Accents (emphasis/stress) in words

I only did Challenge 1 so far but I noticed this before and it’s really confusing for me, so I’ll just try and ask here.

My impression is that accents in words (in the sense of stress on one syllable, not Northern or Southern) keep on changing. Also when it’s the same person speaking.

Some examples (using accented letters from my keyboard, not necessarily phonetically correct, but I guess it gives an idea):

Còvio or coviò
Ymàrver or Ymarvér
Siàrad or siaràd and sometimes even something like Sià-ràd!

Am I mishearing it? Or there’s no rule about it?

Maybe it’s just puzzling me because that’s one of the very few relevant things in pronunciation in Italian - a different accent may completely change the meaning of the world - but maybe it doesn’t matter much in Welsh?


I await correction from those more expert than I, but I think there are a small number of words whose meaning can change depending on there being an accent or not.

But I don’t think I recognise your cofio, ymarfer, or siarad examples.

As you probably know, the default emphasis in Welsh is on the last but one syllable.

However, there are sometimes apparent exceptions when two or more words are joined together to form a compound word (often in place names). There may be other exceptions too.

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The Northern course Level 1, they emphasize each sound so you don’t really get natural speaking stress. The Southern course is less slow an deliberate.

In general stress is on the second to last syllable. so…


The general rule in Welsh for where the stress lies is that it falls on the penultimate syllable for any word of two or more syllables.

There are exceptions (of course!) and these are usually:

  1. where it is an imported word e.g. caravan (carafan in Welsh) that has the final syllable stressed.
  2. certain other ‘random’ exceptions such as cadarnhau (= to confirm), and in these cases I’m afraid it’s just a case of getting used to hearing them.
  3. sometimes in composite words a speaker may stress the penultimate syllable of each original word rather than just the penultimate one of the composite e.g. multipurpose = amlbwrpas from aml + pwrpas so you may hear it with the ‘a’ and the ‘bwr’ stressed, or just with the ‘bwr’ stressed.

Of course unintentional intonation in the voice between different dialects can also creep in and sometimes stress a syllable that maybe, technically, shouldn’t be stressed!


Thinking about this one - even though the stress is always on the penultimate syllable as you say, I wonder if there is a mood element to that syllable, that maybe could lead to thinking that the pronounciation might have changed a bit - i.e. whether your questioning, curious, being sarcastic or making an exclamation, then the pitch and tone of that syllable can vary a bit, even though it is still the one that’s stressed.

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Yes, I agree that sometimes a tonal inflection can be mistaken as stress.


Ho Gisella and welcome. Sounds like you are doing great. The words you mentioned and the way you wrote them just jump out at me as sounding really authentic. Well done.

Anyway, regarding meanings, generally speaking, at least at our level, a word wont change its stress in order to change its meaning. However, as in other languages, occadionally, one identical word could have two meanings. Having said that, it doesn’t happen as frequently as in say, English.

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The first of each of these is the right one…:slight_smile:

I suspect that what’s happening here is a combination of us trying to speak clearly (and losing some of the natural stress by doing that) coupled with an Italian ear expecting a stronger emphasis coupled with it just being a little trickier to figure out emphasis in a new language at first, while you’re also dealing with unfamiliar patterns and sound combinations… :slight_smile:

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Alright, thanks everybody for the answers (and the welcomes).

The general penultimate/second-to-last syllable rule, and the exceptions @siaronjames listed, sure is a very good starting point for me, thanks.

I listened to the Southern accent version of the challenge first (just because I ended up there by chance really) and the Northern after.
I noticed it in both, maybe just a tiny bit more in the Southern version (which I’m going to stick to, because i recognized a few of the tiny bit of words and sounds I heard before and i don’t want to make my life more complicated!)

Yes, it’s very likely to be a combination of the speakers trying to speak clearly and Italian ears’ expectations. :slight_smile:

In fact I have to add that there seems to be a lot more emphasis in a lot of syllables, and especially on some strong and kinda harsh sounds, in Welsh language. It reminds me a bit of the way actors would declaim their part, or a poem. I’m talking about people speaking fluently in videos not the course now.
In Italian, we tend to slide and flow a bit more smoothly I guess, so I probably tend to perceive more accents than there actually are.

Just to make sure it’s clear: I really like the sound of Welsh language and one of the reasons I got curious about finding out more about it!


Yes, there’ll be some entertaining new stuff in there for you!.. :slight_smile:

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Yessss!!! :smiley:

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Yes, stick to the ‘penultimate syllable’ rule, Gisella. But remember, there are a small number of words which have the stress on the last syllable, e.g. ‘ymlaen’.

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This may help a little. :+1:t2:


Yes, thanks, it explains it very well.

I also noticed quite a strange thing. I can hear the stressed syllable clearly in dysgu and the longest words.
But, just like in the Challenges…hoffi, cerdded, gweithio, ymarver, cymydog and geiriadur…second to last and last syllable sound equally stressed to me! :hushed:

That must have something to do with my perception or ear habits and expectations. But I’m sure I’ll get used to it, and at least I know how I should try to pronounce them!

Ha, you have a much better ear for these things than me. I live in west wales so have grown up listening to the welsh accent in English and Welsh so everything sort of sounds normal to me.
Pob lwc :+1:t2:

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I guess you have your own “exceptions to the rule” in Italian. One of my favourite cities in Italy is the capital of Sardegna - Cagliari - where the stress is definitely on the first symbol.

Incidentally, I had a colleague in Brussels who had the same first name as you. She pronounced it with a hard “g” and stressed the first symbol. (I think she was German, in fact). Do you do the same? :slight_smile:

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Yes, we do have exceptions here too. The funny thing is that I hadn’t realized in Italian we actually have the same general rule as Welsh! But then we’re much lighter on the last I guess?

It’s also funny that quite a few Welsh words sound like Sardinian to me, some Sicilian, some Piemontese (I remember we had noticed that the first time we heard Datblygu).

My name is not very common in Italy, it has a soft G and accent on the e. But it comes from my grandma that was from the north east of Italy that was part of Austria for a long time and i think they called her Gisela, there just like your friend!

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Byd bach / small world :smile:

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