minstrel: Welsh Songs

Heather Rose Jones hrjones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Tue Oct 28 09:25:47 PST 1997


On Tue, 28 Oct 1997, Kai Norris wrote:

> On a similar, but slightly unrelated vein, how could I find pronunciations
> for the Welsh poems?  I have a short guide given me by a friend; however, it
> was cut off right before the vowels.  Thanks.

Particularly when learning how to recite poetry, there is no substitute
for in-person coaching, but here's the short guide to Welsh pronunciation.
(This assumes standard modern spelling and that you are aiming for a
"literary" rather than "colloquial" pronunciation. If you're working with
an unedited Medieval Welsh text, it's a different story entirely, and
you're better off learning the language first.)

Consonants

Pronounced exactly as in English: B, D, H, L, M, N, P, R, S, T
C = K (never S)
G = hard G as in "go" (never as in "giant")
TH = unvoiced as in "thistle" (never as in "this")
PH = F (alternate spelling, see also FF below)
NG = usually as in "sing", sometimes as in "finger"

Same as English sounds but spelled funny:
DD = voiced th as in "this"
FF = English "f"
F = English "v"

Non-English sounds:
CH = hard "ch" as in Scottish "loch"
LL = place the tongue as for "l" then hiss around the edges (best learned
in person)
RH = aspirated "r", sounds like "h+r"
NGH = "voiceless" ng
MH = "voiceless" m
NH = "voiceless" n

Vowels -- think "continental vowels", that is, if you've learned how to
pronounce vowels in German or French, you've got a good start.
A = as in father
E = short as in "pet", long as in "pain" (you'll have to learn the
short/long rules some other time)
I = short as in "pin", long as in "mach_i_ne"
O = long as in "tone", short is the same sound but less duration
U = like German u-umlaut or French y; some dialects identical to I
W = short as in "book", long as in "fool", can also be consonant as in
"win"
Y = in final syllables, like I or U (depending on dialect); in non-final
syllables (and most one-syllable "function words") as in "but"

Diphthongs -- like the two individual vowel sounds but merged together

Accent is always penultimate (but occasionally this rule appears to be
broken due to interactions between vowels, as when final "-au" represents
disyllabic "-a+u" rather than the monosyllabic diphthong).

That's the short version.

Tangwystyl


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