Standard Written Form

As with many smaller languages around the world, Cornish has more than one spelling system in use.


Put simply, the written sources we have span several centuries and reflect different periods in the life of the language. In reviving Cornish, spelling systems were used at various times which reflected different views on how we should best use this inheritance to take Cornish forward into the future. Systems were either based on particular target dates in the history of the language or sought to regularise the relationship between spelling and pronunciation.

While the existence of different forms was a tribute to the vibrancy of the language movement, given a small language base it also proved a barrier to development, particularly in education and public life.  As with many other small languages, an increase in public use of the language following official recognition meant that the problem needed to be addressed.

The Cornish Language Partnership therefore established a process to which all could contribute their ideas and involving external expertise in the shape of a Commission of eminent language planners, who brought experience from other language communities to the discussion.

A conference held in September 2006 examined the basis of the different forms and the papers from this can be accessed on this site. Another conference took place in October 2007 at which the Commission presented their findings and recommended a consensus approach for establishing the Standard Written Forum, instead of choosing one of the existing forms. The Commission's statement, as presented at the conference, can be downloaded in full below.

The Commission recommended the setting up of a user group to undertake the detailed work, headed by Dr Trond Trosterud. This group met several times and an agreement on a Standard Written Form was reached. The agreement was translated into a specification document by Ben Bruch and Albert Bock, which can be downloaded below or requested in hard copy. This was ratified by the Partnership on 9th May 2008.

The Standard Form is primarily for official use and for formal education and individuals will certainly continue to use the forms with which they are most comfortable in private life. The decision will, however, allow greater progress to be made in the development of the use of Cornish in public life. A review will be held in 2013, at which time it will be possible to evaluate progress over the intervening five years.

SWF Glossary,

SWF Glossary with Traditional Graphs,

SWF Glossary - Pronunciation Guide,

SWF Glossary Comment Form,

Variants and Side Forms in the SWF,

Final SWF Specification,

Emendations to the Specification,

Ad Hoc Group Statement 19 12 07,

Ad-Hoc Group Statement 21 11 07,

Commission Statement 14th October 2007,

Summary LWG meeting July 07

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