Taking the plunge

All right, I’ve done it, I have finally done it… I’ve just completed Level 1, Challenge 1 (Northern). :slight_smile: And it really wasn’t too hard, but it helps that I’m already familiar with the SSi method, having done SSiCornish.

It’s fun to compare two sister languages, but interestingly, they really aren’t all that similar in the basics. I’ve only run across two cognate words so far — dysgu (dyski) and gwella (gwellhe). (Except in Kernewek we don’t do the famous “ll” sound — we just pronounce it as it would be in English. I don’t know if Kernewek ever had a “ll” sound like Cymraeg and it got dropped along the way, or whether it developed separately in Cymraeg after the languages diverged.) Some of the sentence structures are quite different as well. But at least I already know about mutations, so that wasn’t a shock at all…

It’s a relief to see I’m not likely to confuse my Cymraeg with my Kernewek, but I think I’ll keep the Cymraeg to a fairly casual level for now, as I’m about to start studying Grade 2 Cornish (through the KDL correspondence course) and that’s where I need to keep my focus for now — I do have a full time paid job in the midst of all this! :smile:

But I just wanted to say it IS lovely to have started SSiWelsh and to have the assurance that I can certainly get my mind and mouth around the language. I chose Northern because there’s some possibility I may get some work near Manchester next year and then I won’t be too far at all from North Wales, so I’ll enjoy looking for chances to try out the language, even if it’s only a few words and sentences…

I’ve also tried out the first several Duolingo Welsh lessons and I must say that although it’s good for picking up some vocab, it really doesn’t get you using the language in any real way like SSi does. And that computer voice it uses is just awful, so I have no idea whether the pronunciations are anything like correct. The voices on SSiWelsh are much much nicer to listen to and learn from. But then, I would say that here, wouldn’t I? :slight_smile:


Having just looked at the Cornish alphabet and the associated mutations, I think this would throw me considerably! I still have trouble with remembering some of the Welsh mutations (and I really shouldn’t at this stage) so to have new letters changing would confuse me even more!

I didn’t realise how inadequate DuoLingo is until I started SSIW, but I agree that it’s useful for picking up vocabulary (although I’m ending up learning lots of vocabulary that I’m almost certainly never use).

1 Like

Well, so far the mutations I’ve encountered in Level 1 (after “mynd i” and “sut i”) have been exactly the same as the ones I’d expect in Cornish: t - d, d - dh (dd in Welsh spelling), gw - w. But I’m aware you have others that we don’t use, so I may find it harder later on… :slight_smile:

Isn’t there a hard-mutation in Cornish? Where the letters go the opposite way to the soft mutation? In Welsh, I suppose this would be B back to P, and F back to B. Sounds like an extra thing to remember!

Interesting how languages that are so closely related have still diverged quite a way in some respects.

1 Like

Yep — it turns B to P, D to T and G to K (opposite of soft mutation). Among one or two other causes that I haven’t learned properly yet, it happens after the particle “ow” that turns a verb into the present participle ("-ing" in English). So gwertha (to sell) - ow kwertha (selling); berrhe (to shorten) - ow perrhe (shortening); dyski (to learn) - ow tyski (learning). But it’s only those three letters and only in very specific circumstances, so it’s not too bad. :slight_smile:

That’s another cognate to add to your list! Gwerthu - to sell!

1 Like

To some extent this happens internally when adding certain word endings. Rhad is the word for cheap, for example, and you can add the ending ach to change the meaning to cheaper, but this causes an internal hard mutation to make rhatach. Similarly gwlyb (wet) -> gwlypach (wetter).

The great thing about this particular ‘rule’ is that you don’t really need to remember to do it - the human voice and mouth seems to do it naturally. :smile:


And berrhe: Ber = short = Byr

1 Like

And gwlyb is a cognate with glyb :sweat_drops: :slight_smile:

Funnily enough, “to speak” is one verb you’d think would be the same or at least similar in two closely related languages, but it’s not at all — siarad / kewsel.

