Tag Archives: language

For the Love of Language

LlyfrauIaithWriters 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.

Tintern Abbey Ruins

Abaty Tintern

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.

 

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Filed under Cymraeg/Welsh Language, Cymreig/Welsh, Y Cymry/Welsh People

From Carmarthen to Karabagh

CarmarthenKarabagh2Subtitle: A Welsh Discovery of Armenia

Canon Patrick Thomas, Chancellor of St. David’s Cathedral and Vicar of Christ Church in Caerfyrddin, gave this book to me while we waited for the bride to arrive for a Christmastide wedding. I’ve always been interested in Armenia since so many of my school friends were from this country. What makes this book even more valuable to me is that Canon Patrick has discovered historical connections and similarities between Cymru (Wales) and Armenia that illuminate the strengths and sufferings of both small countries.

While Cymru did not suffer genocide at the hands of its neighbor (on April 24, 1915, the Turkish government and army began a campaign to slaughter 1.5 million Armenians in one of the most shameful acts in human history and the first act of genocide of the 20thC), the effort to destroy its culture and language has been continuous over the centuries. Hitler, on the eve of war in 1939, planning to put to death men, women and children of Polish derivation and language, said “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

The Senedd (the Welsh government) is one of only a few countries which has recognized and commemorated the atrocities inflicted on the Armenians by the Turks.

The Welsh and Armenian cultures and languages share similar struggles for survival against the onslaught of neighboring countries. As the first Armenian novelist, Khachatur Abovian, remarked, “The guardian of a nation is its language and faith. And if we were to lose them, woe unto us!”

Despite the hardships both countries have faced over many centuries, both Cymru and Armenia have a similar call to courage: “Er gwaethaf pawb a phopeth, ry’n ni yma o hyd!” (From one of Dafydd Iawn’s most famous songs.) “In spite of everyone and everything, we are still here.”

From Carmarthen to Karabagh: a Welsh discovery of Armenia is available on Amazon.

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Filed under Cymraeg/Welsh Language, Cymru/Wales