Does anyone know anything about playing Scrabble in Welsh? I’m a long way from being able to attempt this myself with any degree of competence, but as an English Scrabble expert and a member of the committee that decides what English words are to be allowed as playable I would be intrigued to know whether there is a Welsh equivalent of the ‘Official Scrabble Words’ that I help to produce, how many words it contains, and what criteria are used for it e.g. what source dictionary or dictionaries it draws on, whether it includes all the archaic/poetic words, whether it includes English loanwords, and so on. Or maybe there just isn’t a Welsh Scrabble scene? – though I know that Welsh Scrabble sets do exist. Letter distribution and tile values would also be of interest – I guess you don’t get four points for using a W!
I’ve played Welsh Scrabble before (a friend had a set) and the most interesting thing about it was the double letters on one tile. I have no idea whether there is an officially recognized dictionary - we just used Gareth King’s dictionary.
Hi David - Here’s an article from around the time of the release of the Welsh version. I think it answers most of your questions. I’m unaware of an ‘official’ dictionary, but can confirm that literary words are very much allowed.
Last time I played, I was very pleased to get an NG (10 points) on a triple letter score!
Thanks Rob. Apart from that I can find very little about Welsh Scrabble online, which leads me to suspect that there isn’t really an organised scene with clubs, tournaments etc. and such play as goes on is fairly informal with (presumably) the players involved simply agreeing on a convenient dictionary to use, as Sionned says. If ever it did become more organised, there would almost certainly need to be some sort of official list, the making of which would involve a lot of decisions about plurals, dialect words and so on: for example, if you look at the Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru site it appears that an awful lot of Welsh words have at least three plural forms, of which I tend to assume the first is the more standard one, in so far as one can speak of a standard when it comes to Welsh! Anyway, just curious, so thanks for satisfying that.
I have a Welsh Scrabble set but of course it is impossible to play by oneself. I have not come across a Welsh Scrabble dictionary. It would be great if there was a version to play on the iPad but I have not found one. At the moment I go to a Welsh Scrabble session each week in Abergavenny in Monmouthshire.
@Deborah-SSi @Karla @ben, Dave and I played in Tresaith. It wasn’t “organised” we just had some down time. @Iestyn hovered like an adjudicator. Very hard to form plurals when the middle of the word changes.
Yes, it’s a qualitatively different game from the English version. It’s necessary to learn a whole raft of different tactics and techniques, which is great!
Oh yes, that was fun!
We always have a couple of Scrabble sets available for those who want to have a go. It depends on whether the particular bwtcampers have had much exposure to reading and writing before they come along.
We tend to treat it more as a learning and vocab expanding exercise though, and decide between us whether we want to allow mutated forms of words etc. All good fun!
Hi all. Scrabble yn y Gymraeg is available to buy online from GWales:
and Cant a Mil Vintage:
I’ve played it in a pub with other learners…
Does anyone have an interest in having a Scrabble session in the Maes D this year? If so, I can organise this…
Yes it is available to buy but not available to play on-line.
The English version is available through EA to play on-line against the computer or against other opponents. There is a very wide range of words available. The Collins Scrabble Dictionary is used and many of the words are very obscure.
A Welsh version of Scrabble playable on-line and a dictionary of acceptable words is required.
It would be very interesting to see a Welsh ‘Official Scrabble Words’, but to be honest I can’t see it happening. The creation of such a list, if it is to be done properly, requires a lengthy collaboration between professional lexicographers and a semi-professional committee of expert Scrabble players, and then you require a publisher willing to invest in the production of what is likely to be a sizeable book. No problem for English, where the book sells many thousands of copies worldwide, but, meaning no disrespect to the Welsh or the Welsh language, it’s not likely to be a viable proposition in Welsh simply because of the likely size of the target audience. Unless, of course, one could get some cultural subsidy for the work. After all, there are such lists not only for English but also for French, German, Spanish, Swedish, Polish…. Is it not a stain on Welsh honour that no such list exists for Europe’s most ancient and venerable language!
Note that simply nominating an existing dictionary is not an adequate solution if the game is to be played at a serious level. No dictionary is going to give precise enough guidance as to what words are and are not acceptable, and this inevitably leads to disputes. This is all very well if you are just playing domestic Scrabble, where the worst that can happen is divorce or possibly murder, but once you start having clubs and leagues and tournaments with money prizes, these disputes can get really ugly. That’s why it is imperative to have a straight word list, in alphabetical order, stripped of definitions but containing every playable combination of characters, so any dispute can be adjudicated by a simple look up: if it’s there, OK, if not take it back and lose your turn. Such a list is also indispensable for computerising the game e.g. if you want an online Scrabble app in Welsh.
