minstrel: Welsh Pronunciation

Heather Rose Jones hrjones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Wed Oct 29 17:14:43 PST 1997

On Wed, 29 Oct 1997, Kai Norris wrote:

> Thanks for all your help so far
> One last question - how do you tell when are vowels long or short?

You _are_ a glutton for punishment, aren't you! :)

Here are some guidelines -- earlier rules take precedence over later rules
and the rules assume "standard modern spelling".

1. A vowel marked with a circumflex is long. (For technical reasons,
Welsh-language internet groups substitue a + after the vowel.) Note,
however, that the circumflex was not introduced until after period (or
_possibly_ at the very end of period), so this rule won't help you on
period texts. (But you can use modern spelling as a guide.)

2. Words consisting of only one letter (i.e., vowel) are short.

3. Unstressed vowels are short. (#2 is actually a subset of this as
virtually all one-letter words are unstressed function words, like
prepositions and conjunctions.)

The following two rules apply to stressed syllables. Remember that the
stress falls on the next-to-last syllable, except in the case of
one-syllable words, of course.

4. Stressed vowels are short when followed by:
  - a voiceless stop (C, P, T)
  - a nasal (M, N, NG)
  - a "liquid" (L, R) - except that I and U are long before N, L, and R
  - two or more consonants in a row

5. Stressed vowels are long when followed by:
  - nothing (i.e., at the end of a word)
  - another vowel
  - a single consonant not listed above

That's it.

Now, Medieval Welsh made some things easier (and some things harder). For
example, rather than saying, "a stressed vowel is short when followed by
'n' unless it has a circumflex", you simply indicated a short vowel in
this position by following it by _two_ "n"s. So, for example, where Modern
Welsh has "gwyn" (white) and "gwy+n" (ache), Medieval Welsh had "gwynn"
(white) and "gwyn" (ache). You win some, you lose some.


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