Cymraeg (Welsh): palatalized s/d/t

Gavril

Senior Member
English, USA
In Welsh, palatalized s (represented in writing by the sequence -si-) appears in words such as siom "disappointment", siop "shop", eisiau "lack, want" and brysio "hurry". (As far as I know, it only appears word-initially in loanwords.)

Some time ago, I was told that this palatalized s is pronounced differently according to age and region: younger and more southern Welsh speakers pronounce it [ʃ], so that siom sounds like "shom", while older and more northern speakers pronounce it as [sj], retaining the alveolar articulation of the s. I haven't heard spoken Welsh for some time, but I recall that the [ʃ]-pronunciation was the more common one.

Does anyone know if this is accurate, from first-hand experience or from research you've read?

Also, what about palatalized t/d, as seen in e.g., breuddwydio "dream"? I've learned to pronounce the final syllable of this word as [djo] or as two syllables ([dio]), but is there also a pattern of pronouncing it as [dƷo]?

Thanks
 
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  • djmc

    Senior Member
    English - United Kingdom
    My Welsh dictionary suggests that io is a diphthong and that the i would have a consonantal force being pronounced as an English y.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Here in North Wales there is no coalescence of [d] and [j] in any Welsh I've heard. It's not present in news reports either or on Welsh TV that is based up here. However there is a widely known divergence with 's' between Nand South Wales.

    For example, in the expressions for "How are you?":

    Sut mae? (North Wales)
    Shw mae? (South Wales)

    The "u" in Welsh is generally [ɪ] so "Sit mai" it would look like in English and the southern version has [ʃ]. I know this is not specifically about coalescence of "s" and "i". I have the feeling what you were being told was that of the various shibboleths that exist in Wales, one is how you pronounce words s-initially. Southern Wales has a postalveolar fricative while the north doesn't. All varieties of Welsh have [ʃ] for siop though, I'm sure of that. The variation in 's' pronunciation is generally when word-initial 's' is involved, though not always.

    If you opened a conversation with the southern version up here in Gwynedd, you'd instantly be known as a southerner to the other person, and vice versa.
    But, like I mentioned [d] and [j]/ don't coalesce, so diod (drink) is like you said. I'd be very surprised to hear [d͡ʒɔd] for that pronunciation. I can't confirm for all of Wales but I'd be extremely surprised if that pronunciation existed. I have many Welsh linguistics professors though I can ask. I'll ask my Welsh speaking friend when she comes back from Y Fflint.
     
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    Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Here in North Wales there is no coalescence of [d] and [j] in any Welsh I've heard. It's not present in news reports either or on Welsh TV that is based up here. However there is a widely known divergence with 's' between Nand South Wales.

    For example, in the expressions for "How are you?":

    Sut mae? (North Wales)
    Shw mae? (South Wales)

    Tangential question: is shw mae ([ʃu mai]) the "full" form of the contracted phrase sh'mae?

    The "u" in Welsh is generally [ɪ] so "Sit mai" it would look like in English and the southern version has [ʃ]. I know this is not specifically about coalescence of "s" and "i". I have the feeling what you were being told was that of the various shibboleths that exist in Wales, one is how you pronounce words s-initially. Southern Wales has a postalveolar fricative while the north doesn't. All varieties of Welsh have [ʃ] for siop though, I'm sure of that.
    siop was a bad example on my part, since every Welsh speaker probably recognizes its affinity with English shop, and this may encourage speakers to use the [ʃ]-pronunciation of English. A better word-initial example would be siarad "speak" -- would northerners say [sjarad] and southerners [ʃarad]?

    The variation in 's' pronunciation is generally when word-initial 's' is involved, though not always.
    What about word-medial cases such as eisiau? I think I've heard both [ʃ] and [sj] for this word.

    If you opened a conversation with the southern version up here in Gwynedd, you'd instantly be known as a southerner to the other person, and vice versa.
    But, like I mentioned [d] and [j]/ don't coalesce, so diod (drink) is like you said. I'd be very surprised to hear [d͡ʒɔd] for that pronunciation.
    As I recall, the -i- of diod is stressed (['diɔd]), so it's probably more resistant to becoming a glide (and thus coalescing with the initial d-). breuddwydio seems like a better test case for coalescence because the -dio syllable isn't stressed.

    I can't confirm for all of Wales but I'd be extremely surprised if that pronunciation existed. I have many Welsh linguistics professors though I can ask. I'll ask my Welsh speaking friend when she comes back from Y Fflint.
    Thanks for looking into this question.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Right I'm back.

    I asked a Welsh speaker who studies linguistics so I hope the answer is pretty reliable (but nobody is perfect), and it's like I thought (for the most part anyway). In the "di" of Welsh words, there is no [j] that follows, that is it is a strict pronunciation of [i:] (or an [i:] like sound) after [d]. There is no [j] immediately after "d" so it blocks coalescence. She said that it was like dean/Dean in English, they would never become gene/Jean because there is a clear [i:] present and it can't coalesce with it.

    The sound present is apparently not always pronounced, like in careful speech and tends to be present after an [i:] sound when it does appear, so while this coalescence sorts of "meets in the middle" with [d] and [j], these sounds don't appear together in Welsh. Even in an unstressed syllable in a word, the [i:] is very clear and well-heard, so any similar palatal sound like [j] doesn't have an alveolar sound (s/t/d) to merge with.

    So in the example you asked about, the unstressed ending is [di:ɔ], the full word being (I believe) [brəuð'wɪdi:ɔ]. So all words with -di- I am told work this way. If there are other words that can coalesce they won't be followed by -i- and I can't think of any off the top of my head. I'd guess they'd have to be borrowings for that to happen. I can see in the wikipedia page for Welsh phonology it has these affricates in brackets. Ooh yeah it also says majority for loanwords, but some native words, but unfortunately doesn't list any examples.

    Tangential question: is shw mae ([ʃu mai]) the "full" form of the contracted phrase sh'mae?

    Yep indeedy.

    The other thing you asked about I didn't get as clear as an answer about.
    The examples she said when talking about it was that English can have both these pronunciations in a word like issue, which in RP is with [sj] and everywhere else on the planet with [ʃ], with [sj] being the older form. So this can and does cause coalescence and like English in England can have both, it's a choice Welsh makes as well, with an isogloss that pretty much cuts Wales in half, though not exactly.

    But for the -di- words, that goes for all of Wales. For the -si-, I got the feeling it was about word-initially, because she didn't mention anything about medially really so I am not 100% sure on that answer. Just to clarify, the loanword shop is with [ʃ] in NW, due to it being a loan word.
     
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