Cornwall has a deep-rooted heritage. Naturally, we often think of its mines, rugged coastline, pirates in dark old inns, pasties and...Poldark.
In all seriousness, though, we are often tricked into seeing just the obvious beauties that hail from Cornwall - but there is something that we often miss when appreciating our beautiful little Celtic county, something that many people in Cornwall are trying to revive.
The Cornish language (Kernewek) is a Celtic language, with evidence of it being used as early as the 9th century. It is thought Kernewek was revived in the 1800s and over the years has been examined and promoted by various writers, speakers and lovers of the iconic Celtic language.
We are thinking of making Kernewek a regular feature in Launceston Life, and we were delighted when Launceston Life reader Tim Hambly very kindly put together the first article...
"The Cornish language is becoming more and more visible around Launceston and the rest of Cornwall these days. It started with the Kernow a’gas dynergh (Cornwall welcomes you) signs on the border. Now it can be seen on many things from buses to street name signs to beer bottles to recycling sacks, to name just a few.
Of course, there has always been a lot of Cornish about – we are all regular users of the language when we use place-names such as Egloskerry, Tregadillett and Tregeare, not forgetting Launceston itself.
Cornish is an ancient language with an extensive literature, especially religious plays and texts from the middle ages. There is a lot of new material being produced including novels, songs and there is a monthly magazine entirely written in Cornish.
Celtic people lived in large areas of Europe and the British Isles during the Roman empire but after the fall of Rome, the continental Celtic languages died out completely as community languages. This left the insular (island) Celtic languages as the only surviving representatives of this group of languages. They have diversified into the five languages spoken in addition to English in Great Britain and Ireland: Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Welsh and Cornish. Breton is very closely related to Cornish and is an insular Celtic language which has ‘returned’ to the continent.
I have always been fascinated by the fact that the UK and Ireland are a hotspot of linguistic diversity and that Cornwall is part of that with its own language.
The Cornish language has a growing number of speakers and it is a force for good in promoting Cornwall’s heritage and identity.
Explanation of the place names mentioned:
Egloskerry: St Keri’s church
Launceston: from Lanstefan, St Stephen’s church enclosure
Tregadillett: Cadylet’s farm
Tregeare: farm by a fort
Oll a’n gwella / all the best, Tim."