All UK speakers: 700,000+ (2012)
Wales: 562,016 speakers (19.0% of the population of Wales), (data
from 2011 Census); All skills (speaking, reading, or writing): 630,062
England: 110,000–150,000 (estimated)
Argentina: 1,500-5,000(data not from 2011 census)
United States: ~2,235 (2009-2013) (2017)
Latin (Welsh alphabet)
Official language in
United Kingdom (England)
Meri Huws, the
Welsh Language Commissioner (since 1 April 2012) and
Welsh Government (Llywodraeth Cymru)
Distribution of Welsh.
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering
support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead
Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see
Part of a series on the
Culture of Wales
Welsh (Y Fro Gymraeg
Welsh medium education)
Traditional Welsh costume
Land division (Commote
Mythology and folklore
Tatws Pum Munud
List of Welsh dishes
List of restaurants in Wales
Dydd Santes Dwynwen
Gŵyl Fair y Canhwyllau
Saint David's Day
Gŵyl San Steffan
Music and performing arts
World Heritage Sites
Coat of arms
Flag of Saint David
Welsh (Cymraeg or y Gymraeg, pronounced Welsh
pronunciation: [kəmˈraiɡ, ə
ɡəmˈraiɡ] ( listen)) is a member of the Brittonic branch
of the Celtic languages. It is spoken natively in Wales, by few in
England, and in
Y Wladfa (the Welsh colony in Chubut Province,
Argentina). Historically, it has also been known in English as
"Cambrian", "Cambric" and "Cymric".
United Kingdom Census 2011 recorded that 19% of people aged three
and over who live in
Wales can speak Welsh, a decrease from the 20.8%
recorded in 2001. An overall increase in the size of the Welsh
population, most of whom are not Welsh speakers, appears to correspond
with a fall in the number of Welsh speakers in
Wales - from 582,000 in
2001 to 562,000 in 2011. This figure is still a greater number,
however, than the 508,000 (18.7%) of people who said that they could
speak Welsh in 1991. According to the Welsh Language Use Survey
2013–15, 24% of people aged three and over living in
Wales were able
to speak Welsh, demonstrating a possible increase in the prevalence of
the Welsh language.
The Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 gave the Welsh language
official status in Wales, making it the only language that is de
jure official in any part of the United Kingdom, with English being de
facto official. Thus, official documents and procedures require Welsh
and English to be given equality in the conduct of the proceedings of
the National Assembly for Wales.
1.2 Primitive Welsh
1.3 Old Welsh
1.4 Middle Welsh
1.5 Modern Welsh
1.6 Welsh Bible
2 Geographic distribution
2.2 Outside Wales
3.1 Official status
3.2 In education
3.3 In information technology
3.4 Mobile phone technology
3.5 In warfare
3.6 Use within the British parliament
3.7 Use at the European Union
3.8 Use by the Voyager program
8.1 Possessives as direct objects of verbnouns
8.2 Pronoun doubling
9 Counting system
11.1 Examples of sentences in literary and colloquial Welsh
12 See also
15 External links
Main article: History of the Welsh language
Welsh Bible of 1620, in Llanwnda church, was rescued
from the hands of French invaders in 1797.
The language of the Welsh arguably originated from the Britons at the
end of the 6th century. Prior to this, three distinct languages were
spoken by the Britons during the 5th and 6th centuries: Latin, Irish,
and British. According to T. M. Charles-Edwards, the emergence of
Welsh as a distinct language occurred towards the end of this
period. The emergence of Welsh was not instantaneous and clearly
identifiable. Instead, the shift occurred over a long period of time,
with some historians claiming that it happened as late as the 9th
Kenneth H. Jackson proposed a more general time period for
the emergence, specifically after the Battle of Dyrham, a military
battle between the West Saxons and the Britons in 577 AD.
Four periods are identified in the history of Welsh, with rather
indistinct boundaries: Primitive Welsh, Old Welsh, Middle Welsh, and
Modern Welsh. The period immediately following the language's
emergence is sometimes referred to as Primitive Welsh, followed by
Old Welsh period – which is generally considered to stretch from
the beginning of the 9th century to sometime during the 12th
Middle Welsh period is considered to have lasted from
then until the 14th century, when the Modern Welsh period began, which
in turn is divided into Early and Late Modern Welsh.
The name Welsh originated as an exonym given to its speakers by the
Anglo-Saxons, meaning "foreign speech" (see Walha),
and the native term for the language is Cymraeg, meaning "British".
