"Beth dych chi'n gallu wneud?"
Translation:What are you able to do?
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I'm having difficulty getting my head around this common Welsh construction: 'what are you able to his do it'. Is there a simple way of remembering where to use it. and hence the mutation. and where not to? At present I am not thinking quickly enough to produce the correct result.
Is it helpful sometimes to start by learning 'this is what you say in this context', rather than learning the grammatical explanation first? It helped me with this construction, I found: I was puzzled by the explanations - such as on this page - for a long time, but 'parking' the 'working it out' part of my brain seemed to let get used to the contexts, and then the explanation became clearer when I returned to it.
Pob lwc, beth bynnag!
Yes, it's probably the best way if you have the luxury of total immersion. It's the way kids learn, and it's the way many people find easiest. As you say, it is not for everyone. But the logical problem here is that anyone who is reading this discussion thread is, by definition, looking for an explanation. If you don't want an explanation, then no one is even making you open this page - and if you do open it, you can leave as soon as you see what we are discussing. So by continuing to read this thread you are effectively condoning the discussion of the explanation.
This sentence is more complicated than it looks, because it has two components that look like they ought to be subjects for the verb to be. The first one is “Beth” (“Which thing”), and the second one is “chi” (“you”). But there's only one occurrance of the verb “to be”, and it's in the form (“dych”) that goes with “chi”.
So how have we avoided having a form of “to be” that fits with the “Beth”? It's an identification sentence — asking about the identity of the ‘thing that you're able to do’ — which would require an “ydy” or a “yw” if the sentence were simple.
In English, we could restore the ‘missing’ “to be” by rewriting the sentence as “Which thing is it that you are able to do?”. Now we have a sentence with a parent clause joined by a “that” on to its subordinate clause, and an object, “it”. Presumably the “ei…(o)” in mizinamo's comment above is the result of this “it” becoming an object of “gwneud” under whatever rule is being used in Welsh to join the subordinate clause to its parent.
Until we have an explanation of what is going on we cannot say for certain how we should parse this sentence, but I do not see the need for a relative clause and a presumed second verb in order to analyse this sentence. The English sentence certain does not have a relative clause. What is simply the object of the verb do. We could say
You are able to do what?
and we would be able to be understood. The question word has been brought to the front (to show it is a question) and this has caused the verb (are) to stay in second position in a phenomenon known as V2, where verbs are magnetically drawn to the second position in the sentence, resulting in an OVS word order.
What I think is happening in the Welsh, subject to confirmation, is that the beth has moved to the front, for the same reason as in English, but this has not moved the verb as Welsh is not a V2 language. But what has happened is that Welsh is uncomfortable with the object so far out of place and has put in the the ei as a sort of cross-reference in the place where you would expect the object, meaning 'see the beginning to find the object'. The reason it is an possessive is that the object of a verb-noun is always a possessive. The only reason we are not generally aware of this in Welsh is that with Welsh nouns, possessives are not marked in any way – y gath can equally mean the cat and the cat's. However, possessive are marked in Gaelic, so it is easy to see that the object of a verb-noun is a possessive
Tha mi a' faicinn a' chait
Dwi'n gweld y gath
I am [at] seeing the cat's or
I am [at] the cat's seeing
With a pronoun for the cat, this becomes
Tha mi ga fhaicinn
Dwi'n ei gweld [hi]
I am [at] its seeing
and now – only now – is it clear that a possessive is being used in the Welsh.
In another discussion, we see the same phenomenon in an assertion, rather than in a question. In that other discussion Ibisc explains that “Dyma beth dw i'n gallu wneud” is the outcome of eliding the ”ei” in “Dyma beth [masculine] dw i'n gallu ei weud” — in which we can see two ‘half-assertions’ that would make sense as two sequential sentences: (1) “This is a thing” & (2) “I can do it”; and from what I've read elsewhere, Welsh subordinate clauses are sometimes (not always!) formed this way. The “it” is a pronoun referring back to the “thing”, and it's the object of “do”. (And, as you've explained, Welsh verbnoun objects are possessives, visibly so when they're pronouns.)
My guess is that the question that's being discussed here is constructed so as to be consistent with how the speaker would assert it if [s]he already knew the answer.