View Full Version : Anyone understand Welsh?

08-13-2008, 12:41 AM
I'm working on a fantasy story, and I wanted to give one of my characters a Celtic-sounding name. I stumbled across this passage in an article entitled "Passing Strange: A New Translation of The Mabinogion" by Stephen N. Williams in Books & Culture magazine.

This [alliteration] is inevitably lost in translation, but the original produces a romantic poetic effect from the outset. The same thing happens even in the translated title of a story. "The Lady at the Well" renders the Welsh "Iarlles y Ffynnon," but the words "Iarlles" and "Ffynnon" both have two syllables, the accent falling on the penultimate one, so producing a rhythmic effect; further, the "ll" (a single consonant in Welsh) is even capable, in this context, of an onomatopaeic reminder of flowing water.

I like this idea of a name bringing a "reminder of flowing water." However, I was wondering, how do you pronounce "Iarlles y Ffynnon"? I have tried looking this up, but all I can find is the meaning, not the pronounciation.

08-13-2008, 12:51 AM
Something like, "Ay-ar-khles ee vinnon", I think. Googling "Welsh pronunciation" (http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&sa=X&oi=spell&resnum=0&ct=result&cd=1&q=welsh+pronunciation&spell=1) does get several hits. Here is one guide (http://www.cs.cf.ac.uk/fun/welsh/Lesson01.html) that might help.

08-13-2008, 06:16 AM
I think the double ff's sound like "f" and a single f sounds like "v." But it's been a long time and I never learned much beyond approximate pronunciation.

08-13-2008, 06:35 AM
This is a bit tricky, since the first word isn't actually even Welsh.

Iarlles is derived from Earl, but spelled using Welsh spelling, with a feminine suffix; it's sort of like "earl-ess" as in "duchess" in English; that is "lady Earl," hence it's usually translated "lady."

The usual Welsh ll sound isn't the one used in Iarlles; it's sort of like Yarl-less.

FF in Welsh is like the sound in English "off". The y in FFynnon is like the u of "but," since it's internal; so roughly "FUN-non."

And it's a daft example for the reviewer to use, since the tale in question isn't Celtic--at least not in the sense he means, since it's a variant of a French romance. And both the words he uses are borrowed words, not native Welsh.

In fact, the original review (http://www.christianitytoday.com/bc/2008/003/19.26.html) is itself a bit daft--I think he was mostly trying to show off, and frankly, not coming off very well.

The translator Sioned Davies actually does a damn fine job, in as much as any translator can--though I still prefer Patrick Ford's translation.

If you want to have Celtic names, and honestly, it's sorta been done to death in fantasy, I'd get a copy of Ford's The Mabinogi and Other Medieval Welsh Tales, which you can order from this AW Amazon link (http://www.amazon.com/Mabinogi-Other-Medieval-Welsh-Tales/dp/0520253965/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1218594582&sr=1-2), and look at his list of names. Ford provides translations, and notes about the literal/etymological meanings for many of the names.

08-13-2008, 07:33 AM
I speak Welsh. Feel free to contact me if I can help.