Welsh (Cymraeg)

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Welsh is a Brythonic language closely related to Breton and Cornish, and more distantly related to the Goidelic languages (Irish, Gaelic, Manx). Welsh became an established language no later than the 6th century when Brythonic speakers migrated to the west of Britain. The Welsh spoken in Wales today is the product of a myriad of phonological (apocope, mutation, vowel length) and morphological (loss of case inflection) changes that took place in Old Welsh (8th-12th centuries) and syntactic changes (VSO word order, nonfinite clause organization) in Middle Welsh (12th-14th centuries). Its earliest literature dates back to the 6th century, and this long-standing tradition of literature, poetry, and song is revered to this day. 


Although Welsh is a minority language that survived a history of English repression, the 20th century has seen a boom in language revitalization efforts which have taken the form of language policy, technology and media integration, education reform, and a sense of national pride. Today, Welsh is an official language of Wales with two main dialects: Northern and Southern. Welsh is the medium for a rich culture, and many inhabitants of Wales have long embraced the idea that preserving the language is the first step to preserving that culture. This is most apparent in the steady increase in the enrollment of students in Welsh-medium schools and the diversity of organizations that support the Welsh language. 


Of the Celtic languages still spoken, Welsh is often cited as being in the best shape. In the 2011 census, about 560,000 people claimed to be able to speak Welsh out of a population of 3.1 million. Even more recent surveys put the population of speakers closer to 875,000 people. There is also a notable Welsh colony in Patagonia, Argentina that boasts a few thousand speakers. The robustness of recent census numbers is largely due to the number of children in Welsh-medium education. These young speakers are fluent, but they often come from English-speaking households and often do not use Welsh out of the schools. Today, there are only two areas in Wales where the majority of the population can speak Welsh: Gwynedd and Anglesey (Môn). There are no monolingual speakers of the language anywhere; every Welsh speaker in Wales also speaks English. The situation in Argentina, however, is unique in that the primary contact language is Spanish whereas many other Celtic language communities interact with English. This has created a unique minority-language bilingualism situation which is prevalent in the study of nearly all the Celtic languages.


Language learning