Why is there such a lack of similarity between Welsh and Irish?

I not fluent in Irish but so far in the Welsh course I've come across very little that is actually similar.

The grammar (apart from consonant mutation) is completely different. A basic sentence in Welsh is Subject-Verb-Object while in Irish Verb-Subject-Object. For example I work in a shop is

  • Dw i'n gweithio mewn siop (lit. I work in shop)

  • Oibrím (Oibríonn mé) sa siopa (lit. Work-I (Work I) in shop)

Also there are very few words in common

  • Cath - Cat
  • Heddiw - Inniú
  • Siop - Siopa
  • Ceffyl - Capall

But yet they're related?

December 4, 2016


The normal Welsh verb-subject-object order is better illustrated by an example using a short-form verb:

  • Bwytodd y gath bysgodyn - The cat ate a fish ('Ate / the cat / a fish')

As to why the languages are not more similar, remember that they split somewhere in the order of a couple of thousand years ago and that they have been subject to various different influences to different degrees since then. Similar degrees of difference have developed over that sort of timescale between languages in other language groups, too.

December 5, 2016

Welsh is also Verb - Subject - Object: note the dw at the beginning which is the verb!

If you use short-form verbs in the past or future, this is even clearer.

I believe Irish also has such a construction using "to be" as an auxiliary verb "Tá mé ag obair i siopa" is what Google Translate gives for "I am working in a shop", for example, with the "am I [particle] work[ing] in a shop" construction very parallel to the Welsh "am I [particle] work[ing] in a shop".

Also, being related has to do with history, not necessarily with how close the resulting languages look in the year 2017. English "wheel", Greek κύκλος (kyklos), and Sanskrit chakra are all related, but don't look particularly similar today.

December 4, 2016

Thanks for your response :)

P.S. i (takes an urú) is used for open spaces sa (takes a seimhiú) is used for closed spaces :)

December 4, 2016

Oh P.S. Can I ask, how is the Klingon course going?

December 4, 2016

Slowly :)

It's not dead but progress is slow and a bit stuttery as the two main contributors don't have time every day, not even always every week.

December 4, 2016

That's a pity, but understandable. I will wait for it and conquer all the other trees until then.

December 4, 2016
  • 1524

They are related but they are completely different branches of the Celtic language tree.

Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Manx are one branch (The Q Celtic languages) and Welsh, Breton and Cornish as the other branch (The P Celtic languages).

As a speaker and teacher of Welsh and a very slow learner of Irish I agree on the surface they are completely different with much less similarity than say English and Dutch.

However when you look at the underlying structures you see a lot more similarities.

Initial consonant mutations follow similar patterns

Possession and the 'have' expression have similar patterns.

The use of the definite article in front of country names.

December 4, 2016

I just found a sentence actually:

Mae'r dyn yn mynd

If you think about it though, it's a word-for-word translation of Tá an fear ag siúl!

December 4, 2016
  • 1524

Yes, that is one of the many similar patterns

December 4, 2016

English and German might not appear particularly close and they are both part of the Western Germanic language. Heck, English and Old English aren't that close. Welsh and Irish aren't even in the same branch of the Celtic languages.

December 4, 2016

Linguistically speaking, both are Celtic languages, but they are in two different branches. Welsh is part of the Brittonic branch along with Breton and Cornish, while Irish shares the Goidelic branch with Sottish Gaelic and Manx. The six languages have a common ancestral language (Proto-Celtic) that broke off into two (Common Brettonic and Classical Goidelic) and each of those fathered the modern Celtic languages through dialects.

December 4, 2016

Indeed, it's like comparing Icelandic and Afrikaans.

December 4, 2016
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