According to the 1991 Census of Population, there were 508,098 speakers of Welsh in Wales. However, a later survey carried out in 1992 by the Welsh Office estimated that the number of speakers with some degree of fluency was 930,200: 467,300 were able to speak some Welsh, 94,900 were fairly fluent, and 368,000 were fluent Welsh-speakers (A Survey of the Welsh Language: The 1992 Welsh Social Survey).
The numbers of Welsh speakers who live outside Wales is not known, although it is estimated that there are between 150,000 (extrapolated from Census data) and 450,000 (from a media survey) Welsh speakers in England. In Patagonia, Argentina, it is estimated that there are 1,000 speakers of the language. There are further unknown numbers in Scotland, Ireland, and various countries throughout the world.
The percentage of the population able to speak Welsh varies according to locality:
Population able to speak Welsh
Five districts within Wales have more than 30,000 Welsh speakers: Ynys Mon (Gwynedd), Arfon (Gwynedd), Ceredigion (Dyfed), Llanelli (Dyfed), and Carmarthen (Dyfed). The two districts containing the main cities of Wales, Swansea and Cardiff, have more than 17,000 Welsh speakers in each.
The districts with the smallest proportions of Welsh speakers are the main urban districts of south and north-east Wales, rural districts on the border with England, South Pembrokeshire (known as the little England beyond Wales') and the Vale of Glamorgan.
The process of economic restructuring has intensified in Wales since 1965. The primary sector has declined; agriculture has also declined and become increasingly mechanised; there has been an increase in tourism, large-scale capital-intensive projects, and the service sector. The Welsh-language media have increased substantially over the past 10 years. In the wake of this, the prestige value of the language has increased, and it has led to third-generation return of Welsh in some areas. On a local basis, Welsh has been used to narrow the labour market in the public sector. The private sector, on the other hand, is largely externally-owned and the use of Welsh within this sector is limited (see Williams, G 'Bilingualism, dialect, and reproduction', in International Journal of Sociology, Vol 66, 1987, pp 85-98, for discussion of economic restructuring in Wales and the effect on the Welsh language).
Employment by sector in Wales (1989):
Welsh is a Celtic language, derived from an Indo-European root. It belongs to the P-Celtic group, along with Breton and Cornish, and its linguistic sub-group is Brythoneg/Britonnic. It is estimated that Welsh began to separate from its sister-languages between 400 and 700 A.D. The earliest evidence of Welsh is 9th century stone inscriptions - for example, in the parish church of Tywyn, Gwynedd, in north-west Wales, there is a Welsh inscription which dates from circa 810 A.D.
The evidence for Welsh across the centuries derives from literary texts - in the 13th century, the Book of Aneirin commemorated important battles, some dating back to 595 A.D. Further works, such as the Book of Taliesin are important texts from this early period. The laws of Hywel Dda, which constituted the law of Wales, are recorded in 42 texts which appeared between 1230 and 1500. Another important historical source are the Mabinogi, a collection of tales written down between 1050 and 1170. During the Middle Ages, an important body of texts consists of poetry written to glorify the Welsh princes, and other noble families.
However, the conquest of Wales by England in 1282 made Welsh a stateless language, and it has occupied an inferior position in Wales since that time. The Act of Annexation in 1536, which attempted to integrate Wales and its language with the English state, meant that the reproduction of the language was restricted to the family, community, and religion.
Welsh has less validity than English in Wales, and has no validity outside Wales. Although there is no official statutory language, English is the language of the UK government. The support given to the use of Welsh by the member state government is limited, and always in response to demand rather than government initiation. There are no laws in Wales explicitly discriminating against Welsh, as there are in the case of Irish in the north of Ireland, but there is a whole range of administrative practices that make it difficult to use Welsh in certain places.
The main laws, decrees defining/limiting the legal status of Welsh are the Welsh Courts Act 1943, Welsh Language Act 1967, Welsh Language Act 1993. During the parliamentary debate on the Welsh Language Bill in 1993, unsuccessful attempts were made to incorporate into it a declaration that Welsh was an official language in Wales. Amendments to this end in both Houses were resisted by the Government who claimed that this was uneccessary as Welsh was already an official language in Wales (House of Commons Hansard 19.1.93 col 879; House of CommonsHansard 13.7.93 (Prime Minister); House of Commons Hansard 15.7.93). The validity of this assertion is untested.
Some pertinent points about language use within the legal framework include: a Welsh-speaking defendant appearing before a court in Wales is not entitled to a hearing before a jury with a sufficient knowledge of Welsh. Welsh is not treated as an official language in the application of the Race Relations Act 1976, and cases of discrimination have been brought. A Welsh-speaker may not apply to the courts for relief on damage when his/her interest has been adversely affected by the linguistic policy of a public authority. A Welsh-speaker has no right to use Welsh in the private sector.
There are numerous regulations when it is obligatory to use English forms, e.g. Mental Health Regulations 1983; Medical Regulations, 1972; Power of Attorney Regulations, 1987, 1990.
