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Cymmrodor. Cyfrol IX. 1888. Tudalennau
Beiträge zur Cymrischen Grammatik. I.
Vocalismus.) Von Max Nettlau, Dr. Phil.
Leipzig, Marz-April, 1887. Preis: 2 mark.
We are heartily glad to welcome to the little-occupied field of Cymric
research the young Austrian who is the author of this paper. The paper is one of a
series embodying the results of his work in the scientific study of Welsh
grammar up to the present time. One member of the series appeared in Vol.
viii of Y Cymmrodor, and one is included in the present number. Another paper
of the series is being published in the Revue Celtique for Jan. 1888. Grammar
has undergone the radical change which has overtaken all other sciences in
our time, and the methods and aims of the modern scholar have no more in
common with those of the "grammarian" of former days than the
objects of the contemporary biologist with those of his predecessor the natural
historian. To the old grammarian, the literary form of a language was all in
all, and he was content when he had deduced his "rules" from the
practice of the most classical writers, striven to bring as many
irregularities as possible within their jurisdiction, and enumerated the
" exceptions" that continued to resist their authority. A language
was to him a fixed quantity, erystalline, or at least having no principle of
vital growth. To his modern successor language presents itself as living
material, undergoing constant organic change by the very nature of it. His object
is to trace the principles of its growlh; and its dialectal forms, which
manifest such principles unrestrained by arti-
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fìcial bands, are of at least equal interest to him with the classical usages
which have bcen framed half-consciously to fulril the requirements of
literature or of courtly talk. The modern grammarian grasps his subject, as
all organic subjects must be grasped, from the point of view of development.
To record the history of a language from its earliest known forms, to search
out the origins of its inflections and usages, and to trace the operation of
phonetic, analogical, and other causes in modifying them from age to age is
his proper task, more arduous, but more remunerative than the barren labours
of his forerunner.
To such work as this Dr. Nettlau comes well prepared. Though not yet
twenty-three years of age, he has received and profited by the best
linguistic training that the universities of Germany, pre-eminent in this
branch, can afford. He has worked in Berlin uncler Brückner, Hoffory, Hübner,
Oldenberg, Scherer, Johannes Schmidt, Schott, and Weber; in Vienna under
Miklosich ancl Müller; in Leipsic under Kögel, Leskien, and Windisch, and in
Greifswald under Pietsch, Eeifferscheid, and H. Zimmer.
Notwithstanding this, and his visits to London and Oxford, it is not quite
clear whence he has acquired his extensive acquaintance with Cymric.
Instruction in Welsh is not easy to obtain in Germany, contemporary German
Celtists having given their chief attention to Irish; and, with the exception
of Schuchardt, we cannot recall any prominent scholar east of the Rhine
capable of teaching it. Dr. Nettlau's knowledge must in large part have been
gained by his own individual initiative. That his opportunities of acquaintance
with the language as actually spoken have hitherto been small, goes without
saying, but he is yet young, and if he decides to continue this special line
of investigation, which we hope he will not abandon, he has ample time to
overcome this difficulty.
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As far as written Welsh goes, Dr. Nettlau has certainly made very full use of
his opportunities. His catalogue of texts which he has consulted in the
British Museum, the Bodleian, and elsewhere, occupies twenty-three pages of
his Einleitung, and comprises, besides an apparently complete list of extant
grammars and dictionaries, a large and miscellaneous collection of MSS. and
printed books and periodicals, ranging from the Red Book of Hergest to Y Genedl
The author's opening remarks on the chief dialectal divisions of Wales fairly
represent the current state of our kno\vledge of the subject:
"Rhys suchte in Celtic Britain, 1882 auch die geschichte des eindringens
einer brythonischen sprache in Wales näher zu bestimmen; er nimmt, auf
grundlage der jetzt für goidhelisch geltenden oghaminschriften u. a. an, dass
bis in's 7. jarh. "or somewhat later" in den nordwestl. und
südwestl. teilen von Wales eine goidhelische sprache existirte, die von der
brythonischen sprache der Ordovices verdrängt wurde; dise wanderten in Powys
ein und brythonisirten im süden die Siluren und Demetae, im norden die Venedotier
und bewoner von Anglesey. er kommt zum resultat: to this (disen
feststellungen) its (des c) four chief dialects still correspond, being those
resp. of Powys, Gwent or Siluria, Dyved, Gwynedd. wenn der historische beweis
diser verbreitung des cymr. gelungen ist, erhält die cymr. dialektforschung
eine sichere grundlage, denn dise 4 dialekte, von denen die 2 nördl. und
südl. zusammengehören, werden seit jeher unterschiden. die älteste erwähnung
von localen verschidenheiten der cymr. sprache findet sich bei Giraldus
Cambrensis und enthält eine charakteristik des nordc. und demet. vgl.
