Porthmeor and MAGA.

Mark Woods is featuring Ben Nicholson’s painting Porthmeor Beach at wood s lot, and I wondered how to pronounce Porthmeor. I couldn’t find anything in a brief Google search, and was about to give up when I clicked on this page (the ‘Cornwall and Cornish’ category at John Maidment’s Blog, which seems to have a good deal of language-related material), which has both an aerial view of St. Ives that mentions “Porthmeor (‘great cove’)” and a link to the Standard Written Form Cornish dictionary online, published by the Cornish Language Partnership (MAGA). I used the search feature to look up porth “port/gate/harbour/haven, porch” in the Cornish section; since “meor” gave no results, I looked up great in the English section and found meur “great/grand/large/substantial,” pronounced [mø:r] in Middle Cornish and [me:r] in Late Cornish. So I not only learned that Porthmeor is (presumably) porth-MARE in an anglicized version, I found another fine online lexicographical resource to add to the sidebar.

Comments

  1. Cornish placenames often don’t follow the rules for the pronunciation of Cornish, I’m afraid (the influence of us Saxons, no doubt). June Lander’s little book on Cornish placenames (which gives their pronunciation as though it were English) says it’s Porth’MEAR.

  2. Here is Maidment on her book:

    http://blogjam.name/?p=9872

  3. Jeffry House says:

    Is there a relationship to Spanish “Puerta Mayor” or a Middle French/Latin equivalent?

  4. Welsh spelling would be Porth Mawr.

  5. Is there a relationship to Spanish “Puerta Mayor” or a Middle French/Latin equivalent?

    If you mean “are meor and mayor etymologically related?” the answer is no, they’re from different Indo-European roots, the first from mē-3 ‘big’ (suffixed o-grade form *mō-ro‑ > Gaelic mōr ‘big, great’) and the second from meg- ‘great’ (suffixed comparative form *mag-yo‑ > Latin māior ‘greater’).

  6. Jeffry: “porth”, on the other hand, is indeed related to Spanish “puerta” and “puerto”, in the sense that the Cornish word is borrowed from the spoken Latin of the British Isles (where it probably had the forms */portu/, /porta/): the same is true of Welsh “porth”.

    It most certainly cannot be a cognate going back to Indo-European: Indo-European *p was reduced to zero in Proto-Celtic, and in Welsh/Cornish/Breton Proto-Celtic *kw subsequently became *p, so a true Latin cognate of a Cornish, Welsh or Breton with /p/ would have a corresponding /kw/. Cf. Welsh “pedwar” corresponding to Latin “quattuor”, both meaning “four”.

    Conversely, a Latin word with a /p/ going back to a Proto-Indo-European */p/ would correspond to zero in any Celtic language: cf. Latin “palma” and Welsh “llaw” (meaning “palm” and “hand”, respectively: the Welsh form goes back to an earlier */lama/).

  7. Jeffry House says:

    Thanks, gentes! Illuminating.

  8. “they’re from different Indo-European roots, the first from mē-3 ‘big’ (suffixed o-grade form *mō-ro‑ > Gaelic mōr ‘big, great’) and the second from meg- ‘great’ (suffixed comparative form *mag-yo‑ > Latin māior ‘greater’).”

    Those are different roots of course, but they sure do look related.

  9. (suffixed o-grade form *mō-ro‑ > Gaelic mōr ‘big, great’)

    Except the earliest attested form of mōr is mār, cf. Welsh mawr and Gaulish -MAROS..

  10. David Marjanović says:

    Well, that’s what you get from not reconstrucing laryngeals. Such a construct as *mē- violates well-known constraints of PIE phonotactics.

  11. Well, if you check the IE roots page I linked to, they add “Oldest form *meh1‑,” which I cropped for simplicity.

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