Category Archives: Cymraeg/Welsh Language
Writers are language lovers. Words and phrases are our tools, our tubes of paint and brushes, our clay and chisels. After my first visit to Cymru(Wales), I had a new dilemma and a new story to tell. The dilemma is the language I had heard in this Celtic country and the story is the history of its oppression and triumph.
As I mentioned in my post about emigrating to Cymru, I could not be one of those who move to a country and demand that the people, culture and language change to accommodate me. I moved to Cymru to become a participant in the success of the Cymry to withstand the onslaught of the dominant language and culture of the island that four distinct cultures share. In my post, Potted Brythonic, I outlined the linguistic history of the British Isles and the early strength of the Brythonic Celtic language, Cymraeg(Welsh), from Llydaw(Brittany) and Kernyw(Cornwall) to Yr Alban(Scotland).
All through the first year I lived in the capital city, I met folks who hated, loathed and despised the native language of their own country. This attitude confounded me.
Some of these people were not Welsh and had no real love of the country they lived in—they were English immigrants who truly believed that Wales did not exist except in a fantasy world of a few old codgers intent on keeping a dead language alive.
A few of the non-Welsh-speaking Welsh also wanted to see the language disappear—more out of a sense of longing for access to a culture and way of life they had been denied. If they couldn’t have it, no one else should either. Both of these attitudes are prevalent throughout the world, no matter where or who. We are a naturally envious lot and often want what we are least likely to get without great effort.
I am not a natural linguist, nor especially good with languages, my own or foreign. A great help was my love of language as an instrument and as an art form in itself. I had studied enough Spanish and French in school, as well as the structure and form of English to be aware of the interconnection between all Indo-European languages which have a Latin component.
Since Cymru was once a Roman colony, many of its official institutions (schools, the law, church, government etc.) have a Latin-based name. This is true of all European countries that were colonized by the Romans, hence the term Romance Language for every tongue spoken in Europe from Romanian to Italian, French, Spanish and Welsh.
Although the Brythonic Celtic languages are less recognizable as Romance languages, their official institutions and some common words such as ffenest/fenêtre/finestra/fenestra=window and pont/pont/ponte/pons=bridge, show this connection to their common Latin root. A word such as eglwys doesn’t seem to equate, however its Latin root, ecclesia clearly shows the link to iglesia and église.
But, as you can see from my half-shelf of books (above) on many languages, both Welsh and English are absent. A misguided assumption of familiarity? Nid ddylai rhywun fod mor sicr o’i allu. (One should not be so sure of one’s ability.)
But what is writing without knowledge and the seeking of it?
I am still a learner.
All of my historical novels set in Wales/Cymru published by Eres Books, will be on sale at about a 65% discount through the month of March, beginning tomorrow until Monday, April 4th.
This sale includes ALL my books currently listed on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, All Romance eBooks, and Smashwords during the same time period, approximately $1.35 each! Prepare your library for summer reading at these great discounts.
See also my contemporary romance novels – also on sale. For details see: Everwriting on WordPress.
To aid all readers of my Pendyffryn: The Conquerors series and my first novel, Traitor’s Daughter, I include a Glossary of Welsh Words (Geiriau Cymraeg) that are used in each of the books (six in all to date). The Glossary is the final section of the book (both digital and print) but I thought having the Glossary accessible someplace else would be of help. Therefore, I’m including it here and also on my website, lilydewaruile.com, so these words are readily available at any time.
The Glossary also includes a pronunciation guide. Readers are surprised when they see words like pendefig or hafodydd, how easy they are to pronounce. Some words, such as Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, are difficult even for me, but these words are not in my books!
Here then, is the entire Glossary section from my latest paperback edition of Revival: Book IV: Pendyffryn: The Conquerors. Not all of the words are in all of the books and some words in other books in the series have additional words, but this will help readers get a quick start on learning the wonders of the Welsh language!
Glossary of Gymraeg (Welsh Words)
In most instances, the following words are used so their meaning is explained within the context of the story. I have taken a few liberties with the plural, adjective and possessive forms of some words. Welsh follows the Latin & other Romance languages noun/adjective (as in vin rouge/ vino rosso /gwin coch) rather than the Teutonic adjective/noun (red wine) but to do that in a book written in English would be a step too far. I wanted to use some Welsh to give some flavour of the language Caryl and her friends speak. As in Invasion, Book 1 of this series, Christophe Maides is conversant in the Celtic language, having a greater facility for linguistics than his close friend, Jehan-Emíl deFreveille.