descriptio Cambriae I, 6: Notandum est quia in Nortwallia lingua Britannica
delicatior, ornatior et laudabilior, quanto alienigenis terra illa
impermixtior, esse perhibetur. Kereticam tamen in Sudwallia rcgionem tanquam
in medio Kambriae ac meditullio sitam, lingua praecipua uti et (v. 1. et
etiam) laudatissima plerique testantur (Rolls edit. 0, 177)."
From the " Introduction" Dr. Nettlau plunges at once into the
subject of the treatment of the vowels aud diphthongs, and discusses, with ample exemplification, the changes
to which they are found subject in Welsh in the
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remaiuing forty-seven pages of his dissertation. To enter at all fully into
the subject-matter of these pages would far transcend our limits. We will
content ourselves with quoting a few passages mainly indicative of the minute
care with which the author has pursued it. For example, we fìnd on p. 40
"§37. tra und pan: Jes. Coll. 141 a thre barhaocld y gyngrair 23a, a
thre ytoedd Agamenion yn meddylîao 22a; Gr. Roberts, gr. (129) pen; R. S. pen
fo rhaid, Ajb; 14986, 20a pen, 31058, 7a pen; in den jetzigen dialekten: Arw.
(1) 17, 7, 56 u. o., 0. T. 26 etc— in 14973, 17. jarh., Araith Gwgan: neg ef
105b; fal und fel (wie) sind wol auch hierher zu stellen."
The following note on p. 63 deserves quotation:
"Rowlands, exercises, 1870, 163 gibt an: tranoeth, vulgo tranwaeth; hier
scheint, da noeth neben nos nur hier erscheint und die bedeutung, am
folgenden tage' das wort, nacht' ganz zurückgedrängt hat, -waith, gwaith wie
in eilwaith, ein anderes mal, noswaith, eines nachts an stelle von noeth
getreten zu sein, wenn die angabe überhaupt richtig ist. eine änliche
neubildung könnte in deuwedd vorligen: Davies lex. hat deuoedd, vulgo deuwedd
(beide), vgl. C. y C. (2) hwy aethant eill dauwedd (ylldau) 70; hefo ni 'll
dwadd, Carn. Arw. (1) 23, 10. 56; yll dywadd u. s. w.), indem der nur in
diser verbindung auftretende plural auf -oedd von dau (2) durch anlenung an
gwedd (yoke; team) verdrängt zu sein scheint."
And the author has, it seems to us, given expression to very sound views in
the following (p. 64):
"Y Tr. (3) 3, 7 wird unter Südw. betreffenden dialekt. angaben rhagreithiwr
(für rhagrithiwr) und weineb für wyneb angegeben. ersteres (hypocrite) ist an
rhagraith (deliberation) angelent worden? weineb kommt in Gw. J. (4) in Sal.
N. T. (5) merfach vor: ac weyneb gantho mal wyneb duyn 378a, y weyneb ef
399a, o wrthweyneb 392a, a gwrthweynebe yr ddayar ib.; daneben wyneb; sonst
ist wymed, wmed (schon in 14921, 16. j.) in Südw. nachzuweisen. über wyneb,
gwyneb s. Rhys, R. C. (6) VI, t-praet. 6; ac. let-einepp M. Cap.
