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Post #12: Pokemon, Dumbledore and Piggy-whidden

"In truth I don’t like Cornish pasties". Joe Cornish

Firstly, I just want to acknowledge the fact that it has been FIVE WHOLE MONTHS since my last blog post. I’m sorry. I really tried, but it has been an exhausting, exciting few months working with lots of lovely new clients, discovering new weird and wonderful subject matters, some admittedly more thrilling than others.

So now, I’d like to share with you a few interesting facts about a language I recently encountered when I swapped my desk in leafy Highgate for some fresh sea air in beautiful St. Ives, Cornwall.

1,200 years ago, Cornish, or Kernowek, was spoken by 40,000 people. It actually became extinct in the 19th Century, but recently underwent a revival, and is now still considered a hugely important part of Cornish heritage, culture and identity.

Cornish now has a growing population of speakers, with over 500 people listing it as their first language 5 years ago. Since the revival, numerous pieces of literature and textbooks have been printed in Cornish, with an increased interest in studying the language. Cornish has now been officially recognized as a minority language by the UK government under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages since 2002.

Cornish features various grammatical constructions that are unfamiliar to English speakers, such as a verb-subject-object word order, inflected propositions, fronting of emphasizes syntactic elements, and even two different words for "to be". Cornish nouns also have two grammatical genders, masculine and feminine, and a range of different endings to indicate the plural form.

Finally, with a little help from a friend familiar with Cornish life, I thought I would leave you with a few of the essentials:

Fatla gena whye? = How are you?
Ma genam a ehaz = I’m well
Pesk = Fish
Scubmaw = Chips
Gwyne = Wine
Up north = Anywhere north of Cornwall
Pokemon = Clumsy (not related to the Japanese Pokemon…)
Dumbledore = Thorn or Bramble (this word also appears in Early Modern English, meaning bumble bee and inspired J.K.Rowling)
Piggy-whidden = The smallest and weakest piglet in a litter

Thanks for reading!

Rebecca Durose Wednesday 20 July 2016
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