Breton Language Edit
Breton is apart of the Celtic family of languages that also includes: Irish, Scottish, Manx, Welsh, and Cornish. It is a minority language spoken almost entirely inside pockets of the French province of Brittany. While French is almost entirely the first language of Breton people at large, there are certain groups of people in Brittany where it is spoken as a native language. Even then though, people almost always have a French accent, and the Breton accent is lost to time. You're either learning this because you want to complete the full Celtic set, or because you live in a place that speaks it, but with only 210000 native speakers, and incredibly few secondary speakers, its probably the first.
Breton has 4 main dialects: Kerneveg, Leoneg, Tregerieg and Gwenedeg. Some times the Goëlo dialect is sometimes considered a different dialect from Tregerieg because it was in a different bishopric, but linguists tend to classify it as a sub-dialect of Tregerieg. Kerneveg, Leoneg, Tregerieg are usually referred to together as KLT, Gwenedeg being very different form the other dialects.
In KLT, the penultimate syllable of each word is accentuated (there are a few exceptions such as amann (butter) and gwechall (erstwhile)), while in Gwenedeg, the last syllable is accentuated.
Although Breton has been written for at least 1200 years, for most of its history it didn't have a unified orthography (mainly due to the wide variety of dialects). However, there are now three main orthography of Breton: peurunvan (meaning "absolutely unified") created in 1941 and also referred to as "ZH", skolveurieg (meaning "academic") created in 1953, and etrerannyezhel (meaning "inter-dialectal") created in 1975. Peurunvan is the most used.
DISCLAIMER: The Breton grammar that is very shortly introduced below is the grammar of standard KLT Breton. Grammatical features may vary a lot among dialects. For info on the grammar of dialects, check the "Resources" section.
Breton, like many other European languages, had two genders. Masculine (gourel) and feminine (gwregel). You can "feminize" some masculine words by adding the suffixe -ez: mignon (friend) becomes mignonez (friend, but feminine), same with labourer/labourerez (worker).
Nouns tend to only exist in two forms of plural, single and multiple. Similarly to Welsh, Breton has numerous forms for plural depending on the word, and often multiple forms for each words, with slight variations in meaning (e.g. bag (boat) usually becomes bagoù (several boats), but also bigi (same meaning, unusual form) and bageier (a small fleet)).
Parisyllabic plurals Edit
Similarly to the english foot/feet and tooth/teeth, some archaic plural forms remained: dant/dent (tooth/teeth), sant/sent (saint/saints), troad/treid (foot/feet), breur/breudeur (brother/brethren, although "brothers" is now the most used form, breudeur is the only form in Breton), ...
Vocalic inflection Edit
Drask/driski (song thrush), kar/kerent (parent/parents),...
Ki/chas (dog/dogs), den/tud (person/people),... Ki used to make its plural in kon, as it is attested by dourgi (otter, literally dog-water) which still makes its plural in dourgon.
Plural in -où Edit
The most frequent form, with over 40% of names, and over half of them when counting the -ioù form. Usually for inanimate objects: aval/avaloù, (apple/apples), fri/frioù (nose/noses), gwele/gweleoù (bed/beds), penn/pennoù (head/heads),... It is also used for people certain types of people, but without mutations: an tadoù (the fathers), ar mammoù (the mothers), ar mestroù (& ar vistri, this form has a mutation) the masters,... or for species of animals: bouchoù (foals), koleoù (young bulls), leueoù (calves, also means retards)...
"-où" is pronounced [u] in Finistère, [ow] in eastern Cornouaille and lower Bro-Gwened, [o] in Treger and [əɥ] in upper Bro-Gwened.
Plural in -ioù Edit
Not as common as -où, but still pretty common: avel/avelioù (wind/winds), sinema/sinemaioù (cinema/cinemas),...
Palatization by -ioù Edit
rod/rojoù (wheel/wheels), pont/poñchoù (bridge/bridges),...
Plural in -ed Edit
About 12% of plurals. For living beings: paotr/paotred (boy/boys), pesk/pesked (fish/fishes), loen/loened (animals),... Some plurals are in -eed, mainly for nationalities and some french loanwords: Frañseed, Hollandeed, jañdarmeed (gendarmes), retreteed (retirees). Feminine words in -ez usually make their plural in -ezed.
Plural in -ien/-ion Edit
For jobs in -er/-our, about 9% of plurals. Kiger/kigerien (butcher/butchers), soner/sonerion (bagpipes player),...
Plural in -iz Edit
For inhabitants of some place, singular is usually in -ad/-iad: Brestiz, Gwengampiz, Roazoniz,...
Plural in -ier Edit
About 2% of plurals. Bazh/bizhier (stick/sticks), gaou/geweier (lie/lies), kazh/kizhier (cat/cats),...
Plural in -i Edit
Bleiz/bleizi (wolf/wolves), gast/gisti (whore/whores), gwiz/gwizi (sow/sows),...
