Submission from Gorseth Kernow to the Commission on a Single Written Form of Cornish for education and public use

Lowender Peran
Lowender Peran 2006


Gorseth Kernow (the Gorsedd of Cornwall) has been committed to the promotion of Cornish since its inception in 1928. Paragraph 2 of the Constitution states: “The object of the Gorsedd is to maintain and give expression to the National Spirit of Cornwall as a Celtic Country, and in particular ………. to encourage the study and use of the Cornish Language.”

The Gorsedd was cofounder, together with the Federation of Old Cornwall Societies, of the Cornish Language Board in 1967, which was given responsibility for the development of Cornish—teaching, examinations, publications and research. This important link is maintained today in 2 ways:

  1. the Gorsedd Council appoints 2 representatives to the Board. Currently one representative is the Board’s publications officer, the other is convenor of the Language and Vocabulary Committee (responsible for the preparation of dictionaries and the consideration of neologisms).
  2. candidates who are successful in the Board’s Advanced (4th) Grade are proposed for bardship and are almost always accepted.
Some misunderstanding exists about the Gorsedd’s position on the spelling issue. When the spelling debate started in 1987, a decision was taken by Gorsedd Council that the college would continue to use Unified Cornish for its ceremonies, correspondence, bardic names and competitions until such a time as a majority of bards at a Closed Gorsedd might decide otherwise. This was designed to lift the Gorsedd above the arguments and has been largely successful in so doing. Since then, competitions and bardic names have been opened up to other forms of spelling.

Gorseth Kernow actively supported the 7-year campaign for recognition of Cornish under the Council of Europe Charter for Regional and Minority Languages, which was successful in 2002. The Gorsedd also played a full part in the initiative to develop a Strategy for the development of the language (published in January 2005) and its representative was chairman of the Strategy working group from 2002-2005. It is now a full member of the Cornish Language Partnership.

Membership of the Gorsedd is currently about 490 and there are bards who use all the available systems. No research has been carried out to determine the numbers using each system. Considerable frustration has been evident at Council meetings and at the annual Closed Gorsedd about the tardiness of moves towards settling the spelling issue. The Council has welcomed the setting of a deadline and supports the current process.

The Gorsedd is not able to express support for any particular spelling system, but is uniquely placed to take an overview of the situation. Council has agreed the following general principles:
  • Council believes that the tide is running in favour of Cornish, with political support and social consensus built up over many years, and that major disruption would jeopardise this support, squandering the work of bards and others in reaching this propitious point
  • All the advice the Cornish language movement has received from language areas in other countries is that Cornish needs to make rapid strides, especially with the young, to secure its position. Everything possible should be done to facilitate that progress
  • Every effort should be made to ensure the language has the necessary material and human resources to accompany Welsh and Irish on the Language Ladder in secondary schools in September 2007
  • Gorseth Kernow calls on all bards to take a positive line in their personal submissions to the Commission, stating exactly why they believe their preferred form would be most suitable for education and public use
  • Gorseth Kernow will continue its broad support of Cornish whatever decisions may be made on the spelling for education and public use.

Lowender Peran 2006
Lowender Peran 2006.

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