Medieval Welsh

A Self-Instruction Course created by Heather Rose Jones

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Unit: 4f



Prepositions are always one of the trickier parts of a language to master because most languages use them in very idiomatic ways and it can take a long time to get a sense of the "shape" of the various meanings of a preposition. We'll start out with the basic, spatial senses of a handful of prepositions that describe motion.

Directional Prepositions

In English, we describe the origin and destination of motion either with simple prepositions (from, to, at) or with complex ones (out of, into) to indicate various nuances of the relationship between the moving object and that origin or destination. Welsh does much the same thing. Some of the things that Medieval Welsh prepositions tell you are whether your moving object can be physically contained in the origin/destination (e.g., an area of land, a house) or whether it can only be in the near vicinity of the origin/destination (e.g., a person or thing). An interesting distinction that will be useful later in understanding some idioms is that Medieval Welsh appears to differentiate between a person and a thing as the origin or goal. So here are the specifications of some movement-related prepositions. The boundaries of use are not as absolute as this description might indicate, but it's a handy guideline. (In soem cases, animals may be treated like people in these contexts -- especially if they are moving voluntarily - in other cases they may be treated similarly to objects, especially if they are being moved involuntarily.)

Origin Moving Object Preposition
person person y wrth
person thing y gan
place, thing person/thing o
MovingObject Destination Preposition
person person at
person, thing place yn, parth a(c), i
thing person i

In English, the meanings might be described as follow:

y wrth (person) from next to (a person)
y gan (thing) from next to (person)
o (anything) from inside (a space)
at (usually a person to a person
yn into
parth a(c) toward (a place), but not necessarily into
i to -- the most general use

Mutations Caused By Prepositions

Most prepositions cause some sort of mutation. We have previously seen "yn" cause the nasal mutation. "Parth a(c)", as might be expected from the appearance of the conjunction "a(c)", causes aspiration. Twelve prepositions, whether appearing alone or as the second part of a compound preposition, cause lenition. I find it convenient to remember them as a little poem. (Note that you haven't been introduced to all of them yet.)


Given the following pairs of items (A and B), construct sentences with A as the moving object and B first as the origin and then as the destination according to the pattern provided. Use the appropriate preposition according to the nature of the items. (The verb "to come" is irregular, so you'll be learning the full conjugation later.)



Make sentences using the following pairs:

gwreig Bran
carw coeden
llong cyvoeth y brenhin
marchawg ffordd
modrwy gwr
ef Gwynedd
mab Iwerddon
cath llys yr arglwydd
Angharad maen y ffynhawn
gwas march

Some additional vocabulary you will need:

Word Category Other Info. Gloss
Iwerddon n.? "Ireland"
Gwynedd n.f "(the kingdom of) Gwynedd"
Bran n.m a man's name
Angharad n.f a woman's name

Key to the Exercise

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