Celtic languages § Classification
Welsh evolved from Common Brittonic, the Celtic language spoken by the
ancient Celtic Britons. Classified as Insular Celtic, the British
language probably arrived in Britain during the
Bronze Age or Iron Age
and was probably spoken throughout the island south of the Firth of
Forth. During the
Early Middle Ages
Early Middle Ages the British language began to
fragment due to increased dialect differentiation, thus evolving into
Welsh and the other Brittonic languages. It is not clear when Welsh
Kenneth H. Jackson suggested that the evolution in syllabic structure
and sound pattern was complete by around 550, and labelled the period
between then and about 800 "Primitive Welsh". This Primitive Welsh
may have been spoken in both
Wales and the
Hen Ogledd ("Old North") -
the Brittonic-speaking areas of what is now northern
Scotland - and therefore may have been the ancestor of
Cumbric as well as Welsh. Jackson, however, believed that the two
varieties were already distinct by that time. The earliest Welsh
poetry – that attributed to the
Cynfeirdd or "Early Poets" – is
generally considered to date to the Primitive Welsh period. However,
much of this poetry was supposedly composed in the Hen Ogledd, raising
further questions about the dating of the material and language in
which it was originally composed. This discretion stems from the
Cumbric was widely believed to have been the language used
in Hen Ogledd. An
8th century inscription in
Tywyn shows the language
already dropping inflections in the declension of nouns.
Janet Davies proposed that the origins of
Welsh language were much
less definite; in The Welsh Language: A History, she proposes that
Welsh may have been around even earlier than 600 AD. This is evidenced
by the dropping of final syllables from Brittonic: *bardos "poet"
became bardd, and *abona "river" became afon. Though both Davies
and Jackson cite minor changes in syllable structure and sounds as
evidence for the creation of Old Welsh, Davies suggests it may be more
appropriate to refer to this derivative language as Lingua Brittanica
rather than characterizing it as a new language altogether.
The argued dates for the period of "Primitive Welsh" are widely
debated, with some historians' suggestions differing by hundreds of
Main article: Old Welsh
The next main period is
Old Welsh (Hen Gymraeg, 9th to 11th
centuries); poetry from both
Scotland has been preserved in
this form of the language. As Germanic and Gaelic colonisation of
Britain proceeded, the Brittonic speakers in
Wales were split off from
those in northern England, speaking Cumbric, and those in the
southwest, speaking what would become Cornish, and so the languages
diverged. Both the works of
Aneirin (Canu Aneirin, c. 600) and the
Book of Taliesin
Book of Taliesin (Canu Taliesin) were during this era.
Main article: Middle Welsh
Middle Welsh (Cymraeg Canol) is the label attached to the Welsh of the
12th to 14th centuries, of which much more remains than for any
earlier period. This is the language of nearly all surviving early
manuscripts of the Mabinogion, although the tales themselves are
certainly much older. It is also the language of the existing Welsh
Middle Welsh is reasonably intelligible to a
modern-day Welsh speaker.
The famous cleric Gerald of
Wales tells, in his Descriptio Cambriae, a
story of King Henry II of England. During one of the King's many raids
in the 12th century, Henry asked an old man of Pencader,
Carmarthenshire whether the
Welsh people could resist his army. The
old man replied:
It can never be destroyed through the wrath of man, unless the wrath
of God shall concur. Nor do I think that any other nation than this of
Wales, nor any other language, whatever may hereafter come to pass,
shall in the day of reckoning before the Supreme Judge, answer for
this corner of the Earth.
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Modern Welsh is subdivided into Early Modern Welsh and Late Modern
Welsh. Early Modern Welsh ran from the 15th century through to the
end of the 16th century, and the Late Modern Welsh period roughly
dates from the 16th century onwards. Contemporary Welsh still differs
greatly from the Welsh of the 16th Century, but they are similar
enough that a fluent Welsh speaker should have little trouble
understanding it. The Modern Welsh period is where one can see a
decline in the popularity of the Welsh language, as the number of
people who spoke Welsh declined to the point at which there was
concern that the language would become extinct entirely. Welsh
government processes and legislation have worked to increase the
proliferation of the
Welsh language throughout school projects and the
The 1588 Welsh Bible
Bible translations into Welsh
Bible translations into Welsh helped maintain the use of Welsh in
daily life. The
New Testament was translated by
William Salesbury in
1567 followed by the complete
Bible by William Morgan in 1588.
The proportion of respondents in the 2011 census who said they could
Welsh has been spoken continuously in
Wales throughout recorded
history, but by 1911 it had become a minority language, spoken by
43.5% of the population. While this decline continued over the
following decades, the language did not die out. By the start of the
21st century, numbers began to increase once more.
The 2004 Welsh Language Use Survey showed that 21.7% of the population
Wales spoke Welsh, compared with 20.8% in the 2001 census, and
18.5% in 1991. The 2011 census, however, showed a slight decline to
562,000, or 19% of the population. The census also showed a "big
drop" in the number of speakers in the Welsh-speaking heartlands, with
the number dropping to under 50% in
the first time. According to the Welsh Language Use Survey
2013-15, 24% of people aged three and over were able to speak
Historically, large numbers of
Welsh people spoke only Welsh. Over
the course of the 20th century this monolingual population "all but
disappeared", but a small percentage remained at the time of the 1981
census. Most Welsh-speaking people in
Wales also speak English
(while in Chubut Province, Argentina, most speakers can speak Spanish
– see Y Wladfa). However, many Welsh-speaking people are more
comfortable expressing themselves in Welsh than in English. A
speaker's choice of language can vary according to the subject domain
and the social context, even within a single discourse (known in
linguistics as code-switching).
