A Topographical Dictionary of Wales. Originally published by S Lewis, London, 1849.
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APPENDIX, No. III.
PRONUNCIATION OF THE WELSH LETTERS.
A is spoken like A English, in man, can, bad; and never acute, as in able, stable: when circumflexed, it is like aa in Baal; thus, Bâd, a boat, is pronounced as if written Baad. Au, diphthong, is pronounced Ai, English; thus, Haul, the sun, as Hail.
B, like B English: but mutable into F and M; as Bara, bread; dy Fara, thy bread; fy Mara, my bread.
C, like K English, or like C in can, come; never soft, as in city, cistern: it is mutable into Ch, G, and Ngh; as Câr, a friend; ei Châr, her friend; ei Gâr, his friend; fy Nghâr, my friend.
Ch is guttural, and is pronounced as the Greek X; never as the Greek K.
D, as D English; but mutable into Dd and N; as Duw, God; ei Dduw, his God; fy Nuw, my God.
Dd, like Th soft in English, as the, this, that.
E, as E English, in enter, men, ten: if circumflexed, as A acute, in dame, came, ale; thus, Cêd, advantage, is pronounced as if written Cade or Kade. Eu, diphthong, is spoken like Ei English; as Beudy, a cowhouse, is pronounced Beidy.
F, as V consonant English; thus Gôf, a smith, is pronounced Gôv.
Ff, as F English, in fetch.
G, like G English, in get, gain: in composition it is often dropped, as Gŵr, a man, yr hên Wr, the old man; Glàn, the bank of a river, ar y Làn, on the bank; Glân, clean, Llaw lân, a clean hand; Garth, a hill, ar Arth, on a hill, Pen yr Arth, the top of a hill. The Welsh G is never used soft, as in the English Giles: it is also mutable into Ng; as Gwas, a servant, fy Ngwas, my servant.
H, as H English, in hand, hind.
I, as I English, in king, sing, ill: circumflexed, as Ee, in deed; thus, Cîl, a recess, is pronounced as Keel; Di, privative, as if written Dee.
K, no letter in the Welsh alphabet; it being expressed by C.
L, as L English, in law, land, love.
Ll is L aspirated, and has a sound peculiar to the Welsh language, as written in English, Llh: in composition the Ll is expressed by the single L, as Llaw, a hand; ei Law, his hand.
M, like M English: it is mutable into F; as Mam, a mother, ei Fam, his mother, pronounced as if written Vam; Maen, a rock, ei Faen, his rock: in South Wales it is aspirated, as ei Mham, her mother.
N, as N English: in South Wales aspirated, as ei Nhai, her nephew.
O, like O English, in gone, got, and as in Bròn, a breast: circumflexed, as in bone, tone; thus Môdd, a manner or fashion, as the English mode.
P, as P English. It is mutable into B, Mh, and Ph; as Pen, a head; ei Ben, his head; fy Mhen, my head; ei Phen, her head.
Ph, as Ph English. The true difference between the Ff and Ph is, that such words as are purely British are written with Ff, as Ffon, a staff, Ffordd, a way; or such words as are derived from the Latin, as Ffydd, faith, Ffenestr, a window: but such words as have the radical P are changed into the aspirate Ph, as ei Phen, her head.
Q, no letter in the Welsh alphabet; when wanted, it is expressed by Cw; as Cwestiwn, a word taken from the English question.
R is not found simply in the Welsh dictionaries, but is always followed by an h, which aspirates the sound; Rh being in all cases the radical: the radical is, however, mutable into the simple R; thus, Rhâd, grace, dy Râd, thy grace. In the middle or end of words, R is pronounced precisely as the English r.
S, as S English; but when followed by ia, ie, io, and u, it is commonly spoken as Sh, though it is thought corruptly so, at least such is the case in the county of Brecknock: thus, Siampl, an example, is pronounced as if written Shample; Siengcin, Jenkin, as Shenkin; Sion, John, as Shone; Suan, Joan, as Shuan.
T, as T English; but mutable into D, Nh, and Th; as Tâd, a father; ei Dâd, his father; fy Nhâd, my father; ei Thâd, her father.
U, as I English, in this, bliss: if circumflexed, as ee English, in queen, green; thus, dû, black, is pronounced as Dee; Sûl, as Seel; Sûr, sour, as Seer; and the word Un, one, though not marked with a circumflex, is spoken as if printed Een or Ene, in one syllable. In the counties of Glamorgan, Brecknock, and Monmouth, U is pronounced like the English I in miss; but in the shires of Carmarthen and Cardigan, more like the English U: thus, the river Dulas, which separates Carmarthen and Glamorgan, is spoken on the one side as if written in English Dullas, and on the other as if written Dillas.
V, consonant, is expressed in Welsh by the letter F.
W is variously used in Welsh: sometimes like the English W, as in Wedi, after; Wele, behold; Weithian, at length: also as oo, in the English good, hood; thus, Pwn, a burthen, Pwll, a pool: if circumflexed, as oo in mood, rood; thus, Cŵd, a bag; Drŵg, bad; Mŵg, smoke.
X, no letter in the Welsh alphabet; in writing foreign words Ecs is used, as Ecsodus, i. e. Exodus.
Y in any syllable of a word but the last is pronounced as the English U, in burn, churn, hunt: in the last syllable, whether the word consists of one or more syllables, as the English I, in din, fin, sin; thus, Cyn, before, Llyn, a lake; except that in the monosyllables y, ydd, yn, fy, dy, myn, it retains its former sound of U, in burn. The two sounds of Y are represented nearly in the English word sundry, and entirely in the Welsh Hynny, Ystyr, Llythyr, Mybyr, and Pybyr. When the Y is circumflexed, it has one and the same sound with the circumflexed u: thus Bŷd, the world, is pronounced like Beed; and Mûd, dumb, as Meed.
Z, no letter in the Welsh alphabet.
N. B. The accent is, in all words, either on the last syllable or on the penultima, never on the ante-penultima; but it is much more frequently on the penultima, and when on the last syllable it is a circumflex.
The foregoing Glossary, and particulars of the Welsh alphabet, are derived from the "Topographical Dictionary of Wales," by the late Nicholas Carlisle, Esq., secretary of the Society of Antiquaries, London.