Welsh, an introduction.

Philip.Belben at powertech.co.uk Philip.Belben at powertech.co.uk
Wed Sep 8 08:17:30 EDT 1999





We may be wandering off topic here, but one or two things I didn't manage to say
in my last post...

> If you can get over the weird-looking letter agglomerations, Welsh is an
> amazingly intuitive language. Compared to the Gaelic Celtic languages (Scots
> and Irish), it's a breeze to pronounce. Every letter has only a couple
> sounds, and there are fewer sounds than English to start with.

Yes, I agree with that.  I've never understood those who claim that Gaelic is
easier to pronounce - especially since Scots and Irish have quite different
pronunciations of the same spellings.

> The tricks:
>
> VOWELS:
>
> w is always a vowel. If you think about it, it's basically a vowel in
> English, except when paired with an "h". Try saying "wombat" or
> "Wellington." As in Welsh, "W" is basically "oo".
>
> y is also always a vowel. the pronunciation is different from English. It be
> anywhere from a neutral "uh" to "ee", all pronounced with a roundness of
> tone that Welsh has throughout.

AFAIK, in theory y is "ee" in the last syllable of a word (or word-element)
only.  Elsewhere, and in monosyllables, it is between "oo" (South Wales) and
"uh" (North Wales, but the boundary isn't very well defined).  In practise
things are a bit looser, and there is an English influence...

> a is always "ah"
>
> o is always "oh"

u and i are always "ee" (so Cymru = "kumree")

and e is usually "eh".

But bear in mind that ei, ai, eu, au and ae are _all_ like the English long I.

> As in English, most vowels can tend toward a schwa (neutral) sound when in
> unaccented syllables
>
> CONSONANTS:
>
> ll: put your mouth in the shape to say "liquor", but instead of vocalizing
> the consonant, breathe through it (as you would to start "thicker". It
> sounds a bit like "hl"
>
> f is pronouced "v", and ff is pronounced "f"

I always say that f and ff are as in the English words "of" and "off"

> c is pronounced "g"

Most Welsh people I know pronounce it closer to K than to G, but again there is
a lot of regional variation.  Anyway it is never S.

> ch is as in Scots, only gentler, more forward in the mouth.

To which one must add:

dd is like "th" in "this" - th is more like the "th" in "thistle" (eth and thorn
respectively in anglo-saxon) but there is considerable overlap.

si is like sh, e.g. "siop" is pronounced - and means - "shop"

Finally, beware of borrowed words.  If a shop, sorry, siop, is selling "pysgod a
chips" you can be sure that the chips are pronounced the same as in English, and
are French fried potatoes :-) (that is how you spell pysgod isn't it?)

At which point I think my whole knowledge of Welsh, sorry, Cymraeg, is
exhausted...

Philip.





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