelling and pronunciation of revived 'Unified' Cornish motivated Ken George to propose a reform on phonemic lines to regularise the pronunciation as it may have been c. 1500, and to bring spelling into line with a series of proposed spelling changes. His work was computer assisted and was published in 1986. (29) George placed his ideas before the Language Board, and a general meeting of all interested parties and individuals within and outwith Cornwall was convened in St. Austell. It recommended the Language Board to examine the case for reform and feasibility of the proposals.
In July 1987 the Language Board accepted George's proposals on a vote of 14 to 1 (Richard Jenkin dissenting). This decision could be said to reflect the wishes of the community of speakers and users of Cornish as the Board had been restructured in 1985 with a majority (14 out of 20) of its members being elected by Cowethas an Yeth Kernewek the speakers' organisation established in 1979.
The language-variety which resulted from these moves was named 'Common Cornish' or Kernewek Kemmyn - now generally referred to as 'Kemmyn for short. George's reaction to the language debate and his later ideas have been presented in 1995 as 'Which base for Revised Cornish?' as well as in grammars and dictionaries. (30)
These radical changes in the sound system and written appearance of the language were not universally accepted. Those who preferred to remain within the Nancean 'Unified' system, such as Peter Pool, Richard Jenkin, Ray and Denise Chubb formed an association to institutionalise their preferred language-variety: Agan Tavas (Our Language). Its membership was originally for fluent speakers and by invitation only. It was reformed in 1990 and made open to all who supported the continuity of Nance's 'Unified' variety or Unys in Cornish.
The movement organises meetings, language events, campaigns and lobbies. Members use the language in their homes and have brought up children as effective Cornish speakers. It publishes a quarterly magazine An Gowsva (The Talking Shop) which reached its twelfth issue in Summer 1999. It has a website, organises classes and a correspondence course, produces learning materials and has kept Nance's dictionaries in print.
This was not the only fallout from these events. Richard Gendall had been longstanding figure in the movement: as a teacher of the language, author of an innovative and effective textbook, songwriter and scholar. His reaction to this language-reform was to return to Jenner's original basis of Modern or Late Cornish and to develop the revived language from its last traditionally spoken form. Although not going back to Lhuyd's spelling conventions (which were after all merely a phonemic system to indicate the pronunciations which he heard), he took the corpus of language of its last writers as the basis of spelling, and claimed that the corpus of Modern or Late Cornish was greater and lexically richer than that of the medieval texts.
This was also capable of being supplemented by survivals in dialect and placenames. So far as neologisms were needed these could be supplied by loan-words from English reflecting the international currency of such terms. His ideas have been expressed in articles and books (31) and his extensive researches have been published as dictionaries and grammars. (32)
The late/modern Cornish movement established a language Council (Cussell an Tavaz Kernuack) in 1988 which comprises founder members and representatives chosen by late/modern Cornish speakers and learners in formal classes and informal groups. There is a periodical An Garrack (The Rock) which appears at approximately two-monthly intervals, reaching Number 43 by January 2000. Also, a publishing and language users’ organisation, Teere an Tavaz, has been active over this period and there are members who use the language in family life and bring up children bilingually.
The early stages of the controversy were at times heated and acrimonious. There was considerable cultural investment of those who had effectively learned the language and campaigned for it, and who had studied the language, thought carefully about it and its problems and had engaged in substantial research on these problems, and framed systems to address them. This undoubtedly produced strongly held views on the language, which were in many cases incompatible and led to protracted debate.
This was against a background of general progress in the language and previously growing numbers of learners and effective speakers. In 1981 Wella Brown, a leading figure in the movement and author of a standard grammar of Unified Cornish estimated the number of effective speakers at around 40.(33) The three varieties of Revived Cornish and their contentions drew public attention to issues relating to the Cornish language in general, and the competition between the three aspects of the language-movement may well have stimulated interest to establish further classes and language infrastructure.
This may well have stimulated more people to learn the language - although numbers presenting at examinations and attending language weekends seemed to slump during the period 1987-91. (34) Estimates from respondents on this study have ranged upwards from 200 - in some cases as high as 500, although the lower figure was the more general.
