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7  Sentence Order: a

7.1  All the sentences we have met so far start with the verb. This pattern is known as the normal order -- though in fact it is less common than other orders.

7.2  If the subject or the object comes first in the sentence, the verb has a "pre-verbal particle", a. The three sentences that follow all mean
Arawn asks for his homage.
Eirch Arawn ei wrogaeth.(normal order)
Arawn a eirch ei wrogaeth.(abnormal order)
Ei wrogaeth a eirch Arawn.(abnormal order)

7.3  The pre-verbal particle is in fact the relative pronoun ('who, which, that') and the original form of the abnormal order was
It is Arawn who asks for his homage.
Ys Arawn a eirch ei wrogaeth.
By the time of the Mabinogi the full form has almost disappeared, and ys is the least common form of the words for 'is'.

7.4  Turn the sentences we have already met into the abnormal order. You need to observe two things:

  1. The word a, whether pre-verbal or relative, causes lenition.
  2. The pronouns i, di, come after the verb. When they come before the verb they are mi, ti.
7.5  Having touched on these first principles we go on to reading. The sentences that follow are based on, and taken as directly as possible, from the first of the three episodes of Pwyll Pendefig Dyfed (abbreviated PPD1). They get closer to the original as you go on. In the early stages, vocabulary is going to be the stumbling block, but PPD1 vocabulary is not overwhelmingly large, and in this first bout of sentences many words will be given in the notes at the end. Just for convenience, the sixty sentences (which roughly follow the order of the story) are divided into two thirties.