Welsh also employs a similar form of expressing ownership: the object is dominant and the owner is subordinate: her cloak is ei chlogyn hi. Caryl’s cloak is clogyn Caryl. For the purposes of this story, I have used the English possessive construction of adding ‘apostrophe s’. I simplified the mutations that occur in specific juxtapositions of words starting with certain letters, such as in ei chlogyn hi: ei designates (in this instance) female when followed by hi. If followed by ‘e’ then the mutation is male and is ei glogyn e. These mutations are the aspirate and soft mutations, respectively. There is also the nasal mutation which replaces the beginning consonant with an ‘ng’, ‘ngh’, ‘m’, ‘mh’, ‘n’, or ‘nh’ when the word is proceeded by ‘yn’ (and a number of other instances that I won’t mention!) as ‘c’ becomes ‘ngh’; ‘g’ becomes ‘ng’; ‘b’ becomes ‘m’; ‘p’ becomes ‘mh’; ‘t’ becomes ‘nh’. Caryl refers to her husband as fy ngŵr.
You can hear how these words are pronounced at http://translate.google.com/. The emphasis is always on the next to last syllable, as in most Romance languages. Below, I have used some English words to illustrate the sounds. ‘S’ is always an ‘es’ sound, never ‘z’. ‘R’ is always rolled. ‘CH’ is always aspirated as in ‘loch’, never as in ‘choo-choo’ or ‘k’ as in the Italian ‘che’. ‘DD’ is pronounced as the ‘th’ in ‘with’. ‘TH’ is the ‘th’ sound as in ‘pith’.
Many double letters (dd, ll, th, ph, ng, etc.) are considered a single letter in Welsh and follow their closest single letter (d, l, t, p g etc.) in the Welsh dictionary.
Welsh vowels are the same as in Italian, open and full—one of the reasons why Welsh is called the language of heaven. Welsh also has more vowels than English, not only “and sometimes Y and W”: AEIOUYW.
Arawn: the lord of the underworld (AHR-ow*n) *as in ‘ouch’
Baban: infant (BAH-bahn)
Beudy: Dairy, Milking Parlor (BAY-dee)
Blodyn: flower (BLOW-din) – also a term of endearment
Buarth: farmyard (BEE-ahrth)
Caer: fort (CEYEr)
Calan Gaeaf: beginning of winter/All Hallow’s Eve (CAH-lahn GEYE-ahv)
Calan Gwanwyn: beginning of spring (CAH-lahn GWAHN-win)
Cariad: love (cahr-EE-ahd)
Carthen: blanket (CAHRth-en)
Cawl: Meat (Lamb) Stew (COWl)
Cromlech: burial tomb (CROHM-leCH – CH as in loch)
Cymraes: Welshwoman (CUHM-rice)
Cymro: Welshman (CUHM-row)
Diawl: Devil (DEE-ahwl)
Duw annwyl: Dear God (DEE-you AHN-noo-eel)
Gelyn: enemy (GEL-en – G is always hard as in ‘gas’)
Gwraig: wife (GOOR-eyeg)
Gŵr: man/husband (GOOr)
Gwyl Dewi: St. David’s Day, March 1st (GOO-eel DOW-ee)
Hafod(ydd): small dwelling(s) (HAH-vod(iDD), DD is pronounced as in ‘with’)
Mam: Mother (MAHM)
Meddyg: medic (MEDD-ig, DD is pronounced as in ‘with’)
Menyw: woman (MEHN-you)
Merch: girl (MEHRch – CH as in loch)
Mwydyn: worm (MOOee-din)
Pendefig: prince/nobleman (pen-DEHV-ig)
Pennaeth: chieftain (PEN-eyeth)
Pryfyn: insect (PRUH-vin)
Saeson: Saxon (SIGH-son)
Titw: small bird/tit (TIT-oo)
Trwsus: trousers (TRUE-sis)
Tylwyth: family/clan (TUHL-ooeeth)
Uffern: hell (EE-fehrn)
Uwd: porridge (IEWD)
Ystad: estate (UHS-tahd)
Don’t be shy! Welsh is the language of heaven and of singing. In fact, singing in Welsh is the best way to learn the pronunciation. To get you started, here is a link to a wonderful folk song that I’ve sung in public at a St. David’s Day event while my lawyer played her harp! Morfa Rhuddlan means the Marsh of Red Land (literally). It is a lament for the deaths of Caradog and all his Welsh warriors in a battle with Offa in 796AD, the words were written by Ieuan Glan Geirionydd. A number of harpists have recorded the tune, but it is the words/poetry of the song that capture the true pathos of the history of Cymru (Wales).
