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Cornish language

From Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Native to United Kingdom
Region Cornwall
Native speakers
300 fluent[1]
Official status
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-1kw
ISO 639-2cor
ISO 639-3cor

Cornish (Cornish: Kernewek) is a very old language from Cornwall in the southwest of England. Cornish is a Celtic language and is very similar to Welsh and is related to Gaelic.

History[change | change source]

A long time ago, Cornish was the only language spoken in Cornwall, but more and more people began to speak English, instead of Cornish. In 1550, when the prayer book was written in English instead of Latin, the Cornish people got angry and there was a rebellion. Because many Cornish-speakers died and they would now hear the Bible in English, Cornish was used less and less.

By 1800, only a few people could speak Cornish, and since no one spoke it to one another any more, Cornish became endangered.

People say that a woman called Dolly Pentreath was the last person who could speak Cornish. That is not quite true, but she was one of the last people to use it instead of English.

How old is the Cornish language?[change | change source]

Cornish started to diverge from Welsh towards the end of the 7th century AD and the earliest known examples of written Cornish date from the end of the 9th century AD. These were in the form of glosses scribbled in the margins of a Latin text –Smaragdus' Commentary on Donatus.

The origins of the Cornish language[change | change source]

Derived from the Brythonic languages, the Cornish language has common roots with both Breton and Welsh. The words 'Cornwall' and 'Cornish' are derived from the Celtic Cornovii tribe who inhabited modern-day Cornwall prior to the Roman conquest.

Methods of spreading[change | change source]

Some people learned about Cornish by traveling around talking to people who could still speak it and by reading old plays and books. Some people wanted to learn the language and speak it and so in 1904 a learned man, Henry Jenner, wrote a book to help people. Some people then began to learn the language and speak it again.

Today[change | change source]

No one knows how many Cornish-speakers there are now. People think that about 300 people probably speak Cornish. Some young people have grown up speaking it. Most people in Cornwall know a few sentences or words in Cornish. In 100 years, Cornish has grown from almost no speakers to many thousands, which is very exciting for many people.

There are now many new books, films and songs in Cornish. The Bible has now been translated into Cornish. There is an event, the open Gorseth, with a story and poetry competition. Sometimes, Cornish is used in churches.

There used to be a problem with Cornish: three different dictionaries had different spellings, and people did not agree about how to write words or say them. That was confusing for people when they have not been speaking for long. In 2008, people who used different types of Cornish came together and agreed on a new standard form of Cornish to be used everywhere.

Sample phrases[change | change source]

The beginning of Origo Mundi (Origin of the World) a play written in Cornish in the late 14th century
  • Kernowek: Cornish
  • Kernow: Cornwall
  • Den: Man
  • Benyn: Woman
  • Gorthugher da: Good afternoon
  • Dydh da!: Good day!
  • Duw genes!: Goodbye!
  • Onen hag oll: One and all.
  • Fatla genes!: How's it going with you

References[change | change source]

  1. "'South West:TeachingEnglish:British Council:BBC". BBC/British Council website. BBC. 2010. Archived from the original on 2010-01-08. Retrieved 2010-02-09.

Other websites[change | change source]