teach your dog Cornish

Cornish is of course the local language of Cornwall that is not really related to Gaelic, and more similar to Welsh (people in Brittany often understand the Welsh language, so perhaps it’s the same here!)

Dolly Pentreath is often said to be the last mother tongue speaker of Cornish, though this is not verified. Born in Mousehole in 1692, she was the child of a fisherman and apparently did not speak English until age 20. She never married and (quite controversially in the day) gave birth to a son. Living in dire poverty, not much is known about her – apart from the fact that she could apparently swear in Cornish!

A Celtic language, Cornish has a unique alphabet and different sound rules. So the letter ‘w’ sounds like ‘oo’ and the letter ‘y’ sounds like ‘i’ (in words like ‘it’). Many place names are Cornish (not just towns beginning with ‘tre!’) For example, the town of Penzance is Cornish for ‘holy head’ (‘sans’ means holy and ‘pen’ means head!)

Speak Cornish Week is an annual event, dedicated to getting local people speaking the lingo! An Rosweyth (a group of local language organisations) let people have a go at speaking Cornish (Kernewek!) with the experts. Just like fruits and vegetables, the organisations encourage you to ‘get your Cornish 5 a day’ by using local words of this minority language. Here are a few phrases to start you off:

Dydh da (hello)

Lowena dhis (joy to you!)

Yew sos (hi, mate)

Mar pleg (please)

Moy tesen (more cake!)

People who don’t understand Cornish say it kind of sounds like ‘how English would sound to someone who doesn’t understand the language. Here’s a video of a native Cornish speaker. What do you think?!

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