Breton Granunar

Roparz Hemon

Translated, adapted, and revised by

Michael Everson

o (;I!·E\r~-Lltl·


o 1~·lfl .. ~/';": I'/;i}! "C:t"EIi

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GwenedlV anneS-. Gwenedegl Yalt.ltetais '. 0.1,./ CpIX' (;"'.


Breton Granunar

Second English-language Edition

Translated, adapted, and revised by

Michael Everson

a ~



iv • Breton Granunar

Trugmu.' da Alan Susel! evil bez'afi mel dill ar e'hoan: da zesJdft brez/lOneg.

Published by Evertype, Cnoc na Sceiche, Leac an Anfa, Cathair na Mart, Co. Mhaigh Eo, Eire. www.evert(

© 1985 AI Liamm.

English translation © 1995-2007 Michael Everson.

Second edition 2007.

All rights reserved. No pan of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwisey wirhout the prior permission in writing of the Publisher, or as expressly permitted by law, or under terms agreed with the appropriate reprographics rights organization.

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

ISBN·IO 1-904808-11-5 ISBN-13978-1-904808-11-4

Typeset in Baskerville by Michael Everson.

Cover design by Michael Everson. The text is taken from Gaouan hag an Den Guie: by Roparz Hernon (An Here 1988).

Printed and bound by LightningSource.

Breton Granunar • v


Contents v

Introduction ix

The Mutations I

Defective mutations. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . .. . 3

Mutations in compound words 6

Special mutations " .. . . . . .. . 9

Obstacles to the mutations . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

The Article. . . . . . . . . 1 I

Use of the definite article 1 I

The definite article before proper names 1'2

Use of the indefinite article .. : 13

The Noun 14

Gender. . . . . . . . .. . .. .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . .. . 14

Singular and plural 15

Collective and singulative 16

The dual 16

Double plurals ..................•........................... 16

The genitive 17

The Personal Pronoun .. 18

Use of the personal pronOllll 19

The Qualifying Adjective 22

Degrees of comparison 22

The exclamative 24

The diminutive 24

se of the qualifying adjective 24

The Possessive 26

The Dernonarr-arive 28

The 3()

The 31

The Indefinite. . .. . . . . . .. . 3'2

Some 32

All 33

. lone 34

Other 34

Same 35

Such '" 35

One 3S

vi • Breton Granunar

The Numerals 36

Cardinal and ordinal numerals 36

Other numerals 38

The Verb.... . 40

Conjugation 40

A regular verb: Sknoaii ·······.······· 41

Irregular verbs: Be<.'aii. · ········· 42

Endeoout 43

Gouzou), . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44

Moni 45

Ober ...........•........................ 46

The verbal noun ....................•.................... 47

The present participle 47

The compound tenses and auxiliaries 48

The habitual tenses 49

The locative tenses 49

The conditional 50

The subjunctive 50

Remarks OIl the irregular verbs 50

The passive 52

The impersonal 52

Anomalies 53

The reflexive verb 53

The verb and its subject. . . . .. .. .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . .. . 53

The verbal particles 53

Negation 55

The Adverb , 57

The Preposition 58

Table of the prepositions 60

The Conjunction 63

Syntax 65

'Nord order 65

Interrogation 65

The relative 65

Breton GraID.mar • vii

The Pronunciation of Breton 67

General. . . . 67

Graphic representation : : : : : : : : : : : : : : : 68

~:~~:::.' . • : • • • • . : ••.• : . : : • . • : • : •• : • : • : •.. : .•.•. ;:

Quality.. . . . . . . . .. . .. . .. . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . 75

a al vowels : : : : : : : : : : : 76

From spelling to pronunciation 77

Modification of ounds 79

Los of sounds 80

Stress accent 82

Stress in the isolated word.. . 82

Stress in hyphenated words. . 34

Phrase stress .....

........................................ 84

Sentence stress 85

lntonation 86

Bibliography 87

Breto.n Granunar • ix


The first English-language edition of thi Breton. Grammar was published in 1995. The book is for the most part a straightforward translation of the ninth edition of Roparz Hemon's Grammaire bretouns. In preparing the rranslation, a number of sections in [he grammar were changed for the benefit of the English-speaking reader. Marry, but nor all, of these addition may be found in the notes to the various sections.

Some of these differences are terminological. For instance the term "conjugated preposition" has been preferred to "prepositional pronoun" and 'verbal noun" to "infinitive". The verbal and prepositional. paradigms have been reorganized and altered to make them clearer; in the table following § 186, for example, the delineation of the prepositional conjugations in Kervella (1976) has been followed.

More substantially much of the section on the pronunciation of Breton, especially the phonology, has been revised in response to the needs of the English-speakingre(lder. In restructuring the detailed analysis of Breton phonology, particularly that of the vowel sy tern, synthesis has been made of the best of Jackson (1957), Kervella (1975) Trepo (1980) Favereau (1992)' Lagadeg and Menard (J 995) has been indispensible. For the difficult question of th consonants, see the .ote to §219. The International Phonetic Alphabet is used quite strictly throughout this book. A this is a tea hing as well as a reference grammar, the spirit of Hernon's remarks in §§205 09 has been followed in standardizing the description and transcriptions. Iris hoped that the reader first learning Breton will be served by such standardization in preparation for encountering real Breton dialects.

The reader is asked to note the use of -z'- in this book to indicate the orthographic -z- that is not pronounced in many areas (see §224) and to note that some Gwenedeg pronunciations are indicated (e.g. Igwi:lfl/lJqi:lrl; see §208).

A bibliography has been added at the end of the book.

Thanks are due [Q Ronan Huon for his penni sion to publish this work in 1995, and [Q Henry Leperlier and Jean-Ivlichel Picard, for their assistance in its preparation. 1 am also indebted to Maurice Jouanno, who spent many hours with me discussing Breton dialects, and to Albert Bock, who provided some splendid notes as I was preparing til second edition. I am particularly grateful to Per Denez and to my friend and colleague [\i holas Williams, both of whom read the whole manuscript and made many valuable suggestions.

Michael Eveeson Westport 2007

The Mutations· 1


1. In Breton, the initial con .onanr of a word can change. Examples: tad 'father' va zad 'my father'; da dad 'your father' ..

Only eight consonants are affected by these mutations:

• the three voiceless stops: k, t, p;

• the four voiced stops: g, gw d, b;

• one na al: Ill.

2. The mutations are divided into four groups:


glin 'knee dant'tooth' breur 'brother'

ho klin 'your knee' ho tant 'your tooth

ho preur 'your brother'


kador 'chair' tal 'forehead' penn 'head'

va c'hador 'my chair' va zal 'my forehead' va fenn my head


kador 'chair' tal 'forehead ' penn 'bead

glin 'knee' gwele 'bed

dant 'tooth' breur brother' marnrn mother'

da gador 'your chair' da dal 'your forehead' dabenn 'your head' da c'hlin 'your knee' da wele 'your kn e' da zant your tooth

da vreur 'your brother' da vanun 'your mother'


gortoz 'wait for' gwelout'see' dont 'come' bevaii live lIlont 'CTo'

o c'hortoz 'waiting'

o welout 'seeing'

o to.nt 'coming

o vevai'i 'Iivinz'

o vont 'going'

2· Breton. Granunar

Note: With regard to the soft and mixed mutations, note that the words beginning with gw- are treated differently from those beginning with g-.

Words beginning with gou- followed by a vowel can be included in the same group as words beginning with gw-; for example, gouelan 'cry', 0 ouelaii. 'crying'. But this rule is not absolute, as in gouam 'govern', where 0 c'houam 'governing' is generally found.

3. The hard mutation (Group I) occurs after the following words:

az", ez", 'z' 'you (thee)' ez 'in your (in thy)' da'z' 'to your (to thy), ho 'your'

4. The spirant mutation (Group II) occurs after the following words:

he 'her' nav'nine' o 'their'

peder 'four' (iem.)

pevar 'four' (masc.) teir 'three' (fem.) tri 'three' (masc.) va 'my'

Note I: A consonant involving a How of breath is called spirant or continuant. Hence the name spirant mutation.where a plosive or stop consonant, such as /-, is transformed into a spirant or continuant.

Note II· The spirant mutation does not always occur after the numerals 11'i, lei!' 'three', pevar, peder 'four', and nau 'nine'. Indeed it is hardly met with outside the written language. The spoken language employs the soft mutation, as indicated in the following table:

kador 'chair'

11'0 'turn, circuit' penn 'head'

written language leir c'hador

teir ;;'1"0


spoken language teir gador

teir dro

In benn

5. The soft mutation (Group III) occurs after the following words:

a verbal particle a 'of, from'

aha 'since'

da 'at, to, for'

en ur 'while, by' ez' verbal particle hanter 'half' hoU 'all'

The Mutations • 3

da 'your (thy)' daou 'two' (masc.) dindan 'under' div 'two (fem.)

diwar 'from, because or dee 'through, across'

e 'his'

erne 'says said' endrawhile'

en. ent reflexive particle

na negative particle ne negative particle pa 'when, as; if

pe 'or'

pe 'what?'

ra verbal particle re'too'

re 'those, ones' seul 'all the more' tra. 'while, whereas' war 'on'

Note: On occasion the expected mutation fails to Occur after certain of these words, namely: dindan 'under', duoa« 'from', e;;.'verbal particle, pe 'or', uiar 'on'.

6. The mixed mutation (Group IV) occurs after the following words:

e verbal particle

rna 'if (conjunction) o verbal particle


7. Some words are followed by defective or incomplete mutations. They can be divided into four groups.

8. The first of these groups includes the words arn, ent,'nt 'me', ent 'in my', and da'rn 'to my'. They cause the spirant mutation of k- and of t-:

kaxnbr'room' ti 'house'

ern c'bantbr 'in my room' em zi 'in my house'

9. The second of these groups includes the definite article, the indefinite article, and the word hor 'our' After the definite article ar the' and the indefinite articleur 'a, an', the initial k- of certain nouns becomes c'b- ..

kastell 'castle' kazeg 'horse'

ar c'bastell 'the castle' ar c'bazeg 'the horse'

4 • Breton Granunar

The nouns affected are masculine singular nouns, and also plural nouns of either gender, with the exception of masculine nouns designating people.

Note: It is important to note that the k- > e'h- rule applies to all singular masculine nouns whether they designate persons, animals, or things: kendero 'cousin', ar c'hendem 'the cousin'; kilhog 'cock, rooster', ur c'hilhog 'a cock, a rooster'; kiln 'car', ar c'harr 'the car',

In the plural, it applies to all nouns except masculines designating people: kilheien 'cocks, roosters', ar c'hilheien 'the cocks, the roo ters'; klrri 'cars' ar c'hirri 'the cars'; keniuroezed 'female cousins', ar c lzenitelvezcd 'the female cousins',

After hor an initial k- is always mutated to c'h-:

karr 'car' kirri 'cars' klevout 'hear'

hor c'harr 'our cal" hor c'hirri 'our cars' hor c'hlevout 'hear us'

10. The third group includes both the definite and the indefinite article.

After the definite article ar or an 'the and the indefinite article ur or un 'a an', noun are subject to th oft mutation xcept those which begin with d-:

kador 'chair'

taol table'

paner 'basket' gavr'goat'

gwern 'mast' bleunienn 'flower' manun 'mother

ar gador 'the chair'

an daol 'the table'

ar baner 'the basket' ur c'havr 'a goat'

ur wern 'a mast' urvleumenn 'a Hower ur vanun 'a mother

This rule applies to almost all singular feminine nouns, such as the nouns in the table above' it also applies to plural masculine nouns designating people:

kige.rien 'butchers'

rod 'people pesketaerien 'fishermen' Gallaoued 'Frenchmen' gwerzherien ' .ellers' breudeur 'brothers' nUstri 'masters'

ar gigerien an dud

ar besketaerien ar C'hallaoued ar werzherien ar vreudeur

ar vistri

The Mutations· 5 The n~uns of this category (that is singular feminine nouns and plural mas ubne nouns designating people) in tum mutate their adjective, provided that these nouns end in a vowel, or in -I, -m, -n, or -r:

kaer 'b autiful' tev thick' paour 'poor' glas 'blue' gwenn 'white' brudet 'famous' mat 'good'

ur gador gaer 'a beautiful hair' ur wern dev 'a thick mast'

ur vanun baour 'a poor mother' ar baner c'hlas the blue basket

ar vleunienn wenn the white flower tnistri. vrudet 'famous masters' breudeurvat 'good brothers'

I L Adjectives which follow nouns ending in a consonant other than -I,. -m, -n, or -r are also subject to the soft mutation; but only those adjectives which begin with g-, gw- b-, and IU- (see § (3), The e are cla sed in a fourth group:

glas blue' gwenn 'white brudet 'famous' mat 'good'

ur voest c'hlas a blue box'

ar gazeg wenn 'the white mare' rod vrudet 'famous people'

ur vaouez vat 'a good woman'

Note I: Past participle, after a noun, act like adjectives. Brudet 'famous, reknowned' is in fact the past participle of the verb bmdaii celebrate'; in the preceding examples it bas therefore been included among the adjectives.

Note IE Similarly, when a noun follows another noun, actina- as an adjective, it is treated as a real adjective: koad 'wood' un daol ~oad 'a " o~den table'; Bl'eizh 'Brittany', tud Vrei-/Z 'the Breton people'.

Note Ill- vVben a noun is followed by a number of adjectives, ~enerally peaking it is only the fir t adjective is subject to mutation (if It can be mutated). One says ur toenn kaer 'a beautiful white mare'; but one can also say !II' ga<;eg toenn gaer. It is important to note that after the conjunction lia 'and' no mutation Occurs: ur ga;:,eg toenn ha kaer 'a white and beautiful mare'.

Note IV' Let us Suppose that a noun instead of beinz followed is

preceded by an adjective. .'"

In this ca e th noun may be subject to mutation. This will be an inc?l11plete mutation of the third type if the adjective ends in a touel; or in -4 -m; -11, or -r: ben 'short', k01l1Zou 'words', e berr gom;::ott in few words'.

6 • Breton Granunar

It will be an incomplete mutation of the fourth type if the adjective ends in a consonant other than -/, -m, -n or -1": bri;dl 'bad' (when preceding a noun), bredwneg Breton, bri;:h ure;choneg 'bad Breton'.

But the adjective al 0 can be subject to mutation. If it is preceded by an article it will be subject to the mutation as if it were an integral part of the noun. Thus, alllzer 'weather' is feminine. The adjective gwall 'bad' must precede it. One sayar wall amzer 'lie bad weather', for gt aLL amrer is considered as forming a whole in this case a feminine singular noun. It is because of this thatgwallamzeris sometimes written as a single word.

Ti 'house' is masculine. The adjective kodi 'old' before a noun means 'bad'; kozh ti 'bad house'; ti is not subject to a mutation, ko;d! ending in a consonant other than -I, -m, -n, or -1~' but if the indefinite article is used, for example, one ays ur c'hodl ti 'an old house" k-is

ubject to mutation (§9) as if kozh Ii formed a whole.

Comparative and superlative adjectives, when they precede a noun, never cause it to mutate; but they are subject to mutation after the article: gwelLaii 'better', paoli' 'boy', maauez 'woman '; ar gweLlan paotr 'the better boy': the P: of pa.otr remains unchanged' ar wellan maoue; 'the better woman': the 111.- of maouer remain. unchanged, but the gw- in gwellan becomes w-, becau: e maoue; i feminine.


12. Many prefixe ca.use the root which follows them to be subject to the soft mutation (§2): tudaii 'populate', didudaii 'depopulate'.

Any word acting as a prefix also generally causes this mutation: rnorvleiz' shark' [rom rnor 'sea' and bleiz' 'wolf'.

Note: The question of mutations after prefixes is a complex one, which one cannot treat in an elementary work su h as this. Here, for reference, is a list of the most usual prefixes and the mutations which follow them:

AD indicates repetition; acts (or the most part only on b- and I/l-: broaii 'live', adoeuail 'live again'; moger 'wall', adooge: 'inner wail'; acts sometimes on s: and l!/J.!-: goulenn 'ask', ode haulenn. or adgoulenn 'ask again'; gwelout 'see' adiuelout or adgwelout 'see again'.

AJ\.1, indicates a negation; generally softens: defeat acceptable', ameerea! 'improper.

AR variou sense' generally softens: glas 'blue, arc'hlas 'bluish.

The Mutations • 7

ARAll, other" generally soften: bro 'countrv' aralloro from

another country', ' ,

ARC'H, 'arch-'; does not cause mutation: beLeg 'priest', arc'hbelee

'archpriest'. . '"

A.(', indicates repetition; does not cause mutation: goulenn 'ask', asgoulenn 'ask again'.

DANI 'almo t'; generally of tens: dillor 'open', damrisor half-open'. DAS, DA.(', 'indicates repetition at intervals' doe. not cause mutation: 11'oc'hai'i 'cut', dastroc'hait interrupt'.

DE, indicates approach' always soften. : kas 'send' degas 'brine'.

Dl, privative; always sofiens; tamall 'reproach', didalll([1/ \~ithout reproach ..

DlNDA \I; 'under" generally softens: douar 'earth', dindanrouar underground' .

DIS, privative; may affect s: gul-, b-, and 111-: grad 'made', disc'ltrae; unmade, rumpled'; gzoe! 'seen', disi el or disg: el invisible'; boued 'food, disuoued 'starving.

DREIST 'beyond'; usually does not cause mutation; but may soften gt '~, b-, and /11-: gwe/ere;:)1 'viev " dreistuielere II or dreisigwelere-h ~double view'; bec'hiai; 'load, charge', dreisLvec'/Zimi 'overload, surcharge'; murui mea rure', dreisl1!lu;ul without measure'.

DROUK, 'bad'; usually softens g-, gw-, d-, b-, and m-: grae: 'made', droukc'hraet 'ill-made" gwiskaii ' lothe , drouk: iskan'd ck out, dres up'; diskred 'mistrust', droukrtskred 'eli .rrust'; berr]: success', droukoerrh 'failure'; meskait 'mix', droukueskni: 'confuse'.

ElL 'second'; generally does not cause mutation: but may affectgwand 111-: gouelll! 'race' eilouenn 'secondarv race' sou- beinv here assimilated to gw- (see ote to §2); maer 'ma),or'; eilv~e; 'deputy ;ayor'.

E.J\~ 'in; generally doe not cause mutation; but may affect 6'1.0-: gz adaii 'bleed' enuiadaii 'cover with blood'.

E.NEP, 'Collnter-'; generally does not cause mutation: but may affect

gl -: gwiriorlc;c 'truth, enepl 'll'ione-' or enepgtviriol1e 'untruth'. .

ETRE, 'inter-"; doe. not caus mutation: etreoroadel beside etrebroade! "international', from btoade! national' seems to be an exception.

FAL, 'false'; may affect g- !,'I. '-, d- b~, a.nd 111-: moneie' coin', falsuoneir' counterfeit coin'.

GOU, 'under, sub-" always soften.: penn 'head', goubenne« 'pillow'. GOUR, 'over, super-'; ometime softens: lad 'father', gourdad 'ancestor'; sometimes, and more correctly, cau .. es the .piranr mutation: kemenn inform', gourc'hemenn 'command'.