Within the National Curriculum, Welsh as a first language is compulsory where Welsh is the main medium of instruction in the school. Welsh as a second language in other schools has been compulsory for the past three years until 16 years of age, except for schools applying for exemption (almost nil at present). However, the official policies are not implemented in certain areas - e.g. in Gwent. Also, the Welsh Office (which is responsible for education matters in Wales) announced in January 1994 that from September 1994 until 1999, schools will not have to teach Welsh as a statutory subject between 14-16 years of age. The situation will be reviewed in 1999.
Welsh is taught at all educational levels to varying degrees, from pre-school level to university, but the level of provision varies a great deal between localities. At the primary level, 43,984 pupils receive their education through the medium of Welsh, out of a total number of 274,286 primary-school children in Wales. About 10,522 children receive some instruction at this level through the medium of Welsh, and 165,019 children are taught Welsh as a subject. At the secondary level, 20,539 pupils receive most of their instruction in Welsh, out of a total number of 189,575. At university level, there are a restricted number of courses available through the medium of Welsh - it is almost totally absent from the natural science degree courses, but there is slightly more provision in the liberal arts. In further education also, Welsh-medium access is at a very low level.
English is the language of record in the courts, although the Welsh Language Act 1967 gave people the right to use Welsh in court if they so wish. However, there are certain obstacles to using Welsh in courts - e.g. the person who wishes to use the Welsh language in cases heard in courts other than magistrates', must give prior notice to the court. Also, the number of judges who can speak Welsh are few - no High Court Judge in Wales speaks Welsh, and only some Circuit Judges speak the language.
Therefore, although the use of Welsh has increased in the lower courts over the past few years, there has been hardly any difference in its use in the higher courts.
Although there are problems of validity at present with Welsh texts, following the Welsh Language Act 1993, texts in Welsh will be admitted under the Rules of Court to be made by the Lord Chancellor. It is understood that there is a great deal of work to be undertaken in respect of the proposed Rules of Court in identifying any changes which will be made necessary by the Act. It is doubtful whether the Rules will be available before 1995.
The state gives limited response only to demands for an increase in the use of Welsh, and a great deal of protest/campaigning is needed to obtain the smallest of gains. The increase in recent years in the prestige of the language has brought about an increase in its status, and has led to a more positive public opinion. However, the prestige and status varies according to area (e.g. in Cardiff, Welsh has a high status).
At a sub-state level, it must be noted that Wales does not have a 'regional' government as such, and there is no elected assembly for Wales. Rather the central government of the UK has a separate Office to handle affairs in Wales: the Welsh Office.
This is headed by a Secretary of State chosen by the UK Government from within its own party. The present Secretary of State is English and is a Member of Parliament for an English Constituency. The use of the Welsh language by the Welsh Office in official forms and publications is strictly limited.
Local authorities' policies regarding the use of the Welsh language are extremely varied, from total bilingualism in administration in Dwyfor District Council in Gwyneddin the north-west of Wales, to no use at all of Welsh in Gwent County Council in south-east Wales.
Only one public TV station, S4C, has Welsh-language programmes and these are broadcast for 30 hours a week. It is estimated that it has an audience of 400,000 weekly, which represents 83.8% of the Welsh-speaking population. The other public TV stations in Wales are BBC Wales, and HTV, and it is also possible in some areas (the West coast) to receive TV programmes from Ireland.
Over the past 10 years, the quality and range of programmes in Welsh has increased generally, and there is new emphasis on youth programmes. The long-running soap opera, Pobol y Cwm, can be followed by semi-linguals, and the series is now dubbed into English also (the dubbing sponsored by a private sector company).
The state-aided public radio station Radio Cymru transmits between 90-115 hours weekly in Welsh, to an audience of 250,000 weekly. Radio Ceredigion, on the other hand, is aprivate radio station operating in the Dyfed area, and it transmits 49 hours weekly in Welsh to an estimated audience of 18,000. Other local radio stations also transmit in Welsh, but to a lesser extent.
There are no daily papers in Welsh. However, the daily Western Mail (circulation: 72,000) has the occasional Welsh column, but this represents less than 1% of the total contents of the paper. The Cambrian News, which is published weekly has approximately 5% of its contents in Welsh (circulation: 28,000). On a weekly basis, there are newspapers and one magazine, with a total readership of approximately 10,000. Other Welsh-language monthly and quarterly periodicals have a total readership of some 20,000. The locally-based Papurau Bro (community newspapers) have a monthly circulation of 72,300. Most of these are published in Welsh only, but some are bilingual.
Over 500 Welsh-language books are published annually, and these cover a wide range of topics - children's books, school books, poetry, short stories, novels, religious books, encyclopaedias, and technical books.
There is a thriving music scene in Welsh, covering rock, pop, traditional folk, country music, reggae, 'indie' music, as well as more 'middle-of-the road' music, classical singing, harp music, and choirs. An independent record company, Sain, produces high-quality tapes and CDs of the most prominent artistes.
