Рефераты. Survival of the Welsh Language

Survival of the Welsh Language

Министерство образования и науки Украины

Таврический национальный университет

Им. В.И. Вернадского

Факультет иностранной филологии

Кафедра английской филологии

Гура Егор Николаевич

Реферат на тему: «The Survival of the Welsh Language»

Дисциплина «Лингвострановедение»

Специальность 7.030502

«английский и немецкий языки и литература»

курс 4, группа 42

Симферополь 2001

Contents :

1. Introduction


2. Part I


3. Part II


4. Part III


5. Part IV


6. Part V


7. Part VI


8. Part VII


9. Part VIII


10. Part IX


11. Welsh language guide


12. List of used sources



It is the eighth wonder of Wales that is the most wondrous of them all, the

survival of the Welsh language in the face of almost impossible odds.

Sometime in the seventh century, a Welsh Bishop heard an Englishman's voice

on the bank of the River Severn and was filled with foreboding at the

sound.. He recorded his unsettling experience thus: "For the kinsman of

yonder strange-tongued man whose voice I heard across the river. . . will

obtain possession of this place, and it will be theirs, and they will hold

it in ownership."

The bishop was wrong. More than twelve centuries have passed since the

strange tongue of the Saxon was heard on the borders of Wales, centuries

during which the ancient tongue of the Bishop and his fellow Britons had

every opportunity to become extinct and yet which has stubbornly refused to

die. The survival of the native language is truly one of the great wonders

of Wales, to be appreciated and marvelled at far more than any physical

feature or man-made object, and far more than the so-called seven wonders

of Wales.

It is a something of a shock when visitors travel from England west into

Wales, for, almost without warning, he may find himself in areas where not

only the dialects become incomprehensible, but where even the language

itself has changed. The roadside signs "Croeso i Gymru" (accompanied by the

red dragon, the ancient badge of Wales) let it be known that one is now

entering a new territory, inhabited by a different people, for the

translation is "Welcome to Wales" written in one of the oldest surviving

vernaculars in Europe. For amusement with the language, after getting used

to names such as Pontcysyllte, Pen y Mynydd , or Glynceiriog, one can take

a little detour off the main route through Anglesey to Ireland and visit

the village with its much-photographed sign announcing the now-closed

railway station:


To account for the abrupt linguistic change from English into Welsh, one

must journey far, far back into history.

Part I

It was about 1000 BC that the Celtic languages arrived in Britain, probably

introduced by small groups of migrants who became culturally dominant in

their new homelands, and whose culture formed part of a great unified

Celtic "empire" encompassing many different peoples all over Northern

Europe. The Greeks called these people, with their organized culture and

developed social structure Keltoi, the Romans called them Celtai.

In spite of the fact that they were perhaps the most powerful people in

much of Europe in 300 BC, with lands stretching from Anatolia in the East

to Ireland in the West, the Celts were unable to prevent inter tribal

warfare; their total lack of political unity, despite their fierceness in

battle, ultimately led to their defeat and subjugation by the much-better

disciplined armies of Rome. The Celtic languages on Continental Europe

eventually gave way to those stemming from Latin.

The Celts had been in Britain a long time before the first Roman invasion

of the British Isles under Julius Caesar in 55 BC which did not lead to any

significant occupation. The Roman commander, and later Emperor, had some

interesting, if biased comments concerning the native inhabitants. "All the

Britons," he wrote, “paint themselves with woad, which gives their skin a

bluish color and makes them look very dreadful in battle" (De Bello

Gallico). It was not until a hundred years later, following an expedition

ordered by the Emperor Claudius, that a permanent Roman settlement of the

grain-rich eastern territories of Britain begun in earnest.

From their bases in what is now Kent, the Roman armies began a long,

arduous and perilous series of battles with the native Celtic tribes, first

victorious, next vanquished, but as on the Continent, superior military

discipline and leadership, along with a carefully organized system of forts

connected by straight roads, led to the triumph of Roman arms. In the

western peninsular, in what is now Wales, the Romans were awestruck by

their first sight of the druids (the religious leaders and teachers of the

British). The historian Tacitus described them as being "ranged in order,

with their hands uplifted, invoking the gods and pouring forth horrible

imprecations" (Annales)

The terror was only short-lived; Roman arms easily defeated the native

tribesmen, and it was not long before a great number of large, prosperous

villas were established all over Britain, but especially in the Southeast

and Southwest. Despite defeats in pitched battles, the people of

mountainous Wales and Scotland were not as easily settled; their scattered

settlements remained "the frontier" -- lands where military garrisons were

strategically placed to guard the Northern and Western extremities of the

Empire. The fierce resistance of the tribes in Cambria meant that two out

of the three Roman legions in Britain were stationed on the Welsh borders.