Internal plurals Edit
Louarn/lern (fox/foxes), maen/mein (stone/stones), tarv/terv (bull/bulls),...
Rare plurals Edit
Ael/aelez (angle/angles), laer/laeron (thief/thieves),...
Collective terms Edit
About 15% of words, always plural so no plural form.
This list in not exhaustive.
A strange trait that is mostly unique to is their singulative marker. In Breton, its marked with the suffix enn, used like gwez (several trees) into gwezenn (one tree). The singularity can then be converted into a plurality. In example gwez can be converted into gwezennoù (several trees, but individually).
Singulative can also be expressed through prefixes such as penn-, pezh-, tamm : penn-deñved (a sheep), pezh-dilhad (a piece of clothing), tamm pour (a leek, pourenn and penn-pour also exist).
In Breton, contrasting to other Celtic languages, every article you write has two forms. The two forms are definite (an) and indefinite (un). The constant 'n' changes in both articles based on the following consonants. It is recognized as an 'n' when before another 'n', 'd', 't', 'h', and all vowels. It changes into an 'l' when before another 'l', and it changes to an 'r' when before everything else. Think a/an except more complicated.
There are two kinds of adjectives in Breton, synthetic adjectives, for example "bras" (big) inflects as ø (stative), oc’h (comparative), añ (superlative) and at (exclamative). Other adjectives, for example "heñval" (similar) do not inflect.
Adverbs don't inflect at all.
Like all of the other Celtic languages, prepositions in Breton are inflected or uninflected. Inflected prepositions typically derive from the contraction between a preposition and a personal pronoun only.
In Breton, like most other languages, there is 1st, 2nd, and 3rd persons. The singles of which (in that order) are me, te and eñ/hi (masculine/feminine). The pluralities are ni, c'hwi, and int. There is also an impersonal form with no pronoun, which is the equivalent of the french "on".
Verbs inflect for number, person, tense, and mood. Breton verbs typically have impersonal forms,and verbal adjectives. Unlike other Celtic languages, Breton has a distinct periphrastic continuous aspect.
Impersonal conjugation Edit
Used when insisting on the subject of the action, the subject is mentioned and the verb is conjugated like for the singular 3rd person for all person (a bit like in english): me zo skuizh (I, I am tired (and not you)), an dud-se a gare an natur (those people like nature), me a gan (I sing).
Personal conjugation Edit
All verbs are regular, except bezañ (to be), mont (to go), gouzout (to know), kaout (to have) and ober (to do) which have their own conjugation rules (not detailed here). Like in spanish, one does not say the pronoun when conjugating a verb like this: ar chistr a garan (I like cider, word for word "the cider (I) like"). The conjugated verb is composed of a radical and an inflectional suffix depending on the person and tense. Learning the radical for each verb is necessary since it isn't always obvious: the radical for treiñ (to turn) is tro-. Here are the suffixes for each tense for regular verbs:
Past historic Edit
|Conditional 1 (or potential)|
|Conditional 2 (or unreal)|
The two conditional are different: the potential is used for events that are likely to happen (e.g. "if I had a dog..."), while the unreal conditional is for highly unlikely events (e.g. "if I was a billionaire...").
Periphrastic conjugation Edit
Used to put the emphasis on the action being done: verb (infinitve) + a + ober (conjugated). Similar to the english "I do" + verb (I do read, I do understand), but more used.
Komz a ran (I talk, "talking I do"), soñjal a rit (you think), gonit arc'hant a rae (he earned money),...
o + infinitive Edit
This is the equivalent of English verb +"ing", it describes a continuous action: e kêr emaon o chom (I am living in the city), emañ o debriñ (he/she is eating), ur c’hantad a baotred a oa o c’hortoz (a hundred men were waiting),...
There are four type of mutations: lenitions, provections, spirantizations and mixts (or leniprovections).
Called "kemmadurioù dre vlotaat" in Breton, they happen after an article (under certain conditions), holl, the adverb re, the propositions da, dre, a, war, dindan, eme, en ur, ..., the interrogative pronoun pe, the possesive pronouns da and e, the number two (daou and div), the conjunction pa, the pronouns hini and re,... They are the overwhelming majority of mutations in Breton.
They cause the following changes:
P becomes B
T becomes D
K becomes G
B becomes V
D becomes Z
G becomes C'H (except for Gw, which becomes W)
M becomes V
Called "kemmadurioù dre galetaat" in Breton, they happen after the possessive pronouns ho, ez, da'z and az.
They cause the following changes:
B becomes P
D becomes T
G becomes K
Called "kemmadurioù dre c'hwezañ" in Breton, they happen after the numbers three (tri/teir), four (pevar/peder), and nine (nav), after the possessive articles ma, em, he, o (and hon in Tregerieg) and in the word Easter Sunday (Sul Fask).
