Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Language

A glue that helps bind a people together is their language. It is their language that signals their presence to other cultures, and becomes an integral part of their society. Being forced into the hills and mountains of the western most part of the island, the Welsh language evolves 500 A.D. - 600 A.D. from its Celtic roots. The land being central to the family settlements, it became imperative to be able to claim and keep what little geographic area you could. What land have you settled? What land do you claim? Where do you live and how do I get there if I need to? Understanding this need, helps one understand the Welsh language and its use in naming and genealogy. Many Welsh place names are based on words that describe a landmark or a feature of the countryside. For example: a forest or woodland came to be called Coed, and the lower location would use the word isaf. This isaf-coed would tell the hearer the lower forest. A Bangor settlement in the lower forest that needed to be separated from a Bangor settlement in the upper forest, would become Bangor-Is-Coed. A settlement that took on a church at its center was called a Llan. This was often followed by the chief supporter of this church being frequently the tribal leader. Thus the settlement named Llangorwen would mean the settlement(enclosure) that was cleared by Gorwen, and the church there was being established and supported by Gorwen. On and on it goes, name that land! Welsh words are:

mor = sea [important since the land was surrounded on three sides by the sea.
glan = shore [a lot of shore line]
afon = river [a lot of rivers]
bryn = hill [from the oceans come the hills]
bron = slope of a hill
mynydd = mountain [lots of mountains]
bwlch = mountain pass
llyn = lake
bro = vale
nant = stream
ogot = cave
rhos = moor/marsh
ynys = island
carreg = stone
craig = rock
clun = meadow
clwyd = perch/gate
dros = over
glyn = valley
ty = house
plas = hall/mansion
maes = field
mawr = big
bach = small
caer = fort
dinas = hill fortress
pen = head/top/end
pont = bridge
twr = tower
uchaf = upper/highest
wrth = near/by
tref = town

In Welsh, my present house would be Plas-Gwyn. Where do you live?

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