The Welsh language


                      ( )

                             The Welsh language

                        . .  , 10 

                     . .
                         (  )

                              . , 1999

                             he Welsh language

                        . .  , 10 


  The Welsh language, like most of the languages of Europe,  and  many
of those of Asia, has evolved from what linguists term  Indo-European.
Indo-European  was  spoken  about  6000  years  ago  (4000  BC)  by  a
seminomadic people who lived in the steppe region of Southern  Russia.
Speakers of the languages migrated eastwards and westwards;  they  had
reached the Danube valley by  3500  BC  and  India  by  2000  BC.  The
dialects of Indo-European became much differentiated, chiefly  because
of migration, and evolved into separate languages. So  great  was  the
variety among them that it was not until 1786 that the  idea  was  put
forward that a Family of Indo-European languages actually  exists.  In
the twentieth century Indo-European languages are spoken in a wide arc
from Bengal to Portugal, as well as in countries  as  distant  as  New
Zealand and Canada, to which they have been  carried  by  more  recent
emigrants. The Indo-European Family is generally considered to consist
of nine different brunches,  which  in  turn  gave  rise  to  daughter
languages. Welsh evolved from the Celtic brunch,  as  did  its  sister
languages - Breton, Cornish, Cumbric, Irish, Scots Gaelic and Manx.
  ornish was a language  of  people  who  lived  in  Britain  in  the
Cornwall inlet and died out towards the end of the eighteenth century.
Dorothy Pentreath, who died in 1777, is usually considered to  be  the
last native speaker of Cornish. Manx was spread on the Isle of Man  in
the Irish Sea, survived until well into the second half of the present
sentury and the last native speaker died at the age  of  97  in  1974.
Other languages are still alive and a lot of people talks on them. But
nevertheless all this languages developed from the Celtic language and
the people who used this language were the Celts.
  The Celts is a group of  people  who  were  classified  as  such  by
communities  who  belonged  to  a  separate  cultural  (and  literate)
tradition. Celtic area is considered to be  the  north  of  Alps   and
beyond the Mediterranean. It was observers from mediterranean lands of
Greece  and  Rome  who  called  their  neighbours  Celts.  But   today
scientists ask the question who the Celts really are. The  problem  of
defining what is meant by the terms "Celt" and "Celtic" centres around
the relationship, if any,  between  material  culture,  ethnicity  and
language. Judging by archaeology, documentary sources  and  linguistic
material the scientists came to the conclusion that by  the  last  few
centuries BC, Celtic  territory  stretched  from  Ireland  to  eastern
Europe and beyond, to Galatia (see map). The  Celts  were  technically
advanced. They knew how to work  with  iron,  and  could  make  better
weapons than the people who used bronze.
  Early linguistic evidence for the Celts is  extremely  rare  because
northern Europe was non-literate during most of the  first  millennium
BC. When writing was adopted in the Celtic world  in  the  late  first
millennium it appeared almost  entirely  in  Greek  and  Latin.  Early
Celtic evidence consists of inscriptions, coin legends and  the  names
of people and places contained within classical documents.
  Now I would like to  tell  about  the  Brittonic  brunch  of  Celtic
languages, which was spread over the territory of Britain. Because  of
our knowledge of the Celts is slight, we do not even know for  certain
how Britain became Celtic. Some scholars think that the Celts  invaded
Britain, another - that they came  peacefully,  as  a  result  of  the
lively trade with Europe about 750  BC  on  wards.  But  we  know  for
certain that the language introduced into Britain was similar to  that
spoken in Gaul (the territory of Celts in Central Europe); indeed, the
Celtic speech of Gaul and Britain at the dawn of the historic era  can
be considered as one  language,  frequently,  referred  to  as  Gallo-
Britonic. Three successor languages of Brittonic evolved:  Cumbric  in
southern Scotland and north-west England, Welsh in Wales  and  ornish
in south-west Britain. The speakers of all three of them were known by
their Anglo-Saxon neighbours as Wealas, or Welsh. The word is  usually
considered to mean foreigner, but it can also  mean  people  who  have
been Romanized. To describe themselves,  the  Welsh  and  the  Cumbric
speakers adopted the name Cymry and  called  their  language  Cymraeg.
Cymry comes from the Brittonic combrogi (fellow  countryman)  and  its
adoption marks a deepening sense of identity.
  It is very interesting to show common and different  things  between
the words  of  these  languages.  You  can  sea  these  comparison  in
following table.
                            Cognate Celtic words
|welsh           |breton          |Irish           |gaelic          |
|ty (house)      |ti              |teach           |tight           |
|ci (dog)        |ki              |cu              |cu              |
|du (black)      |du              |dubh            |dubh            |
|cadair (chair)  |kador           |kathaoir        |cathair         |
|gwin (wine)     |gwin            |fion            |fion            |