Welsh as a first language is largely concentrated in the north and
west of Wales, principally Gwynedd, Conwy,
Anglesey (Ynys Môn),
Carmarthenshire (Sir Gâr), north
Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro), Ceredigion, parts of Glamorgan
(Morgannwg), and north-west and extreme south-west Powys, although
first-language and other fluent speakers can be found throughout
Welsh-speaking communities persisted well on into the modern period
across the border with England.
Archenfield was still Welsh enough in
the time of Elizabeth I for the
Bishop of Hereford
Bishop of Hereford to be made
responsible, together with the four Welsh bishops, for the translation
Bible and the
Book of Common Prayer
Book of Common Prayer into Welsh. Welsh was still
commonly spoken here in the first half of the 19th century, and
churchwardens' notices were put up in both Welsh and English until
about 1860. In one of the earliest works of phonetics, On Early
English Pronunciation in 1889,
Alexander John Ellis
Alexander John Ellis identified a small
Shropshire as still speaking Welsh, and plotted a Celtic
border that passed from
Chirk through Oswestry.
The number of Welsh-speaking people in the rest of Britain has not yet
been counted for statistical purposes. In 1993, the Welsh-language
S4C published the results of a survey into the
numbers of people who spoke or understood Welsh, which estimated that
there were around 133,000 Welsh-speaking people living in England,
about 50,000 of them in the Greater London area. The Welsh
Language Board, on the basis of an analysis of the Office for National
Statistics (ONS) Longitudinal Study, estimated there were 110,000
Welsh-speaking people in England, and another thousand in
Northern Ireland. In the 2011 Census, 8,248 people in
Welsh in answer to the question "What is your main language?" The
ONS subsequently published a census glossary of terms to support the
release of results from the census, including their definition of
"main language" as referring to "first or preferred language" (though
that wording was not in the census questionnaire itself). The
England with the most people giving Welsh as their main
language were the
Liverpool wards: Central and Greenbank, and Oswestry
South. In terms of the regions of England, North West England
(1,945), London (1,310) and the West Midlands (1,265) had the highest
number of people noting Welsh as their main language.
The American Community Survey 2009–2013 noted that 2,235 people aged
5 years and over in the
United States spoke Welsh at home. The highest
number of those (255) lived in Florida.
Trilingual (Spanish, Welsh and English) sign in Argentina
Bilingual road markings near Cardiff Airport. In Welsh-speaking areas,
the Welsh signage appears first.
Although Welsh is a minority language, support for it grew during the
second half of the 20th century, along with the rise of organisations
such as the nationalist political party
Plaid Cymru from 1925 and
Welsh Language Society
Welsh Language Society from 1962.
Welsh Language Act 1993
Welsh Language Act 1993 and the Government of
Wales Act 1998
provide that the Welsh and English languages be treated equally in the
public sector, as far as is reasonable and practicable. Each public
body is required to prepare for approval a Welsh Language Scheme,
which indicates its commitment to the equality of treatment principle.
This is sent out in draft form for public consultation for a
three-month period, whereupon comments on it may be incorporated into
a final version. It requires the final approval of the now defunct
Welsh Language Board
Welsh Language Board (Bwrdd yr Iaith Gymraeg). Thereafter, the public
body is charged with implementing and fulfilling its obligations under
the Welsh Language Scheme. The list of other public bodies which have
to prepare Schemes could be added to by initially the Secretary of
State for Wales, from 1993–1997, by way of statutory instrument.
