Phonetic Regularity in Welsh Poetry

Author: Griffen, Toby D.
Traditional Welsh poetry has been marked by patterns of correspondences among sounds in alliterations and rhyme. Ostensibly, these correspondences have depended upon precise phonetic matches following prescribed patterns. However, throughout the history of Welsh literature, there have been apparent lapses and exceptions to this phonetic regularity. This work proposes that these apparent phonetic irregularities in the history of Welsh literature derive not from the actual acoustic phonetic perceptions of the poets and reciters, but rather from the manner in which we have described the sounds themselves as letters or as phonetic segments. This work is of importance not only to Welsh and Celtic Studies in general, but also to phonetics, linguistics, and poetics.


“This work by Toby D. Griffen seeks to examine, in some detail, the issue of phonetic regularity in cynghanedd, an intricate metrical system involving the use of internal rhyme (llusg) and alliteration (croes, traws), or a combination of both elements (sain) with due regard to accent, in a line of poetry – a system integral to Welsh strict metre verse (24 measures in all) of the late medieval and early modern periods, and still widely practiced today…..a worthy and valuable addition….His approach to the topic is novel and innovative, seeking to demonstrate ‘how speech sound has participated in the Welsh poetic systems and what the Welsh poetic systems have to tell us about the nature of speech sound’. In short, it is a book for both the literary historian and the linguist, and will be read with profit by anyone interested in history and development of Welsh poetics. I warmly commend it.” – (From the Commendatory Preface) Dr. Dafydd Huw Evans

Table of Contents

Commendatory Preface
1. The Rules of Cynghanedd
2. The Phonetics
3. Prosodic Alliterations
4. Generic Rhyme and Alliteration
5. Epenthesis and Mesotomy
6. Nonsyllabics
7. The “Exceptions”
8. The Accent Rule of Cynghanedd
9. Implications for Poetry and Phonology