- a Brythonic branch of Celtic spoken natively in the western part
of Britain known as Wales (Cymru), and in the Chubut Valley, a Welsh
immigrant colony in the Patagonia region of Argentina.
- The 2001 census gives a figure of 20.5% of the population of Wales
as Welsh speakers (up from 18.5% in 1991), out of a population of
about 3 million.
- Even among the Welsh-speakers, few, if any, residents of Wales are
monolingual in Welsh. However, a large number of Welsh speakers are
more comfortable expressing themselves in Welsh than in English. A
speaker's choice of language can vary according to the subject domain
(known in linguistics as code-switching).
- Although Welsh is a minority language, and thus threatened by the
dominance of English, support for the language grew during the second
half of the twentieth century, along with the rise of nationalist
political organisations such as the political party Plaid Cymru and
Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society).
- Welsh as a first language is largely restricted to the less urban
north and west of Wales, principally Gwynedd, Merioneth, Anglesey
(Môn), Carmarthenshire, North Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, and parts of
- Welsh is very much a living language. It is used in conversation
every day, and seen in Wales everywhere. Local government (including
the Welsh Assembly) uses Welsh as its official language, public bodies
issue official literature and publicity in Welsh versions (e.g.
letters to parents from schools, library information, and council
information) and all road signs in Wales are in English and Welsh,
including the Welsh versions of place names (some of which are recent
inventions based on the English names).
- Modern Welsh can be divided into two periods. The first, Early
Modern Welsh ran from the 14th century to roughly the end of the 16th
century, and was the language used by Dafydd ap Gwilym. Late Modern
Welsh began with the publication of William Morgan's translation of
the Bible in 1588. Like its English counterpart, the King James
Version, this proved to have a strong stabilising effect on the
language, and indeed the language today still bears the same Late
Modern label as Morgan's language. Of course, many minor changes have
occurred since then.
- Welsh is used in education, and many Welsh universities are
bilingual, most notably the University of Wales at Bangor.