Brittonic languages

Celtic languages in Europe: three Brittonic languages and … 2/2

de NHU Brittany
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Welsh (Cymraeg) is the Celtic language which is spoken the most today.

Over 700 000 people speak it, mainly in Wales, of course. But there are also 5000 Welsh speakers in the Rio Chubut valley in Argentina. This is almost a quarter of the total population of Wales.

In 1950, there were around 500 000 Breton speakers in Brittany and as many Welsh speakers in Wales. Seventy years later, only 200 000 of the 500 000 Breton speakers are left. And the 500 000 Welsh speakers are now 700 000. Since 1993 and the Deddf laith Gymaraeg (Welsh language law), Welsh is compulsory in all government business. Road signs in both languages are everywhere. Education is compulsory up to the age of sixteen. Therefore, 20% of Welsh children are educated in Welsh as a first language.

Welsh media

Wales also has its own TV channel Sianel Pedwar Cymru (Channel 4 Wales, or S4C). For radio, there’s BBC Radio Cymru and several local channels.
Here is the Welsh alphabet with its twenty eight letters: a, b, c, ch, d, dd, e, f, ff, g, ng, h, i, l, ll, m, n, o, p, ph, r, rh, s, t, th, u, w, y.
Welsh is very close to brezhoneg (Breton) from a linguistic point of view. This similarity goes even further between the two Celtic peoples: their national anthem is the same, both the lyrics and the tune.


On the Welsh island of Ynys Môn (Anglesey in English) there is a village named: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.
This translates to: « The church of Saint Mary of the pool of the white hazels near the fierce whirlpool and the church of Saint Tysilio of the red cave ».

Brittonic languages Celtics Languages

Some words in three Celtic Brittonic languages : Kernewek, Cymraeg and Brezhoneg

Cornish (Kernewek) is a Celtic language which is spoken by nearly 3000 people in Cornwall.

There are also bilingual Dalleth schools to pass Cornish onto the younger generations. Since 2014, the Cornish have been officially recognised as an ethnic minority by the British government. Cornish is a regional language in English. In fact, Cornish does not yet have the same devolved status as Scotland and Wales. Cornish is very close to cymraeg and brezhoneg (respectively Welsh in Welsh and Breton in Breton).

langues celtiques, celtic languages

Celtic languages ​​in Europe – Les langues celtiques en Europe

Breton or brezhoneg in continental Brittany.

Only one Celtic language is spoken on the continent: brezhoneg.
Without doubt, Breton’s high point was just before the terrible Great War of 1914-18. Even in 1930 around 1.2 million people still spoke Breton every day. Today, there are around 200 000.

It is spoken mostly in western Brittany. And just as is the case in all the other Celtic countries, we are seeing pressure from English and French from the west.

Of the six Celtic languages spoken around the world, only one is within Paris’s sphere of influence. But we know that the French central government only wants one thing for the original, « regional » languages which are spoken in the country: their elimination.

Complicity and cooperation

Not only is the central government doing nothing to save Breton in Brittany, it is doing everything it can to eradicate it, and is barely trying to hide it.
In Brittany, the Brittany Region which governs four of the five Breton « départements » (counties) feels obliged to apply a few sticking plasters. It looks good to show a minimum amount of activity in favour of brezhoneg. And so between a transparent Cultural Council, publicly-funded communication campaigns and « recommendations » with no end result, the zealous regional representatives of central government are driving Breton towards its doom.


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