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June 07, 2019 3 min read

The Welsh Alphabet - Yr Wyddor

The alphabet in Welsh contains 29 (yes not twenty-six as in English) letters but is written in the Latin alphabet just like many languages including English, French, Italian and many others. There are no silent letters as is the case with English. Every letter has a sound, and the sound is vocalised in the spoken Welsh language.

The 29 letters are;

A, b, c, ch, d, dd, e, f, ff, g, ng, h, i, j, l, ll, m, n, o, p, ph, r, rh, s, t, th, u, w, and lastly y.

Whilst many of the letters are the same as in English, sometimes they represent different sounds in Welsh. The letters K, Q, V, X and Z are not included in the Welsh alphabet but are sometimes found in borrowed words and in technical words. Interestingly, in Y Wladfa, the Welsh settlement in Patagonia, the letter v is used generally to represent the sound v instead of the letter f. The letter J has only recently become more familiar and accepted in the Welsh alphabet for borrowed words, for example garage (garej) and is generally now included in the alphabet.

Letters such as ch, ll, ff and other equivalents are a single letter in Welsh. So, as far as crosswords are concerned the word “Llan” (as in Llanfair, Llandaf, or Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyllllantysiliogogogoch) has only three letters. Llan would be written into three boxes in a crossword. As an aside, in 2002, llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.co.ukwas given the title of longest domain name in the world by the Guinness Book of Records.

Vowels

There are seven vowels in Welsh, a, e, i, o, u, w, and y. The letter y can be a vowel but also a consonant.

Consonants

There are twenty-three consonants in the alphabet with the letter y being both a consonant and a vowel. Two consonants, 'n' and 'r', are sometimes doubled in written Welsh, e.g., "tynnu," "torri." (Please remember that letters such as 'dd,' 'ff' and 'll' are not two letters or doubled but are consonants in their own right).

Letter

English pronunciation (approximation only)

a

cat (short) / father (long)

b

bat

c

case

ch

loch (Scottish)

d

day

dd

these

e

bed (short) / closest to hey (long)

f

vat

ff

four

g

gate

ng

thing

h

hat

i

bit (short) / machine (long)

j

jump

l

lad

ll

not present in English

m

mat

n

net

o

Short, like "bog" in RP; long like stove

p

pet

ph

phone

r

rat (trilled)

rh

pray (trilled): an unvoiced [r]

s

sat

t

tan

th

thin

u

w

book (short) / pool (long)

y


Diphthongs

There are no silent letters in Welsh, every letter is pronounced phonetically. Every letter has a sound, and the sound is vocalised in spoken Welsh. However, diphthongs are two letters which are pronounced as one letter and they are as follows;

Ae, ai, au, aw, ei, eu, ew, ey, iw, oi, ou, ow, uw, wy, and yw.

Diphthong

English pronunciation (approximation only)

ae

eye

ai

eye

au

eye (plural ending)

aw

how

ei

As in eight

eu

As in eight

ew

Roughly like Edward with the d removed: E'ward

ey

As in eight

iw

not present in English; closest to 'i-oo' (short i)

oe

boy

oi

boy

ou

boy

ow

oh

uw

not present in English; closest to 'i-oo' (short i)

wy

not present in English; closest to gooey

yw

not present in English

 


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