Mis Genver 2014 · January 2014
1 · Bledhen Nowyth Da! · Happy New Year! (Literally, ‘Good New Year!’)
- bledhen (nf), bledhynnyow year
- nowyth (adj) new
- da (adj) good
- Grammar rule of the day: In Cornish, adjectives usually follow the nouns they modify.
2 · Dydh da · Hello; Good day
- dydh (nm), dedhyow day; an jydh the day
- Grammar note: Dydh shows an unusual mutation of D > J after the definite article.
3 · Myttin da · Good morning
- myttin (nm), myttinyow morning
- Note on pronunciation: In Cornish, most polysyllabic words (like bledhen, nowyth, and myttin) are stressed on the penultimate (second-to-last) syllable: BLE-dhen, NO-wyth, MYT-tin.
4 · Dohajydh da · Good afternoon
- dohajydh (nm), dohajedhyow afternoon
- Note on pronunciation: Dohajydh is a compound of dydh ‘day’ and has an irregular stress pattern: DO-ha-JYDH.
5 · Gorthuher da · Good evening
- gorthuher (nm), gorthuherow evening
- Grammar note: There are many different ways to form plural nouns in Cornish, but the two most common plural endings are -ow and -yow.
- Note on pronunciation: When you add a suffix (like -ow or -yow) to a polysyllabic word, the main stress accent moves to the penultimate syllable of the new word: BLE-dhen > ble-DHYNN-yow, MYT-tin > myt-TIN-yow, gor-THU-her > gor-thu-HER-ow.
6 · Hou, sos! · Hey, guys! (an informal greeting, often addressed to a group of people)
- hou! (int) hello!, hi!, hey!
- sos (nm), sos friend(s), pal(s)
- Grammar note: Sos has the same form in the singular as in the plural, so the phrase Hou, sos! can also be translated as ‘Hello, friend!’ or ‘Hey, buddy!’
- Usage note: Sos is a less formal word for ‘friend,’ more like English ‘pal,’ ‘buddy,’ or (in British English) ‘mate.’ Although it is a masculine noun, sos can refer to women as well as men (in the same way that some speakers of American English use ‘Hey, guys!’) Other words for ‘friend’ in Cornish are koweth (nm), kowetha and kothman (nm), kothmans.
7 · Fatla genes? / Fatla genowgh? · How are you (sg.)? / How are you (pl.)? (Literally, ‘How with you?’)
- fatla (adv) how
- genes (prep+pro) with you (sg.)
- genowgh (prep+pro) with you (pl.)
- Grammar rule of the day: In Cornish and other Celtic languages, the pronoun object of a preposition is often expressed as a conjugated ending rather than a separate word as in English. Genes ‘with you (sg.)’ and genowgh ‘with you (pl.)’ are conjugated forms of the preposition gans ‘with.’
- Grammar and usage note: Like many languages, Cornish makes a distinction between singular and plural forms of the pronoun ‘you.’ We use the singular forms (as in Fatla genes?) when addressing one person, and the plural forms (as in Fatla genowgh?) when addressing two or more people. In traditional Cornish, the plural forms could also be used to show respect when addressing a person of higher status, but most Cornish speakers today do not follow this practice.
8 · Yn poynt da · In good health (Literally, ‘In a good state’)
- yn (prep) in
- poynt (nm), poyntow point; physical state or condition
9 · Da lowr · OK; pretty good / pretty well (Literally, ‘Good/well enough’)
- lowr (adj) enough
- Usage note: Da lowr is the usual translation for ‘OK’ in revived Cornish.
10 · Pur dha · Very good / very well
- pur2 (adv) very
- Grammar note: The word pur ‘very’ causes the initial consonant of a following adjective to undergo a sound change called lenition or soft mutation. All six of the modern Celtic languages have sound changes of this kind, which are called mutations because they usually involve one sound mutating (changing) into another. In this case, the initial d of da ‘good’ is changed (‘lenited’ or ‘softened’) into dh (the sound at the beginning of English this or that). Cornish has many different types of consonant mutations, so Cornish textbooks, dictionaries, and grammars use superscript numbers like 2 to indicate that a given word always causes a particular type of mutation to the following word (where possible). The number 2 is used for lenition because it changes the initial consonant of the next word from its ‘first state’ (i.e. no mutation, like the d in da) to its ‘second state’ (lenited, like the dh in dha). Not all consonants are subject to mutation. You can download a table that shows all the different types of consonant mutation in Cornish here—but learners may find it easier to learn the mutations one at a time, in which case….
