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  • Modern Welsh: A comprehensive grammar by Gareth King
  • Matti Miestamo
Modern Welsh: A comprehensive grammar. 2nd edn. By Gareth King. (Comprehensive grammars.) London: Routledge, 2003. Pp. xii, 403. ISBN 0415282705. $43.95.

Gareth King’s grammar of Welsh focuses on the contemporary spoken language. The most important changes made to the second edition are the typographical marking of initial mutations throughout the text and the addition of the section on ‘Functions and situations’.

The introductory part of the book (1–9) briefly discusses the linguistic relationship and the different varieties of Welsh and provides a glossary of technical terms. The grammar section is organized under thirteen major headings concerning different aspects of grammar. ‘Sounds and spelling’ (10–12) gives a listing of the Welsh alphabet and describes the relationship between pronunciation and spelling, focusing on the differences between Welsh and English. ‘Mutations in Welsh’ (13–19) introduces the different types of initial consonant mutations and the contexts and functions in which they occur. Being a pervasive phenomenon in the structure of the language, they are discussed in more detail at various points later in the book. ‘Word order and sentence structure’ (20–27) describes the structure of simple sentences and discusses [End Page 532] the principles of expressing focus. Under ‘Articles’ (28–34) the use of the definite article is discussed, contrasting it with English usage, and the English-speaking learner is also advised on how to deal with the absence of indefinite articles.

The following three sections treat ‘Nouns’ (35–68), ‘Adjectives’ (69–89), and ‘Pronouns’ (90–110). More than half of the section on nouns deals with the expression of number (singular vs. plural and collective vs. unit [i.e. singulative]), which is rather complicated in Welsh. In the pronoun section, attention is also paid to the absence of relative pronouns, and the reader is referred to other sections in the grammar where aspects of relativization are discussed. ‘Numerals and quantifiers’ (111–30) are treated together. The vigesimal and decimal numeral systems are discussed in detail, as well as the typical uses of numerals (time expressions, money). Under ‘Verbs’ (131–241), the verbal noun is treated first, then a general introduction to the tense system (or tense-aspect-mood system) is given, followed by a thorough treatment of the verb ‘to be’, the most commonly used auxiliary in periphrastic tenses; the rest of the section describes the periphrastic and inflected tenses in more detail and discusses the passive and different expressions of modality.

Next follow sections on ‘Adverbs and adverbials’ (242–72) and ‘Prepositions’ (273–302). ‘Complex sentences’ (303–17) focuses on relatives and complement clauses; other aspects of subordinate clauses, as well as coordination, are discussed under the heading ‘Conjunctions’ (318–26), which concludes the grammar section. Under ‘Functions and situations’ (327–74), the reader learns, for example, how to greet or apologize, how to ask or give advice, or how to voice one’s opinion. Special sections are devoted to ‘English words causing particular translation problems’ (375–79), ‘Affirmative and negative responses’ (380–81), ‘Words differing in North and South Wales’ (382), and ‘Communication strategies’ (382–88). In the end of the book we find a list of further reading and an extensive index.

The book is a pedagogical grammar, written for (nonlinguist) English-speaking learners of Welsh. Technical linguistic terminology is kept to a minimum, and the structure of Welsh is described using English as the starting point. The section on functions and situations provides a valuable additional resource for learners. This is an excellent grammar for learners of Welsh and shows an author with rich pedagogical experience. Although not a reference grammar in the strict sense of the term, it gives a detailed description of the structure of Welsh and has a lot to offer the professional linguist as well. However, to some extent the lack of a proper treatment of phonology calls into question the subtitle ‘A comprehensive grammar’.

Matti Miestamo
University of Helsinki


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pp. 532-533
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