8 • Breton Granunar

HAIYTER, 'half, serni-' generally softens: digerin 'open', Izanl.erzigerin


HE indicate' an idea of ease, of possibility; generally softens: koll

'lose', he gall 'easy to lose'. .

IS, under'; does not cause mutation, but isuouezl: 'bass voice', from

mouesb 'voice', is found.

K4NlVI, 'crooked" generally softens: tro 'turn', kammdro 'detour'.

KE . indicates a reunion, a parallelism; almost alway. affects k-: kl1mnle~' 'love', kmgarall/ez 'liking, mutual love'; always affects 1-: lrec'hiii defeat'. kendrec'hii: 'convince; almost always affects p-: perc 'limn

. ~' 11'

'proprietor, kenberc'henn. 'co-propl;etor'; does not affect g-: ga , cau,

kcngalv mutual call'; sometimes affects~-: ~~d.'bl~od', ke:n~(ul, of the same blood" sometimes affects d-: diskibl disciple', kenriskibl fellow student'; always affects b- and 111-: breur 'brother', kenureur 'colleague'; milin mill' kenoilin. 'communal mill'.

KE.NT, 'pre-', may affect gw-, b-, and 111.-: broad inhabitant of a

country' kenturoad 'aboriginal'. .'

KIL 'behind'; softens, but with exception.: pleg 'fold', l.-zlbleg or kilpleg

'bend, detour'.

KRAK, pejorative and diminutive; may affect gw- b- and 111-: bevafi

'livelcral .... ueoai: 'live from hand to mouth.

. KREJI,W, 'small, middle(-sized),; generally softens: paotr 'boy',

krennbaotr 'adolescent'.

llES,'poJy-'; sometimes affects gw- and zn-: gwreg 'wife', lieswreg

'polygamist'; mouezk 'voice', liesuouezhiek: 'polyphonic'.

. b d l 'b '

Jt,EVEZ' new', generally soften g-, gw-, -, an m-: galle orn,

Ilroe<.'c'hanel 'newborn'.

PENN, 'principal'; generally softens: kadour warrior', pellngadour 'war


PEUR, indicates completion of all action, always softens: debrifj 'eat',

peuTzebri,1 'eat up'.

PEUZ, 'almost'; generally softens gw- b-, and m.-: mai» 'dead',

peusuaro 'n arly dead'. .,

RAK, 'before'; generally softens gw-, b-, and m-: bam Judgement,

rak .... uam 'prejudice'.

TREUZ 'through, trans- ; generally softens gw-, b-, and m-: gwelus

visible' lreu<.welus 'transparent'.

U r, 'uni- rnono-'; generally softens gc - b-, and In-: mouez]: 'voice

unuouezb. 'unison'.

UNflN, uni-, rnono-' generally softens: kom; 'speech', unangom«


The Mutations· 9

It is convenient to add that the numbers daou, div 'two', used as prefixes, cause the soft mutation. The numbers tri teir three', peoar, pede: four' anel1wv 'nine', used a prefixes cause the .pirant mutation.

13. In a very general way, it can be said that a word used as a prefix tends to cause the soft mutation. The mutation is universal if the word acting a prefix ends in a vowel, or in the onsonant -I, -rn, -n, or -r. If the prefixing word ends in another consonant, the mutation i often limited to g-, gw- b-, and rn-,


14. Plac'h 'gilT, tadou 'fathers, tesrou witne .ses', tudou 'p opl s", priedoia 'spouses' do not mutate after the article.

Note: Thus one say. urplac'k 'a girl'; but if this word is followed by an adjective, the ordinary rule of mutation (§ II) is followed relative to adjectives: urplac'h vat 'a good girl' from mat good'.

The same is not true of other nouns, tadou, leslozi, I.udou., and pnedou, which are plural rna . .ulines designating people. The adjective which follows them is not subject to mutation: l.adOll mal good fathers' .

15. Dor 'door' becomes nor after the article' rnein 'stone' sometime becomes vein after the article: an nor, ar vein.

16. Mad 'good, benefit' become' vad when it is a direct object of the verb ober 'do, make': an aer a ra vad d'ar yec'hed 'the air is good for the health'.

In the same onditions Illan 'semblance, pretence' becomes van: ober van pretend'.

17. The word bloaz' 'year' is subject to a spe ial mutation: after the numerals, except for ur 'one' tri three', pevar 'four', pernp 'five', and nav nine' it become vloaz': tregont vloaz' 'thirty year '.

The .ame mutation occurs after' pet 'how man. : pet vloaz'? 'how many years?'.

IS. From the point of view of th mutations, tra 'thing' acts like a feminine, though it is otherwi e tr ared a a rna culin : un dra vat 'a good thing'.

10. Breton Granunar

19. An adjective following a proper noun can be subject to mutation as though following a f minine noun: Yann vras 'Big John', from bras


Note: Thi. extends to some common nouns designating people: oikelmas 'grand-vicar'; laer-uor 'pirate', lit. thief (laer) of the sea (moT)' ..


20. It i apparent [rom the above that the mutations do not occur uniforrnlv. The behaviour of the prefixes in this respect is striking.

An important principle should be stated here: anything which tel,leis ~o distance a word from the word which follows it impedes the mutation !l1

the latter word.

For example, one says ur ster vras 'a large liver'; the no.u~ ster.'river'

being feminine the adjective bras 'large' which follows It IS, subject. to mutation (§ I 0). One can also say ur ster vras he genou 'a nver hav:ng a large mouth' lit. 'a liver large its mouth'. But ~n t1~i. case, one can Just as well say ur sterbras he genou. The reason IS this: even though ~ras he genou constitutes a real adjective in relation to ster, and logically should be subject to mutation, its length on the one hand, and th~ fact t~at the sense of bras is associated more with genou than With ster, somehow distances bras from ster and obstructs the mutation.

In the same way, one can say ur ster vras-rneurbet 'a very large river lit. 'a liver large greatly'. But one can also say ur ster brasrneurbet, for an analogous reason,

The Mutations, the Article· 11


21. The definite article is al, an, ar; the indefinite article ul, un, ur.

The form used depends exclusively upon the initial sound of the word following the article:

AI and ul is used before 1-; an and un before n-, d-, t, h-, and vowels; ar and ur in other instance', Examples: al loar 'the moon' an oc'hen 'the oxen', ur rnaen 'a .tone'.

'ou I: English peakers ar familiar with this kind of alternation: the is pronounced ro::>l before a consonant, and roi:1 before a vowel' a [o] or [cr] is used before con ionants and (111 r:)I11 or r<Enl before vowel : cf. the horse, the elepluuu; a horse, all elephan:

Note II: Breton is the only Celtic language to make resular use of all indefinite article, For the speaker of Gaelic or Welsh, this can take some getting used to,

Note Ill: In standard Breton the indefinite article ul, un, ur is pronounced [eel oen oes], as in Leoneg. In Kerneveg the pronunciation is 1::>1:)11 ;)1(1 and Gwenedeg [yl yn ys].

22. AI, an, andar combine with the preposition e 'in' giving el, en, er 'in the'. Example: er garnbe 'in the room.


23. When a noun has a complement, that is, is qualified by another noun which follows it, it doe' not usually take the article: ti an tad 'the house of the [ather'; paotr e varc'h du 'the boy on the black horse', lit. 'boy hi black horse'.

24. Certain nouns like ker 'town' and the names of meals do not usually take the definite article: tostaat ouzh ker 'come into town'; goude koan 'after supper',

.A ole: AT gb' generally means at home'; mont d'ar gb' '0"0 home'; ber'ai; er gil 'be at home',

25. The definite article is usually omitted before a comparative or superlative preceding a noun: brasoc'h ti eo c'hoazh it is a still larger house'; kentaii ti a welis 'the first house which I saw'.

12 • Breton Granunar

26. The French partitive article du, de la; des is not translated into Breton. Examples: holen salt' (du se~ pri 'clay' (de la boue), nadoz'iou 'needles' (des aiguilles). There is naturally exception to this where the noun is determinate: keDleret em eus darn eus an nadoz'iou a oa war an. daol 'I have taken some of the needles which were on the table'. (Breton and English are alike in the use of the plural without an article.)

27. As in Engbsb, the definite article is not used in some expressions, although it is found in French: oher skol 'hold a class' fjaire l'ecole), henan maen 'cut stone (faille/" la picITe), war-dro noz 'towards night, towards evening' ipers III nuil); but cf redek bro 'roam the country' icourir Ie pays).

28. Before certain nouns expressing temporal divisions, Breton, like English uses a preposition and the article. Examples: d.iouzh ar heure 'in the morning', meaning 'during the morning'; diouzh an ahardaez' 'in the evening'; but note diouzh an noz 'at night'; d'allun 'Monday', 'on Monday'; en haiiv or e-pad an hanv 'in summer', 'during the surnrner.

29. In ome expressions where English does not use an article Breton uses the definite article: dec'h ar beure 'yesterday morning'; c'hwezh an trenk 'a smell of acid" ruz'ian gant ar vezh 'blush with shame'.


30. Apart from the names of some livers and certain mountains and towns, proper names do not generally take the definite article: an Elorn 'the Elorn' an Alpou 'the Alps', ar C'hozh-Varc'had 'Vieux-Marche', Compare Breizh 'Brittany' (la. Bret<lgne), Europa 'Europe' ([,Europe).

Note 1: The names of countries borrowed through French take the article in popular usage: an ltali 'Italy' (L'ftaii.e), ar Spa",an 'Spain' (l' Espagne.).

Note II- Although in French the article is used before a proper noun accompanied by an adjective, in Breton, as in English, it is not: Brei;:;/! neoer' 'new Brittany' (ta nouvelle Brelagne), 1\10no. goant 'pretty Mona' (la jolie Mona).

The Article • 13

31. Note the lise of the article before aotrou ')t[jster', itron ';\1I-S', diIDezell'Miss and their plurals: an Aotrou Bizien 'Mr Bizien' unless one is addres .ing the person directly: kenavo, Aotrou Bizien 'good bye,

Nlr Bizien'. .

The. e word are not otherwise followed by the article, as they would be in FI:ench: an AotrouKannad 'the Deputy' (ill address 'Deputy'. Monsieur le Depute,), an Itron Renerez 'the Director (in address 'Director'; Madame la Directncq. Exceptional are nouns beginning with a vowel: an Aotrou 'n Eskob his Grace the Bishop', the very reverend Bishop' (in address, 'my lord Bishop', 'Bishop'; Aifonseiglleur ll?veque},an Aotrou 'n Ahad 'the Reverend Abbot' (in address, Father'; \I/OJIsiCUT l'Abbe} 'n probably represents the article an.

Vole I' Note that in English terms of address are not used in the same way a: in Breton (or French).

Nole ll· The definite article may be found before a surname. But this us e i more familiar and can even be pejorative: for example, when one designates someone named Bi:cien by ar Bi;(.ien.

. 3~. The names of peoples and of inhabitants of regions or towns ending 111 -IZ may not take the article: Breizhiz the Bretons', instead of ar Vreizhiz; Kemper-iz 'the Quimperois' instead of ar GeDlperiz.


33. Before the nouns Dliz 'month and hloaz' 'year', the indefinite article i· not used: IDiz 'zo 'a month ago'; ChODl areas bloaz' e Brest 'he stayed a year in Brest'.

34. Although French confuses the article CUll, une' and the numeral 'UIZ, une' Breton makes the same distinction as does English: 'a, an before a noun is ul, un, 01· Dr; 'one' in isolation is unan. Examples: ur gador aID eus 'I have a chair" unan azn eus '1 have one'.

14· Breton Granunar



35. Breton has two genders: masculine and feminine,

36. Masculine nouns are nouns which refer to male human beings, male animals, and most objects in particular nouns in -adur, except for plijadur 'pleasure' and the abstract nouns in -der and in -erezh.

37. Feminine nouns are nouns which refer to female human beings, female animals, most geographical nouns (countries, towns, rivers) and some things in particular most nouns in -ez in -ezh (except the abstract nouns in -erezh), in -enn, in -ell, in -ded, and abstract nouns in -i.

38. A feminine suffix -ez is added to masculines:ki 'dog ,kiez 'bitch'.

. role 1: As in other languages it often happens that the feminine is indicated by a completely different word from the masculine: lad 'father', mamm 'mother'; eonir 'uncle', moereo 'aunt'; paoLI' 'boy' plac'lt 'girl" taru 'bull, buoc'h. 'cow', etc. Note that alongside plac'h there is a feminine paolm:, though this is sometimes used p",joratively.

Note Il: The suffix -enn selves sometimes, though rarely to form feminines: krennatd 'adolescent' has for feminines krennardenn or krennarder. It is often used to form familial' feminine proper names: along with Plougastelladez.'woman from Plougastel', the more famibar form Plougastellenn i found. Tote also the use of -enn as an ending serving to form feminin nouns of persons: pebrenn 'shrewish woman' frompebl' 'pepper'; koantenn. 'pretty girl', from koant 'pretty'.

Note III: For certain animals, the sex is designated with the aid of tad father and mamm 'mother' placed before the noun: un tad goluan 'a male sparrow'. The prefix tar is also found, doubtless derived from taw 'bull': targa<.lz 'tomcat'.

39. The word tra is considered neuter (see §18),

The Noun· 15


40. The plural is generally formed:

a) by adding -ou 0[' -Iou to nouns referring to things: Ienn 'lake', Iennou; taol 'table', taoliou;

b) by adcling -ed to nouns referring to persons, animals, trees:

Illerc'h 'girl', merc-hed; pesk 'fish', pesked; avalenn 'apple tree', avalenned.

41. Some nouns referring to persons take -ou: testou 'witnesses'; likewise the wordleue 'calf, leueou.

42. The plural is a.lso marked by other endings: -i, -ier, -Ien, -on, -ez -en, etc.; the root vowel of the ingular is frequently altered before them: bran 'crow', brini; arc'h 'chest', irc'hier; eskob 'bishop', esldbfen: gad 'hare', gedon; ti 'hou: e', tiez; draf little gate', drefen.

43. Sometimes a change ofthe sinzular vowel is sufficient: dant tooth', dent .

44. Following are orne interesting special cases:

a) Nouns referring to human beings in -ad generally form their plural in -idi, or in -iz if they indicate inhabitants of countries, towns, etc.: lazhiad 'victim', lazhidi; .Breizhad 'Breton', Breizhiz;

b) ouns referring to human beings in -er and -our generally form

their plural in -erien and -ourien: kiger 'butcher', kigerien' oberour 'author', oberourien. Sometimes one finds-erion and -ourion;

c) Noun. referring to human beings in -eg often form their plural in -eien: gouizieg 'scholar' gouizieien. Sometimes -eion is used,

45. Many plurals are ilTegular. Note the following: den 'person' rud:

ki d . ' ,

. og, kon or chas; Illarc'h. 'horse, nllrc'h.ed 0]' kezeg; ejen 'ox',

ejened or oc'hen; buoc'h 'cow', saout cows, cattle'; a plural of buoc'h in a more restrained sense is buoc'heoned (also buoc'hed biou 'cattle ), '

46. Note the diminutives whi h are formed by adding -ig to the singular and -igou in the plural: ti, tiig 'house, cottage'; tiez, tiezigou 'houses cottages'; bag bagig 'boat, little boat', bagou, bagouigou 'boats, little boats'. Tud has a plural diminutive tu.digou 'unimportant people'.

16 • Breton Granunar


47. Certain nouns have a collective sense, in that they refer to a group of objects, or to a class of objects (materials, animals, plants, etc.).

To express the idea of one of th se objects in isolation or of a member of the group, the ending -enn is added: geot 'herb', geotenn 'sprig of herb'; gwez" 'trees', ~ez'enn 'tree'; kouevr 'copper', kouevrenn 'piece of copper'. All of the e nouns in -enn are feminine.

48. The e singulatives act like singulars: geotennou sprigs of herb'. role: Penn 'h ad' or loen 'animal' before a plural also sometimes form a kind of sinzulative: ur penn-deiiued 'a (head 00 sheep', from defilled sheep'; ul loen-kezeg 'a horse', from kezeg 'horses . Notepemoc'h pig', from moe 11 'pigs'.


49. ouns referring to the double organs of the body generally have a dual, or special plural formed with the aid of daou- for masculines, and of di- or div- for feminines: lagad 'eye, an daoulagad 'the (two) eyes; skouarn 'ear', an diskouarn, an divskouarn the (two) ears'.

Note l: These words in tum may be pluralized: daoulagadoi: 'pairs of eyes'.

Note II· Words such as lagad, skauarn, erc., when they do not designate the organs of the bod" have an ordinary plural: lagadou 'eyes (as spots of grease on th surface of a liquid)'; skouamou 'handles (of vases)'.

Note JII- Note the irregular forms: glin 'knee' an daoulin 'the (two) knees'; dorn 'hand, an daouam 'the (two) hand '; gar 'leg, an diuhar the (two) legs'.


50. The word tud 'people' has a plural tudou, which is identical in meaning to tud, but is imployed more familiarly. Dilhad 'clothes' likewise has a plural dilhadou.

51. Along with some plural in -ou or in -iou, there are plurals in -eier, in a more general sense, and which can be considered as double plurals: parkou 'fields', parkeier 'fields, open country'; koadou woods', koadeier 'woods, forests in general'; edou 'flour', edeier 'wheats, cereals'.

The Noun' 17

Notr: In this categoIY can be included' bole- 'hoe' bOI " . f

",. '. .. , ou Pall'O

s. hoes, boteie« shoes ltI general" brauc;: 'leo- of trouser ' brasou '., J)' '. r

l ¢I . b .. ,'H,:, "L dB 0

trouser: " brageier trousers'.


52. l1?u.n ca~lstand in genitive relation to another noun. Several types must be dlstl11gl.llshed.

53. The genitive object can be definite. In this in. tan e, th noun which prec des i: used without an article (. ee 23): tog Anna \nl1<1'5 bat rh hat ~r.l\nna';. Ul~rc'h ar Dl.iliner the horse of the miller'; taol vra~ ar gegtn the bIg kitchen table" bro va zad 'the country of my rather'.

Note: Note particular expression' such as paotr e Ji-i hir the bov \' irh the long nose', lit. 'boy his long no. e ; plar'!! he ble» Iror'!te{ the giI~1 with cut hair', lit. girl her cut hair(s)'. Another example is found at ,23. In this case it is also correct to use the arti .le: ar paotr e fii 1111- at plac'h he

bleu troc'liet, . ,

54. ~he ge?itive obje t can be indefinite. It simply follow. the noun before It, which retains the article: an ti kenwerzh the house of mmerce, un tauun. kig 'a piece of meat', or voestad westell 'a box of cake. '.

, Note I· In thi. case the two nouns can be linked by the prepo .ition a of: tud a youl-vat 'people of good will', UTI den a oicher 'a raftsmari'. ff the first nouns is followed by an adjective, (I is almost always used: !l11

lamm mal a gig 'a good piece of meat'. .

.A/ole II· The relation .. hip between the two noun mav be marked in

a. mor~ preci~e manner by another preposiuon; for ;xarnple, eus or dlga!11 .lI1ci,catll1(T provenance: paotred eus Lesneuen 'men of Lesneven'; !II' prof dlg~1l1 or roue. a gift of the king; or dn, marking or not the posses l~n: un m<.(h) d'ar bamer 'a nephew of the judge'; or any other prepo mon: an 0.011 rak an arclterien the fear of tile police', 1111 den duoar or II1CU!.< a man ofthe country ide', doujaru ou -II at bimiidien respect for the rich'.

