THE CORNISH LANGUAGE
Sir Walter Scott wrote:
“By Tre, Pol and Pen you shall know all true Cornishmen.”
Tony Oldham wrote:
“By Tre, Pwll and Pen you shall know all true Welshmen.”
Both version mean: Town, Pool and Head [of a hill]
Cornish is very similar to Welsh and as a Welsh learner I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could recognise Cornish words like Aberplymm for Plymouth. Aber being the estuary or mouth of a river. Poldhu, means "black pool”. The Welsh is Pwllddu.http://www.omniglot.com/writing/cornish.htm
accessed 041013 “Cornish (Kernewek/Kernowek/Kernuak/Curnoack).
“Cornish is a Celtic language closely related to Breton and Welsh spoken mainly in Cornwall (Kernow) and also by a few people in Australia and the USA. There are currently about 300 fluent speakers and many more people have some knowledge of the language.”
Cornish started to diverge from Welsh towards the end of the 7th century AD and the earliest known examples of written Cornish date from the end of the 9th century AD. These were in the form of glosses scribbled in the margins of a Latin text - Smaragdus' Commentary on Donatus. They were originally thought to be in Old Breton, but Prof. J. Loth showed in 1907 that they were in fact Old Cornish. Old Breton and Old Cornish were very similar and are easily confused.
Old Cornish was used from about 800-1250 AD and traces of it also survive in some place names in eastern Cornwall. The Cornish used between 1250 and 1550 is known as Middle or Medieval Cornish and quite a lot of literature from this period still survives, including religious plays, poems and sermons. Literature in Late or Modern Cornish, the type of Cornish used between 1550 and the end of the 19th century, includes folk tales, poems, songs, and translations from the Bible. At the end of the 19th century Cornish disappeared from everyday use and the last native speaker was probably John Davey of Zennor who died in 1891”
There is more about the last Cornish speaker, Dolly Pentreath, under Mousehole.
Then another source suggests the last Cornish speaker died in 1778. Reference:
REFORMATION TO INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION by Christopher Hill Vol 2 1530-1780 [in the series] The Pelican Economic History of Britain reprinted 1983 page 282.