The Welsh language

From the seventeenth century, in the era of industrialisation in Welsh language changes took place. The growth of industry allowed

The Welsh language



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III Региональный конгресс молодежи и школьников

“Молодые исследователи севера”



Секция Лингвистика (английский язык)





The Welsh language




Ковальчук М. С. МПЛ, 10 класс




Научный руководитель:

Загородняя Л. М.

(учитель английского языка)











г. Мурманск, 1999

Тhe Welsh language

Ковальчук М. С. МПЛ, 10 класс

г. Мурманск


The Welsh language, like most of the languages of Europe, and many of those of Asia, has evolved from what linguists term Indo-European. Indo-European was spoken about 6000 years ago (4000 BC) by a seminomadic people who lived in the steppe region of Southern Russia. Speakers of the languages migrated eastwards and westwards; they had reached the Danube valley by 3500 BC and India by 2000 BC. The dialects of Indo-European became much differentiated, chiefly because of migration, and evolved into separate languages. So great was the variety among them that it was not until 1786 that the idea was put forward that a Family of Indo-European languages actually exists. In the twentieth century Indo-European languages are spoken in a wide arc from Bengal to Portugal, as well as in countries as distant as New Zealand and Canada, to which they have been carried by more recent emigrants. The Indo-European Family is generally considered to consist of nine different brunches, which in turn gave rise to daughter languages. Welsh evolved from the Celtic brunch, as did its sister languages - Breton, Cornish, Cumbric, Irish, Scots Gaelic and Manx.

Сornish was a language of people who lived in Britain in the Cornwall inlet and died out towards the end of the eighteenth century. Dorothy Pentreath, who died in 1777, is usually considered to be the last native speaker of Cornish. Manx was spread on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea, survived until well into the second half of the present sentury and the last native speaker died at the age of 97 in 1974. Other languages are still alive and a lot of people talks on them. But nevertheless all this languages developed from the Celtic language and the people who used this language were the Celts.

The Celts is a group of people who were classified as such by communities who belonged to a separate cultural (and literate) tradition. Celtic area is considered to be the north of Alps and beyond the Mediterranean. It was observers from mediterranean lands of Greece and Rome who called their neighbours Celts. But today scientists ask the question who the Celts really are. The problem of defining what is meant by the terms "Celt" and "Celtic" centres around the relationship, if any, between material culture, ethnicity and language. Judging by archaeology, documentary sources and linguistic material the scientists came to the conclusion that by the last few centuries BC, Celtic territory stretched from Ireland to eastern Europe and beyond, to Galatia (see map). The Celts were technically advanced. They knew how to work with iron, and could make better weapons than the people who used bronze.

Early linguistic evidence for the Celts is extremely rare because northern Europe was non-literate during most of the first millennium BC. When writing was adopted in the Celtic world in the late first millennium it appeared almost entirely in Greek and Latin. Early Celtic evidence consists of inscriptions, coin legends and the names of people and places contained within classical documents.

Now I would like to tell about the Brittonic brunch of Celtic languages, which was spread over the territory of Britain. Because of our knowledge of the Celts is slight, we do not even know for certain how Britain became Celtic. Some scholars think that the Celts invaded Britain, another - that they came peacefully, as a result of the lively trade with Europe about 750 BC on wards. But we know for certain that the language introduced into Britain was similar to that spoken in Gaul (the territory of Celts in Central Europe); indeed, the Celtic speech of Gaul and Britain at the dawn of the historic era can be considered as one language, frequently, referred to as Gallo-Britonic. Three successor languages of Brittonic evolved: Cumbric in southern Scotland and north-west England, Welsh in Wales and Сornish in south-west Britain. The speakers of all three of them were known by their Anglo-Saxon neighbours as Wealas, or Welsh. The word is usually considered to mean foreigner, but it can also mean people who have been Romanized. To describe themselves, the Welsh and the Cumbric speakers adopted the name Cymry and called their language Cymraeg. Cymry comes from the Brittonic combrogi (fellow countryman) and its adoption marks a deepening sense of identity.

