Cymraeg (Welsh): pronunciation of "ai" and "au"

Zeevdovtarnegolet

Senior Member
English - usa
Normally I am under the impression that "au" and "ai" are pronounced like the word "eye," but when "au" is part of a plural form, it is usually pronounced "eh," unless there is an accent over it. "ai" is usually pronounced like "eye" but I have noticed in some words it is pronounced "eh."

The plural of llygad meaning eye is llygaid, but instead of being pronounced llygEYED it is pronounced llygED. Are there any rules about these situations?

I am particularly puzzled by the llygad / llygaid situation.
 
  • Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Normally I am under the impression that "au" and "ai" are pronounced like the word "eye," but when "au" is part of a plural form, it is usually pronounced "eh," unless there is an accent over it. "ai" is usually pronounced like "eye" but I have noticed in some words it is pronounced "eh."

    The plural of llygad meaning eye is llygaid, but instead of being pronounced llygEYED it is pronounced llygED. Are there any rules about these situations?

    I am particularly puzzled by the llygad / llygaid situation.

    The standard pronunciation of ai/au is [aj]/[aɨ] (the two have fallen together as [aj] in southern Welsh). But, in some people's pronunciation (I'm not sure what the regional specifics are), the diphthongs are simplified to [e] or [a] in unstressed position.
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The standard pronunciation of ai/au is [aj]/[aɨ] (the two have fallen together as [aj] in southern Welsh). But, in some people's pronunciation (I'm not sure what the regional specifics are), the diphthongs are simplified to [e] or [a] in unstressed position.

    Hmm interesting. Here in the north (edit: north west) it would be as you mentioned first, not [e] or [a], so it'd be good if someone could find the answer to where this happens.
     
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    Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    The second vowel in these diphthongs is often pronounced very weakly, as I recall (thus eisiau often sounds like [isjaʲ], and so on). But, I don't remember if and where where I've heard a full monophthong ([a] or [e]).
     

    Alxmrphi

    Senior Member
    UK English
    This book (374) says (about "ai"):

    (ii) The monopthongization of [ai] to [e]/[DRESS] is another common development in the dialect of Rhosllannerchrugog.
    Then in the (iii) it gives more details about "au".
    This is in north east dialect.

    Edit:
    I found a page detailing dialects of Welsh and there is one for this dialect in question.
    Link is here to listen to it (you can also click "Show on map" to see where it is spoken).
    Unfortunately, no transcript. My Welsh isn't good enough to find a good example word in the recording.
     
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    Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    This book (374) says (about "ai"):

    (ii) The monopthongization of [ai] to [e]/[DRESS] is another common development in the dialect of Rhosllannerchrugog.

    Does the book say whether this monophthongization is in unstressed position only? (See below.)

    Then in the (iii) it gives more details about "au".
    This is in north east dialect.

    Edit:
    I found a page detailing dialects of Welsh and there is one for this dialect in question.
    Link is here to listen to it (you can also click "Show on map" to see where it is spoken).
    Unfortunately, no transcript. My Welsh isn't good enough to find a good example word in the recording.
    I'm also having difficulty understanding the recording (in general, the speaker seems to be describing life in the town/village that she's from). But I can make out the following examples:

    nos Iau "Thursday night" (Iau pronounced with diphthong)

    gwasanaeth "service" (-aeth pronounced with monophthong [e])

    rhaid (in the phrase rhaid fynd "have to go"; pronounced with diphthong)

    yntau "he", "as for him" (pronounced with [e] in final syllable)

    Based on these four examples, [ai]/[aɨ] seems to become [e] in unstressed position, but remain a diphthong in stressed position (or in monosyllabic words).

    By the way, I looked at the linked Wikipedia article (on Welsh orthography), and it says that the plural suffix -au is always pronounced as a single vowel ([a] in the north, [e] in the south). Does this agree with what you hear in your region of Wales?
     
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