Losing the Cornish language would kill off part of British culture

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tags: language, Cornish

The Cornish language “Kernewek” is one of the oldest tongues still spoken in Britain today. Like Welsh, Breton – its closest relatives – Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Manx Gaelic, Kernewek is a Celtic language. Yet it has not enjoyed the same protection that some of the former have. Now the British government is cutting the funding that supports the survival of this language.

The period following the Norman conquest was the era of Cornish classical literature, when the Cornish miracle plays – one of the earliest forms of theatre – were written. This episode came to an abrupt halt, however, with the accession of the Tudor dynasty, when, following a series of unsuccessful rebellions, the Cornish-speaking population was brutally reduced and Kernewek went into rapid decline.

By the beginning of the 18th Century, Kernewek was confined to the far west of Cornwall. But, by the early 20th century, speaker numbers slowly grew once more. In 2010 the language was officially brought “back from the dead”, as UNESCO changed its classification of Kernewek from extinct to critically endangered. Today it is guarded by the few hundred fluent speakers left.

Read entire article at The Conversation

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