Amlwch Data

Information about the history and and genealogy of Amlwch,Anglesey

A guide to the Welsh Language

History of the language

Welsh is one of the Celtic languages still spoken, perhaps that with the greatest number of speakers. The only natural communities of speakers are in that part of Britain which is called Wales, and a small colony in Patagonia (in the Chubut province of Argentina), although there are many speakers of Welsh elsewhere in the world.

The English names of the Welsh language (in Welsh, y Gymraeg) and the Welsh people (y Cymry) and Wales (Cymru) derive from a Germanic name for foreigners that crops up elsewhere in Europe in the same way, and which comes from a Latin name for a lost Celtic people, the Volcae.

 In the early part of the 1st millenium BC a powerful and brilliant society emerged in West Central Europe around the headwaters of the River Danube - these people were the Celts. By the 5th century BC the British Isles were Celtic with the existing native population being absorbed into the new culture.

The Celtic language in the British Isles consisted of two distinct groups; Giodelic (Gaelic or Q-Celtic) and Brythonic (British or P-Celtic). Gaelic was spoken in Ireland, the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, and the Isle of Man. The rest of Britain including Wales spoke Brythonic. With the Roman Invasion in 43AD onwards, the Brythonic language survived alongside latin, and some latin words were added to the language.

After the Roman withdrawal in the early 5th century AD, Germanic tribes came across the North Sea to colonise Britain. These groups (generally known as the Anglo-Saxons) spoke a language that was the precursor of the English language, and the Celts in south-eastern Britain were absorbed into their culture. The Celtic west resisted fiercely, but Anglo-Saxon victories at Dyrham near Bath in 577AD, and Chester in 616AD, isolated the Celts of Wales from the Celts of south-west Britain and Cumbria respectively. Many Celts fled from Britain to Brittany in France.

From then the Brythonic language developed seperately in Wales, Cornwall, Brittany and Cumbria, and the Welsh language was born. The Celtic language in Cumbria died out in the 14th century, but Welsh and Breton are still widely spoken, and Cornish having nearly died out is now experiencing a revival.

The next nearest relatives are the family of q-Celtic languages, of which modern representatives are the Gaelic languages of Ireland, Man and Western and Highland Scotland. The distinction between the p- and q- languages reflects the modification of certain initial consonants which are harder in the q-family than the p-family. (For example, Irish crann and Welsh pren, meaning tree; Irish capall, horse, is related to Welsh ebol, foal.)

Welsh is an Indo-European language, so is presumably descended like most (but not all) languages in modern Western Europe from something first spoken on the steppes of central Asia. Its immediate decent is from the Brythonic language or languages of Roman Britain. Conventionally one speaks of Early Welsh as being the development of that Brythonic precursor around the time when Britain fell to the Scandinavians, and Old Welsh as being the language of Wales between the ninth and eleventh centuries. Manuscripts of the laws of Hywel Dda and of early poetry date from this period; some of the earliest Welsh documents are of from the culture of the Hen Ogledd, the `Old North' (of what is now England and southern Scotland). Cymraeg Canol, Mediaeval Welsh, covers the period from the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries. Most extant manuscripts of the Mabinogi and such are from this period, although the stories are older.

The cywyddau of Dafydd ap Gwilym are examples of Early Modern Welsh, which covers the development over a period from about the fourteenth to the sixteenth century, and a flowering of the arts of language through the medium of Welsh. The publication of the Bible in Welsh in 1588 established a standard of language which governs the subsequent development of Late Modern Welsh, essentially unchanged as far as the present century.

The language of the Bible did much to establish a standard nationwide language, admittedly one more nearly like the speech of the North and North-West. Despite the influence of publication and in the twentieth century of broadcasting, there remain substantial differences of dialect between parts of Wales.

The welsh alphabet

a              short: "a" as in "ham", e.g., "mam"  long: "a" as in "hard", e.g., "tad"

b              as in "boy", e.g., "bara"

c              as in "cat" (never the "s" sound as in "cent"), e.g., "cant"

ch            a non-English sound as in Scottish "ch" in "loch", e.g., "bach"

d              as in "dog", e.g., "dros"

dd            "th" (voiced) as in "the" (never the voiceless "th" sound as in "thin, e.g., "bedd"

e              short: "e" as in "then", e.g., "pen" long: similar to "e" in "then spoken in a southern drawl, e.g., "hen"

f               as in "of", e.g., "afal"

ff             as in "off", e.g., "ffl"

g              as in "god", e.g., "glan"

ng           as in "long", e.g., "ing"

h              as in "hat", e.g., "hen"

i               short: "i" as in "sit", e.g., "inc" long: "ee" as in "seen", e.g., "hir"

j               as in "jam", e.g., "jar"

l               as in "lamp", e.g., "lol"

