Medieval Welsh

A Self-Instruction Course created by Heather Rose Jones

Copyright © 2003, 2004 all rights reserved. This page most recently revised on: May 31, 2004

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Unit: 3k

Dictionary/Spelling Exercise


One of the very regular changes in spelling between Medieval and Modern Welsh involve the diphthongs "ei" and "eu". Where these spellings are found in Medieval Welsh, modern words will be spelled variously with "ei" or "ai", "eu" or "au". But the variation occurs in very predictable ways.

Where a Medieval Welsh word has "ei" or "eu" in a final syllable (including one-syllable words), Modern Welsh will use the spellings "ai" and "au" respectively. So, for example, all the plural endings that are spelled -eu in Medieval Welsh will be found as -au in Modern Welsh. This spelling according to position follows the rule even when suffixes are added. For example, the word for "leg" in Modern Welsh is esgair (Medieval esgeir) but when the plural suffix is added, the "ai" changes to "ei" because it is no longer final: Modern Welsh esgeiriau.

The most important time to be aware of these changes is when you are trying to look up Medieval Welsh words in a modern dictionary. Using this simple principle, you can nearly always predict what the modern spelling of these diphthongs should be.


Given the following words, predict where you would look them up in a modern dictionary. You will need to deal with the diphthong alternation mentioned here, the possibility of lenition-like effects as discussed in the last unit, and the possibility that the form you are given is a plural or some other modification that you have been taught. Don't expect to get all of these right. In particular, whether or not internal letters need to be "lenited" to get the modern spelling is not entirely predictable.

If you have access to a Modern Welsh dictionary, check your guesses by looking the words up rather than checking the key. If you can't find the word on your first guess, try to discover other possibilities.

Key to the Exercise

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