Fronting

Unless I indicate otherwise, all these examples are taken from Gareth King’s Intermediate Welsh (London: Routledge, 1996). The analyses are mine, as are the errors.

I don’t think I ever mastered the word mai, and reading up on it, I think it’s because I never mastered changes of word order. The verb doesn’t have to go first in the sentence. Take the title of Menna Elfyn’s Ibsen translation Y Fenyw Ddaeth o’r Môr, where the NP, ‘the woman’, comes before the dependent form of the verb, ddaeth not daeth. The opening stage directions have lots of PPs before the independent form of the verb, like this:

  • Ar y chwith mae feranda dan do llydan. ‘On the left there is a veranda under a broad roof.’
  • Yn y tu blaen, ac o gwmpas y tŷ, mae gardd. ‘In front, around the house, is a garden.’
  • Islaw’r feranda, mae polyn baner. ‘Below the veranda, there is a flagpole’.

and so on. Now ordinary subordinate clauses, which I did get the hang of, look like this:

Dw i'n meddwl          fod                  Ron yn dod yfory
------ --- --- -------------
S[n]/NP/S[sub] S[sub]/S[asp]/NP/NP NP S[asp]/NP

which is the same as a declarative clause, except it can be an argument to meddwl or credu or another verb of thinking, feeling and so on. But what if we’re emphasizing Ron? Then we have the word mai before Ron before the dependent form of mae, which in this case is sy. So how do we handle this? There is a back door in CCG which is the unary type-changing rule. It’s not the done thing, but if I gather examples of them hopefully someone who understands these things better can refactor the grammar into a cleverer shape. Here are three type-changing rules, which add a feature FRONTED:

  • S[dep]/NP → S[dcl, +FRONTED]\NP (blocked for mae)
  • S[dep]/NP → S[dcl, +FRONTED]\S[n]/NP (not blocked for mae). Example: Gwaethygu mae’r sefyllfa yn Ne Ewrop.
  • PP → S[+FRONTED]/S. Example: Menna Elfyn’s scene setting above.

The idea here is that mai (and its South Walian counterpart taw) has the type S[sub]/S[dcl, +FRONTED], which is to say that it only takes a declarative clause if there’s something in front of the verb.

That feels as if I’ve learnt something.

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