Cornish dialect

English dialect spoken in Cornwall

Cornish Dialect (also called Anglo-Cornish Dialect) is the dialect of the English language spoken in Cornwall.[1]

Cornish English, Cornish dialect
Native toUnited Kingdom
Language codes
ISO 639-3



A long time ago, people in Cornwall spoke the Cornish language. This is a language similar to Welsh and Breton. After a while, people speaking English came into Cornwall, and the Cornish people started to learn English. They didn't speak in exactly the same way as the people they learned English from, instead they spoke in a distinct way, the Cornish dialect of English. Eventually they forgot how to speak the original Cornish language by about the year 1800.

Transition from Cornish towards English within Cornwall

International use


Cornish people also spoke Cornish dialect when they went abroad to America and Australia and other places.



The Cornish dialect changes between the west and east of Cornwall. In the east, it is more like how people in Devon speak.

Differences between Cornish Dialect and 'proper' English


Sometimes Cornish people use different words to people who speak 'proper' English.[2][3] They might also say the words in a different order when they speak Cornish dialect from when they speak 'proper' English, which is a difference in grammar between Cornish dialect and 'proper' English.[4] Other times, they say the same words in a different way using different vowel sounds from 'proper' English.



When Cornish people started to go to school in the late 19th century, teachers told them to speak 'proper' English not dialect. A lot of people thought that people who spoke the dialect were not as intelligent and educated as those who spoke 'proper' English, so people spoke the dialect less, and the dialect declined. In the 20th century, a lot of people moved into Cornwall from the south east part of England near London. These people did not speak the Cornish dialect and found it hard to understand Cornish people who spoke it. The Cornish people spoke the dialect less because they did not want people not to be able to understand them.



As fewer people spoke the Cornish dialect, other people, such as people in the Old Cornwall Society, wrote down the dialect, and made audio recordings, so the dialect wouldn't be lost.



People have written books, short stories, and poetry in Cornish Dialect.


  1. "Old Cornwall Society dialect webpages". Federation of Old Cornwall Societies (Cornwall, United Kingdom). Archived from the original on 2011-06-22. Retrieved 2011-06-17.
  2. "Cornish Dialect Dictionary". Retrieved 2011-06-15.
  3. Fred Jago (1882). "The Ancient Language and the Dialect of Cornwall: with an enlarged glossary of Cornish provincial words; also an appendix, containing a list of writers on Cornish dialect, and additional information about Dolly Pentreath, the last known person who spoke the ancient Cornish as her mother tongue". Retrieved 2011-06-15.
  4. Phillipps, Ken C. (1993). A Glossary of the Cornish Dialect. Padstow, Cornwall: Tabb House. ISBN 0-907018-91-2.

Further reading

  • M. A. Courtney; T. Q. Couch: Glossary of Words in Use in Cornwall. West Cornwall, by M. A. Courtney; East Cornwall, by T. Q. Couch. London: published for the English Dialect Society, by Trübner & Co., 1880
  • Pol Hodge: The Cornish Dialect and the Cornish Language. 19 p. Gwinear: Kesva an Taves Kernewek, 1997 ISBN 0907064582
  • David J. North & Adam Sharpe: A Word-geography of Cornwall. Redruth: Institute of Cornish Studies, 1980 (includes word-maps of Cornish words)
  • Martyn F. Wakelin: Language and History in Cornwall. Leicester University Press, 1975 ISBN 0718511247 (based on the author's thesis, University of Leeds, 1969)

Other websites