Medieval Welsh

A Self-Instruction Course created by Heather Rose Jones

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Unit: 5c

Irregular Verbs: Dyvod, Myned, Gwneuthur


You have actually already been introduced to the most annoying irregularities in Medieval Welsh verbs -- the variable "regular" forms of things like the 3rd person singular past tense. The verbs that are called "irregular" are in some ways easier to deal with. There are three groups to learn: those based on the paradigm for myned (to go), which includes dyfod (to come) and gwneuthur (to do, make); those based on the paradigm for bod (to be), which will normally have a verbal-noun ending in -bod or -vod (the lenited form of bod); and those in which there are different verb stems for certain forms and tenses, e.g., caffael (to get, receive) that uses either caff- or ca(h)- as the stem.

Extra credit for those who noticed that the verbal-noun dyvod looks like it should go in the bod group. It takes part of its paradigm from myned and part from bod and in some parts of the paradigm there are duplicate options, one from each paradigm. Similarly, while gwneuthur takes its endings from the myned group, it uses several possible stems. In each of the next three lessons, I will focus on the features of a particular model and cross reference when part of a paradigm can be found in a different group. At the end of unit 5, I'll give you the full paradigms for all the major verbs discussed here.

NOTE: We really haven't discussed the uses of the subjunctive yet, but it is more convenient to learn the entire paradigm at once. Unit 6 will have a text with lots of subjunctives, just to make up for this. As a brief summary: subjunctives are used with statements of "non fact". I would ...; if I were to ...; had I done so ...; etc. The subjunctive has only two tenses: present and imperfect.

ANOTHER NOTE: I personally find it very useful to learn verb paradigms in a systematic way -- decomposing them, looking for the patterns, and understanding where the parts are coming from. Some learners may prefer simply to memorize tables of the resulting forms. Do whichever suits you best, or develop your own personal method -- whatever works. In reading Medieval Welsh, the important thing is to be able to:

    1. recognize what verb it is
    2. figure out which person it is
    3. work out the tense and mood.

If you can look at the form gwnaethawch and simply remember, "Oh, that's the 2nd pl preterite of gwneuthur", more power to you! If you look at it and say, "it's almost certainly a 2nd pl because of the -ch ending, and that aeth looks like that past stem I learned about, oh yeah and gwn- is the only part of gwneuthur that actually shows up in the inflected forms ...' then that works too. When I've finished introducing all the irregular verbs, I'll give you a "cheat sheet" summary table of verb endings that you might find to be a handy reference.


The conjugated forms of the verb look nothing like the verbal-noun. The stems are a- for the present/imperfect, a(e)th- for the past tenses (preterite, perfect, pluperfect), and el- for the subjunctive.

The endings for the present and imperfect are essentially identical to those of the regular verb. The following table shows the stem plus the ending and then the resulting actual form.

Present Imperfect
Stem+ending Result Stem+ending Result
1s a+af af a+wn awn
2s a+ei ey a+ud aut
3s a+0 a a+ei aei
1p a+wn awn a+em aem
2p a+wch ewch* a+ewch aewch#
3p a+ant ant a+ynt eynt*
impersonal a+ir eir* a+it eit*

* Remember that these endings "raise" an "a" in the stem to an "e".

# This form doesn't actually appear in the literature but is constructed analogically.

The preterite takes the endings from the preterite paradigm for "bod" and adds them to the past stem "aeth".

Stem+ending Result
1s aeth+um euthum*
2s aeth+ost aethost
3s aeth+0 aeth
1p aeth+am aetham
2p aeth+awch aethawch
3p aeth+ant aethant
impersonal aeth+pwyd aethpwyd@

* As above, the quality of the vowel in the ending changes the stem vowel.

@ The "bod" paradigm actually has the ending "-wyd".

The perfect and pluperfect tenses use the past stem "ath" and use as endings the full forms of the present and imperfect forms of "bod". Think of it as "additive tense". Past + present = perfect; past + imperfect = pluperfect.

Perfect Pluperfect
Stem+ending Result Stem+ending Result
1s ath+wyf athwyf ath+oeddwn athoeddwn
2s ath+wyt athwyt ath+oeddud athoeddud#
3s ath+yw ethyw* ath+oedd athoedd
1p ath+ym ethym* ath+oeddem athoeddem#
2p ath+ywch ethywch*# ath+oeddewch athoeddewch#
3p ath+ynt ethynt* ath+oeddynt athoeddynt
impersonal ? (unattested) ath+oeddit athoeddit#

The subjunctive forms use the subjunctive stem "el-" with the regular subjunctive endings. (You haven't learned them previously, but now you'll know them to use with regular verbs.) The endings that begin with "y" or "i" cause "raising" of the stem vowel as we have seen in other parts of the paradigm. (It doesn't affect "el-" so you won't see it in action here.) The only tricky part of the subjunctive is that there is an "h" inserted between the stem and the ending. In medieval texts it will sometimes be spelled out and sometimes not. Sometimes it can only be seen by its affect on the final consonant of the stem, because it causes voiced consonants to become unvoiced. This will be dealt with further in the next unit when the subjunctive is covered more fully.

Present Sbj. Imperfect Sbj.
Stem+ending Result Stem+ending Result
1s el+h+wyf el(h)wyf el+h+wn el(h)wn
2s el+h+ych el(h)ych el+h+ud el(h)ud
3s el+h+o el(h)o# el+h+ei el(h)ei
or el+h+0 el
1p el+h+om el(h)om el+h+em el(h)em
2p el+h+och el(h)och el+h+ewch el(h)ewch#
3p el+h+ont el(h)ont el+h+ynt el(h)ynt
impersonal el+h+er el(h)er el+h+id el(h)id#

The imperative uses the present/imperfect stem "a-" with the regular imperative endings, except that the 2s form (the one most often encountered!) is completely irregular.

Stem+ending Result
1s -
2s dos
3s a+et aet
1p a+wn awn
2p a+wch ewch#
3p a+ent aent
impersonal ? (unattested - regular verbs borrow the present impersonal subjunctive for this)

Exercise 1

Construct paradigms for "dyvod" using the following information.

For all the tenses and moods that exist for "myned", those for "dyvod" derive from prefixing "d(y)-" or "do-" to the appropriate form of "myned". BUT -- the vowels in the prefix interact with the vowels in the stem in this fashion: d(y)- + a(e)- > deu-; do- + a- > do-. Both forms exist side by side, so you will be constructing two full sets of paradigms. (This is the most difficult aspect of "dyvod" -- not that there is any major irregularity in the paradigms, but that there are multiple "regular" possibilities for any particular form.)

Exercise 2

Construct a paradigm for "gwneuthur", assuming that it simply prefixes "gwn-" to the forms for "myned".

Key to the Exercise

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