So in English, there are many useless letters or letters that sound the same such as C/K/Q, G/J, etc. Are there any letters that could be replaced or removed from Welsh such as X or Q in English? If so, what are they?
No, not really. All the consonants in Welsh are individual sounds, and unlike English don’t have other letters that sound the same. For instance, C and G are always ‘hard’ and can never be replaced by Ks/Qs (because we don’t have them in our alphabet to replace it with) or Ss (e.g. ‘soft’ Cs as in cistern) or Js (which is a later acquisition to the Welsh alphabet anyway).
In spoken Welsh there are sometimes letters omitted (F at the end of a word is a common one), but this is just the colloquial version, like dropping an initial H (holiday > ‘oliday) or a middle/end T (water > wa’er / might > migh’) in some English accents, but there’s no reason for removing them.
Perhaps over a long time dropping that F, for example, might occur organically (after all, modern Welsh has certainly changed from Old and Middle Welsh), but it’s still necessary - particularly in formal writing - for now.
There are a few double 'n’s that I wouldn’t mind losing
Mostly Welsh spelling is a breeze compared to English, but the “Is it one ‘n’ or two?” does catch me at times.
Generally the double n occurs because of the stress boundary. So, if (as is normal) the stress is on the last but one syllable, and that syllable ends in an n, and the final syllable begins with a vowe, the n sound carries on into the following syllable, creating a double n. TONnau - abSENnol - LLANnerch. This also happens to the r in cyrraedd (say it to yourself in your best Cardi accent!).
Don’t ask me what’s going on with annibendod, though.
My candidate for superfluous letters would be Cymru/Cymry/Cymri - though admittedly in the north i and u have subtly different sounds.
I like that explanation! I hadn’t seen it put so succinctly before, and I shall keep it in mind, testing every word that I have doubts about to see if it complies to the “rule”
What about the letter U? Doesn’t it sound like I?
They only sound the same in Southern Welsh. In Northern Welsh there is a distinct difference between them. (As RobBruce has already stated in his answer two posts up)
GPC reckons that’s from anniben, which is just an- = English un- (Latin in-, Greek an-) plus diben “end, aim, purpose”. The an- usually nasalises the word that follows, whence things like annibyniaeth, annheg, and annealladwy. (But not **annghofio, which would be a step too far!)
Well what about the letter J then? Couldn’t we give it any better purpose since it’s already idle now? How about, we use it for the Ch sound in loch, very similar to the Spanish J? Then words like Chwech could become Jwej. And the [dzh] sound could just be written Di since [dzh] is just a palatalized [d] sound anyway.
But then we’d need to introduce some kind of diacritics to help us distinguish between di- in **gàredi and di- in dianc, if we don’t want to start saying [dzhank]…
Then why not write the [dzh] sound as “ds”? Is that any better?
Yes, you are correct.
I still don’t like the idea, though.
Having started my learning journey by trying to transcribe songs without any knowledge of the Welsh alphabet, I can confidently say that the Italian alphabet, with just a handful of additions and variations, would work just fine.
We should launch a petition for twinning the languages!
That’s a really interesting observation! I’m going to help a friend’s (English) choir to learn a couple of Welsh songs, and I’ll be starting with the alphabet. Singers understand Italian vowels and it struck me that making that parallel to them would be a really good starting point.
I’m curious to hear how it will go with the singers, now!
For vowels, the only sound that does not exist here is one of the “y” sounds (as in “yn”).
Then, from time to time it’s just a matter of nuances (like shorter, longer, more open etc).
But they’re not as important as with English, and they may also change quite a bit in native accents in both countries, and when singing, lenghth will vary a lot according to the music so…!
Just for fun, or maybe a little extra inspiration, I enclose my own pronunciation guide to sing along one of the first I tried to learn (MYND by Datblygu of course), when I had no knowledge of Welsh at all !
It’s all Italian alphabet except the those in capital letters or phonetic:
Y = Welsh Y in “yn”
LL = as in Welsh
TH = as Welsh TH (or one of the English TH)
ð = as Welsh DD (or the other English TH)
vowels in parenthesis are those that are pronounced shorter
Isn’t it facile facile?
HEN ACTOR SY’N CARU’R TAFARN
hen actor sin cari’r tavarn
YN GOFYN CWESTIWN CALL I MI
Yn govin cuestiun caLL i mi
AM BETH O’N I’N MEDDWL AM
am beTH onin með(u)l am
EU FFILM OLAF
ei film olav
SAI WEDI GWELD E OEDD FY ATEB I
Sai uedi gueld e oið vY ateb i
CODODD AR EI DRAED, CODODD AR EI DRAED
codoð ar ei draid, codoð ar ei draid,
A MYND MYND MYND MYND
a mind, mind, mind, mind
ER MWYN CAEL RHYW DIORSAF
er muin cael rhiu diorsav
CYN MYND ‘NOL I’R ORSAF
k(i)n mind nol i’r orsav
MYND MYND MYND
mind, mind, mind
POPETH YN IAWN
PopeTH Yn iaun
POPETH YN HAPUS
PopeTH Yn hap(i)s
AMSER IDDO SYMYD
amser iðo sYmid
Why complicate things like that?
“Ch” as in Welsh is already known by all Welsh speakers, and quite obvious and familiar to people speaking or having a little knowledge of several other languages (although with slightly different nuances).
In Italian we don’t have J officially in the alphabet, except for borrowed words.
It usually matches our “soft g” sound it like “i”, and sometimes “i” (although most people in the past tended to pronounce it always as “i”, while nowadays always as in English).
But seems pretty harmless to me!
That works really well!
The problem with first-language English speakers (as one myself!) is that we have a lot of diphthongs that we don’t spell out, and a single vowel sounds differently in different words/letter combinations, and there is a horrible tendency to transfer that over into other languages. But when we sing Italian (and I’m sure there are more nuances when it comes to speaking it!) we use a single, bright “a” (similar to the Welsh one), a single, bright “e” (again, similar to the Welsh) and so on. So anyone who has learned to sing something like “ti amo” properly in Italian (with a pure “o” sound at the end) can reproduce the same vowel sounds for Welsh singing. Takes eternal vigilance from the conductor, though, to keep reminding people!
Somewhere I’ve got a pdf of a local newspaper from Salento in Griko, and I have to say that seeing Welsh spelt with Italianate orthography is somehow considerably less weird than seeing Greek get the same treatment…
I’ve never seen it written, but I’m sure it is!
(on a side note, it’s sad that so many languages still showing influences from peoples moving centuries back are disappearing… )