Wednesday, 25 June 2008

ABC Wednesday - W is for...

...Welsh

Ever since joining ABC Wednesday I'd always planned W to be something to do with Wiltshire as it's where I live. However, last week's last minute holiday to an even bigger W, put paid to all of that. We may have only travelled a couple of hundred miles, but Wales certainly feels like being in a different country. The fact that around 40% of the population are native Welsh speakers plays a major part and we were staying and travelling around stronghold Welsh speaking communities in North Wales so got to hear it most of the time. The radios playing in shops are tuned to Welsh speaking stations, TV's Channel 4 shows the Welsh version and the word on the street is in it. In fact I was so entranced by the sound I even followed (surreptitiously I hasten to add) a young father and his toddler girl around Woolworths in Porthmadog just to hear them, in spite of having absolutely no idea of what they were actually talking about - probably something along the lines of 'Mind that mad woman following us Myffanwy - choose your toy and let's go and find mummy'.

Welsh is a living Celtic language (this also includes Cornish, Manx, Scots Gaelic, Irish and Breton - some extinct, others living) and is the most widely spoken of its type today as well as being Britain's oldest language. Whilst it's been repressed in the past, usage is increasing now thanks to its inclusion in the National Curriculum for Welsh schools plus the use of bilingual signage such as that shown in the above picture. As you can see it's totally different to English. For a start it has 7 vowels, instead of 5 as W and Y are included - that would make Countdown a bit more difficult to play eh? Also a number of double letters are counted as a single consonant - ch, dd, ff, ng, ll, ph, rh and th. Remember these will be fitted into single squares when completing a Welsh crossword! To counteract this explosion of consonants, there's no k, q, v or z.

NAH and I have had a lot of fun with a simple Welsh dictionary on holiday - deciphering place names, everyday words etc. So we know Llanegryn where we were staying means 'Church of' (Llan) and possibly Egryn as a saint's name. Nearby Tywyn translates as a 'sandy plain near a seashore'. We've also been continuing our definitive guide to Bara Brith (= speckled/ mottled bread) whilst we've been away. This is a delicious, gooey tea bread and the station tearoom at Llanfair got the 'best of vote' this time around. NB this was not the famous Llanfair PG - Britain's longest place name (do click on the link to see the full name in its full mind blowing glory, you'll see why I didn't attempt to type it!), but a more modest community we passed through in mid Wales on the way home.

North Wales isn't the only Welsh speaking stronghold, parts of South Glamorgan in the south are too, particularly the former mining villages of the Rhondda. My uncle Sid was a miner from this area and I have clear memories of him teaching me to swear in Welsh when we used to visit him and aunty Violet for summer holidays on the Gower as a child. Unfortunately this skill hasn't followed me into adulthood.

For other W posts for today, see Mrs Nesbitt.

11 comments:

  1. I love this post, as I love where words come from and how they are put together. There is a place in Somerset called The Leg of Lamb Lane, and another called the mutton place.

    Bakers Street? Wonder where that came from!!! LOL.

    Cornwall is the same, as Wales with the names meaning things. Surnames as well, Taylor, Smith. As you can tell I could wax lyrical about this for hours!!!

    Love the post

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  2. I am of the same persuasion as SOL, I love language full stop. I love how words came to be, their origins and so on. Place names and peoples names fascinate me too. My own name is Greek for 'life'.

    It is fascinating to find out more, and I think it makes the places we stay more interesting to find out. Top post VP.

    Zoë

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  3. Languages are always interesting. The long Welsh place names impresses as does the double signposting you now see in Wales.

    An enjoyable post

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  4. I fully understand how your choice for W changed at the last minute...happens all the time to me.

    Thanks so much for your comment re Family Stuff! You know where I am!
    Dxxx

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  5. Thanks for the interesting information about Wales. Wales is indeed a different country. We felt at home as in the rest of the UK, but we could pronounce the LL sound as we have the same sound in Holland. Wales has also a lot of great singers and choirs.

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  6. VP, you always come up with the most interesting posts! Like some of your other readers, I love language, and enjoyed learning something about Welsh. I didn't realize that it was still spoken that much in Wales.
    I do so want to visit the UK and visit all the different areas this time. In the meantime, I enjoy taking a tour of the countryside through your posts.

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  7. Well how intesting...   I'm learning quite a bit this morning... Thanks.

    Best regards, Don.

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  8. I live in Chester which is virtually on the Welsh border, and you do hear the Welsh language quite a lot in the city centre. I love listening, as they are sometimes a bit short of Welsh words & come out with something incongruous in the middle of a sentence, like 'helicopter' or 'laptop'.

    Great W!

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  9. What a nostalgic post for me. Nowadays, living in Ireland, I don't hear Welsh. I've tried to learn Irish, but I get confused - too old to learn new tricks, I suppose!

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  10. SOL - I love language too AND place names. I love how you can trace our history through how place name change across the country - all those Tre- names in Cornwall for example

    Zoe - Thanks!

    Runee/esnorway/aphotoaday - glad you liked it

    Denise - thanks, I'll keep that in mind

    readerwil - I didn't know about the LL sound in Dutch, thanks!

    Rose - so glad you like them.

    HM - I didn't know Welsh was prevalent in Chester too - must be all the visitors you get from over the border!

    Dragonstar - they are on different branches of the Celtic language aren't they, so I expect there must be some major differences between them?

    ReplyDelete

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