W pronunciation - when is it an oo and when is it a w

Hi all

If you think this looks familiar I did post in slack, but my tutor suggested this might be the right place for an answer.

I know that the pronunciation of w in welsh is quite often an oo sound (being a bit simplistic here, I know that isn’t quite right) as a vowel. However there are multiple instances where it is a hard w like in English - so for example


Are all the oo sound.


all hard w’s.

Is there a guide as to when its hard and when it’s soft?

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Probably not a hard and fast rule, but I’d say if “w” is by itself it is an “oo” sound, and in combined vowels, if the w is short and unstressed, it is the english w sound.
(But in wy (egg), for example, the w holds the stress, so it is pronounced “OO-ee”)


Thanks Hendrik, that makes sense! I like your description of the wy sound too.

Uh…are there really two different w sounds in Welsh and English? :thinking:

Since I’ve never been aware of it, I’m not sure if trying to figure it out is going to help or make my language learning life more complicated at this point! :smiley:

(Do you know if there are any specific audio files in case I decide to try?)

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I agree with Hendrik, it’s not rally that the basic sound of ‘w’ is different, it’s just that if it’s pronounced quickly before another vowel which is unstressed the two combined make it sound as if it’s an English ‘w’’. :slightly_smiling_face: … the stress is an added complication, though :roll_eyes:

The online Gweiadur dictionary has sound files for most words and it’s free but unfortunately there seems to be a limit on the numbers of people subascribing :frowning: - might be worth tryng to see if they’ve increased the limit though :slightly_smiling_face:


Looks like they haven’t. :slightly_frowning_face:
They say to check Facebook and Twitter, but last updates are in 2016 and 2017 respectively. I doubt they’re still working on it. :roll_eyes:

Edit: in the meantime I’ve looked for more examples around the web.

I can actually hear the difference of sound for cwm, fwrdd, hwnt, cwpan - which seem closed and very short.
Yet different than those in @dee-4’s list and @Hendrik’s extra examples to me.
What about that?


Well, maybe the best advice might be not to be too worried about relatively small differences in the sounds. :slightly_smiling_face: - when you’re speaking a lot of people may just think you come from a different area :slightly_smiling_face:

There are bound to be differences between different parts of Wales (even to the extent, in parts of SW Wales, of the pronunciation of Oes as ‘Wes’ and coed as ‘cwed’ with an English ‘w’ sound ) - and there are very noticeable differences too in vowel sounds between different parts of England, although the pronounciation taught as the ‘standard’ pronunciationis from Southern England


It may interest people to know that, when I was studying ventriloquism, I learned that the way to pronounce ‘w’ in English as a vent is to say ‘oo’ - for example, ‘water’ becomes ‘oo-orter’ - which means your lips don’t move…:thinking:

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Bet I’m not the only one that’s just been saying “water” like that now to see if my lips move… and chuffed to find it actually works! :smiley:


Nope not the only one


I got curious, but…I pronounce w and oo the same way, with lips moving and I don’t know what a vent is in this context! :laughing:

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Try ‘bod’ and ‘peth’ without moving your lips - that’s a tad harder! :joy:

Yeah… not falling for that one! :rofl::rofl::rofl:

Funnily enough there are other parallels between Welsh and ventriloquism. For example, to say ‘violet’ you would substitute the English ‘v’ for the Welsh letter ‘dd’ - and to say ‘fudge’ you would substitute the ‘f’ for the Welsh letter ‘th’. I bet @siaronjames is going to try those now, too! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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Although the ‘th’ in ‘fudge’ is not quite so ‘aspirate’ as you’d pronounce it in Welsh - it is a much shorter sound. But it’s still a ‘th’…

ok, yup. I did. Violet comes out ok - need to work on the fudge though! :joy:

You know we have our own ‘Noson Lawen’ on Slack? Bet there hasn’t been a ventriloquist on there yet :wink:

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Now THERE’S an idea! I might have to get back into it…

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@siaronjames the key with vent is that you rarely pronounce single words on their own where there is a letter substitution as it can sound ‘contrived’. But in the middle or end of a sentence it sounds much more natural as the listener’s brain interprets the sentence as a whole and tends to ignore anything that sounds a bit less natural. That’s probably why the SSiW double-speed listening exercises work too (similar principle, I reckon). So if you say ‘thudge’ on its own, it might sound a bit odd, but try saying ‘I’d love a bit of thudge’ and you should notice it sounds almost completely natural. (Go on, try that one too!)

:rofl: yes, I did, and I do - I truly love a bit of thudge! (I’ve got a feeling it might be getting called that from now on :joy: )

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Rather boringly back to ‘oo’/‘w’ - my understanding was that the Welsh ‘w’ could have both the short and long Engilsh ‘oo’ sounds (think book and zoo), depending on the word, but when it comes before another vowel and is not part of a digraph, it then makes the English ‘w’ sound…