  You see that almost all words are similar to each other, thats  why
they were united in one brunch.
  The transition from Brittonic to Welsh took place somewhere  between
400 and 700 AD. The  major  problem  in  tracing  this  transition  in
paucity of evidence. Not a sentence of  Brittonic  has  survived.  The
language was almost certainly written down, but the writing  materials
used more probably perishable, the more highly  esteemed  Latin  being
used  for  permanent  inscriptions.  Brittonic,  like  Latin,  was   a
synthetic language; that is, much of its meaning  was  conveyed  by  a
charge in the endings of words, as in Latin puella (girl), puellae (to
the girl), puellarum (of the girls). In  an  analytic  language,  like
Welsh, the relation of one word to another is conveyed by the  use  of
prepositions or by the placing of the word  in  the  sentence.  It  is
difficult  to  date  the  change  from  synthetic  to  analytic,  from
Brittonic to Welsh, with any certainty. It is generally accepted  that
it had occurred by about 600 AD but it may have  taken  place  in  the
spoken language much earlier. The most obvious sign of the change  was
the loss of the final syllables of nouns; when bardos (poet),  aratron
(plough) and abona (river) had become bardd, aradr and afon, Brittonic
had become Welsh.
  There are four periods in the history of the Welsh language:  early,
old, middle and new. Early Welsh,  a  phase  in  the  history  of  the
language, extending from its beginning to about 850, only survives  in
a few inscriptions and marginal notes or glosses. The most interesting
of the inscriptions is that on a memorial in the Paris church of Tywyn
in eirionnydd. It was carved in about 810 and consist  of  the  words
cingen celen tricet nitanam  (the  body  of  Cingen  dwells  beneath).
Although the inscription incomprehensible to the Welsh speaker of  the
present day, the words celen, tricet, and tan (in nitanam) are related
to the modern forms celein (corpse), trigo (dwells) and dan (beneath).
In that time took place the influence of Latin and Irish.  The  Romans
invaded Britain in 43 AD and their power had collapsed by 410  AD  and
Britannia ceased to be the part of the Empire. Of  course  during  all
that period Latin was influxing Welsh because it was the  language  of
law and administration.
                       Words of Latin origin in Welsh
|WELSH                            |LATIN                          |
|pont (bridge)                    |pons                           |
|eglwys (church)                  |ecclesia                       |
|lleeng (legion)                  |legio                          |
|ystafell (room)                  |stabellum                      |
|trawst (joist)                   |transtrum                      |
|bresych (cabbage)                |brassica                       |

  Ireland never experienced Roman occupation but its settlers  created
colonies in western Britain before the collapse of  the  Empire.  They
were numerous in north-west Wales. Thats why there are a lot of Irish
place-names; for example Dinllaen, Gwynedd, and  a  lot  of  words  of
Irish origin appeared in Welsh: cadach(rag),  cnwc  (hillock),  talcen
(forehead), codwm (fall).
  Old Welsh, the succeeding phase in  the  history  of  the  language,
extends from about 850 to 1100. Again the evidence is  slight  of  the
material that has indubitably survived  unchanged  from  that  period,
there is little beyond marginal notes and a few brief texts and poems.
Approximately in 930 a few settlements or Norse appeared in Britain. I
don't  think  that  the  norsemen  influenced  greatly  on  the  Welsh
language, because only one Welsh word - iarll, from iarl (earl)  -  is
indisputably a Norse borrowing, but  they  influenced  English  (ugly,
rotten and husband - borrowings from Scandinavian language) and  Scots
  Thus, by the end of the eleventh century, Welsh was a rich,  supple,
and versatile language. It had an oral literary  tradition  which  was
one of the longest in Europe. It had an enviable  coherence,  for  the
literary language was the same in old parts of Wales.  It  was  spoken
throughout the land to the west of Offa's Dyke and in some communities
to the east of it. It was deeply rooted in the territory of the people
who spoke it. They had used  it  to  name  their  churches  and  their
settlements, their rivers and their hills.  Following  the  Battle  of
Hastings in 1066, it came face to face with the French of the Normans.

