William Pryce and the Cornish Language Revival

William Pryce, an antiquarian, surgeon, and mineralogist from the 18th century, played a significant role in the Cornish language revival through his scholarly efforts. Here’s a breakdown of his contributions:

1. Compilation and Publication of Linguistic Work:

  • Pryce collected linguistic data by engaging with older individuals, and integrated this information with earlier works by Thomas Tonkin and William Gwavas. This compilation led to the publication of ‘Archaeologia Cornu-Britannica’ in 1790, which aimed at preserving the ancient Cornish language (Cornwall Heritage).
  • His publication, ‘Archaeologia Cornu-Britannica’, encompassed the fundamentals of the Cornish dialect, including a Cornish Grammar and a Cornish-English Vocabulary. This work was a meaningful step towards the preservation and revival of the Cornish language (Bonhams).
  • ‘Archaeologia Cornu-Britannica’ provided a platform for learning the Cornish language, featuring conversational Cornish examples, poetry, prose, and a large vocabulary along with various assorted Cornish sentences (Kernowek).

2. Leveraging Previous Linguistic Collections:

  • Much of the material in ‘Archaeologia Cornu-Britannica’ was derived from the collections of Thomas Tonkin and William Gwavas, showcasing a consolidation of existing linguistic knowledge, albeit with some accusations of disingenuous representation (Wikisource).
  • This publication contained a vocabulary section spanning 64 pages and a grammar section, which were significantly based on earlier collections by Thomas Tonkin and William Gwavas. This acknowledgment was explicitly mentioned in the preface of the book (Wikipedia).

3. Promotion of Cornish Language Through Examples:

  • Pryce’s work presented examples of conversational Cornish, thus providing a practical resource for individuals interested in learning and reviving the language. His inclusion of poetry, prose, and various sentences in Cornish further enriched the learning material available for the Cornish language revival (Kernowek).

4. Identification of Remaining Cornish Speakers:

  • In his publication, Pryce, along with John Whitaker, mentioned the existence of two or three individuals known to them who could still speak Cornish, thus highlighting the critical state of the language during that period (Wikipedia).

Through his dedicated linguistic work and publication, William Pryce contributed significantly to the body of knowledge essential for the Cornish language revival, thus playing a crucial role in the efforts to preserve and promote this ancient dialect.