Kernow (Cornish)

Before the Anglo Saxon invasions of Britain the Celtic languages were spoken throughout, derived from European Celtic about 1000 BC. After the Anglo Saxon invasions Celtic was confined to the west and far north were mass invasions had little impact. There were no written records of the original Celtic. Before the 5th Century BC it had already broken into two groups, Goildelic and Brittonic.
Goildelic ( Common Gaelic ) is further broken into Irish, Scottish and Manx ( Isle of Man ).
Brittonic by the 6th Century had diverged into Welsh, Cornish, and * Breton.

Kernow however was a spoken language and although early attempts had been made to write it down this was never common and fell into disuse.
It has only recently that Kernow has been revived and concentration been made in reconstructing the written form.
Place names are the easiest to recognise as being unique and although many spellings have been "anglicised" the components can be recognised and understood by other Celts such as Welshmen and Bretons.
Many everyday words in use a few hundred years ago are similar in Cornish, Breton and Welsh. However in later language there are many words completely different. It is therefore not very easy for a modern day Welshman to have a conversation with a Cornishman both using thier "mother tongue". A Breton from Brittany ( France ) however would have little problems in simple conversation as both Kernewek and Brezhonek are derived from the original Dumnomian Celtic.


The Breton language ( Brezhonek ) is the language of Brittany in France. The language was introduced into Brittany by Domnomian traders and settlers between the 5th and 6th Centuries AD. Here is a table of 50 words as an example. The pronuciation has to be made using basic tonal rules of Welsh and French and not Anglo-Saxon English. Words may change as singular or plural usage and furthermore most nouns are of masculine or feminine gender. You will then be able to see how similar much of the olde language is.

Kernewek (Cornish) English Welsh Kernewek (Cornish) English Welsh
Kernow Cornwall Cernyw rew ice rhew
Kembrek Wales Cymru tron nose(noun) trwyn
Alban Scotland Yr Alban tronow nose(verb) trwyno
Ywerdhon Ireland Iwerddon forthhorn railway fforddhaern
Saws England Lloegr kyk mogh pork cig moch
Sawsnek English Saesneg ruth red(adj) rhudd
Sawson Englishman Saeson gwertha sell gwerthu
Sawsesow Englishwoman Saesnes avon river afon
bargen tyr farm ffarm marner sailor(mariner) morwr
mesyow field meysydd davas sheep dafad
Dew God Duw croghen skin croen
tevy grow tyfu can song ca+n
clewes hear clywed gwaynten spring (season) gwanwyn
medhow drunk meddw lader thief lleidr
tryga dwell trigo myl thousand mil
deweth end diwedd gwedhen tree gwydden
lagus eye llygad De Merth Tuesday Dydd Mawrth
gwedren glass(drinking) gwydryn losowen vegetable llysieuyn
bedhow grave (tomb) beddrod pendra village pentref
omma here yma dowr water dw+r
enys island ynys gwrek wife gwraig
bryn hill bryn gwlan wool gwla+n
margh horse march bledhen year blwyddyn
gour husband gw+r yowynk young ieuanc

The table only makes comparison to Welsh as the closest geographically located Celtic Language to Kernow. Other words can commonly be found in Scottish and Irish Gaelic. Although most Scots speak Scottish English which contains many words are derived from Gaelic and not used south of the borders in England.
A Cornishman is known to have said "My ny vynnav kows sowsnek" "I will not speak English".
A Scotsman will often, even today refer ( especially when being derogatory ) to an Englishman as a"Sasenach".

Similar examples can be found in Irish. Carrick for instance means rock in Kernow. Carrickfergus in Ireland is derived from Fergus' Rocks after the 6th Century Fergus son of Armoy who drowned on the rocks.

Although Irish and Scottish Gaelic are very similar they are also quite different from Cornish and Welsh .

For a graphical history go to celtorigins.htm

Any viewers who may be interested in learning more about the Kernow Language can try Here
For the latest History and Status can be found hereand is well worth studying.

Other Kernow links
Gerlyver Kernewek-Sawsnek ( Cornish - English Dictionary )
The story of Cornish Pasties
Cornwall Family History Society
Agan Tavas Our Language

It is hoped later that this page will become an online Kernewek/Sawsnek Dictionary - Lexicon with a search facility.
However there is many hours of research work to do both in generating the MySql database and scripting the PHP coding.

Copyright © 2003,
Created -- 20-04-03
Updated -- 28-02-2011

 Home Page    More