Subsequent to the forming of the National Assembly for
Wales in 1997,
the Government Minister responsible for the
Welsh language can and has
passed statutory instruments naming public bodies who have to prepare
Schemes. Neither the 1993 Act nor secondary legislation made under it
covers the private sector, although some organisations, notably banks
and some railway companies, provide some of their information in
On 7 December 2010, the Welsh Assembly unanimously approved a set of
measures to develop the use of the
Welsh language within
Wales. On 9 February 2011 this measure, the Proposed Welsh
Language (Wales) Measure 2011 [AS PASSED], was passed and received
Royal Assent, thus making the
Welsh language an officially recognised
language within Wales. The Measure:
confirms the official status of the Welsh language;
creates a new system of placing duties on bodies to provide services
through the medium of Welsh;
Welsh Language Commissioner with strong enforcement powers
to protect the rights of Welsh-speaking people to access services
through the medium of Welsh;
establishes a Welsh Language Tribunal;
gives individuals and bodies the right to appeal decisions made in
relation to the provision of services through the medium of Welsh
creates a Welsh Language Partnership Council to advise Government on
its strategy in relation to the Welsh language;
allows for an official investigation by the Welsh Language
Commissioner of instances where there is an attempt to interfere with
the freedom of Welsh-speaking people to use the language with one
With the passing of this measure, public bodies and some private
companies are required to provide services in Welsh. The Welsh
government's Minister for Heritage at the time, Alun Ffred Jones,
Welsh language is a source of great pride for the people of
Wales, whether they speak it or not, and I am delighted that this
Measure has now become law. I am very proud to have steered
legislation through the Assembly which confirms the official status of
the Welsh language; which creates a strong advocate for Welsh speakers
and will improve the quality and quantity of services available
through the medium of Welsh. I believe that everyone who wants to
access services in the
Welsh language should be able to do so, and
that is what this government has worked towards. This legislation is
an important and historic step forward for the language, its speakers
and for the nation." The measure was not welcomed warmly by all
supporters: Bethan Williams, chairperson of the Welsh Language
Society, gave a mixed response to the move, saying, "Through this
measure we have won official status for the language and that has been
warmly welcomed. But there was a core principle missing in the law
passed by the Assembly before Christmas. It doesn't give language
rights to the people of
Wales in every aspect of their lives. Despite
that, an amendment to that effect was supported by 18 Assembly Members
from three different parties, and that was a significant step
On 5 October 2011, Meri Huws, Chair of the Welsh Language Board, was
appointed the new Welsh Language Commissioner. She released a
statement that she was "delighted" to have been appointed to the
"hugely important role", adding, "I look forward to working with the
Welsh Government and organisations in
Wales in developing the new
system of standards. I will look to build on the good work that has
been done by the
Welsh Language Board
Welsh Language Board and others to strengthen the
Welsh language and ensure that it continues to thrive." First Minister
Carwyn Jones said that Meri would act as a champion for the Welsh
language, though some had concerns over her appointment: Plaid Cymru
spokeswoman Bethan Jenkins said, "I have concerns about the transition
from Meri Huws's role from the
Welsh Language Board
Welsh Language Board to the language
commissioner, and I will be asking the Welsh government how this will
be successfully managed. We must be sure that there is no conflict of
interest, and that the
Welsh Language Commissioner can demonstrate how
she will offer the required fresh approach to this new role." Ms Huws
started her role as the
Welsh Language Commissioner on 1 April 2012.
Local councils and the National Assembly for
Wales use Welsh, issuing
Welsh versions of their literature, to varying degrees.
Most road signs in
Wales are in English and Welsh.
Since 2000, the teaching of Welsh has been compulsory in all schools
Wales up to age 16. That has had an effect in stabilising and
reversing the decline in the language. It means, for example, that
even the children of non-Welsh-speaking parents from elsewhere in the
UK grow up with a knowledge of, or complete fluency in, the
The wording on currency is only in English, except in the legend on
Welsh pound coins dated 1985, 1990 and 1995, which circulate in all
parts of the UK. The wording is Pleidiol wyf i'm gwlad, which means
True am I to my country, and derives from the national anthem of
Wales, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.
Some shops employ bilingual signage. Welsh rarely appears on product
packaging or instructions.
The UK government has ratified the European Charter for Regional or
Minority Languages in respect of Welsh.
Bilingual road sign near Wrexham Central station.
The language has greatly increased its prominence since the creation
of the television channel
S4C in November 1982, which until digital
switchover in 2010 broadcast 70% of Channel 4's programming along with
a majority of
Welsh language shows during peak viewing hours. The
all-Welsh-language digital station
S4C Digidol is available throughout
Europe on satellite and online throughout the UK. Since the digital
switchover was completed in South
Wales on 31 March 2010,
became the main broadcasting channel and fully in Welsh. The main
evening television news provided by the
BBC in Welsh is available for
download. There is also a Welsh-language radio station,
Cymru, which was launched in 1977.
The only Welsh-language national newspaper
Y Cymro (The Welshman) is
published weekly. There is no daily newspaper in Welsh. A daily
Y Byd (The World) was scheduled to be launched on 3
March 2008, but was scrapped, owing to poor sales of
subscriptions and the
Welsh Government deeming the
publication not to meet the criteria necessary for the kind of public
funding it needed to be rescued. There is a
Welsh-language online news service which publishes news stories in
Golwg360 ("360 [degree] view").
Main article: Welsh medium education
The decade around 1840 was a period of great social upheaval in Wales,
manifested in the Chartist movement. In 1839, 20,000 people marched on
Newport, resulting in a riot when 20 people were killed by soldiers
defending the Westgate Hotel, and the
Rebecca Riots where tollbooths
on turnpikes were systematically destroyed.
