Welsh: Hywel Dda (mutation of epithets)

entangledbank

Senior Member
English - South-East England
Why does Hywel Dda have soft mutation? He was king, a male, not a usual target for SM in the modern language. Then I looked at other kings: Idwal Foel (I didn't know the word moel "bald"), and then we have Rhodri Mawr and Llywelyn Fawr or Mawr. Is that a genuine fluctuation in the old language or just modern people getting a bit confused about their SM?
 
  • Welsh_Sion

    Senior Member
    Welsh - Northern
    Adjectives that follow a proper noun may undergo soft mutation when the reference is to a particular individual, as the equivalent of N + the + adj. The adj., however, frequently resists mutation.

    Exceptionally, you have 'yr Arglwydd Dduw'.

    After Thorne (1993): 50f.

    More extensive details in TJ Morgan (Rhodri's dad) in his magnum opus, Y Treigladau a'u Cystrawen.
     

    Tegs

    Mód ar líne
    English (Ireland)
    Is that a genuine fluctuation in the old language or just modern people getting a bit confused about their SM?

    Mutating proper nouns was a norm in the past, but people back then didn't always mutate consistently, which is why you also have Rhodri Mawr. It's not modern people getting confused.

    In fact, in modern times, people don't mutate in this way any more. So, nowadays, on the radio, you have a presenter called Dafydd Du (BBC Radio Cymru - Dafydd Du), but in the 1800s, there was a poet called Dafydd Ddu Eryri (https://biography.wales/article/s-THOM-DAV-1759#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=0&manifest=https://damsssl.llgc.org.uk/iiif/2.0/4702705/manifest.json&xywh=151,94,1366,1103).

    Some surnames come from this mutation after proper names:
    Gethin --> mutated form of cethin, meaning dark (Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru)
    Gough --> Goch, mutated form of coch, meaning red (as in, Iolo Goch https://biography.wales/article/s-IOLO-GOC-1320?&query=iolo goch&lang[]=en&sort=score&order=desc&rows=12&page=1)
    Vaughan --> Fychan, mutated form of bychan, meaning small/ the younger, the same way as you'd get Junior as part of a name in the US (Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru). There was a poet called Ieuan Fychan back in the 1400s (https://biography.wales/article/s-IEUA-FYC-1458?&query=ieuan fychan&lang[]=en&sort=score&order=desc&rows=12&page=1).

    Interestingly, the politician Vaughan Gething combines two of these mutated surnames in his name.
     
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