Welsh

Welsh is a Brittonic language of the Celtic language family, spoken in Wales.

Basic Welsh phrases Learn

Hundreds of Welsh holiday phrases ordered by topic.

Basic phrases 1Learn

Welsh Numbers. 1 to 10 Learn

Days of the week in Welsh Learn

Months Learn

Fruit Learn

Food words. General Learn

Sample text in Welsh

An extract from the Welsh version of the Little Prince translated by Llinos Dafis and published by Cyhoeddiadau Modern Cymreig.

Y Tywysog Bach (the Little Prince)

Un tro, pan oeddwn i'n chwech oed, fe welais i lun godidog mewn llyfr am y fforest wyryfol, llyfr o'r enw "Hanesion Byw". Llun o neidr boa yn llyncu anifail gwyllt oedd e. Dyma gopi o'r darlun.

A long time ago, when I was six years old, in a book about primeval forests, called 'Living Stories', I saw a magnificant drawing. It was a picture of a boa constrictor in the act of swallowing an animal. Here is a copy of the drawing.

The Lords Prayer in Welsh

Gweddi'r Arglwydd yn Gymraeg

Ein Tad

Ein Tad yn y nefoedd,
sancteiddier dy enw;
deled dy deyrnas;
gwneler dy ewyllys,
ar y ddaear fel yn y nef.
Dyro inni heddiw ein bara beunyddiol;
a maddau inni ein troseddau,
fel yr ŷm ni wedi maddau i'r rhai a droseddodd yn ein herbyn;
a phaid â'n dwyn i brawf,
ond gwared ni rhag yr Un drwg.
Oherwydd eiddot ti yw'r deyrnas a'r gallu a'r gogoniant am byth. Amen.

See the Lords prayer in Breton, and also the Lords prayer in Manx for a comparison with one of the goidelic languages,

A brief history of the Welsh language

Cenedl heb iaith, cenedl heb galon: A nation without a language is a nation without a heart.

This group belongs to the Indo-European language family and is descended from earlier forms known as proto-Celtic which were spoken by Iron Age tribes across Europe. These tribes were not necessarily ethnically uniform and the term Celti had various meanings when used by contemporary Greek and Roman writers, though it tended to be applied to the barbarians of Western Europe. These had begun a series of major migrations towards the end of the 5th century BC, bringing them into conflict with neighbouring societies to the south and east. They raided and settled across Europe, reaching into Asia Minor and Spain as well as Italy, where they initially defeated Roman armies and sacked Rome itself. Of the languages they spoke, the sub-groups known as Brythonic or Brittonic and Goidelic are the only significant survivors. Welsh and Irish respectively are the main members of these two sub-groups. They are the direct descendants of the languages that would have been spoken by most people in the British Isles during the Iron Age until their gradual replacement by the various Germanic tongues which gave rise to modern English.

The Brythonic group also includes Breton which is now actively nurtured in Brittany. Cornish is closely related to Breton. It died out over a century ago but here have been recent attempts to revive it.

The earliest known forms of Welsh can be traced back to the 6th century, though very few examples remain. Some Old Welsh texts from between the 9th and 11th centuries AD have survived in the form of poetry from Wales and Scotland. The works of the renowned poets Taliesin and Aneirin would have been written in Old Welsh, though the books attributed to them, Canu Taliesin and Llyfr Aneirin are thought to have been compiled towards the end of the 13th century and the beginning of the 14th century and therefore represent for the most part a later development of the Welsh language known as Middle Welsh. Nonetheless both books contain examples of a more archaic form of Welsh and it is theorized that this older form would be close to the original versions which would have been handed down orally within the bardic tradition.

For example Llyfr Aneirin contains a purportedly contemporary account of the battle of Catraeth in which a force of warriors from Din Eidyn (Edinburgh) in the northern Brythonic kingdom of Gododdin were slaughtered by a combined army of Angles from the kingdoms of Deira and Bernicia. The poem is written as a contemporary elegy for the warriors killed in a battle which is thought to have taken place about 600 AD, predating the fall of Dyn Eidyn in 638.

Canu Taliesin is thought to date from the early 14th century, but the manuscript contains many poems attributed to Taliesin himself. The poems attributed to him suggest that he became court bard to the king of Powys in about 555, while later ones are addressed to King Urien of Rheged, a Brythonic kingdom centred on the Solway Firth region, in the ‘Old North’ (Hen Ogledd). The Book of Taliesin also contains the earliest Western vernacular version of the feats of Hercules and Alexander.

The next phase in the development of Welsh, Middle Welsh (Cymraeg Canol), which is broadly accessible to modern Welsh speakers, occurred during the 12th to 14th centuries and is notably represented by early legal manuscripts and by early mediaeval texts containing the group of stories that came to be known as the Mabinogion. These stories, which are suffused with pre-Christian myth and legend, are divided into the Four Branches of the Mabinogi, and are found in either or both of Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch (The White Book of Rhydderch) and Llyfr Coch Hergest (The Red Book of Hergest), which are thought to have been written between the middle of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th century.

A contemporary, Dafydd ap Gwilym, who flourished in the middle decades of the 14th century, brought Welsh poetry into the mainstream of European literature. He is recognised as one of the greatest Welsh poets, innovative both in his use of language and in his more personal and colloquial approach to his choice of subject matter. About 170 of his poems survive.