18 • Breton Granu:nar


55. As in English, the personal pronoun takes different forms depending on whether it i. subject or object of the verb. The table below indicates the subject form and the direct object form:

me I va, 'In me
te you (thou) da, 'z' you (thee)
eii be e hen him
hi she he her
ni we hoi, hon, hor LIS
c'hwi you ho, hoc'h you
i, int they 0 them • Note: The po sessive pronoun of the first person singular is ma in the standard language and ua in Leoneg. The author favours the latter form throughout this book.

56. In the first person singular, the form va of the direct object is us d before a verbal noun, past participle, or imperative (but only in the affirmative of the imperative): va gwelout 'see me'; va gwelet 0 deus 'they have seen me': va selaouit 'listen to me'.

Befor a verbal noun, however after the preposition da 'for', 'In is used: da'In gwelout 'to .. ee me'.

Before the other forms of the verb, 'In is used: ne'In gwelas ket 'he did not see me'; na'm Zantallit ket 'do not blame me'; va breur ant gwelas 'my brother saw m '; neuze ern gwelas then he saw me'. Note that it i not customary to write a'In or e'In. The forms d'arn n'em, n'am are also often written instead of da'm, ne'm, na'Ill.

57. The same applies in the second person singular with regard to the use of da and 'z'.

Examples: Da welout 'see you'; da zegerner'et 0 deus 'they have received you'; va breur az' kwelas 'my brother saw yOLl; da'z' kwelout 'to see you'.

Note I· The preposition da and the persona] pronoun da are two words of completely different origin and must not be confused.

Vote 1/; In the dialects which do not pronounce -r- the only difference between cia we/out and da'; kueloui is the mutation.

The Personal Pronoun· 19

58. In the third person singular ma culine the dire t obje t pronoun e is u. ed before the verbal noun and the past participle: e welout 'see him'; e welet ern eus 'I have se n him'; hen is 1I. ed in other install e.: ni hen gwel we see him'. There is an exception in the affirmative of the imperative: see §66. Hen is sometime· written en.

59. In the third p rson singular feminine the direct bject pronoun he is used in all instances: he gwelout 'see her'; he gwelet errr eus 'I have . ccn her'; me he gwel '1 see her'. But there is an ex eption in the affirmative of the imperative: see §66. The form hec'h i sometimes used instead of he before a vowel.

60. In the first person plural, hoI, hon, and hor are u .ed in exa tly the same way as the article aI, an, and ar; that is, hoI is used before 1-, hon b IOI·e n-, d- t-, h-, and vowels, and hor in other cases: hol Iezel 'I t LI .' . hon touellaii deceive us'; hor c'havout 'find us'. '

61. In the second person plural, ho is used before a consonant and hoc'h befor a vowel: ho klevout 'hear you' hoc'h allaii 'counsel you.

62. In the third per ·on plural, gender is not di tinguished a in English; i and int are used indifferently.

o is the object form, except in the affirmative of the imperative: see §66.

Note: There is an ther form, int-i which is used to give more force to the pronoun,

. 63~ The indirect object form of the personal pronoun is nor presented 111 thi: c~lapter. The personal pronoun, when it is an indirect object, always follows a preposition and is realized in the prepositional conjugation.

Example: evit 'for', evidon 'for me'. For further discussion on this see the chapter 011 the prepositions (§ 182-87).


. 64. The subject personal pronoun i not expressed in the majority of in rtances. As in Latin, the form of the verb suffices to indicate the person. When the subject pronoun is expressed, ir is almost always because it is stressed. In the sentence skrivaii a rit bemdez' 'yOU write every cia)" no

• I· . )

20 • Breton Granunar

pronoun is expressed. If one says c'hwi a skriv bemdez", it is to stress the pronoun, and the sentence means rather 'it isyou who write every day'.

There are two way. to introduce the subject per onal pronoun in a sentence:

a) by placing it, as in English, before the verb: te a welo you will see';

b) by placing it immediately after the verb; in this ca e, the hyphen i. used: warc'hoazh e weli-te 'tomorrow you will see'.

Nou: After a verb, instead of c ~lwi 'you', a special form, hu, may be

u. ed: ne wetit-flu ket? 'don't you see? .

65. The direct object pronoun is placed immediately before the verb:

Ule ho kar 'I love you" rne arn eus ho karet 'I have loved you'.

66. In the imperative and only in the affirmative, the subject pronoun may be used (after the verb) instead of the direct object pronoun: lezit Ule 'let me' instead of va lezit. This is mandatory for the third per 011 pronoun: lezit eii, lez-it hi, lezit i 'let him, let her, let them'.

67. After setu 'behold', the subject pronoun is used: setu hi 'here she i " 'behold her'.

68. When the pronoun is used in isolation, it always takes the subject form, even if logically it could be considered a direct object of the verb:

Piv a welit? Eii 'Whom do you .ee? Him' .

Note: Likewise, the subject pronoun is used in expressions like: me eo 'it's me', int e oa 'it was them' .. Tote that in English the object form is usually used in such expre .sions.

69. Ex ept in Gwenedeg the traditional form of the object pronoun has almost died out in speech. It has been replaced by partitive periphrasis:

Kerneveg Leoneg and Tregerieg speakers will normally not say rne ho kar '1 love you' or Ule da weI 'I see you' (although this is still used to

ome extent in a conservativeliterary register and some fossilized phrases), but rne a gar ac'hanout Oil. 'I love of you') or rrie a wei ac'hanout Oil. 1 see of you'), with the conjugated preposition a 'of after the verb. The original forms of the pronoun are only restored when the object fronted for empha. is as in te a welan! I seeyou!'. '!t'S)'OU I see', etc. Me ho kar or hokarout a ran is the norm in Gwenedeg.

The Personal Pronoun. 21

, 7~. As in :rench, when addressing a single person, one may use c'hw:i VOllS for politeness. The use ofte is much the sam in Bret'Ol~ a. Ill' is in Fre.l1ch, though there is a large area in central Brittany which has 10 t te entirely. See the map below.

22 • Breton Grauunar


71. The qualifying adjective is invariable. However kaezh 'poor' sometimes has a plural keizh. Example: tud keizh poor people.

Note: The adjective me;::'v 'drunk' has a feminine form, mez'lJez: Per a. 0(1 meZIJ, e z reg a 00 me;::'vez 'Peter was drunk, his wife was drunk'.


72. The equative is formed with the aid of ken: gwan 'weak', ken gwan 'a.' weak'. It is followed by the conjunction ha 'and', which becomes hag before a vowel: ken gwan ha rna krede 'as weak as he believed; ken kreiiv hag ur Dlarc'h 'as trong a' a horse'.

Note: Expressions like 'as weak as that' are formed with the aid of the word se: ken gwan-se.

To reinforce the idea of the equative all other may be placed after

the adjective: ken. gwan all.

73. The comparative is formed with the aid of the ending -oc'h: gwanoc'h weaker'. It is followed by the conjunction eget: gwanoc'h eget e vreur 'weaker than his brother' gwanoc'h eget rna krede 'weaker than he believed.

Note: Instead of egel especially in colloquial Breton evil is sometimes used.

74. The superlative is formed with the ending -aii; it is almost always preceded b the definite arti le (see §25): ar gwanaii 'the weakest'; ar c'hezeg bravaii 'the most beautiful horses.

It is generally followed by the preposition eus 'from': ar wez'enn uhelaii eus alliorzh 'the tallest tree in the garden', See also §84.

Note 1: 'or all' after a superlative is expressed by holl: ar brauaii-holl 'the must beautiful of all',

Note II: The article is omitted in expressions like: kenlaii a reas 'the first thing that he did';gwaslzaJl oa ... 'the WOI-st of it was that ... " muiaii ma c'lzalle 'the most that he could'.

The Adjective· 23

75. Adjectives ending in -z, like kriz' 'cruel', change this -z- to -s-: kris'oc'h, kris'an. Adjectives endingin -zh, like kozh 'old', change this -zh- to -sh-: koshoc'h, koshaii. The rare adjectives nding in -b or in

-d change the e consonants reo pectively to -p- and -t-: gleb'humid ,

glepoc'h, glepan; yud 'treacherous', yutoc'h, yutan .

Note: See lote I at §224 below.

76. The following comparatives and superlatives are irregular: gwell gwelloc'h 'better', gwellan'best'; gwazh, gwashoc'h worse', gwashaii. 'wor t'; Dlui, Dluioc'h more' Dluiaii 'most'; kent kentoc'h 'before, sooner', kentan 'first'.

Note 1: Sometimes ken gwa;:h ha 'as bad as', kengwa;:h all 'as bad form the equative.

ate 11: Gwell, ~ elloc'li, ~f}eLlaii .erve as comparatives and superlative to mal 'good" matoc'li or mala!'i are not usually found, except in the composition marc'had-mat 'bargain', whose comparative is ~f}el!o[ 'Ii marc'had or marc'hadmatoc'h, and whose superlative is gwellaii marc'had or marc'hadmatah, (In at least one of the dialects of Gwenedeg, maioc'li is used for physical things like bread, and gwellaii for subjective things like feelings.)

Gwa-h, gwashoc'lz, gwashafi .erve as comparative: and superlative to fill! 'bad" butjalloc'h andfollai"i also occur.

77. The comparative and superlative of inferiority can I e formed with nebeutoc'h 'les. '., nebeutaii 'the least': nebeutoc'h gwan 'Jess weak'; an nebeutaii gwan 'the least weak',

78. The past participle of verb is inflected like an adjective as far as the comparative and superlative are concerned: karet, karetoc'h,karetaii 'beloved, more beloved, the most beloved'.

Note: V11Iiac'h and mutaii also occur before a past participle: muioc Yl dOlgel 'more respected ar muiaii douje! the most respected', This formation is not to be recommended, except in the expr s ion: ar muiaii karet 'the girlfliend'.

79 .. lore the use of seul 'th more': seul vuanoc'h, seul welloc'h 'the quicker, the b tter'; seul vuioc'h Dla selle, seul nebeutoc'h e wele 'the more he that looked, the less he saw'; deskiii. a ra seul

24 • Breton Granunar

welloc'h rna en deus c'hoa.nt deskiii 'he learns all the better because he wants to'.

80. 'More and more' is expressed with the aid of the comparative followed by the uperlative: krenvoc'h-krenvaii 'stronger and stronger'. However, 'more and more' itself i· formed with 'rnuioc'h-rnui'. Note also gwashoc'h-gwazh, beside gwashoc'h-gwashaii 'from bad to wor e'.

'Less and less' is expressed by nebeutoc'h-nebeutaii. One al: a says rnui-ouzh-IDui, gwazh-ouzh-gwazh.


81. By replacing -afi by -ar in the superlative, the exclamative is formed: gwanat den! or na gwanat den! or na gwanat un den! what a weak person!" koshat til 'what an old house!


82. Any adjective can have a diminutive, formed with the ending -ik. If the adj tive ends in one of the consonants -p, -t, -k, or -s, preceded by a vowel the consonant softens to -b-, -d-, -g-, or -z-, Examples: bihan small', bihanik bras 'large', b .. azik. However -s sometimes resists: dous 'oft', dousik.


83.1 he qualifying adjective is placed after the noun, as in Gaelic and Welsh: un den gwan a weak person'. Some exceptions to this are the adjectives like gwall, krak: ur gwall spont 'a famous fear, ur c'hrak paotr a sickly boy'.

Certain other adjectives are also placed before the noun: kozh 'old', brizh 'speckled', taken in a pejorativ sense: ur c'hozh ti 'a miserable house', brizh vrezhoneg bad Breton.

Hi .. 'long', berr 'short', kaezh 'poor', gwir 'true', are sometimes placed before the noun: dre hir aked 'through long care', e berr gornzou in few words', ur c'haezh paotr 'a poor boy'; ur wir garantez' 'a true love'.

J\ole: ate the particular expressions like !IT gaer a blac'l: 'a pretty girl', where the adjective precedes the noun and is linked to it by the prepo ition a 'of, lit. a pretty of a girl'. French uses similar

The Adjective· 25

expre . 'ions: un drole de c/WjJc(IU 'a funny hat' in Breton is lin iskis a dog.

84. The comparative and the superlative of the adject.ive are placed indifferently before or after the noun: gwelloc'h den 01' un den gwelloc'h 'a betterperson'; ar gwanan den, gwanan den, an den ar gwana.ii, an den gwanaii 'the weakest pel' ·on'.

85. Adjectives are sometimes used substantively. In such cases thev behave exactly like nouns. Example; rnut 'mute'. Taken a' a noun it i~ written .mud (an orthographic rule requires that adj ctive zenerallv end

. . ~ ,

111 a VOiceless consonant, and nouns in a voiced one); it will have a

feminine and a plural: ar mud 'the mute', ar vudez 'the rnut (woman)" ar vuded 'the mutes',

26· Breton Granuna.r


86. The possessive adjectives have exactly the same form as the direct object personal pronouns:

I)'la zi va zi 'my house' da d.i 'your house

e d.i his house

he zi 'her house'

honti 'our house'

ho ti 'your house

o zi 'their house'

For the various forms of the e adjectives refer to the table at §55 and to the following paragraphs.

ole l: It is important to note that in Breton the possessive adjectives do not depend on the gender or number of the noun which follows, as they do in French. Just as in English, the third person singular possessive adjective agree' with the gender of the possessor.

role II: The possessi 'e pronoun of the first person ingular is ma in the. tandard language and oa in Leoneg. The author favours the latter form throughout this book.

87. 'm and 'z' are only used after the preposition da 'to, of': d.a'l)'l breur 'to my brother', d.a'z' preur 'to your brother. They al 0 combine with the preposition e 'in' to give em and ez: ern c' 'in my room, ez 'in your room.

Note: The compound e<: does not occur in the dialects which do not pronoun the -z so er' has not been written here. The forms often found are: es; kambr (Leoneg), e da gambr (Tregerieg, Kerneveg), en da gambr regerieg), en ha gambr (Gwenedeg), e ta gambr (South Gwenedeg).

88. Breton has no posses .ive pronouns per se. They are supplied in the . ingular by the use of the word hini, and in the plural by the word .re: va hini 'mine, my one', va re 'mine my ones'.

The Possessive • 27

89. Note a special way of marking the possessive: alliv anezhaii, lit. 'the olour of him instead of e liv hi. colour.

90. If one wishes to stres: the po sessive, one follows the noun which follows the possessive adjective with the corresponding subject pronoun: va breur-rne 'If!)' brother', da vreur-te 'your brother'.

One may al 0 follow the noun with the pI' position da 'to or conjugated in the corresponding number: e vreur dezhaii 'his brother of him' (cf 'son fiire d lui .

¥ole: According to the same logic, one says: ur breur din 'a brother or mine', U1' c'hoar dez/IO 'a sister of their r •

91. The posses ive adjectives, followed by the word unan 'one', form compounds corresponding to the Engli'h 'yourself, yourself', etc.: vaunan 'myself, hon-unan 'ourselves'.

Note L Va-unan, da-unan; etc. can also mean 'me alone. vou alone' etc. In this sense they are sometime. followed by th lVord;Jel7I1 'head; ber' e oamj) hon-unon-penn 'we were all alone'.

Vole II- When, in the third person singular, the posses .ori . indefinite or undefined, one may u: e the word an-unan 'itself: en em lakaa; an-unan da oamer 'to set oneself up as a judge'.

92. The po. sessive adjectives combine with the numerals to form expressions corresponding to English 'we two you three', etc.: hon-d.aou we two' ho~tri you three', o-fevar they four",

93. In phrases like 'he ha . broken his arm', where in French the definite article is used ('il s'est cassi le hms'), Breton, like English, uses the possessive adjective: terriii areas e vrec'h 'be broke his arm'.

28 • Breton Granunar


94. The demonstrative consists of three degrees and is formed with the aid of the definite article and a particle placed after the noun: an denman 'this person', an den-se 'that person', an den-hont 'that person over there',

95. If the noun is followed by an adjective, the particle follows the adjective: an den fall-se 'that evil person',

96, The demonstrative pronouns are: hemaii, hennezh, henhont 'this one that one that one over there (masculine),; houman, hounnezh, hounhont 'this one, that one, that one over there' (feminine); ar re-maii, ar r-e-se ar re-hont 'these, those, those over there',

Vole 1: In the plural, one uses the .arne forms for masculine and feminine.

Note ll: Compare: amaii 'here' a<.e'there' ahont 'yonder over there'.

97. 'This' is expressed by an dra-maii lit. 'thi thing'; 'that' by an dra-se; and 'that over there' by an dra-hont .

98. AU this' is expressed by kement-maii; 'all that' by kement-se; one may ay though it is rare, kement-hont 'all that over there'.

Note: On occasion the particle Sf is used by itself with the sense 'that': se eo a lauaras 'it is that which he said'.

99. "Thi: who, this which' is expressed by arpezh a or simply pezh a.

Example: setu aman ar pezh a reas, or setu aman pezh a reas 'this is what he did'.

100. 'That who that which' is expressed by an hinia; 'those which' by ar re a. Examples: kemer an hini a blij dit 'take that which you want'; lez ar re a zo fall 'leave those which are bad'.

Note: More generally, one may say that 'this' followed by a relative pronoun is expressed by ar pe<.1z or pe4z; that 'that' followed by a relative pronoun is expressed by an hini; that 'those' followed by a

The Demonstrative • 29

relative pronoun i: translated by ar reo Example: an hini Ina komri: al1e<./lfirl 'that which you speak about (it)'.

'Thi· is also sometime expressed by an dra 'the thing': an dra ma komri! anerhai: 'this which you speak about (it).

101. The use of se with an adjective in the equative has already been noted (see §72): ken souezhus-se 'as urprising as that.

30 • Breton Granunar


102. There exists a series of interrogative adjectives: pe 'what" peseurt, petore what kind of; pet 'how many'.

NoieI: Pe is not used in contemporary language: one may saype oro? 'what country?' but more commonly one says peseur! bro? petore bro?, lit. 'what kind of country? .

Note 11: After pet 'how many', the noun is put into the singular: pet den? 'how many people?'. However one may put the preposition a 'of after pe/.; in this case, the noun is put in the plural: pet a dud? 'how many people?'. The word nouspet 'no one knows how many' is used in the same way.

Note 111: Pet has a derivative, peivet, which is used to a k the rank in a series or to refer to a number in a series: ar pe/vet deiz' eus ar mid 'what day of 111 month?'; pc/vet is also used as a pronoun: ar pewet? 'which', lit. 'the how-many-eth? ('If qUalzlibne').

103. The interrogative pronouns are: piv 'who', petra 'what' pehini which one pere 'which ones'.

Note: The use of these pronouns offers no difficulties. It is important to note when translating from English, that one mu I not confuse them with the relative pronouns. In English, some of the interrogative pronouns have the same form as relative pronouns. 'v, ho', 'which, 'what' are expressed in Breton by piv,petm only when they express a direct or indirect question: piv a <0 aze? 'who is there?'; ne ou<on ket pia a ,,0 aze 'I don't know who is there'. cr. an den a zo 0 toni 'the man who comes' with piv a zo 0 toni? 'who comes?'.

