Welsh pronunciation

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This article is about general rules of pronunciation. You might want the pronunciation of Welsh Names on the Railway.

Points to note[edit source]

  • Welsh orthography avoids silent letters so every letter is pronounced.
  • There is a mainly close correspondence between letters and sounds, so most letters in Welsh are pronounced the same every time, though there are exceptions to this. For instance, the letter "y" can be pronounced in various ways, often depending on its position in the word.
  • Note that in Welsh the following count as single letters: "ch", "dd", "ng", "ll", "ph", and "th". Also, "w" and "i" can count as both vowels and consonants.
  • Some sounds are slightly different in North Wales to those in the South or the "standard" language.
  • Please refer below to notes on how to pronounce "dd", "ll", "ch", etc.
  • In a multi-syllabic word, the penultimate syllable is usually the one stressed.

General guide to Welsh pronunciation[edit source]

Consonants[edit source]

Letter Pronunciation
B As in English
C Always hard as in "cow", NOT as in "ceiling"
CH As in Scottish "loch" (guttural "kh"-type sound)
D As in English
DD Voiced "th" as in English "the", never unvoiced as in "think"
F As English "v"
FF Like English "f"
G As in English "gun" never as in "gin"
NG As in English "singer"; rarely as in English "finger"
H As in English
J As in English (this is not a native Welsh sound)
L As in English
LL A voiceless "l", put your tongue in the "l" position and breathe out noisily without voice
M As in English
N As in English
P As in English
PH As in English "phone"; it represents the same sound as "ff"
R A trilled "r"
RH Like "r", but accompanied by an aspiration of breath, which almost makes it sound like "hr"
S Always unvoiced, as in English "kiss", not like a "z" as in "is". "Si" is pronounced as "sh" when followed by another vowel
T As in English
TH Like unvoiced "th" in English "thug", never voiced as in "this"
TS (rare) Like "ch" in English "chip". (This is not a native Welsh sound)

Vowels[edit source]

The circumflex is not always used to show long vowels. Long vowels are used before voiced stops and fricatives; short vowels before voiceless ones.
Letter Pronunciation
A Short as in "can"
 Long as in "car"
E Short as in "pet"
Ê Long as in "pear"
I Short or long as in "pin"
Î Long "i" as in "seen"
O Usually short as in "hot"
Ô Long as in "cor!"
U, Û Short as in "pin" or long as in "seen" (in North Wales, these vowels are pronounced with the tongue retracted from the front position)
W usually "oo" as in English "put"
Ŵ "oo" as in English "boot"
Y, Ŷ In final syllables, as in "pin", "keen", but elsewhere as in "come", and on its own it is pronounced like the schwa vowel in the unstressed version of the English word "a" (indefinite article) - "y" by itself is the definite article "the".

Dipthongs (combined vowel sounds)[edit source]

Letter Pronunciation
ae, ai, au These combinations sound like "eye"

In the North, at the end of a word they tend to be pronounced as "a"
Earlier on in a word, "ae" is often heard in the North as "ay"

ei, eu In the North these combinations largely sound like "ay", though the initial element is more like an "uh" sound than an "a"
aw As in "cow"
ew We don't really have this sound in English. The e is short as in "get", followed by a short "oo" sound
iw/uw "i" followed by a short "oo" (a bit like as in "new")
ow This is similar to the "o" in "home", so Welsh word "brown" sounds more like "condone" than the English word
oe, oi, oy Like "oy" in "boy"
wy There are actually two versions of this diphthong: pronounced like "wee" or "oo-ee"

Mutations[edit source]

In Welsh the initial letter of a word can mutate in a predictable way.

There are 3 types of mutation, which means that a name like, say, Porthmadog, might variously be seen/heard as Porthmadog, Borthmadog, Mhorthmadog and Phorthmadog.

Soft mutation[edit source]

As far as place names are concerned, the soft mutation is most likely to occur after the words "i" (to) or "o" (from)
In all, 9 letters soft mutate.

Mutation Example
P > B i Borthmadog or o Borthmadog (Porthmadog)
C > G i Gaernarfon or o Gaernarfon (Caernarfon)
T > D i Dan-y-bwlch or o Dan-y-Bwlch (Tan-y-Bwlch)
B > F i Flaenau or o Flaenau (Blaenau)
M > F i Finffordd or o Finffordd (Minffordd)
RH > R i Riwbryfdir or o Riwbryfdir (Rhiwbryfdir)
D > DD i Ddeiniolen (Deiniolen) (note that Dinas does not mutate to "Ddinas")
G > - i Lan-yr-Afon (Glan-yr-Afon)
LL > L i Langollen (Llangollen)

Also, when 2 words are put together to form a compound word, the second usually mutates.

Nasal Mutation[edit source]

With place names this mutation is only likely to occur after the word "yn" (in).
In all, 6 letters mutate nasally.

Note that the word for "in" (yn) also changes in some of these examples.
Mutation Example
P > MH Ym Mhorthmadog. (Say "Um Horthmadog")
B > M Ym Meddgelert
C > NGH Yng Nghaernarfon (Say "Ung Hire-nar-von")
G > NG Yng Ngwynedd (Say "Ung Winedh")
T > NH Yn Nhan-y-bwlch. (Say "Un Han-a-boolkh")
D > N Yn Ninbych. (Say "Un Ninbikh")

Aspirate Mutation[edit source]

With place names the most likely cause of the aspirate mutation is after the word "a" (and).
Only 3 letters aspirate mutate.

Mutation Example
P > PH Blaenau a Phorthmadog
C > CH Porthmadog a Chaernarfon
T > TH Dduallt a Than-y-bwlch

See also[edit source]