Certainly one has to start by choosing a dictionary or combination of dictionaries to base the word list on, but that is only a start. With luck the publishers may be willing to supply you with a computerised list of words to get you off the ground, but then someone has to go over that eliminating elements not playable in Scrabble – words of more than fifteen letters, proper nouns, hyphenated words, abbreviations. And then it can still be a long journey to arrive at a finished word list. Some of the issues that arise:
Plurals. English dictionaries don’t normally specify plurals unless they are irregular. We have the simple rule that any singular noun can have a plural, though in a few cases, such as SHEEP and some words of Japanese origin, the plural can be the same as the singular. I am not sure if this simple rule could work with Welsh. I note that the Welsh dictionary I mainly use, the online Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, gives no plural for many nouns, particularly abstract ones. Does this mean that a form such as ARCHLODAU as a plural of ARCHLOD (shame, disgrace) is simply unthinkable?
Conparatives/superlatives. The base dictionaries we use for English (Collins and Chambers) are a bit lax about specifying these and sometimes judgment calls have to be made. Clearly a brown horse can be BROWNER or BROWNEST, but can a bay horse be BAYER or BAYEST? We judge not. I don’t know what the situation is in Welsh. Is it absolutely clearcut, and made clear in the dictionaries, what adjectives can compare using –ACH and –AF and which can’t, or is there a grey area? Again, decisions may be required.
Phrasal words. This may not be a problem in Welsh, but English dictionaries contain many foreign phrases that have become part of the language. We have the rule that a phrasal word is playable only if it can have a standalone meaning. So, we don’t allow QUO (from status quo), because QUO has no independent meaning in English, and we don’t allow JE or QUOI from JE NE SAIS QUOI.
Contractions/abbreviations. Contractions are allowed, abbreviations are not. So, ADMIN, AMMO, BRA, CROC are fine, CWT is not. But it is not always easy to decide what is an abbreviation and what is a contraction. At one point in English Scrabble we allowed PH and EMF, but these went in 2007. I don’t know whether there would be any such problems with Welsh.
Archaisms/obsolete words. Our rule is that if such words are in the dictionary we allow them, even if they haven’t been used for four hundred years. In practice our base dictionaries go back to about the sixteenth century, so the list has spellings from Spenser but not Chaucer. Some of the Spenserian words are weird enough e.g. YGLAUNST for glanced, and this is a matter of much debate with some Scrabble players wishing to purge the list of ‘ridiculous’ spellings and others (like me) regarding them as part of our linguistic heritage. I imagine this could be quite a problem with Welsh too.
Mutations. Not a problem with English, but the box rules for Welsh Scrabble apparently state that initial mutations are not permitted. So you can’t play FOD? How simple is the rule to apply e.g can you not play BETH because of its relation to PETH?
Anyway, enough of my ramblings. As a beginner in Welsh I am of course in no position to advise on particularities, but as a member of the committee that produces the English list I know a great deal about the sort of general issues A Welsh enterprise might face if anyone did wish to attempt it.
By the way, the English word list currently contains 276663 words, though only about 140000 of these have any practical application to Scrabble, since words of ten letters or more are almost never played and even nines are rare. I wonder what the comparable figure would be for Welsh. I imagine Welsh has quite a lot fewer ‘root words’, because English has an ability to hoover up and absorb vast quantities of foreign words that I suspect is not matched in Welsh. On the other hand, Welsh is a far more inflected language. My guess is that the Welsh lexicon would end up just as rich and challenging as the English one.
From what I remember, they do usually have a couple of Welsh Scrabble sets available in Maes D for anyone who wants to play.
Thank you for a very comprehensive reply. I appreciate that it is not a simple process to produce a composite Welsh Scrabble dictionary and commercially it would not be viable. It is just a dream for the future but probably not in my lifetime or even ever. It would however be good to be able to play Scrabble in Welsh on the iPad.
We got excited a year or two ago when we saw Welsh scrabble in Aberystwyth, but with our level of Welsh we couldn’t justify buying it (one day!). On the other hand, we do like to joke that we must have bought it afterall whenever one of us goes successive turns without any vowels during English scrabble. It was funnier before I learnt that, if it had indeed been Welsh scrabble, I’d have had more vowels than I thought.
That’s one thing I often mention when people are joking about the Welsh language having no vowels. I point out that Welsh actually has more vowels than English, you just don’t recognize them!