- Mutation rule of the day: D lenites to DH.
11 · Nebes skwith · A bit tired
- nebes (adv) somewhat, a little
- skwith (adj) tired
- Question of the day: What is the Cornish for ‘very tired’? Hint: S is one of the consonants that cannot be mutated.
12 · Ha genes jy? / Ha genowgh hwi? · And [how are things] with you (sg.)? / And [how are things] with you (pl.)? (Literally, ‘And with you?’)
- ha (conj) and
- jy (pro) you (sg.)
- hwi (pro) you (pl.)
- Grammar and usage note: In English, when we want to emphasize a particular word, we simply say it louder: ‘And you?’ Cornish uses different strategies, however. One of these is to add a suffixed pronoun to a word or phrase. The word genes already means ‘with you (sg.)’ but adding the suffixed pronoun jy adds emphasis, so genes jy could be translated ‘with you‘ and is appropriate for a situation where we are saying, ‘I’m fine. How are you?’
- Note on pronunciation: In questions like Ha genowgh hwi? there will be a light stress on the suffixed pronoun hwi because of the rising tone we use when asking a question. However, suffixed pronouns like jy and hwi do not normally receive a strong word stress the way English ‘you’ does in the equivalent phrase ‘And how about you?’
- Answer to yesterday’s question: Pur skwith · Very tired
13 · Pyth yw dha hanow? · What’s your (sg.) name?
- pyth? (pro) what?
- yw (v) is (3sg. short form of bos ‘be’)
- dha2 (poss.adj) your (sg.)
- hanow (nm), henwyn name
- Grammar note: Like other modern Celtic languages, Cornish has more than one way to translate the English verb ‘is.’ The question Pyth yw dha hanow? uses yw, which is a short form of the verb bos ‘be’ in the present tense. The short forms are used in cases where we are describing something (e.g. He is happy) or equating two noun phrases (e.g. He is a fisherman). There are also long forms of bos which are used in other situations. The short forms of bos are all one syllable long (like yw), while the long forms (with one exception) are two syllables long.
- Mutation rule of the day: Like S, H is not subject to any kind of mutation, so the noun hanow ‘name’ is not changed by the possessive adjective dha2 ‘your.’
14 · Tamsin yw ow hanow · My name is Tamsin (Literally, ‘Tamsin is my name’)
- Tamsin (nf) Tamsin (a popular Cornish given name)
- ow3 (poss.adj) my
- Grammar note: The possessive adjective ow3 ‘my’ causes a different type of mutation than dha2 ‘your (sg.),’ a change we call spirantization or spirant mutation. While lenition is very common in Cornish, there are comparatively few words that cause spirantization; those that do are marked in textbooks, grammars, and dictionaries with a superscript 3.
- A note on word order: As we mentioned on January 12, Cornish uses a variety of strategies to add emphasis to a particular word or phrase. One of these strategies is to put the most important information (like the phrase that provides the direct answer to a question) right at the beginning of the sentence.
15 · Ow hanow vy yw Matthi · My name is Matthi
- vy (pro) I, me
- Matthi (nm) Matthi (Cornish nickname for Matthew)
- Grammar and usage note: Suffixed pronounds like vy ‘I, me,’ jy ‘you (sg.),’ and hwi ‘you (pl.)’ may be placed after a conjugated verb to emphasize the subject (e.g. ov vy ‘I am’—literally, ‘I-am I’) or after a conjugated preposition to emphasize the object (e.g. genes jy ‘with you‘—literally, ‘with-you you’). These suffixed pronouns can also be placed after possessive phrases like ow hanow ‘my name’ or dha hanow ‘your name’ to add extra emphasis to the possessive adjective: ow hanow vy ‘my name’ (literally, ‘my name me’), dha hanow jy ‘your name’ (literally, ‘your name you’). The phrase ow hanow vy is emphasized two ways in the sentence Ow hanow vy yw Matthi: by the use of the suffixed pronoun vy to reinforce the possessive adjective ow3 ‘my’ and by its position at the beginning of the sentence.
16 · Piw yw an den na? · Who’s that man?
- piw? (pro) who?
