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Over 500 say Cornish is their first language

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 02, 2013

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Over 500 say Cornish is their first language

Comments (15)

Some 557 people have claimed Cornish is their main language in the 2011 Census.

In Cornwall alone, 464 people stated Cornish is their mother tongue, according to the Office for National Statistics, or 0.1% of the local population.

Encouragingly for campaigners championing Cornish heritage, the language appears to be spreading beyond the Duchy.

Neighbouring Devon boasts 12 Cornish speakers and 13 residents in the north London borough of Haringey purport to favour Cornish. Manchester, Lincoln and Solihul near Birmingham boast a Cornish speaker apiece.

But the figures may raise eyebrows. The Cornish Language Board believes only 300 people are "fluent" in the language.

Census figures are prone to manipulation, as witnessed by the thousands claiming to be Jedi Knights – a fictional quasi-religious order featured in the Star Wars films.

Along with Welsh and Breton, Cornish is a Brythonic tongue descended from the ancient British language spoken throughout much of Britain before English came to dominate.

It was the main language of Cornwall for centuries, continuing to be dominant in some parts until the late 18th century. Henry Jenner led a revival in the early-20th century, with interest growing significantly since the 1980s.

North Cornwall MP Dan Rogerson said: "We know that there are thousands of people learning the language – and as far away as the US and Australia."

Western Morning News Living Cornwall Editor Simon Parker said: "Cornish is far more widely used than it was even ten years ago. Most people in Cornwall now have a smattering of words in their vocabularies. Whatever the motivation of the 464 people claiming Cornish as their 'main language' it has to be good for Cornish culture and heritage."

But Polish appears to be Cornwall's second language, with 1,984 people (0.4%) saying it is their main language. Even 16 people on the Scilly islands (0.7%) speak Polish first.

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  • Brian6666  |  February 05 2013, 8:18AM

    Where are they ? Ive never heard anyone speak it , just talk about it ??

    Rate   10
  • upcountryguy  |  February 04 2013, 8:57PM

    464 Cornish speakers in the whole county of Cornwall? It sounds about as much use as Latin. The most interesting part of the article to me was ; ' Polish appears to be Cornwall's second language, with 1,984 people (0.4%) saying it is their main language. Even 16 people on the Scilly islands (0.7%) speak Polish first.' Nearly 2000! out of the ones who completed the census, I wonder how many unregistered Polish living in the county of Cornwall didn't? There was a statistic the other day that the total amount of Poles living in the U.K is about the same total as the population of Cornwall.

    Rate   11
  • Gurnards_Head  |  February 04 2013, 12:55PM

    News that more are learning the Cornish language is good but the real battleground is going to be the preservation of the rich variety of Cornish dialects that to the trained ear give a clue to the speakers parish of origin. From the rich burr of the Boys (and Maids) of Boode to the Clay Country Sin Ozzel drawl to the soft precise pronunciation of St Just and Sennen not to mention St Ives, Penryn, Newquay and Padstow who also stand out as particularly distinctive. Its all part of our Nations rich diversity and distintiveness when compared to the awful nasal tones of the estuary Engerlish that has become so prevalent in so many of our schools, God help us all if our children are dragged down to the basement level of this increasingly common denomiator. Regional accents are despised by the BBC and Radio Emmet right here in our midst appears to be scared witless of potential presenters with a real Cornish accents if the past body count of sidelined local presenters is any guide to future attitude which actually seems to be hardening. Why are they so reluctant to play any of Harry Safari's woderful songs of Cornwall if this is not fact while we still remain firmly stuck with the rude moronic Lawrence Read?

    Rate   -4
  • bobnewl  |  February 04 2013, 12:20AM

    There's a lot of Jedi Knights out there as well

    Rate   7
  • Cidercub  |  February 03 2013, 8:53PM

    Here's an interesting link for comparative purposes: http://tinyurl.com/bxgukn7 Of course it may not work but you can always copy and paste it.

    Rate 0
  • Cidercub  |  February 03 2013, 8:47PM

    When I was growing up in Wales we learned Welsh to GCSE level. Now I finally get to move to Cornwall, so am looking forward to really getting stuck into Kernewek!

    Rate 0
  • Doitdreckley  |  February 03 2013, 1:15PM

    All the preditable bigoted comments by the usual suspects. I cannot see why anyone would be so upset to know that there are people with Cornish as their first language. Ironically, some of the English nationalists who post on here struggle with English as a first language.

    Rate   1
  • NBG1971  |  February 03 2013, 10:13AM

    cornish as their main language? so 24-7 they speak cornish? but who listens to them :P

    Rate   9
  • MapSerpren  |  February 02 2013, 11:07PM

    I have learned Cornish as my late grandfather spoke it fluently. Not therefore my first language but certainly extremely pleased and honoured to be a speaker.

    Rate   2
  • gruesome  |  February 02 2013, 2:50PM

    Hope the 557 live near each other or they won't be having much conversation!

    Rate   9