(1) Yr Arweinydd.
(2) Cannwyll y Cymry.
(3) Y Traethodydd.
(4) Gweledigaeth Ieuan.
(5) Salesbury's New Test.
(6) Revue Celligue.
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ìst in weyneb, *gwo-einep enthalten.— Sweet 437 hat: kneithar = cefnither
(cyfnither, Sp.), cousine, also cyf neither voraussetzend; (abr. comnidder KZ
(l) 26, 436); nith entstand wie llith aus lectio; aber brith m., braith f.
(=ir brecht): *brecto- *brectä > *bryith *breith- > brith, braith;
danach wären *lyith- *nyith- als vorstufen von llith, nith anzunemen. corn.
noi, noit (vocab.) scheint einem c. nai *naith (*neith) zu entsprechen, das
in cnaythar, cyfneither enthalten wäre. ob naith nach nai umgestaltet oder ob
bestimmte verhältnisse der folgenden silbe, wie sie doch brith und braith
herbeifürten, beide formen erzeugten, ist einstweilen nicht zu
One more quotation, in reference to the treatment of the diphthongs ei, eu,
we may permit ourselves (p. 67):
"aus den jetzigen dialekten vgl. demet. S. C. (2) cisho, 1, '238; 2,
104, dwy g'inog 1, 372, 373, cinog 1, 449 gwinidogion 3, 448, whechinog, 3,
525 etc.: gwent. Aberdare, Gw. (3) y gwithwrs 19, 2, 59, cydwithwrs 19, 2, 59
etc.; whedlya (14921, 45b; ib. chwedlya 43b) ist weleia Bed. (4) 8. 147 (aus
wheddl-) wleua Y Gen. (5) 3, 19 und wlya T. a'r G., (6) 1856, 94 in den
jetzigen gwent. dialekten, chwedleua in der schriftsprache."
We trust that Dr. Nettlau's publications will have the effect of stimulating
those of our countrymen who take an interest in the scientific study of their
languagc to a more active participation in the work of promoting it than has been
observable of late years. There have been, we admit, ample excuses for
backwardness. The indifference to Celtic philology which has characterised
the English Universities has been reflected upon our own country, which until
recently had no intellectual centres of its own in which linguistic studies
might be fostered, or from which they might be profitably directed. The
leisured classes among us have been foolishly brought up to ignore and
disclaim the Welsh tongue, while the poorer classes have had the scantiest
opportunity of obtaining the necessary preparatory
(1) Kühn's Zeitschrift.
(2) Seren Cymru.
(3) Y Gweithiwr.
(4) Y Bedyddiwr.
(5) Y Genedl
(6) Y Tywysydd a’r Gymraes.
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training for its study. The schools have treated Welsh as non-existent, and
linguistic publication lias languished for want of a public prepared to
receive it. All honour to such men as Silvan Evans, who have worked on in
solitude under difficulties that would have broken down less resolute natures!
We have now, happily, centres of intellectual life in all three divisions of
Wales, and we hope to see them ere long centres of active interest in the
scientific study of Welsh. The students of Bangor, we are glad to learn, have
led the way by the formation of a North-Welsh Dialect Society, and we trust
that their example will be followed by their compeers in South and Central
Wales. It can be given to but few to become philologists in the sense in
which Professor Rhys or Dr. Nettlau is a philologist. For such work a
training is needed which is still beyond the reach of most Welsh students;
but every educated Welsh-speaking man resident in Wales may contribute a
stock of facts on dialectal points for which philology will be exceedingly grateful.
If a hundred such men, scattered about Wales, were to set themselves
faithfully and literally to record the words, phrases, grammatical forms, and
peculiarities of abbreviation and pronunciation which distinguish the common
talk of their district from that of its neighbours, Welsh philology would be
able to take at once such a spring forward as has been beyond its power for
many years. We shall look with interest on the result of the Bangor experiment.