Two impressive Roman fortifications remain to be seen in Wales: Isca

Silurium (Caerleon) with its fine amphitheatre, in Monmouthshire; and

Segontium, (Caernarfon), in Gwynedd.

In Britain, at least for a few hundred years after the Roman victories on

mainland Europe, the Celts held on to much of their customs and especially

to their distinctive language, which has miraculously survived until today

as Welsh. The language of most of Britain was derived from a branch of

Celtic known as Brythonic: it later gave rise to Welsh, Cornish and Breton

(these differ from the Celtic languages derived from Goidelic; namely,

Irish, Scots, and Manx Gaelic). Accompanying these languages were the

Celtic religions, particularly that of the Druids, the guardians of

traditions and learning.

Though the Celtic tongue survived as the medium of everyday speech, Latin

being used mainly administrative purposes, many loan words entered the

native vocabulary, and these are still found in modern-day Welsh, though

many of these have entered at various times since the end of the Roman

occupation. Today's visitors to Wales who know some Latin are surprised to

find hundreds of place names containing Pont (bridge), while ffenest

(window), pysgod (fish), milltir (mile), melys (sweet or honey) cyllell

(knife), ceffyl (horse), perygl (danger), eglwys (church), pared (wall or

partition), tarw (bull) and many others attest to Roman or Latin influence.

When the city of Rome fell to the invading Goths under Alaric, Roman

Britain, which had experienced hundreds of years of comparative peace and

prosperity, was left to its own defences under its local Romano-British

leaders, one of whom may have been a tribal chieftain named Arthur. It

quickly crumbled under the onslaught of Germanic tribes (usually

collectively referred to as Anglo-Saxons) themselves under attack from

tribes to the east and wishing to settle in the sparsely populated, but

agriculturally rich lands across the narrow channel that separated them.

More than two hundred years of fighting between the native Celts, as brave

as ever but comparatively disorganized, and the ever-increasing numbers of

Germanic tribesmen eventually resulted in Britain sorting itself out into

three distinct areas: the Britonic West, the Teutonic East, and the Gaelic

North. It was these areas that later came to be identified as Wales,

England, and Scotland, all with their very separate cultural and linguistic

characteristics (Ireland, of course, remained Gaelic: many of its peoples

migrated to Scotland, taking their language with them to replace the native


From the momentous year 616, the date of their defeat at the hands of the

Saxons in the Battle of Chester, the Welsh people in Wales were on their

own. Separated from their fellow Celts in Cornwall and Cumbria, those who

lived in the western peninsular gradually began to think of themselves as a

distinct nation in spite of the many different rival kingdoms that

developed within their borders such as Morgannwg, Powys, Brycheinion, Dyfed

and Gwynedd. It is also from this period that we can speak of the Welsh

language, as distinct from the older Brythonic.

In a poem dated 633, the word Cymry appears, referring to the country; and

it was not too long before the Britons came to be known as the Cymry, by

which term they are known today. At this point, we should point out that

the word Welsh (from Wealas) is a later word used by the Saxon invaders of

the British Isles perhaps to denote people they considered "foreign" or at

least to denote people who had been Romanized. It originally had signified

a Germanic neighbor, but eventually came to be used for those people who

spoke a different language.

The Welsh people themselves still prefer to call themselves Cymry, their

country Cymru, and their language Cymraeg. It is also from this time that

the Celtic word Llan appears, signifying a church settlement and usually

followed by the name of a saint, as in Llandewi (St. David) or Llangurig

(St. Curig), but sometimes by the name of a disciple of Christ, such as

Llanbedr (St. Peter) or even a holy personage such as Llanfair (St. Mary).

Part II

It is in Wales, perhaps, that today's cultural separation of the British

Isles remains strongest, certainly linguistically, and for that, we must

look to the mid 8th Century, when a long ditch was constructed, flanking a

high earthen rampart that divided the Celts of the West from the Saxons to

the East and which, even today, marks the boundary between those who

consider themselves Welsh from those who consider themselves English. The

boundary, known as "Offa's Dyke," in memory of its builder Offa, the king

of Mercia (the middle kingdom) runs from the northeast of Wales to the

southeast coast, a distance of 149 miles.

English-speaking peoples began to cross Offa's Dyke in substantial numbers

when settlements were created by Edward 1st in his ambition to unite the

whole of the island of Britain under his kingship. After a period of

military conquest, the English king forced Welsh prince Llywelyn ap

Gruffudd to give up most of his lands, keeping only Gwynedd west of the

River Conwy.

