What’s an “Ll” between friends?

A well-meaning vandal in Wales decided that a new sign, welcoming people to the town of Llanelli, had a spelling error, the Llanelli Star reports.

The sign originally read:

Croeso i Lanelli

Welcome to Llanelli

However, the vandal changed the Welsh portion to read:

Croeso i LLanelli

In extant Celtic languages, there are a number of morphosyntactic “triggers” which influence the initial consonant of a word. These are known as initial consonant mutations. In Welsh, one of these initial consonant mutations is the soft mutation. Generally, voiceless stops become voiced, voiced stops become fricatives, <m> /m/ becomes <f> /v/, <rh> /r̥/ becomes <r> /r/, and <ll> /ɬ/ becomes <l> /l/.

However, L2 speakers find initial consonant mutations hard to master. The morphosyntactic triggers are quite diverse, so knowing when and when not to mutate an initial consonant can be tricky. Unfortunately for our well-meaning vandal, the preposition i ‘to, for’ is a trigger for soft mutation in Welsh. So the correct spelling really is as the sign originally was: Croeso i Lanelli (pronounced [ˈkrɔi̯.sɔ iː la.ˈnɛ.ɬi] in Southern Welsh).

2 thoughts on “What’s an “Ll” between friends?

    1. Yeah, all the Celtic languages are interesting. Quite different from the more well-known languages of Western Europe.

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