This unrest brought the state of education in
Wales to the attention
of the English establishment since social reformers of the time
considered education as a means of dealing with social ills. The Times
newspaper was prominent among those who considered that the lack of
education of the
Welsh people was the root cause of most of the
In July 1846, three commissioners, R.R.W. Lingen, Jellynger C. Symons
and H.R. Vaughan Johnson, were appointed to inquire into the state of
education in Wales; the Commissioners were all Anglicans and thus
presumed unsympathetic to the nonconformist majority in Wales. The
Commissioners presented their report to the Government on 1 July 1847
in three large blue-bound volumes. This report quickly became known as
Treachery of the Blue Books
Treachery of the Blue Books (Brad y Llyfrau Gleision) since,
apart from documenting the state of education in Wales, the
Commissioners were also free with their comments disparaging the
language, nonconformity, and the morals of the
Welsh people in
general. An immediate effect of the report was that ordinary Welsh
people began to believe that the only way to get on in the world was
through the medium of English, and an inferiority complex developed
Welsh language whose effects have not yet been completely
eradicated. The historian Professor
Kenneth O. Morgan referred to the
significance of the report and its consequences as "the Glencoe and
the Amritsar of Welsh history".
Welsh language as the medium of instruction
In the later 19th century, virtually all teaching in the schools of
Wales was in English, even in areas where the pupils barely understood
English. Some schools used the Welsh Not, a piece of wood, often
bearing the letters "WN", which was hung around the neck of any pupil
caught speaking Welsh. The pupil could pass it on to any schoolmate
heard speaking Welsh, with the pupil wearing it at the end of the day
being given a beating. One of the most famous Welsh-born pioneers of
higher education in
Wales was Sir Hugh Owen. He made great progress in
the cause of education, and more especially the University College of
Wales at Aberystwyth, of which he was chief founder. He has been
credited[by whom?] with the Welsh Intermediate Education Act 1889 (52
& 53 Vict c 40), following which several new Welsh schools were
built. The first was completed in 1894 and named Ysgol Syr Hugh Owen.
Towards the beginning of the 20th century this policy slowly began to
change, partly owing to the efforts of
Owen Morgan Edwards
Owen Morgan Edwards when he
became chief inspector of schools for
Wales in 1907.
Aberystwyth Welsh School (Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth) was founded
in 1939 by Sir Ifan ap Owen Edwards, the son of O.M. Edwards, as the
first Welsh Primary School. The headteacher was Norah Isaac. Ysgol
Gymraeg is still a very successful school, and now there are Welsh
language primary schools all over the country.
Ysgol Glan Clwyd
Ysgol Glan Clwyd was
Rhyl in 1955 as the first
Welsh language school to
teach at the secondary level.
Sign promoting the learning of Welsh
Welsh is now widely used in education, with 101,345 children and young
Wales receiving their education in Welsh medium schools in
2014/15, 65,460 in primary and 35,885 in secondary. 26% of all
Wales are defined as Welsh medium schools, with a further
7.3% offering some Welsh-medium instruction to pupils. 22% of
pupils are in schools in which Welsh the primary language of
instruction. Under the National Curriculum, it is compulsory that all
students study Welsh up to the age of 16 as either a first or a second
language. Some students choose to continue with their studies
through the medium of Welsh for the completion of their A-levels as
well as during their college years. All local education authorities in
Wales have schools providing bilingual or Welsh-medium education.
The remainder study Welsh as a second language in English-medium
schools. Specialist teachers of Welsh called Athrawon Bro support the
teaching of Welsh in the National Curriculum. Welsh is also taught in
adult education classes. The
Welsh Government has recently set up six
centres of excellence in the teaching of Welsh for Adults, with
centres in North Wales, Mid Wales, South West, Glamorgan, Gwent.
The ability to speak Welsh or to have Welsh as a qualification is
desirable for certain career choices in Wales, such as teaching or
customer service. All universities in
Wales teach courses in the
language, with many undergraduate and post-graduate degree programs
offered in the medium of Welsh, ranging from law, modern languages,
social sciences, and also other sciences such as biological sciences.
Aberystwyth, Cardiff, Bangor, and Swansea have all had chairs in Welsh
since their virtual establishment, and all their schools of Welsh are
successful centres for the study of the
Welsh language and its
literature, offering a BA in Welsh as well as post-graduate courses.
At all Welsh universities and the Open University, students have the
right to submit assessed work and sit exams in Welsh even if the
course was taught in English (usually the only exception is where the
course requires demonstrating proficiency in another language).
Following a commitment made in the One
Wales coalition government
between Labour and Plaid Cymru, the
Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol
Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol (Welsh
Language National College) was established. The purpose of the federal
structured college, spread out between all the universities of Wales,
is to provide and also advance Welsh medium courses and Welsh medium
scholarship and research in Welsh universities. There is also a
Welsh-medium academic journal called Gwerddon ("Oasis"), which is a
platform for academic research in Welsh and is published quarterly.
There have been calls for more teaching of Welsh in English-medium
In information technology
Further information: List of Celtic-language media
Like many of the world's languages, the
Welsh language has seen an
increased use and presence on the internet, ranging from formal lists
of terminology in a variety of fields to
Welsh language interfaces
for Windows 7, Microsoft Windows XP, Vista, Microsoft Office,
Mozilla Firefox and a variety of Linux
distributions, and on-line services to blogs kept in Welsh.
has had a Welsh version since July 2003 and
Mobile phone technology
In 2006 the
Welsh Language Board
Welsh Language Board launched a free software pack which
enabled the use of
SMS predictive text in Welsh. At the National
Wales 2009, a further announcement was made by the Welsh
Language Board that the mobile phone company
Samsung was to work with
the network provider Orange to provide the first mobile phone in the
Welsh language, with the interface and the T9 dictionary on the
Samsung S5600 available in the Welsh language. The model, available
Welsh language interface, has been available since 1
September 2009, with plans to introduce it on other networks.
