About Agan Tavas

Aims and Objects

Agan Tavas exists to promote the use and study of the Cornish language and of any traditional forms of Cornish speech and spelling which have developed naturally in Cornwall.

The society’s objectives are to:
• Engage with the community to promote the wider use of the Cornish language
• Lobby for official status for the language and its use in public life
• Lobby for the proper funding of the language and development of suitable infrastructure to sustain the revival in usage
• Support the development of published materials
• Promote best practice in language transmission including educational usage and corpus
• Promote the use of traditional forms of the language, and study into its history, lexicon, grammar, idioms of use, phonology and orthography
• Work in partnership with other organisations to achieve the society’s primary purpose and objects.

Much of the society’s business is carried out in Unified Cornish. The society also supports the Standard Written Form and its Traditional Graphs and Variations as well as Kernowak Standard.

Unified Cornish

A spelling for revived Cornish first introduced in 1929 by Robert Morton Nance, and which took the Cornish Language Revival to a new level of activity. It is based on the Cornish of the scribes who wrote the Cornish miracle plays with some irregularities of historical spelling having been standardised.

The Reformation of Agan Tavas

Agan Tavas (Our Language) was formed in 1987 as a society to encourage the growth of Cornish as a spoken language. It was only possible to become a member by invitation and only those observed to be regularly and fluently using Cornish were invited to join. Those who became members were presented with a badge.
Following the decision of the Cornish Language Board in July 1987 to adopt Common Cornish, a method of spelling Cornish only loosely connected to that of the historical texts, a number of people became increasingly concerned about the way in which the work of the past 60 years was being discarded.

At the annual general meeting of Agan Tavas held in 1989 members present voted to reform the society into an open membership organisation whose aim was to support Unified Cornish and other forms of traditionally based Cornish. A new constitution was drawn up and an open meeting to which supporters of Unified Cornish had been invited was held in December 1989. Following that meeting the membership of Agan Tavas increased threefold.

The Work of Agan Tavas

Our aim now is to continue supporting Unified Cornish but also to support all activity in the language which is firmly based on how Cornish was historically written and constructed.

Agan Tavas deprecates excessive invention in Revived Cornish whether this takes the form of spelling systems, grammatical construction or over-strenuous efforts to devise new words for modern concepts. We believe that if Cornish today is to achieve respect within the academic community, the greatest care must be taken to ensure that the language is as historically accurate as possible.

In order to achieve this aim, Agan Tavas will campaign for, support and promote careful, evidence-based, scholarly study of the historical corpus and promote classes, learning materials and other activities making use of such study. We will also campaign for the accurate representation of Cornish in public life.

Since the time of its reformation Agan Tavas and its members have been engaged in a number of activities. We maintain a list of classes using traditional forms of Cornish and we encourage teachers to use traditionally based spelling.
We will ensure the continuation of publications and resources in Unified Cornish. This includes dictionaries grammar books and, through the company Spyrys a Gernow, literature.
Agan Tavas organises social events for members including fun days, trips out and residential language weekends. We publish the high quality magazine for members “An Gowsva” which appears at three to four monthly intervals.

The Introduction of Unified Cornish Revised

In 1995 Dr Nicholas Williams of University College Dublin published through ‘Kernewek Dre Lyther’ “Cornish Today”. Prof. Williams was the first fully qualified professional Celtic scholar to study revived Cornish in depth. Prof. Williams had carried out a full study of the traditional corpus of Cornish and in his book he compared the existing forms of revived Cornish, Unified, Common and Modern/Late against that corpus. He found them all to be lacking but Unified less so than the others and he put forward amendments to Unified which made it more authentic and in some cases easier to learn.

Agan Tavas considered Unified Revised – UC(r), to be sufficiently close to Unified and it was quite happy for those members who wished to do so to use it. Perhaps more importantly it perpetuated the academically sound principle that the only way to revive a language which can only be revived from its literature is to use a spelling system closely linked to that literature and, in particular, to that used when the literature was in its primacy
Since then we have supported UC(r) with publications as well as in Unified. A number of members of Agan Tavas now incorporate some or all of the amendments contained within Unified Revised into their Cornish.

The Future

Agan Tavas is fully committed to the Standard Written Form of Cornish, agreed by all the language groups in 2008 for use in schools and public life. Indeed we were the first Cornish language group to publish a course book for it; ‘Skeul an Tavas’. We accept fully, that in order to make best use of all the resources of the language movement, there has to be an agreed form of Cornish for use within these limited areas.
Outside of these uses more robust forms of Cornish must be permitted to exist. There are three basic philosophies about how Cornish should be revived and these differing philosophies are likely to continue and attract support for some time to come. The Standard Written Form is an amalgam of those philosophies.

Therefore, members of Agan Tavas will continue to study the historical Cornish texts and draw conclusions from those texts on the best way in which to present revived Cornish.

Agan Tavas believes that the Cornish language is a vital cultural link from Cornwall’s history and it has a strong future. We actively encourage new members to join us by downloading the membership form on this web site and become part of a forward looking and exciting movement.

Contact: Ray Chubb +44 (0)1209-842394 po ray@spyrys.org or print and send our membership form. Word or PDF