Brezhoneg/Breton 1 : Pronunciation
This post is part of the #celticlanguages group. My goal here is to let you discover a bit of breton. I myself come from Brittany but I'm not a native speaker at all - feel free to correct me if i'm making mistakes. That way we can improve our knowledge of the language together. If you want to read an introduction on Breton and Brittany, you can see my other post here.
I'm also writing this post because they aren't so many ressources about breton in english. I hope people interested in celtic language can learn a bit here about brezhoneg without necessarily speaking french.
I'm also trying to explain the language in a light way, because I think that if you're looking for something more serious a book about breton is better than a discussion post. The goal here is to have fun !
The different pronunciations of breton
They are roughly four dialects of breton, leoneg (léonard), tregerieg (trégorois), kerneveg (cornouaillais) and gwenedeg (vannetais), which all have been unified. The most different in pronunciation however is the gwenedeg. In these lessons, i’ll give the unified pronunciation, but i’ll sometimes add the gwenedeg version as well for those interested.
When I began learning breton, I found that the many dialects were discouraging. What I want to say is that it doesn’t have to be. A language with different pronunciations is also more interesting, diverse and fun. You can concentrate on an unified version, a regional dialect or learn a bit of both. Just choose what best suits you. If you want to hear different dialects, I can only recommend to you this website : the Breton Dialect Sound Archive. Click on a point on the map to hear the local dialect.
Specificities of Breton
The alphabet is the latin alphabet. The pronunciation isn’t too hard if you already know english or french, just note :
the letter c’h is pronounced like the spanish j ou the german ch (in nacht). And yes, c'h is considered as a letter, and not a combination of two letters.
zh is pronounced z in some regions, and h in others. For example, brezhoneg (which means breton), is pronounced breh zonek or breh honek there, in Moëlan, which is a kerneveg dialect. Same goes for the word Breizh, meaning Brittany. I suggest you search both these words here, by choosing Cible : Breton peurunvan to hear different versions !
the k is pronounced normally (like the c in car) in most dialects. Most dialects, except - you guessed it - some variants of gwenedeg, which pronounce the k tch when it’s before an e or an i. Example : the city of Kervignac, near Lorient, is sometimes pronounced Tchervignac. This particular point is driving me crazy, because my surname begins with Ker and comes from this region. But since they are also gwenedeg people there who pronounce Ker normally, i don’t even know if i’m saying my own surname correctly.
Contrary to french, breton uses stress or dynamic accents (in french : accent tonique). It means some syllables are emphasized. It’s generally the penultimate syllable. Note that the gwenedeg, always the rebel, does whatever it wants and rather emphasize the last syllable.
Rebels from Vannes (Gwened) : "No, we would prefer to emphasize the last syllable, thank you very much"
I’m not gonna say more on pronunciation because I don’t wanna bore you to death. If you do want to know more however, I recommend to you these websites :
And, once again, the Breton Dialect Sound Archive is great for training.
Thank you for reading ! Next post will be about starting and ending a conversation in breton !
Do you have a preference for a dialect in particular, or do rather like an unified breton ? Why ? And does this language remind you of other celtic languages ? Don’t hesitate to give your opinion in the comments :)
Nice overview ;) There is however a mistake on the map: Upper Brittany is the name given to Eastern Brittany (and Lower Brittany to the Western part).
Brav ;) Chom a ra ur fazi er gartenn, koulskoude. Breizh-Uhel eo an anv roet da reter Breizh (hag e vez graet Breizh-Izel eus Kornôg Breizh).
Again a very interesting post Azais, Brittany in a place I want to visit soon, and learning at least the basics of the language can be very useful. Surfing in the net I found an beginners course on the web for English, French, Spanish and German speakers. I've only had a look, but if somebody wants to try it and give your opinion it'd be interesting: http://www.kervarker.org/
I like this website. However, I don't completely agree with their first lesson, Salutations : I'll explain why on my next post. If you go to Brittany, it'll be hard to speak breton. Maybe you should see before your trip where local breton speaking associations are. You'll see that breton is written a bit everywhere, though.