Welsh: -euyn (llysieuyn)

Gavril

Senior Member
English, USA
Hello,

Welsh llysieuyn "vegetable" seems to be composed of the singulative suffix -yn added onto the plural form llysiau (from a now-obscure stem *llys).

Is llysieuyn the only case (that we know of) where a singulative has been formed using a stem that already ends in the productive plural suffix -au?

Thanks for any info
 
  • Cilquiestsuens

    Senior Member
    French
    I am not sure it might help but this type of formations do exist in the Breton language and they belong to the spoken language rather than the bookish one.

    A book by Per Trepos (Pierre Trépos - Le Pluriel Breton) deals with this topic and demonstrates the unmatched flexibility and precision of plural formations in the language used by the common people on the countryside. He gives the example of sant (a saint / holyman); whose regular plural is an internal one sent. However, when one talks about statues of saints (and not actual holymen) the plural has to be santoù, with the ending used for inanimate (equivalent to your Welsh -au). When one then talks about one of the statue of saints among a bunch of them, he'd say santaouenn; adding the singulative suffix -enn (corresponding to Welsh -yn) to the plural ending -...

    Such a natural and spontaneous use of the language has died out now one must admit. Per Trépos' observations date back from the 50's / 60's.

    A few words did make their way to the standardized and official form of Breton spoken nowadays with this -aouenn ending
    ( = + enn), but they are no longer perceived as being made up of those two elements:

    goulaouenn (one individual light, based on gouloù , light in general)
    kelaouenn (magazine based on keloù - a news)

    By the way keloù and gouloù are perceived in nowadays language as singulars; and double plurals have been recreated to show the modern plural : gouleier (lights) and keleier (news).

    There is also kanaouenn (song) originally singular of kanoù, whose plural is kanaouennoù!

    I'd bet Welsh has similar formations.
     

    Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Thanks, Cilquiestsuens, this is very interesting.

    My understanding is that Welsh golau, Breton gouloù "light" and so on are not plural forms, but instead the diphthong -au / -où is part of the original stem (*louk- ?). The singulative of golau would be something like goleuyn, which is attested, but with the diminutive meaning "small light".

    Welsh goleuni "light" (I'm not sure if there is any semantic difference from golau) may also be of interest here, but I don't know its exact etymology.

    The plural of Welsh cân "song" is caneuon, which seems to show double plural suffixes (-au + -on), but unlike Breton kanaouenn, I don't know of any attested singulative for this word.

    By the way, does modern Breton have different forms for masculine (Welsh -yn) and feminine (Welsh -en) singulatives?

    I am not sure it might help but this type of formations do exist in the Breton language and they belong to the spoken language rather than the bookish one.

    A book by Per Trepos (Pierre Trépos - Le Pluriel Breton) deals with this topic and demonstrates the unmatched flexibility and precision of plural formations in the language used by the common people on the countryside. He gives the example of sant (a saint / holyman); whose regular plural is an internal one sent. However, when one talks about statues of saints (and not actual holymen) the plural has to be santoù, with the ending used for inanimate (equivalent to your Welsh -au). When one then talks about one of the statue of saints among a bunch of them, he'd say santaouenn; adding the singulative suffix -enn (corresponding to Welsh -yn) to the plural ending -...

    Such a natural and spontaneous use of the language has died out now one must admit. Per Trépos' observations date back from the 50's / 60's.

    A few words did make their way to the standardized and official form of Breton spoken nowadays with this -aouenn ending
    ( = + enn), but they are no longer perceived as being made up of those two elements:

    goulaouenn (one individual light, based on gouloù , light in general)
    kelaouenn (magazine based on keloù - a news)

    By the way keloù and gouloù are perceived in nowadays language as singulars; and double plurals have been recreated to show the modern plural : gouleier (lights) and keleier (news).

    There is also kanaouenn (song) originally singular of kanoù, whose plural is kanaouennoù!

    I'd bet Welsh has similar formations.
     

    Cilquiestsuens

    Senior Member
    French
    ^ I think you must be right, the in gouloù might not be a plural ending.

    Gouloù however is perceived as a Collective noun and therefore takes the -enn singulative ending (which is only feminine and has no masculine counterpart). There are many collective nouns in Breton. They are used thus:


    Gwez
    Gwezenn
    Gwezennoù
    (Trees)
    (A tree)
    (A few trees)
    Stered
    Steredenn
    Steredennoù
    (Stars)
    (A star)
    (A few stars)
    Pesked
    Peskedenn
    Peskedennoù
    (Fish)
    (A fish)
    (A few fish)


    I am not really sure if Welsh or Cornish have the same formations?
     

    Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    I am not really sure if Welsh or Cornish have the same formations?

    As far as I know (I'm not an expert), Welsh does not have the regular three-way contrast you describe. I have no idea about Cornish.

    Welsh does have many singulative nouns (such as coeden : coed "tree(s)" seren : sêr "star(s)", pysgodyn : pysgod "fish(es)"), but I've never heard of the plural suffix -au being regularly added to the singulative stem (*coedennau, *pysgodynnau etc.).

    The word rhosyn "rose" has plural rhosynnau rather than *rhos, but this could be a special case: there is a different word rhos meaning "heath", "moor", so giving rhosyn the plural form rhosynnau avoids confusion between the two terms.
     

    Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    By the way, I found another example of a singulative in -euyn: blodeuyn "flower" (plural blodau). An alternative singular form for "flower" is blodyn.

    blodyn is probably the earlier form, and blodeuyn may be an attempt to make the singulative more regular relative to the plural blodau, which in turn may have been created because the original plural stem (as seen in blawd "flour") had diverged too far phonetically and semantically from blodyn.
     
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