Pronouncing some Welsh place names10th May 2006
I am in the middle of changing how my photo gallery works (techies’ note: I am moving over to using an XML-powered application of my own making) but have come across a bluffer’s guide to Welsh place names that I feel has got a bit buried. Simply put, it gave phonetic spellings for some of the places that I have been known to frequent. Incidentally, I can recommend Tony Leaver’s Pronouncing Welsh Place Names (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Llanrwst, 1998); its quick listing of place names and how to pronounce them is invaluable. The reason that Welsh causes so much trouble for anglophones is its penchant for extra consonant sounds and seemingly inexplicable use of letters from the roman alphabet (f is pronounced like v, you need ff for an f sound) particularly vowels.
I used to think that Welsh was more weird than the language of my native land, Irish. And, in some respects, it is. But Irish has its own quirks with consonants and vowels too, but you don’t get a w being used to depict an elongated u or oo sound. I suppose that learning Irish at school (it was compulsory all the way up to the end of secondary/high school) got me used to its various nuances and I take it that it is the same for Welsh. What really gets me confused though is Scots Gaelic: words shared with Irish getting pronounced differently. Now, that does need some care and attention! At least, the strange spellings in Welsh give you some warning of what is coming…
Anyway, here is that list of awkward Welsh place names with phonetic spellings alongside:
Blaenau Ffestiniog: bligh-now fest-in-i-og
This list is far from complete but I have built it from where I have been to date. I hope it helps in some small way.
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