  The victory of William of Normandy led to the expropriation  of  the
land of England by the knew king and his followers.
  French words become assimilated  into  Welsh  (cwarel  (windowpane),
palffrai (palfrey), ffiol (viol), barwn  (baron),  gwarant  (warrant))
and Welsh literature  come  to  be  influenced  by  French  forms  and
conventions. A few places in Wales, such as Beaupry, Beaumaris,  Grace
Dieu and Hay (la Haie Taillee) were  given  French  names  and  Norman
French personal names - Richard, Robert and  William,  for  example  -
eventually won popularity among the Welsh.
  As a result of population movements  English  has  been  the  spoken
language of some communities in Wales for at least 800  years.  Thats
why in Welsh appeared words from it: capan (cap), sidan (silk),  berfa
(wheelbarrow), bwrdd (table), llidiart (gate). But despite the  influx
of French and English speakers, Wales remained  overwhelmingly  Welsh-
speaking throughout the Middle Ayes and beyond. In most of the marcher
lordships - Brecn and Abergovenny, for example - the vast majority of
the population was monoglot Welsh, and in lordships  such  as  nockin
and lun and Huntingdon and Clifford the Welsh speaker population  was
  Indicative of the growth of English influence was  the  adoption  of
fixed  surnames,  after  the  English  pattern,   instead   of   Welsh
patronymics. Thus Richard ap Meurig ap Lleurig apliywelyn of  Bodorgan
up Gwilym of Brecon become Richard Meyrick, and John ap Rhys Gwilym of
Brecon become John Price. Most of the new surnames were based upon the
father's Christian name - Jones (John),  Davies  (David),  Powell  (ap
Hywel), but some were based on a nick-name -  Lloyd  (Llwyd  -  grey),
Voyle (Moel - bald), an occupation - bought (Gof  -  blacksmith).  The
changes had occurred among the gentry by the mid-sixteenth century and
virtually completed among all classes by the late seventeenth century,
but as late as the mid-nineteenth century there are examples of a  son
taking his Father's Christian name as his surname.
  From the seventeenth century, in the  era  of  industrialisation  in
Welsh language changes took place.  The  growth  of  industry  allowed
Wales to sustain far more people than had been possible under the  old
agricultural economy. Some of them came from  beyond  the  borders  of
Wales. In 1851, the Welsh population included 115000  people  born  in
England and 20000 born in Ireland. Of course they took their languages
with them, which little by little mixed with Welsh. But most of  areas
were Welsh-speaking and, in colonising their  own  country  the  Welsh
brought their language from the countryside to the towns.  Thats  why
alone among the Celtic languages, Welsh has had a considerable  degree
of success in becoming an urban tongue.  By  1851,  large  numbers  of
Welsh speakers lived in mass urban communities in which  the  language
could be used  in  a  new  range  of  activities.  Also  in  the  late
eighteenth and early nineteenth  centuries  was  widely  practised  in
Wales the coining of new words, which has been greatly  stimulated  by
the needs of modern  society.  Cyfrifiaduron  (computers)  with  their
maddal medd (software) and caledwedd (hardware) are one  of  the  many
fields in which a new Welsh terminology has  been  invented.  Coinages
such as darllediad (broadcast), tonfedd (wave length) and  orian  brig
(peak hours) trip naturally off the tongues  of  broadcasters.  Sports
commentaries lead to a wide range of neologisms, with those for  rugby
(the work of Eric Davies) being particularly apt and idiomatic.  Words
old and new have been collected in the most ambitions  lexicographical
project yet undertaken in Wales.
  Analysing all the information about Welsh-speakers I  made  a  table
which I called "Development of Welsh-speaking population in Wales".
             Development of Welsh-speaking population in Wales.

