I can’t claim to be much affected by the Welsh language in this borderland village, since practically everyone I’ve met is (or sounds) English. Actually that’s not entirely true: the pub boasts a landlady from New Zealand and a Latvian cook, but apart from them you only hear English accents. Of course Welsh is written everywhere, whether it’s necessary or not; most public notices are posted in both languages and the street signs are also in English and Welsh, so that if you care to, you can pick up quite a few words. I happen to know that dref means town and canol means centre; I am equally intrigued by the spelling of Eglwys (church) and the variations on Cymru arising from the confusing tendency of Welsh to change the beginnings rather than the endings of words.
I quite like Welsh. It looks like a bundle of unpronounceable consonants, but once you understand that w and y are actually vowels (cue Zerothly telling everyone that y is a vowel in English too) and get to grips with how to say them, it’s quite straightforward. Well, except that f is pronounced v and ff is f and oh, a dozen other rules I can’t quite remember and about which zerothly will no doubt inform us, it is. Once you get into it. Of course it helps to hear it spoken which you don’t, hereabouts.
On the other hand, you can’t help wondering how necessary it is to have everything in two languages, especially when, as in one case, the place is called ‘Pandy’ in English and ‘Andy’ in Welsh. Both signs are placed solemnly side by side as you come into the village: it makes me smile.
But if I’m not careful I’ll miss out the whole point of this post, which is the progress of my novel. It’s going quite blindingly well; I have rushed at it like several bulls at a succession of gates and have last week passed the 50,000 word mark. It’s in three sections and I’m currently feeling my way through the third; I shan’t finish before I go home at the weekend but the raw material is there for an excellent novel.
Hm. I wonder what is the Welsh for ‘novel’?
One thought on “There’s Novel!”
Okay, here I am! It’s “tref” rather than “dref” – that’s one of those initial consonant mutations you mentioned. The spelling is beautifully simple and phonetic for once, unlike many other surviving Celtic languages, and the rules are quite simple. The single consonants are often voiced versions of the double ones, as with f and ff, and l and ll, although actually I can’t think of any others right now. Anglo-Saxon spelling is quite like Welsh.
I often feel there’s a Romance language trapped inside Welsh trying to get out, what with its words like “Iago”, “eglwys” and “pont” and feminine and masculine genders, and in fact Celtic and Romance languages used to be lumped together in the Italo-Celtic branch of Indo-European, but it turned out not to be so.
A group of people calling themselves Ill Bethisad gave into the temptation I sometimes feel of trying to make a Welsh-sounding language. The result is Brythenig, and here’s the Lord’s Prayer in it:
Nustr Padr, ke sia i llo gel:
sia senghid tew nôn:
gwein tew rheon:
sia ffaeth tew wolont,
syrs lla der sig i llo gel.
Dun nustr pan diwrnal a nu h-eidd;
e pharddun llo nustr phechad a nu,
si nu pharddunan llo nustr phechadur.
E ngheidd rhen di nu in ill temp di drial,
mai llifr nu di’ll mal.
Per ill rheon, ill cofaeth e lla leir es ill tew,
per segl e segl.
PS The word for “novel” is just “nofel”, I.e. it’s just the same but with Welsh spelling.