“Speaking the old language, she was,” he said to me, cheeks flushed as he rushed off down the corridor. “The old language I tell you, Mr Sangster, thought it was forgotten by youngsters till I heard her talking.”
The Cornish language was, not unlike Sue Driver's coelacanth, thought extinct by many for some years, but nevertheless may now be found alive and well. The last native Cornish speaker is said to have been one Dolly Pentreath, who died in 1777 and was buried in the churchyard at Zennor. And by the second half of the twentieth century, despite some folk like Morwenna and Pasco that still spoke a smattering, this brythonic celtic tongue, closely related to Breton and Welsh, seemed sadly to be dying out. Indeed, in 1981, keen to learn at least some Cornish vocabulary, I remember searching high and low, and was about to give up when I stumbled across a privately published and bound Cornish English dictionary in a specialised Truro bookshop.
There has, however, been a significant revival in the language over recent decades, with hundreds of people now registering as fluent speakers. Whether twenty first century Cornish really sounds like the original is hard to say though (someone once said that the best measure would be if teenagers from four hundred years ago listened to the modern speakers without laughing).
The modern Cornish dialect of English, which doesn't share (as far as I know), any commonality with the Cornish language itself, is quite mild compared with regional English accents like Geordie, but nevertheless does have a number of idiocyncracies with which Sansgter struggles (for example, using the masculine pronoun for inanimate objects that are traditionally referred to as 'she').
I would like to give a special mention here to Daniel Prohaska, who gave me invaluable help with making the Cornish spoken in Angel’s Blade authentic. Here is a link to Daniel's ‘Desky Kernowek Bew’ web site for anyone interested in learning more about this fascinating language.
Thanks again Dan.
Aramaic, considered by many to be one of the oldest documented languages in the world, would, in its Galilean dialect, have been the language spoken by Jesus, whilst in its Judean dialect, the language most commonly used in Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion. Biblical Aramaic is the subject of much learned discourse and needs no further description here except to say that it was not only a holy language but spoken in day-to-day life (a ‘street language’ as Angel says), and hence might well have been use for recording practical directions to a given location.