Computer struck dumb by quirks of Welsh

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The Independent Online
TECHNOLOGY has hit the linguistic buffers at BBC Wales's Cardiff headquarters where a new computer is refusing to understand "the language of heaven", writes Tony Heath.

Defeated by quirks of Welsh, a language spoken by one in five of Wales's 2.6 million people, the pounds 4m box of tricks, bought from the United States, is scratching its chips with bafflement and working to rule.

The super-fast system was programmed with what was thought to be a full Welsh vocabulary. But the way some Welsh words mutate in different contexts is proving too much for it to cope with. For example, the Welsh word for "bridge" can be either "bont" or "pont". "Kitchen" translates as "cegin" or "gegin".

Asked to perform simple tasks the screen goes blank and journalists preparing Welsh language material for Radio Cymru go back to first principles with biros and sheets of A4.

BBC Wales spokesman Huw Rossiter explained that although the system was designed to be bilingual it was not up to speed because it failed to recognise words used in everyday speech. "A new Welsh-only system will be installed at no extra cost to us. This time we hope it will fully understand the language," he said.