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I think in the year 1700 there were still a few adults in Cornwall whose usual mode of communication among themselves was the rapidly dying Cornish language, but only a tiny number of children could speak Cornish by that time. In the late 18th century, it was dead.

The series of novels about Ross Poldark, and the TV series inspired by them, is set in Cornwall in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

One peculiarity of language used in the TV show is the use of subjective forms of personal pronouns (I, we, he, she, they) in instances where in standard English the objective forms are used (me, us, him, her, them).

Our servant lives here in this house with we.

I saw she yesterday.

and so on.

How truthful is that? Did people in Cornwall at that time normally do that? Is that actually an influence of the Cornish language?

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  • Was it also spoken that way in Winston Graham's Poldark novels? I see you called it a "TV show" and British media is famous for fake West Country accents. Aug 11, 2023 at 23:05
  • @WeatherVane : I haven't read the novels, nor even browsed any of them for a moment? Aug 11, 2023 at 23:16
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    Is this the usage described in the last bullet point here in this list of features of West Country English grammar?
    – Rosie F
    Aug 12, 2023 at 6:37
  • @RosieF : Looks like it. So the question is whether this results from the influence of Cornish? Or might it also result from Welsh influence? Or neither of those? Aug 12, 2023 at 19:05

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It appears it is accurate, or at least, as accurate as it can be at this remove from the period in question. Wikipedia has collected some research:

Ross Poldark and the subsequent novel in the series (Demelza) have been analyzed by scholars who say that as the most popular fictional representations of Cornwall, they helped define a Cornish national identity.9 It does this in three ways: making frequent use of Cornish toponyms and proper names; frequent references to and descriptions of traditional Cornish trades and leisure activities; and the use of "local dialect to indicate the speech of the lower classes of the Cornish people [to] contrast it with the standard anglicised speech of the upper classes. It is the lowborn people who are the carriers of the Cornish identity."9 In her 2018 thesis, K.L.B. Herber argues for the idea that Ross Poldark's descriptions of setting and the way it introduces readers to Anglo-Cornish eye-dialect as important features of the text: "But perhaps more importantly, a vividly detailed setting is evoked through rich description and the inclusion of eye-dialect to evoke local Anglo-Cornish speech."2

  1. Herber, KLB (September 2014). Where a Misty Sea-line Meets the Wash of Air: Translating Anglo-Cornish Eye-dialect in Winston Graham's Poldark Novels. Utrecht University Depository.
  1. Blinova, Olga. Narrative and Linguistic Representation of Cornish Identity in Fiction and Screen Adaptations (the Case of Poldark). SSRN (28 May 2021).

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