SSi Forum

Baffling Welsh language things


Haha :smiley: Finnish is very much like Welsh on the yes/no side of things. Everyone says there’s no simple yes/no, but really everyone uses a simple yes/no :smile: In Finnish we have joo/ei and in Welsh we have ia/na, even though technically you should say the “correct” yes/no for the context


Is it common for Welsh speakers to be lazy and just use ie or na in the “wrong” situations? Or do people generally do the right thing and use echo responses?


People tend to be lazy :smile:

Ia/ie and na (and other variations) are never the best/most correct answer to a question (as far as I know), so there isn’t really a “wrong” place to use them, it’s just informal. I think people generally use a mix of ia/na and yndw/do/naddo etc, sometimes even in the same answer. “Ia, yndw” (like in Finnish “joo oon”!) :smiley:

I’m sure there are people who always or almost always use the echo responses, but the ia/na thing is generally accepted :slight_smile:


I’ve never thought of it before, but English schools teaching Welsh instead of a European language makes perfect sense! If only!


As @robbruce hinted above, the soft mutation after feminine y is because the original word ended in a vowel, while the original masculine didn’t: *sindos (m) and *sinda (f) both eventually became y. Then when you got a sequence [vowel]-[unvoiced consonant]-[vowel], it’s easier to keep the voice on across the three, rather than momentarily switch it off for the consonant and then back on for the following vowel - so in this way the voiceless consonant (e.g. T) becomes its voiced counterpart (D). It’s the same mechanism that makes the US and Oz pronunciation of ‘city’ CIDY. (etc etc)


As always with your contributions, that’s very interesting. Doesn’t make working out whether something is masculine or feminine much easier though! That’s one of the things I find hard about Welsh compared to, say, French. When I ask “Qu’est-ce que c’est?” and I’m told “C’est un jeton” I can infer that “jeton” is masuline; with Welsh, the lack of an indefinite article, and not knowing whether the new word has been mutated or not after the definite article, makes this almost impossible!


No indeed it doesn’t.

My advice from one of the books (I think the Grammar) was: if in doubt, and barring other clues, choose masculine - they are statistically more numerous, and loanwords also tend to be adopted as masculines unless they look particularly feminine (like lori, for example).

And above all, when someone picks you up on the gender you’ve just used, INSIST that it’s always been that gender ‘down our way’ - this tactic works every time, I’ve used it many times myself in the past. The dialects are sacrosanct, and will take the heat off you every time! :slight_smile:


Oi mate — I’m an Aussie and I can assure you we don’t all pronounce “city” as “cidy”!!! You have to have a really broad accent before that happens, which fewer of us do than the stereotype would suggest. :smiling_imp: :unamused:


I didn’t say you ALL did! :joy:

Actually not all Americans say ‘cidy’ either.


Er…I usually mistake Australian accent for British. :grin:

(And now probably British forumists here will go “noooo, they’re so different!” But that’s how it sounds to me). :smiley:




Just a shoutout for the vowels!
What with so many y’s and w’s, the pronunciation of u … and some of them even come along dressed up in hats sometimes!
Curious, but baffling!


You can parallel most of these changes from other languages, though, particularly Romance languages – for example, if you think about Latin capra (Italian capra) then you’ve got Catalan and Castilian cabra (with p -> b, like pen -> ei ben) and then French chèvre (with b -> v, like brawd -> ei frawd) – and, of course, Welsh gafr.

The thing with g disappearing definitely isn’t obvious, but what seems to have happened is that it went from being like an Italian -gh- sound between vowels to one like a Spanish -g- between vowels – softer (fricative), almost like a French ‘r’. Which then vanished from Welsh completely, later on.
(ETA - Edited To Add - I managed to think of a good example - Italian legare = Castilian Spanish ligar. What happens to that ‘g’ if someone speaks Italian with a Spanish accent?)

As for the why of the whole thing: it’s basically a matter of assimilation – neighbouring sounds being made more similar to each other to make the whole speech act flow more easily. There are loads of examples in Italian – off the top of my head, Catalan respecte is Italian rispetto, and Latin vetulus (diminutive from vetus, ‘old’) became veclus when the vowel dropped (easier to say than vetlus) then vecchio. The difference with Celtic mutations is that these perfectly ordinary assimilations became fossilized at a much older stage of the language so that we are now basically doing assimilations to sounds which haven’t been there for centuries. Sometimes even the whole word that caused it has gone missing, but the mutation is still there to help signal to the listener the grammar of what you’re saying.


Then it’s not “the” US and Oz pronunciation of “city”, is it? :slight_smile: :slight_smile:


Numerous French holidays in the nineties - I’m from South Wales

Oh, you’re Australian!

Sigh. Not New South Wales…

Maybe Home and Away was big in France


This certainly adds a lot to my understanding of mutations.
But also more curiosities (it seems that my brain does not agree with my very ambitious plan of intensive learning for this weekend so I entertain myself in breaks with a little theory!)

Talking about sounds (is the term phonetics maybe?)
Despite still finding it a little weird, i noticed I tend to remember more often when an m becomes an f (v sound) or when a g just disappears.

When it comes to c/g, p/b, t/d, d/dd, ll/l…First of all the difference in pronounciation is so subtle at times that I can hardly hear it and sometimes I don’t.

Then in Italian we have two different sounds for c and g. One we call soft as in ciao, giallo. One we call hard as in capra and gatto which are the same as in Welsh.
Neither of these sound “soft” to me (as well as b compared to p or d to t).and this is quite confusing - while I wait to have practised and listened enough Welsh to be able to just know it which might take a while!


Well on the other side of the Channel we tend to refer to the whole island at the same time, as Great Britain, and people who have never visited it - sorry guys! - even usually call it England.

To be honest I also have to add that we tend to be more aware of Scotland since childhood maybe because of silly things like comics characters with bearded men with skirt and bagpipes, ghost stories taking place in Scottish castles, loch Ness monster,whisky, and a few famous actors and musicians that somehow ends up being referred to as Scottish.
Wales is rarely mentioned, except for historical events in the distant past, so for us it’s a bit more of a sort of…an abstract territory or simply considered the western part of great Britain.Very sorry about that!

Also, when you ask a French or Italian or German where are they from they very rarely specify north, south, east or west.

Put the two things together and this might be the reason why people think of new Wales before the original one - that of course is not nice!


That makes sense as the origin of mutations, but what fascinates me is how they became an actual grammatical rule in the Celtic languages instead of just becoming a permanent part of the word as they have in those examples you’ve listed. It must have developed early on, as all six surviving Celtic languages have mutation as a grammatical feature rather than as permanent assimilations, and it’s survived despite centuries of language evolution and contact with other languages. I still think it must have something to do with a stubborn desire to stay unique. :wink:


I have always thought this (although not instead of German - as well as).

Actually, what I have always thought really is that all schoolchildren in Britain should be taught something about all of the British and Irish Celtic languages, but with more emphasis on Welsh, since that is the most “living” of them. (Well, children in Scotland should probably concentrate on Gaelic, even if it wasn’t the original Celtic language there).


I think so too, although one could also argue that the languages that are “less living” need the more emphasis for that very reason… :wink: