Welsh English: Wikis

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Welsh English, Anglo-Welsh, or Wenglish (see below) refers to the dialects of English spoken in Wales by Welsh people. The dialects are significantly influenced by Welsh grammar and often include words derived from Welsh. In addition to the distinctive words and grammar, there is a variety of accents found across Wales from the South Wales Valleys to Monmouthshire to West Wales. The term can also refer to individual words borrowed from English (often recent additions to the English language for which there is no Welsh equivalent yet), but spoken by a fluent Welsh speaker and altered to fit the Welsh language e.g. "Rydw i'n compiwtio fe nawr", to mean "I'm computing it now".

Some people use the same word to refer to any form of English spoken in Wales.

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Pronunciation and peculiarities

Some of the features of Welsh English are:

  • Distinctive intonational differences, including a rising intonation at the end of statements - sometimes characterised as "sing-song".
  • Lengthening of all vowels is common in strong valleys accents.
  • The vowel /ʌ/ in English words such as "bus" is pronounced [ə], instead of the [ɐ] used in England. Thus, in Welsh English, the vowel sounds in "bus" and "the" are identical.
  • In some areas, pronouncing [ɪ] as [ɛ] e.g. "edit" and "benefit" as if spelt "edet" and "benefet".
  • A strong tendency (shared with Scottish English) towards using an alveolar trill [r] (a 'rolled r') in place of an approximant [ɹ] (the r used in most accents in England).
  • Yod-dropping is rare after any consonant so rude and rood, threw and through, chews and choose, for example, are usually distinct.

Influence of the Welsh language

As well as borrowing words directly from the Welsh language (e.g. cwtch, bach), Welsh English is influenced by the grammar of Welsh and Welsh intonation. Placing something at the start of a sentence emphasises it: "furious, she was". Repetition for double emphasis is not uncommon : "It was a little-little car, a Fiat". Conversely, structures that would indicate emphasis in Standard English, like "He does go there", or "I do do it", might be used in neutral contexts, where no emphasis is intended. This derives from the common use of periphrasis and auxiliary verbs in spoken Welsh.

History of the English Language in Wales

For centuries English has been spoken in the parts of southern Pembrokeshire and southwestern Carmarthenshire known as Little England beyond Wales. English was formally established as the language of law and government in Wales by the Laws In Wales Act implemented in 1536 and sometimes called the "Act of Union". This stated: "the people of the same dominion have and do daily use a speche nothing like ne consonant to the naturall mother tonge used within this Realme", and then declared the intention "utterly to extirpe alle and singular sinister usages and customs" belonging to Wales. The Act made English the only language of the law courts and stated that those who used Welsh would not be appointed to any public office in Wales. The parts of the 1535 Act relating to language were repealed only in 1993, by the Welsh Language Act 1993, though annotations on the Statute Law Database copy of the act reads that sections 18–21 were repealed by the Statute Law Revision Act 1887.

During the 19th century, English was considered a superior language for tuition, and some schools used the Welsh Not to punish Welsh speakers and encourage the use of English.

The influx of English workers during the Industrial Revolution in Wales from about 1800 led to a substantial dilution of the Welsh-speaking population of Wales. English migrants seldom learnt Welsh and their Welsh colleagues tended to speak English in mixed Welsh–English contexts. So bilingualism became almost universal. The legal status of Welsh was inferior to that of English, and so English gradually came to prevail.

Regional accents within Wales

There is a very wide range of regional accents within Wales.

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South Wales

The 'sing-song' Welsh accent familiar to many English people is generally associated with South Wales and the South Wales Valleys of the old South Wales Coalfield, most notably in the "mid-west" area from Port Talbot through the city of Swansea towards Llanelli. Somewhat reduced South-Wales accents can be heard from serious Shakespearian 'theatre' actors Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins, or on recordings of Dylan Thomas. Such accents are prominent in the film Twin Town and heard from Tom Jones and Catherine Zeta-Jones. An online survey for the BBC,[1] reported in January 2005, placed the Swansea accent in the bottom ten accents likely to help a career, although "Cardiff folk ranked only a few places higher".