104. The interrogative adverbs are: pegernent 'how much'; pegeit 'how long how far'; perak 'why';penaos 'how';peur, pegoulz, pe vare 'wben ; pelec'h 'where'.

ole: Pegemeni (c[ pet, § 102, Note II) can be followed by a: pegement a win? 'hov much wine?'

The Interrogative and Exclarnative • 31


105. The exclamative is formed with the aid of the following adjective' or adverbs: pebezh 'what <1 ... [noun]! , pegen 'how ... [adjective]!', na which becomes nag before a vowel 'how ... ! what. .. !' (before a declaration): pebezh den! 'what a man!'; pegen bray! 'how beautifull'jnag a dud! 'what a crowd!'.

,role: Refer here to s81.

32 • Breton Granunar



106. The idea expressed in English by the word 'some' is expressed in Breton by the word bennak, which is placed after the word it relates to: unci bennak 'some house a certain house'; or wech bennak 'some time, a certain time.

1I(0ie I: Bennak often corresponds to Engli h 'about : ur mi; a zo bennak 'about a month ago'· WI ui c'hant bennak about three hundred'.

Note 11: It is also used after v ords like pegen 'as', pegement 'as much', pelec'h where', petra 'what' etc. in the sense or 'ever': pegen dister bennak e vife a trite as he is ; pegement bennak «gorante; en. doa outi as much love as he had for her'; e pelec'!! bennak e vfl!fempwherever we would live'; pelra bennak a laoar whatever he says' ..

Note Ill: 'Somewhere' is said en lin /11 bennak, or simply tu bennak.

107. Breton an neb corresponds to the English pronoun 'whoever'.

Example: an neb a verm, hennezh a c'hell 'whoever is willing, (that one) can (do it)'.

108. 'Some ne' is expres. ed by unan bennak; 'some' by unan bennak or urre bennak: 'something' by un dra bennak.

109. 'Some' in the sense of 'a little' is expressed by un nebeud.

Example: un. nebeud arc'hant 'some money'. One also says un tanun lit. 'a bit, a morsel'.

Un nebeud also means 'some' in the sense of 'several': un nebeud keriou ' .orne towns'

Finally, un nebeud used by itself, means either 'a little' or 'some'. 110. 'Several' before a noun or a pronoun may al 0 be expressed differently. One can use the expression IDeor a, alway followed by the sineular: nleor a zen everal people many people'. The noun, thi time in the plural may be followed with a zo or 'zo: tud a zo tud 'zo 'several people, certain people'.

111. 'Some' used alone is rendered by darn or lod. Examples: darn a lavar, lod a lavar 'some say'.

The Indefinite • 33

112. Another way or xpressing the idea or sorn , certain' is to LIS idioms like den pe zen 'on person or the other, lit. 'person or person'; tra pe dra 'one thing or the other; hini pe hini 'one or the other': bro pe vro one country or the other'.

Note;' One can also say: an den-mati-den an dra-maii-dra, etc.


113. 'All in the sense of' ntirely' 'completely' is expre. sed with the aid of the word holl, placed generally art r the word to which it relates: ar bed-holl 'the whole world'; nec'het-holl 'completely disturbed": rivinet-holl 'completely ruined'.

Vole l: 'Entirely' is also expressed, after a noun by a-beth; after an adjective or a verb by krenn. a-grenn. Examples: an ti a-b('<./l 'the whole of the house'; diskaret krenn completely dernoli: hed'; adober a-glenn 'redo completely'.

Not« If: Besides a-besh, there is the equivalent expre ss ion en e be<.h in its totality' after a rna uline singular noun; en he fesb after a feminine singular; en oje-h after a plural. Example: ar uro en Iteje-h the countrv in its entirerj " bra 'country' bing feminine.

114. All' meaninrr in totality', 'together', is xpressed by holl, generally placed just before the word to which it relates: an holl di.ez all the houses .

115. The pronoun 'all, is expres .ed by an holl.

116. 'All' in the sense of 'each, is expressed by pep followed by the ingular: pep ti 'each house'.

It can al. 0 be expressed by kernent, also followed by the singular. But in this case the noun is often accompanied by a proposition which completes it: kernenr ti a welas 'ev I house which he saw, each house he saw.

. 'oteI: Each' is expressed bypej) unan or pep hini.

Note II: Note the expression pep a 'each his, each her'; kanaii a rejol1/ pep a ganaouelll1 'each one. ang a .ong'; roet e uoe deeho pep a gonlell they were each given a knife'.

34 • Breton Granunar


117. 'No, none' is expressed by nep followed by the noun to which it relates: nep ti 'no house.

The same idea is expressed more frequently with the aid of the adverb ebet, placed after the word to which it relates: ti ebet 'no house'.

118. 'Nothing' is expressed by netra, as well as by tra, tra ebet, and netra ebet.

119.' 0 one' is expres ed by den, den ebet, nikun, hini, bini ebet.

'oie: A.ll these words, nep, ebet, etc. are used, as in French, with a verb in the negative: ne gavis den 'je ne trouuai personne' 'I did not find anyone'.


120. 'Other' is expressed by the aid of the word all, more rarely arall, which always follows the word it qualifies: un ti all 'another house'.

All is al 0 a pronoun: un all 'another'.

Note I: The word ken placed before a noun, has the sense of 'other': "'0 dOG ken you! nemet da ober vad 'they had no other desire but to do good'.

Note 11: 'Other', meaning 'different' is expressed by dishenuel, Example: disheme! eo 'it is different'.

121. 'Each other' is expressed by an ell hag egile, if either of the two elements in question is masculine; if both of the two elements in question are feminine one says an eil hag eben.

'One another' (more than two) is expre sed by an ell re hag ar re all. 1I(0{£ l: One may also say: an eil pe egile one or the other'; an cit koul; hag eben 'the one as well as the other', etc, Concerning 'one elf see


Note II: one .. the other .... ' is said an eil.,», egite ... ; as welI as unan ... egile ... ; or even unan .. " UTI all., ,., Example: an eil a o'hoar;;:}l, egile a lefiv 'one laughs, the other cries',

'The ones ... , the others".' is said dam ... dam ... ; or lod... lod ... ; or even dam.,., arre all. .. ' etc. Example: dam. a <:0 a-du, dam a eo en£p 'some are for, the others against .

The Indefinite· 35


122. 'Same', when it indi ate. an idea of similarity i· expres. ed by hevelep, which precedes the word to which it relates: an hevelep tnaouez 'the same woman.

ote that hevelep also means such': un hevelep rnaouez 'such a woman'.

123. arne', when it indicate. an idea of exactness or precl.:lon, IS expres ed by end-eeun, which follow the word to which it relat s: ar vaouez end-eeun 'the vely woman'.

Used in i .olation, it is ex-pressed by zoken.

Note: It is possible to say: ar uaoue; roken ' ven the woman',

124. For the expressions 'myself', 'yourself", etc. see 91.


125. 'One uch, such', as an adjective, i expressed with the aid of the word seurt 'sort, kind' in expr . sions con .tructed in different ways: ur seurt den, un den seurt-se un den ar seurt-se, un den eus ar seurt 1I h a person'.

'One such', , uch a one' a' a pronoun is expressed unan bennak. See also §122.


126. English one or French on' have no equivalent in Br Inn although an den 'the person is sometime' 1I .ed in this sense: ne oar tnui an den petra ober 'one doesn t know what to do'.

One generally expres es it with one of the plural pel'. onal pronouns 'we, you, they' or better with the impersonal verb: ne c'hoarzher ket 'one doe. not laugh'.

36· Breton Granunar



127. The following table gives the list of the cardinal and ordinal numerals. These [unction as adjectives:

Cardinal numerals Ordinal numerals
1 unan 1 ~1I1, 1 \·lot kentaii, unanvet
2 daou, div 21,2,"cI eil, eilvet
3 tri, terr 3(;,3\'C' trede, trivet, teirvet
4 pevar, peder 4" 4\'ct pevare,pevarvet,pedervet
5 peDlp 5\'C' pempet, pelllpvet
6 c'hwec'h 6"« c'hwec'hvet
7 seizh 7"« seizhvet
8 e.izh 8"« eizhvet
9 nay 9"c' navet
] 0 dek 10"" dekvet
11 unnek 11'''' unne.kvet
12 daouzek 12'"c' daouzekvet
13 trizek 13"c' trizekvet
14 pevarzek 14''<' pevarzekvet
15 pemzek 15'~' pemzekver
16 c'hwezek 16'~' c'hwezekvet
17 seitek 17"c, seitekvet
18 triwec'h (eitek) 18"CI triwec'hvet (eitekvet)
19 naontek 19"1:1 naontekvet
20 ugent 20'"(" ugentvet
21 unan warn~ugent 21 ,'CI unanvet warn~ugent
22 daou warn~ugent 22'''1 eilvet warn-ugent
30 tregont 30",'1 tregontvet
31 unan ha tregont 31"" unanvet ha tregont
40 daou-ugent 40"<' daou-ugentvet
50 hanter-kant 50'~' hanter-kantvet
60 tri-ugent 60"cI tri-ugentvet
70 dek hatri..;ugent 70"cI dekvet ha tri-ugent
71 unnek ha tri-ugent 71 "CI unnekvet ha tri-ugent
72 daouzek ha tri-ugent 72"0'1 daouzekvet ha tri-ugent
80 pevar-ugent 80"c' pevar-ugentvet The Nurner-als • 37

90 91 92 ]00

dek ha pevar-ugent 90,el unnek ha pevar-ugent 91 "<'I daouzek ha pever-ugent 92'\"

kant JOO'c,

dekvet ha pevar-ugent unnekvet ha pevar-ugent daouzekvet ha pevar-ugent kantvet

10] ha kant 110 dek ha kant

120 c'hwec'h-ugent 140 seizh-ugent

150 kant hanter-kant 160 eizh-ugent


101'"' unanvet ha kant 110"'" dekvet ha kant 120"0' c'hwec'h-ugentvet 140"" seizh-ugentvet

1:')0"01 kant hanter-kantvet 160"<' eizh-ugentvet

1801'<1 nav-ugentvet

200"CI daou c'hantvet

I 000"" nUlvet

I 000 000"" urilionvet

nav-ugent daou e'hant nUl

200 1000

I 000 000

ur Dlilion

128. After a number, the noun remains in the singular: ugent aval 'twenty apple " unless the number is followed by the prepo .ition a or: ugenta avalou 'twenty apple. '.

129. Unan, an adjectival numeral, . hould not be confus d with rh indefinite arti le un, ur, ul. On this see §34.

130. The following adjectival numerals have different forms 111 the masculine and in the feminine.

Two': 'Three': 'Four :

masculine, daou: masculine, tri; masculine,pevar;

feminine, div. feminine, teir .. feminine, peder.

Examples: daou baotr, div blac'h 'two boys, two aids'; tri rnab, teir rnerc'h 'three sons, three daughters'; pevar rnevel, peder rrrateah 'four waiters, four waitresses'.

~iole I: This distinction between rna culine and (j minine is also found in compounds such as daou lam-ligen!., di» ioam-usen! 'twentytwo': daou baotr uam-ugen! div blac'h wam-ugenl.

.Note II: The ordinal numeric adjectives eil, eilvel, trede, p~'lJare are used for both genders. Trivet andpcva1vel are used for the masculine; teuue! andpedelVet for the feminine. These words are not subject to mutation after the article: an teirue! the third'; an trede merc'lt 'the third daughter'.

38· Breton Granunar

131. One says: d.aou zen warn-ugent twenty-two people', tri den ha tregont thirty-three people' an eizhvet den ha tri-ugent the hundred sixtieth people'. In other words, when a compound number contains war or ha, the noun i s placed in front of these word.

Note: If one uses the preposition a after the number, one say: daou ioam-ugen; a dud 'twenty-two people'.


132. The first fractional numerals are: hanter 'a hair trederenn 'a third' palevarzh 'a fourth'.

The others are formed on the ordinals by replacing the ending -vet with the ending -vedenn. Example:pernpvedenn 'a fifth', Irompempvet 'fifth': unanvedenn warn-ugent 'a twenty-first', from unanvet warnugent 'twenty-first'.

Note l: These words are nouns and except for hanier and paleuarrh, are feminine.

Note II: Hanter also acts as an adjective or an adverb and precedes th word to which it relates: un hanter aual 'half an apple', hanter van} 'hair-dead'. Beside hanter, there is a feminine noun hanterenn 'half.

133. The multiplicative numbers are formed with the word kernent: daou gernent 'double', tri c'he.rnent 'triple', pevar c'hement 'quadruple', etc.

Note I: If these are taken as noun, one adds the ending -ad, and writes them as single words: an daougemenlad, an {ric hementad 'the double, the triple' etc.

ole II: The word gwech 'time' is commonly used: sei.zlz gLUeelz brasoc'h 'seven times as big, seven times bigger.

134. Expres ions such as '1:\"'0 by two, 'three by three', or 'two at a time', 'three at a time' or 'in two", 'in threes' are expressed, either by daou-ha-daou (feminine div-.ha-div), tri-ha-tri (feminine teir-hateir) or by a-zaouou a-drfou, etc.; or even bep a zaou bep a dri, etc.

The Numerals· 39

135. Alternation j s expres red by the word pep (almost always mutated to bep) and the numeric adjective, whether cardinal or ordinal: bep daou zevezh, bep eil devezh 'every two days'.

Note: One says: a raou da <aoll 'by twos', a dri do. dri 'by threes lC .

136. For expressions like 'we two, you three', 'they [our' all four', etc., see §92.

137. An approximat d number can be express d with the aid of the word bennak: un ugent bennak 'about twenty'. S e §l06, Note I.

One can also add to the number the ending -ad: un ugentad 'about twenry, a 'core or. 0', ur c'hantad 'about a hundred'; to nUl on adds -iad: or miliad 'about a thou. ami'.

Note 1: In these derivatives, the final -k of dek 'ten' becomes -g: WI degad about ten" o.-<.egQu 'by tens'.

Note II: One can say: a-ugentado« 'by twenties'; a-gantadoi: by hundreds' a-(liliado!1 'by thousands', etc,

The Verb· 41

40 • Breton Granunar

REGULAR VERB: skrivaii


Impeifect skriven skrives skrive skriveJllp skrivec'h skr.ivent skrived

Present skrivan skrivez skriv skrivom.p skrivit skrivont skriver


skrivaD. \. rite'

138. Breton has only one verbal conjugation, on the model of the regular verb skrivaii 'write", reproduced below. On the pages following the conjugations of the only five verbs which are considered irregular is given: bez'aii 'be, endevout 'have', gouzout 'know', m.ont 'go', and ober'do'.

Present Participle o skrivaii

.. ,


Verbal ArfjecJive skrivet 'written'

In the paradigm' which follow, the verb are given 111 th following format:

Present Conditional skrivfen skrivfes skrivfe skrivfem.p skrivfec'h skrivfent skrivfed

Past Defmue skrivis skrivjout skrivas skrivjom.p skrivjoc'h skrivjont skrivjod

Future skrivin skrivi skrivo skrivilllp skrivot skrivint skrivor

first person singular second person singular

third person singular (feminine in parentheses) first person plural

second person plural

third person plural

impersonal passive

Note: In §224 it is explained that the graph -z - i· used in thi book to show the written -z- which is pronounced in Leon but unpronounced in other parts of Brittany. The verb bez'aii (p. 50) is perhaps the best example of how the orthography has taken account of the unpronounced -Z-, as in bo compared with ber'o. Jote that in the imperfect habitual of bez'aii the -z- is always pronounced.

Past Conditional skrivjen skrivjes skrivje skrivj eJllp skrivjec'h skrivjent skrivjed


skriv skrivet skr'ivomp skrivit skrivent

42 • Breton Granunar


Verbal Noun bez'aii 'be'

Present Participle

o vez'aii being'

e vout (Gwenedeg) VerbaL A qjeclu!e

bet 'been'

Present on out

zO,eo, eus OOlP




Impefec! oan oas


oafilp oac'h oa.nt ~ad

Past Difinite boen boes

boe boemp boec'h boent boed


bin, bez'in

bi, bez'i

bo, bez'o biOlP, bez'imp biot, bez'ot bint, bez'int bior, bez'or

Present Conditional befen



befemp befec'h



P(L)'l Conditional bijen



bijeDlp bijec'h bijent



bez' bez'et bez'oDlp bez'it bez'ent

Present Imperfect Present Imperfect
bez'an bezen, eOleden eOlaon (em] edon,-en
bez'ez bezes, eDledes eDlaout (eDl)edos, -es
bez' beze, eDlede eDlan (eDl)edo, -e
bez'oDlp bezeznp, emedercp eDlaODlp (e.m) edoDlp,-eDlp
bez'it bezec'h, e.medec'b e.maoc'h (e.m)edoc'h, -ec'h
bez'ont bezent, emedent ernaint (eDl)edont, -ent
bez'er bezed, eDleded errieur- [emjedod, -ed IRREGULAR VERB: endevout

The Verb· 43

Verbal Noun endevout or kaout 'have'

Present azn eus ac'h eus

en (he) deus hon eus hoc'b eus

o deus

Present Participle

o kaout 'having'

Imperfect aDl boa az'poa

en (he) doa horboa hopoa

o doa

Past Difinite Future
aDl boe aDl bo aDl bez'o
az' poe az'po ho pez'o
en (he) doe en (be) devo en devez'o
bor boe horbo hor be.z.'o
hopoe hopo ho pez'o
o doe o devo o devez'o Present Conditional aDl befe

az' pefe

en (he) defe hor befe

ho pefe

o defe

Past Conditional a.m bije

az' pije

en (he)dije hor bije hopije

o dije


arrr bez'et aDl bez'et az' pe.z' az' pez'et

en (he) defet en (be) devez'et

hor bez'et ho pet

o defent

hor bez'et ho pez'et o devez'et


Present aOl. bez' az' pez'

en (he) devez' hor bez'

ho pez'

o devez'

lmpnfec! aRl. beze az'peze

an (he) deveze hor beze

ho peze

o deveze

44 • Breton Granunar


Verbal Noun gouzout 'know

Present Participle

o c~houzout knowing

Verbal Adjectu» gouezet 'known'

Present gouzon gouzout goar gOUZOI1lp gouzoc'h gouzont gouzer

Imperfect gouien gouies gouie gOllieI1lp gouiec'h gouient gouied

Past Definit.e gouezis gouejoor gouezas gouejornp gouejoctb gouejonr gouejod

Future gouezin gOllezi gouezo gouezintp gouezot gouezint gouezor

Present Conditional goufen


goufe goufeI1lp goufee/h goufent goufed

Past Conditional gouijen gouijes gOllije gouijernp gouijec'h gouijent gouijed


gouez gouezet gouezoIllp gouezit gouezent

Note: Gourou; is the most irregular of Breton verbs' it is commonly conjugated on one ofa number of variant roots:gouian/gouiet,goarout, and gouvez 'out.

