Welsh English

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For the language called "Welsh", see Welsh language.
Welsh English
Native to  United Kingdom
Region  Wales
Native speakers
2.5 million  (date missing)[citation needed]
Latin (English alphabet)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog None
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Welsh English, Anglo-Welsh, or Wenglish (see below) refers to the dialects of English spoken in Wales by Welsh people. The dialects are significantly influenced by Welsh grammar and often include words derived from Welsh. In addition to the distinctive words and grammar, there is a variety of accents found across Wales from the Cardiff dialect to that of the South Wales Valleys and to West Wales.

In the east and south east, it has been influenced by West Country dialects due to immigration,[citation needed] while in North Wales, the influence of Merseyside English is becoming increasingly prominent.



Short monophthongs[edit]

  • The vowel of cat /æ/ is pronounced as a more central near-open front unrounded vowel [æ̈].[1] In Cardiff, bag is pronounced with a long vowel [aː].[2] In Powys, a pronunciation resembling its New Zealand and South African analogue is sometimes heard, i.e. trap is pronounced /trɛp/[3]
  • The vowel of end /ɛ/ is a more open vowel and thus closer to cardinal vowel [ɛ] than RP[1]
  • The vowel of "kit" /ɪ/ often sounds closer to the schwa sound of above, an advanced close-mid central unrounded vowel [ɘ̟][1]
  • The vowel of hot /ɒ/ is raised towards /ɔ/ and can thus be transcribed as [ɒ̝] or [ɔ̞][1]
  • The vowel of "bus" /ʌ/ is pronounced [ɜ][4] and is encountered as a hypercorrection in northern areas for foot.[5] It is sometimes manifested in border areas of north and mid Wales as an open front unrounded vowel /a/ or as a near-close near-back vowel /ʊ/ in northeast Wales, under influence of Cheshire and Merseyside accents.[6]
  • In accents that distinguish between foot and strut, the vowel of foot is a more lowered vowel [ɤ̈],[4] particularly in the north[6]
  • The schwa of better may be different from that of above in some accents; the former may be pronounced as [ɜ], the same vowel as that of bus[7]
  • The schwi tends to be supplanted by an /ɛ/ in final closed syllables, e.g. brightest /ˈbɾəi.tɛst/. The uncertainty over which vowel to use often leads to 'hypercorrections' involving the schwa, e.g. programme is often pronounced /ˈproː.ɡrəm/[2]

Long monophthongs[edit]

Monophthongs of Welsh English as they are pronounced in Abercrave, from Coupland (1990:135)
Monophthongs of Welsh English as they are pronounced in Cardiff, from Coupland (1990:93–95)
Diphthongs of Welsh English as they are pronounced in Abercrave, from Coupland (1990:135–136)
Diphthongs of Welsh English as they are pronounced in Cardiff, from Coupland (1990:97)


  • Fronting diphthongs tend to resemble Received Pronunciation, apart from the vowel of bite that has a more centralised onset [æ̈ɪ][12]
  • Backing diphthongs are more varied:[13]
    • The vowel of low in RP, other than being rendered as a monophthong, like described above, is often pronounced as [oʊ̝]
    • The word town is pronounced similarly to the New Zealand pronunciation of tone, i.e. with a near-open central onset [ɐʊ̝]
    • The /juː/ of RP in the word due is usually pronounced as a true diphthong [ëʊ̝]

Correspondence between the IPA help key and Welsh English vowels
Pure vowels
Help key Welsh Examples
/ɪ/ /ɪ/ ~ /ɪ̈/ ~ /ɘ/ bid, pit
/iː/ /i/ bead, peat
/ɛ/ /ɛ/ bed, pet
/eɪ/ /e/~/eɪ/ fate, gate
/eɪ/ bay, hey
/æ/ /a/ bad, pat, barrow, marry
/ɑː/ /aː/ balm, father, pa
/ɒ/ /ɒ/ bod, pot, cot
/ɔː/ /ɒː/ bawd, paw, caught
/oʊ/ /o/~/oʊ/ beau, hoe, poke
/oʊ/ soul,low,tow
/ʊ/ /ʊ/ good, foot, put
/uː/ /uː/ booed, food
/ʌ/ /ə/~/ʊ/ bud, putt
/aɪ/ /aɪ/ ~ /əɪ/ buy, ride, write
/aʊ/ /aʊ̝/ ~ /əʊ̝/~ /ɐʊ̝/ how, pout
/ɔɪ/ /ɒɪ/ boy, hoy
/juː/ /ɪu/~/ëʊ̝/ hue, pew, new
R-coloured vowels (these do not exist in Scots)
/ɪər/ /ɪə̯(ɾ)/ beer, mere
/ɛər/ /ɛə̯(ɾ)/ bear, mare, Mary
/ɑr/ /aː(ɾ)/ bar, mar
/ɔr/ /ɒː(ɾ)/ moral, forage,born, for
/ɔər/ /oː(ɾ)/ boar, four, more
/ʊər/ /ʊə̯(ɾ)/ boor, moor
/ɜr/ /ɜː/~/øː/ bird, herd, furry
/ər/ (ɚ) /ə(ɾ)/ runner, mercer


