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|Era||Approached Modern Welsh by about the 15th century|
Middle Welsh (Welsh: Cymraeg Canol) is the label attached to the Welsh language of the 12th to 15th centuries, of which much more remains than for any earlier period. This form of Welsh developed from Old Welsh.
Literature and history
Middle Welsh is the language of nearly all surviving early manuscripts of the Mabinogion, although the tales themselves are certainly much older. It is also the language of most of the manuscripts of Welsh law. Middle Welsh is reasonably intelligible, albeit with some work, to a modern-day Welsh speaker.
The phonology of Middle Welsh is quite similar to that of modern Welsh, with only a few differences (Evans 1964). The letter u, which today represents /ɨ/ in North Western Welsh dialects and /i/ in South Welsh and North East Welsh dialects, represented the close central rounded vowel /ʉ/ in Middle Welsh. The diphthong aw is found in unstressed final syllables in Middle Welsh, while in Modern Welsh it has become o (e.g. Middle Welsh marchawc = Modern Welsh marchog "horseman"). Similarly, the Middle Welsh diphthongs ei and eu have become ai and au in final syllables, e.g. Middle Welsh seith = modern saith "seven", Middle Welsh heul = modern haul "sun".
The orthography of Middle Welsh was not standardised, and there is great variation between manuscripts in how certain sounds are spelled. Some generalisations of differences between Middle Welsh spelling and Modern Welsh spelling can be made (Evans 1964). For example, the possessive adjectives ei "his, her", eu "their" and the preposition i "to" are very commonly spelled y in Middle Welsh, and are thus spelt the same as the definite article y and the indirect relative particle y. A phrase such as y gath is therefore ambiguous in Middle Welsh between the meaning "the cat" (spelt the same in Modern Welsh), the meaning "his cat" (modern ei gath), and the meaning "to a cat" (modern i gath). The voiced stop consonants /d ɡ/ are represented by the letters t c at the end of a word, e.g. diffryt "protection" (modern diffryd), redec "running" (modern rhedeg). The sound /k/ is very often spelled k before the vowels e i y (in Modern Welsh, it is always spelt c, e.g. Middle Welsh keivyn = modern ceifn "third cousin"). The sound /v/ is usually spelt u or v, except at the end of a word, where it is spelt f (in Modern Welsh, it is always spelt f, e.g. Middle Welsh auall = modern afall "apple tree"). The sound /ð/ is usually spelt d (in Modern Welsh, it is spelt dd, e.g. Middle Welsh dyd = modern dydd "day"). The sound /r̥/ is spelt r and is thus not distinguished from /r/ (in Modern Welsh, they are distinguished as rh and r respectively, e.g. Middle Welsh redec "running" vs. modern rhedeg).
Present Indicative Active
|caru, "to love"|
|He, she, it||car|
Present Indicative Active
|bot, "to be"|
|He, she, it||yw, ys, yssyd|
- Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, the standard historical Welsh dictionary
- Medieval Welsh literature, Book of Llandaff, Mabinogion, Welsh law
- Welsh orthography
- Evans, D. Simon (1964). A Grammar of Middle Welsh. Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. ISBN 1-85500-000-8.
- Strachan, John (1909). An Introduction to Early Welsh. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
|For a list of words relating to Middle Welsh, see the Middle Welsh language category of words in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|