Index page to material on the Gwentian
dialect. Y Wenhwÿseg - literally 'the language of the men of Gwent' is the name
given to the dialect of south-east
0001z Yr Hafan / Home Page
..........2659e Y Fynedfa yn Saesneg / The Gateway in English
....................0010e Y Barthlen / Siteplan
............................0223e Y Gymraeg / The Welsh Language
.........................................Y Tudalen Hwn / This Page
0934k Y dudalen hon yn Gymraeg - cyfeirddalen adran y Wenhwyseg
2184c Aquesta pàgina en català - contingut de la secció sobre el dialecte del sud-est
(1) INTRODUCTION TO GWENTIAN
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 Powÿs
dialect, Y Bowÿseg), the bottom left (the Dyfed dialect, y Ddyfedeg), and the
bottom right (the Gwent dialect, Y Wenhwÿseg). 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
In the south-eastern corner of Wales was the old territory of Gwent. The inhabitants were called the Gwennwÿs (the people of Gwent, from Gwent + a suffix -wÿs. From this came the adjective and the noun 'Gwenhwÿseg' (Gwenhwÿs-, the penult form of Gwennwÿs + the suffix -eg, used to indicate a language or dialect).
(At the other end of the country, the inhabitants of Môn / Anglesey have a similar name in literary Welsh: the Monwÿs 'people of Môn', singular form: Monwÿsÿn 'man from Môn').
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 Ngwenhwÿseg). (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 Gwennwÿs yn wreiddiol, ond bellach y mae'n cynnwÿs iaith Morgannwg hefÿd / 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:
Place names with an English form:
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
(2) INDEX TO OUR SECTIONS ON GWENTIAN
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
DOLENNAU ALLANOL / OUTSIDE LINKS
Tudalen y BBC ar y Wenhwyseg / A BBC page on the Gwentian dialect (page in Welsh)
http://www.cyfieithwyrcymru.org.uk/cymraeg/adnodd/word/cymraegllafargwent.doc (word document)
http://www.cyfieithwyrcymru.org.uk/cymraeg/adnodd/pdf/cymraegllafargwent.pdf (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 o’r 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 o’r 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.
Sumbolau arbennig: ŷ ŵ
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