Pronunciation of vowels?
I have just looked at a Welsh for Beginners book and in the section on pronunciation it looks like the vowels e, u and y are all pronounced the same for both long and short vowels. Is this correct? If so, what is the purpose of the three separate vowels?
The basic pronunciation is the same, but the long vowel is just drawn out a little bit more. To hear some of the differences, go to gweiadur.com and click on the sound symbol each word in these pairs to hear the recordings:
dyn (long) - ffyn (short)
hen (long) - pen (short)
pin (long) - pìn (short)
ffôn (long) - ffon (short)
tân (long) - tan (short)
hŷn (long) - hyn (short)
Ah, right.... Well, e does not sound the same as the others.
Some dialects/people do differentiate between u/y (when y in a final syllable, say, sounds like u) and i in some circumstances - the u/y then has a 'darker' sound, made a little further back in the mouth than the i. This course does not differentiate between them, but if you hunt around the web you will find examples.
For example, listen to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=irVKUBPbKzQ (long and short vowels in Welsh).
Gwyneth is from Pen Llŷn and thus makes the distinction between u/y on the one hand and i on the other hand.
Also listen to her two videos on diphthongs (one, two) - apparently, there's a three-way distinction between ai au ae in North Wales! And ei and eu also sound different, since the latter has the backed sound at the end of the diphthong.
"E" is pronounced like the "e" in "egg" when short, and when it's long it's like the "ey" in "hey". I, U and Y are pronounced similar in south Wales ("eh", "ee") but in North Wales the U and Y is pronounced more like "oo". Here is a video from a pronunciation series that helps me a lot in pronouncing Welsh: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gb8Bps3bG84
And then the one on "y" specifically: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dqv1geIlfFI
I think that one reason this could be is to differentiate words that sound the same but are different in writing (homophones). Hope this helps you.