|years            |welsh-speaking population     |% of total population |
|1891             |910280                        |54,4                  |
|1901             |929824                        |49,9                  |
|1911             |977366                        |43,5                  |
|1921             |922092                        |37,1                  |
|1931             |909261                        |36,8                  |
|1951             |714686                        |28,9                  |
|1961             |656002                        |26,0                  |
|1971             |542425                        |20,9                  |
|1981             |508207                        |18,9                  |
|1991             |510920                        |18,7                  |

  As you see from the table, the Welsh-speaking  population  of  Wales
reduces greatly on 1931-51. The main reason of it is the Second  World
War. And it also reduced greatly from 1961 till  1971.  I  don't  know
exactly, but it seems to me the main reason from it is the problems in
the industry (mostly in coal-mining) and migration.
  Also, the population of Welsh-speaking people  was  decreasing  from
1921 to 1971, and was increasing  from  the  beginning  of  the  Welsh
language to 1911 and from 1981 till our days.  At  once  the  question
arises: "What happened in 1981?" There are  a  lot  of  factors  which
influenced the growing of Welsh-speaking  population  from  the  1981.
They are:  development  of  education  in  Welsh,  appearance  of  the
periodical press and books in Welsh, creation of radio and TV stations
in Welsh, appearance of "institutions" which protect  the  Welsh,  and
the growing of national identity. Of  course  all  this  factors  were
present in the 1950s and 1970s, but in 1990s they were in its heyday.
  It is very interesting to say that many pupils who learn Welsh think
that Welsh is not a difficult language to learn and that it is  easier
to  learn  than  English.  Unlike  English,  it  has  the  inestimable
advantage of being largely phonetic; that is, the words are pronounced
as they are written, with non of the confusion which arises in English
over such words as cough, bough, through, though and  thorough.  While
English has several letters (g, h and k, for example) which are  often
not pronounced at all, every letter in Welsh is pronounced.
  The Welsh alphabet consists  of  twenty  simple  letters  and  eight
digraphs (two letters combining to produce a different sound, as  with
ch and th), an unusual feature to include in an alphabet. Welsh has no
j,  k,  q,  l,  x  or  z.  Most  of  the  simple  letters  present  no
difficulties, but it should be noted that c is  always  pronounced  to
correspond with the English k, f with v and s with ss.
  The Welsh alphabet:
  a b c ch d dd e f ff g ng h i l ll m n o p ph r rh s t th u w y
  Pronunciation of digraphs:
|ch as in loch                    |ll ch followed by l              |
|dd as in that                    |ph as in pharmacy                |
|ff as in fair                    |rh as in Rhein                   |
|ng as in singing                 |th as in thin                    |

  In almost all Welsh words, the stress falls on  the  last  syllable,
but one: gorymdaith; athro; ammnydifad.  In  those  cases  where  the
stress falls on the last syllable, it  is  usually  the  result  of  a
contraction in the word: Cymraeg was originally Cym-ra-eg, and paratoi
pa-ra-to-i. Some words borrowed from English also retain the  original
accentuation: apel; polisi; paragraff.
  The noun has two genders, masculine and  a  feminine.  The  "it"  of
English doesn't exist.
  As an French everything is either "he"  or  "she".  Some  adjectives
have masculine and feminine forms. Thus gwyn (white)  is  (g)wen  when
following a feminine forms. Some adjectives  also  have  singular  and
plural forms. Dyn tew is a fat man,  dynion  tewnion  fat  men.  Where
plurals are concerned, Welsh  recognises  that  some  things  come  in
pairs. Thus llaw (hand) has the plural dwylaw (two hands).  To  anyone
used to English plurals, with almost  universal  addition  of  s,  the
variety of Welsh plural forms can appear wilfully multifarious.  There
are seven ways of forming the plural.

