Pronouncing (and singing) "ein"

I sing in a choir in Portland, Oregon that sings mostly in Welsh (The Festival Chorus of the Welsh Society of Portland). I do pretty well with reading and singing the welsh lyrics, but one small thing keeps tripping me up.

How do you pronounce “ein”? In listening to recordings of songs that we’re singing, I’ve heard it rhyme with “pain” and I’ve heard it rhyme with “line” (i.e. as if it was the German word for “one”). To confuse matters, if I consult the “Modern Welsh Dictionary” (Gareth King), it says (quite authoritatively) that the word is usually pronounced like “yn” (i.e. rhymes with “bun”).

So! Who to believe… Any words of advice on how to sing “ein”?

My singing is awful, and I can only add to your confusion: the Welsh IPA page on Wikipedia says this: diphthong əi example Seisnig, and Christine Jones Welsh gives English “ay” as in “way” as an approximation. T.J. Rhys Jones Living Welsh says it is pronounced like English “ee”. Myself, I’ve got good mileage out of pronouncing it as Dutch “ei” :smile:

As is the case so often, there is more than one correct way. Confusion reigns.

I feel guilty, Louis - to my ear it rhymes with - ain in pain

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That figures, you fit the Wikipedia view: “The diphthongs containing /ɨ/ occur only in Northern dialects; in Southern dialects /ʊɨ/ is replaced by /ʊi/, /ɨu, əɨ~ɛɨ, ɔɨ/ are merged with /ɪu, əi~ɛi, ɔi/, and /aɨ, ɑːɨ/ are merged with /ai/. There is a general tendency in the South to simplify diphthongs in everyday speech, e.g. Northern /ɡwɑːɨθ/ corresponding to /ɡwaːθ/ in the South, or Northern /ɡwɛiθjɔ/ and Southern /ɡwiθɔ/.”


Amazing. Just found a “wiktionary” page with pronunciation and etymology for ein. It gives two pronunciations: 1) ən, which sounds like yn (agreeing with Gareth), and 2) əi̯n, where əi̯ has the a sound in say or make (agreeing with Dinas).

The etymology says that ein comes from Middle Welsh yn which explains the first pronunciation.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether these “wiktionary” guys know what they are talking about … But I did learn something useful… turns out that ein in West Frisian means duck (oh, bother, but I don’t know whether it refers to the aquatic fowl, or an action to take when someone objects to how you are pronouncing ein).

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Yn yn ynn

The first bit of that is referring to the pronunciation of “u”, isn’t it? Which doesn’t concern the pronunciation of “ein”, I think!

The second bit refers to a tendency for a diphthong to become a single sound, which isn’t demonstrated by what Dinas is saying- I think!

In purely theoretical, grammar book, pronunciation from spelling terms, “Ei” is, unusually, a diphthong which seems not quite “phonetic” in Welsh, normally representing a sound similar to “uh-ee” rather than “eh-ee”, but that’s as near as dammit to what Dinas says, which is quite possibly closer to what Welsh people who haven’t read the instructions in grammar books say anyway.

Now, I think “ei” and “ein” are a bit odd and complicate matters.

I know that “ei” for his/her was originally “i” (thatisthesoundrepresentedinEnglishby"ee") but the spelling was represented by William Salisbury as “ei” in the New Testament due to Latin influence (though not intended to be pronounced as such!)

That spelling was one of the few spelling things taken up by the rest of the Welsh language, so “ei” was spelled “ei” but pronounced “i” (seeaboveforreoresentationofsoundinEnglishspelling). However, the spelling, not surprisingly, as it does in every language, influenced the pronunciation, so “ei” has now become a way of pronouncing it as well.

I think there is a similar story behind “ein”, as well.

Gareth King says a lot of things “quite authoritatively”. I shall now zip my lip on that subject!

Sticking purely to books, on this point, he agrees with everyone else I can remember reading, including (let’s 'ave a look at random…ah, here we are!) for example John Morris Jones, who gives the form of the pronoun as
Yn (wr. ein)
(wr. Meaning written),
So you can take that one to the bank.

You are dealing with “spoken Welsh” versus “hymn Welsh” here, with the added complication of the story behind the spelling above, so If “ein” has become an acceptable pronunciation [as with “ei” for “i”] (edited to add Heini Gruffudd’s Welsh learner’s Dictionary implies it has, giving both pronunciations), I have no idea what the best pronunciation of it would be in the hymn you are singing!
If you are singing mostly in Welsh with a choir, isn’t there someone there who can answer questions like this? (Not that there couldn’t be more than one answer of course, but just in terms of a decision on how the choir should pronounce the sound? If not, chwarae teg i chi gyd for doing it anyway, just wondering!

Sorry for the length of this post, and remember stuff like this about pronunciation is only of any relevance concerning poetry and hymns, and not often of relevance then!
[And as always, remember I may be writing complete rubbish!]

This is the boy :sunny:

I’d say ‘§ain’ if I were singing a hymn, and pretty much just ‘n’ in normal speech…

Or being out for one? (Do they play cricket in West Friesland?). They drink a lot of tea in East Friesland, so anything is possible. :smile:

Thanks all! In case you are wondering, like Owain, why I couldn’t just ask someone else in the choir. Well, there’s only one native speaker in the bunch - and he was out of town this week… so believe it or not, I was the next best thing :smile:. It’s not that there aren’t several people in the choir who’ve studied Cymraeg, it’s that I’ve got the nerve - courtesy of SSi - to say the words with a fair amount of confidence (well, except for ein, that is…).


I can’t supply expertise, but I learned various hymns, the National Anthem etc. by singing them and ‘ein’ sounded like ‘line’ to me. On watching S4C, it seemed to me that in speech it became like ‘mane’ and I tend to say that. I love the idea of it being just 'n!!! It may be that the singing was South and S4C mainly North!!!
from Jackie.