The Verb· 45


Ve1'balNoull Present
I1lont go' an
Present Participte a,ya
, . ,
o vont gOlng eornp
Verbal A4jective eont
aet 'gone' eer
Past Definite Future
is in
ejout i
eas, yeas ay, aio, yelo
ejomp aintp
ejoc'h eot
ejont aint
ejod eor Imperfotl

aen aes ae~yae aeI1lp aec'h aent aed

Present Conditional afen


afe, yafe afeI1lp afec'h afenr afed

Post Conditional ajen


aje, yaje ajeI1lp ajec'h ajent ajed


a~ kae aet

eomp, deonlp it, kit


46 • Breton Granunar


Verbal Noun ober'do'

Present Participle oc'h ober 'doinz' Verbal Aqjeftive graet'done

Present gran grez gra greoD1p grit greont greer

Imperfect graen graes grae graeD1p graec'h graent graed

Past Definite gris

grejout greas,geure grejoD1p grejoc'h grejont grejod

Future grin gri.

gray, graio graiD1p greot graint greor

Present Conditional grafen



gr-afemp grafec'h grafent


Past Conditional grajen grajes

graje grajeD1p grajec'h grajent grajed


gra graet greoD1p grit graent

The Verb· 47


139. The verbal noun is formed, either from the root itself, like lenn 'read', or from the root and an ending: -aii, -iii, -at, -out, -al, -n, -ezh, -er, -en ..

Examples: hadan 'sow', debriii 'eat', lakaat put, ka.vout 'find', nijal 'fly, eren 'tie', laerezh 'steal, rob', embreger 'undertake', dougen 'can, weal".

Note 1: Some verbs have several forms of the verbal noun: aa/recal, aotren permit' .

Note II· From region to region one can find that the verbal noun ending are almost interchangeable. In Leon, -aii is ornrnon; JIl Gwened it doesn't exi t at all.

140. In certain verbal nouns, the vowel of the root is altered. These are specially the erbal noun in -eiii,-el, -iii.

Examples: skeiii 'strike' root sko; gervel 'call' r or galv; terriii 'break', root torr.

The verb dont ' ome is conjugated on the root deu. It. participle L· deuet or deut. In the imperative, the second person s ingular is deus 'come! , the .econd person plural deudt or deut come!'.

141. Th verbal noun is .ornetimes 11 .ed as an ordinary noun. It is then treated like a masculine .ingular: an debriii hag an evaii 'the food and the chink'; ober un aozaii 'make a reparation' lit. 'make a repair'.


142. The present participle is formed with the aid of the particle 0 (oc'h before a vowel, ouzh before a personal pronoun): 0 tebriii'eating', oc'h evan 'drinking', ouzh e welout 'seeing him'. The forms e and ec'h are used in Gwenedeg.

143. According to th iense, 0 can be replaced by en ur, a-greiz, dre, etc.: en ur gerzhout 'while marching'; a-gre.i:l kornz 'while speaking'; dre labourat 'by (dint 00 working'.

48 • Breton Granunar


144. Endevout 'have' and bez'aii 'be' are used as auxiliarie in the same conditions as in English and French to form the compound tenses: perfect (indefinite past), pluperfect, past perfect future perfect, present conditiona, past conditional. (English doesn't make some of these verbal distinctions in translation.)

Here are examples with the verb kavout 'find' and the auxiliary endevout:



Past Perfect:

Future Perfect:

Pres. Conditional:

Past Conditional:

kavet en deus kaye! en doa kavet en doe kavet en devo en defe kavet en dije

'he has found' 'he had found' 'he had found'

'he will have found' 'he would have found' he would have found'

Here are examples with the verb kouezhaii. fall and the auxiliary bez'aii:



Past Perfect:

Future Perfect:

'he has fallen' 'he had fallen 'he had fallen'

'he will have fallen' 'he would have fallen' 'he would have fallen'

kouezhet eo kouezhet e oa kouezhet e voe kouezhet evo

Pres. Conditional: kouezhet evefe Past Conditional: kouezhet evije

For the use of endevout with transitive and bez'aii. with inrransiti e verbs compare the French it a Itouve 'he ha found' and it est tomb« 'he has fallen'. Intransitive verbs, such as verbs of motion, take bez'aii. as the auxiliary.

Note I: The auxiliary can precede the verb: en en deus kavet 'he has found'; en a <.0 koueshe: he has fallen'.

Note If' The verbal noun of the verb 'have' is generally kaout: one says mat eo kaoutjizi11ll.s 'it is good to have faith" One says less often mat eo endeuout (or en devout) fdalis. Note that the verbal noun of endeuoui varies according to the per on: am bout, a:c' pou~ en deootu, he devout, hor bout; ho pout, a devout; Exampl : kauet em eus hep am bout klasket '1 have

The Verb· 49

found without having looked'; c'luoi a dife 110 pout mes]: 'you hould be ashamed' lit. you should have .harne'.

Note IlL The locative forms of be<.'aii in the present iemaon, emaout, et .) are never used to form the compound tenses.

145. In the past infinitive, endevout is often replaced by bez'a.ii.

Example: bez'aii hadet 'have sown.

146. Ober do' serve frequently a' an auxiliary, especially when the verb i to be srres: ed. It take' the verbal noun: skrivaii. a ra 'he writes', li L. 'wri ring he doe. '.

Note I: The normal unmarked de larative sentence in the north of Brittany is formed with ober: debrii; a Tan 'J am eating'. The same is formed with the subject expres ed in southern Brittany: me a rebr. To stress [he agent, one can say: me eo a .00 lelniil 'I'm eating'; to stres the action one can say: 0 tebriil e1l!(l011 'I'm eating'.

Note 11: The verb gOll out 'know' does not alway. take ober, but also itself: gOIl-Olit a ra 'he knows' or gall-alit a oar.

147. Likewise, when on wi: h s to stress the verb, a special form is u .ed in which the phrase begin with the auxiliary bez'aii, usually shortened to bez' (with a real orthographic apostrophe), after which the verb follow in the desired tense; bez' e badas 'he sowed'.


148. In the pre:ent and imperfect, bez'aii and endevout have forms expressing habitualness, long duration or the frequent rep titicn of an action: klaii.v e vez" bep sizhun 'he is sick every week'; poan hor bez" o labourat e-p'ad ar goaii.v 'we find it hard to work in winter'.


149. Bez'aii. also has .pecial present and imperfect forms, which 'xpres. location or momentary situation: eIlla.ii. e Brest 'he is in Brest; edo 0 vervel 'he was dying'.

50 • Breton Granunar

THE Co. Dl710NAL

150. The conditional is II ·ed whenever there is an idea of doubt, in particular after the onjunctions rna or pa in the sense of 'if: Dl.a teufe e vefen laouen 'if h came 1 would be happy'· pa vefen klaiiv ne zeufen ket 'if! were sick I wouldn't come'.

Note I: , Iter mal" 'if', the indicative is used: marfeli deoc'n e.e' in 'if you wi h I will go. See §l96.

. Note l/: There is a pre ·ent conditional in -J- and a past onditional in 1·-: deuf«; deuje 'he would come'. In current usage these are confused, being used one for the other without distinction. Nevertheless the learner is counselled to observe the agreement of tense: me a. gred e tel!fe '1 believe that he would com ; me a. grede e te0e '1 believed that he would have come'.


151. Breton ha no subjunctive per se. To translate the French subjunctive one LIS S either the future indicative, or the conditional.

Regarding a command or a wish, with an idea of futurity, one generally uses the future: fellouta ra din rna temo 'I want him to come' (je oeux qu'il vienne); gant rna teuio 'would that be came' ipourou qu'il vienne).

III other cases one gen rally uses the conditional: aon en deus na zeufe ket 'he fears he may not come' (it craint qu'il ne inenne pas).

Note: The French subjunctive, when it is equivalent to the imperative, i expressed by the imperative in Breton, or by the optative (see 1 70). Example: deuent ou fa reuini 'let them come iqu'ils mennenb,


152. The compound ten es of endevout 'have' are formed with the aid of bet, the past participle ofbez'aii. Example: rne aD1 eus bet 'I have had. Bez'a:ii .erves as its OW11 auxiliary: me a zo bet 'J have been'.

153. In the first and second persons singular of endevout one som tim s finds ern, ec'h ez' instead of am, ac'h, az". Examples: bet eDl. eus 'I have had'· n'ec'h eus ket bet 'YOLI haven't had'; atav ez' po va skoazeU 'you will always have my help.

The Verb· 51

This happens when, as the usual rule requires, either the verbal particle e, or the negative particle ne precedes the verb (see §§! 66 and (71). Ne'Dl. and ne'c'h are found, butntern and n'ec'h should be preferred as written forms,

154. In the third person singular of the present,. the re are three forms of bez'aii: zo eo, eus, not counting the habitual and locative forms.

Zo is used in the affirmative, when the subject precedes the verb: me a zo 'I am .

Eo is used in other cases: bray eo it's nice.

Eus means 'there is, there are': eno ez' eus tud 'there are people there'.

Vote: There is' (French ilya) is expressed by a <.0 or ' 0 if one begin· the. enten e with the obje t noun of ' there is': tud (l -0 or tud '<.0 'there are people'. Likewise in temporal expressions, where French it)1 a corresponds to English ago: .pel! '<.0 'long ago'. In the negative one always says ellS: 'I 'ells ket a dud 'there are no people' n'eus ket pell 'not long ago.

In the other tense the appropriate form of the verb 'be' i s used: tud a oa 'there were people'; tud a uo 'there will be people'.

One may also begin the sentence by saying: be; ez' ells 'there is, there are' bez' e oa there wa: , there were etc.; bee' ez ells bam 'there i bread. In .outhern Brittany where bout is used instead of bez'ail, bout eus and bout <.0 are u ed.

155. In the third person singular, in most of the tenses one finds two forms of mone 'go': a, ya; or three: ay, aio, yelo. The form which begins with y- i only u ed in the affirmative, when the subje t pre edes the verb:

Dl.e a ya 'we will go'.

Note: One can think of this y- as an unusual form of the verbal particle. The verbal particle has forms in some dialects where the linkinc con onant differs; one can consider the -y- in the same light: bremaii ez: an da rebrii: 'now I go to eat' can have ell an or e yan. (*91 an) instead of e.e'.

156. Alter the verbal particles a, e, the negative particles ne n.a, and [he conjunctions rna pa the g- is lost in th forms of gouzout 'know' and of ober 'do' which 1 egin with thi: consonant: hi a oar 'she knows'; ne ra ket 'he doesn't do'.

52 • Breton Granunar


157. There are in the simple tenses sp cial forms for the impersonal passive: un den a weier a person is seen'; n'ell1 anavezed ket 'one didn't know me, no one knew me'. See §126.


158. In the impersonal, the subject is not expre sed: glav a ra 'it's raining', lit. rain does'; noziii a ra night is failing'.

Note I: The feminine sometimes makes its appearance in phrases of thi kind. Thus one can find: brau e oa anerhi 'it was nice', Lit. 'nice was by her'.

Note H: A number of verbs which are impersonal in French correspond in Breton, as in English, to verbs which take prepositions: kauou! a ra dill 'it seems to me', lit. 'filleLing does to me';fillout a 1"(1 din 'I must', lit. 'lacking does to me ; bemout a ra din 'it's important to me', lit. 'mattering doe to me'. The corresponding French impersonals are: il me semble, il mefau! it m imports.

One can also say: krediit a ra din. 'I believe'; soiljal a ra din 'I think'.

In the negative, one says: ne gav kel din 'it doesn't seem to me' nefill ket din 'I don t want to', etc.


159. Verbs like glebiaii 'soak', ending in -aii, in which -i- is consonantal Lil, do not retain this -i- except before -a, -e, -0: one writes glebias, glebie glebio etc., but gleb, glebis, glebjoll1p, glebfe, etc.

If these verbs end in -niaii, like leuniaii 'fill', or in -liaii, like heuliaii 'follow' the -n- and the -1- become -gn- and-(i)lh- whenever the -idisappears: leugn, leugnis, Ieugnjornp, heuilhin, heuilhfe etc.

160. Verbs whose root i in -a-, like pesketa 'fish ,brasaat enlarge', in -eu-, like dont 'come', or in -0-, like reiji 'give', take in me third person singular future the ending -io or -y:pesketaio pesketay; brasaio, brasay; deuio, deuy; roio, roy. For more, on the subject of dont, see § 140.

161. The root of certain verb sometimes change. under the influence of an ending. III this case, both regular and irregular form coexist:

The Verb· 53

lavarout 'say' sri.ves lavarit and livirit lavarot andleverot; karout 'love' give karlt and kirit, karot and kerot. Gallout 'be able is conjugated on two roots, gall and gell, etc.


162. To form the reflexive verb en ern is pla ed before the verb in every ten e and in every per:on: en em veuliii 'prais neself'; allaer a zo en ern lazhet 'th thief ha. killed himself"; en ell1 welout a rit en dour 'you see yourself in the water'.

This same en ern also serves to form the reciprocal verb: n'en erra garont ket kenetrezo 'they do not love one another; arab at en ell1 gannaii 'it i: forbidden to fight one another'.


163. The personal pronoun is not generally expre. sed (see §64), Example: ma hadan 'if 1 . ow'; ne hadas ket 'he did not : ow'.

164. When the subject is expressed, the verb is put into the third person singular whether the subject be a pronoun or a plural noun: me a had 'I am owing" e vreudeur a hadas 'his brothers sowed'.

165. In the negative, how ver, the verb agrees with its subject, if the subject precedes it: ll1e ne hadan ket 1 am not sowing'; e vreudeur ne hadjont ket his brothers didn't sow'. But the third person singular is used if the subject follows the verb: n'ell1aii ket va c'.boarezed eker 'my sisters are not at home'.


166. The verb is generally preceded by a particle, except as a verbal noun and in the imperative. This particle is a if the verb is preceded by its ubject or a dir ct object: ll1e a had '1 am owing'; tud a welan 'I see people'; skeiii a rankas 'he had to strike'.

This particle is e (ez' or ec'.b before a vowel) if the verb is preceded by an indirect object or by an adverb: eviti e laboure 'he was working for her'; neuze ez' eas kuit 'then he left'.

54· Bret.on Granunar

Note 1: The rule for particles after be;::'an is this: a comes after the subject, e after the attribute or object: me a oa 'I was, klafiv e oa 'he was ill'; ella e oa trou.; there was noise there',

Note ll: After conjun tions other than ma, mar, pa (for which see § 167), the particle e is used: koulskoude e Jelle dedwii mont 1.11it nevertheless he wanted to leave'; ne gom;;;o ke: pe e uez» tamallei he won't speak, or he will be blamed" hag e labour aiau and he always works',

There i: however one ca .e in which the conjunctions pe and hag are followed by a: when they connect two verbs preceded by a subject or a direct object: ar re-se a Mega pe a oaruo 'tho 'e people will submit or they will die'; ar plac'h a gom;:e Iwg a gane 'the girl spoke and sang" da. geren! a gari hag a "olg'i 'you will love and respect your parents',

167. Th panicle is omitted when the verb is preceded by rna IIlar, pa, ne, na en em, or by a personal pronoun: kozh e oa pa varvas 'he was old when he died'; warc'hoazh he gwelin 'tomorrow I will see her', The pronouns '1Il and 'z' are exceptional; see § 153,

Note l: The particl is omitted after two rarely used conjunctions, aba 'since' and endra 'while': aba ueue since he lived'; endra gom;:e 'while he spoke',

Note II- Before the forms of the verbs be:::.'ail 'be and moni 'go' which begin with vowels, ma'r' and pa':::. are used instead of ma and pa: ma; (lfen di 'if I went there'; pa';' on bel eno 'when J was there', The forms of bu. ail in the imperfect (oan, oas, etc.) often make an exception to this rule: pa oan 'ifI was',

168. The particle is sometimes omitted before certain verbs, in particular bez'aii, Note that the locative forms of bez'aii (emaon emaout, etc.) never take the particle,

The particle is omitted before every form of endevoer.

169. Before some verb, the particle e can begin a sentence: ez' an da lavarout 'I am going to say; e c'hallfe bez'aii rna ..• 'it could be that." '; e kredan aes ez .•. 1 believe ea ily that..,',

170. There is an optative particlera, which is placed before the verb in the future to express a wish: ra zeuio buan en-dro 'may he return quickly, I hope he returns quickly',

The Verb· 55

Note: The optative i .. also formed with the aid of the verbal noun and the preposition da: de"haii da ;::onl en-dro huon lit. 'to him to come back quickly',

171. Negation is exp'e,. ed with the aid oftb words ne ... ket (French ne '" pas) surrounding the verb: ne skrivan ket 'I do not write'.

In compound tense' the words ne •.. ket .urround the auxiliary: ne voe ket lazhet 'he wa: nor killed',

172. Ne is replaced by na in the imperative: na ganit ket 'do not sing',

Na is used also to express 'that not which not' completing or determining a noun: un dra na c'houlennen ket a thing which 1 did not ask', See §204,

Finally, na is used in place of ne after .ken 'until', evit 'for' and expressions indicatinga fear, like gant aon 'for fear of', evit. mirout 'to prevent, Examples: gortozit ken na skrivo 'wait until he writes" en ezrr guzhit evit na welo ket ac'hanoc'h 'hide yourself so he won't see you'; lIlont. a ran kuit gant aon na zeufent. 'I am leaving for r ar that they would come'; hastit, evit mirout na. vefe re ziwezhat 'hurry to prevenl his (her, its) being (00 late',

173. In the infinitive, rh re is no negative form b cause negative panicles precede the verb and the infinitive is a (verbal) noun. Negation is supplied by mean' of expressions like: chom hep lit. 'rest without; t.reDlen bep lit. 'pass without'; mirout a 'keep from', Examples: chorn hep fiiival 'not move" rrernenhep debriii 'not em ; xnirout a redek 'not 1"l1I1 , But it is pos .ible to find na befor a verbal noun: na gredin or na grediii ket not believe,

174. Ket is generally omitted when another word of the sentence implies a negation: ne c'hoarzh ken 'he (she) laughs no more'; n'o gwelan lIlui I see them no more'; n'o c'haras rnor-se 'he never loved them': n'eus den ebet. aze 'there is no one there',

Ke~ i also omitted in sentences like those given as examples in s 172: gortozit. ken na skrivo ere.

175. Ne and na are oft. n elided before a vowel, thcuzh there is no ab olute rule for this: n'anaveze netra or ne anaveze netra 'h didn't know anything, The elision alway takes place before a personal pronoun:

56 • B,reton Grauunar

n'o ana.vezeket 'he didn't know them'. See §56 for the particular case of the first and second persons singular.

176 .. Before the forms of the verbs bez'aii and Ulonhvhich begin with

a. vowel, ne and na may take a d- prefixed to the verb: ne don ket 'I am not'; ne de as ket 'he didn't go'.

Note: This also occurs after the conjunction mar 'if: mar don 'if 1 am'; mar deas 'if he went',

The Adverb· 57


177. Breton has temporal adverbs, locative adverbs, quantitative adverbs, etc.: atav 'always', eno 'there',kalz 'much', etc.

178. One can form an adverb ofmanner from an adjective by placing the particle ez" before it. Example: leal 'loyal', ez" leal 'loyally'.

179. The adverb of manner is usually confused with the adjective: derc'hel a ra leal d'e c'her 'he keeps his word loyally'; souezhetbras eo bet 'he was greatly astonished'; ne fiiiva.s ket an rustera.ji 'he did not move in the slightest'.

