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A short lesson in Breton

The language

Today, in the western part of the peninsula, Breton is a full-fledged spoken and written language. A branch of Celtic Indo-European, the language has been evolving for 15 centuries, since the arrival of immigrants from Great Britain, chased off of their island during the great invasions.


The strong tonic accent on the next to last syllable of words gives the language a rhythm unlike anything you would find in French. However, all French sounds, apart from x, can be found in Breton. But the aspirations in the language are decidedly Breton.

"c'h", like ch in German.
h, like h in English or German (sometimes silent).
th(in certain regions), like in English.
th(elsewhere) has changed to z or tz.

Different Spellings:

The same word doesn't always have the same spelling, depending on the word that comes before it.

For example:

the father
my father
your father
the one who takes
take it
the Virgin
The Virgin Mary

an tad
va zad
da dad
an hini a gemer
he c'hemerit
ar Werc'hez Vari

Standardized Spelling
Reizskrivadur peurunvan

In 1821, Le Gonidec published his celto-breton dictionary and standardized the spelling of the language, relying on the principle of one letter (or group of letters) for one sound, one sound for a letter.

Therefore, unlike English or French, Breton is written as it is pronounced. There are a few exceptions. There is no c, q, x, or y ; the e is never silent and never has an accent; g and s are hard consonants like in 'get' or 'mass' (never a 'z' sound).

History of the Breton language. >>> Go there


Aber, aven: estuary (Aber-Wrac'h, Pont-Aven)
Amann: butter
Ankou: death
Aod (aot) : coast, shore
Argoad, argoed (argoat, argoet): wooded land, inland
Arvor (armor): coastline
Avel: wind
Beg (bec) : point, top, summit (Beg-Ar-Méné: mountain top)
Bihan (bian) : small (Enez Vihan: small island)
Bras (braz): large (Mor-Braz : the Ocean)
Breizh: Bretagne (that's where the BZH sticker on many cars comes from) (Mor-Breizh: the channel)
Enez (inis) : island (Enez Du: Black Island)
Fest-deiz: Day festival
Fest-noz: Night festival
Gwenn (guen): white, sacred (Feunteun Gwenn: pure fountain)
Kastell: château, fortification (Plougastell: château parish)
Ker (car): town, village, hamlet
Kozh (koz, koh, cos, coz, co-): old
Lan: hermitage, monastery (Lanildut)
Lann: moor
Loc: isolated place, hermitage
Loc'h : lagoon, coastal lake
Men: rock, stone
Menez (mene, mane, mine): mountain (Ménéguen : white sacred mountain)
Meur: grand, majestusous, important
Mor: sea (Mor Bihan: little sea)
Nevez (neue, newe, neve, nehue): new
Palud: marsh land
Penn: head, end, summit(Penn Ar Bed : Finistère)
Plou (plo, plu, pleu, ple, pli): old parish(Plougoulm, Pluvigner, Plélan)
Roc'h (roch, roh) : rock
Ti (ty) : house
Treizh (treiz, treh, trech, tre) : passage (Kerantreiz/Kerantrech : town of passage)
See you another time: D'ur wech all !
Cheers: Yec'hed mat
Goodbye: Kenavo
To drink: Evañ
Good: Mad (Bloavez mad ! : Happy New Year! ; Digemer mad !:Welcome!)
Good day!: Demat
Good night!: Nozvat
What's your name?: Pe anv out? My name is Jean: Yann eo ma anv
Crêpe: Krampouez
Summer : Hañv(An hañv eo !: It's summer!)
It's raining!: Glav a ra
To eat: Debriñ
Thank you: Trugarez
Bread: Bara (Bara mar plij ! some bread, please!)
Fuck!: Gast ! : (the most commonly used swear word)
Sun: Heol
Wine : Gwin(baragouiner ; gwin ru : red wine)



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