Europe's oldest living language
By Suzan Flanagan
You won't find these letters in the traditional Welsh language: j, k, q, v, x and z. (However, you will find j's in borrowed words like Jones and jam.)
The Welsh alphabet is made up of twenty letters and eight digraphs. A digraph is a pair of letters that makes a new sound. For example, th makes an entirely different sound than t or h alone.
In Welsh, the digraph th is pronounced like the th in thin. The remaining Welsh digraphs are ch, dd, ff, ng, ll, ph and rh.
- ch sounds like loch
- dd is pronounced like an English th, as in breathe
- ff sounds like an English f, as in food
- ng is usually pronounced like sing
- ll resembles the sound of ch followed by l (Place the tip of your tongue behind your upper teeth while blowing through the sides of your mouth.)
- ph sounds like an English f or the ph in pharmacy
- rh usually sounds like Rhine (The tip of your tongue should vibrate behind your upper teeth as you push air through, producing a rolled r sound.)
Welsh vowels include a, e, i, o, u, w, and y. With the exception of y, all vowels represent one sound. The sound can be long or short, depending on the surrounding consonants and in what syllable the vowel falls. (In Welsh, the accent usually falls on the next to the last syllable.)
In the following examples the long vowel sound is listed first. Keep in mind, regional dialects may vary.
- a sounds like palm or pat
- e sounds like gate or let
- i sounds like feet or pit
- o sounds like more or not
- u is pronounced like an i in South Wales and like a French u in North Wales
- w sounds like cool or put
- y sounds like u (called the clear sound) in most monosyllables or final syllables, but like fun in other syllables, or in Welsh words such as fy, dy, nyrs, syr, y, yr, yn, yng, and ym
Other notable differences between English and Welsh:
- c always sounds like an English k
- f sounds like an English v
- g always sounds like garden
- h always sounds like help
- w can represent a consonant or a vowel
- r is rolled
Ready to practice your ABCs?
|The Welsh Alphabet
Collins Gem Welsh Dictionary. (1996). Great Britain: Harper Collins Publishers.
Davies, J. (1999). A Pocket Guide: The Welsh Language. Cardiff, Wales: University of Wales Press and The Western Mail.
For more information, refer to these Welsh Language resources.
Back to top