Index page to material on the Gwentian dialect. Y Wenhwseg - literally 'the language of the men of Gwent' is the name given to the dialect of south-east Wales. A century ago this was the majority dialect of Wales; today it sacrcely exists, as the overwhelming majority of the Welsh-speaking population of the south-east committed 'linguistic suicide' in the early 1900s and turned their back on the Welsh language. 1004e Gwefan Cymru-Catalonia.

0001z Yr Hafan / Home Page

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Gwefan Cymru-Catalonia
La Web de Gal
les i Catalunya
The Wales-Catalonia Website

Y Wenhwyseg (tafodiaith y de-ddwyrain)
Gwentian (the dialect of south-east Wales)


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Adolygiad diweddaraf / Latest update
15 10 2000 - 15 09 2002

0934k Y dudalen hon yn Gymraeg - cyfeirddalen adran y Wenhwyseg

2184c Aquesta pgina en catal - contingut de la secci sobre el dialecte del sud-est


The Welsh language has two basic regional variants - Northern Welsh and Southern Welsh. Traditionally, these are perceived both to have a western and eastern form. If Wales is imagined as a square, then the dialects of Wales occupy the top-left (the Gwynedd dialect, Y Wyndodeg), top-right (the Pows dialect, Y Bowseg), the bottom left (the Dyfed dialect, y Ddyfedeg), and the bottom right (the Gwent dialect, Y Wenhwseg). This division and the number of actual dialects can be disputed (what exactly makes a regional form distinct from another? Is it possible to draw a boundary at some point?). However it remains a useful framework for understanding the basic distribution of Welsh dialects.

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In the south-eastern corner of Wales was the old territory of Gwent. The inhabitants were called the Gwennws (the people of Gwent, from Gwent + a suffix -ws. From this came the adjective and the noun 'Gwenhwseg' (Gwenhws-, the penult form of Gwennws + the suffix -eg, used to indicate a language or dialect).

(At the other end of the country, the inhabitants of Mn / Anglesey have a similar name in literary Welsh: the Monws 'people of Mn', singular form: Monwsn 'man from Mn').

The Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru / Dictionary of the University of Wales notes that Gwenhwyseg first occurs in the 1300s - "mor didlawt ynggwawt yggwennhwyssec" (mor ddi-dlawd yng ngwawd yng Ngwenhwseg). (di-dlawd - obsolete word = rich, splendid; gwawd in modern Welsh = derision, scorn, mockery, but originally = praise, exaltation; song of praise) 'so splendid in praise in Gwentian'

In 1632 it is defined as 'iaith went, Dialectus Ventae prouincie', and in 1688 as 'Iaith-gwent; the Dialect of Chepstow formerly, and now of all South Wales'.

The dictionary definition (Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru University of Wales Dictionary) is - Tafodiaith Gwent, iaith y Gwennws yn wreiddiol, ond bellach y mae'n cynnws iaith Morgannwg hefd / The dialect of Gwent. the language of the Gwentians originally, but now embracing the Glamorgan dialect.

One hundred years ago this was the majority dialect of Wales - the language of the industrial valleys. In the 1800s, n addition to immigration from the rest of the south-east, there had been large-scale immigration from west Wales and to a lesser extent emigration from the north-west. Most non-Welsh speaking immigrants to south-east Wales (from England, Ireland or wherever) assimilated to their host communities. The children of the incomers whether from other parts of Wales or outside Wales would almost all have spoken Welsh, and naturally they would have spoken Gwentian.

In the 1900s for various reasons (but basically because Wales had no political power to protect its own language, unlike many peoples in mainland Europe in the 1800s who had been able to gain political independence and resist language substitution - Czechs, Slovenes, etc) most people in south-east Wales turned their back on their language. Within a century the major dialect of Wales has all but disappeared. Although the Welsh language is familiar to a small proportion of the south-easterners, it is generally learned as a second language and is quite unlike the traditional form of the language.

Indeed, in Rhymni in the 1980s (source: - fieldwork for a PhD which I never finished!) there was a curious generational split in many families - bilingual Welsh-speaking grandparents, monolingual English-speaking parents, and children educated at the Welsh-language primary school. The grandparents often did not speak in Welsh to the grandchildren because the dialect (a typical form of Gwentian) was perceived to be 'mongrel Welsh' and they didn't want to adversely influence the 'correct' Welsh or 'book Welsh' of the young children. Those who had attended the Welsh schools generally had little idea of local forms of the language

Here we hope to develop a section dedicated to the language of the south-east for learners of Welsh. There is a great deal of interest in Welsh in all parts of Wales at the moment - we hope that learners in the south-east will become aware of their neglected dialect, and maybe incorporate some of its features into their own Welsh. (There is nothing stranger than learners in the south-east who speak Northern Welsh, often believing it to be 'purer' or 'more elegant' or 'more authentic', etc. Northern Welsh is none of these - it is just more northern than southern Welsh!)


Here we indicate the approximate Gwentian speech area:


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Place names with an English form:

Aber-dr / Aberdare
Aberhonddu / Brecon
Abertawe / Swansea
Caer-dydd / Cardiff
Cas-gwent / Chepstow
Casnewydd ar Wysg / Newport
Castellnedd / Neath
Henffordd / Hereford
Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr / Bridgend
Trefynwy / Monmouth
Y Fenni / Abergavenny

The Welsh language in the Gw^yr peninsula west of Abertawe / Swansea was lost in the 1100s after the Earl of Warwick was granted the territory by the English king Henry 1. He built a castle in Abertawe and settled the peninsula with English people.

In the east, in the former county of Trefynwy / Monmouth, the Welsh language was lost in the 1800s





Texts in this website written in Gwentian; texts in Welsh and English about Gwentian



Bibliography - references to books and articles written in Gwentian; or books and articles in Welsh and English about Gwentian



An expanding dictionary of Gwentian and English



Features of the Gwentian dialect - explains how the Gwentian dialect differs from standard Welsh: "cadair" (= chair), Gwentian "catar", etc





Tudalen y BBC ar y Wenhwyseg
 / A BBC page on the Gwentian dialect (page in Welsh)
---------------------------------------------------------- (word document) (pdf document)
Cymdeithas Cyfieithwyr Cymru / Tramslators Society of Wales
Cymraeg Llafar Gwent / Mary Wiliam, Darlith Goffa Hedley Gibbard 3/08/04
The spoken Welsh of Gwent / Mary Wiliam. Hedley Gibbard Commemorative Lecture 3 August 2004 (page in Welsh)
Ffurflen gais ar gyfer gweld
Llawysgrif Llyfrgell Gendlaethol Cymru NLW MS 1148E / Application form for the National Library of Wales Manuscript NLW MS 1148E
(Fe welir fod yn well gan ein Llyfrgell Genedlaethol ddefnyddio talfyriadau or Saesneg ar gyfer eu cyfeirnodau - NLW MS. Rhag cywilydd).
(You can see that our National Library prefers to use abbreviations form English for its reference codes - NLW MS. Shame on them.)

The Gwentian Dialect -
Awdur / Author: Isaac Craigfryn Hughes
Diwedd y ddeunawfed ganrif / Late 19th century.
Geirfa or Wenhwyseg a siaredid ym Morgannwg. Mae iddo gyflwyniad yn Saesneg.
A glossary of the Gwentian dialect as spoken in Morganneg / Glamorgan. There is an introduction in English.


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