March 01, 2007

Morris Jones. ‘The Present Condition of the Welsh Language’

Y Wyddfor

The point of this essay is to consider any changes occurring in the linguistic structure of the Welsh language. Jones lists a number of these to begin consideration of the subject:
• subjunctive paradigms of verbs are used less often now, e.g. Agorwch y drws fel gallwyf ddod I mewn becomes Agorwch y drws fel y gallaf ddod I mewn;
• the forms for adjective in terms of gender and number are curtailed in spontaneous speech;
• and ‘a major difference in the forms of various words’, e.g. yr wyf i becomes rydw i etc.
The emphasis seems to be more on spoken language than written due to ‘the approach of modern linguistics’ and ‘pedagogical needs to teach Welsh as it is spoken’ (111).

The influence of English also has an effect on Welsh in terms of sound, orthographic symbols, syntax and semantics.
1. Sound. There are now three new sounds in the Welsh language: the ‘ch’ sound in ‘chips’ and cheque’ which is expressed in Welsh as ‘tsh’, ‘ts’ or the softer ‘si’; the ‘j’ sound in ‘jam’ and ‘garage’ that demanded the introduction of ‘j’ into the Welsh alphabet; and the ‘sh’ sounds in ‘shop’ and ‘brush’ also represented by ‘si’, ‘s’ or ‘sh’.
2. Syntax. ‘Verb + participle’ constructions have developed to mimic English phrases including adverbs that could be left out, e.g. ‘mae John wedi’I syrthio I lawr’ – ‘John has fallen down’. There are some Welsh constructions like this already (‘mae John wedi mynd yn ôl’ – ‘John has gone back’), so the new development is more of an extension.
3. Orthographic Symbols. The spelling of words is also a concern in relation to influence of Englsih on Welsh. Jones notes that some Welsh words have adopted a similar means of pluralising words as English so that chwaraelwyr (quarrymen) becomes chwaraelwrs from the singular chwaraelwr. There are also many improvisations for English words where English words are used within a Welsh sentence. There are established borrowings where loan-words, ‘form a regular part of the Welshman’s vocabulary’ e.g. bacon or bil (115). Another influence comes when, ‘new concepts are initially presented to the Welsh speaker through English’ e.g. astronot or gwasanaeth (117).

To conclude, Jones notes that, ‘English is a major world language whose use is not confined to the English side of Offa’s Dyke’ (119). The aim now is to create a standardised version of spoken Welsh to match the written one. Syntax and vocabulary vary around different parts of Wales:
• mae yna ddyn yn yr ardd, or, mae dyn yn yr ardd;
• mae gan John bres, or, mae pres gyda John;
• mae eisiau diod ar John, or, mae gan John eisiau diod, or, mae John eisiau diod, or, mae John yn moyn diod;
• buasai, or, byddai;
• efo, or, gyda;
• allan, or, mas;
• i fyny, or lan;
• llaeth, or, llefrith;
• bwrdd, or, bord;
• ffwrn, or, popty;
• gwyrch, or, shetin, or clawdd, or, perth, or claw.
Jones wants to see a standardisation of spoken speech by filtering dialects and judging the spoken and written forms to decide which is better. This is needed according to Jones if Welsh is to have a higher status.

Morris Jones. ‘The Present Condition of the Welsh Language’. The Welsh Language Today. Ed. Meic Stephens. Llandysul: Gomer, 1973. 110-126.

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