Welsh: sai

Discussion in 'Other Languages' started by Gavril, Oct 26, 2012.

  1. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    P'nhawn da,

    I've heard the form sai used in several contexts where it seems to mean "I'm not".

    For example,

    Sai'n edrych arnot ti. "I'm not looking at you."

    I was never taught sai when I studied Welsh, so my guess is that it's a regional form or a contraction of an older, longer verb form -- but if so, what older form does sai come from?

    Also, is it true that sai means "I'm not", or is its meaning broader than this?

  2. seitt Senior Member

    I'm going to have to pass on that one, I'm afraid.

    I don't want to rule it out completely given the abundance of dialectal forms we have in Wales, but I have completely failed to trace it anywhere, even in the excellent (but out-of-print) Caradog Welsh textbooks and Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru http://www.wales.ac.uk/dictionary/pdf/GPC0018-09.pdf.
  3. Tegs

    Tegs Mód ar líne

    English (Ireland), Welsh, Irish
    Bore da! Yes, this does exist, and it is used only in south Wales. Sa i is used for negatives in the first person.

    Sa i'n mynd heno wedi'r cyfan - I'm not going tonight after all.

    It's a contracted form of the verb "to be" - bod. As to how it came to be contracted in that form, it comes from the informal phrase 'does dim ohona i', literally 'none of me is' - an emphatic way of saying I'm not. (The un-contracted form of this phrase is never used though - it is always contracted this way.)

    So, Does dim ohona i yn mynd heno contracts to Sa i'n mynd heno.

    The other forms are:

    You (informal) : So ti'n mynd te? - Are you not going then?
    You plural (or you singular formal): Smo chi'n mynd te? - are you not going then?

    We: Smo ni'n mynd wedi'r cyfan - we aren't going after all
    They: So nhw'n mynd - they aren't going

    Note that spellings may vary (e.g. simo fi, simot ti), as it is based on pronunciation. This is an informal verb form which is not used in written Welsh (except in very informal texts). It would be the same language register as forms like "I dunno" in English.

    Have a look at the BBC page about this verb form:

    Last edited: Nov 7, 2012
  4. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    Thanks, I'm not sure I would have been able to guess that. As far as you know, is this way of negating verbs (Does dim ohona i / Does dim ohonot ti, etc.) mostly confined to southern Welsh dialects?

    I think that it's widespread in Welsh to use ohonaf / ohonot / ohono etc. for the object of a negative verb (e.g., I was taught to say Welais i (ddi)m ohono "I didn't see him"), but this is (probably) the first time I've heard that it's used for the subject.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2012
  5. Tegs

    Tegs Mód ar líne

    English (Ireland), Welsh, Irish
    Don't worry, I had to ask a Welsh lecturer to explain the origins of it to me too! Even though I would use "sa i" myself, I couldn't for the life of me figure out where it came from!

    Yes, this is only used in southern Welsh. Since there are plenty of southerners living up north, and plenty of south-Walian Welsh on TV and radio, I would imagine most northerners would be aware of its existence and meaning.

    Ohono etc are forms of the preposition o, meaning of or from. These forms are used if a pronoun follows the preposition (all other prepositions also change in this context).

    So, they are used in many contexts, not just for objects of negative verbs. For example:

    Fe gymerais i lun o Catrin yn y bar - I took a photograph of Catrin in the bar.

    If you want to remove "Catrin" and instead say "of her", you can't use o + hi - you must use the right form of the preposition. So:

    Fe gymerais i lun ohoni yn y bar - I took a photograph of her in the bar.

    Another example. Imagine four people trying to squash into the back seat of a very small car. One of them might say:

    Lwcus bod neb ohonon ni'n dew! - It's a good thing none of us are fat!

    I hope that helps!
  6. Cerinwen Junior Member

    Welsh, English - British
    'Sa i' is only used in south Wales, so you'll never hear it in the north.

    It's often said with 'ddim', so 'Sa i ddim yn gwybod' means 'I don't know'. Almost all from the north would know this, except for some children maybe.
  7. Tegs

    Tegs Mód ar líne

    English (Ireland), Welsh, Irish
    I'd be interested to know where you got this idea from. Have you heard it used yourself? :)

    "Sai i ddim" is grammatically incorrect, and coming from a very south Walian background, I have never heard it used. "Sa i ddim" is a double negative, so it turns what is supposed to be a negative phrase into a positive one. "Sai'n gwbod" means "I don't know", but "Sai ddim yn gwbod" would mean "I don't not know".

    Maybe it is used by a few people who are not sure of their grammar, in the same way as you might hear people saying "I done that" rather than "I did that", but it definitely isn't used often.
  8. Cerinwen Junior Member

    Welsh, English - British
    Yes of course lol - I'm a native speaker. I don't know why they southerners use it with ddim. I've just heard it a few times - maybe it's just used in certain areas of south Wales. The one native speaker of the south Welsh dialect I knew left my workplace months ago, so I can't ask her :/ I could ask other people, but to be honest, I wouldn't really trust the answer unless I knew both of their parents spoke Welsh as well.
  9. Tegs

    Tegs Mód ar líne

    English (Ireland), Welsh, Irish
    Ah yes, I can well believe that one person might use it! :D I'd say that was the exception to the rule though, and not a norm. Most of my family are from the south, as are a large number of my colleagues. None of them say it ;)
  10. Cerinwen Junior Member

    Welsh, English - British
    Ok hehe. I'm not sure if she's the one who used it. I have other Welsh speakers in my workplace I could ask, but I trusted her answers more. I wish she still worked there because she was quite handy when I needed to ask 'How would you say this in south Walian?'.

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