Thursday, 21 January 2010

Cymraeg Clir

A scheme at Bangor University offers translation services in Welsh. But this one doesn't translate into English. Instead your documents come back in Cymraeg Clir (Clear Welsh). Ok, so it's more of an editorial service really, but there are some interesting features in its guidelines (The document is titled "Ysgrifennu'n Glir" (Writing Clearly), even though it recommends using 'sgrifenny' instead of 'ysgrifennu'):

Move the subject closer to the start of the sentence by using active verbs, rather than passive. This is general advice for any language, but there are Welsh-specific ones too:

Use verbs instead of nouns. This is slightly confusing at first glance, but refers to the use of phrases like 'tree management' rather than the simpler 'managing trees'. The incursion of such nouns is put down to the influence of English.

Use the 'long form' of the verb (uninflected) to avoid tense ambiguity.

Interestingly, the use of acronyms is discouraged, partly for ease of reading but also because acronyms can be misleading, or even difficult to construct, due to initial consonant mutation (the changing of the first consonant in a word in some syntactic contexts, e.g. 'cat' in welsh is cath, but 'his cat' is ei gath). However, established acronyms and English acronyms along with full Welsh translations can be used. Furthermore, acronyms themselves cannot be mutated.

Mutation is also to be avoided in bullet points by inserting e.g. 'the following' before them (all contiguous nouns after a mutation context are elligable for mutation). Interestingly, foreign place names should not be mutated either.

Users are reminded that mutation applies by agreement, not just in immediate contexts, so in the following sentence, since 'neges' is a feminine noun, the verb 'teipio' (to type) must be mutated using 'aspirate' mutation:

Dyma’r neges y mae’n rhaid i mi ei theipio
Here the message it is must to me it type
This is the message that I must type

Whenever rules like this need to be explained in editorial documents, I wonder whether Welsh mutation has just gone too far.

Contracting the verb 'is' (e.g. 'the building's insured') is recommended. However, the Welsh 'yn' (is) can also mean 'within', in which case it should not be contracted. Instead of explaining the secondary meaning in Welsh, however, the guideline uses English:

"heblaw pan fo’r ‘yn’ yn golygu in yn y Saesneg"
(exept when the 'in' means in in English)

Never use the ampersand (&) when writing in Welsh! This makes sense, since it's a contraction of a Latin phrase anyway.

There is also advice on punctuation, including the use of hyphens to separate double letters, avoiding the possibility of triple and quadruple ls (e.g. alllifo).

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