Edward then followed up his successes by building English strongholds

around the perimeter of what remained of Llewelyn's possessions, and

strong, easily defended castles were erected at Flint, Rhuddlan,

Aberystwyth, and Builth., garrisoned by large detachments of English

immigrants and soldiers. Some of these towns have remained stubbornly

English ever since. Urban settlement, in any case, was entirely foreign to

the Celtic way of life.

In 1294, the Statute of Rhuddlan confirmed Edward's plans regarding the

governing of Wales. The statute created the counties of Anglesey,

Caernarfon, and Merioneth, to be governed by the Justice of North Wales;

Flint, to be placed under the Justice of Chester; and the counties of

Carmarthen and Cardigan were left under the Justice of South Wales.

In the year 1300, the situation seemed permanently established, when "King

Edward of England made Lord Edward his son [born at Caernarfon Castle],

Prince of Wales and Count of Chester," and ever since that date these

titles have been automatically conferred upon the first-born son of the

English monarch. The Welsh people were not consulted in the matter,

although an obviously biased entry in Historia Anglicana for the year 1300


In this year King Edward of England made Lord Edward, his son and heir,

Prince of Wales and Count of Chester. When the Welsh heard this, they were

overjoyed, thinking him their lawful master, for he was born in their


Following his successes in Wales, signified by the Statute of Rhuddlan,

sometimes referred to as The Statute of Wales, Edward embarked on yet

another massive castle-building program, creating such world-heritage sites

of today as Caernarfon, Conwy, Harlech, and Beaumaris in addition to the

earlier not so-well known (or well-visited) structures at Flint and

Rhuddlan. Below their huge, forbidding castle walls, additional English

boroughs were created, and English traders were invited to settle, often to

the exclusion of the native Welsh, who must have looked on in awe and

despair from their lonely hills at the site of so much building activity.

Their ancestors must have felt the same sense of dismay as they watched the

Roman invaders build their heavily defended forts in strategic points on

their lands.

The Welsh were forbidden to inhabit such "boroughs" or to carry arms within

their boundaries (even today, there are laws remaining on the statute books

of Chester, a border town, that proscribe the activities of the Welsh

within the city walls). With the help of the architect Master James of St.

George, and with what must have seemed like limitless resources in manpower

and materials, Edward showed his determination to place a stranglehold on

the Welsh. Occasional rebellions were easily crushed; it was not until the

death of Edward III and the arrival of Owain Glyndwr (Shakespeare's Owen

Glendower), that the people of Wales felt confident enough to challenge

their English overlords.

Owain Glyndwr was Lord of Glyndyfrdwy (the Valley of the Dee). He seized

his opportunity in 1400 after being crowned Prince of Wales by a small

group of supporters and defying Henry IV's many attempts to dislodge him.

The ancient words of Geraldus Cambrensis could have served to inspire his


The English fight for power; the Welsh for liberty; the one to procure

gain, the other to avoid loss. The English hirelings for money; the Welsh

patriots for their country

The comet that appeared in 1402 was seen by the Welsh as a sign of their

forthcoming deliverance from bondage as well as one that proclaimed the

appearance of Owain. His magnetic personality electrified and galvanized

the people of Wales, strengthening their armies and inspiring their

confidence. Even the weather was favorable.

The Welsh leader's early successes released the long-suppressed feelings of

thousands of Welshmen who eagerly flocked to his support from all parts of

England and the Continent. Before long, it seemed as if the long-awaited

dream of independence was fast becoming a reality: three royal expeditions

against Glyndwr failed: he held Harlech and Aberystwyth, had extended his

influence as far as Glamorgan and Gwent, was receiving support from Ireland

and Scotland; and had formed an alliance with France. Following his

recognition by the leading Welsh bishops, he summoned a parliament at

Machynlleth, in mid-Wales, where he was crowned as Prince of Wales.

It didn't seem too ambitious for Owain to believe that with suitable

allies, he could help bring about the dethronement of the English king;

thus he entered into a tripartite alliance with the Earl of Northumberland

and Henry Mortimer (who married Owain's daughter Caitrin) to divide up

England and Wales between them. After all, Henry IV's crown was seen by

many Englishmen as having been falsely obtained, and they welcomed armed

rebellion against their ruler. Hoping that The Welsh Church be made

completely independent from Canterbury, and that appointments to benefices

in Wales be given only to those who could speak Welsh, Glyndwr was ready to

implement his wish to set up two universities in Wales to train native

civil servants and clergymen.

Then the dream died.

Part III

Owain's parliament was the very last to meet on Welsh soil; the last

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