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Definitive list of Welsh place names published

29 June 2018

Map Eisteddfod

A Cardiff University academic is among a panel of experts who have developed a standardised list of spellings for Welsh place names.

The guide, which has been published on the Welsh Language Commissioner’s website, contains nearly 3,000 villages, towns and cities and is the fruit of many years of research and consultation in the field.

Dr Dylan Foster Evans of the School of Welsh, who is a member of the panel, said: “Place names are part of our heritage and our identity – that is why so many of us have a keen interest in them.

“The Welsh spelling system was only thoroughly standardised in the twentieth century. The spelling of place names took longer to follow suit; Caernarvon appears to be an Anglicized and old-fashioned way of spelling the town’s name today, but that was the spelling on the National Eisteddfod chair in 1935!

“Not everyone will agree with all of our recommendations. But agreeing on standard forms is crucial if the Welsh language is to become a modern language that will survive in this digital age.”

When standardising place names, the panel of experts follow specific guidelines.  They consider the pronunciation and origin as well as the local and historical use of the name.

During the Urdd Eisteddfod, visitors were invited to test the list at the Commissioner’s stand. By the end of the week, over 750 pins had been put on the map to indicate that the name of a town or village was on the list, and any names that appeared to be ‘missing’ are in the process of being added.

The Welsh Language Commissioner, Meri Huws, said: “I am very glad that we are now in a position to publish our list of standardised place names.  This event notes many years of hard work by our small team within the Welsh Language Commissioner in consultation with the panel of Welsh place names experts.  We are very grateful for their important contribution to this project, ensuring that there is a sound basis for each recommendation.

“Many of us will have personal opinions about how to write the names of places in our home turf and it is possible that not everyone will agree with each recommendation on the list. We do not intend to force these spellings, but rather offer recommendations, with the view to promoting consistency in the way we spell place names across Wales in official contexts.”

One of the organisations that will use the list as a guide to spelling place names is Ordnance Survey (OS).

Pam Whitham, Relationship Manager for the OS, said: “OS has a long standing and valued partnership with the Welsh Language Commissioner’s office.  They have played a key role in developing our Welsh Naming Policy and ensuring consistency of Welsh place-names throughout our products. We’re delighted to continue working with the Commissioner and welcome the database as a valuable resource for defining Welsh place-names.”

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