Kernôwek - The Cornish Language

Cornish was formerly spoken throughout Cornwall, including the Isles of Scilly but ceased to be a community language in the eighteenth century. The last known traditional speakers or semi-speakers died in the late nineteenth century whereafter the language remained the focus of antiquarian and linguistic interest, also influencing Cornish dialects of English. It is a pretty normal and practical European language that many people find pleasantly musical to listen to and rewarding to speak. It is a development of British, the Celtic language spoken in most of Britain before and during the Roman period and as such its early origins are not so very far from the Latin languages that more people are familiar with. It shares much of its basic grammar and vocabulary with Welsh and Breton, whilst having more distant connections with Irish, Manx and Scottish Gaelic. Along the way it has absorbed words from the languages around it (Latin, English and French) and it has left us with an innovative theatrical literature that is testimony to continental influences and international connections. Most of the distinctive place-names that visitors remark upon come from Cornish, names like Penzance, Porth Curnow, Lostwithiel, Polperro, Penryn, Redruth, Tintagel, Tresco and Truro.

Cornish Today

Several thousand people know enough Cornish to use it in some way (to talk about the weather or food, for example, to greet each other or to sing) and there are now between three and four hundred reasonably fluent speakers, some of whom use the language at home. A voluntary pre-school in Camborne teaches Cornish to the very young, programmes are underway in some schools and the language may be heard at a diverse range of social and cultural events, as well as on BBC Radio Cornwall and online at Radyo an Gernewegva. New technologies are allowing more daily contact and conversation irrespective of distance and the language is poised for take-off.

Website designed and built by Amanda Lobb