Another difference I noticed — in the first challenge we learned “dw i angen” for “I need”. It’s a funny quirk of Kernewek that we don’t actually have a verb for “to need”. We use nouns instead: “res yw dhymm” or “yma edhomm dhymm” (“a need is to me” / “there is a need to me”). Not sure why that is. I wonder if the word “angen” developed only after the two languages diverged — or did we originally have a verb for “to need” in Kernewek and stopped using it? It’d be fascinating to study what we know or can reconstruct of common Brythonic…

One more thing I found slightly surprising — I’ve noticed Welsh tends to borrow much more from English than Cornish does. Most of the Cornish language revivalists have pretty much had the philosophy of “Why bother speaking Cornish if you’re going to keep peppering it with English words?” Usually, when there’s something we don’t have an original Cornish word for, we either borrow a Welsh and/or Breton cognate, or coin a new word out of existing Kernewek elements. (You say “siop”, we say “gwerthji” — selling-house.) So I was a little surprised to discover that Welsh has its own word for “to practise” — “ymarfen” — where Cornish just uses “praktisya”! :smile:

So — dw i isio dysgu Cymraeg, mes res yw dhymm praktisya Kernewek… :wink:


If you had picked the Southern option, you would by now have come across -

Ma’ isie 'da fi - for exactly the same construction as in Cornish “a need/want with me”, instead of the angen version.

Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru (GPC) has for angen, the cognates - Cornish “anken” and Breton - an©quen or anken and Irish - eigean - meaning - need, want, loss, lack, adversity, distress or oppression etc etc

P.S. I wonder where the English espression “ache for” comes from, it looks surprisingly familiar to some of the very early spellings of angen - i.e. aghen or agheu?

1 Like

According to online sources, the English word “ache” comes from Proto-Germanic via Old English, so I think any link to Welsh or Old Welsh is just coincidental.

I also found this, which was an interesting read.



Hooray, I’ve just learned via Duolingo (though I’d already guessed) that numbers 1 to 10 are almost the same in Cymraeg as they are in Kernewek! :smile:

un, dau, tri, pedwar, pump, chwech, saith, wyth, naw, deg
onan, dew, tri, peswar, pymp, hwegh, seyth, eth, naw, deg

But Duolingo took me up to 12 and I see numbers after 10 are a bit different — un deg un, un deg dau rather than unnek, dewdhek (tredhek, peswardhek, pymthek and so on, in Cornish). I do remember hearing somewhere that the counting system in Welsh has been modernised somewhat — is this a result of that? Cornish still has a base 20 counting system. Some days I think that’s wonderful and traditional and different and we shouldn’t lose it; some days I wish we’d go decimal and be done with it!! :grin:

un ar ddeg, deuddeg, tri-ar-ddeg, pedwar - ar-ddeg and the glorious bymtheg, the brilliant dau naw for eighteen and the fabulous ugain for twenty.

Much more beautiful and easier to say than the new and very uninspiring un deg un etc - maybe that switch is why every welsh speaker in Wales except a few teachers and the great and good all now count in English?

I think some bright spark must have thought it would help with maths - that’s teachers and academics for you I guess.

1 Like

Yes, as @Toffidil ‘s post implies and you mention, there are two systems which in the real world co-exist.

There is a twenty based system - the original - still used habitually for time of day and by people in general when they choose(!) and chapter numbers in books (it seems)… and the decimal system, also widely used, for things other than time of day.

How fascinating that underlyingly the two languages are so close.

Rich :slight_smile:

1 Like

A, pur drist yw henna (Oh, that’s very sad). :frowning: Yn Kernewek, we still say unnek, dewdhek, tredhek, peswardhek, pymthek, hwetek, seytek, etek (not dew naw, unfortunately), nownsek, ugens.

Yn Kembrek hengovek — in traditional Welsh — do you say dau ugain, tri ugain, pedwar ugain for 40, 60, 80? :slight_smile:

that’s teachers and academics for you

Cofiwch - there’s a few of us on this forum.


Ah, only just saw your post, Rich — thanks, that answers my question about the 20s. I have to admit, counting in Kernewek, I have a lot of trouble thinking of, say, 75 as “pymthek ha tri ugens”. But if I’d grown up doing it… I can see the attraction of a decimal system, but it does seem to take away something of the character of the language, doesn’t it?

Yes, it’s quirky and characterful isn’t it.

In the older system there is a deugain Trigain, Pedwar ugain. And as you expect you start over at 20 and add one to it etc …


1 Like

hanner cant for fifty is quite a nifty one as well. I think its pretty much the same in Breton and Cornish as well.

1 Like