Welsh phonology

Welsh phonology

The phonology of Welsh is characterised by a number of sounds that do not occur in English and are typologically rare in European languages, such as the voiceless lateral fricative IPA| [ɬ] and voiceless nasal consonants. Stress usually falls on the penultimate syllable in polysyllabic words, while the word-final unstressed syllable receives a higher pitch than the stressed syllable.


Welsh has the following consonant phonemes:Glyn E. Jones (1984), "The distinctive vowels and consonants of Welsh". In "Welsh Phonology: Selected Readings", ed. M. J. Ball and G. E. Jones. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. 40–64. ISBN 0-7083-0861-9.]

The diphthongs containing IPA|/ɨ/ occur only in Northern dialects; in Southern dialects IPA|/ʊɨ/ is replaced by IPA|/ʊi/, IPA|/ɨu, əɨ, ɔɨ/ are merged with IPA|/ɪu, əi, ɔi/, and IPA|/aɨ, ɑːɨ/ are merged with IPA|/ai/.

tress and pitch

Stress in polysyllabic words occurs most commonly on the syllable, more rarely on the final syllable (e.g. verbs ending in -áu). Exceptions can arise in relation to borrowings from foreign words, such as _cy. "ambiwlans" and _cy. "testament". According to its positioning, related words or concepts (or even plurals) can sound quite different, as syllables are added to the end of a word and the stress moves correspondingly, e.g.:


Note also how adding a syllable to " _cy. ysgrifennydd" to form " _cy. ysgrifenyddes" changes the pronunciation of the second "y". This is because the pronunciation of "y" depends on whether or not it is in the final syllable.

Stress on penultimate syllables is characterised by a low pitch, which is followed by a high pitch on the (unstressed) word-final syllable. In words where stress is on the final syllable, that syllable also bears the high pitch.Briony J. Williams (1983), "Stress in Modern Welsh". Ph.D. dissertation, University of Cambridge. Distributed by Indiana University Linguistics Club.]


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