Calls for Cornish independence - the forgotten Cornish language
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Calls for Cornish independence – the forgotten Cornish language

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Calls for Cornish independence –  the forgotten Cornish language - by Lingua TranslationsCornwall, which lies at the south western tip of the UK has been battling for independence from England since the 19th century and they even have their very own Cornish language.

It has received support from an unlikely bunch of people, including Lisa Simpson (yes, the little girl from The Simpsons)!

Channel 4’s Alternative Christmas message in 2004 featured Lisa Simpson chanting Rhdysys rag Kernow lemmyn which translates as Freedom for Cornwall now!

Cornish nationalism is a cultural, political and social movement based on the following arguments:

– Cornwall has Celtic roots which means that their national, civic and ethnic identity is separate to that of the English.

– Cornwall should have a degree of autonomy in the form of a Cornish regional assembly.

– Cornwall has never been formally incorporated into England and has the legal right to veto Westminster legislation.

One of the main steps towards Cornish independence is reviving the Cornish language which is recognised as a minority language in the UK. Cornish is a Brythonic Celtic language which functioned through the 18th century and continued to be used by some families through the 19th and 20th centuries. Since the 20th century a process has been running to revive the language, currently led by Mebyon Kernow, the political party that is fighting for Cornish identity.

Dick Cole, who is the current leader of Mebyon Kernow has devoted his life to the party and believes that the Cornish people have never perceived themselves as part of England.

In plans to revive the language , the party’s latest recruit, Loveday Jenkin, instructs weekend courses in the Cornish language. Over 100 people attend these courses, of which only about 20 or 30 are fluent. It is believed that the last truly native speaker of Cornish died in 1777 uttering “I don’t want to speak English” in Cornish.

The Cornish language had fizzled out by the mid-19th century and linguists have struggled to revive it since then. There are currently less than 500 people who are able to hold a grown-up conversation in Cornish and unlike here in Wales, there are no Cornish language television channels or radio stations (although BBC Radio Cornwall occasionally runs short bulletins in Cornish on their website).

One of the main problems with the Cornish language is that those who promote the language are often divided between the four different versions: Kernewek, Kernowek, Kernuak and Curnoack. This makes learning the language even more difficult as the decision lies as to which version to learn!

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Sharon StephensAuthor posts

Sharon Stephens is Operations Director of Lingua Translation. With a First Class Honours Degree in Translation and a University Lecturer in Translation (Masters), she is a self confessed language geek! Bringing the academic principles of translation and business together Sharon offers a quality-driven and needs centric translation and interpreting service - like no other.

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