There are six stable professional theatre groups that work only through the medium of Welsh. Additionally, there are at least seven professional groups that work partly in Welsh, and several amateur groups who perform in Welsh throughout Wales. The elsh Arts Council gives financial support to some of these theatre groups.
Three Welsh-language cinema films have been made, including Hedd Wyn, which was nominated for an Oscar in Hollywood in 1994.
The main cultural festivals are the Royal National Eisteddfod, which is held annually and is acknowledged as Wales' premier Welsh language festival. Other notable festivals are the Urdd National Eisteddfod, which is one of the largest youth festivals in Europe, and the Gwyl Cerdd Dant (metric poetry sung to harp music). These festivals, which receive some financial support from the state, have grown and become more successful in recent years.
The use of Welsh in the private sector is limited, mainly because the private sector is largely owned by external companies. However, the Welsh Language Board has recently had a campaign to encourage bilingual speakers to wear a lapel badge, and there have been several local campaigns to encourage shops and businesses to use more Welsh.
More and more large companies are beginning to use Welsh in their advertising on the street, in papers/magazines, and on TV. Again, the Welsh Language Board has been encouraging a wider use of Welsh in this field, and there have been some successes - e.g. Argos Stores; a number of garages; some supermarkets and shops; Midland Bank; SWALEC (electricity company in south Wales); National Museum of Wales; Standard Life Insurance Company; car promotions (Rover, Volvo, Hyundai); Welsh books.
There has also been an increase in the use of Welsh in labelling - e.g. tea, wine, dog food. A Welsh wine grower suffered a setback some time ago when EC regulations barred him from using Welsh only on wine-bottle labels; however, this obstacle appears to have been overcome.
The recently privatised electricity, water and telephone companies make limited use of Welsh in their businesses - e.g. Welsh bills are available on special request.
When both parents speak Welsh, 70.4% of them have fluent Welsh-speaking children (Welsh Office Social Survey, 1992:table 5). When only one parent speaks Welsh, the fluency among children aged 3-15 years is far less - 29% when the mother only is Welsh-speaking; 14% when the father only is Welsh-speaking (Welsh Office Social Survey, 1992:table 6).
However, data obtained from the 1981 Census of Population showed a slightly higher rate of transmission in families where only one parent spoke Welsh: mother only Welsh-speaking - 42% of children with fluency, father only Welsh-speaking - 36.2% of children with fluency (quoted in Williams, G., International Journal of the Sociology of Language vol 66, 1987:89).
The incidence of language group endogamy varies between different areas of Wales. As the density of Welsh speakers declines, so does language group endogamy (see Williams, G.,International Journal of the Sociology of Language vol 66, 1987, pp 85-98)
The language used by the young in courtship is not known, although it may be surmised that this varies by locality in Wales. It may be noted at this point that the greatest increase in the proportion of Welsh-speakers has been amongst the younger age-groups (OPCS Census of Population, 1991). The young seem generally well-motivated to use Welsh, but again this varies according to age, social class, and location.
Only about 10% of the Welsh-speaking population of Wales attend religious services regularly, and approximately 10% of clergy in Wales speak Welsh. About half the religious services in Wales are held in Welsh, and the family may choose freely the language of a burial or wedding. The primary Christian texts, the Bible, New Testament and Common Prayer Book were translated into Welsh in the 16th century. The presence of religions other than Christianity is very small.
The status of the language varies between different areas of Wales. In Cardiff, speaking Welsh is considered high-status because of its value in finding employment; elsewhere, the status of Welsh speakers is increasing, but htere is still a semblance of denigration.
When ministers at the Welsh Office make statements concerning the Welsh language, these are generally optimistic in nature. However, the Welsh Office is not active in promoting Welsh, but will respond to public demand. In general terms, there is great optimism as to the future of the Welsh language. There has been a great increase in its use in recent years in the fields of education, media, and work. As noted in Section 8 above, the biggest increase in the proportion of Welsh-speakers has been amongst the younger age-groups (OPCS Census of Population, 1991), who seem generally well-motivated to use Welsh.
No data for this topic.
It seems clear that the situation of the Welsh language group is quite dynamic. The increase in language prestige has stimulated a desire for the younger generation to learn the language in areas where, hitherto, there has been considerable decline in the number of speakers. That is, Welsh has become a feature of instrumental rationality for many actors. As a result there has been a drive to expand upon the agencies of production, primarily involving the educational agencies. However, this prestige primarily involves public sector employment, even though it is expected that the recent language act will have some impact upon the private sector.
Consequently, the prestige factor is most evident in administrative centres and in the associated local and regional labour markets.
As among some other minority language groups the main issue now surrounds translating competence into use. There is an urgent need to institutionalise the language within a range of structures within civil society. This is no easy matter and involves changes in the process of language learning that focus upon the teaching of a range of dialogues, rather than the more orthodox ones associated with the formal contexts of educational institutions. This issue is further complicated by the considerable influx of in-migrants drawn from outside of Wales.