Adolygiad Llyfr/Book Review
gan/by Thomas W. Powell

Tom Powell has attended many Cymdeithas Madog Welsh courses over the years. As a Welsh language learner, he gives us his review of a Welsh dictionary for learners.

Nol I Dudalen Gartref Adolygiadau Llyfrau

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Teach Yourself Welsh Dictionary
Edwin C. Lewis, Hodder and Stoughton, 1992
ISBN 0 340 57212 4

Several features of Welsh grammar make the use of most Welsh-English dictionaries difficult for those who are beginning to study the language (see Alun Hughes's article entitled How to Find Words in a Welsh Dictionary). The newly published Teach Yourself Welsh Dictionary, however, makes it easier for the learner to begin reading and writing the language, and is a welcome addition to the learner's bookshelf. This dictionary was designed specifically with the special needs of the learner in mind, and contains many features that set it apart from other Welsh reference books.

The first feature that differentiates this work from others is the inclusion of mutated forms of nouns, verb-nouns, adjectivies, and prepositions in the Welsh-English portion of the dictionary. This feature is especially useful in the case of the soft mutation, which may result in potentially ambiguous forms. For example, if one encounters 'fwyd' or 'fwyn' in the text, the dicitonary will refer the user to the appropriate radical forms (i.e., 'bwyd' - 'food' and 'mwyn' - 'mineral'). Similarly, the entry for 'lan' refers the reader to either 'glan' - 'shore' or 'llan' - 'parish.' Common examples of aspiration (the insertion of 'h') before vowels at the beginning of words are also included (e.g., 'hugain' from 'ugain' - 'twenty').

Irregular plurals, too, are included as separate entries. Thus, the beginner who looks up the word 'cwn' - 'dogs' is referred to the singular form, 'ci.' Beginners will find this a useful feature as they encounter irregular plural forms in their readings.

Entries for verb-nouns include the first person singular of the short form present tense (e.g., 'canaf' form 'canu' - 'to sing'). Given this information, the learner can deduce the stem 'can-' for other conjugation patterns. Also included with many verb-nouns are idiomatic forms employing prepositions. For example, the entry for 'anfon' - 'to send' notes that the preposition 'i' is used following this verb-noun if a place is specified, and the preposition 'at' is used if a person is specified.

Finally, use of the Welsh-English portion of the dictionary is facilitated by the inclusion of the Welsh alphabet along the top of most pages. This helps the learner to remember, for example, that 'ng' follows 'g' in the Welsh alphabet, rather than 'n'.

The English-Welsh section also includes several features that will be useful to the learner. The most important of these is the gender information that follows the Welsh equivalents for English nouns. No longer is it necessary for one to flip back to the Welsh-English section to ascertain that 'ci' - 'dog' is masuline and 'cath' - 'cat' is feminine. Unfortunately, the author did not include irregular plural forms or information regarding colloquial use of prepositions following verb-nouns in the English-Welsh section. Thus, a certain amount of flipping will still be necessary when one attempts to write in Welsh. The learner may find it useful to pencil in such forms as they are encountered.

The Teach Yourself Welsh Dictionary reportedly includes 16,000 head-words. The coverage appears adequate for most users' needs, though reference to a more comprehensive dictionary such as Y Geiriadur Mawr will be necessary for words that are used infrequently and for archaic forms. A spot check of the Teach Yourself Welsh Dictionary revealed entries for an impressive array of contemporary words such as 'photocopier,' 'microwave,' 'computer,' and 'microchip.'

The dictionary also includes a useful supplement that summarizes major features of Welsh grammar including conjugation patterns for regular and irregular verbs (i.e., cael, dod, gwneud, gwybod, mynd, rhoi/rhoddi, troi). The forms emphasized are those of Cymraeg Byw (e.g., 'rydw i'), although literary (e.g., 'yr wyf i') and conversational forms (e.g., 'rw i') are also described in passing. Prepositions, personal pronouns and comparative forms of adjectives (i.e., positive, equative, comparative and superlative) are also outlined. Finally, the mutation system is briefly summarized with examples of the most common constructions that trigger the soft, nasal and aspirate mutations.

In general, the quality of this work appears to be very high. A few errors and omissions were noted, however. For example, the nasal mutation was once translated as 'treiglad llaes' rather than 'treiglad trwynol' (p. 255). One might also question the widespread use of abbreviations of Welsh grammatical terms in a dictionary designed for learneners. Initially, users may find themselves flipping to the table of abbreviations to determine that 'e.ll.' refers to a plural noun and 'ardd.' to a preposition. With repeated use, however, the learner will soon internalize these forms, which will facilitate the transition to standard Welsh dictionaries.

Draig Cymdeithas Madog

© Cymdeithas Madog
08 Rhagfyr/December 2000

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