  • A strong tendency (shared with Scottish English and some South African accents) towards using an alveolar tap [ɾ] (a 'tapped r') in place of an approximant [ɹ] (the r used in most accents in England).[14]
  • Rhoticity is largely uncommon, apart from some speakers in Port Talbot who supplant the front vowel of bird with /ɚ/, like in many varieties of North American English[15] and accents influenced by Welsh[16]
  • Some gemination between vowels is often encountered, e.g. money is pronounced [ˈmɜ.nːiː][17]
  • In northern varieties influenced by Welsh, pens and pence merge into /pɛns/ and chin and gin into /dʒɪn/[17]
  • In the north-east, under influence of such accents as Scouse, ng-coalescence does not take place, so sing is pronounced /sɪŋɡ/[18]
  • Also in northern accents, /l/ is frequently strongly velarised [ɫː]. In much of the south-east, clear and dark L alternate much like they do in RP[19]
  • The consonants are generally the same as RP but Welsh consonants like [ɬ] and [x] are encountered in loan words such as Llangefni and Harlech[17]

Distinctive vocabulary and grammar[edit]

See List of English words of Welsh origin

Aside from lexical borrowings from Welsh like bach (little, wee), eisteddfod, nain and taid (grandmother and grandfather respectively), there exist distinctive grammatical conventions in vernacular Welsh English. Examples of this include the use by some speakers of the tag question isn't it? regardless of the form of the preceding statement and the placement of the subject and the verb after the predicate for emphasis, e.g. Fed up, I am or Running on Friday, he is.[17]

In South Wales the word "where" may often be expanded to "where to", as in the question, "Where to is your Mam?". The word "butty" is used to mean "friend" or "mate"[20] yet in the north is more commonly understood to mean a sandwich.

There is no standard variety of English that is specific to Wales, but such features are readily recognised by Anglophones from the rest of the UK as being from Wales, including the (actually rarely used) phrase look you which is a translation of a Welsh language tag.[17]


Spellings are almost identical to other dialects of British English. Minor differences occur with words descended from Welsh which aren't Anglicised as in many other dialects of English, e.g. in Wales the valley is always "cwm", not the Anglicised version "coombe". As with other dialects of British English, -ise endings are preferred, i.e. "realise" instead of "realize". However, both forms are acceptable. For words ending in 'yse' or 'yze', the 'yse' endings are compulsory, as with other dialects of British English, i.e. "analyse", not "analyze".

History of the English language in Wales[edit]

The presence of English in Wales intensified on the passing of the Laws in Wales Acts of 1535–1542, the statutes having promoted the dominance of English in Wales; this, coupled with the closure of the monasteries, which closed down many centres of Welsh education, led to decline in the use of the Welsh language.

The decline of Welsh and the ascendancy of English was intensified further during the Industrial Revolution, when many Welsh speakers moved to England to find work and the recently developed mining and smelting industries came to be manned by Anglophones. David Crystal, who grew up in Holyhead, claims that the continuing dominance of English in Wales is little different from its spread elsewhere in the world.[21]

Influence outside Wales[edit]

While other British English accents have affected the accents of English in Wales, influence has moved in both directions. In particular, Scouse and Brummie (colloquial) accents have both had extensive Anglo-Welsh input through migration, although in the former case, the influence of Anglo-Irish is better known.


Dylan Thomas' writing shed.

"Anglo-Welsh literature" and "Welsh writing in English" are terms used to describe works written in the English language by Welsh writers. It has been recognised as a distinctive entity only since the 20th century.[22] The need for a separate identity for this kind of writing arose because of the parallel development of modern Welsh-language literature; as such it is perhaps the youngest branch of English-language literature in the British Isles.

