Welsh: omission of the verb "to be"

Gavril

Senior Member
English, USA
Hello,

When do you normally use a "zero-copula" construction in Welsh, i.e. a phrase in which there is no explicit word meaning "to be"? For example:

Hyfryd y tywydd yma "The weather here is lovely"

Cymry y dynion yno "The people over there are Welsh"

Compare these to Hyfryd yw'r tywydd yma and Cymry yw'r dynion yno, where the copula is explicitly present. What would be the difference (semantically) between the two types of sentences?

Thanks
 
  • spindlemoss

    Senior Member
    Welsh
    Hyfryd y tywydd yma "The weather here is lovely"

    Cymry y dynion yno "The people over there are Welsh"

    In the above examples you'd use the yw.

    Occasionally you come across the yw in phrases and proverbs that reflect a more archaic style, e.g. Cenedl heb iaith, cenedl heb galon "A nation without a language is a nation without a heart" or Nid aur popeth melyn "Not everything that's yellow is gold" (i.e. "All that glitters is not gold"), although you're probably more likely to hear some of them with the copula these days, e.g. Nid aur yw popeth melyn. Wikipedia mentions the zero-copula construction was popular in poetry in the past.

    It also mentions the possibility of zero copula with the reduplicated pronouns, which you may or not be familiar with.

    mi, fi, i > minnau, finnau, innau
    ti
    > tithau
    ef
    , fe, fo > yntau, fyntau
    hi
    > hithau
    ni
    > ninnau
    chwi
    , chi > chwithau, chithau
    hwy
    , nhw > hwythau, nhwthau

    They're usually used with the meaning "... too".

    A: Sut wyt ti? "How are you?"
    B: Iawn, diolch. A tithe? "Fine, thanks. And you?"

    A: Mwynhewch y penwythnos! "Have a good weekend!"
    B: A chitha! "You too!"

    But they can also be used with a "and" in zero-copula phrases, such as:

    A hithau'n 150 mlynedd ers sefydlu gwladfa Patagonia, beth am i ni neidio mewn bws o'r enw Mimosa a gyrru i'r Alban?
    "With it being 150 years since the founding of the colony in Patagonia, what about we jump in a bus called Mimosa and drive to Scotland?"

    A hithau'n Ddiwrnod y Ddaear heddiw rydyn ni'n edrych ymlaen at lansio Cyfres Wenfro gan Llinos Mair
    "What with it being Earth Day today we're looking forward to launching the Wenfro Series by Llinos Mair"

    Bydd Hefina Pritchard yn coginio cyri i Dylan Jones a hithau'n Wythnos Genedlaethol Cyri!
    "Hefina Pritchard will be cooking curry for Dylan Jones as it's National Curry Week!"

    A ninnau'n cofio canmlwyddiant dechrau'r Rhyfel Byd Cyntaf, bydd rhifyn arbennig o'r raglen
    "As we're remembering the centenary of the start of the First World War, there will be a special edition of the programme"

    A Chithau'n Feichiog: Sut i Osgoi Heintiad o Fwyd ac o Gyswllt ag Anifeiliaid
    "While You Are Pregnant : How to Avoid Infection from Food and from Contact With Animals"

    So I guess I'd translate it "(what) with ... -ing" or "while/as ...". In fact, I think a similar construction in Cornish is their only way of expressing "while" e.g. ha hi ow kana = a hithau'n canu. It's a nice little way to make your Welsh a bit more idiomatic now and then.
     

    Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    It also mentions the possibility of zero copula with the reduplicated pronouns, which you may or not be familiar with.

    mi, fi, i > minnau, finnau, innau
    ti
    > tithau
    ef
    , fe, fo > yntau, fyntau
    hi
    > hithau
    ni
    > ninnau
    chwi
    , chi > chwithau, chithau
    hwy
    , nhw > hwythau, nhwthau

    I definitely remember these pronouns from older Welsh texts, where (if I recall right) they had meanings like "as for me"/"as for you"/etc., but I never got a full grasp on their usage. The same goes for the reduplicated pronouns myfi, tydi, (h)wyntwy, etc. -- I know that they have emphatic force in some contexts, but the nuances of how/when they are used (or were used in older periods) still elude me.
     

    spindlemoss

    Senior Member
    Welsh
    I definitely remember these pronouns ...but I never got a full grasp on their usage. The same goes for the reduplicated pronouns...but the nuances of how/when they are used (or were used in older periods) still elude me.

    Oops, you're right myfi, tydi are the reduplicated ones and minnau, tithau are conjunctives. I often forget the correct English terms or make them up!

    In the literary language, the reduplicated pronouns are used to emphasise, i.e. it's that person, not someone else.

    And the conjunctives "are perhaps more descriptively termed 'connective or distinctive pronouns' since they are used to indicate a connection between or distinction from another nominal element. Full contextual information is necessary to interpret their function in any given sentence" (from Wikipedia - sorry I don't have all my books with me at the mo to look it up). But I'd say they're understood mostly in the ways I described in the previous post if a Welsh speaker comes across them today.

    In the colloquial language, the emphatic pronouns (used e.g. when answering the question Pwy wnaeth hwn? "Who did this?") are basically: fi; ti/chdi; fe/fo; hi; ni; chi; nhw, so basically the same as the unemphatic ones. By the way, fe comes from reduplicated efe and chdi comes from tydi, which is interesting. So you'd use those, rather than the reduplicated pronouns in everyday language.

    And, again, the conjunctive pronouns are used as described above i.e. mostly as a way of saying "... too", usually with a "and" and/or hefyd "too": a tithe, chitha hefyd, a finne 'fyd. You'll also hear the normal pronouns too, though: a ti, chi hefyd, a fi 'fyd.

    So in summary:

    reduplicated - basically literary; to emphasise that it's that person

    conjunctive - literary, occasionally colloquial; to mean "... too" or in some zero-copula phrases

    Let me know if any of that doesn't make sense. As I say, I'm nowhere near my books at the moment, so I'll look them up and see what other interesting bits I've forgotten when I am.
     
    Top