  Plural forms in Welsh:
  adding a termination: afal (apple) afalau
  vowel change: bran (crow) brain
  adding a termination with a vowel change: mab (son) meibion
  dropping a singular ending: pluen (feather) plu
  dropping a singular ending with a vowel change: hwyadden (duck)
  substituting a plural for a singular ending: cwningen (rabbit)
  substituting a plural ending for a singular with vowel change:
miaren (bramble) mieri

  The numerals in Welsh also have distinctive features. Twenty is the
basic unit in counting: ugain (twenty), deugain (two twenties -
forty), trigain (three twenties - sixty), pedwar ugain (four twenties
- eighty), followed by cant (a hundred) and sometimes by chwe ugain
(six twenties - a hundred and twenty). The teens offer interesting
complications: fourteen is pedwar ar ddeg (four plus ten), and
eighteen is deunaw (two nines).
  In English, the order of the words in  sentence  is  subject,  verb,
object, indirect object. (The girl gave a book to her friend) In Welsh
it is verb, subject, object, indirect object:
                   Rhoddodd   y ferch   lyfr          i'w chyfaill
                   Gave           the girl   a book    to her friend
  This order can be varied for the  sake  of  emphasis  or  to  ask  a
                   Ceffyl     a welodd      y plentyn?
                   Horse     saw              the child    (Was  it  a
horse the child saw?)
  The adjective is almost always placed after the  noun.  When  it  is
not, the meaning may be different. Ci unig means  a  lonely  dog,  but
unig gi means the only  dog;  hen  gyfaill  means  a  friend  of  long
standing, but cyfaill hen means an aged friend.
  The genitive expressed in English by an apostrophe s,  is  expressed
in Welsh by putting what is owned immediately  before  the  owner:  ci
Lowri - Lowri's dog; ty y dyn - the man's house.
  It is very interesting to say that written Welsh  and  spoken  Welsh
are very different. For a example, it  is  continued  use  in  written
Welsh of the ending nt in the third person plural of the verb,  as  in
daethant (they came), which in speech becomes daethan. Another example
is hwy, which in speech becomes nhw.
  I sing in standard written Welsh is canaf, but  the  usual  spoken
form is yr wyf i canu (I am singing). This use of the verb to  be  (yr
wyr) with the verb noun (canu) may have been inherited by the incoming
Celts from the pre-Celtic population. The construction has been copied
in English to give the form I am singing, a construction  not  found
in other Germanic languages.
  Although Welsh has no indefinite article. Thus, the dog is y ci, but
a dog is simply ci. This a feature Welsh shares with the other  Celtic
language, as is the conjugation of prepositions  and  the  absence  of
over purpose words for years and no.
  Although Welsh has  absorbed  words  from  other  languages,  Latin,
French and particularly English among them, its  basic  vocabulary  is
still largely of Celtic origin. This is also true  of  more  technical
words.  Thus,  while  English  words  such  as  national,   political,
industrial and philosophical have equivalents in French,  German,  and
other European languages which are very similar, Welsh  uses  its  own
indigenous  words    cenedlaethol,   gwleidyddol,   diwydiannol   and
athronyddol. Indeed, it has a very considerable ability to coin  words
from its resources, although the sloppy speech of many Welsh-speakers,
overloaded as it is with unnecessary English borrowings, can give  the
contrary impression.
  The Welsh language has survived at all. Since the act  of  union  in
1536 when it was virtually banned, it has been subjected to direct and
indirect bombardment which should have demolished it once and for all.
It has been neglected and discouraged for over four hundred years  yet
it is still very much alive. Today it is tolerated by  many,  rejected
by many. It is used by a large number of people as a natural means  of
  Now the scholars discussed the problem of the position of the  Wales
language. It could be claimed that its position is  precisely  in  the
centre, a point emphasised by Tom Nail in his  analysis  of  the  non-
state nationalities of Europe. Although the Welsh-speakers are  by  no
means among the larger groups, Welsh has  a  far  higher  status  than
several of the more widely  spoken  languages.  Although  the  density
factor if fairly low, Welsh-speakers live  in  a  country,  the  other
inhabitants of which recognise their  kinship  with  the  language,  a
bonus of immerse importance. The centrality of Welsh is interesting in
itself. It may also be important, for if Welsh can solve its problems,
other languages can hope to do so too


1. Davies Janet, The Welsh language, Cardiff, 1993.
1. Green Mirinda, The Celtic World, London, 1996.
2. Williams Stephen, A Welsh grammar, Cardiff, 1995.
3. McDowall David, An illustrated history of Britain, London, 1995
4. Khimunina T.N., Customs, traditions and Festivals of Great Britain,
  Moscow, 1984.
5. Zaitseva S. D., Early Britain, Moscow, 1975.
6. Discover Welsh, London, 1997.
7. Clementiyev A.G., English literature, Moscow, 1968.

"The Welsh language"