Category Archives: Y Cymry/Welsh People
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.
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.
On the 30th of October 1485, Henry Tudor was crowned Henry VII. On the day of his coronation, historians claim that he created the first permanent armed body in England to serve the monarch—the Yeoman of the Guard.
The Tudors were Cymry (Welsh), hailing from the southwest county of Sir Benfro (pronounced sheer benvro) and were known as the Tudors of Penmynydd.
The Yeomen were chosen from among the Tudors’ own countrymen and this select body of soldiers eventually evolved to set the precedent and standard for the Welsh Guard, renown for their bravery and dedication to serving their contry.
This was also the period at which Cymru (Wales) lost its final vestiges of independence from the English crown (until recent decades) since the king was a Welshmen (Cymro). The crimes of Edward I were not forgotten, nor were the efforts of Owain Glyndŵr during the reign of Henry IV to rid his country of the tyranny of the English yoke.
Once on the throne, the Tudors did as all power-seduced individuals do, they abandoned their supporters in favor of their grip on wielding power over others and the most expedient path to dynasty in spite of Henry VII’s desperate brutality. Despite Elizabeth I’s granting William Williams Pantycelyn the responsibility of translating the Bible into Welsh, the Tudors ceased to be Welsh, though they held the title of the monarchs of England and Wales.
Two devastating events occurred on the 21st of October in the 1960s in Cymru:
1965: The Tryweryn Reservoir, which was built to hold water for the needs of Liverpool, England, was officially opened. This reservoir is held in the highest contempt in Cymru because it required the destruction of the entire village of Tryweryn, a small community in the north.
1966: One year following the destruction of a Welsh village, another village suffered one of the tragic events of the 20th Century. When the colliery tip collapsed on the Pantglas Junior School in Aberfan, 116 children and 28 adults were killed. These images are all available on the Internet (Images of Aberfan Disaster) from media archives such as the BBC, The Sun, Nuff.ox.ac.uk, South Wales Evening Post. I remember this as one of the pivotal events of my childhood.