I'm currently teaching a series of classes called Introducing Middle Welsh.
For these, I've produced weekly handouts, each on a separate grammatical topic: pronunciation and orthography, the noun system, the pronouns, the verbal system (two parts) etc etc.
I though I might post them here, in case anyone is trying to learn middle welsh, or in case anyone who knows the modern language or another celtic tongue might be interested to have a look at the medieval language.
So holler if you want more, and if not, no worries! Also it's a bit 'slim' as it's a handout, designed for me to be able to go through it expanding on it in class. Some of the first one is pinched from Gareth Morgan's Middle Welsh course, supplemented by further examples and clarrifications.
all best wishes
Mark Williams firstname.lastname@example.org
An Introduction to Middle Welsh: 1
The Place of Welsh
[sorry, it's buggered up my lovely tree here...I hope it's clear]
Insular Celtic Continental Celtic
| | | | | |
Goidelic Brittonic Celtiberian Gaulish Lepontic Galatian
_____|____ ____|_____ _________ ____
| | | | | |
Irish NE Gaelic Welsh SW British Cumbric Pictish [perhaps]
| | | |
Scots Gaelic Manx Breton Cornish
Revived Cornish [at least three forms]
British – till approximately AD450 then ‘neo-Brittonic’ until the late 500’s.
Old Welsh – AD 650? – AD 1100
Early Middle Welsh – AD 1100 – 1250
Late Middle Welsh – AD 1250 - 1400
Early Modern Welsh AD 1400 - 1600
Modern Welsh AD 1600 – present
Middle Welsh Orthography [sorry this should have come out as a table. The first consonant is the Middle WEelsh one, the second the ModW one.]
Consonants: (only possible deviations from ModW are noted)
MW ModW Examples
K C keffy, kynt
final C G marchawc, noc, darparedic
final P B hep, pawp, nep
final T D cochet, ryt, oet 'date'
DD trydyt, oet 'was'
D DD gorwed, gilyd, medwl
F FF /PH ford, furf , y fen for ei phen
R RH ryt, rac
MW ModW Examples
U W guelet, guerth, haut, paup, enu
F perued, uy, teruynedic, ulwyddyn
Y I medyant, ny
ei y (possessive)
Writing out of svarabakhtic vowel: colofyn, ffuryf, parabyl, Annwfyn
And e for y in e hun, e ymdeith, ken- for kyn-.
Sound changes: Vowel Affection and Consonant Mutation
An understanding of the possible changes of vowels and consonants under various phonological and grammatical circumstances is essential to learning to read MW.
There are two important ways that vowels in words can change, termed ‘y/ei-affection’ and ‘i-affection’. Affection is the technical term for the phenomenon in which a vowel is drawn part of the way towards a vowel in a following syllable.
The y/ei-affection has a limited scope. The most obvious use is in the second person singular of verbs whose base contains the sound a, like canaf (I sing), or caraf (I love). Under the influence of the -y in the ending, the a becomes e. The same change occurs in the second person plural, because the suffix was originally not -wch, but -ych. So the present tense of caraf (the model verb given at GMW pp. 114ff) will be:
The i-affection in verbs produces these changes:
a becomes ei
e becomes ei
aw becomes eu
o becomes y
One of the British third person singular endings was -it. After the general loss of final syllables, known as ‘apocope’, many verbs which had this ending now show only the affection that was produced by it. So, *arkit has become eirch. The present tense of archaf starts:
archaf 'I ask'
erchy 'you ask'
eirch 'he/she asks'
There you can see the root-vowel, y/ei-affection in the 2nd sg, and i-affection in the 3rd sg. I-affection is extremely important for the formation of plural nouns in Welsh, as the nominative plural of British –o- stem nouns was in –ī (from earlier –oi):
British: one bardos, ‘poet’ --> two bardī
MW: one bard --> two beird
[ModW orthography: bardd --> beirdd]
We will cover this in greater detail next week.
