Pronunciation of 'u'

I’ve read that the welsh ‘u’ is pronounced as ‘i’ in the south and like the german ‘ü’ in the north. In the opening song to level 2 challenges I’m sure that I hear the ‘ü’ version (coffi du?) but not in the challenges. Even in the cd’s to Gareth’s ‘Colloquial Welsh’ all the pronunciation guide examples sound like the short ‘i’ to me (I’ve not listened to them for a couple of years since they were stolen along with my car!). Am I really hearing the ü form in the song and how commonly/uncommonly is this form used in the north?

In the south, it’s near enough identical to ‘i’. In the north, it’s like a lower pitched ‘i’; like the ‘y’ in Norwegian, if memory servies.

Very commonly indeed - even when it’s actually mean to be an ‘y’, sometimes… :slight_smile:

Interesting. I hear a Southern ‘u’ in ‘Coffi du’, as do my southern-Welsh speaking kids - maybe because that is what we are expecting to hear. However my German husband clearly hears a ‘ü’ sound, which bothers him, especially if people tell him it’s not there! It was the subject of some discussion over Xmas as one of the kids insisted on putting it on repeat at every opportunity…

1 Like

Strange isn’t and interesting that your husband also hears the ü. I’m not german but have studied the language some years ago and spent about eighteen months over there. I particularly noticed the pronunciation in the intro since it’s the only time I’ve actually heard it (or picked up on it perhaps) though having read about it.

I will have to go and listen to it again one of these days, if I can bear to! I like to think that my German used to be near native speaker level (although a bit rusty these days) so I wonder if I would tune into it if I tried. It’s interesting how we perceive different sounds though - there are some sounds in English that my husband insists he can’t tell apart, although they are completely obvious to me and the kids. (The useful words ‘wobble’ and ‘wubble’ for instance.)

It is like the German ü (or indeed French u, of course) BUT with a crucial difference: the lips are not rounded. So get ready to say ü, but slacken the lips - you’ll find you make an excellent approximation to the sound as heard in many parts of N Wales.


To me it sounds more like the way the letter i is pronounced in the Swedish word “bil” (car) than it does a German ü. Of course, this is just me trying to relate it to other sounds I’ve encountered.


Yes - very very similar indeed :slight_smile:

How I think of it is, it’s like the German ü but instead of saying ‘oo’, say ‘ih’.

Is it the same wherever within a word unlike the ‘y’ which does change?

Mm yes @netmouse. Unfortunately not living in Wales there’s the problem of finding examples of ‘correct’ or perhaps better said ‘standard’ pronunciation and the richness of dialects. I have perhaps enough on my plate just learning the language without the niceties of pronunciation but it’s just all so fascinating. If anyone could give examples of ‘where and which’ can be heard on radio in England (live in Nottinghamshire [wonder if there’s a welsh version of that?]) I’d be grateful.

Have a look (listen) to the “Darn Bach o Hanes” videos on YouTube - the presenter, Dewi Prysor is from Blaenau Ffestiniog/Trawsfynydd and you should definitely* be able to notice the difference in the way he pronounces i and u.

*once you get used to his accent and speed!

Pob Lwc!

1 Like

All the boys in Gwibdaith Hen Frân (the band who perform ‘Coffi Du’) are from Blaenau Ffestiniog, and u is almost always pronounced ü in that area.
You’ll hear it in tracks by other Blaenau bands too - Anweledig, Mim Twm Llai, Twmffat, Vates …


Ahh thanks @siaronjames. I’ll check that out.

Rather like the welsh ‘w’ but maybe sounded a bit higher in the mouth?

What I’ve read is that this sound is not [y] (German ü, front high rounded vowel) but [ɨ] (central high vowel) – so unrounded like [i] but further back in the mouth yet not as far back as [u].


I can vocalise the difference (put it on your list for March!), but I have no idea how to explain it in writing! Explaining LL is a doddle compared to explaining the Northern u! :smile:


A friend from Amritsar was trying to teach me how to say his new baby son’s name properly. It began with ‘d’ but it was softer, 'though not as soft as our ‘dd’. Dipinder, The first ‘i’ was ‘ee’. I knew I was not saying that first ‘d’ right. I practised then my friend declared, “Yes, you have it right!” I didn’t. I could hear a difference which he could not hear. I did get it right after a couple more goes, but this ‘hearing’ of differences is strange. A bit like colours. I don’t mean red/green colour blindness, I mean that Janet cannot detect tiny differences which are clear to me, but with music, I cannot tell whether a note is a tiny bit too high or low!


I’ve had a quick look/listen at a few of the youtube clips (Meddiannu tir, Hyd a Chrefydd, etc) but I feel like I should be refered to as ‘tortoise brain’ as all I could pick up were a few words/combinations that registered.:mask:. I’ll keep listening though as it’s good to hear the language at real speed rather than in ones own head at learner speed. Brilliant. :smiley::smiley:. Guess I always want to run before I can walk!