On Android devices, both the built-in
Google Keyboard and user-created
keyboards can be used. iOS devices have fully supported the Welsh
language since the release of iOS 8 in September 2014. Users can
switch their device to Welsh to access apps that are available in
Welsh. Date and time on iOS is also localised, as shown by the
built-in Calendar application, as well as certain third party apps
that have been localized.
Secure communications are often difficult to achieve in wartime.
Cryptography can be used to protect messages, but codes can be broken.
Therefore, lesser-known languages are sometimes encoded, so that even
if the code is broken, the message is still in a language few people
know. For example, Navajo code talkers were used by the United States
military during World War II. Similarly, the Royal Welch Fusiliers, a
Welsh regiment serving in Bosnia, used Welsh for emergency
communications that needed to be secure. It has been reported that
Welsh speakers from
Wales and from
Patagonia fought on both sides in
the Falklands War.
Use within the British parliament
In 2017, parliamentary rules were amended to allow the use of Welsh
when the Welsh Grand Committee meets at Westminster. The change did
not alter the rules about debates within the House of Commons, where
only English can be used.
In February 2018, Welsh was first used when the Welsh Secretary, Alun
Cairns, delivered his welcoming speech at a sitting of the committee.
He said, "I am proud to be using the language I grew up speaking,
which is not only important to me, my family and the communities Welsh
MPs represent, but is also an integral part of Welsh history and
Use at the European Union
In November 2008, the
Welsh language was used at a meeting of the
European Union's Council of Ministers for the first time. The Heritage
Alun Ffred Jones
Alun Ffred Jones addressed his audience in Welsh and his
words were interpreted into the EU’s 23 official languages. The
official use of the language followed years of campaigning. Jones said
"In the UK we have one of the world's major languages, English, as the
mother tongue of many. But there is a diversity of languages within
our islands. I am proud to be speaking to you in one of the oldest of
these, Welsh, the language of Wales." He described the breakthrough as
"more than [merely] symbolic" saying "Welsh might be one of the oldest
languages to be used in the UK, but it remains one of the most
vibrant. Our literature, our arts, our festivals, our great tradition
of song all find expression through our language. And this is a
powerful demonstration of how our culture, the very essence of who we
are, is expressed through language."
Use by the Voyager program
A greeting in Welsh is one of the 55 languages included on the Voyager
Golden Record chosen to be representative of Earth in NASA's Voyager
program launched in 1977. The greetings are unique to each
language, with the Welsh greeting being Iechyd da i chwi yn awr ac yn
oesoedd, which translates into English as "Good health to you now and
Welsh vocabulary draws mainly from original Brittonic words (wy "egg",
carreg "stone"), with some loans from Latin (ffenestr "window" <
Latin fenestra, gwin "wine" < Latin vinum), and English (silff
"shelf", giat "gate").
Main article: Welsh phonology
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering
support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead
Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see
The phonology of Welsh includes a number of sounds that do not occur
in English and are typologically rare in European languages. The
voiceless alveolar lateral fricative [ɬ], the voiceless nasals [m̥],
[n̥] and [ŋ̊], and the voiceless alveolar trill [r̥] are
distinctive features of the Welsh language. Stress usually falls on
the penultimate syllable in polysyllabic words, and the word-final
unstressed syllable receives a higher pitch than the stressed
Main article: Welsh orthography
Welsh is written in a Latin alphabet traditionally consisting of 28
letters, of which eight are digraphs treated as single letters for
a, b, c, ch, d, dd, e, f, ff, g, ng, h, i, l, ll, m, n, o, p, ph, r,
rh, s, t, th, u, w, y
In contrast to English practice, "w" and "y" are considered vowel
letters in Welsh along with "a", "e", "i", "o" and "u".
The letter "j" is used in many everyday words borrowed from English,
like jam, jôc "joke" and garej "garage". The letters "k", "q", "v",
"x", and "z" are used in some technical terms, like kilogram, volt and
zero, but in all cases can be, and often are, replaced by Welsh
letters: cilogram, folt and sero. The letter "k" was in common use
until the sixteenth century, but was dropped at the time of the
publication of the
New Testament in Welsh, as William Salesbury
explained: "C for K, because the printers have not so many as the
Welsh requireth". This change was not popular at the time.
