From Namespedia - Names Meaning and Origins
Welsh is an Indo-European language that still has a large number of speakers. It is spoken in a number of countries of the world, of which the most representative one is Wales. Nowadays the Welsh-speaking community reaches a number of 660,000 people. About 611,000 of these Welsh language speakers live in Wales, UK (about 22% of the population of Wales), while the rest are scattered all around the world in places like Chubut Valley in Patagonia, Scotland, and the USA.
Number of speakers
Studies show that at the beginning of the 20th century the number of Welsh speakers in Wales was far greater - somewhere around 50% of the population could speak or read or write in Welsh. Slowly this percentage decreased until 1990 when the number of Welsh users dropped to about 18% of the population (around 508,000 people at that time). From then on began a slow but sure rise in the numbers of the Welsh-speaking community. This mainly occurred because Welsh was introduced in schools in 1991 as a compulsory discipline. Another factor that contributed to the increase in the number of speakers was the establishment in 1982 of S4C TV station that still broadcasts around 80 hours of Welsh programs per week. There are also many local radio stations such as Radio Cymru that played an important part in this process. Another important contribution came from the Welsh Language Board which was set up in 1993 through the Welsh Language Act which states that Welsh and English are used just the same in the administration of justice or in the public business department. It is estimated that outside of Wales, but nevertheless in the United Kingdom, there are around 200,000 speakers of Welsh. This language continues to spread throughout the world today by means of immigration in countries like Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
Welsh arose from Brittonic or Brythonic, a Celtic language and is closely related to Cornish and Breton. It is believed that Welsh emerged sometime around the 6th century. Some of the oldest texts in Welsh date as far back as the 9th century. Among these texts there are the Manuscripts of the laws of Hywel Dda, as well as poems from the culture of Hen Ogledd, and the Mabinogi manuscripts. Welsh influence can be seen today in a variety of names such as Walcot, Walton, Wallasey that contain the root 'walh' which was the word for foreigner or serf (as were the Celts referred to).
Today, as a language, Welsh is growing steadily. More and more people admit that they have a somewhat informal knowledge of the language and many of them start taking courses to improve their language skills, thus adding to the number of speakers. An important part in the further development of the language will certainly be attributed to media factors such as Radio Cymru and the S4C TV station, as well as various news papers and web sites. Music will also play an important role in the development of the Welsh language and culture as more and more bands and artists use the Welsh language to express themselves and draw their inspiration from the Welsh mythology.
Articles in category "Welsh"
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