- an (art) the
- den (nm), tus man, men; person, people
- na (pro) that, those (used only in phrases preceded by the definite article an ‘the’)
- an X na (phr) that X, those X (where X stands for any noun, singular or plural)
- Grammar note: Cornish has a definite article an which corresponds to English ‘the,’ so the phrase an den would be translated ‘the man’ and an den da would be translated ‘the good man’ (remember, adjectives follow nouns in Cornish). When we want to talk about this man over here or that man over there, however, we add a demonstrative pronoun to the end of the phrase, so an den na (literally, ‘the man there’ or ‘the man, that-one’) should be translated ‘that man.’ Demonstratives like na are placed at the very end of the phrase, after any adjectives that modify the noun, so the Cornish for ‘that good man’ is an den da na. You can think of the elements an and na as two pieces of bread that make a sandwich around a noun phrase, just like ow3 and vy make a sandwich around the noun hanow in the possessive construction ow hanow vy ‘my name.’
- Usage note: The masculine noun den can be translated as either ‘man’ or ‘person’ depending on context. The plural of this word is supplied by tus ‘people, men,’ which is a masculine plural noun. While these words are grammatically masculine, they can be used to refer to women as well as men. In cases where you want to specify a person’s gender (as when calling a dance in Cornish), you can use gour (nm), gwer for ‘man, men’ and benyn (nf), benenes for ‘woman, women.’ Bear in mind, however, that gour can also mean ‘husband’!
17 · Jori yw henna · That’s George (Literally, ‘George is that’)
- Jori (nm) George
- henna (pro) that, that one (masc.)
- Grammar and usage note: Unlike na ‘that’ (which can only be used in a phrase that contains a noun preceded by the definite article an ‘the’), henna is an independent demonstrative pronoun meaning ‘that’ or ‘that one’ and stands alone. Henna is a masculine demonstrative pronoun, so it can be used to refer to any noun that is grammatically masculine. As you might expect, all nouns referring to male human beings are considered masculine in Cornish, as are nouns that refer to male animals (as long as there is a separate noun for the female of the species, like bull vs. cow in English). Similarly, nouns referring to female people or (common) animals are all feminine. All other Cornish nouns—even those that refer to abstractions or inanimate objects—are classified as either grammatically masculine or feminine, and it is often impossible to determine the gender from the form of the word. Be sure to memorize the gender of each new noun you encounter, so you will know which pronoun to use to represent it in sentences like this one.
- Note on pronunciation: When you see the sequence nn, be sure to pronounce both ns (or hold the n sound for twice as long as usual). Some speakers of Cornish prefer to pronounce (and spell) this sequence as dn, so you will also encounter forms like hedna for ‘that.’
18 · Ev yw ow broder · He’s my brother
- ev (pro) he
- broder (nm), breder brother
- Note on word order: It would also be perfectly correct to say Ow broder yw ev (literally, ‘My brother is he’). Which form you choose depends on which word you would stress a bit more strongly in English. Ev yw ow broder is more likely to be used when you are pointing someone out (‘He—that man over there—is my brother’), while Ow broder yw ev is a better choice when you are emphasizing the relationship (‘In fact, he’s my brother‘).
- Mutation rule of the day: B is not affected by spirantization (the type of mutation that follows ow3 ‘my’)
19 · Piw yw an venyn na? · Who’s that woman?
- benyn (nf), benenes woman, women
- Grammar rule of the day: All feminine singular nouns are subject to lenition (soft mutation) after the definite article an ‘the.’
- Mutation rule of the day: B lenites to V, which is why benyn changes to venyn after the article in the sentence above. See the Table of Mutations to learn more about lenition.
20 · Lowena yw honna · That’s Lowena (Literally, ‘Lowena is that’)
- Lowena (nf) Lowena (a Cornish given name); Joy (its English equivalent)
- lowena (nf) joy, happiness (abstract noun formed from the adjective lowen ‘happy’)
- honna (pro) that, that one (fem.)
- Grammar note: honna is the feminine equivalent of henna, and is the appropriate Cornish translation for ‘that’ or ‘that one’ in cases where we are referring to a female person (as in this sentence) or to an animal or object that is grammatically feminine.
21 · Hi yw ow mamm · She’s my mother
- hi (pro) she
- mamm (nf), mammow mother
- Note on word order: As in our example from January 18, it would also be perfectly correct to say Ow mamm yw hi (literally, ‘My mother is she’).
- Mutation rule of the day: M is not affected by spirantization (the type of mutation that follows ow3 ‘my’)
- Note on pronunciation: When you see the sequence mm, be sure to pronounce both ms (or hold the m sound for twice as long as usual). Some speakers of Cornish prefer to pronounce (and spell) this sequence as bm, so you will also encounter forms like mabm for ‘mother.’
