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

Return to main course page

Return to main unit page

Unit: 5e

Irregular Verbs: Verbs with Multiple Stems


It sometimes happens in a language that, over time, two verbs with similar meaning will merge in function, with one supplying some parts of the paradigm and another supplying other parts. The best example of this in English is the verb "go". Originally the past tense of "go" was "gang", and there was an entirely separate verb "wend" (as in "to wend one's way") that had a past tense "went". But today we combine the "go" forms in the present tense and participles, with "went" for the past tense.

The verbs considered in this unit aren't quite as extreme, but they use different variants of the stem for different parts of their paradigms (or may have more than one set of forms for part of the paradigm). As we saw in unit 5c, the verb GWNEUTHUR (do, make) primarily can be understood as the stem gwn- with the paradigm for MYNED suffixed to it. But the preterite has an additional set of forms using the stem gorug- with the preterite endings form the BOD paradigm.

Note: The preterite endings differ more than any other group between the various paradigms, grouping primarily into the regular endings and the "irregular" endings (applying to BOD, MYNED, and paradigms following them). To review:

1s -eis* -um
2s -eist* -ost
3s -awdd# -
1p -(a)ss-om -om, -am
2p -(a)ss-awch -awch
3p -(a)ss-ant -ant
impersonal -wyd -(p)wyd

So GWNEUTHUR has two sets of preterite forms.

gwn+ gorug+
1s gwneuthum gorugum
2s gwneuthost gorugost
3s gwnaeth gorug
1p gwnaetham gorugam
2p gwnaethawch gorugawch
3p gwnaethant gorugant
impersonal gwnaethpwyd gorugpwyd

In unit 5d, we saw in passing that the verb GWYBOD (know) takes part of its paradigm from a compound of gwy- with forms of BOD (not simply the endings for the BOD paradigm, but the full forms used for BOD). But the present and imperfect are different. Both are based on the stem gw(y)dd- (the shorter option only appears for the present), but while the imperfect takes the usual imperfect endings, the present is simply peculiar, with parts looking like the irregular preterite endings, and other parts preserving some archaic variants.

GWYBOD Present Imperfect
1s gwnn gwydd(y)wn
2s gwyddost gwydd(y)ud
3s gwyr gwydd(y)ei
but also gwydd(y)ad#
1p gwyddom gwydd(y)em
2p gwyddawch gwyddewch
3p gwyddant gwyddynt
impersonal gwys gwyddid

# This is simply irregular -- GWYBOD appears in both versions while ADNABOD appears only with -ad.

Exericise 1

The verb ADNABOD (to recognize, know, be aware of) behaves similarly to GWYBOD: the present and imperfect use one stem (adwaen-) with the present endings being a bit anomalous but mostly resembling the irregular preterite, and the imperfect being regular. For the rest of the paradigm, the stem is adna- and the endings are forms of BOD. Based on this information and all the other principles you know, construct a full paradigm for ADNABOD. (Remember that, since most of the paradigm is based on BOD, it will include the consuetudinal present and past forms as well as the usual set.)

Verbs with contracted stems

Some verbs have long and short forms of the stem that are clearly related, and that may alternate in the same text. A good example verb CAFFAEL (to get, obtain) which commonly appears with the long stem caff- and the short stem ca-. (Sometimes there is an intermediate form cah- as well, but it is much rarer.) Otherwise, CAFFAEL takes the regular paradigm. Here are some examples of these parallel forms with the different stems:

present 2s cei ceffi
present 1p cawn caffwn
imperfect 3s caei caffei

The past reference forms (preterite and pluperfect) tend to use only the longer stem, in the form caw- before the "ss" endings, and cav- elsewhere.

preterite 1s ceveis
preterite 3p cawssant
pluperfect 3p cewsynt

The preterite also has some simply irregular forms in the 3rd person singular and impersonal:

preterite 3s cavas
preterite impersonal cahad
preterite impersonal caffad

Exercise 2

Given this information, and keeping in mind that various contexts can cause a verb to mutate, identify forms of CAFFAEL in the following sentences and provide a description of the tense/aspect, mood, and person. You may find it convenient to create a full paradigm for the verb, including the variant stems, but by this point you should be able to work from a reference table of the endings alone.

If you like, try your hand at figuring out the meaning of the sentences, but you won't have had all the grammar for some of them yet, and some are not full sentences. The important part of the exercise is the identifications.

  1. o cheyff e gur gan wreyc arall.
  2. Puybynnac e kaffer lledrat en e ty
  3. Mi a'e keueis, arglwyd, uchot ar y ford
  4. Ac yuelly e geyll e lledrat kerdet o lau y lau hyt tra gaffo en e maes nep a'e kemerho e ganthau.
  5. Ny deleyr dale moch ar yt, ony cheffyr en er yscubaur
  6. Darogan yw itaw kaffel ettiuet; ohonot ti yt gaffo ef kanys ry gaffo o arall.
  7. Ba furuf y keffir wy y gantaw ef?
  8. Y gymeint ohonof i a gaffer, a geffir drwy ymlad.
  9. A thra geffit y gantaw, nac eskit, na hossan, ni phrynit y gan ereill dim.
  10. Ef a dely caffael y uarch y gan e brenhyn
  11. punt a geueis i o gardotta, mi a'e rodaf it
  12. Ny cheir craf arnei.
  13. A chael o Uendigeiduran hi yn y neill law, a'y tarean yn y llaw arall.
  14. Sef a gawssant yn eu kyghor, ellwng rei onadunt y erchi gossymdeith idaw.
  15. Sef a gahat yn y kynghor, rodi Branwen y Uatholwch.
  16. "A druein," heb hitheu, "ny chewch un drwc yr dywedut y wirioned."
  17. Ac onys rody, dy agheu a geffy ymdanei
  18. Ba negesseu bennac a wnelit urthaw ny cheffit atep amdanadunt
  19. "A thri phet, arglwyd," heb hi "a gaffwn o hynny"
  20. Ny cheffy ti hi o'e uod ef, ny elly titheu treis arnaw.
  21. O'm bod i nys kaffut ti hi vyth.
  22. Pei caffwn dewis ar holl wraged a morynnyon y byt, y mae ti a dewisswn.
  23. ni a gawn yn goganu gan yr unben
  24. O hyn hyt ban del amgen, ny cheffwch y genhyf i attep.
  25. Pa gynghor bynnac a gaffei ef y gan Uanawydan, y gaer a gyrchwys ef.
  26. na chaffo enw yny caffo y genhyf i.
  27. "Arglwyd," heb y Guydyon, "ny orffwyssaf uyth, yny gaffwyf chwedleu y wrth uy nei."
  28. Pan doethant dra cheuyn em pen e vlwydyn ny chewsynt vn geir e urth e kentaf.

Key to the Exercise

Contact me -- or go to the entrance to my general web site.