Since moving to Pembrokeshire five and a half years ago I’ve come to appreciate bogs. Bogs, mires, marshes, moors, swamps, mangroves (possibly) and all related upland and/or wetland areas. In Central Pembrokeshire they’re often referred to as “commons”, because the only land in or near any given village that hasn’t been successfully enclosed and surrounded by high-tensile barbed-wire fencing by its owners is generally poor-draining virtually unfarmable muck, and is thus given over to relatively rare grazing by the relatively poorer local farmers paying either a pittance or nothing at all to the local landowner who is usually descended from an Anglo-Norman warlord and usually probably hasn’t seen the land with his (or her, hahaha; but obviously usually his) eyes for several generations. And, thus, technically, never.here are terms like “rights of pasturage” and “court leet” that hark back to a feudal age we think ourselves far removed from, but whose rules and influence are there to be seen pretty much anywhere you look in modern British society; not just in the bogs.
I’m no expert on bog-based wildlife or anything like that. A lot of it is microfauna and microflora; so you don’t even necessarily see much when you’re traipsing around in it. There are protected species of butterfly (Marsh Fritillary, etc.) and dainty flowers that make some of the local mires SSSIs. There are sometimes skylarks where the marshes become more moorish. There are often red kites overhead (as there are increasingly all over rural Wales and England). There might be sheep, ponies, rabbits or rather unfortunate cows; but the bigger beasts stay away from the muddiest bits if they can. (They’re prone to getting stuck otherwise.) In Wallis there’s sometimes a couple of goats chained to a tree, looking for all the world like a sacrifice idly waiting for the local dragon to turn up. Where there’s enough flowing water there might be a heron.
Our river, Afon Wern, is essentially called Marsh River; and it drains the eastern slopes of Pembrokeshire’s highest mountain (or “hill” if you’re a racist) and Gors Fawr: the placid expanse of common land to which our home has centuries-old rights of pasturage which were unregistered in the ’60s and are therefore not legally recognized by Pembrokeshire County Council. Gors Fawr means Big Bog, and it’s home to Pembrokeshire’s only complete original stone circle. Some few thousand years old. Nobody really knows. The water from Gors Fawr actually comes into our leat before it’s allowed into the Wern; and while the majority still joins the Wern after escaping through the sluice channels in The Common, the fact that water from the land around those ancient sacred stones flows right outside the front of my house makes me very happy.
But this week I’ve been getting bogged down in words more than bogs. I’m learning Welsh. Re-learning, I might say; because I was close to studying for a GCSE when I first moved to England. But then I didn’t use it for over a decade, except on rare occasions when I was drunk at a party and wanted a “code” language in which to converse with a brother. Then we’d speak a debased form.
Now I’m learning Pembrokeshire Welsh; even Preseli Welsh, which is different again from the former, which is different to South Welsh, which is different to North Welsh. This all pleases me. The notion of full standardization of language is always a con, and serves only to elevate one person’s tongue above another’s. Proper English might serve a practical use (as any standardized language does; usually the justification of state control over the provinces) but ask anyone with an ounce of intellectual curiosity and they’ll soon reveal a penchant for dialect from some or other corner of the country. I won’t pretend to know what Welsh attitudes are. It’s no doubt different in a country where standardization has been more recent, less strict, and (arguably) less successful. And in a country where a foreign language has gradually become dominant; first as a colonial language, with all the accompanying oppression, and then as an adopted majority native language, with all the accompanying ambivalence.
The concept of Landskeria simultaneously exists (in my mind, at least) as an earnest attempt to enrich our lives with joy and wonder through unbounded creativity, and as a playful satire on nationalism generally. I’m quite confident that it can be both. (Even if Welsh nationalists on Twitter think it’s some form of errant neocolonialism.) And it’s in that spirit (the creativity and the satire; not the neocolonialism) that I decided (partly spurred on by a discussion in my Welsh class) that Landskeria needs a language of its own; separate from, though undoubtedly also closely related to, English and Welsh.
The language will be referred to in English, at least temporarily, with the same word we use for the people, in singular form: Landskerian. This will be fixed later. Although English will remain our first language, and Welsh our second (technically of equal legal and administrative importance; but we must recognize reality), the intention is that Landskerian will one day join these two as a third official language, and maybe supersede both to become the ceremonial language de jure of our nation.
I will share with you what I have so far.
