Penwith place-names

Almost exactly two years ago I wrote in my blog of 2007-10-17 that I had the ambition of compiling a pronouncing dictionary of the place-names of West Penwith. Wellll….I have now started doing just that thing. It is quite a laborious process just listing the names, and so far, after about a week’s work poring over the Ordinance Survey map of the area — only 30 minutes a day admittedly — I have got about 200 names on my list. This is just the first stage of course. I now have to find out how locals pronounce these names.

There is a sort of poetry in some of the names. How about Carn Guthensbrâs? It means “outcrop of the great sea-covered rock”, but exactly how it is pronounced I am not at all sure yet. Is the “th” a [θ] or a [ð]? Are the “s”s both [z] or both [s] or is there a mixture? All I am (pretty) sure about is that the “â” represents [aː].

Carn Guthensbras
Carn Guthensbrâs
Or how about Tater-du?. It is the name of a lighthouse and means “black mass/cake/pie”. I don’t yet know if the “a” represents [eɪ], [eː], [ɑː], [aː]…

Watch this space for progress reports.

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