Going to New Word Alive? Get your “ll” right!

I have know Gethin Jones, who blogs over at The Grace Race, for a few number of years now. He is the UCCF relay worker at Bangor University, the nearest university to Pwllheli where New Word Alive kicks off next week. He wrote an excellent post over the weekend for you lot who are coming to Wales over the next two weeks to remind you that your not just coming over to western England and that your coming to Wales, a different country. Gethin is a linguist, and his mastery of his subject comes over clearly in his post:

I thought I’d put up a post for the benefit of those of you who’ll be attending New Word Alive this year. Last year, people were wimping out of saying the name of the place where NWA so, being a Welsh speaker, I thought I’d help you out.

The name of the place is Pwllheli (means salt pool). If it helps any of you to see it in the phonetic alphabet, it’s [pʊɬ’hɛlɪ]. Think ‘pullellie’ but change the ‘l’ at the end of the first syllable to that weird sound what Welsh has.

There are two main bits to look out for to get it right.

1) the “ll” – it’s a sound which you don’t get in many languages – if you’d like the technical term, it’s a voiceless alveolar lateral fricative, which in the International Phonetic Alphabet is [ɬ]. “Thanks Geth, that’s a great help!” I hear you cry…

So how do you say it? The shape you need to make with your tongue is the same as that of an ‘l’ but rather than voicing the sound, just blow while your tongue is in that position. (so it’s not like the Welsh ‘ch’ sound or a ‘cw’ sound – just a blowy ‘l’ sound).

2) the ‘w’ – it appears that some people try to put this after the ‘ll’ because in English, /w/ is a glide, so it sort of works like a consonant would – I’ve heard people try to say “Pwllweli”.
But in Welsh, ‘w’ can work as a vowel like the ‘u’ in ‘pull’ so you don’t need to put it in front of another vowel.

Any questions?

Here’s a few more Welsh phrases which you might find useful. How about practising them with your friends this week. And if there are any other phrases you’d like to know, just put them in the comment section here, and I’ll put them up for you in another post during the week.

(the stress almost always goes on the penultimate syllable of each word – I’ll put the stressed syllables in itallics)

Good morning – “Bore da” – ‘bor-reh dar’
Good afternoon – “Prynhawn da” – ‘prinn-haoon dar’
Good evening – “Noswaith dda” – ‘noss-waeeth ddar” (dd – like the ‘th’ of “the”)
Good night – “Nos da” – ‘norse dar’

Thank you – “Diolch” – ‘dee-olch’ (not the ‘ch’ of “chocolate” but like in the German “Bach”)
Welcome / You’re welcome – “Croeso” – ‘croy-saw’
Please – “Os gwelwch yn dda” – ‘oss gwel-uch unn ddar’ (unn as in “done”)

Cup of tea – “Paned o de” – ‘pan-edd or der’
‘Cuppa’ – “Paned”
Cup of coffee – “Paned o goffi” – ‘pan-edd or goffee’

what else would you like to know?

On the whole I think New World Alive benefits the local area. Although it’s an all English affair in the middle of the Welshiest part of Wales (over 70% speak Welsh there), it brings much needing money into the local economy. Also, I understand New Word Alive made a generous financial contribution towards the work of Trobwynt, a children and youth ministry in this rural area of Wales. So it’s good to know that New Word Alive are sensitive to the spiritual need of the Pwllheli area and are not parachuting in and out with tunnel vision! I hope all who go have a blessed time, and please do spare some time to pray about the local churches and their witness among the native Welsh speakers.


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One Response to “Going to New Word Alive? Get your “ll” right!”

  1. Dafydd Says:

    For those going to New Word Alive, take note of the daily news-sheet – there’s an item called “The Welsh Connection” each day which should help you understand a little of the particular Christian heritage of Wales

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