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Wales Celtic Language

Wales Celtic Language, Maddox Genealogy Madog

Collier's Encyclopedia describes Wales as a country of 8017 square miles, bounded by the Irish Sea, by Bristol Channel and by St. George's Channel.  In 1978, population was 2,767,000.  The Brecon River flows into Newport, a city of 133,000. Its three regions are mountains, moorlands and lowlands with Mt. Snowden being the highest peak at 3560 feet.  The lowland soils support vegetation while moorlands are used for sheep pasturage. 

The Welsh language is Celtic and dates from the 6th century.  Sea routes brought it to the Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Norman invaders as well as Christian missionaries in the 5th century. When the Romans left in the 5th century, Wales was divided into provinces and these were united between the 9th and 10th century by a series of Kings among whom was Howel (Hywel) the Good (d.950), the Lawgiver, who had unified laws drawn up for all Wales.  Two features of society was (1) partible succession among rule heirs, which tended to disrupt unified control (partible means capable of being divided or shared), and (2) the paramount role of kindred in governing individual relationships.

Llewelyn the Last was acknowledged as the first Prince of Wales by King Edward I in 1267, but was overwhelmed by him in 1282 and most of Wales became a principality under control of the English King.  Discontent flared and in 1400, a revolt was led by Owain ab Gruffydd (Owen Glendower).  Opposition subsided when Henry Tudor, whose half Welsh ancestry came from descent from the Madogs, came to the thrown in 1485 as Henry VII, first king of the House of Tudor.  Under the Acts of Union, 1536 to 1542, which were passed as part of a policy to establish a strong sovereign state, English law was applied to Wales and parliamentary representation given, but the Welsh language was not recognized in law courts.


The Welsh language is spoken by some 600,000 people today, according to that encyclopedia.  It belongs to the Celtic group of languages.  Celtic is the name given to a mother tongue spoken by a civilization which flourished in Europe during the first millenium, before Christ.  Those peoples spread throughout Europe from Asia Minor to the islands of Britain.  The Celt language developed into the Irish, Scots, Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish and Breton languages.  The development of the Welsh language from that mother tongue belongs to the stormy period of the fifth and sixth centuries A.D., after Rome had withdrawn its legions from Britain.  It had no alphabet and the language had not been written, until Roman letters were given to its various sounds.  Welsh family names often described occupations and locations, which apparently would cause alteration of name from parent to child.  That does not lessen confusion. but does help explain some of its cause.

Thus, the English language name of a person may seem completely different from the Welsh name given the same person.  That would be expected.  But not all English letters appeared in the Welsh alphabet, so that different translations of the same name into English might be spelled differently, as one translator tried to reproduce a sound while another reproduced the name as it would normally be spelled in English.  For instance. the letter "J" is absent from the Welsh alphabet, so that "John" becomes "Sean."  An English writer, referring to a Welsh person of that name might write it either way, for the pronunciation is close to the same in either case.  We will puzzle over other apparent examples, trying to determine whether two writers are speaking of the same person, or not.

Owen Glendower is the commonly accepted English name applied to the Welsh national hero.  The spelling of his name will be seen to vary from one author to another.  Glendower, Griffith, Gruffudd .. are these merely different translation of the same name, or are these different people?  With some uncertainty, I conclude these names have all been applied to the same person.  In Welsh, "Llan" means church, "Tre" means village, and "ap" means "son of," and places and descent are frequently seen as parts of names.  It may help to realize these things in the reading which follows.

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