On word-field farming



Sut mae, gyfeillion!

The season of the long, dark evenings is here! But don’t despair. Before you get all bored and depressed, why not turn to your Welsh words for some entertainment and try your hand at creating word fields?

A word field is, very simply,  a collection of words that are all concerned with a specific topic. Other people collect stamps and postcards, coins and cows, vintage cars or pewter plates…. WE collect words. As simple as that.

Creating wordfields (I prefer: “word-field farming”) is a great way to use the Welsh you already have, to discover new words straight from their natural context, and to learn about word families, patterns and phrases. Personally, I’m a very enthusiastic word-field farmer. I grow word fields on all kinds of topics: the weather, landscape, buildings, gardening, animals, the body, transport, sounds, clothes, technical stuff,….. you name it, I wordfield it! When I read a text and discover a new word or an interesting phrase I add it to one of my lists and so they grow longer and longer and longer…. all the time.

For creating a word field you can use whatever kind of text suits you and your language skills best: Complete books, short stories, articles, magazines, newspapers,… Today I will use the Lolfa anniversary catalogue to create a word field about “publishing”. So, gyfeillion, take out your notebooks and dictionaries, please!

The idea is to list all words to do with the big field of “publishing”. This includes the words you already know AND all new words you come across plus their translation. If they are nouns, look up their gender and their plural forms. Exactly like a dictionary. Are you familiar with the dictionary abbreviations for “feminine” and “masculine”?:

eg  = enw gwrywaidd = “masculine name / noun”

eb = enw benywaidd = “feminine name / noun”


Ideally, add an adjective to all feminine nouns in an extra line to help your brain cells remember the soft mutation. For example:

llenyddiaeth, eb  –  literature

llenyddiaeth gyfoes – contemporary literature


PLUS: If you come across totally new, totally unfamiliar pieces of vocabulary, it makes sense to write down the context / the complete sentence they’re in  – just to make sure you will remember how to use them.


What I have in mind is something like this:


catalog, eg (catalogau)                 –              catalogue

llyfr, eg (llyfrau)                           –               book

cyhoeddwr, eg (cyhoeddwyr)    –              publisher

gwasg, eb (gwasgau, gwasgoedd, gweisg)             –               press

y wasg      –    the press

llenyddiaeth, eb                           –               literature

llenyddiaeth gyfoes                     –              contemporary literature

cofiant, eg (cofiannau)                      –            biography,  memoir



Once you’ve finished a simple and straightforward word field, start playing around with the words on your list. Can you create word families? Use your dictionary to add more “family members”. For example, here is the cyhoeddi family:


cyhoeddwr, eg (cyhoeddwyr)      –         publisher

cyhoeddi                                          –          to publish

cyhoeddiad, eg                               –          a publication

y cyhoedd                                       –            the public

cyhoeddus                                      –            public

cyhoeddusrwydd, eg                    –             publicity



Next, have a look at different types of books. How many different types of books can you find?


nofel, eb (nofelau)   –    a novel

geiriadur, eg (geiriaduron)   –    a dictionary

dyddiadur, eg (dyddiaduron)   –   a diary

llawlyfr, eg (llawlyfrau)    –   a handbook, an instruction book

llyfrau i ddysgwyr    –   books for learners

llyfrau i blant   –    books for children

llyfrau coginio    –    cookbooks

llyfrau hiwmor   –   humorous books

llyfrau bwrdd coffi   –   coffee-table books

llyfrau taith  = taithlyfrau   –   travel books

llyfr ymwelwyr    –   a guest book

llyfr cyfeiriadau   –   an address book

llyfr pen-blwyddi   –   a birthday book

llyfr igam-ogam   –  a folded “zig-zag” book



Now, find adjectives used to describe the noun llyfr. There’s loads of them in the Lolfa catalogue:


llyfr gwreiddiol   –  an original book

llyfr mentrus       –   a daring book

llyfr cyffrous    –   an exciting book

llyfr deniadol     –   an attractive book

llyfr doniol         –   a funny book

llyfr hanfodol    –    an essential book

llyfr unigryw    –     a unique book

llyfr hylaw   –   a handy book


OR make an extra little word field with all the words containing the word llyfr:


llyfryn, eg (llyfrynnau)     –       booklet

siop lyfrau, eb (siopau llyfrau)     –     book shop

llyfrwerthwr, eg (llyfrwerthwyr)    –   bookseller

e-lyfr, eg     –    e-book

llawlyfr, eg    –   handbook, instruction book

tywyslyfr, eg   –   a guidebook

taithlyfr, eg   =  llyfr taith    –   travel book

llyfrgell, eb (llyfrgelloedd)   –   library

Y Llyfrgell Genedlaethol   –   The National Library



Now have a look at how novels are described. Remember that nofel is a feminine noun and the following adjectives and nouns undergo a soft mutation:


nofel fer    –   a short novel, a novella   (nofel + ber, which is the feminine form of byr)

nofel afaelgar    –  a gripping novel  (nofel + gafaelgar)

nofel dditectif    –   a detective novel (nofel + ditectif)

nofel fywiog   –   a lively novel  (nofel + bywiog)

nofel iasoer  –   a thriller

nofel hanesyddol   –   a historical novel

nofel boblogaidd   –  a popular novel (nofel + poblogaidd)



I’m sure you will come up with many more ideas. The important thing is to take the opportunity every text has to offer and make use of  your (old and new) Welsh words. Write them down, move them around, group them, play with them!


Happy word-field farming!


Hwyl fawr!



PS: Would you like a copy of my complete word-field list “publishing”? Then send me a message via the “contact” page and I’ll e-mail it to you.


Learning techniques: Word-field farming

ymlaenwelsh View All →

I’m Susanne and I teach Welsh (oh, and English!) in Wolfenbüttel, Germany.

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