Consonant Changes: Lenition, Spirantisation, Nasalisation
The consonant changes known as ‘mutations’ are among the most distinctive features of the insular Celtic languages. The Brittonic languages to a great extent share the same system of mutations, but with a few interesting differences between them. The Goidelic languages have a different but parallel system. The system of mutations was in place before the MW period, and derives from sound-changes taking place in British. Mutation comes in three types, ‘Lenition’ [often called ‘soft mutation’ outside formal linguistics, ‘Spirantisation’ (‘aspirate mutation’) and ‘nasalisation’ (‘nasal mutation’.)] The advantage of the technical terms, incidentally, is that they facilitate comparison with the mutation system of Goidelic.
Lenition is in essence the softening in pronunciation of certain consonants between vowels (and in W between a vowel and a sonant) and was a widespread phenomenon in the development of the western European languages. The changes are as follows:
C/K [k] --> G
P --> B
G--> [zero] (Originally G--> the ‘back spirant’ GH [γ], but this was unstable in W and disappeared early leaving little trace.)
D --> [ð] (the ‘th’ at the beginning of ‘there’.) This is usually unmarked in Middle Welsh orthography, but is written dd in the modern language.
M-->F [v] (originally a more ‘nasal’ version of [v])
For example Latin vita ‘life’ --> Spanish vida.
Latin caput ‘head’ --> Spanish cabo
Late Latin aboculis ‘lacking eyes’ --> French aveugle, ‘blind’
Greek hepta ‘seven’ --> French hebdomadaire ‘weekly magazine’
Classical Greek biblios ‘book’ --> Mod. Greek pronunciation vivlios ‘book’.
So these kinds of changes are not unusual. They were applied very consistently to intervocalic consonants in British, and an easy way of illustrating this is to look at words borrowed from Latin into British, which underwent exactly the same changes as native words. (There is a full study of such borrowings in Harald Haarmann, Der Lateinische Lehnwortschatz im Kymrischen (Bonn, 1970).
P > B syberw proud L superbus
dyblyg fold L duplic- 'doubled'
B > F [v] afwyn rein L habena
ufydd humble L oboedi- 'obedient'
T > D penyd penance L paenit- 'penitent'
D > DD [ð] ufydd humble L oboedi- 'obedient'
perfedd middle/guts L permedi-
swydd office L sedes 'seat'
C [k] > G segur idle L securus
G > zero carrai lace L corrigia
eisieu need L exiguus 'scanty'
M > F [v] nifer host, retinue L numerus 'number'
prif chief L primus 'first'
perfedd middle/guts L permedi-
terfyn end L terminus
ffurf form, shape L forma
There are two other changes which are usually classed with these as lenitions, though they have a different rationale: LL --> L, and RH --> R. [See K. Jackson, Language and History in Eearly Britain
, pp. 473-80]
From lenition to ‘soft mutation’
The Insular Celtic tongues were more radical in that they came to apply these changes across word-boundaries in closely-connected phrases, such as article+noun, noun+adjective. So if the first word in a closely-connected phrase ended in a vowel, then lenition of the initial consonant of the following word would take place. This process thus took place before ‘apocope’, i.e the loss of final syllables. Compare:
oinā brigantinissā --> un frenhines ‘one queen’
oinos brigantinos --> un brenhin ‘one king’
and look at:
sindā mammā dagā --> y fam dda ‘the good mother’
So the effects persist even after apocope, and continue to be productive. Gradually, this effect spread by analogy; e.g. not all British feminine nouns ended in –ā, but all feminine nouns in Welsh cause lenition of a following adjective. Eventually, these changes become grammatical markers, a role quite removed from their historical origin.
Spirantisation /The ‘Aspirate Mutation’:
This mutation works as follows in MW, affecting only three consonants (voiceless stops go to voiceless fricatives)
P-->PH [very often spelled ff- or confusingly even f- in MW orthography]
Spirantisation/aspirate mutation occurs after certain common words in Welsh, including the conjunction and preposition a ‘and, with’; the fem. 3s possessive pronoun, both prefixed as y and infixed as w, ‘her’; the numerals tri, ‘three’, and chwech, ‘six’; the negative particles ny, na ‘not’; the conjunction no[c], ‘than’; and a few others.
