Word Phonology in a Systemic Functional Linguistic Framework - Phonological Studies in English, German, Welsh and Tera (Nigeria) - Paul Tench

Word Phonology in a Systemic Functional Linguistic Framework - Phonological Studies in English, German, Welsh and Tera (Nigeria) - Paul Tench

Word Phonology of Welsh

Word Phonology in a Systemic Functional Linguistic Framework - Phonological Studies in English, German, Welsh and Tera (Nigeria) - Paul Tench

Paul Tench [+-]
Cardiff University (retired)
Paul Tench was formerly Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Language and Communication Research at Cardiff University, Wales. He retired in 2007 after more than 40 years in full-time academic life and is now active as a Research Associate at Cardiff. His main teaching responsibilities were in phonetics, the phonology of English, applied linguistics in language teaching and introductions to Systemic-Functional Linguistics. His research focussed mainly on the description of British English intonation, which resulted in The Roles of Intonation in English Discourse (1990), the Intonation Systems of English (1996) and Transcribing the Sound of English (2011) and many journal articles. His first major publication was Pronunciation Skills (1981). Since retirement he has devoted time to exploring system networks at the level of word phonology, and to working with minority language groups in devising orthographies for hitherto unwritten languages in Nigeria and Zambia. His publications can be viewed in http://www.paultenchdocs.co.uk/.


Welsh is spoken extensively in Wales, by about 700,000 people in a total population of approximately 3 million. It is also spoken in Argentina by as many as 5,000 people as a result of Welsh emigration from the mid-nineteenth century into areas of Patagonia (BBC 2014), and also, in smaller numbers, in USA, Canada and the rest of UK, again as a result of migration. Welsh is a Celtic language, in the Brythonic branch, which also includes Breton and Cornish. It is an official language in Wales alongside English. Welsh has a number of notable features. It is a verb-subject-object (VSO) language. It has a distinctive word class of verb-nouns, some of which also operate within larger verbal groups to form the equivalent of modals and the passive. Prepositions are conjugated like verbs. Possessive pronouns consist of elements preceding and following a noun. In phonology, there is a very strong tendency to maintain penultimate stress whatever suffixes are added to a word; initial consonants are subject to change (‘mutation’) in certain syntactic contexts, including definite reference with feminine nouns; and the phonotactics of vowels and final consonants within a syllable or word is intriguingly elaborate. A sociolinguistic feature of Welsh is that there is no single standard accent in Wales. However, the collection of accents in the North of Wales have enough common factors to suggest, in general terms, a North-Walian accent (see, e.g. Kelly 1992), and similarly, a collection of accents in the South have enough common factors to suggest a South-Walian accent. Several studies show a gradation of phonetic and systemic features between Northern and Southern accents, with the South-West being the simplest system of all (see Rees 2018 and his cited bibliography). It is commonly heard that North-Walians claim that their accent is the purest because it is the richest in terms of systemic inventories. It is also the case that the percentages of Welsh speakers in the populations of the North is very much greater than those in the South; nevertheless, the populations of the South are greater in numbers. It is therefore necessary to either develop two separate system networks for the North and the South, or combine them in such a way that the South system is shown to be a reduction of the North system. The description of Welsh phonology that underlies this new presentation in terms of Systemic Phonology is based upon the following scholarly work: Awbery (1984; 2009), Ball and Jones (1984), Ball and Williams (2001), Clee (2017), Hannahs (2009; 2013), Iosad (2017), Kelly (1992), Mayr and Davies (2011), Rees (2018) and Williams (1989), as well as local informants. In the Argentinian province of Patagonia, Welsh has been spoken continuously since the first Welsh settlers landed in 1865. As more Welsh settlers arrived in the nineteenth century, their language community became well established. Although the settlers originated from all parts of Wales, it appears that elements of the South-Walian accents prevailed even though the Northern syntactic and lexical items of the Welsh Bible were preserved. Use of the language declined in the first half of twentieth century under pressure from government language policies and the inward migration of Spanish-speaking workers attracted into a relatively prosperous economic environment. However, a revitalization of the language began with the centennial celebrations of 1965, and continued with eisteddfod events, the remarkable impact of a dedicated, highly respected Welsh missionary, Mair Davies in the Welsh chapels (see Davies 2012), and the Welsh Language Project managed locally since 1997 but financed principally from Wales (Arwel 2016; see also Johnson (2009; 2010) and Coupland and Garrett (2010)). The impact of this revitalization has led to a re-evaluation of the significance of Patagonian Welsh within the Welsh language community in Wales, which justifies its inclusion in this present study.

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Tench, Paul. Word Phonology of Welsh. Word Phonology in a Systemic Functional Linguistic Framework - Phonological Studies in English, German, Welsh and Tera (Nigeria). Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 115-150 Aug 2024. ISBN 9781800503212. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=44119. Date accessed: 19 Jun 2024 doi: 10.1558/equinox.44119. Aug 2024

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