Re: initial mutation or trigger? Re: re Mutations
|From:||Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>|
|Date:||Friday, October 15, 2004, 17:06|
On Thursday, October 14, 2004, at 10:34 , Joe wrote:
> John Cowan wrote:
>> Ray Brown scripsit:
>>> Yes, it's a mark of South Walian colloquial English to use 'fe' as a
>>> preverbal affirmative particle before synthetic tenses; in north Wales
>>> 'mi' is similarly used.
>> I suppose that by "English" you mean "Welsh"?
> It might be more interesting if he meant English.
It might well be - but I did of course mean Welsh :)
On Thursday, October 14, 2004, at 11:10 , Elliott Lash wrote:
> On Fri, Oct 15, 2004 at 12:13:05AM +0200, Rodlox
>>> Explain what you now understand a trigger to be.
>> an isolate either at the beginning of a sentance
> (common), or just before
>> the word...and the trigger can change the meaning of
> a sentance by simply
>> being one letter different.
> Marcos replied:
> Well, it seems to me that what we were talking about
> was pretty much the
> opposite of that. The meaning doesn't change, but one
> of the sounds
> does, do to the phonetic environment.[snip]
> My reply:
> Eh...vaguely. But actually often times mutation in
> Welsh does change the meaning of the sentence or word.
I think 'often times' is an overstatement. The initial mutation of
consonants in the modern 'Celtic' langs is _grammatical_.
They were originally conditioned by the phonetic environment centuries ago,
but as a result of phonetic change and analogy they have become fixed &
grammaticalized. It is true that sometimes it may affect the meaning but
only in the same way that grammatical differences in any language may
affect the meaning.
> For the Welsh examples:
> Prynodd Huw ~ Huw (a) brynodd
> Here, the "a" is a fronting particle that tells us
> that the object or subject of the sentence has been
> fronted. It is almost always omitted in speech. What
> is left is the mutation (prynodd > brynodd) that marks
> essentially the same thing, but has become the sole
> But after the particle 'y' there is no mutation, so:
> Ddoe y prynodd Huw gar.
> Here, the "y" is a particle that marks some other
> portion of the sentence as fronted.
This is all true - but if a person failed to make the soft mutation if the
subject or object were fronted, or erroneously made soft mutation after "y"
(which BTW is also often omitted in speech) it would not affect the
meaning. It would be a grammatical error and one would assume the person
did not have Welsh as his/her L1.
> Since the Welsh "brynodd" in this case is used when
> the fronted (focused) element is the subject or the
> object, and the form "prynodd" is in this case used to
> show that some other type of thing is fronted, a
> trigger like situation seems to have occured. There is
> no trigger particle (but "A" and "Y" might have been
> viewed as such, at least by Rodlox), and the verb
> changes according to the fronted element.
Ooh - you may be right. I am still not at all clear what Rodlox understans
by "trigger". Until I had come across the term used as a technical term in
the Austronesian languages, I had been use to using 'trigger' as in the
only meaning given by Trask:
"Any element in a sentence which makes some requirement elsewhere in the
sentence. For example, a subject NP which requires agreement in the verb
is said to 'trigger' agreement in the verb, or to act as an agreement
'trigger', the verb being the 'target'. Similarly, a verb or a preposition
in a case-marking language may trigger a particular case form on its
Following this definition, we can indeed say that "a" triggers soft
mutation if the initial consonant of the following word can be so mutated.
We may say that the particle "y" does not trigger any mutation. Similarly
the definite article triggers soft mutation if the following noun is
feminine singular, but no mutation if it is either masculine and plural;
the word 'fy' (= my) triggers nasal mutation etc.
But this is triggering only in the same way that we can say the final -s
of 'looks' is triggered by a 3rd person singular subject in "It looks
disgusting!". But the addition of the -s hardly changes the meaning of the
sentence. In East Anglia, I understand, the colloquial dialect doesn't add
-s (whereas in Sussex they add -s to all persons!).
But I am not at all clear that this is what Rodlox was meaning or whether
he was thinking of the way the term is used in the so-called "Trigger
languages" (see below).
> Anyways, back to my main point. Welsh mutation also
> marks direct objects of finite verbs (a grammatical
> not phonetic category). It also marks the distinction
> between "ei" "his" and "ei" "her":
> ei dad "his father"
> ei thad "her father"
Yes, but this is strictly grammatical also. Other possessive particles
also cause mutation. But the fact that the two mutation caused by "ei"
(his) is different from that of "ei" (her) is useful and the main reason
that this is one of the few spirant mutations still commonly observed in
spoken Welsh (the spirant mutation of the formal language is not always
observed in colloquial dialects). But if they are used with words not
subject to mutation we can still disambiguate by appending the ordinary
pronoun in the genitive construction, e.g.
ei ffrind e = his friend (north Walian: ei ffrind o)
ei ffrind hi = her friend
In fact the pronouns are often appended even when mutation occurs: ei gar
e (his car), ei char hi (her car)
> It marks the the interogative form of some tenses of
> the verb:
> DDylai hi fynd? "Should she go?"
> (verb: dylai "she should go")
The mutation is actually caused by the interrogative particle "a" which is
normally omitted in speech.
> And so forth. So, I think that most of the instances
> of mutation in Welsh are actually more grammaticalized
> phenomena, than phonetic.
They are grammaticalized in the modern language, not phonetic. The
phonetic environments that originally caused them centuries ago have in
most cases long since changed.
On Friday, October 15, 2004, at 07:00 , Joe wrote:
> Usually doesn't change the meaning. But in colloquial spoken Welsh, at
> least in some dialects, I hear 'nhad'(that is, with nothing else that
> could cause a nasal mutation surrounding it.) means 'my father', as
> opposed 'tad', meaning 'father'. This comes, of course, from 'fy nhad',
> but 'fy' is often dropped, from what I hear.
Yep - absolutely true. But the initial mutation is still strictly
grammatical; it denotes 1st per sing. possession. In languages with stress
accent, unstressed syllables are not uncommonly dropped if the meaning is
On Friday, October 15, 2004, at 04:54 , Tim May wrote:
> Rodlox wrote at 2004-10-15 00:13:05 (+0200)
>> an isolate either at the beginning of a sentance (common), or just
>> before the word...and the trigger can change the meaning of a
>> sentance by simply being one letter different.
> Ok... this isn't right. I'm not even sure what it means, but it's
> certainly not a correct definition of "trigger".
> I'm not sure what you mean by "isolate". The only linguistic use
> of that term I know is a language without an (known) relatives,
> i.e. one that is not a member of any language family".
...like ancient Etruscan or modern Basque. Yes, that's the only used of
the term I know. I would have assumed that by 'isolate' in this context
Rodlox means a free morpheme, but the reference to "being one letter
different" makes me wonder if my assumption is correct.
> Anyway, I will now attempt to define "trigger". Austronesianists and
> Tagalog speakers, stand by to correct me.
[Definition snipped - but read with great interest]
> Now, of course, you can see that this all looks not so different from
> the voice system of a familiar nominative/accusative language -
Yep - and so different from Welsh grammaticalized initial consonant
mutations. Whatever else Welsh may have, it is has the voice system of
familiar nominative/accusative IE languages.
[The rest snipped - but read with great interest]
Thanks, Tim - I really must get around to looking more carefully at these
Austronesian triggers :)
Anything is possible in the fabulous Celtic twilight,
which is not so much a twilight of the gods
as of the reason." [JRRT, "English and Welsh" ]