The Language of Wales
Wales, located on the south-west peninsula of Great Britain (the main island of the United Kingdom) is one of the four constituent nations of the UK, the others are England, Northern Ireland and Scotland (map). Its population is about 3 million (5% of the UK). For more about the history of Wales, see the sidebar to The Welsh Girl.
The traditional language of Wales, usually known as Welsh, is properly referred to as Cymraeg (pronounced approximately 'cumraig') - as 'welsh' comes from a Germanic word denoting foreigner or stranger. Welsh is a branch of Celtic which, like Scottish and Irish, traces its roots to the tribal societies of Iron Age Europe. Like its other Celtic cousins, it is a language struggling to survive. According to the most recent census in 2001, less than 21% of the population were able to speak Welsh and just 16% could read and write it. The decline in usage has been slowed since the introduction of the Welsh Language Act of 1993, which has given Welsh equal status with English in the public sector in Wales - at not inconsiderable cost to the taxpayer.
Most people born and brought up in Wales (which they refer to as Cymru, pronounced Kumree, meaning land of the comrades) speak in dialects of English influenced by Welsh. Readers of The Earth Hums in B Flat who find themselves flummoxed by the occasional unusual word may find enlightenment here.
This article is from the June 10, 2009 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.
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