Sunday, 28 December 2014

Learn Late Cornish Bit by Bit 4 (Verbs 1)


Verbs I

The verb to be, boas (SWFM bos), is ubiquitous. Cornish uses two main forms, the descriptive (with names, nouns and adjectives) and the locative (used with positions and actions). It is very useful to know the third person singular, is, of both of them.

i)   Descriptive form:

ew[1] when used alone after the description means it is or it’s.
Two short words can form a sentence, e.g.

Jory ew.                                  It’s George.
Kettern ew.                             It’s Kate.

These might be the answer to a question, e.g.
 Piwa[2] hedna?                     Who’s that?

In response to the question

Pandr’ew hedna?   What’s that?

you might say one of the following:

Aval ew.                                  It[3] is an apple.
Tan ew.                                   It is a fire.
Kei ew.                                    It’s a dog.
An gath ew.                            It’s the cat.
An tas ew.                              It’s the father.

Or, in response to the question

Pehen ew hedna?                What’s that like?

you might say one of the following:

Teg ew[4].                               It’s lovely.
Hager ew.                               It’s ugly./ It is horrid.
Hir[5] ew.                                It’s long./ It is tall.

With an appropriate past participle, ew can be used to form the passive voice.
The past participle acts as an adjective. e.g.:

Debrys[6] ew.                        It’s eaten.

This might be in answer to a question, e.g.

Pe le[7] ma an desen?          Where is the cake?

Gwelys ew.                            It’s seen.

This might be expanded, e.g.

Gwelys ew en termyn nos.   It’s seen in the night time.

If you start the sentence with Ew it is automatically a question, e.g.

Ew teg?                                   Is it lovely?
Ew kei?                                   Is it a dog?

ii)         Locative form:

Ma[8] when used alone, without a subject, means there is. This is the indefinite form.
Again, just two short words can form a sentence, e.g.

Ma keus.[9]                             There is (some) cheese.
Ma mel.                                   There is honey.

The sentences can obviously be elongated by adding a location, e.g.

Ma keus war an bord.           There is (some) cheese on the table.
Ma mel e’n pot.                      There is honey in the pot.
Ma prev e’n aval.                   There is a worm in the apple.
Ma kei reb tan.                       There is a dog by a fire.





[1] Middle Cornish spelling is <yw>. Pronunciation of ew/yw varies, e.g. [e-oo] or [i-oo]. Try to avoid putting a very English [y] sound on the beginning!
[2] This is a contraction of Piw ew…?
[3] If not closely defined by a personal pronoun it can actually mean he/she/it is ….
[4] This might be describing the weather.
[5] A standing stone or men hir is tall when it is upright but long when it has fallen over!
[6] In Late Cornish the past participle ends in <ez>. In SWF it ends in <ys>. Pronunciation is [ez].
[7] Middle Cornish contraction to <ple> or <pleth>
[8] Middle Cornish uses  <yma>. Late Cornish can use <ema>.
[9] Another umbrella vowel (Middle Cornish and Late Cornish have different pronunciations). Approximate LC pronunciation rhymes with “gaze”

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