Komz a rez brezhoneg? / Wyt ti’n siarad Llydaweg?

I decided to have a go at learning Breton today and listened to some of Le Breton sans peine. I just listened without looking at the book to see if I could understand anything – one of my friends is convinced that Breton has more similarities with Welsh than with Cornish, but I thought that Breton is closer to Cornish, so I decided to test this.

I speak Welsh more or less fluently, and do know a few Breton words already, including degemer mat (welcome), trugarez (thank you = trugaredd, ‘mercy / compassion’, in Welsh), pelc’h emañ …? (where is …? = pa le, ‘which place?’, in Welsh), and I was able to guess the means of some words that sound similar to their Welsh equivalents: mor (sea – môr in Welsh), ti (house – in Welsh), glas (blue/green – glas in Welsh). I could also understand some of the numbers and some French loanwords, apart from that though, I had no idea, or only the vaguest idea, what they were talking about most of the time.

This is just my own impression, but it seems that mutual intelligibility between Welsh and Breton is very limited. The stories of Breton onion sellers in Wales being able to talk to the local Welsh speakers in Breton and be understood are perhaps exaggerated. Or perhaps the onion sellers, known as Sioni Wynwns (Johnny Onions) in Welsh, learnt enough Welsh to have basic conversations with Welsh speakers.

While I was in the Isle of Man earlier this year I heard some Cornish and was able to make some sense of it, but the Breton I heard there made very little sense to me.

This entry was posted in Breton, Cornish, French, Language, Language learning, Welsh.

5 Responses to Komz a rez brezhoneg? / Wyt ti’n siarad Llydaweg?

  1. TJ says:

    I read once that in Breton, all interrogative articles start with “pa” (or is it “pe”?), which means “what”.
    Like: “Where” would be “What place”, and “How” would be “what way/method” and so on. I’m not sure if this is true though.

    My first time learning about something called Breton at all was via Denez Prigent and his Ar Rannoù rap-like song. A traditional Breton song which he composed in a rap style.

    Could it be that you didn’t get much of the Breton because of the trilling “R” and the nasalized “N” sounds, and other vowels style in general?

  2. James says:

    Interesting to read of the “trugarez (thank you = trugaredd, ‘mercy / compassion’, in Welsh)” connection. In Scottish Gaelic, mercy is “trocair”.


  3. Simon says:

    TJ – the interrogative particles in Breton include pele’ch (where? – ‘what place?’), petra (what? – ‘what thing?’), piv (who?), perak (why?) – so it seems most of the start with pe (what?).

    The R in Breton is a uvular trill, a sound found in some dialects of Welsh, so it is not entirely alien.

  4. Sharon Jones Engel says:

    I purchased a framed Welsh saying in Treorchy. I want another one like it. it says To Be Born Welsh is a privilege, not with a silver spoon in your mouth, But music in your heart and poetry in your soul, Is there a way I can purchase another one?

  5. Speaking of Breton, I have a copy of the CD “Songbook1” by Cecile Corbel (available at http://www.cecile-corbel.com/en/shop.html ) which contains a couple of Breton songs, the Breton lyrics to which are printed in the album cover. I’ve not seen an English translation, but would be interested to.

    The CD also contains songs in other languages, mostly English, some French and Irish, and a certain amount of code switching within songs. I’d recommend it partly for the linguistic interest and partly because the music is nice.

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