22 · Piw yw an flehes ma? · Who are these children?
- flogh (nm), flehes child, children
- ma (pro) this, these (used only in phrases preceded by the definite article an ‘the’)
- an X ma (phr) this X, these X (where X stands for any noun, singular or plural)
- Grammar rule of the day: While the English translation of today’s question is ‘Who are these children?’ the verb in the Cornish phrase is actually yw ‘is’—the third person singular short form of the verb bos ‘be.’ In Cornish, we use the third person singular (or ‘he/she/it’ form) of a verb with any noun subject, regardless of whether the noun is singular or plural.
- Grammar note: The demonstrative pronoun ma is used in exactly the same way as na (see January 16): ma means ‘this’ or ‘these’ and is used to describe things that are nearby, while na means ‘that’ or ‘those’ and is used to describe things that are farther away. Thus an den ma means ‘this man’ (over here) while an den na means ‘that man’ (over there) and an flehes ma means ‘these children’ as opposed to an flehes na ‘those children.’
23 · Hemm yw ow mab Margh · This is my son Mark
- hemm (pro) this, this one (masc.) (shortened form of hemma ‘this’ used before the verb yw ‘is’)
- mab (nm), mebyon son; boy
- Margh (nm) Mark (given name)
- Grammar note: The demonstrative pronoun hemma ‘this, this one’ often loses its final -a when immediately followed by the verb yw ‘is.’ Henna ‘that, that one’ likewise reduces to henn in the same context: Henn yw ow broder Jori ‘That is my brother George.‘
24 · Homm yw ow myrgh Morwenna · This is my daughter Morwenna
- homm (pro) this, this one (fem.) (shortened form of homma ‘this’ used before the verb yw ‘is’)
- myrgh (nf), myrhes daughter; girl
- Morwenna (nf) Morwenna (a Cornish given name)
- Grammar note: Homm and its full form homma are the feminine equivalents of hemm and hemma, and are the appropriate Cornish translations for ‘this’ or ‘this one’ in cases where we are referring to a female person (as in this sentence) or to an animal or object that is grammatically feminine.
25 · Da yw genev metya genes / Da yw genev metya genowgh · (I’m) pleased to meet you (sg.) / (I’m) pleased to meet you (pl.) (Literally, ‘Meeting with you is good with me’)
- genev (prep+pro) with me (conjugated form of the preposition gans ‘with’)
- metya (gans nebonan) (vn) meet (with someone)
- da yw gans X (phr) X likes, X enjoys, X is pleased with (literally, ‘[it] is good with X’)
- Grammar and usage note: Da yw genev is a common phrase in Cornish, and is the usual way of translating English ‘I like’ when talking about things we like to do. In the sentence Da yw genev metya genes, we use it to translate English ‘(I am) pleased (to meet you).’ Cornish has a number of other idiomatic phrases involving the preposition gans which we will encounter in the next few weeks.
26 · Dynnargh dhe Gernow! · Welcome to Cornwall!
- dynnargh (nm), dynarhow welcome, greeting
- dhe2 (prep) to
- Kernow (nf) Cornwall
- Grammar note: The word dynnargh is both a masculine noun (meaning ‘a welcome, a greeting’) and a verb (the 2sg. imperative or command form of dynerhi ‘welcome, greet’). In the phrase Dynnargh dhe Gernow! it seems likely that we are dealing with the noun, and that the meaning of the phrase is ‘[May you have] a welcome to Cornwall!’ The imperative verb dynnargh! ‘welcome!’ would only be used if we were telling someone to welcome or greet someone else. If you travel to Cornwall, you will probably see a slightly different form of the verb dynerhi on a sign as you enter the country. The phrase Kernow a’gas dynnergh! is also commonly translated as ‘Welcome to Cornwall!’ but it really means ‘Cornwall welcomes you (pl.)!’ Note the difference in spelling and pronunciation between dynnargh (the noun ‘welcome’ or imperative verb form ‘welcome!’) and dynnergh (the present tense verb form ‘welcomes’).
- Mutation rule of the day: K lenites to G, so Kernow ‘Cornwall’ becomes Gernow after the preposition dhe2 ‘to.’