Cardiff

The Cardiff accent and dialect is somewhat distinctive in Wales. People associated with the accent include Charlotte Church, Colin Jackson, Shirley Bassey, and local broadcaster and folk singer, Frank Hennessy. In colloquial language, Cardiffians tend to use a 3rd person singular verb conjugation when referring to the 1st person singular or plural. For example, I knows it/We knows it rather than I know it/We know it. A more general and distinguishing feature is the pronunciation of /ɑː/ as /æ/. Taking this into account with the general Welsh English feature of pronouncing /ɪ/ as /ɛ/, Cardiffians would say they're from Cah-deff. Furthermore, there is a tendency to use the present indicative form of a verb when the imperfect form is required, such as I come in and sit down rather than I came in and sat down.

The city itself has different dialects, with people from the eastern and western districts of the city having a stronger and broader accent than those living in north Cardiff. They also tend to pronounce here as yur and all right as orraye. Informal Cardiff vocabulary inlcudes the word lush to mean great, fabulous or attractive, and the word cracking to mean good or cool.

The accent is so broad that a speech software company worked with Cardiffians to improve such software.[2] Although based in nearby Barry, accents heard in the sitcom Gavin & Stacey are not Cardiff or Barry accents, with the exception of the character Nessa, played by Ruth Jones.

Newport

The accent of Newport is also distinctive, quite different from that of nearby Cardiff and has some of the influence of rural Monmouthshire, i.e. some Newportonians going shopping go "down town", which may be pronounced as "Dewn tewn", for 'into town'. An influx of Midlanders 100 years ago, when the Lysaghts steelworks was opened, has also had some effect. Many aspects of the accent are clearly discernible in songs by Newport-based satirical rap group Goldie Lookin Chain.

Swansea

In a similar manner to that of the Cardiffian, people from Swansea often employ the verb conjugation of the 3rd person singular whilst using the 1st person singular or plural as a subject yet. However much of the local variety is similar to the general South Wales Valleys accent.

The most famous Swansea accent of these times is that of actress Catherine Zeta Jones. Famous accents of the past include widely acclaimed poet Dylan Thomas, Swansea’s favourite son from whom music legend Bob Dylan took the name.

North East Wales

In North East Wales, the accent can sound like those of Cheshire and Merseyside (the latter most evident in Flintshire). Towns nearer the border or with substantial populations tend to have Scouse-like accents, due to the preference of the urban youth and Liverpudlians living there[citation needed], as well as the high population of families having moved there from the Liverpool area in recent centuries[citation needed]. It is not unusual to find that someone whose first language is Welsh speaks English like a Liverpudlian. More 'sing-song' accents are often found in Welsh speakers in the Northeast. However, some linguists believe there is some evidence to suggest that a massive movement of Welsh speakers to Liverpool, Birkenhead and Chester between 1800 and 1950(100,000 Welsh speakers in Liverpool in 1901) influenced the dialect of "scouse" in a Welsh direction, particularly in use of the word "mam" and the sound [x].

Western Wales

In the South of Pembrokeshire, the accent is similar in some respects to Cornish speech patterns[citation needed]. Certain Welsh words such as 'crwt' (boy) and 'pwdu' (in a mood) are used, despite the low number of Welsh speakers in the area. Conversely, the Somerset expression 'why aye' is heard in South Pembrokeshire. Owing to the high number of English migrants to the area, South Pembrokeshire is sometimes claimed to have an almost English accent[citation needed]; however, this is incorrect.[citation needed]. There is a distinct South Pembrokeshire accent and terminology used, although this is now in retreat.

Accents in Wales vary even over relatively short distances. The Neath accent is different again. Within Carmarthenshire, there is a noticeable difference between the Carmarthen, Llanelli and Ammanford accents. As in many other areas of Britain, the strength of different south-Walian accents is frequently related to social class, with the pronunciation of more educated speakers often closer to RP.

Influence outside Wales

While English accents have affected the accents of English in Wales, influence has moved in both directions. In particular, Scouse and Brummie accents have both had extensive Anglo-Welsh input through immigration, although in the former case, the influence of Anglo-Irish is better known. To other English ears, the accent of many people in border towns in Herefordshire and Shropshire, such as Kington and Craven Arms, is Welsh.

See also

References

External links


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