On the positive side, the controversy has been seen as stimulating research which might otherwise not have been attempted and the production of publications and learning materials on an unprecedented scale. Ways forward have been seen in, first, the joint statement of representatives of the three language-varieties in 1991 (35) Second, in the formation of the Cornish Sub-Committee of the U.K. Committee of the European Bureau for Lesser-Used Languages in 1995 on which all the language organisations are represented, together with representatives of authorities and organisations having business with the language. (36)
The Gorseth has played an important part in the reconciliation of the language variety controversy. It has continued to recognise Nance's Unified Cornish alongside Kemmyn. From 1999 it has also accepted entries to its literary competitions in Modern or Late Cornish, and it has also published a Book of Prayers for Cornwall using all three varieties. The Language Board has also continued to recognise Unified in its examinations alongside Kemmyn as long as there is demand. If there is, and if the Board were also to recognise Modern or Late Cornish, as does the Gorseth, further resolution of this situation might be assisted.
The spirit of mutual recognition which has ensued is viewed by Deacon as something of a truce. The controversies have on the whole died down. Organisations and individuals have in the main got on with the task of language development. The output of publications and materials has been quite impressive. Deacon also draws attention to the legitimacy of reasons for language choice often not being scientific: different varieties may appeal to different social groups. He also points out that the language debate had not been joined and debated by academic linguists and language specialists and that there is need for a scholarly debate on the linguistic issues involved. (37)
In recent years though, these issues have begun to interest academic linguists. Professor Glanville Price at Aberystwyth has taken an interest in the Modern or Late Revived variety and feels that this overcomes many of his objections to the invented status of Unified or Kemmyn. (38)
A similar critical view of the Kemmyn revision has been taken by Jon Mills at Luton, who feels it to be 'linguistically naive' and not a suitable basis for language revival. He makes critical points too regarding the respelling of placenames whose Cornish language forms are being altered in order to conform with Kemmyn spelling conventions, producing forms which never existed within the traditional language. (39) Nicholas Williams at Dublin is also highly critical both of Kemmyn and Late/Modern revived Cornish. Concerning Kemmyn he comes to different conclusions concerning the relationships of Traditional Medieval and Late Cornish.
He feels that it would have been more prudent to have based the pronunciation and spelling on the latest period when the language was a full vernacular. This for Williams was the period c. 1505 - 1611 which is represented by at least three major texts. His ideas were presented in Cornish Today in 1995 and have subsequently developed further. (40) Williams has proposed the revision of Unified Cornish on these lines as 'Unified Cornish Revised'. His advice is accepted by the continuing Unified Cornish movement, Agan Tavas, as a way forward. Some of the leading proponents of Late/Modern Cornish have also conversationally observed that their and his Late Cornish models may in practice be drawing together. (41) It is fair to state that the academic views of these language specialists are firmly held and robustly argued.
It would seem now to be a matter of fact that there are at least three varieties of the revived language in existence. The largest in numerical terms may be Kemmyn, and it is certainly the most productive in publications and language resources. It may in a Darwinian sense yet win the day in terms of numbers. It may nevertheless yet have to argue further if Cornish progresses further in public life. For example, there will be a problem over the spelling of placenames if public signage in Cornish was further implemented. This may well involve the consultation of onomastic and linguistic specialists and the accommodation of the different varieties over mutually agreeable spellings. This may not be an easy process. If public authorities and public services were to use Cornish more extensively, the form in which the language is used will require consideration.
Which variety will form the basis of a standardised form of the language has not yet been debated-or settled. At present a number of Cornishes legitimately exist. It should be remembered that this is in fact the case with English, domestically and world-wide.
In the case of the other Celtic languages, these too have their dialects. Substantial differences exist between North Welsh and South Welsh. There is a standard learners' form Cymraeg Bew (Living Welsh) and the development of a common broadcast standard, neither of which are intended as prejudicial to local dialects.
In the case of Irish there are three major regional dialects. The need for a non-territorial standard form became evident on Irish independence in the early twenties. This was accomplished by spelling and other reforms implemented officially in the later forties. Nevertheless local dialect is still used in public education in the Gaeltacht areas.
The situation in Brittany is even more fraught than in Cornwall. There are some seven competing forms or dialects of the language which are often associated with specific political ideologies. The varieties of present-day revived Cornish may be likened to dialects, interestingly formed not on geographical or social bases, but upon learners' preferences, needs and loyalties.