The 16th century produced important developments for Welsh: in 1546 the first book printed in Welsh appeared, Yn Yr Llyvyr Hwnn (In This Book) by Sir John Price of Brecon; Gruffud Robert published an important Welsh grammar in 1567; and William Morgan, who later became Bishop of Llandaff and then of St Asaph, translated the whole bible from Greek and Hebrew into Welsh for the first time. This was published in 1588 and was a landmark event in the survival of the Welsh language.

Despite increasing scholarly interest in Welsh language and culture during the 18th and 19th centuries, the language suffered from the dilution of native speakers by the influx of monoglot English workers as Welsh industry expanded. It was also exposed to active attempts to suppress it as well as being relegated to inferior status through the insistence of the governing powers that official business should be conducted in English. In other words Welsh suffered the fate of most indigenous languages when one culture is effectively colonised by another.

This decline began to be reversed in the second half of the 20th century through the increasingly effective pressure generated by organisations such as Plaid Cymru, a political party with a strong nationalist stance, and Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, the Welsh Language Society.

Welsh remains a minority language but is again growing in importance. Its status has been re-affirmed by legislation (The Welsh Language Act 1993 and the Government of Wales Act 1998), and it is taught compulsorily in schools up to the age of 16. BBC Radio Cymru was launched in 1977 and there has been a dedicated Welsh television service since 1982. Many tens of thousands of people currently speak or understand Welsh. The decline in Welsh appears to have been halted and to some extent reversed.

Welsh language learning

Learning Welsh is different from other languages in the sense that every native Welsh speaker is bilingual - also speaking English. So, you are free to choose the areas that interest you most without worrying about communication problems when you are visiting Wales.

Learning more than one language

Studying Welsh gives access to the oldest of the group of British languages including Breton, Cornish and Manx. It can be traced back to around the 6th century AD. The earliest surviving Welsh literature is poetry from this period by the poet Taliesin.

Not only is Welsh important historically but there is a flourishing literature, radio and television channels.

Welsh Mutation

The Welsh for Wales is Cymru but the Welsh version on the ‘Welcome to Wales’ signs you see when you enter the country reads ‘Croeso I Gymru’. The ‘c’ of Cymru has mutated to ‘g’, in this case undergoing soft mutation.

Mutation in Welsh is a process whereby the initial letter of a word changes in certain situations. It is a distinctive feature of the surviving Celtic languages, apparently not present among earlier mainland Celtic branches. Mutation in English can be seen in plurals e.g. roof/rooves, hoof/hooves, wife/wives; fox/vixen is a rare example of an initial mutation. Mutation is an example of lenition (lit. ‘weakening’), a common feature in the development of languages over time, whereby consonants become less strong, i.e. less vigorously expressed, in the course of a process which may end with a consonant being dropped altogether.

Welsh Pronunciation

Welsh words appear at first glance (especially in the form of place names) almost unreadable. It is in fact easier to read than English, once you have mastered the basics. The letters relate to the sounds (once you know a few rules). Even learning a few phrases and their pronunciation from this section will help.

Welsh Pronunciation. Vowels

Simple Vowels i.e. single vowels as opposed to clusters of two or three (diphthongs and triphthongs) have a ‘pure’ sound in Welsh. In this respect they are closer to continental vowels than to their English equivalents which have a tendency to ‘diphthongize’.

Welsh vowels are usually sounded with their full value in situations where English vowels are either swallowed or neutral (listen to potel - bottle - in Linguata Welsh: Eating. Items and to Te lemon in Food and Drink. At the Bar or Café. 1 ).

Welsh vowels can be short or long. You will find most of the following vowel sounds conveniently demonstrated in the three Linguata sections on Buying things.

A broad generalisation is that vowels in the many common monosyllabic words are short before consonant clusters, e.g. ffordd (road), bwrdd (table), pump (five, pron. pimp), before (unvoiced) consonants c p t, and before m and ng; long before the voiced consonants g b d f dd and before ch th ff and s. They are also long in open-ended monosyllables such as da (good), tŷ (house) and de (south).

An important group of one-vowel words are short: a (and) e (he, him) i (to) o (from) and y (the).

A : short as in ‘map’ versus long as in ‘tardy’, e.g. map (map) vs tad (father).

E : let/late, e.g. het (hat) vs beth (what).

I : dim/deep, e.g. dim (no) vs mis (month).

O : cot/pole, e.g. cot (coat) vs pob (every). Welsh long ‘o’ lies between ‘coat’ and ‘caught’.

U : similar to i in South Wales. Listen to Buying things. General phrases 1 & 2. There is no English equivalent to the N.Wales u, which is likened to an ‘ee’ produced at the back of the throat, with the tip of the tongue placed against the lower front teeth and its middle section raised towards the roof of the mouth.

W : cook/cool, e.g. cwm (valley) vs cŵn (dogs).

Y : hint/here, e.g. hynt (journey) vs hir (long). In addition to functioning like i above, y has a third sound, the ‘obscure’ sound, like the ‘u’ in ‘fur’, the ‘er’ in ‘paper’.

Note : i and w act as consonants in some words. For example, the i in arian (money) and iaith (language) sounds like the ‘y’ in ‘yard. W sounds like ‘w’ in ‘water’, as in gwyn (white, pron. gwin) and gwin (wine, pron. gween).

Resources

Welsh crossword for beginners.
Welsh Phrases ordered by topic.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/learnwelsh Interactive Welsh audio and video from the bbc.

Learning Method

Original

Language family

Celtic

Related languages

Breton
Cornish