The most common diacritic is the circumflex, which disambiguates long
vowels, most often in the case of homographs, where the vowel is short
in one word and long in the other: e.g. man "place" vs mân "fine",
Colloquial Welsh morphology and Literary Welsh
Welsh morphology has much in common with that of the other modern
Insular Celtic languages, such as the use of initial consonant
mutations and of so-called "conjugated prepositions" (prepositions
that fuse with the personal pronouns that are their object). Welsh
nouns belong to one of two grammatical genders, masculine and
feminine, but they are not inflected for case. Welsh has a variety of
different endings and other methods to indicate the plural, and two
endings to indicate the singular of some nouns. In spoken Welsh,
verbal features are indicated primarily by the use of auxiliary verbs
rather than by the inflection of the main verb. In literary Welsh, on
the other hand, inflection of the main verb is usual.
Main article: Welsh syntax
The canonical word order in Welsh is verb–subject–object.
Colloquial Welsh inclines very strongly towards the use of auxiliaries
with its verbs, as in English. The present tense is constructed with
bod ("to be") as an auxiliary verb, with the main verb appearing as a
verbnoun (used in a way loosely equivalent to an infinitive) after the
Mae Siân yn mynd i Lanelli
Siân is going to Llanelli.
There, mae is a third-person singular present indicative form of bod,
and mynd is the verbnoun meaning "to go". The imperfect is constructed
in a similar manner, as are the periphrastic forms of the future and
In the preterite, future and conditional mood tenses, there are
inflected forms of all verbs, which are used in the written language.
However, speech now more commonly uses the verbnoun together with an
inflected form of gwneud ("do"), so "I went" can be Mi es i or Mi wnes
i fynd ("I did go"). Mi is an example of a preverbal particle; such
particles are common in Welsh.
Welsh lacks separate pronouns for constructing subordinate clauses;
instead, special verb forms or relative pronouns that appear identical
to some preverbal particles are used.
Possessives as direct objects of verbnouns
The Welsh for "I like Rhodri" is Dw i'n hoffi Rhodri (word for word,
"am I in [the] liking [of] Rhodri"), with Rhodri in a possessive
relationship with hoffi. With personal pronouns, the possessive form
of the personal pronoun is used, as in "I like him": Dw i'n ei hoffi,
literally, "am I in his liking" – "I like you" is Dw i'n dy hoffi
("am I in your liking").
In colloquial Welsh, possessive pronouns, whether they are used to
mean "my", "your", etc. or to indicate the direct object of a
verbnoun, are commonly reinforced by the use of the corresponding
personal pronoun after the noun or verbnoun: ei dŷ e "his house"
(literally "his house of him"), Dw i'n dy hoffi di "I like you" ("I am
[engaged in the action of] your liking of you"), etc. It should be
noted that the "reinforcement" (or, simply, "redoubling") adds no
emphasis in the colloquial register. While the possessive pronoun
alone may be used, especially in more formal registers, as shown
above, it is considered incorrect to use only the personal pronoun.
Such usage is nevertheless sometimes heard in very colloquial speech,
mainly among young speakers: Ble 'dyn ni'n mynd? Tŷ ti neu dŷ fi?
("Where are we going? Your house or my house?").
Main article: Welsh numerals
The traditional counting system used in the
Welsh language is
vigesimal, i.e. it is based on twenties, as in standard French numbers
70 (soixante-dix, literally "sixty-ten") to 99 (quatre-vingt-dix-neuf,
literally "four score nineteen"). Welsh numbers from 11 to 14 are "x
on ten" (e.g. un ar ddeg: 11), 16 to 19 are "x on fifteen" (e.g. un ar
bymtheg: 16), though 18 is deunaw, "two nines"; numbers from 21 to 39
are "1–19 on twenty", 40 is deugain "two twenties", 60 is trigain
"three twenties", etc. This form continues to be used, especially by
older people, and it is obligatory in certain circumstances (such as
telling the time, and in ordinal numbers).
There is also a decimal counting system, which has become relatively
widely used, though less so in giving the time, ages, and dates (it
features no ordinal numbers). This system is in especially common use
in schools due to its simplicity, and in Patagonian Welsh. Whereas 39
in the vigesimal system is pedwar ar bymtheg ar hugain ("four on
fifteen on twenty") or even deugain namyn un ("two score minus one"),
in the decimal system it is tri deg naw ("three tens nine").
Although there is only one word for "one" (un), it triggers the soft
mutation (treiglad meddal) of feminine nouns, where possible, other
than those beginning with "ll" or "rh". There are separate masculine
and feminine forms of the numbers "two" (dau and dwy), "three" (tri
and tair) and "four" (pedwar and pedair), which must agree with the
grammatical gender of the objects being counted. The objects being
counted appear in the singular, not plural form.
There is no standard or definitive form of the Welsh language.
