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Apparently Welsh is being added into the incubator

I guess this means that there will soon be more Celtic languages to join Irish, which means that an interesting third language for Irish-as-a-second-language speakers will be arriving soon. While Welsh may be added soon, however, I don't think that Manx and Scottish Gaelic will be added at all within at least a year or so, given the relatively small population size of the speakers of those languages.

September 9, 2015



You mean Scottish Gaelic?


Give that man a raise!


I think this is brilliant. One suggestion, could the DuoLingo owl become a dragon for this one? :)


That'd be so metal.


As a matter of interest, does anyone have any information about how close Irish and Welsh are? While they are both Celtic languages, I was under the impression that they are not as close to one another as the Romance languages are, for example.

(Off-hand, I only know one or two welsh words, and I know that the number 4 is pedwar in Welsh and ceathair in Irish, showing the mutation that gives us the labels P-Celtic and Q-Celtic).


As a random point of comparison, here’s Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in English, Irish, and Welsh respectively from the Web site of the UN OHCHR:

  • All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

  • Saoláitear na daoine uile saor agus comhionann ina ndínit agus ina gcearta. Tá bauidh an réasúin agus an choinsiasa acu agus dlíd iad féin d'iompar de mheon bhrthreachais i leith a chéile.

  • Genir pawb yn rhydd ac yn gydradd â'i gilydd mewn urddas a hawliau. Fe'u cynysgaeddir â rheswm a chydwybod, a dylai pawb ymddwyn y naill at y llall mewn ysbryd cymodlon.

(There are typographic errors in the Irish version, e.g. “endowed with reason” should be buaidh [or bua] an réasúin ; “spirit of brotherhood” should be mheon bhráithreachais. I don’t know if there are any typos in the Welsh version.)


The Welsh looks fine, if a little formal (as you would expect). In terms of closeness, I can attest that it is quite impossible for a Welsh speaker to understand Irish (or Scottish Gaelic) just from listening to or reading it, although it is usually quite possible to guess at a lot of the vocabulary, and I suspect there are strong similarities in grammar. One day soon I hope I can give a direct comparison as I have added Irish to my list of languages I wish to learn on Duolingo, but to date I have only completed lesson 1, so anything I would say would be a touch premature!

I recall on a trip to Scotland that I was able to decipher a description of some mountains, although it relied on just a few cognates describing geographical features. However Welsh has a lot of Latin vocabulary that I suspect Gaelic lacks. Nevertheless Welsh has almost no Latin grammar, and I would guess it is likely, therefore, that Irish grammar has strong similarities.

To those in this thread who note that Scottish Gaelic is unlikely to be included soon: that is indeed a pity, but an Irish friend of mine once had a long conversation with a Scottish friend of mine, each speaking their respective languages, and seemed to understand quite well. I actually added Irish Gaelic to my duolingo list in the hope that it would teach me much of what I need for Scottish Gaelic.

As to the original post: yes, I had heard too that Welsh is coming. There is a facebook group for Welsh for duolingo.

Welsh is closer to Cornish and Breton than to Irish. The advantage of having Welsh here is that it is representative of the P branch of the Celtic languages.


It really surprises me that your friend could have a long conversation with a Scots Gaelic speaker. Native speakers of Irish rarely understand spoken Scots in my experience. Was he from Ulster?


Yes, from Ulster. I had no way to judge how much they were asking each other to repeat things though!


In my experience, if you ask them, they'll generally tell you a native speaker of one can't really understand the other. But then I've seen a few Irish speakers chat with Scottish Gaelic speakers and find to their surprise they understand each other quite well if they slow down a bit and are careful with word choice. But this is probably less true for speakers of Connemara or Munster dialects.


Even though they outwardly appear very different, I'm sure that there are more similarities between those two than between, say, Irish and French.


That's for sure: Welsh and Irish belong to the same branch of Indo-European languages, the Celtic one, while French, along with Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian belong to the Romance branch.


This is very true, but we might add that Gaelic had diverged from the Brythonic Celtic language (from where we get Welsh, Cornish and Breton) thousands of years ago. Although I expect there was a fair bit of borrowing and shared influence in that time, it is also a long time for a language to take its own path. The Romance languages diverged much more recently, as did the Germanic languages. Clearly Welsh will be closer to Irish than it is to French, but then the Celtic influences in French (such as the counting system - I think particularly of the counting in 20s) perhaps date back to a time when Gaelic and Brythonic were already well established as different languages.

I understand that in the middle ages the languages of Denmark, Norway, much of what is now the Netherlands, and Old English were all mutually intelligible (I got this from reading the history of the Saxons just before the Norman invasion). I also understand from a friend who speaks Dutch and Danish that the languages are now quite different, both in vocabulary and grammar. And that is at a distance of just over 1000 years, so add a thousand more to that at least and you might start to have a realistic expectation of the similarities between Welsh and Gaelic.

Again I caveat my remarks from the position of ignorance of Gaelic, beyond my recognition that I cannot understand it!


It's not possible to really understand anything in Welsh from Irish without having some knowledge of Celtic linguistics, i.e. a native Irish speaker would basically understand no Welsh. I know of two native Irish speakers who are fully fluent in Welsh and both said it was totally alien at first.

This is so pronounced that the Irish Bards in a debate over which language Irish was related to practically hit on every Western European language except Welsh.


In terms of linguistic familiarity, both originate from the Celtic branch. From there they branch into the Gaelic and Brythonic groups, in which the Gaelic are Manx, Scottish and Irish, and the Brythonic are Cornish, Breton, and Welsh. So you'll find a lot of similarities between the Gaelic languages and some between the Brythonic languages, but not as many in between the groups. You could say that the sub-group Gaelic and its languages (M,S,I) are related the same way the Romance languages are, they could be somewhat mutually intelligible and much of the grammar is the same, but there will be some differences. The differences between the Gaelic and Brythonic languages would be more akin to the difference between the Scandinavian languages and German. Both are of the Germanic branch of the linguistic tree, but after so long being separate languages, they are no longer mutually intelligible. Such is the same between Brythonic and Gaelic languages.


A bit late to this party, but: maybe the more useful connection they have as Celtic languages is that they share some of the grammatical weirdnesses English speakers may find daunting:

  • initial consonant mutations, as you say; Welsh has three series of them to Irish's two, but it's a little more straightfoward of a system (imho)

  • verb-subject-object order, though Welsh might be more willing to front the subject for emphasis

  • those pesky yet plucky inflected prepositions

  • I can't remember exactly, but I believe relative clauses work roughly the same way?

Of course, there's points of departure: cases you don't have to worry about in Welsh, but the plurals are sometimes even less intuitive than Irish's. Object pronouns are equally, but differently, complex. Still, the similarities will ease the jump from language to the other, I reckon.

The biggest phonological difference is probably that Welsh is blessedly free of the broad/slender distinction (and consequently the spelling is a lot more straightforward, though the letters don't always match to English). But doing the LL takes practice.

As for vocabulary, beware of false friends: the ones that trip me up most often are glas (green-ish in Irish, blue-ish in Welsh) and dán (Irish "poem") with dan (Welsh "under") or dân (Welsh "fire", mutated). I'm real curious as to whether they'll dip into Literary Welsh as well, or mix dialects in, since that will be harder to grapple with.


Can I request source for this?


Do we have any idea on a time frame? With Welsh ancestors and an interest in reviving the language, I'd love to take a crack at it.


Sometime before AD 2100, if I'm not mistaken.

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