Again this mutation is explicable on various historical grounds. You see equivalent changes within British words or Latin loanwords where K/C, P, or T were originally double:
kattos -->cath ‘cat’
Lat. occasio --> achaws ‘cause’
Lat. siccus --> sych ‘dry’
Also the same changes occur when c or p follow l or r, or when t follows r, so Latin corpus --> W. corff, not **corb. The spirantisation after a ‘and, with’ may have occurred because original a(g) assimilated to a following initial, creating a doubled consonant:
ag kattos --> ak kattos --> a chath ‘with a cat/and a cat’
The same with the negative ny:
nī-t kanam --> ni kkanam --> ny chanaf ‘I do not sing’
Further, across word boundaries, spirantisation may be the effect of a lost final –s, which would have gone to –h. Compare:
*esjās kattos ‘her cat’ --> ei chath
*esjo kattos ‘his cat’ --> ei gath
*trīs kattoi ‘three cats’ --> tri chath
Nasalisation/ ‘The Nasal Mutation’:
This mutation is the most sketchily represented in MW orthography. It derives from sets of closely-connected words, as with lenition; here, the changes are caused by nasals at the end of post-apocope monosyllables:
*men' tat[os] --> fy nhad [ModW orthography]
There is an exception: certain combinations of numeral + set words which behave as though they were true primitive compounds.
E.g., Latin septem ‘seven’ tells us that this numeral once ended in an nasal sound, so it should be no surprise to find its W relative, saith, causing nasal mutation in combination with certain stereotyped oft-counted words, such as buwch, ‘cow’, blynedd, ‘year’, dynion, ‘men’ etc. saith + blyned --> saith mlyned, ‘seven years’.
Saith + broder--> saith mroder, as though it had come from *sextan-brāteron. Cf. OIr nonbor [nonvor] from *nawan-wirion. This phenomenon then spread to other numerals that had not originally ended in a nasal.
The changes are:
B --> M
C --> Ngh
D --> N
G --> Ng
P --> Mh
T --> Nh
Nasal Mutation occurs after uy(n), yn, ‘my’ [cf. English ‘mine’], the preposition yn ‘in’, and after various numerals with certain commonly-counted words, like ‘year’, ‘day’, ‘cow’ and ‘man’. (See GMW p.22.) Note yn ‘in’ assimilates with the following consonant: ym Mochtref, ‘in Mochtref’, and yg gy(n)gor ‘in council’ (ModW yng nghyngor < cynghor)
Under certain circumstances, some words prefix an h- to following words with an initial vowel. Most commonly:
After y the 3rd sg. fem possessive pronoun: yn y hoes, ‘in her age [oes]’
After the 1st sg infixed possessive pronoun: o’m hanuod, ‘against my will’
See GMW p. 23 for others.
Triggers of Soft Mutation in Middle Welsh: Useful List 1
A full list can be found at GMW pp.14-21, so what I give here is just an introduction and may be helpful as an aide-memoire.
1 after a as preverbal, interrogative or relative particle
2 after y 'his' or its infixed forms, e, y
3 after the prepositions am, ar, o, trwy, tros, i, hyd
4 feminine nouns after article; un ‘one’ before a fem. noun
5 ny[t], na[t], the negatives
6 subject or object after verb
7 subject or predicate after bod, 'to be'
8 noun after positive adjective
9 after the conjunctions pann, tra, yny
10 after yn turning an adjective an adverb and as a predicative particle
11 after some numbers (especially dau/dwy, ‘two’)
12 dy ‘your’ (2nd s.) and its infixed form ’th
13 after mor ‘as’ ry ‘too’ and kyn ‘as’
14 after pa, py, the interrogative pronoun
15 An adjective after feminine singular
16 Often of an adjective after a personal name, e.g. Hwyel Uychan
17 After the uncommon preverbal particle yt [do not confuse with y[d] which does not cause lenition]
18 After the perfective preverbal particle ry
19 A proper noun depending on a dual: deu uab Uedraut, ‘Medrawd’s two sons’
20 After the prefixes di-, dy- and go-
21 Very commonly of the second element of any compound: melyngoch ‘yellow-red’ [coch, ‘red’], henwr ‘old man’ [gwr, ‘man’] etc
22 A noun used in the vocative: uorwynnyon ‘O maidens!’ [<morwynnyon]
23 Destination of a verb of motion with no preposition: Gwyr a aeth Gatraeth, ‘men went to Catraeth’