SSi Forum

Baffling Welsh language things


Well, exactly. That’s why I firmly believe the standard for English worldwide should be Australian English, because we have no regional dialects (only variations in the broadness of the accent).

LONG LIVE STRINE!!! :grinning: :sunglasses: :wink:


Well you gave me a late night laugh here. :laughing:

Here’s a tricky Q … any words come into aussie english from local aboriginal languages? Kangaroo etc?


Returning to topic (as I feel I disgressed somewhat!)

Baffling Welsh things? hmm … the lack of “a/an” equivalent … and how easy Welsh drops letters at the start or ending of words in speech especially “y” (at word start) baffled me when I started learning! Sometimes seems little consistency


Yes! :smiley: Here’s a whole list of them from Wikipedia: English words of Australian Aboriginal origin

I wouldn’t say all of those are commonly used in Australian English, but at a quick count I know about two thirds of them, so they aren’t that obscure either. Most of them are names of flora and fauna, or of items traditionally made and used by Aboriginal people (weapons, shelters etc.)


Not that uncommon on a worldwide scale. Greek doesn’t have an “a/an” equivalent — indefinite article, to use the technical term — and Latin, of all languages, doesn’t have an indefinite OR definite article, i.e. it doesn’t have an equivalent of “the” either!! (Nor does Russian, actually.) You just have to figure it out from the context.

I know in Cornish we sometimes use “unn” (a form of “onan”, meaning “one”) to mean “a certain…”, i.e. being more specific than “a” but not as specific as “the”, like this:

My a vynn yskynna menydh — I want to climb a mountain (any one)
My a vynn yskynna unn menydh — I want to climb a certain mountain (but not saying which one)
My a vynn yskynna an menydh — I want to climb the mountain (one we already know about)

Is there something like that in Welsh too?


Diolch am y wers!


Yn Kernewek, mar pleg (po Sowsnek, if we must)…? :slight_smile:


After all…who needs them?
If it"s important to count, you can use un (or other numbers).
I enjoy this “let’s get rid of any non essential bit” style. :smiley:

(Ok for now it"s also confusing at times, but I know I will appreciate fully someday!)


Like the lack of catch-all words for “yes” and “no”? :wink: A similar odd quirk in Cornish is that when counting things, we use the singular after a number rather than the plural, even when there’s more than one. So an apple is aval, and apples are avalow, but if you’re counting them, you say unn aval, dew aval, tri aval, peswar aval, pymp aval… I suppose the idea is that if you’ve already said how many there are, there’s no need to use the plural form of the word as well, is there? :smiley: Do you count with the singular like that in Welsh as well?


yes, absolutely! Un afal, dau afal, tri afal, pedwar afal, pump afal… ond llawer o afalau! :grin:


Had to put that through Google Translate: “but many apples”. In Kernewek, though, we also use “lies” (many) with the singular — lies aval. :wink:


Ah, now I know — that’s “meur ras rag an dyskans”. No cognates this time. :wink:


Not currently appreciating that, but to be fair it does help avoiding misunderstandings. :grinning:


Interestingly, it turns out that “Didgeridoo” is not of Aboriginal origin.


No, it’s not — it’s an onomatopoeic whitefella word. The Indigenous name for it I’ve most often heard is yidaki — from the Yolngu language and used by the 1990s band Yothu Yindi. Interesting to read from Wikipedia that the Yolngu mob themselves don’t use the word yidaki now because it sounds very similar to the name of a man who has died. In many Australian Aboriginal cultures, it’s a mark of respect not to speak the name of the deceased — I gather because it’s considered that their spirit has moved on to the afterlife and speaking their name would be like trying to hold them back in this world.

Kangaroo, on the other hand, is definitely an Aboriginal word — more about it here:slight_smile:


Interesting! That’s also a taboo amongst the Yanomami in the Amazon!


The way the Yolngu don’t use a common noun any more because it sounds like the name of the deceased reminds me of a thing about Polynesian languages. They have lots of obvious similarities between them, allowing for some changes to consonants that sometimes make even mutations seem tame – so there’s a name of some sort of sea deity (traditions vary from people to people) called Kanaloa in Hawai’ian, Tangaroa in Maori, and Ta’aroa in Tahitian, for example. And all these changes are pretty regular, so Hawai’ian has kanaka where Maori has tangata and so on: if you know a common word on one island, and the right sound-changes, you can pretty much intuit what it’ll be on another island.

Except where the common word sounds a bit like the name of a chief. Then, in many places, the chief’s name was tapu even when they were alive (too sacred to say), and anything that sounded too much like it got to be avoided on that particular island as well. I don’t know any actual examples off the top of my head, but it’s a bit as if people in England were to start calling ‘chairs’ ‘backstools’ or ‘sitters’ or something the moment Charles becomes king, while the rest of the English-speaking world (and any republicans out there) happily go on saying ‘chairs’.


Can we go the other way and start calling anything that comes into contact with our bums “Charlies”?


Mentioning Polynesians, I remember seeing reconstructed images of boats from the Monmouth area, from 3000 BC or so. The reconstructions were based on the discovery of a boat building site, which has now been lost underneath a Housing estate.

What struck me was the way that the boats were similar to how I imagine those in the Pacific Islands to look like - (outrigger canoes effectively) which to me suggests that the person who reconstructed them, was either unintentionally influenced by what he knew of other known boats and was maybe being creative with the evidence or somehow we have a natural tendency to invent the same things, regardless of contact between peoples. There is also a third possibility in that there was a shared common innovation at one time, but to me that seems highly unlikely.


Thats a really good explanation of the yes/no thing…can i use it when people ask about it…I’ll credit you always😊