180. The adverb related to an adjective or to a past participle is generally connected to it by a hyphen: .klaiiv-fall 'gravely ill'; souezhetrrreuebef 'very astonished'jpaour a-walc/h 'poor enough'.

181. TIle noun can act as an adverb after an adjective: gwenn~erc'.h 'white as snow'; sec'h-.korn 'dry as a horn'.

58 • Breton Granunar


182. The mo t common prepositions combine with the personal pronoun: evit 'for, evito 'for them'. In effect, the prepositions are conjugated. The tables on the following pages give the forms of the various prepo. itions in these pronominal conjugations,

~r()le: On Table B following will be found the word eme, which is not a preposition, but a verb meaning 'say and 'said'. This word conjugate a though it were a preposition, rather than a verb: emer'on 'I said', emer'ou! you said', etc. \'\ ith the first person singular pronoun it sometime' Iorms a combined form emeoe 'I said', instead of emez'on. Likewise, egel 'than', a conjunction, and estregel 'other than' is a sort of adjective combined with eget.

183. The prepositions which do not appear in the table can be classed in three categories: those which combine ... vith the personal pronoun with the aid of another conjugated preposition, tho e which conjugate in decompo ition, and those which do not conjugate.

184. Among the most usual prepositions in the first category, preposition \ hich combine with the personal pronoun with the aid of another conjugated prepositions are: a-dreiiv, a-drek 'behind', a-dreuz 'through', dreist 'over, enep, a-enep 'against', e-tal 'near to; these combine with the pronoun with the aid of the preposition da: a-dreiiv din 'behind me', dreist dezhaii 'over him', a-enep de.zhi 'against her', e-tal dinJ.p 'near us' etc,

The prepositions betek 'up to' and etrezek 'toward' combine with the preposition e 'in': betek ennon 'up to me', etrezek ennaii 'toward him'.

185. In the e ond category prepositions which conjugate in decomposition, are those prepositions beginning in e: e-kichen 'near', e-keiiver'towards' e-kreiz 'in the middle of, e-Iecth 'in the place of, e-rnesk 'among, e-touez 'among, etc. They decompose and the possessive adjective is placed between the e and the rest of tbe preposition: eJD c'hichen near me', ez' keiiver 'towards you' en e greiz 'in the middle of it' en he lec'h 'in her place', en hor mesk 'among us' en ho touez 'among you' etc.

The Preposition· 59

. Like\,~rjse, prepositions beginning in d.iwar-: diwar-benn 'conceming' g1Ves dlwar ho penn about you',

Then there are prepositions beginning in war-: war-dro 'about', warlerc'h 'after'. They decompo e in the same fashion: war va zro about me' war 0 Ierc/h 'after them'. Tote til expression ober war va zro 'to look after me'.

The case of other prepositions is a bit more complicated: a-zivout 'about concerning' gives war va d.ivout 'concerning me'; a-raok 'before' gives ern raok 'before me'; a-berzh 'on behalf of gives eus va ferzh 'on my behalf, eus hor perzh 'from us' lit from our part',

Vote: Goude 'after' is sometimes formed thus: em goude 'after me', ez' koude 'after you', ell e c'houde 'after him etc.

186. In the third category, those prepositions with are not conjugated, appear, among prepositions currently in use: a-hed 'the lencrh of adal

0-" ,

adalek 'since', e-barzh 'inside', e-pad 'during', e-giz 'like', eus 'from'

ouzhpenn in addition to'.

Note L Since not all of these prepo itions are conjugated, they are replaced by prepositions having the arne meaning and which themselves are conjugated. Thus eus 'from' is replaced bv a which means the ·ame. Thus one ays ac'hanon 'from me, oU.<h;JeJI,: din 'in addition to me', ennon 'in 'ide me', oll.<h ua lied 'the length of me'. It is possible to conjugate e-gi<: with egiston, or to say e-gi<: dill.

. ole 11: In the tables following., this edition follows the pre .. .entation given in Kervella 1976.

60 • Bret.on Granunar


Stem + endings dindan.on dindan.out dindanaii

dindani dindan.olnp dindan.oc'h dindan.ol dindane

dindan 'under' dreist 'over'

heme: 'according to'

I. Endings in -011

A. Wirhout linking consonants

Stem -t > -d- in 1,2 + endings daved.on






davet.ol davete dacet 'towards, to' eget'than'

eSlrege! 'other than'

evil 'for, in order to' neme: 'but, except' paneoe! 'if it were not for'

Stem in -n + -n- + endings enn.on




ennOlnp ennoc'h ennolenne

en 'in, into'

D, Withlinking-n-

Stem in-r +-n- + endings warn.on


warn(ezh)aii warn(ezh)i


warn.oc'h warn(ezh).olwarn(uh)e

war 'on'

duuar 'from, because of

Stem + -t- + endings egiston egistout egistaii


eglstomp egistoc'h egistolegiste

a-zioc'!! 'above' e-giz 'like'

C. With linking -t-

Stem + -t- (-d- in 1,2) + endings eveld.on






eveltol evelte


hep 'without'

D. With linking -z-

The .Preposition· 61

Stem in -e + -z- + endings drezon





drezncth drezoldreze

dte 'through, by means of eme 'said, says' (verb)

etre 'between'

E. Irregular

Stem + -ezh- in 3 + endings ac'banon




ac'hanolnp ac'hanoc'h

anezhol anezhe

a (eus) 'from, of

Stem in -k > -.z- + endings a-r-aozon




a-raozolnp a-raozoc'h a-raoz.ol a-eaoze

a-raok 'before'

dirak 'in front of, before' rak in front of, against'

II. Endings in -ui A. With 3 in -ezh

Stem + -ezh- in 3 + endings din




dirnp, deomp deoc'h dezholdezhe

da at, to, for'

B. With stem ill -nt

Stem -nt > -n- in 1,2 + endings ganin




ganilIlp, ganeolIlp ganeoc'h ga.nto/gante

gant 'with' digaflt 'from'

C. With stem in -zh

Stem -zh > -t- in :1 + endings ouzmn


out an





ouzh 'at, beside, against' diour]: 'from, according to'

62 • Breton Granunar

Note: Examination of the tables will show that there are two main ending classes:

I -on, -oul -aii, -i; -omp, -oc'h, -0 (or-e) II -in, -it,-aii, -I; -imp, -eoc'h, -0 (or -e)

These vary rather widely from dialect to dialect as to which endings are used with which prepositional stems. Some dialects only use one class exclusively, while others mix them in various ways. This book gives the Unified Breton written standard-but the learner will hear many variations,

187. There are 111 Breton many preposinons composed of several elements or prepositional locutions. They generally end in a simple preposition (almost always da), and conjugating them offers therefore no difficulty.

Some are listed here: abaJaUlour da, en abeg da, en askont da 'because or, en arbenn da 'towards', en-dro da 'around', hep gouzout da N. 'unknown to N.' a-dal da 'facing, in front or, pell diouzh 'far n·om'., a-us da 'above'.

The Conjunction • 63


188. The principal conjunctions are: ha 'and', which becomes hag before a vowel: pe 'or';na 'nor', which becomes nag before a vowel; hogen, mee 'but'; .. ak 'for, because'; peogwir 'because' rrra 'that if': rna .. 'if; pa 'if, when, because'.

189. A conjunction is generally connected to the verb which follows by the verbal particle e. Example: hag e kouezhas 'and he fell'; peogwir e vas-vas because he died'. See §166.

190. Hogen, Ulet, .. ak may not be followed by a verb. One says .. ak e varnrn a varvas 'for his mother died, and not *rak. e varvas e


191. After the conjunctions rrra, rrrar', pa, the conjunction e is not used. See §I 67.

Note: The conjunctions 1I!a and j!a become m' and r before a personal pronoun: p'ho kuelas 'when he saw you'. But in the first and second persons singular, ma'm, jJ(/m ma'r', pn'-' are used.

This also sometimes happens before the forms ofthe verb ber'ait 'be' and of the verb endeoout 'have': m'eo bel 'if he has been'; jJ'o deus laoarel 'when they have said'. This completes Note II of§I67.

192. Beside the conjunctions per se there exist, a' in French, a certain number of conjunctive 10cutions.:Vlany of these end in rrra, Example: 0 vez'aii rna given that'; a-raok ma 'before that'; goude .ma 'after that; e-pad rrra, e-keft ha .Ula 'during that'; a-fe ur' rna 'according as', etc.

Some others end in na. Examples:gant aon na 'for fear that'; ken na 'un til that' .

.. Note: Do not confuse this na, the negative particle discussed ill § 172, with the conjunction IW discussed in §188,. which means 'neither'. They are two distinct words .. la 'neither' does not cause mutation; na 'not' causes the soft mutation.

193. When a conjunctive locution is composed of a preposition and of Ina, the rrra can be replaced by da, in order to conjugate da; the verb then follows as a verbal noun. Example: instead of a-r-ack rrra varvas

64 • Breton Granunar

'before he died', one may say a-raok dezhaii lI'lervellit. 'before to him dying'.

Sometimes the preposition of the conjunctive locution is itself the conjugated preposition. Example: evit D1a kano 'in order that he sings', or evit dezhaii kan.aii lit. 'for to him singing', or evitaii da ganaii 'for him to sing'.

194. Note in particular the way in which the conjunction 'that is expres .ed in Breton in isolation (that is, outside of any conjunctive locution). It is generally expressed by the conjunction rna or by the verbal particle e.

E is mostly used with verbs expressing an opinion, a belief, a state of existing things, like krediii 'believe', soiija! think', gouzout 'know', lI'lerzout 'observe, notice', lavarout 'say'.

Example: kredin a ran e tewo 'J believe that he will come' .

. Ma. is mostly used after verbs expressing a command, a wish, a desire, a state of things one would like to realize, like gourc'hell'lenn 'order', karout'love want', c'hoantaat 'desire'.

Example: gourcthemenn a ran IDa teufo 'I order him to come'. But this di tinction is not absolute.

195. V\ hen the verb is in the negative, ne and na, the negative particles replace e and IDa. Examples: ha ne gouezhas ket and he did not fall'; peogwir ne va.rvas ket 'because he did not die': 0 vezafi na wele ket given that he did not see'.

Not«: But sometimes ina is left before ne. Example: 0 vCi;;afi ma ne ioele ket,

196. The conjunction 'if i generally ex-pressed by IDa, D1ar, or pa.

Examples: laouen e vefen IDa teufe 'I would be happy if he came'; D1ar is not regularly used except before the inclicative: laouen e vin D1ar den 'I will be happy ifhe comes; this is only true in the affirmative; in the negative IDa is used: IDa ne skriv ket din, ez' in d'e welout 'if he doesn't write to me, I will go to see him.

However, when 'if means 'whether, as in the phrases 'ask if, not know if, ha must be used. Examples: goulenn a reas .ha dont a raje 'he asked whether he would come'; De ouzon tamm hag echuet 0 deus 'T don t know at aU whether they have finished'.

Syntax· 65



197. Provided that the rules given above are observed, especially a· far as the verbal particles and the conjunctions are concerned, words can usually be plac cI in the sentence in any order.

Breton syntax is very free in this reo pect.


198. Interrogative phrase do not differ from others, except of cour e those which contain an interrogative word. In the spoken language, intonation uffices to make the difference bet, een an interrogative ancl a declarative sentence known. In the written language, one has recourse to the question mark: Examples: dont a rit 'you come'; dont a. rit? 'are you coming?'

199. Sometimes, however, interrogative ientences are preceded by ha, or, if one wishes to stre s them, by daoust ha, Example. : ha klanv eo? is he ill?': daoust ha klaiiv eo? 'is it that he's ill?'


200. Breton has a relative pronoull a which is used when the antecedent is subject or direct object of the subordinate clause: a.n den a gerzh'th person who walks'; an den a welan 'the person whom J see' .

Note: This a is the verbal particle. Context alone permit. on to distinguish whether a entence like an den a ger<.h m an· 'the person walks' or 'the person who walks'.

201. In th spoken language ai. often preceded by hag: an den hag a gerzh, an den hag a when the idea of the relativity is to be stressed. To stress it even more strongly, one may .ay a gernent a. Example: an. den a gernent a gerzh.

202. When the antecedent is neither subject nor direct object, a special expre .. ion is used, in which a conjugated preposition is pIa ed at the nd

66 • Breton Granuna.r

of the subordinate clause: an den a. gOIIlzan anezhaii. 'the person of whom I peak',.Iit. 'the person that I peak of him'.

203. In this case, a is often replaced by ma, and sometimes by the verbal particle e. Example: an den rrra komzan anezhaii.

~ol.e: The relative pronoun where in the sense of 'in which' offers likewise no difficulty. For example 'the country where he built his house" is expressed: ar oro a saoas e di enni lit. 'the country that he built his house in it', or even at oro ma saoas e di enni.

One may otherwise express 'where simply by mao Example: ar vro ma saoas e di the country where he built his house'.

This is also true when the relative is when, in the sense of'onwhich'.

Example: an deu;' rna skriue 'the day when he was writing'.

204. When the verb of the subordinate clause is in the negative, the relative pronoun a is replaced by na. Examples: an den na gerzh ket 'the person who doesn't walk'; an den na welan ket 'the person whom I don't see'; an den na gOlDZan ket anezhaii the person about whom I do not speak'.

Note I: A remark analogous to that made at 195 may be made here.

It is possible to use ma before ne. Examples: an den ma ne gOI1l<pn ket aneehaii 'the p rson of whom I do not speak'; all deiz lila ne skriue ke; 'the day when he was not writing',

Note II: In speech the na is often omitted: un den 'gerzh keto This does not occur when lIa precedes a vowel: an den n ouzon ke; pelec'h. email,

205. The relative pronoun a is omitted like the verbal panicle a. See §§ 167 and 168.

Pronunciation • 67

The Pronunciation of Breton


206. Although th Breton dialects differ from on another somewhat as regards pronunciation, they have more in ommon than would divide them.

207. Since Inified Breton (bre~horleg pClIIwwcm) has been fixed as a written standard it is her tak n as a base for fixing a sp ken standard. Unifi d Breton has sometimes been called ar edacleg, because it writes with Iz sounds which in some dialects ar pronoul1 d [z] and in other.


208. Four main dialects are generally recognized in Bret n, indicated on the frontispiece map on page ii, Broadly speaking, Kerneveg, Leoneg and Tregerieg (KLT) have more in common with one another than the) have with G~ en cleg th ugh this is an oversimplification. Leoneg, for instance has several features not shared by the other dialects, such as the tendency to pronounce -z'- where other dialect' have 10:1 it. To the loreien ear the the most noticeable featur of Gwenedeg is the use of' [cl


and r.ll in place of fk 1 and [q 1 before front vowels.

209. his i. not a complete and detailed tableau or anv parri ular dialect. Rather, it is a simple, schematized picture of the phonetic outline of the language. Nevertheless, in this sketch the important Gwenecleg form. have been given as an aiel to the learner,

210. An attempt has been made a: far as is possible, to make rhis di 'eLI' ion intelligil le to r ad rs who hav no sp cial knowledge or phonetics.

211. Finally, reference is often made to the pronunciation of Breton vis cl vis that ofFrench the assumption being that all reader. are familiar with that. Those who do not .hould refer to works on the pronunciari n or French.

68 • Breton Granunar


212. It is cu. tornary in phonetic works to employ a speciaJ notation to represent sound'. This is done becau e the resources of Ordinal)! orthography whether English or French, are imperfect.

213. The notation of the International Phonetic Association IS used here.

214. The phonetic alphabet is given below; after each letter an example is given [rom English (or from other languages when the corresponding sound does not exist in English).

IPA Exafilples

a Fr. mal, approx. Eng. buy DJaIl. now [nao]

o Fr. pas approx. Eng. father [fo:o"'""l

b Eng. boat

more palatalized than Eng. chip [if!pl

c; palatalized [x], as in Ger. nicht, Eng. dialect human

d Eng. dote or dill

e J

f 9 Y h


.J J k

m n

approx. Fr. ete" . Eng. sate Eng. about

approx. Fr. tres or Eng. set (allophonic valiant r~l is more open till, see 230)

approx. Eng. fight

approx Eng. goat orgill

Irish dha, N. Ger. sagen

Eng. hack (or honour) (. ee 238) voiced [h]

approx. Eng. machine Eng. yak

more palatalized than Eng. judge [d31\d3J approx. Eng. coat or kill

approx. Eng. la k (allophonic variant [tl i. voiceless as Welsh Ibn)

Span. llano hal. degli; approx. Eng. million Eng. mote

Ens, note

J' Fr. gagne, Span. ano; approx. Eng. onion

Pronunciation • 69

lJ o J

Eng. sing

approx. Fr. sot, Eng. :oap

approx. Fr. one, Eng. sop (allophoni . variant r 1 is more pen still, s .e .230)

approx. Fr. peu, Ger. I ohle

approx. Fr. (l!U\TC, Gel'. Holle (allophonic variant [<+1 is more open still, 'ee §230)

Eng. pack

pan. pero; approx. American ladder

PI'. rire, Gel'. rich rig (allophonic [X 1 is voicele .. ) Eng. sack

Eng. shack

approx. Eng. tote or till approx, Eng too

Fr. nuit

approx, Eng. vote Eng. wok or win Irish nach, G r. nach Fr. une Gel'. grun Eng. zone

Eng. measure


r [!









215. A tilde over a vowel indicates that it is nasalized,

IPA Examples

a Breton skanv 'light" approx. Fr. cran rk!fol Breton krefiv 'strong' not very like h. fin [ff1 Br ton bins 'SCI' w'

6 Breton pont 'bridge ; approx. Fr. mon rm31

@ Breton bleuiiv 'Hower. ; approx Fr. brun nJ[!(l:: 1

). Breton puns 'well'

216. 10llCT vov el is represented by followins it with two points; thus

[c.] mans 'long 0'.

217. Tonic accent is represented by a uroke before the stressed syllable: bara bread' [].

218. Phonetic represenratioru are given within square bra kets.


Pronunciation' 71

onsonant: have a t ndency to neutralize t devoiced I nes in absolut final position (see §251 below); the product of a fortis and a lenis in conta twill follow approximately the rules given as [or voiceless and voiced in §§252-54 below).

It has not been considered practical to dernonstrat thi. difference in a f,'l'ammar with the limited scope of this one; and the voicedvoiceless distinction will serve the learner adequately until be or she encounters Breton first-hand. For further discussion of this question see Pre'. 1986, Ken-ella 1976, and jackson 1967_

70 • Breton Grauunar

219. \,Vhen a consonant is pronounced, the vocal cords, ituated in the larynx, may vibrate (voiced consonants) or not (voiceless consonants). The distinctive sound of the consonant is produced by the air escaping from the lungs against an obstruction formed by the closure or restriction of a point (or a number of points) between the vocal cords and the lips.

Th voiced consonants of Breton are:

[b d j 9 m nJ1lJ I'{ If V r 3 y fi W4 z j].