Cornish Literature: From its Origins to the Present Day
In its earliest known phase we have very few literary examples. In Old Cornish there is a very small corpus comprising little more than a vocabulary, manumissions and glosses on the margins of the Bodmin Gospels. Texts in Middle Cornish are more replete - and the foregoing account of the development of the language fairly well notes them all. The more recent literature is also outlined. In the words of Henry Jenner, these were not the main reasons for learning Cornish: 'Why should Cornishmen learn Cornish? There is no money in it, it serves no practical purpose, and the literature is scanty and of no great originality or value. The question is a fair one, the answer is simple. Because they are Cornish.' (42) Jenner's nineteenth century Utilitarian concern with money, practical purpose and value were of his day.
Good general guides to the literature are provided by Beresford Ellis 1974 (43), and Murdoch 1993 (44), the latter providing the more recent and up-to-date account. The classic and the traditional literature is well summarised by Gendall 1994. (45) His purpose is the notation of vocabulary - not literary criticism - and his estimates of word count are: 1,000 in the corpus of Old Cornish, 67,320 for Middle Cornish, and 89,639 for the Modern Period. This represents the lexical basis on which Cornish was revived.
From the outset, the revival actively produced a lively written literature. Early scholars such as George Sauerwien, Henry Jenner and even Duncombe-Jewell produced verse, and this genre was further developed by the succeeding revivalists: Morton Nance, Allin-Collins, W.C.D. Watson, A.S.D. Smith, Edwin Chirgwin, Peggy Pollard, Retallack Hooper, and quite a few others. Their productions and those of many others of the more recent revival have recently become more easily accessible with the publication of an anthology (" The Wheel"). (45)
From its inception in 1925 Old Cornwall regularly carried items in Cornish, and together with the specifically Cornish language periodical press (noted above) an increasing output of verse, short stories and prose articles has continued with increasing momentum. Allin-Collins (Halwyn) published many short stories in Cornish through these media, and in the local press (such as The St Ives Times & Echo), and a collection An Den ha'y Dheu Wreg (The Man and his Two Wives) in 1927. Both Nance and Peggy Pollard wrote several plays in Cornish. The inception of services in Cornish from 1933 led to translation of hymns, liturgy and scripture. The Gospel of Mark was the first complete book of the Bible to be translated in full, by A. S. D. Smith, which appeared in 1960. Nance published a collection of folk tales in Cornish in 1939 Lyver an Pymp Marthus Seleven (Book of the Five Miracles of St. Selevan).
Further literary production followed after the war: A. S. D. Smith's Nebes Whythlow Ber (A Few Short Stories, 1947), and An Seyth Den Fur a Rom (The Seven Sages of Rome, 1948), and posthumously Trystan hag Ysolt (Tristan and Iseult a verse saga, in 1951, completed by D. H. Watkins and appearing in 1973) A. S. D. Smith also left an unpublished translation of the Welsh Mabinogion. Following on from this period the work of Richard Gendall as short story writer and songwriter must be mentioned. His Cornish language songs were featured by the late Cornish folksinger Brenda Wootton and were popular at events and festivals and in recordings throughout Cornwall and beyond. Spoken Cornish had only previously been available on disc of Nance reading traditional Cornish material: a folk story, the Colloquies and the Lord's Prayer. Religious materials in Cornish from this period also included a hymnary and psalter (1962) and a Lectionary (1978).
The increase in literary production which has taken place since deserves a critical study of its own. Berresford Ellis takes the account as far as 1974, and Tim Saunders to 1980. His poem collection, The High Tide 1974 - 1999, spans this period (46) - and it epitomises a period of considerable literary growth, and a fivefold increase in numbers able to speak and read Cornish. Much of the literature of this period remains available. It is written in Unified Cornish, which makes it a little unfamiliar to Kemmyn and Modern/Late Cornish readers - but most titles can still be supplied.
The bulk of literary output over recent years has been in Kemmyn. Specialist outlets have been established retailing this material as high street bookshops: An Lyverji Kernewek (The Cornish Bookshop - Helston, from 1997), Gwynn ha Du (Black and White - Liskeard, from July 1998), and Just Cornish (St. Just, from May 1999). These enterprises are all essentially committed to Kemmyn, so it is difficult for production in the other language-varieties to find a specialist outlet. However An Lyverji holds the bookstock for the Cornish Language Board - and hence has the Unified backstock, which it can supply. An Lyverji currently carries a booklist of 110 titles in Cornish. These range over such genres as learners' materials, novels, short stories, verse and song, children's books, classic texts, and religious literature.