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MEP learning pack

Masters in Educational Practice: Child and adolescent development 0-19


Speech, language and communication development


The structure of the Welsh language

Welsh is a VSO – Verb-Subject-Object – language and has a more transparent grapheme – phoneme relationship than English. This has led researchers to investigate whether it is easier to learn to read in Welsh than in English, and the answer is Yes! (Spencer & Hanley, 2003) However, it has a Celtic system of mutations which alters the initial letter of a word depending on various grammatical rules, for example, following particular prepositions.

Unlike English, Welsh uses gender categorisations of nouns, which can be masculine or feminine. This also influences whether a corresponding adjective, which generally follows the noun, starts with a mutated form.

Like English, Welsh uses prefixes and suffixes to alter meaning and show tense, but more often than English this sometimes involves an internal change to the structure of the word.

Addition of a prefix usually causes a mutation to the beginning of the root words as well:

  • plurality, e.g. aderyn (bird), adar (birds); bachgen (boy), bechgyn (boys).
  • comparison, e.g. tal (tall), talach (taller), y tala (tallest).
  • tenses, e.g. prynith e (he will buy), prynodd e (he bought).
  • opposites, e.g. cofio (remember), anghofio (forget); mantais (advantage), anfantais (disadvantage).

(See BBC Cymru: Learn Welsh - Grammar for information on Welsh adjectives.)

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