If you have time, please listen to the other songs that Thomas L. Thomas sings, you will recognize some of the tunes which have become theme tunes for films and much more. If there is anything that can explain my love of Welsh, Wales and the Welsh people, it is the music they have created that speaks so eloquently to the heart.
While I have been working on my second series, The Inheritors, I have been reviewing the first segment of this family saga, The Conquerors. The second book of the first segment, Salvation, takes place in Cwmdu (Black Valley) and I thought about how the pronunciation of Cwmdu could be shown phonetically for non-Welsh speakers. I came up with ‘COOM-dee’. Most of us will recognize ‘combe’ pronounced ‘coom,’ since it is found in place names all over England.
Among those place names is further evidence of Welsh occupation of the country now known as England (as well as the country to the north now known as Scotland), centuries prior to the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons.
Taking a circular tour of England, we find Ross-on-Wye which is a direct Anglicization of Rhos-ar-Wy (Gwy is the name of the river, mutated by the adjective ‘ar’) ‘Rhos’ means moor or plain.
Southeast of Ross, we reach Bath, a favorite tourist destination, especially for Jane Austen readers. In Welsh, this spa town is known as Caerfaddon, (‘baddon’ means bath and is mutated by the feminine noun, ‘caer’ meaning fort). The Romans created the baths which are now visited by millions every year. During the Roman occupation of Briton, this town became an outpost for soldiers, a fort (from cess and cest from the Latin for ‘rest’ and ‘girdle’ (surround). The Romans took over many hill forts (caerau bryn) from the Brythonic Celts (Cymry/the Welsh people). Roman occupation of Briton ended by 410AD and the Anglo-Saxons (Saeson) arrived on the eastern coast of Briton around 450AD.
Northeast of Bath, we come to Oxford, a direct translation of Rhydychen (‘rhyd’ means ford as across a river and ‘ychen’ means oxen), a place where oxen cross the river. East, along the Gwy, we arrive in High Wycombe. ‘Wy’ is the mutated name of the river, Gwy, (as above) and is the geographic marker for the M40. This motorway was placed along a thoroughfare constructed by the Romans who used an original tract used by the Cymry to drive oxen to market. High Wycombe is an adaptation of Cwm-uwch-Wy (narrow valley above Gwy) which, along with all the other major towns located on the banks of the Gwy River, was and is a market town.
The string of market towns leads to London. Any cattle or other goods, not already sold along the route, were sold at Smithfield. This enormous livestock market is still a major destination for farmers throughout the countries of Britain. London was known to the Romans as Londinium, to the Cymry as Llundain — possibly from the Latin lun meaning crescent shape or moon(‘llun’ means moon and Monday in Cymraeg/Welsh). It was a bog but centrally located and easily defended, until Buddug (meaning ‘victory’) attacked in 60AD:
But this early prosperity wasn’t to last. In 60 AD, Boudica (Buddug – Ed.), queen of the Iceni tribe of Norfolk, chose Londinium as a key target for her revolt against Roman rule. Her timing was perfect – the Roman army was away, quelling an uprising on the Welsh island of Anglesey. Boudica and her rabble razed the whole 40 acres city to the ground, killing thousands of traders who had settled there. Her attack left a thick burnt layer of red ash in the soil which is clearly visible in archaeological excavations. It was the first great fire of London. (History.co.uk)
Southeast of Llundain is the cathedral town of Canterbury, known by the Cymry as Caergaint. ‘Caint’ is the Welsh for the county of Kent. Kent is an approximation of the original place name given to it by the Brythonic Celts (Cymry).
In my next post, we will go north – the rush is on to the next stop: the university town of Cambridge.