Cymraeg i'r di-Gymraeg

Just a few bits and bobs on how to say our name and other useful thing for those less familiar with the Welsh language (or rather Cymraeg!) and the area.

Reading any word in Welsh is usually actually remarkably easy, but will only work if you know what the rules are, as although sometimes they are similar or even the same as in other languages (including English), they are also often different. I will attempt some guidance to pronounciation, which may help a bit, but any such guidance is at best approximate.

Our Name - Ein Enw - Fyny a Lawr

Let's go letter by letter, cos that's all it is, know the sound of the letter, put them all together.

Fyny - Meaning 'up', because we go up stuff. Walk up mountains, climb up rocks, stand up on boards. Looks a bit funny? Only if you mispronounce it, but it's easy when you know how:

F - easy one, the same as an English 'V' sound (think 'of' versus 'off')

Y - not so easy one, a sound less familiar in English, but one of the few (only?) letters in Welsh that make more than one sound. Here it makes the standard 'er' or 'uh' sound, simiar to the vowel sound in the English word 'up'.

N - back to easy sounds like any usual 'n' in English, like in the word 'any' or 'in'.

Y - back to that outlier, which can make different sounds, although if you did stick to the 'uh' sound described earlier you wouldn't be a million miles away. Really though here it is more similar to the initial 'i' in the English word 'inside', but a bit broader and closer to that 'uh' sound. To make the sound sort of fold your toung along its length to make a u shape and exhale as if to make an i sound.

Put them together what do you get? F-Y-N-Y Something like Vuhnni.

A - The easy bit in the middle, means 'and', and it makes the same sound as 'a' does in 'and', very unlike the 'ay' sound a single 'a' on its own would in English.

Lawr - Means 'down', because you will be getting down as well. Walking you safely down off the mountains, jumping down from rocks into the sea, falling down off the boards (a bit, but it's ok, we know you meant to do that, and it really is part of the fun!)

L - similar to 'L' sounds in English, like the 'L' sound in the word 'English' or 'like'.

A - we've covered this one already, so you already know what you're doing, see it really is that simple!

W - the same as the usual sound 'w' makes in English at the start of words, like in the word 'word' or 'what or 'when'.

R - looks easy, but one some people have trouble with. It is a very soft sound in English, and is almost lost, wheresas in Welsh we pronounce it, always rolled, think Shakespearean actors, a distinct, but short trilled 'r'.

So that would be L-A-W-R Something like Lahwhrr



Could do the same again with the letters, but let's be honest we'd be here a while if i did the same with all these words. Let's stick with a rough approximation and some background. Said something like EH EE VEE ON ITH, where that last 'dd' (actually a letter all of it's own) makes the same sound as English 'th' sound in the word 'the' or 'that' NOT 'thin'.

Geogrphically the area approximately defined by the rough boundaries of Afon Erch, Afon Glaslyn (and Colwyn), and the high ground that runs along Crib Nantlle and onwards to the Gyrn. 'Bro rhwng môr a mynydd' (A land between the mountain and the sea) in the words of the famous poet R Williams Parry.

Named after Eifion fab Dunod, grandson of Cunedda Wledig, who came from 'the old north' (Manaw Gododdin, somwhere around the Firth of Forth, in modern day Scotland, think somewhere around Edinburgh, maybe Edinburgh itself!) to establish the kingdom of Gwynedd, back when they still spoke Welsh up North too. Among Cunedda's descendants were Meirion (his grandson) after who Meirionydd was named, Ceredig (his son) after who Ceredigion (Cardigan) was named, Edern (another son) after who Edeirnion was named, and a bit further on Llywelyn Fawr, Llywelyn ein Llyw Olaf, and their great great grandson twice removed Owain Glyndŵr.


Lets start with the more difficult bit first, pronounciation. Like I said earlier reading in Welsh is actually pretty easy, but let's not pretend it's super easy to pronounce sounds you've never heard before let alone said. It is just a case of trying though, although the 'Ll' sound is a bit unusual, the voiceless alveolar lateral fricative as its friends call it does occur in several languages such as Berber, Norwegian, Hla’alua, Greenlandic, Molko, some Aluetian dialects, Zulu, Navajo, Inuktitut, Sotho, Tera, Mochica and a number of Chinese languages.

But how do you say it? There are clues in the symbols used to represent the letter, looks like two English (or should I say Latin) 'L's, and feels quite similar to this in the mouth. So put your tounge behind your top two front teeth, and lift the edges of your tounge like you would to say 'L', but rather than sound a vowel sound in the back of your mouth, sort of blow off the edges of the front of your tounge. Maybe lift the edges of your tounge a little too. Does it work?

As to the rest of the word, sounds a bit like the word 'in', but remember we talked about that borader 'i' sound earlier?. Also quite important is that little accent on the 'y', known as a circumflex accent, or a 'tô bach' (little roof) to us here in Wales. What it does is elongate the vowel (a fact alluded to by the anachronistic Lleyn, and the associated name of Porth Dinllaen, but more on that later), if you don't you end up with Llyn, which is the Welsh word for lake. Know the difference between Pen Llŷn and Penllyn? About 40 miles. Pen Llŷn is the bit of North West Wales to the West of Pwllheli (or maybe west of Rhiw to the purists, Llŷn being the bit West of Afon Erch, Pen Llŷn being the far end of Llŷn), Penllyn is the area around Llanuwchlyn the opposite end of Llyn Tegid to Bala, but Pen-llyn of course is somwhere on Ynys Môn.

So (very) roughly (I'm sticking with the Ll sound now that you know how to say it, right? Some people describe it as CL, but that's as close as 't' is to 'z'.):


Now you know.

And where is the name from?

To put it simply Ireland. Being on the westernmost end of Wales, and both physically closer to Ireland than England and on the sea, which provided much easier travelling than over land in the past, this part of the world has felt some influence from the adjacent coast of Ireland through history. Ever heard of Leinster, one of the four provinces of Ireland? It derives it's name form the Laigin, one of the major tribes that once lived in that part of Ireland. The very same tribe were once also a noteable presence along the West coast of North West Wales in the post Roman period, and it is after them that Llŷn was also named, a term that is also associated with one of the ancient forts of the area - Dinllaen, a name preserved in the name of the once potential Irish mail port of Porthdinllaen. So now you know that too.

To finish maybe some poetry to Llŷn might also be in order, this time from a poet best remebered for his collections of seafaring songs in Welsh, J Glyn Davies:

Heulwen ar hyd y glennydd – a haul hwyr

A’i liw ar y mynydd;

Felly Llŷn ar derfyn dydd,

Lle i enaid gael llonydd.

This place fills a paeceful soul, indeed.