The voiceles .. one' al-e: [p r c k c;: f']' x h s],

Consonants are classified according to the point of articulation a! :

a) bilabial (between the two lips): [p b rnw q];

b) labiodental (bottom lip against the top teeth): [f'v];

c) apico-dental (between the front of the palate and the end of the tongue): [t d n Irs zI31;

el) palatal (between the middle of the palate and the middle of the tongue): [CJ.)1 A c;: Il:

e) velar (between the back of the palate and the back of the tongue): [kg IJ x '1'1;

D uvular (in the throat): [If 1;

g) glottal (between the vocal ords): [hfi],

220. Stops or occlusives are obtained when the pa.-sage of air i~ do. ed at a given point, and then opened udd nly, Before a SIre ss d vowel, th voiceless [p 1, [tl, and rk 1 are aspirated somewhat more suonglv than in French, bing rather more like English con .onants: pegan 'glue' ['pe:gal tachenn 'plot of land' ['taJI::111; kador 'chair r'ko:d:nsl

221. Nasals are obtained like occlusives, with the difference that the velum or soft palate i. lowered allowing orne of the air coming from the lungs to es ape through the nostrils. Breton [.)11 has no equivalent in Engli .h. The middJe of the tongu presses against the middle of the palate; it is written ii in Spanish, '!)I in Catalan gn in French and Italian: kignen 'garlic' r'Jci,JlmllrciJlen1; ognon 'onions' [,0J1on1; gagn 'carrion' rgil_pl. This sound is a bit different from that in English onion r'·\njJnl-

The manner of articulation further distinguishes consonants as;

I) stops [p b t dc jk q]
2) nasals [m n J1 tJ]
3) laterals D Al
4) rolled [1' If]
5) fricatives [f v s z J 3 c x 'i h 11]
6) sernivowels [w 4j1 222. Laterals are obtained when the pas. age of air is almost clo .ed with the tongue. so that it can escape by the sides only often by a single side.

In the pronounciation of [I], the tip of the tongue closes the p'lssage. In the pronunciation of Breton [I], the middle of the tongue is lowered in general more than in French. This is most ob\,~DUS in final position after a short tressed vowel: koll '10. e' rbl1 dall 'blind' [dal1- Compare English mill tell.

After a voiceless onsonanr, the Breton Ul sometimes allophonically devoice a French [l] does in the same po .ition one can repre .ent this voiceles Dl by [f]. Compare riskl 'danger' [siskf] and French cycle f ·iMl· This is similar to the sound found in Welsh Llan ftan1 or sometime', allophonically, in heavily aspirated Englishplan! ['pht<e:nl_

[Iq has no equivalent in English. The middle of the tongue presses against the middle of the palate; it is written II in Spanish, {y in Catalan, gl in Italian: dilhad clothes' ['diAatl; ruilhet 'rolled' f'lf)'l{er]' sailh 'bucket [sax]; boutailh 'bottle' r'buta,\l; spilhenn pin' [spixcn]. This sound i· close to, but not identical to that in Engli h million r'mrlj::m 1. Many

Note: Some scholars assert that the chief opposition in the Breton consonantal system is not voice vs. voicelessness, but rather lenis v ·.Jorlis, i.e., the strength with which they are articulated. Briefly, consonants written a' voiced are weaker and shorter than those written as voiceless-this has the acoustic effect of sounding like a voicedvoiceless distinction to speakers of English, Irish, or Welsh (but cf. the voiceless aspirated vs, voiceless nonaspirated distinction in Dani .h, and the three grades of short ellis), long (fortis), and overlong (long fortis), voiceless onsonants in Estonian). Both forti and lenis

Pronunciation· 73

72· Breton GraJl1..O'lar

Bretons replace fAl with Iil- The preceding words become r dijot] r'lryjetl, [saj] [butaj], [spijon].

I wer lip): falz 'sickle [Ials]; avel 'wind [,a:vdlln many dialects [w] is used instead of rv].

223. r has two main pronunciations. The "rolled" or apical trill [r] i obtained by bringing the point of the tongue near the gums behind the teeth of the upper jaw, The air passing by produce a series of vibrations, a sort of rolling, for which the consonant is named. This is the sound found in Italian, Scottish Gaelic, Spanish, andw elsh. The apical trill [r] is found mostly among older speakers of Leoneg. A similar apical flap [r 1 (more a tap than a mil) is used by older speaker' of Tregerieg; younger speakers of Tregerieg tend to use a retroflex approximant rJ 1.

Elsewhere in Brittany, the' gutteral" or uvular trill [gl is more common.

In this ca e, it is the uvula at the back of the soft palate, which vibrates against the back of the tongue. This consonant is represented by [s]. This is the sound found in . tandard French and German. In parts of Central Brittany a voiceless version of this sound a post-velar or uvular fricative r x l- i. used. The r g 1 i. the sound used in Kerneveg and in the tandard language.

Learners who speak French or German may as wen use the back [11]; \ elsh and Scottish learners with [1'], however, may feel free to use that sound. Since it is more common rlf 1 is written here.

Arter a voiceless consonant, [r] and r 1>1 devoice to fr1 and r xl under the same conditions a~ nl (see §222) in Breton as in French. Compare lIl.estr 'master' [mestr] or [mcstv] and eqlleslre [e'kestr] or re'krstx l Note that r mest] is heard far more often than either of these.

Note 1: The strengthening which the comparative and superlative endings -aii and -oc'li give to -c'lI- illyae'lzoe'h here is extended to other consonants' this is sometimes reflected in the orthography as noted at §75 above.

Note Il: In the area of Central Brittany where Irl is realized as

voiceless uvular r xl. I xl is realized a. pharyngeal [n].

Nou Ill: 1n Leoneg orthographic -z- is always pronounced. In other dialects, however it i ometirnes pronounced and sometime' not. In this book -;:,'- is used to mark the unpronounced one: gwa- 'goose' is written rgwo:(s)l here (Lagadeg & Menard 1995 \ rite [gOO:(5)1), I'u;:,'iaii 'redden' is written rry(zljal here . agadeg &:V[enarcl write r'ryf:a1 (or r'lf, zjal) for Leoneg and r'ryj:a.l for Tregerieg and Kerne eg).

225. Sernivowels are onants that have the same articulatory position as

ertain vowels [w 1 as r u] r q 1 as ryl, [.i1 as [~, with the difference that the pa 'sage of air i. restricted more strongly than for the vowel. They are the same in Breton as in French: gwad 'blood' [qwcnt]; IIl.w. 'more' [mui]; reier 'rocks' 1'I1~iel1l Compare the French boile [bwat]; nuii [nui]; noiere [si'vies].

224. Fricatives are the con onants obtained by re tricting the passage of air in a given place, which produces a 5011: of friction.

[h] is identical to the English [h] in house. See §238.

rx] has no equivalent in English. It is articulated between the back of the palate and the back of the tongue. It corresponds to the Irish or German [x], written ell, in nach: lIl.are'h 'horse' [marx]; yaeh 'healthy' [ja:x]; e'hwitellit 'you whistle' [xwi'tditllf'hlJitditl; lIl.ousc'hoarzh 'smile' r'mllsxwal1sll['mushwaB'xl In Leoneg it can .ometirnes be voiced to [ft] or ryl e'hoazh 'already' rywo:sll[fiwa:sl (Gwenedeg [hwo:x] or [wc.xj), yae'hus 'healthy' [jafiys] (but not in comparatives and superlatives: yac'hoe'h 'healthiest f:jax::>x].

The consonants [f1 and rvl in Breton usually have labio-dental articulation as in English (between the teeth of the upper jaw and the

74 • Breton Granunar

Pronunciation· 75

227. Every unstres ed vowel is short. A srre .ed vowel is short when it is followed:

a) by another vowel or semivowel: aotrou 'mister' [awtsu] (or [,otlful);kleiz' 'chalk' [kh:i( )1; rrmal 'bald' [rnoo.l] (or [mwo:l]); kaier 'notebook' ['kajcIf1; diwall 'protect [riiwal].

b) by a voicele s consonant [p t k fJs x]: strap 'crash' [stxap]; ket not' [ketllr ell; stok 'contact' [stok]; stouf 'cork' [stuf"]; sachaii'drag r'saJiil' kas 'send' [kas]; loc'h'lake' [lox],

c) by consonant clusters: park 'field' [park]; Dlarc'h horse' [rnaxx]; falz ' ickle' [fals]; kelc'h 'circle' (kcLxllrcdxl; skoliou 'schools' [skolju] (cf. skol rsko:l]).

d) by nasals and liquids [rn n)11 f.. If [: pr-irn 'quick' [psim 1; romrn 'shaft, trunk' [torn]; penn 'head' [pen]; hent 'way, path' [hsnr]; pignat 'climb' r'p~ratl; dall blind' [dal]; gwellaii 'better' r'gwdallf:llldal; spilhou 'pins' ['Spif..ll]; berrek 'short, poor' [bcxck]; torret 'broken' [roset]; kirri 'cars' ['kiJ{i]/['ciTril Observe that the spelling generally indicates short vowels by writing these consonants double: nn, DlDl, ll: .Iennet 'read' ['lmetl; rnarnrn 'mother' [mam]; fall 'bad' [fall; but that monosyllabic words in -rr are generally long: berr 'short' [b£:1S" l; torr 'broken; fracture' [to.s]; karr 'car' [KO:lfJ.



228.:vrany stressed vowels are long. A stressed vowel is long in final position: ti 'house' [ti:]; or wben it is followed:

a) by a voiced consonant [b d 9 v 3 z]: rrrab 'son' [mo.b]; lodenn 'part' [To.den]; bag 'boat' [borq]; savet 'risen' []; nijal fly ['ni:3all; louz guard' [lu:z].

226. \<I, h n a vowel is pronounced the vocal cords alway. vibrate; the restriction of th air passage is not sufficient to produce a sound as in the case of a consonant; the distinctive sound is produced only by the re onance of the mouth cavity.

The Breton vowels may be classed thus;

Note: The vowels are always long in mab, bag, and 1011<:, even though the consonant is devoiced in absolute final position (cf. §251). In actual transcription the e three would be writt n [mo.p], [bo.k], and [lu:s].

Front Rounded Back
higb y II
high mid e e 0 closed
mid e ce :J open
low a a
Q_UANTITI" b) by consonant clusters ending in -r or -1: pebr pepper' [perbs] (but usually [pep'[); sukr 'sugar' rsy:kxll rsy:krl (usually rsykl); konikled 'rabbits' [kc'ni.klet]; sernpfafi faint' ['t:mpHil (cf. sernplaat [ssm'plc.t] with stres: shift). (But not those beginning in -s-: lestr 'dish' n£st(J{)l)

c) by na. als and liquids [n I If 01. den 'person [de.n]; (short with following -j-: bleuniou 'flowers ['bl€inju]' peul 'pillar' [porl]; stur 'rudder' [sry:s]. See note on p !ling in 227.d above.

229. High vowels do not differ appreciably in quality whether .hort 01' long. Thus: poulfou 'p 01· f'pulu1 and trouz 'pools' [rs u.s]: lusk 'impetus' [Iysk] and lur 'pool.' [ly.s]; kirri 'car' r'kitrill['cilfi] and gwir 'true'rgwi:lfll[]tliml

230. Mid-vowels have three qualities: closed open and very open.

a) Mid-vowel are closed when long: beg 'beak' [be.k]; hed 'length [he.t]; den person' [de.n]: Dlel 'honey' [me.I]; bez" 'grave' rbe:(o)l; dor 'door [do.s]; kozh old [ko.s]; .moged 'srnok ' [rno.qet]; bleuniou 'flowers' r'b1011julpeul pillar' rp0:11; leur 'floor' Ue:B']. e can be closed when short in some words. hep 'without [hep]; pesk fish' [pesk]; Brest Brest' [bse: t}; spes 'appearance' [spes]; tech tendency' [te]'].

b) Mid-vowels are open when unstres ed, as in suffixes (mostly in Leoneg): karet 'loved' r'ka:IS"Etl (elsewhere ['ko:lfetl); lanneg 'heath r'Janek l;kilhog 'cock' ['kif..::>kll ['ci,(.ok 1; gwelloc'h best' r'gwd xllr'Jt]£lox]. They tend to dose again when stress shifts to them with the addition of a second suffix (see 268): karetoc'h most loved' [kc.'uetox]; lanneier 'heaths' [la'nejes].

76 • B.reton Granunar

Pronunciation • 77

c) Mid-vowels are very open before [lx], [8"x1 (less often before [x'[), the semivowel' [yl or [w], or before other clusters beginning with -1- or oro, and sometime' -rr-: kelc'h circle' [kdx]I [celx]; mercth'daughter [rncsx]; sec'h 'dIY' [sex] (but also [sexl); eien 'source ['cjcnl (also I'ejml)' nerzh 'strength' [ncas'[z'[nexx]; nerveon 'nerve' ['m:lfVcnl; terriii 'break' ['tclfll n'oc'h ket 'you ar not' [,n:)x 'ketj/T'nox cet]; roc'h 'rock' [xox] (also [l!'ox]); bolc'h 'husk, pod' [bolx]; lorc'h 'pride' [loxx]; tort 'hump' [tost]; tonh 'loaf [tJlfsl/[t:>lfxl' ho.rjella.ii 'wobble' jbJIf'y:la] (but horellaii 'wobble' [ho'scla'[); skoliaii 'teach' [' bljal; teuc'h 'second-hand (clothes); obese' [tcex] (also [tox [); cheulk 'churl' rJi:elkl; seurt 'sort [scext].


235. Breton spelling, with th ex eption or what will b said about the voicing and devoicing of stops and spirants below (§S250-54), represents most often each sound in a singl and unique way. Each letter (or group of letter uch a' ch, gn, c'h, etc.) generally correspond respectively to a single iound. The exceptions are indicated here.

236. In certain region: rh re is a tendency to pronounce c'h as [111 in certain cases. It is clearer to use th stronger r x] in ea hen: . The very trong rvl is found chiefly in northern Brittany.

Note I: It appears that there are only five mid-vowel phonemes in Breton, namely [e co J 01; velY open rf,: :;>1 and both open and very open fa: ~l eern to be predictably conditioned allophone of [c o 01.

Note ll: In endings like -eon and -erezh, both [en]I[:ml and fe:ll'esllrc:lfesl are found; in many cases, such as in the past participle ending -et [etl/rotl are found. Unstres ed e is often pronounced Col

237. i is usually pronounced [i]; but before a vowel, it i generally [jl livion 'colours' r'li\~jlll the exceptions are liorzh 'garden' r'li::)lfsll ['li:;)lfx1; lien 'linen' [Ii.en].

238. The letter h is aspirated as in English; in Leon and Eastern Gwened the h is silent; heol sun' [,h8;)11/r'£:)11; hir long ~lj:J(l/[i:!l'l hemaii this one' f'bema(n)ll['ema(n)l

The letter h is never sounded in the word' ha, hag 'and'; he, hec'h 'her, hers" ho, hoc'h 'your'; holl 'all" hon, hor, hoI 'our', where it is purely orthographic.

231. The low vowel has two qualities:

a) a is closed when long in a monosyllable: stag 'link' [stork]; had 'seed' P1O:tl; tal 'forehead' [tu.I]; kazh 'cat' [ko:sJ/[ko:xl-

b) a is open when short: dall 'blind' [dal]; marc'.h. 'horse' [masx]; tach 'nail [tan.

239. lh represents [i<l after i: dilhad 'clothe. ' f'di,(atl; but after another vowel, [,<] i. represented by ilh: sailh 'bucket' [sa/]; skuilhaii 'spill' r'sky.(a11 r cy:\al·

232. Breton long vowels are strongly stressed from the beginning to the end, and they tend to dose while they are held.

.!VASil J 0 WELS'

240. n before k or g represents r 1)1: rankout 'should ['lfaJ]kut1; angell fin' ['al)gd1.

233. In Breton, any vowel can be nasalized though in standard French only four vowels [o e J ce] can be nasalized: iant (taJ, brin [bIfC], long [131, brun [bare 1.

Some examples: evitaii 'for him' [e'vita]/[(e)qitil biiis 'screw' [bis]; kreiiv'mong [he(v)l/[kKew]; heiivel 'similar' [he.vel]; skaiiv 'bench' r'skawl; bleuiiv 'flowers' [b10:1/[blewl; puiis 'well [py:s].

241. 0 generally represents [01; but before a vowel it represent. almost always [w]: c'hoar sister' [xwa:!l'l/[hwa:lfl; loer 'sock' [lwc.s]. One can al 0 ay ['xJa:!l'l, r'bel!' 1·

242. ou generally I' presents [u]; but before a vowel it represents almost alway' [w]: gouez' 'wild' rgwe:01' gouelaii 'to weep' [,gwe:1a1; laouen joyous' ['bwcnl Exceptions are: Doue 'God' ['du:el; douar 'earth' ['clu:al!l; gouarn 'govern' ['qu:a8"n1 bur also ['gwatrnJ.

234. Before nasal consonants [m n J1 1)1, the Breton vowels have a rendancy to nasalize. This is particularly apparent [or [a 0 a: 0: 0: e.]: fank 'mud' rfalJk1' evidomp 'for us' [vi'dornjpi]; .kanaii 'sing' r'ka.:na1; kalonek courageous' [ka'lo.nek]; leun 'full' [10:n1; den 'person' [de:n].

78· Breton G.ranunar

Pronunciation • 79

243. sh is pronounced [s), zh is pronounced [zJ. In Cwenedeg, sh and zh are pronounced [x], sk is pronounced [sk], In Gwenedeg, sk is pronounced [sc] 0]" [Ie] before front vowels and st i· always [Itl


voic less: voiced:

[p t k fJx 51 r} d 9 v 3 " z]

244. u is generally pronounced [yl in the words xnu.i 'more', sku.izh 'lired', away, departed', and the words derived from them, u is pronounced [q]: [rnqir], [skqi: 11 [ cqi:x], [kqitV [cqit].

250. The spelling does not take into account certain ound modifications at the nd of words. \ Vhen [bcilek 1 is given a. phonetic transcription of a word written beleg 'priest' thi· does not exclude the pronunciation 1"'b£:l£gl in certain contexts.

Note: e the Note at ~2 J 9 above.

245. v i generally pronounced r"l' but in final position it is often pronounced [31, [wlo or [ql, except:

a) in verbs: ev ar gwin-xnaii drink this wine' ['e:v as 'qwi:n mi'iVr- Jlli:n -1

b) after 0: skaiiv eo 'it is easy' ['sbl.:v e:)l/r- e:]

In the words bliv 'quick', div 'two' Gwiskriv 'GuiscrifP, gwiv'merry', liv 'colour', piv who', riv cold', v is pronounced [u]; in Gwenedeg, v is pronounced rtf] most of the time: r'bliullPJliql, rcliul/[dilll, [,gwisklfiull [jqisksiq], ['gw.illll[.Il[i~l, ['liull[1i-4.l, ['piull[piq], ['lfiullrlfiql. In the Goelo dialect this v is [f]: piv i [pif] "

251. The rul is very simple. It. affects seven voiceless consonants and s ven voiced ones:

These are ailed inter hangeable con .onants, for the same word can, depending on its environment, end in [p] or in [b], a: in the exarnpl s below; in rfl or in [d], in [k] or in [~J"J, etc"

\t the end or a word, the voiceless consonant is always pronounced, unless the following word begins with a voiced one (on the condition, of course, that there is no break between the two words).

