Copyright © 2003, 2004 all rights reserved. This page most recently revised on: May 31, 2004
Return to main course page
In English, adjectives have the standard form (big), a comparative (bigger), and a superlative (biggest). These can be formed either by adding endings (as above), or by using "more" and "most" (intelligent, more intelligent, most intelligent), or with an irregular paradigm (good, better, best).
Given this, the Welsh system will seem rather familiar. It adds one more variant, the equative (as big as), but it too creates the forms either with suffixes, by using a prefixed word, or in a few cases with irregular forms.
In this unit we will learn how to form comparative adjectives and how to use them in phrases.
The standard comparative suffix is -ach.
In Modern Welsh, the word mwy "more" is sometimes used instead, especially with polysyllabic adjectives. This seems to be rare in Medieval Welsh, although mwy is used in some more complex comparative constructions (see below).
Just as in English, the irregular comparative forms are found with some of the commonest adjectives. Here are some it is useful to know.
And just as English uses "than" when forming comparative phrases, Medieval Welsh also uses a word to conjoin the comparison and the comparand (i.e., a comparative conjunction). This can either be no(g) or an extended form nogyd. As I expect you to be able to predict by now, the alternation between no and nog depends on whether the following word begins with a consonant or a vowel.
The only tricky thing to remember is that no(g) + yr (the definite article) appears as no'r not as nog yr.
No(g) causes aspiration in the following word, but nogyd does not. There does not appear to be a meaningful difference between them other than emphasis.
Note: you can find occasional feminine forms of comparative adjectives, such as gwennach, however it is more common simply to use the masculine form even with feminine nouns.
Given the basic elements of a comparison -- the item being compared, the nature of the comparison, and the thing it's being compared to -- these can show up in a number of constructions. What will help you keep track is that the comparative suffix (or form) will signal a comparison, and the comparative conjunction (no(g), nogyt) will come immediately before the thing being compared to. If we label the elements as follows:
|comparison||comparative adj||comp. conj.||comparand|
then it will be easier to keep track of what is going on in the following examples. Don't worry about the vocabulary and grammar that you haven't been introduced to yet.
|Ni bu||newyddach||ganthunt||y ddyvodyad||no||chynt|
|Not was||newer||to them||his coming||than||before|
|His arrival was not more novel/surprising to them than before.|
|comparative adj.||comparison||comp. conj.||comparand|
|I did more than you.|
|Ny bu||vuscrellach||gwr||no||ry vuost||ti|
|Not was||stupider||man||than||have been||you|
|There has never been a stuperder man than you have been.|
|Yr oedd||yn degach||genthi||cymryd y phenyd||nog||ymdaeru a'r gwragedd.|
|was||fairer||to her||accepting her punishment||than||arguing with the women|
|It was pleasanter to her to accept her punishment than to argue with the women.|
|Yr oedd||yn tebygach||ganthunt||cael cywilidd a vei vwy||no||chael iawn a vei vwy.|
|was||likelier||for them||getting shame that was greater||than||getting benefit that was greater|
|It was likelier that they would get greater shame than greater benefit.|
Note: the above is the most common use of mwy "more" in forming comparatives in Medieval Welsh.
|Oedd||cochach||y deu rudd||no'||r ffion.|
|were||redder||her two cheeks||than||the foxglove|
|Her two cheeks were redder than foxglove.|
So you see, it is difficult to provide simple rules as to how comparatives are found or constructed. The most important thing is to be able to recognize and disentangle them.
Following is the passage you will be translating at the end of this unit. Don't worry about trying to translate the whole thing now, but go through and identify the comparative constructions and label them as shown above. The last example is a give-away. Label them like this:
Oedd melynach y phenn no blodeu y banadl. Oedd gwynnach y chnawd no distrych y donn. Oedd gwynnach y phalveu a'y byssedd no chanawon godrwyth o blith man graean ffynhawn ffynhonus. Na golwg hebawg mud, na golwg gwalch trimud, nyd oedd olwg tegach no'r eiddi. No bronn alarch gwynn oedd gwynnach y dwy vron. Oedd cochach y deu rudd no'r ffion.
Key to the Exercise
Contact me -- or go to the entrance to my general web site.