Welsh: use of feminine case of superlative adjectives

Curt Jugg

Senior Member
English - England
In David Thorne's "A Comprehensive Welsh Grammar" (1993) on page 144 (dealing with comparison of adjectives) there appears the sentence "Hi yw'r talaf o'r ddwy". I can't understand why "talaf" isn't "dalaf" since both the pronoun and numeral are feminine and two female individuals are being compared. If it were a case of a male being compared with a female, then I could see why the masculine form of the adjective might be chosen, but this is clearly not the case here.

Grateful for any clarification.
 
  • Welsh_Sion

    Senior Member
    Welsh - Northern
    I have this book (and also the monolingual Welsh version) and can only suggest that it's a typo. (The offending example exists in both books and I will also say that neither book is immune from such typos. See, e.g. p.8 para. 20, with regard to the alphabet which omits <dd> in the English version but does not in the Cymraeg version. There are others ...)

    However, for serious language learners (who can't read/understand Welsh sufficiently (yet!)) I would still recommend Thorne as the best single volume bilingual (Eng-Wel) grammar book. Avoid anything which makes use of Cymraeg Byw (e.g. Gramadeg Cymraeg Cyfoes).
     
    Last edited:

    Curt Jugg

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I have this book (and also the monolingual Welsh version) and can only suggest that it's a typo. (The offending example exists in both books and I will also say that neither book is immune from such typos. See, e.g. p.8 para. 20, with regard to the alphabet which omits <dd> in the English version but does not in the Cymraeg version. There are others ...)

    However, for serious language learners (who can't read/understand Welsh sufficiently (yet!)) I would still recommend Thorne as the best single volume bilingual (Eng-Wel) grammar book. Avoid anything which makes use of Cymraeg Byw (e.g. Gramadeg Cymraeg Cyfoes).
    Many thanks for this. If it were known that the two people being compared for height were male and female and the female was still the (taller) subject, would the correct form be "Hi yw'r dalaf o'r ddau" or "Hi yw'r talaf o'r ddau"?
     

    Tegs

    Mód ar líne
    English (Ireland)
    The original is a mistake, but it's a very minor one compared to the error you were asking about in your other thread.
    If it were known that the two people being compared for height were male and female and the female was still the (taller) subject, would the correct form be "Hi yw'r dalaf o'r ddau" or "Hi yw'r talaf o'r ddau"?
    The fact that one is male and the other is female is clear from the use of hi and dau, so the sentence itself makes this information known. Hi yw'r talaf o'r ddau, in that case. It should only be "dalaf" when talking about "dwy" (both females).
     

    Welsh_Sion

    Senior Member
    Welsh - Northern
    Not that you probably need this as you seem to have already sussed it out, but notice the Welsh structure when comparing two entities - 'y dalaf o'r ddwy' etc - we use the superlative. Standard English uses the comparative. I have heard 'She is the tallest of the two' etc., but have also been told that it is considered non-standard English. Not so in Cymraeg.
     

    Curt Jugg

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The original is a mistake, but it's a very minor one compared to the error you were asking about in your other thread.

    The fact that one is male and the other is female is clear from the use of hi and dau, so the sentence itself makes this information known. Hi yw'r talaf o'r ddau, in that case. It should only be "dalaf" when talking about "dwy" (both females).
    That clarifies the point. Thanks, Tegs.
     

    Curt Jugg

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Not that you probably need this as you seem to have already sussed it out, but notice the Welsh structure when comparing two entities - 'y dalaf o'r ddwy' etc - we use the superlative. Standard English uses the comparative. I have heard 'She is the tallest of the two' etc., but have also been told that it is considered non-standard English. Not so in Cymraeg.
    Yes, I've seen that mentioned elsewhere. Thanks anyway.
     

    Tegs

    Mód ar líne
    English (Ireland)
    Hi yw'r talaf o'r ddau, in that case. It should only be "dalaf" when talking about "dwy"
    I'm starting to really doubt this as I can't find any mention of it in any grammar books. Hi yw'r dalaf is what sounds correct, regardless of what comes after it. So, please disregard what I said in the quoted bit above! :oops:
     

    Tegs

    Mód ar líne
    English (Ireland)
    You're welcome. I wouldn't want to give the wrong advice so I will always come back and correct something if I've made a mistake! :)
     

    Welsh_Sion

    Senior Member
    Welsh - Northern
    Perhaps we can have it both ways. After all if there are two (one each of both sexes*), then 'dau' would come into play and the masculine (unmutated) form is correct. Similarly, if we have two males, then 'dau' applies and again we would say Adda is 'talaf' than Brian of those two boys.

