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3  Pronunciation: Diphthongs

3.1  Diphthongs are mostly pronounced like the vowels that constitute them. So the combinations AW, EW, IW, YW can be handled by saying A, E, I, Y, with the consonant W attached.

3.2  When the second element is an I sound, the diphthongs AI, AE, AU, EI, EU, all sound approximately like the vowel in 'sky', 'high'. OE is like a longer version of the OY in 'boy', 'loin'.

3.3  The major problem concerns the combination WY. This represents two different diphthongs. Appendix D lists the words which have these diphthongs, and it should be read aloud.

3.4  The "falling" diphthong combines the vowel W (the "stressed element") and the consonant Y. An English/Australian analogy would be the call coo-ee!, much compressed. The American pronunciations (quite different from British English) of buoy or Bowie also come close. The falling diphthong is the commoner one. It is regular

  1. at the beginnings of words -- wyneb ('face')
  2. at the ends of words -- dwy ('two'), arlwy ('spread')
It also regularly represents the long E in Latin loan-words -- swydd ('office', from L 'sedes'), cadwyn ('chain' from L 'catena').

3.5  The "rising" diphthong combines the consonant W and the vowel Y (the "stressed element") as in English twin, queen. This is the rarer diphthong. (But it seems that in modern dialects, especially in the South, it is supplanting the falling diphthong.) It often happens after G or CH. Words in our text with the rising diphthong include gwyr (long Y -- 'men'), gwynn ('white'), cychwyn ('rise'). Again, for a fuller list consult Appendix D.

3.6  The chief difference in North Welsh pronunciation is that U and Y high are separate from I. Try to pronounce I as far back as possible in your mouth without its becoming a schwa. Better still, listen to the sound on cassettes -- most of which will demonstrate Northern pronunciation.

3.7  To practise this, if you want, repeat the Y high section above (2.17) with the Northern pronunciation and go on to:

3.8  Then the perfectionist will make one last change to get closer to medieval pronunciation. U will be pronounced with a rounded ("pouting") mouth, and produce a noise close to the French vowel in dur, une, or the similar German sound spelled as Ü (U-umlaut) or UE.

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All text copyright © 1996 by Gareth Morgan. Online layout copyright © 2001 by Daniel Morgan.