246. y is pronounced [.il before a vowel and in final position: yar 'chicken' [ju.s]; yod 'porridge' [jo.t]; ay 'will go' raj]; gray 'will do' [,glfajl; roy 'will give' rlfojl; 1akay 'will put' [Iakaj]; nay 'fool' ['nail"

Therefore one says: sellit ouzh ar beleg '10k at the prie. t [selid uz as 'b .lek]; setu amaii ar beleg kozh 'here is the olel priest' ['.-ety ';lma all' 'bc.lek 'ko:s]; belegar barrez 'the priest of the parish' [be.leq as 'base 1; ur beleg xnat 'a good priest' [ces 'be.lcq 'mo.t]; ur beleg filat eo 'He is a zood prie. t rres- 'be.leq 'mo:cl e::JlI[- e.].

247. The digraph eu represents [01 or [eel and the digraph ou represents [u], A diaeresis .. is placed over the u to indicate when it is pronounced fey] or roy): eurus 'happy' ['cYlfysl (also re'(v)Y:IfYs]), exnrou.s'd voted' [ern'so.ys].

rate: See the Note at §219 above.

248. The words ster 'river', her 'heir', and ker '(Own', are written with the circumflex ~ to distinguish them from their homonyms ster sense', her 'bold', and ker 'dear' [ste:x], [hc.s] [k .s]. The circumflex accent is found in the derived words from these as well. A circumflex is also placed on the 0 on troad 'circuit, tour' ['tlfo:atl to distinguish it from troad 'foot' [tewc.t]. The vocative particle is also sometime written with a circumflex: a Vreizh! '0 Brittany!'.

252. The rule has only one important exception: the result of the combination of two identical or corresponding interchangeable COI1- sonants is always voiceless, ev n ifthe second i· voiced: bloaz' 'zo a year azo r'blwa() 'sol; dek gwele ten bed.' [de.k 'kw .le],

249. The grave accent' placed on the u of the plural ending OU indicates that one can pronounce it (ranging geographically from Northwest Leon to Southeast Gwened) [u], [o], [01, [owl [aw], [aq], 01' [au].

Note l: This is a very important feature of Breton. Even in Gwenecleg dialects in which bloar is pronounced [blc.], this feature is maintained and ['ble:. 's01 is the rule.

Note 1I: [s] does not voice in some word: especially those of French origin; [fl often r i: t! VOlCUlg.

80 • Breton Granunar

Pronunciation • 81

253 .. The rule can apply to a group of consonants in final position: klask avaloir 'look for apples' r'kJazg a'varlu 1.

259. The final consonant is never lost when the second-to-last consonant of the word is [s If 11: pesk 'fish' [pesk]; start 'solid' [stasr]; kalz 'many' [kals].

254. Finally the rule applies to the interior of a word between consecutive consonants, even if the spelling does not take it into account: rakdiazez'aii. 'pre-establish' [saqdia'ze.tsja]; addes.kiii 'relearn [at'teski].

260. When one or more consonants are lost this 'way, there is compensatory lengthening of the last vowel if it is stressed: levr 'book' [levs 1 IDe:f] (also [lees] Ipe:wl); gopr 'salary' [qops 11 [qo.p l


261. Phenomena of the same sort can occur within a word: debrfe 'will eat' r de .pfs 1-

255. The phenomena studied here occur whenever one speaks reasonably quickly. The faster one speaks, the more numerous and frequent these modifications are. Only those which occur generally in

ordinary conversation are mentioned here. '

256. Certain unstressed vowels are often lost. For example:

a) ~n the article: ti an diaoul 'the house of the devil' ['ti:n 'qj:Jwll

b) III adverbs and prepositions beginning with a or e: a-rank 'before' [,!f;):.kl; evel'as' [vel]

c) in the form of the verb endevout'have': doura:m. eus '1 have water' r'du;!( m 0s1; petra ho poa graet? 'what have you done?' [petso: pwa 'qserr]

d) in the forms of the present of the locative of the verb to be (see §I49): an:J.aii. e:m.aii. 'he is here' plm~'i mal aze e:m.aoc'h. 'vou

are there' r'o:ze mox] '

e) in the wordspelec'h 'where', pexak 'why': pelec'h emaoe 'h? 'where are you?' ['ple:x mox]; perak eo deut 'why has he come?' r'plfo:g e 'de.t]

f) in the verbal particles a, e, ez, ec'h. o. oc'h: rrre a lavar I say' [me 'lc.vas] (also [me 'la:ll'll; ovont d'ar ger 'going home' rvon

das 'gl'::lfllr- je.s]. .

262. It is important to note the loss of stops at the end of certain words like evit 'for', ket 'not', bet 'been', especially before a consonant: evit kanaii. 'for singing' [vi ']; ne gan ket mat 'he doesn't sing we]!' [ne 'qa:n ke 'mo.t].' r - ce -].

2.63. The consonant n is lost in words likeevidon 'for me', ouzhin 'against me , placed before :m.e 'me' when rne serves to intensify the sense: evidon-m.e [vi'dorne 1; ouzrun-:m.e r u'zirne 1-

264. The negative particle ne is usually lost: n-em ens ket 'I do not have' [m €IS 'ket] / r - cer]; ne gan ket mat 'he doesn't sing well' ['93.:n ke 'ma:tl/[- ce -1.

265. [ote that the facts cited above are not to be considered as dialectal, irregular formations, or faults of pronunciation. They represent the natural and normal pronunciation of everyday conversation.

257. - ote that an unstressed vowel, without being completely lost, can be reduced to a neutral sound pronounced with the tongue and lips relaxed and more or less distant from the expected position.

258. Loss of consonants occurs frequently in words ending in a group of consonants: mont 'go' [mon];'room' [kim(p)];kano:m.p 'let us sing' ['ka:n::Jml;pa.otr 'boy' rpotl (also r'p::r:t]); mestr 'master' [mest],

82 • Breton Granunar

Pronunciation· 83


§186_ Example: ouzhin 'again'! me' [u'zin]; diouzhit 'Irorn you [diu'zit]; ganirnp ganeornp 'with us' r~Ja'nlmpll [qa'nefimp]; diganeoc'h from you [diqa'neox]

e) adverbs, pronouns, prepo .itions, etc.:

266. Stress accent in Breton i. vely urongly realized.

267. The orthography is taken a. a base for describing the rules for stress accent,


abred'soon' ac'han 'from here' afo 'quickly'

anez ifnot'

antronoz th next day' atav 'always'

avat however'

bennak 'some'

bepred 'always' biskoazh 'never'hrnat 'always' davet 'toward'

davit 'toward dia.barzh interior' diagent 'beforefhand)' diavaez 'exterior' dilun 'Monday' dirneurzh'Tuesday' dinda.n 'under' dina.ou 'Thursday' diouzhtu 'right away' disuI 'Sunday

eben 'the other'

ebet 'none


elDberr 'as oon'

erne 'aid' ernichaiis'maybe' ervat '\\'ell'

eta 'thus

etre 'betwe n' evel as'

evelkent 'however evit 'for' fenoz'tonight' feteiz' 'today'

gwechaU 'once formerly, once

upon a time' hanternoz 'midnight' hepken 'only'

kenaii 'very

kenavo 'good bye' kerkent 'as. oon' kerkoulz 'as \I' II kerzu 'December' kreisteiz' 'noon kreiznoz'midnight' rneur-ber tvcry' moarvat 'certainly' neblec'h 'nowhere' nemet 'except' neJDetken 'only' neJDeur 'at all nepred 'never'

netra. 'nothing' ouzhpenn'moreover' pa.dal 'however' peadra 'enough' pebezh 'what'

pegeit 'how long' pegen 'how much' pegoulz 'when' pelec'h 'where' penaos 'how' peogwir 'becau: e' perak why'

peseurt 'which' petra. 'what'

eakral Smrnediately' trawalc'h. 'enough' warc'h.oazh 'tomorrow' zoken' v n

268. In a word taken in isolation the stress accent fall, generally on the penultimate syllable. A Breton word contain as many syllables as it has vowels or gTOUp_ of vowels: kaner 'singer' ['kii:m::lfl_ In southern Brittany the distinction between stre ed and unstres red syllables is r duced and the stre. S can occur on the final yllableinstead of the pentultimate.

269. In a group of vowels it is the first which, if it can, receives the stress: aotre 'permission' f'a::ltlfel (also r'otlfell.

270. This last rule is valid for monosyllables containing a (Troup of vowels: feiz fai t h' r'f(:i(s)1.

271. It is important to note that the spelling ometimes indicates groups of vowel, which are not really there: gouenn 'race' [qwen]; foetaii 'whip [fwera]; kelien 'flies' [,kcljEnllr'celjonl; skuizh 'tired' fsktli:sllfscqi:x1; rniaoual 'to miaow/rneow' [mjawal] (but also [mi'owal'[); rniaoiival also exists.

2.72. Likewise, l.t IS important (0 distinguish between the groups of vowel proper and the j uxtapositions of vowels due to the chance of word composition: baleadenn walk [bale'o.den], formed from bale and the suffix -adenn; bilienn 'cobble' [bi'licn 1 from bili and til suffix -enn.

273. This point establi .hed, there remain a gTeat number of exceptions to the rule. In particular in certain words the stress falls on the last syllable.

Here are the principal xarnples:

a) nouns: itron 'lady',Pa.ntekost 'Pentecost', pernocth 'pig'.

b) an adjective: fallakr 'wicked'

c) the forms of the verb bez'aii 'be' in the present of the locative (ernaon, errraouc, ernaii ... )

d) conjugated prepositions: first and second persons singular and plural, types II.B and II.C in the table of prepositions following

84 • Breton Granunar

Pronunciation' 85

D the pia e name of three syllables beginning with Kastel- and of two syllables beginning in Ker- Lan-, Log- Meilh-, Pen-, Plou-, Pon-. Poul-, Tre- and their variants (La-, Lo-, LokLou-, Pel-, Pem-, Peur-, Plea, Pleura, Plo-, Pri-, Tri-, etc.):

Kastellin 'Chateaulin'j Kerfaz "K rlaz', Lanm.eur 'Lanmeur', Lokarn 'Locarn', Meilharz~, 'Meilai ' Penharz 'Penhars', Pleuveu.r 'Pleumeur',Poulann 'Poullari', Trelez "I'reflez' etc.

ote that the name Treger Pays de Treguier, a well as Landreger, city of Treguier, are c tressed on the penultimate yllable.

i'd::'lIvlinl; dinerzh 'without strength' ['di:m:lfSVrdim:lixl- These words are stressed 011 the penultimate syllable. In other words, prefixes and words which act a. prefixes do not alter the rules or stresx.

280. There are .ornewords which act as rru prefixes, even though they are not written together as compounds with the words they modify. Thus daou zen 'two people' is pronoun ed r'dJvvze:nl, as if it wer written *daouzen, in the same way a, daoulin i: pronounced r'd::lwlinl


281. Following is a list of the word .. which GU1 be considered to be

prefixes from the phonetic point of view:

a) the indefinite article un, ur, ul

b) the cardinal adjectives and the word eil 'second'

c) the words pet 'how many ken 'if, pegen 'how much', re 'too'

d) qualicative adjective before the noun

Examples: un ti 'a house' ['cen til tregont lur 'thirty francs' [txe'qon ly.s]; re vras 'too larg , f'll'e: VIl'O:S • Dr gwir vab 'a true son rO::lf 'qwi:s vo:p1/[- 'Jqi:ll'-]'

274. When two words are joined by a hyphen, each of them retains its own accentuation:kabell-touseg 'rnu hroorn' [ko.bel'ru.sek].

275. But if the two tresses fall next to one another the tress of the first word weakens and disappears completely, especially if the compound is in frequent use: mamrn-gezh grandmother' rmi'im'go:s]/[mam'qo:xl; a-walc'h 'enough' [a'walx]; e-barzh 'in' [e'bass'[z'jbasx]. E-barzh is often pronounced [bal.


276. There i· an exception to thir last rule for the demonstrative particles -m.aii, -se~ -hont. Theirs i· the stress which disapp at. in cases such as these where two stresses fall together: an dr-a-rnafi 'this thing' ran 'dsorrna].

But not always after a prepo .ition: evel-se 'like that' [evel'se.].

Note otherwise certain anomalies: kelD.ent-se 'all that' [ke'mentt) se],' [ke'rnc se]; ar m.intin-m.aii 'this morning' rail' min'tin mal

282. In ~'eneraJ, only the principal words or the. entence are stressed: noun', adjectives, verbs, adverbs, pronouns and conjugated prepositions. The definite article, poss ssive adjective', auxiliary verbs, pr position, conjunction', verbal particles and negative particles do not generally GUTY stress.

277. \<\ hen the per onal pronoun. me te, etc. are uffixed by a hyphen to a preposition combined with a personal pronoun, they lose their. tress, but move the stress of the preceding word to its last syllable: evidon-m.e 'for me' [evi'da me].

283. But when two stresses occur in juxtaposition to one another, the fir r .tres disappears compl t ly in lTIallY cases: tud vat 'good peol I ' [ty.d 'vn.t]; anti all the other house' fan ti: 'all; ne oar ket 'he doesn't know' [ne wall' 'ket] / r ~ 'cet].

278. In place name' of two syllables beginning with Sant 'Saint, the word Sant carries the 'tress: Sant-Vig 'Saint-Nic' ['sa vik].

284. The opposite is the case\."hen the second word is a high-frequency monosyllabic verbal form: yen eo 'it is old' rJe:n eo] / r ~ e.]; aon am. eus 'I'm all-aid' r'a.wn m 051' glava ra 'it is raining' r'glaw 11 ira].


285. Manv influence' cause the stress to iruensif or to weaken. In the course or a single utterance, it is often the fir. t or the last stress which is the


279. Note fir t of all that the rules given for isolated words apply to all non-hyphenated compounds, whatever their composition: c~hoarilec~.h 'scene' [xwa'si.lex]; m.orvleiz' 'shark' r'molfv1ci( ')1; daoulin 'knee"

86 • Breton Granunar

Bibliography· 87



286. Intonation in Breton is intimately tied to uress: in the COUI .e of peaking, it is the stressed syllables which control the elevation and the lowering of the tone.

[here are man good works on Breton; only a few of these are in English. [he followins list of books (in English, French, Iri h, and Welsh) w111 be or rse to the. tudent:

287. In the majorit- of cases, every unstressed syllable is pronounced in a lower tone. In the word kelou 'new [], the .yllable [lu] is generally pronounced in a lower tone than [ke.], This lowering or tone can be detected within the stressed syllable especially when, as in this example, it contains a long vowel.

\ndouard Loeiz, & Eamon 6 Ciosain 1987

Gaiadur iuxrrhoneg-breshoneg: gal'lt lauarennou = Fodoi: G'aeilgeBnotainis: le samplai. Lesneven: Mouladuriou Hor Yezh, 1987. )elaporte, Raymond 1986

Elemenuuy Breton-English DicliolJal)1 = Geriadurig bre;::/lOnegsao-neg. Cork: Cork Iniversity Press.

Elementary English-Breton Dictionasy = Geriadurig saoenegbredlOneg. L sn Yen: Mouladuriou Hor Yezh.

288. The e two essential rules mark the rno t striking features of Breton intonation. In other regards Breton intonation follows rules which are nearly identical to those of French.


)enez, Per

1980 Bl'u/lOlleg ... buan hag aes: a beginner's course in Breton. Adapted by

Raymond Delaporte. Cork: Cork University Press. )esbordes, }: ann

1983 Petite grammaite du breton moderne. Le .neven: Mouladuriou HoI' Yezh.

)eshayes, Albert

2003 Dictionnaire e/.)IIl1otogiqllc du breton. Douarnenez: La ella rseMaree, I R 2-9142-0825-3

~averau, Fran: ez

1992 Genadur ar brezhoneg u-inemaii = Dictumnaire du breton contemporain.

Morlaix: Skol Vreizh.

Iernon, Roparz

1975 A historical tnmplzotogy and syntax cf Breton. (Mediaeval and Modern Breton Selie; 3) Dublin: Institute for Advanced Studies.

1975 Couss eMmenlm:re de breton = Kentdioit brezlwneg mill .. 8" edition.

Brest: AI Liamm.

¥OU(ICo.U dictionnaire breton -francais. 6" edition. Bre. t: Al Liamm. Dictionnairefraniais-breton. 6" edition. Br st: \l Liamm. 'orthcoming Elemenl(1)' course in Breton = Kenleliotl bredioneg eel/no Translated,

adapted, and revised by Michael Everson. Carhair na Mart:


Iincks, Rhi 'ian

1991 Geriadur kembraeg-brerhoneg Lesneven: HoI' Yezh.

1978 1978

Geinadur Cymmeg-Ll:Jidaweg.

88 • Breton Granunar Jackson, Kenneth Hurlsrone

1967 A hislOtimljl!wnology q! Breton. Dublin: Institute for Advanced Studies.

Kervella 1975 1984


redzaduT bras ar bredzoneg. Bre t: AJ Liamm. Nouuelle methode de breton. Rennes: Ouest-France.

Lagadeg,Jean-Yves, & Martial Menard (eds.)

1995 Geriadur brezholleg: gan! skouerioic lia skeudennou. Ar RelegK rhuon: An Here,

Press, Jan 1986

A grammar qf modem Breton. • Iouton Grammar Library; 2) Berlin: Mouton.

Stephan, Laurent, & Visant Seite

I 984 Lexique brelOlz-Jrallyois el .franfais-breton ;::: Geriadurig bredlOlleggo/leg ha golleg-bredlOlleg. 20. eel. Bannalec: Emgleo-Breiz.

Trepos Pierre

1980 Grammaire bretonn« Rennes: Ouest-France.

\ allee, Frafisez

1980 Geriadur bras gal/eg-bredlOlleg, Gronw I: Association bretonne de culture,

V, illiams, Ri ta

1984 Geriadur bre<.llOnek-kembraek. Lesneven: Mouladuriou Hor Yezh.

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The first English-language edition of this Breton Grammar was published in 1995. The book is for the most part a straightforward translation of the ninth edition of Roparz Hernon's Gwmmaire bY"donne. In preparing the translation, a. number of sections In the grammar were changed for the benefit of the English-speaking reader. Many, but not all, of these additions may be found in the notes to the various sections.

Some of these differences are terminological, For instance, the term "conjugated preposition" has been preferred to "prepositional pronoun" and "verbal noun" to "infinitive". The verbal and prepositional paradigms have been reorganized and altered to make them dearer; in the table following §I86,. for example, the delineation of the prepositional conjugations in Kervella p 976) has been followed.

More substantially, much of the section on the pronunciation of Breton, especially the phonology, has been revised in response to the needs of the English-speaking reader. In restructuring the detailed analysis of Breton phonology, particularly that of the vowel system, synthesis has been made of the best of Jackson (1967), Kervella (1976) Trepos (1980), Favereau (1992); Lagadeg and Menard (1995) has been indispensible. For the difficult question of the consonants, see the Note to §2' 19. The International Phonetic Alphabet is used quite strictly throughout this book. As this is a teaching as well as a reference grammar, the spirit of Hernon's remarks in §§206-09 has been foUowed in. standardizing the description and transcriptions. It is hoped that the reader first learning Breton will he served by such standardization in preparation for encountering real Breton dialects,





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