    Again, if they are two girls, we use 'dwy' and we would say 'Angharad is dalaf than Bethan'.

    It's only when they are one of each - what do we do? My suggestion, as applied above use 'dau' but say 'Bethan is the dalaf o'r ddau' or 'Adda is the talaf o'r ddau'.

    (I must say that hearing, 'Bethan yw'r talaf o'r ddau' (i.e. Bethan and Adda) sounds harsh on my ears ...)

    *Let's keep it simple and not invoke any of those other, so-called more fluid genders!

    It's also a bit like those basic maths sums:

    odd + odd = even (1 + 1 = 2)
    odd + even = odd (1 + 2 = 3)
    even + odd = odd (4 + 1 = 5)
    even + even = even (6 + 8 = 14)
     

    Curt Jugg

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I've now found a paragraph in Thorne's Grammar, 190 Note 3 (Page 133), which says, "The masculine form of the adjective is normally selected in the predicate". He quotes "Yr oedd y ferch yn wyn." I realise he is referring to adjectives which have different feminine and masculine forms, but could this rule account for his selection of the masculine in the sentence which caused me to raise my original query? Probably not, but I just thought I'd ask.
     

    Curt Jugg

    Senior Member
    English - England
    And one more thing: I've googled "hi yw'r mwyaf" (including inverted commas) and got 2,840 hits but when I've googled "hi yw'r fwyaf" I've only got 868. Not sure how significant that is, though.
     

    Curt Jugg

    Senior Member
    English - England
    @Welsh_Sion, @Tegs

    Sorry to come back on this, but I've now tried a different adjective and googled "hi yw'r gorau" and got 10,400 hits; "hi yw'r orau" only produces 219. Seems strange, but what am I missing here?
     

    Welsh_Sion

    Senior Member
    Welsh - Northern
    Personal take.

    Hi yw'r orau - standard, unmarked form when referring to a female who is the best.
    Google hits: 22

    e.g.
    Eleri/Hi yw'r orau am Fathemateg yn ei hysgol
    Eleri/She's the best at Maths in her school

    Hi yw'r gorau - marked form. Substituting for a masculine noun which is understood/already mentioned.
    Google hits: 40

    e.g.
    - Pwy yw'r person gorau am y swydd? Who is the best person for the job?
    - Hi yw'r (person) gorau She's the best (person)

    Sôn am ddoctoriaid, hi ydy'r meddyg teulu gorau yn y sir. Ie, hi ydy'r gorau
    Speaking of doctors, she's the best GP in the county. Yes, she's the best

    See also ex. 13 in this table:

    Ask Dr Gramadeg: Cymharu Ansoddeiriau / Comparison of Adjectives – Parallel.cymru: Bilingual Welsh digital magazine
     

    Curt Jugg

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Thanks, @Welsh_Sion. What you say makes sense and is the rule I shall apply in future. Any idea why I get so many more hits when I google "hi yw'r gorau", though?
     

    Welsh_Sion

    Senior Member
    Welsh - Northern
    Your number of hits was grossly inflated for both versions. If you scroll down Google you will see it lists the number of pages which reference your search item. (I trust you used inverted commas for "Hi yw'r gorau" and "Hi yw'r orau" as this helps find an item much quicker.) If I remember rightly, that although page 1 of Google lists hits in their thousands, there are, in fact, a mere 4 or 5 pages of hits in reality. (Why Google does this, I've never fully understood. But it in fact from page 2 onwards indicates that there are far fewer hits than previously noted.)

    I hope @Tegs and any passing fellow Cymraeg linguist can give further clarification and help in these matters. It seems that we are currently a two person show ... though I'd be loath to call Tegs, Tweedledum to my Tweedledee! :)
     

    Curt Jugg

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I did use inverted commas, @Welsh_Sion, but I never thought of scrolling down to the end, silly old fellow that I am. I know in future. Thanks again.
     
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