That’s not the real term, but it’s the name of the text doc I’m working on to outline a simple phonetic alphabet which will serve as the bricks and mortar for the written (and trasnferrably oral) Landskerian language. It’s based on English with a little Welsh thrown in for good measure. The English letters c, q and x have been jettisoned in favour of, respectively, k/s, kw, and ks; the first because I have always hated c, as I imagine many English-learners do; the second because q and x strike me as consonant clusters and not true digraphs. The Welsh double letters ll, ch, and dd are included as lh, kh and dh. (I think these types of two-letter consonants which make a single sound are referred to as “digraphs” so that’s what I’ll call them.) Most other included sounds, which ought to (between them) replicate the majority of sounds available in both languages, are present in a recognizably phonetic form. 23 core single letters are pronounced in their basic form, which ought to invite something like a consensus among anyone likely to actually see any of this: a, b, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, r, s, t, u, v, w, y, z. They all do a different job, and are all thus necessary. I’ve (so far) only added one new letter, which is “ə”. I think it’s called a “Schwa”, but I just call it an “uh” at the moment, because that’s the approximate sound. It’s the most common vowel sound in English and not uncommon in Welsh; sometimes it’s represented as e, u, o, a… depends when and where it appears in a word. Take “word” as an example. Most of us say that as “wərd”; not “word” at all. In fact, most English people say “wəəd” because most English people only pronounce a r if it’s near the beginning of a wəəd. Here’s the working (wəəking) alphabet, with digraphs and diphthongs included alongside their core letters:
a (aa) “father”=”faadhə” (ae) “hay”=”hae” (ao) “out”=”aot”
d (dh) “this”=”dhis”
e (ea) “here”=”hea” (ee) “hair”=”hee”
ə (ə) “the”=”dhə” (əə) “girl”=”gəəl”
i (ie) “eat”=”iet”
j (jh) “church”=”jhurjh”
k (kh) “loch”=”lokh”
l (lh) “llan”=”lhan”
o (oe) “no”=”noe” (oi) “boy”=”boi” (ou) “power”=”pouə”
s (sh) “shop”=”shop”
t (th) “think”=”think”
u (uh) “look”=”luhk” (uu) “caught”=”cuut”
w (wh) “soon”=”swhn”, “view”=”vywh”
y (yh) “by”=”byh”
z (zh) “vision”=”vizhən”
I’m more or less pleased with the above and confident that using those letters, digraphs and diphthongs I can replicate all of the sounds I might want in my language. But I am just slightly troubled by the idea of a perfectly “logical” set of letters (including a delicious new addition in the form of ə) being compromised by the innately less “logical” inclusion of the diphthongs and digraphs. If I could conjure up 22 (I think?) new symbols that were clear and unambiguous I’d favour those over the double-letters. Of course I have to consider keyboards above pens, but, ultimately, both must be catered for. Special modifying symbols are a maybe. I’ll consult with the other Landskerians over the coming months. In the meantime we’re working with these. And I’ve come up with a set of numbers from one to ten, and a translation of a verse from a poem I wrote in 2017. These will follow as images with accompanying comparisons for curiosity’s sake. Which is, let’s face it, the only sake of any of this.
Count to ten in Landskerian!
You can use the above to practice counting to ten in Landskerian. Roll your R on “tres” please. I haven’t decided whether ten will be “dejh” or “yondejh” yet (mirroring the numerical presentation). I think we can assume that the first use of “dejh” means 10, and that subsequent multiples (20, 30, 40) would be dawdejh, tresdejh, kwasdejh, etc. if we want to keep things simple.
The world’s first verse of Landskerian poetry
The verse here is the first from a simple poem I wrote in 2017. I say simple, but obviously it’s laden with hidden meanings and depths. The form is simple. The themes involve drainage as a literal thing and a metaphor, and accompanying cross-considerations of ecology, pollution, defecation, sanitation, sewerage, precipitation, corruption, etc. The Google translate is included just to show I put some actual effort into the Welsh translation! That’s not to say it makes sense. I couldn’t tell you. Ask someone who can actually speak Welsh. I wanted to keep the rhyme scheme in this, and most of the rhythm, though I allowed the third non-rhyming line to deviate. I also used the real name of the river in the Welsh one (Wern, or Marsh – some added ambiguity for you there). I also swapped “veins” for “hand”, retaining a sense of empowerment or control, keeping the rhyme, but losing the commonality with rivers. Bowel became bola (mutated to mhola) which is stomach, but sounds right. And “baw” means “mud” rather than “drains”, but confers a similar meaning I think. And I like that baw is also used for “feces” (especially an animal’s) in Welsh. Notably in the poem “Preseli” by local poet (and local hero) Waldo Williams, where the call-to-arms against an invading beast signifies the campaign to prevent the MOD from seizing the Preseli region for the armed forces after WW2. My Landskerian translation is mostly a made-up word-for-word translation of the English. I’ve had to change the rhythm a bit, and the rhymes are replaced for echoing assonance (as an -a sound usually signifies a plural or a simple present verb conjugation in Landskerian; at least so far!) The one real difference is that in this version the river (vən-tuu; literally river-water) rises (rusha) when (pen) rain falls (we-tuu; literally air-water) falls (vola). I can’t remember why there’s an r after “wetuu” but… you know… this is a work-in-progress.
Thanks for reading, if anyone did.
Landskerian Culture Minister,