Cornish Dialect


Cornish Dialect is the linguistic variety originating from West Saxon roots which has traditionally been spoken in Cornwall. It is variously referred to as Cornu-English, Anglo-Cornish and Kernesh. It is a significant element of Cornish culture and identity and has a distinctive character and history of its own. The form spoken in East Cornwall is more directly derived from West Saxon, reflecting the earlier retreat and comparatively lesser influence of the Cornish language (Kernewek), whilst the form spoken in West Cornwall is more heavily influenced by Cornish, reflecting its much later persistence in that area, as well as by Middle English. There is also a large transitional zone in central Cornwall.


Cornish Voices is a collaboration between Cornwall Heritage Trust, The Federation of Old Cornwall Societies, Gorsedh Kernow and Lowender.The project seeks to promote awareness of Cornish Dialect both as a modern medium of communication and part of Cornwall's cultural heritage. Visit Cornwall Heritage Trust's Dialect page or the Cornish Voices You Tube Channel to watch examples of dialect from Bude to West Penwith. 


As well as a means of everyday communication in modern Cornwall, Cornish Dialect can be a “Folk Art” used for storytelling, poetry, and songs. Sengen Fiddee is a collection of 34 such songs which use dialect to enhance the story line. The book is intended to record and re-affirm Dialect in song in Cornwall in the early 21st century. The origins of the songs are various. Many come from the folk tradition, others are modern songs, often written in a folk genre. Many have Cornish origins, but some started well outside the Duchy. Some are from early 20th century documentary sources. Some came from music hall, which continued in Plymouth into the 1950s. Some were popularised as a result of the 'folk revival' through the singing of Brenda Wootton and others. The only criterion for inclusion is popular adoption into the public domain. Click here to download a pdf e-book with lyrics and music plus a glossary of dialect words.

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