Cornish

Alternative name(s): Kernewek

Language family: Indo-European

Language Group: Celtic

Geographical use: Cornwallis peninsula (southwest England, called Kernow in Cornish)

Information: In the year 1200, Cornish was spoken my most people over most of Cornwall. By 1600, it had been pushed west to Bodmin by Anglicisation. A hundred years later in was not found very much east of Truro and by 1777, when the last monoglot speaker (Dolly Pentreath) died, it was confined to West Penwith and areas of the Lizard peninsula. Speakers of Cornish with native knowledge of the tongue could still be found up until the late nineteenth century. The revival of Cornish learning had progressed enough by 1970 for people to actually start speaking the language in everyday situations again, with some bringing up their children using it.

By 1980 a confident group of Cornish speakers had emerged who improved their conversational skills by meeting together at Cornish Language Weekends and in pubs. By 1990, the amount of Cornish speakers had swelled to the hundreds, and to the thousands if you include those who knew some conversational aspects. Now in the 21st century, Cornish is used in a wide range of places with more bilingual signs appearing all the time.

Estimates put the number of fluent speakers of Cornish at around three or four hundred people. The number grows if you wish to include those who can converse in Cornish, but would not consider themselves fluent. This figure could be put at a couple of thousand. The number grows even more if you wish to include everyone who has learnt some Cornish and would be able to give you some phrases, or understand basic sentences. We are now talking in excess of five thousand, and possibly verging on ten thousand.

Cornish is taught in a number of schools and is becoming increasingly popular for wedding speeches, house names and tattoos.

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