While Raymond Garlick discovered sixty-nine Welsh men and women who wrote in English prior to the twentieth century,[23] Dafydd Johnston thinks it "debatable whether such writers belong to a recognisable Anglo-Welsh literature, as opposed to English literature in general".[24] Well into the nineteenth century English was spoken by relatively few in Wales, and prior to the early twentieth century there are only three major Welsh-born writers who wrote in the English language: George Herbert (1593–1633) from Montgomeryshire, Henry Vaughan (1622–1695) from Brecknockshire, and John Dyer (1699–1757) from Carmarthenshire.

Welsh writing in English might be said to begin with the fifteenth-century bard Ieuan ap Hywel Swrdwal (?1430 - ?1480), whose Hymn to the Virgin was written at Oxford in England in about 1470 and uses a Welsh poetic form, the awdl, and Welsh orthography; for example:

O mighti ladi, owr leding - tw haf
At hefn owr abeiding:
Yntw ddy ffast eferlasting
I set a braents ws tw bring.

A rival claim for the first Welsh writer to use English creatively is made for the poet, John Clanvowe (1341–1391).

The influence of Welsh English can be seen in My People by Caradoc Evans, which uses it in dialogue (but not narrative); Under Milkwood by Dylan Thomas, originally a radio play; and Niall Griffiths whose gritty realist pieces are mostly written in Welsh English.

See also[edit]

Other English dialects heavily influenced by Celtic languages


  1. ^ a b c d http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=tPwYt3gVbu4C&pg=PA138&dq=welsh+vowels&hl=en&ei=tW9ATM2gFYGl4QaL_dG8Dg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CD4Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=welsh%20vowels&f=false; page 135
  2. ^ a b c http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=a3-ElL71fikC&printsec=frontcover&dq=accents+of+english&hl=en&ei=ksFVTPObJILr4Abg9oyoCA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CDIQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=North%20Wales&f=false; page 387
  3. ^ page 102. Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-11-21. 
  4. ^ a b http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=tPwYt3gVbu4C&oi=fnd&pg=PA130&dq=%22welsh+English%22+transcription&ots=G0PNdy_-Sp&sig=BwgabVXAbnBIqC8aPpSM9fuXYzo#v=onepage&q&f=false; page 135
  5. ^ a b http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Dptsvykgk3IC&pg=PA110&lpg=PA110&dq=uvular+in+welsh&source=bl&ots=IPyJTk5G-G&sig=exbjLELRy0oSPwWlNMdLPH13-O0&hl=en&ei=04mkTOuoDcK4jAeRkvnADA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CB0Q6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=uvular%20in%20welsh&f=false; page 104
  6. ^ a b http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Dptsvykgk3IC&pg=PA110&lpg=PA110&dq=uvular+in+welsh&source=bl&ots=IPyJTk5G-G&sig=exbjLELRy0oSPwWlNMdLPH13-O0&hl=en&ei=04mkTOuoDcK4jAeRkvnADA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CB0Q6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=uvular%20in%20welsh&f=false; page 103
  7. ^ page 145. Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-11-21. 
  8. ^ page 135. Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-11-21. 
  9. ^ page 95. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2012-11-21. 
  10. ^ page 134. Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-11-21. 
  11. ^ Paul Heggarty. "Sound Comparisons". Sound Comparisons. Retrieved 2012-11-21. 
  12. ^ page 135. Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-11-21. 
  13. ^ page 136. Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-11-21. 
  14. ^ page 131. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2012-11-21. 
  15. ^ pp. 121. Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-11-21. 
  16. ^ http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=tPwYt3gVbu4C&pg=PA138&dq=welsh+vowels&hl=en&ei=JPRFTNugKovU4wblgrX7CQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CD4Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=rhotic&f=false, pp. 257 : "Many first-language-Welsh speakers and equilinguals have ... post-vocalic /r/ in Cardigan..."
  17. ^ a b c d e Crystal, David (2003). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language Second Edition, Cambridge University Press, pp. 335
  18. ^ page 390. Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-11-21. 
  19. ^ English in Wales: Diversity, Conflict, and Change - Nikolas Coupland - Google Books. Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-11-21. 
  20. ^ ""Why butty rarely leaves Wales" by Claire Hill at walesonline". Walesonline.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-11-21. 
  21. ^ Crystal, David (2003). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language Second Edition, Cambridge University Press, p. 334
  22. ^ Raymond Garlick An Introduction to Anglo-Welsh Literature (University of Wales Press, 1970)
  23. ^ Raymond Garlick, An Introduction to Anglo-Welsh Literature
  24. ^ A Pocket Guide to the Literature of Wales University of Wales Press: Cardiff, 1994, p. 91


  • Coupland, Nikolas (1990), English in Wales: Diversity, Conflict, and Change, ISBN 1-85359-032-0 

External links[edit]