ll             an aspirated 'l' which does not occur in English, sounded by placing the tongue so as to say 'l' and hissing out of one side of the mouth, e.g., "llan"

m             as in "man", e.g., "mab"

n              as in "name", e.g., "nos"

o              short: "o" as in "gone", e.g., "llon"  long: as in "more", e.g., "to"

p              as in "pet", e.g., "pen"

ph            an aspirated 'p' occurring only as a mutated form, sounded as in "graph", e.g., "tri phen"

r              as in "rat", e.g., "caru"

rh            an aspirated 'r' which does not occur in English; the difference between 'rh' and 'r' is similar to that betwen 'wh' and 'w' in "when" and "went", e.g., "rhan"

s              as in "sit", e.g., "sant"

t               as in "top", e.g., "tan"

th            as in "thin", e.g., "cath"

u              short: as in "sit", e.g., "sut"  long: as in "seen", e.g., "un"

w             as in "wind", e.g., "wedi" short: as in "look", e.g., "cwm"  long: as in "fool", e.g., "mwg"

y              short: as in "sit", e.g., "cyn" (clear sound)  short: as in "gun", e.g., "yn" (obscure sound)  long: as in "seen", e.g., "dyn" (clear sound)

Notes:

1. There are no 'k' and 'q' in Welsh and 'y' is a vowel

2. There is no 'z' in Welsh, but the sound occurs in some borrowed words, in which case it is represented by 's', e.g., "sw"

3. Two consonants, 'n' and 'r', are sometimes doubled in written Welsh, e.g., "tynnu," "torri." Note that 'dd,' 'ff' and 'll' are not doubled, but are consonants in their own right.

4. When 'f' occurs at the end of words it is frequent silent, e.g., "ara" for "araf", but it is not incorrect to sound it.

5. A vowel is sometimes interposed between pairs of consonants at the end of words, e.g., "llyfyr" for "llyfr" and "cefen" for "cefn."

6. All vowels except 'y' have two sound only.

7. Sometimes the long vowel is marked by a circumflex, e.g., "cn" or "pl"

8. Apart from the obscure sound of 'y', 'i', 'u' and 'y' are pronounced in essentially the same way in South Wales. There are, however, differences between the three in North Wales.

9. The rules for the pronunciation of 'y' are as follows"

         Words of one syllable: The obscure sound occurs in a small group of words, e.g., "dy," "fy," "y," "yr," but otherwise the sound is clear. It may be short as in "mynd" or long as in "byd." Unless a circumflex is used (e.g., "ty^") there is no way of distinguishing the two cases

         Words of more than one syllable: In all syllables except the last, the sound is obscure, e.g., "byddaf." In the last syllable the sound is clear. It is short if the syllable ends in a consonant, e.g., "gelyn,", and long when no consonant follows, e.g., "gwely." Note that the obscure and open sounds can occur in the same word, e.g., "mynydd," "Cymry"

A guide to pronunciation of some welsh words

Welsh

Meaning

Example

Rough Pronunciation

aber

river mouth

Abersoch

abber-sauk

afon

river

Afon Dee

avv-on dee

bach, fach

small

Felinfach

velin-vahk

bont, pont

bridge

Pontnewydd

pont-naywith

bwlch

gap, pass

Bwlch

boolk

carreg

stone

Carreg Samson

karregg samson

cefn

ridge

Cefn-coed

kevenn-koid

coch

red

Castell Coch

kass-teth kauk

cwm

valley

Cwmfelin-fach

koom-velin-vahk

dinas

fort, city

Dinas Emrys

dinnass emm-riss

du

black

Cwmdu

koom-dee

eglwys

church

eglwyswrw

egg-lewis-oorroo

fawr, mawr

big

Fforest Fawr

forest vowr (rhymes with hour)

felin, melin

mill

Felinfach

velin-vahk

croes, groes

cross

Croesgoch

croiss-gauk

llan

church lands

Llanwrtyd

thlan-ooer-tid

llyn

lake

Llyn Brianne

thlin bree-annay

maes

field

Maesteg

mise-taig

mynydd

mountain

Mynydd Bach

munnith bahk

pen

top

Pen-y-bont

pen-a-bont

pistyll

waterfall

Pistyll Rhaeadr

pistith rye-adder

rhyd

ford

Rhydfelen

reed-vellen

Useful phrases

English

Welsh

Rough Pronunciation

thanks very much

diolch yn fawr

dee-olk unn vowr

please

plis

please

OK

iawn

yown (rhymes with gown)

good morning

bore da

bor-er dah

good afternoon

prynhawn da

prin-hown dah

good evening

noswaith dda

noss-wythe-ah

good night

nos da

noss dah

hello

s'mae

smye

cheerio, goodbye

hwyl

who-ill

 

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