27 · Mar pleg · Please (Literally, ‘If it pleases [you]’)
- mar4 (conj) if
- pleg (v) pleases (3sg. present/future form of plegya ‘please, be pleasing’)
- Grammar note: The conjunction mar4 ‘if’ causes a sound change we call we call provection or hard mutation. Only a few words (mainly words that mean ‘if’) cause provection to a following consonant; these words are marked in textbooks, grammars, and dictionaries with a superscript 4. Like spirant mutation, provection affects only a small number of consonants. Click here to download a table that lists all the Cornish consonant mutations.
- Mutation rule of the day: P is not subject to provection, so nothing happens to pleg after the conjunction mar4 ‘if.’
28 · Meur ras · Thanks (Literally, ‘Great grace’ or ‘Great thanks’)
- meur (adj) great
- gras (nm), grassow grace, thanks
- Grammar rule of the day: Normally, adjectives in Cornish follow the nouns they modify. In some cases, however, an adjective is given extra emphasis by placing it before the noun. In this case, the noun will be subject to lenition, regardless of whether it is masculine or feminine, singular or plural.
- Mutation rule of the day: Lenition causes an initial G to disappear, so long as the next vowel in the word is not o, u, or eu. Since gras ‘grace’ starts with a G that is followed by r and then the vowel a, the G disappears, leaving the lenited form ras.
29 · Wolkom os ta / Wolkom owgh hwi · You’re (sg.) welcome / You’re (pl.) welcome (Literally, ‘Welcome are you’)
- wolkom (adj) welcome
- os (v) are (2sg. short form of bos ‘be’)
- ta (pro) you (sg.)
- owgh (v) are (2pl. short form of bos ‘be’)
- Grammar rule of the day: In most affirmative Cornish sentences, the conjugated verb comes in second position. Such is the case in today’s phrase, where the adjective wolkom ‘welcome’ precedes the verb os or owgh ‘are.’ Note that this sets Cornish apart from most other modern Celtic languages, since the verb is usually the first element in the sentence in Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Manx, and Welsh. (Breton follows a similar rule to Cornish, however.)
- Grammar and usage note: On January 12, we learned the pronoun jy for ‘you (sg.)’; today we meet another second person singular pronoun: ta. The form ta is especially common as a subject pronoun following a conjugated verb, while jy is more common in other contexts.
- Usage note: This phrase could also be used as a translation of the English greeting ‘Welcome!’ since it literally means ‘You are welcome.’ Since many Cornish speakers today prefer to avoid using obvious English loanwords like wolkom, however, you are more likely to hear Dynnargh! instead (see January 26).
30 · Gav dhymm / Gevewgh dhymm · Excuse (sg.) me / Excuse (pl.) me
- gav (v) forgive, pardon (2sg. imperative of gava ‘forgive, pardon’)
- dhymm (prep+pro) to me (1sg. conjugated form of dhe2 ‘to’)
- gevewgh (v) forgive, pardon (2pl. imperative of gava ‘forgive, pardon’)
- Grammar rule of the day: The second person plural imperative ending is -ewgh. Adding this ending to a verb sometimes causes the vowel in the preceding syllable to change—like the a in the root gav-, which becomes an e. Note that all second person plural endings in Cornish (for verbs in all tenses as well as for conjugated prepositions) will have the sequence -wgh at the end.
- Grammar note: Gav and gevewgh are both forms of the verb gava ‘forgive, pardon,’ In English, these verbs take a simple direct object, so we say ‘Forgive me’ or ‘Pardon me,’ but the object of the Cornish verb gava always follows the preposition dhe2 ‘to’ (so we are literally saying ‘Forgive to me’). If the object of gava is a pronoun, as in today’s phrase, we use the appropriate conjugated form of the presposition: dhymm ‘to me.’
31 · Drog yw genev · I’m sorry (Literally, ‘It’s bad with me’)
- drog (adj) bad
- drog yw gans X (phr) X is sorry (literally, ‘[it] is bad with X’)
- Usage note: On January 25 we learned the phrase da yw genev, whichliterally means ‘it’s good with me’ but is actually a common idiom meaning ‘I like’ or ‘I am pleased.’ Drog yw genev is another such idiom involving the preposition gans. Literally, drog yw genev means ‘it’s bad with me,’ but it is mainly used as the equivalent of the English phrase ‘I’m sorry’ (‘I feel bad about it’).
Summary · Mis Genver 2014
In January 2014 we learned:
- 31 phrases plus 3 bonus phrases
- 62 vocabulary words, not counting idiomatic phrases and personal names