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The Welsh Language

Among the six thousand or so languages of the world the Welsh language is of an unusual but not rare type. Almost ninety percent of the languages of the world have sentence structures that are either Subject-Verb-Object like English or Subject-Object-Verb like Japanese. Welsh is one of the about nine percent which have the structure Verb-Subject-Object. With that sentence structure and the modification of the beginning rather than the end of a word to indicate some grammatical features Welsh appears to be a very strange language indeed to English speakers.

The vocabulary of Welsh however is not so exotic. Many of the words, particularly for of modern things, have been borrowed from English. The spelling may nevertheless make a familiar word seem exotic.

Here are the letters of Welsh and their nearest English equivalents.

Welsh Letters and Their Sounds
A/aa:long a as in father
ashort as in ash
B/bbas in bed
C/ckas in cat
Ch/chxas in Scottish loch
D/ddas in dawn
Dd/ddðas the th in the
E/eelong e as in egg
εshort e as in hen
F/fvas in veil
Ff/fffas in fan
G/gghard g as in go
NG/ngas in sing
H/hhas in horse
I/iilong as ee in eel
as in bit
jas y in yes
J/jdzas in jar
L/llas in lake
Ll/lllno equivalent
M/mmas in man
N/nnas in nut
O/oolong o as in bone
oshort o as in not
P/ppas in pet
Ph/phfas in phone
R/rrtrilled r as in horrid
Rh/rhr·aspirated trilled r
S/ssas in sea
Si/sias sh in shore
T/ttas in turn
Th/thθas in thing
U/uilong as ea in east
ishort as in dim
W/wu:as oo in food
uas oo in book
Y/yi:long clear as ea in lean
ishort clear as i in pin
Λobscure as u in utmost

The LL sound in Welsh is roughly equivalent to the sound produced by putting the tip of the tongue to the roof of the mouth and articulating a heavily aspirated H.


Personal Pronouns

First Personfi or ini
Second Person
Second Person
Third Person
Third Person

The Present Tense Conjugation of bod (to be)

First Personyr wyf i or iyr ydym ni
Second Person
yr ydych chwi
Second Person
yr wyt ti
Third Person
y mai efy maent hwy
Third Person
y mae hi

The words yr and y in the above table are particles with no literal meaning.

The Present Participle of Verbs

The present participle of a verb in Welsh is formed by preceding it with the word yn. For example, the work for to play is chwarae so playing is yn chwarae. The present tense in Welsh can be formed by adding the present particple of the verb to the appropriate form of bod (to be). For examples consider:


There is no indefinite article (a and an in English) in Welsh. The definite articles (corresponding to the in English) are y, yr and 'r. The rules for their use are:

When the definite articles (y, yr, 'r) before a singular feminine noun the initial sound in the noun is changed in a systematic way called mutation. This is described below. Mutation does not occur for masculine nouns or for plural feminine nouns. All nouns are either masculine or feminine.

Mutation of the Initial Sound
of Singular Feminine Nouns Induced
by the Definite Article

The Formation of Plurals

In Welsh nouns and some adjectives may have plural forms. The plural form may be generated by several different different methods, but the most common is the first one listed below:

Formation of Negatives

Welsh forms a negative by bracketing the affirmative with two special markers in the same way as does French with ne....pas. The negative markers in Welsh are nid.....ddim. The negation of the forms of bod (to be) are:

First Personnid ywyf i ddim
nid ywyf i
nid yr ydym ni ddim
Second Person
nid ydych chwi ddim
Second Person
nid wyt ti ddim
nid yr ydwytwyt ti ddim
Third Person
nid ydym ef ddimnid ydynt hwy ddim
Third Person
nid yw hi ddim
nid ydyw hi ddim

The Formation of a Question

In spoken Welsch the rising inflection of the voice signals that a question is being asked. In written Welch a particle A is used to indicate a question. The conjugation of bod (to be) in question form is as follows:

First PersonA wyf i?
A ydwyf i?
A ydym?
Second Person
A ydych chwi?
Second Person
A wyt ti?
A ydwytwyt ti?
Third Person
A yw ef?
A ydyw ef?
A ydynt hwy?
Third Person
A yw hi?
A ydyw hi?

Welsh does not have a word equivalent to yes so a question must be answered by a statement, preferably by an emphatic statement. In the above table, when a second version of a statement is given that second version is more emphatic than the first version.

(To be continued.)

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