Enklask brezhoneg / Breton quiz

I haven’t talked much about the Breton language yet, but it’s a very cool language. I enjoy learning the way it works, and discovering its occasional quirks. Here’s one quirk that we learned about recently. I’ll post it as a grammar challenge for you all today, and then I’ll go back and add in the explanation on the weekend. That’ll give you time to read and ponder the mystery. Feel free to post a guess, if you like. Here goes.

What does the following sentence mean? How would you translate it into English? (Do not dispair–there’s vocab help just below.)

Tangi zo pinvidik e vab.

Assuming that you don’t already know how to translate this particular type of sentence, have a go at it.

(Needless to say, if you happen to be already familiar with this particular quirk of the Breton language, please don’t post an answer. Email me, if you’d like.)

First of all, ‘Tangi’ is a man’s name.

The other words in this sentence mean:

zo = form of the verb ‘to be’ (COP, for the linguists out there)

pinvidik = rich

e = his

vab (i.e. mab) = son

Your turn now…. Kalon vat ! (Good luck!)



Tangi zo pinvidik e vab.

Tangi’s son is rich.

Did you get it right? I know at least some of you did, so congratulations!


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Madeleine Adkins

I'm a linguist and a writer, with a passion for the Breton language, Celtic languages in general, and endangered language communities who engage in revitalization efforts. I've published some articles about the Breton language situation in some academic journals, and I'm planning to publish more in the near future. I spent most of the last decade moving around--first to Santa Barbara (grad school), then Colorado (teaching), and then Brittany (researching the Breton language revitalization movement and improving my Breton speaking skills)--and now I'm in the San Francisco Bay Area. Even though I am living far from Brittany at this point, I still keep in touch with my friends and colleagues in the Breton-speaking world, and I'm still involved in language revitalization issues.

2 thoughts on “Enklask brezhoneg / Breton quiz”

  1. So does Breton have an implied “topic-comment” configuration, or is it something like “dative shift” in English (whereas Breton has something like “genitive shift”)?

    1. I’d say topic-comment is a good way to think about it, and that appears to be a general trend with Breton sentence structure. But I haven’t actually seen Breton word order described by other linguists that way–except in ethnologue. Lots of differing opinions–SVO, VSO,…

      In this particular sentence, my guess is that what you see is a contact phenomenon related to French left-dislocation. But I don’t know Welsh or Cornish (yet), so I can’t definitely rule out that this always been a part of Breton. My Breton teachers describe it as “anaphora” in Breton.

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