Watch What You Say About Welsh

It does have vowels, it's not the oldest language in Europe, and, yes, it does have words for modern technologies. Welsh, or Cymraeg as we probably ought to call it, is spoken by more than 580,000 people and was one of the 55 Earth languages chosen to represent our global culture on the Golden Record launched with the Voyager spacecraft in 1977.

But it's still very much a small language and, to English speakers, a weird-looking one, so it's no surprise that tall tales abound. Garic, an evolutionary linguist and Welshman, is out to change that. He's written a series of posts that debunks pop-culture's worst Welsh fallacies and, along the way, makes some interesting points about the way speakers of common languages view the rare and unique tongues of the world...


No words for modern things. Welsh, apparently, lacks words for things like computers and aeroplanes. This is a stupid comment for two reasons:

1. It doesn't;

2. The arguments for the claim are entirely incoherent.

First of all, the Welsh words for 'computer' and 'aeroplane' are cyfrifiadur and awyren. Some words for other modern inventions are, similarly, based on Celtic roots; others are borrowings, like radio, which means 'radio'.

Secondly, the claim seems to be based on some bizarre assumption that other languages, like English, did not have to invent or borrow words for new inventions. The implication is that our ancestors failed us somehow in not forseeing the invention of the radio. I've actually heard people say that because Welsh "hasn't got words for modern inventions, it has to borrow them or make them up." This is of course true, but the idea that this is not true of any language spoken on the planet is so obviously, staggeringly dense that explanations for why it's stupid are unnecessary.

Thumbnail image courtesy Flickr user Spixey, via CC