Pronunciation of Welsh
Hang in there, we'll get to ll soon enough.
Welsh has seven vowel
s, a e i o u w y
. These can occur short or long; sometimes length is indicated by a circumflex
, as e.g. â
. I can't do the HTML for w^
but they do occur: cw^n
W is a vowel pure and simple, long or short as in English took or pool. (Exception: it's a consonant in the group gw.) U is pronounced like i in South Wales, and in North Wales it's further back than that. Y is a neutral vowel when stressed and like i when unstressed. It's unstressed in a few common words like y, yr 'the', yn 'in', fy 'my'. Stress is usually on the second-last syllable. The diphthongs include ae, ai, aw, ei, ew, oe, wy.
Of the consonants:
- th is like English TH in thin
- dd is like English TH in then
- ch is as in loch, chutzpah
- f is like English V
- ff and ph are like English F
- rh is a voiceless R
- si before another vowel is like English SH.
What's that? You want to know about ll
? Well it's a voiceless palatal lateral fricative
. Um, short of finding you a native speaker
that's the best I can do. A goose
hissing. The closest English (and it isn't at all close) is CL... perhaps try CTHL. For some speakers it's a lateral affricate
: see my node lateral fricative
for more details.
The basic word order is verb
first, then subject. The verb has an initial particle indicating statement, negative
, or question
. Here is 'to be
' in the present tense, in the literary language:
yr wyf i = I am
yr ydych chwi = you are
y mae hi = she is
y mae ef = he is
yr ydym ni = we are
y maent hwy = they are
In modern spoken Welsh the initial particle is omitted and some of the other words are shorter: dych chi etc.
The imperfect tense is:
yr oeddwn i = I was
yr oeddech chwi = you were
yr oedd hi = she was
yr oedd ef = he was
yr oeddem ni = we were
y oeddent hwy = they were
The future tense is different again:
byddaf i = I will be
byddwch chwi = you will be
bydd hi = she will be etc.
There does exist an inflected past tense for all verbs, e.g. darllen 'read' goes:
darllenodd hi etc.
But generally other verbs are formed with 'to be' and the preposition yn 'in':
yr wyf i yn darllen = I am reading
yr oedd ef yn siarad = he was speaking
byddwch chwi yn dysgu = you will learn
A question is formed by changing the initial particle to a, a negative uses ni(d) or na(c), and there are are other changes such as mae being replaced by ydyw. Let's move on.
Nouns are either masculine or feminine, with no real predictability. Plurals are formed with a variety of endings, with no real predictability: dyn 'man', dynion 'men', geneth 'girl', genethod 'girls', afal 'apple', afalau, and a few others; plus umlaut as in bachgen 'boy', bechgyn 'boys', and oddities like plentyn 'child', plant 'children'.
Adjectives generally follow nouns, and some have feminine and plural forms of their own. As well as an inflected comparative and superlative, they have an equative form, as in "as big as...".
One very characteristic feature of Welsh, and of other Celtic languages, is mutation. This is a change of the initial sounds of words for a grammatical reason or because of some preceding word or sound. The system of mutation is quite complicated and absolutely pervades the language.
It may be illustrated with the word pensil 'pencil', and just the possessive pronouns. 'My pencil' is fy mhensil with nasal mutation, 'his pencil' is ei bensil with soft mutation or lenition, and 'her pencil' is ei phensil with aspirate mutation. See word-initial mutations in Celtic languages for more detail.
The numerals one to ten are un dau tri pedwar pump chwech saith wyth naw deg. Higher numbers are based on scores: ugain 'twenty'.