Friday, 19 August 2011


Welsh stories in the news (OK, Welsh news: they're from Wales Online).

The first one is about a book review that appeared our friend the Daily Mail, written by Roger Lewis (who is in fact Welsh) which included a racist diatribe against the Welsh language and culture. A Plaid Cymru MP has complained to the Home Secretary about it, and the author of the book under review notes quite rightly that this kind of thing could not have been printed if it was about any other ethnic group.

It was interesting that the MP said that
Welsh is one of the oldest living European languages.
I wonder what criteria he was basing that on. If he means that, say, the Romance languages are newer because they came out of Latin, then I suppose he's kind of right, though there are lots of other languages that are just as old. But you can't really say that. I mean, where do you draw the line for English? We have periods that we separate into Old English, Middle English, Anglo-Saxon etc., but they're not black and white, obvious boundaries. They're based on changes in the language and it's a case of picking a date that gives the best fit.

The second article concerns the soon-to-be-appointed first Welsh Language Commissioner. I suppose this person will be in charge of making sure companies comply with providing services in both languages. (Most if not all Welsh speakers also speak English, though I don't know whether there might be people who don't speak English very well. In any case, most Welsh speakers want to be able to access stuff in Welsh, which is fair enough.)

I wonder if he or she will sort out the signage. I don't know what the quality of the printed material companies provide is like, but if the signs are anything to go by it's probably pretty poor. I don't speak Welsh at all, but even I can work out that three signs saying the same thing differently can't all be right. For example, I saw several different ways of writing 'car park'.

Another thing I noticed was that the grammar/morphology is quite ropey. Welsh has this thing called soft mutation, which means that the first sound of the word changes depending on what comes before it. So the [k] of Cymru (Wales) becomes [g] after certain sounds, and the [p] of Doc Penfro (Pembroke Dock) becomes [b]. I saw a lot of signs which had observed this change, and a lot that hadn't.

If they're genuinely serious about writing signs in both languages, they need to get their act together, because it's kind of insulting to do this sloppy kind of a job. They should put in the little bit of effort it would take to get it right.
The Welsh reads "I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated." (Source: BBC)

No comments:

Post a Comment