It is very interesting to show common and different things between the words of these languages. You can sea these comparison in following table.

Cognate Celtic words

welshbretonIrishgaelicty (house)titeachtightci (dog)kicucudu (black)dudubhdubhcadair (chair)kadorkathaoircathairgwin (wine)gwinfionfion

You see that almost all words are similar to each other, thats why they were united in one brunch.

The transition from Brittonic to Welsh took place somewhere between 400 and 700 AD. The major problem in tracing this transition in paucity of evidence. Not a sentence of Brittonic has survived. The language was almost certainly written down, but the writing materials used more probably perishable, the more highly esteemed Latin being used for permanent inscriptions. Brittonic, like Latin, was a synthetic language; that is, much of its meaning was conveyed by a charge in the endings of words, as in Latin puella (girl), puellae (to the girl), puellarum (of the girls). In an analytic language, like Welsh, the relation of one word to another is conveyed by the use of prepositions or by the placing of the word in the sentence. It is difficult to date the change from synthetic to analytic, from Brittonic to Welsh, with any certainty. It is generally accepted that it had occurred by about 600 AD but it may have taken place in the spoken language much earlier. The most obvious sign of the change was the loss of the final syllables of nouns; when bardos (poet), aratron (plough) and abona (river) had become bardd, aradr and afon, Brittonic had become Welsh.

There are four periods in the history of the Welsh language: early, old, middle and new. Early Welsh, a phase in the history of the language, extending from its beginning to about 850, only survives in a few inscriptions and marginal notes or glosses. The most interesting of the inscriptions is that on a memorial in the Paris church of Tywyn in Мeirionnydd. It was carved in about 810 and consist of the words cingen celen tricet nitanam (the body of Cingen dwells beneath). Although the inscription incomprehensible to the Welsh speaker of the present day, the words celen, tricet, and tan (in nitanam) are related to the modern forms celein (corpse), trigo (dwells) and dan (beneath). In that time took place the influence of Latin and Irish. The Romans invaded Britain in 43 AD and their power had collapsed by 410 AD and Britannia ceased to be the part of the Empire. Of course during all that period Latin was influxing Welsh because it was the language of law and administration.

Words of Latin origin in Welsh

WELSHLATINpont (bridge)ponseglwys (church)ecclesialleeng (legion)legioystafell (room)stabellumtrawst (joist)transtrumbresych (cabbage)brassica

Ireland never experienced Roman occupation but its settlers created colonies in western Britain before the collapse of the Empire. They were numerous in north-west Wales. Thats why there are a lot of Irish place-names; for example Dinllaen, Gwynedd, and a lot of words of Irish origin appeared in Welsh: cadach(rag), cnwc (hillock), talcen (forehead), codwm (fall).

Old Welsh, the succeeding phase in the history of the language, extends from about 850 to 1100. Again the evidence is slight of the material that has indubitably survived unchanged from that period, there is little beyond marginal notes and a few brief texts and poems. Approximately in 930 a few settlements or Norse appeared in Britain. I don't think that the norsemen influenced greatly on the Welsh language, because only one Welsh word - iarll, from iarl (earl) - is indisputably a Norse borrowing, but they influenced English (ugly, rotten and husband - borrowings from Scandinavian language) and Scots Gaelic.

Thus, by the end of the eleventh century, Welsh was a rich, supple, and versatile language. It had an oral literary tradition which was one of the longest in Europe. It had an enviable coherence, for the literary language was the same in old parts of Wales. It was spoken throughout the land to the west of Offa's Dyke and in some communities to the east of it. It was deeply rooted in the territory of the people who spoke it. They had used it to name their churches and their settlements, their rivers and their hills. Following the Battle of Hastings in 1066, it came face to face with the French of the Normans.

The victory of William of Normandy led to the expropriation of the land of England by the knew king and his followers.

French words become assimilated into Welsh (cwarel (wi

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