Although northern and southern Welsh are two commonly mentioned main
dialects, in reality additional significant variation exists within
those areas. The more useful traditional classification refers to four
main dialects: Y Wyndodeg, the language of Gwynedd; Y Bowyseg, the
language of Powys; Y Ddyfedeg, the language of Dyfed; and Y Wenhwyseg,
the language of Gwent and Morgannwg. Fine-grained classifications
exist beyond those four: the book Cymraeg, Cymrâg, Cymrêg:
Cyflwyno'r Tafodieithoedd ("Welsh, Welsh, Welsh: Introducing the
Dialects") about Welsh dialects was accompanied by a cassette
containing recordings of fourteen different speakers demonstrating
aspects of different area dialects. The book also refers to the
earlier Linguistic Geography of Wales as describing six different
regions which could be identified as having words specific to those
Another dialect is Patagonian Welsh, which has developed since the
Y Wladfa (the Welsh settlement in Argentina) in 1865; it
includes Spanish loanwords and terms for local features, but a survey
in the 1970s showed that the language in
Patagonia is consistent
throughout the lower Chubut valley and in the Andes.
The differences in dialect are marked in pronunciation and in some
vocabulary but also in minor points of grammar. For example: consider
the question "Do you want a cuppa [a cup of tea]?" In
would typically be Dach chi isio panad? while in
Glamorgan one would
be more likely to hear Ych chi'n moyn dishgled? (though in other parts
of the South one would not be surprised to hear Ych chi isie paned? as
well, among other possibilities). An example of a pronunciation
difference is the tendency in some southern dialects to palatalise the
letter "s", e.g. mis (month), usually pronounced [miːs], but as
[miːʃ] in parts of the south. This normally occurs next to a high
front vowel like /i/, although exceptions include the pronunciation of
sut "how" as [ʃʊd] in the southern dialects (compared with northern
In the 1970s, there was an attempt to standardise the language by
teaching 'Cymraeg Byw' ("Living Welsh") – a colloquially-based
generic form of Welsh. But the attempt largely failed because it
did not encompass the regional differences used by speakers of Welsh.
Modern Welsh can be considered to fall broadly into two main
registers—Colloquial Welsh (Cymraeg llafar) and Literary Welsh
(Cymraeg llenyddol). The grammar described here is that of Colloquial
Welsh, which is used in most speech and informal writing. Literary
Welsh is closer to the form of Welsh standardised by the 1588
translation of the
Bible and is found in official documents and other
formal registers, including much literature. As a standardised form,
literary Welsh shows little if any of the dialectal variation found in
colloquial Welsh. Some differences include:
Can omit subject pronouns (pro-drop)
Subject pronouns rarely omitted
More extensive use of simple verb forms
More extensive use of periphrastic verb forms
No distinction between simple present and future
(e.g. af "I go"/"I shall go")
Simple form most often expresses only future
(e.g. af i "I'll go")
Subjunctive verb forms
Subjunctive in fixed idioms only
3rd.pl ending and pronoun –nt hwy
3rd.pl ending and pronoun –n nhw
Amongst the characteristics of the literary, as against the spoken,
language are a higher dependence on inflected verb forms, different
usage of some of the tenses, less frequent use of pronouns (since the
information is usually conveyed in the verb/preposition inflections)
and a much lesser tendency to substitute English loanwords for native
Welsh words. In addition, more archaic pronouns and forms of mutation
may be observed in Literary Welsh.
Examples of sentences in literary and colloquial Welsh
I get up early every day.
Codaf yn gynnar bob dydd.
Dw i'n codi'n gynnar bob dydd. (North)
Rwy'n codi'n gynnar bob dydd. (South)
I'll get up early tomorrow.
Codaf yn gynnar yfory.
Mi goda i'n gynnar fory
Wna i godi'n gynnar fory
He had not stood there long.
Ni safasai yno yn hir.
Doedd o ddim wedi sefyll yno'n hir. (North)
(D)ôdd e ddim wedi sefyll yna'n hir. (South)
They'll sleep only when there's a need.
Ni chysgant ond pan fo angen.
Fyddan nhw'n cysgu ddim ond pan fydd angen.
In fact, the differences between dialects of modern spoken Welsh pale
into insignificance compared to the difference between some forms of
the spoken language and the most formal constructions of the literary
language. The latter is considerably more conservative and is the
language used in Welsh translations of the Bible, amongst other things
(although the 2004 Beibl Cymraeg Newydd – New
Welsh Bible – is
significantly less formal than the traditional 1588 Bible). Gareth
King, author of a popular Welsh grammar, observes that "The difference
between these two is much greater than between the virtually identical
colloquial and literary forms of English". A grammar of Literary
Welsh can be found in A Grammar of Welsh (1980) by Stephen J.
Williams or more completely in Gramadeg y Gymraeg (1996) by Peter
Wynn Thomas. (No comprehensive grammar of formal literary Welsh
exists in English.) An English-language guide to colloquial Welsh
forms and register and dialect differences is "Dweud Eich Dweud"
(2001, 2013) by Ceri Jones.
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More spoken articles
Association of Welsh Translators and Interpreters
English and Welsh
Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion
Languages in the United Kingdom
List of Welsh-language media
List of Welsh films
List of Welsh-language authors
List of Welsh-language poets (6th century to c. 1600)
List of Welsh people
List of Welsh principal areas by percentage Welsh language
St Benet's, Paul's Wharf
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