  1. Oedd Pwyll yn Arberth.
  2. Cyfyd Pwyll yn ieuenctid y dydd.
  3. Ef a gychwyn y nos o Arberth.
  4. Cychwyn ef y nos honno o Arberth.
  5. Ef a wyl carw yn y coed.
  6. Gwyl ef llannerch yn y coed.
  7. Clyw ef cwn.
  8. Ef a glyw erchwys cwn.
  9. Ef a wyl carw o flaen yr erchwys.
  10. Gwyl ef marchawg yn ol yr erchwys.
  11. Dyweid y marchawg hynn.
  12. Y marchawg a ddyweid fal hynn.
  13. "Cyfarchaf i well i'r marchawg."
  14. "Cyfarchaf i well, unben."
  15. Edrych ef ar liw yr erchwys.
  16. "A unben, pa ansyberwyd wely di?"
  17. "Hynny ansyberwyd oedd, unben."
  18. "Mi a ganaf anglod gwerth carw."
  19. "Mi a ganaf anglod gwerth cann carw."
  20. "Caf i dy gerennydd, unben?"
  21. "A unben, mi a brynaf dy gerennydd."
  22. Oedd ef yn cerdded.
  23. Oedd y brenin yn cerdded.
  24. Hafgan, brenin o Annwfn, oedd yn ryfelu ar Arawn.
  25. "Gallaf i hynny."
  26. "Hynny a elly."
  27. "Mi a roddaf wreig."
  28. "Mi a roddaf wreig i gyscu gyda'r Pwyll.
  29. "Un dyrnawd a rydd."
  30. "Rhoddaf i dyrnawd arall."
Notes and vocabulary:
  1. oedd -'was'; Arberth is the modern Narberth.
  2. cyfodaf -- 'rise'.
  3. cychwynaf -- 'start out'.
  4. The demonstrative 'that' is hwnnw, honno, hynny -- masculine, feminine, and a rare survival of the neuter.
  5. (gwelaf); coed -- 'wood'.
  6. llannerch -- 'clearing'.
  7. clywaf -- 'hear'.
  8. erchwys -- 'pack'.
  9. o flaen -- 'in front'.
  10. yn ol -- 'behind'.
  11. dywedaf -- 'say'; hwnn, honn, hynn is the other demonstrative, 'this'.
  12. fal -- 'like', 'as'.
  13. cyfarchaf well -- 'welcome'; literally 'bid better'.
  14. unben -- 'lord'; literally 'self-head' -- nobody is over him, he is autocephalous.
  15. lliw -- 'colour'.
  16. clod means 'fame', 'glory' (cognate with Greek kleos); so the negative anglod means 'defamation', 'satire'. In Welsh and Irish society the power of the word was so great that the singing of a satire could have violent psychosomatic effect upon the victim.
  17. cann/cant -- 'hundred'.
  18. caf, caffaf -- 'get', 'obtain'; cerennydd (from car) -- 'friendship'.
  19. prynaf -- 'buy'.
  20. Notice the Welsh way of making a progressive or continuous tense, with the verbal noun. 'He was in walking' would in English be 'he was walking'.
  21. rhyfelu -- 'make war'; see 22.
  22. gallaf -- 'can', 'be able'.
  23. rhoddaf -- 'give'; gwreig -- 'woman', 'wife'.
  24. gyda, from gyd a -- 'together with'.
  25. dyrnawd -- 'blow'.
  26. arall -- '(an)other'.
  1. Cyrch Arberth: prif lys Pwyll oedd honno.
  2. Ef a wyl yn y llys ystafell ac arddurn.
  3. Pawb un a gyfarch well i'r brenin.
  4. Deu farchawg a ddwg ef i'r ystafell.
  5. Gwiscant eurwisg o bali ar Pwyll.
  6. Gwyl y brenin teulu ac ynifer y llys.
  7. Oedd y frenhines gydag wynt.
  8. Ac ar hynny, cyrchant y bwrdd.
  9. Eisteddant wy fal hynn.
  10. Eistedd y frenhines ar neill parth, a'r iarll ar parth arall.
  11. Oedd amser cysgu.
  12. Ni ddyweid un geir.
  13. Ni ddyweid geir arall.
  14. Marchawg a gyfyd i fynydd, ac a ddyweid fal hynn.
  15. Ac ar hynny y deu frenin a gyfyd.
  16. Oedd Pwyll y gwr a oedd yn lle Arawn.
  17. Y gwr a oedd yn lle Arawn a osyd ar Hafgan.
  18. Hyllt ei darian, a dyrr yr arfeu.
  19. Oedd Hafgan dros ei farch i'r llawr.
  20. Oedd dyrnawd angeu.
  21. Oedd dyrnawd angheuol.
  22. "O wrda, dwg fi: terfynedig angeu i fi."
  23. Nid oedd frenin ar holl Annwfn.
  24. "Nid oedd frenin ar holl Annwfn namyn ti."
  25. "Cymmellaf o nerth cleddyf."
  26. Oedd yn ei feddiant y deu dir.
  27. Oedd yn ei feddiant y dwy deyrnas.
  28. Oedd Arawn, brenin Annwfn, yn ei erbyn.
  29. "Ti a wely dy deyrnas."
  30. Rhydd Arawn ei ffurf a'i ddrych i Bwyll.
Notes and vocabulary:
  1. cyrchaf -- 'make for', 'approach'; llys -- 'court'.
  2. pawb -- 'every'.
  3. deu (leniting) -- 'two', and notice that the noun does not require a plural form!
  4. teulu -- 'household'.
  5. gydag -- the same as gyda (28), but in front of a vowel.
  6. ar hynny -- 'thereupon, then'. (Note: In front of a vowel, the word for 'and' is written as ac. This is a remnant of medieval spelling which has persisted to this day, and it is pronounced ag. When the same word is used as a preposition, it is spelt as pronounced, ag.)
  7. neill -- 'the one', as opposed to arall.
  8. amser -- 'time'. The word that follows is a verbal noun: so 'time of sleeping' (English 'time to sleep').
  9. ni -- the negative adverb, 'not'; geir -- 'word'.
  10. mynydd -- 'mountain' (see 7.8).
  11. lle -- 'place'.
  12. gosodaf -- 'strike'.
  13. A plural subject, like arfeu, does NOT require a plural verb! The same sort of economy that you saw in 34.
  14. dros (more common than the original tros) -- 'across', cf. trans; march -- '(war)horse', cf. mare; llawr -- 'floor, ground' (see 6.8).
  15. Same meaning as 50, genitive and adjective. Angheuol = angheuawl.
  16. nid - this is the form of the negative ni before a vowel; holl -- 'whole', 'all'.
  17. namyn -- 'except'.
  18. nerth -- 'force', 'strength'.
  19. meddiant -- 'control'.
  20. dwy (feminine of deu); teyrnas -- 'kingdom'. (*tigern -- 'king', is seen in many early Celtic and British names -- Tigurini, Vortigern).
  21. erbyn -- 'opposite' (from *ar-penni -- 'on-head = head-on'; note how the remnant of an old case-ending causes affection in two previous syllables, and then disappears).

7.8  A characteristic of Welsh is the use of prepositional phrases as direction adverbs. We have seen:
o flaenbefore, in front(blaen -- 'promontory, projection')
yn olbehind(ol -- 'track, footsteps')
i fynyddup(mynydd -- 'mountain')
(i'r) llawrdown(llawr -- 'floor, ground')
We could add:
(i) maesout(maes -- 'field')
i ymdeithaway(ymdeith -- 'journey')
This happens in other languages too. Compare Latin foras -- 'out', literally 'door', and of course English in front, American in back.

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All text copyright © 1996 by Gareth Morgan. Online layout copyright © 2001 by Daniel Morgan.