They cause the following changes:
P becomes F
T becomes Z
K becomes C'H
Called "kemmadurioù kemmesket" in Breton, they happen after the grammatical particles e and o and the conjunction ma (meaning "if").
They cause the following changes:
B becomes V
D becomes T
G becomes C'H
Demat/Devezh mat/Boñjour(old-fashioned): Hello
Mont a ra (mat)?/Penaos emañ kont?/Penaos emañ ar bed?/C'haori a ra?/Mat ar jeu?/Mat an traoù?/Mat ar bed?: How ar you/How's it going?
Mat-re/Mat kenañ: Very well
Mat a-walc'h: Pretty well
Fiskal/Disteñget/Dreist/Dispar/Disheñvel/Deus ar c'hentañ/Paseet beuz/Ag ar choaz: Great
Trugarez/Bennozh Doue/Mersi (bras): Thank you
N'am bo ket (,digomplimant): No thanks.
N'eo ket gwir?: Isn't it?
Re wir eo/Gwir, re wir: That's true.
Digarez/Digarezit: Sorry/Pardon me (first one is for te, the latter for c'hwi)
Hag all/Ha me oar-me: etc...
Abred pe ziwezhat: Sooner or later
Un teuzar eo/Un drugar eo/Ul lip-e-bav eo: It's delicious/It's a delicacy
Degemer mat: Welcome
Ken arc'hoazh: See you tomorrow
Ken ar wech all/Ken ar c'hentañ/Ken diwezhatoc'h/Ken vi gwelet/Ken ar c'hentañ gwelet: See you next time
Ken bremaik/Ken tuchant/Ken emberr/ken bremañ-sonn/ken bremañ-souden: See you later
Aet on: I'm going
Erru on: I'm coming
Pelec'h emaout o chom?: Where do you live?
Deus pelec'h out?: Where are you from?
Yec'hed mat: Cheers
Chañs vat: Good luck
Lâret zo bet din...: I was told...
Pebezh genaoueg: What a retard
Ro peoc'h din 'ta: Leave me alone
Serr da veg/Serr da c'henoù: Shut up
Ma revr gant...: I don't give a fuck about...
A-drugarez Doue!: Thanks God!
Kae da gac'hat: Go fuck yourself
Bazh-Pavilhon/Buoc'h sot/leue: Retard
Sot-nay out pe betra?: Are you retarded or something?
Gast: Whore (used like "fuck!" in english)
Re 'zo re: Enough is enough
Na gomz ket outañ' evel-se: Don't talk to him like that
A'i 'oa poent!: About time!
Mont gantañ 'vel fars gant un den kozh: It (usually a deal) went easily/without trouble
War ma meno: In my opinion
Etre daou soñj emaon: I'm divided
Ne ran ket a van: I don't care.
Gwelloc'h e vije dit...: You should rather...
Gwelloc'h e vije ganin...: I'd rather...
E gwirionez: In truth/truthfully
War a welan: As far as I can tell
Kudenn ebet: No problem
Kas keloù din: Keep me informed
Biskoazh kemend-all: WOW
Online resources Edit
a basic dictionary, and certainly the best you would find online.
A good online, free, breton course. Only issue is its short length.
A free, english, online breton course.
An android app with quizzes on over 2600 words. In French.
An incredible online site that teaches breton, that nobody reading this will use because it costs money.
Another great Breton course, for non English speakers.
Breton-French online dictionary (tregerieg), with pronunciation.
Breton-French online dictionary.
Dictionaries (pdf), in French.
Atlas linguistique de Basse-Bretagne (ALBB) is a collection of comparative maps for words in each sub-dialect. It's in French.
Resources to learn Gwenedeg (in French).
Website about brezhoneg Goelo (in French).
YouTube channels Edit
Two YouTube channels which regularly publish recordings of native Breton speakers. There are no subtitles and the accent of some speakers, especially on the first channel, might be difficult to understand for beginners.
Same as the above, dedicated to the dialect of Bro-Kemperle.
A YouTube channel with many interviews and documentaries, some of which are subtitled in English. Most people speaking on this channel are NOT native speakers however, so be careful.
Books (in French) Edit
- Fanch Morvannou, Initiation au Breton sans peine. Ed. Assimil, 1998 (1979)
- Jean Tricoire, Komzom, lennom ha skrivom brezoneg (2 tomes), Brest: Emgleo Breiz
- Mona Bouzec-Cassagnou, Selaou, selaou (specifically for Kerneveg, but suited for all Breton learners)
- HERRIEU, Mériadeg (1979), Le breton parlé - vannetais, éd. Bleun-Brug Bro-Gwéned
NB: Fañch Morvannou's method teaches this dialect as well.
- Emile Ernault, Geriadurig brezoneg-galleg. Brest: Brud Nevez, 1984
- Jules Gros, Dictionnaire breton-français des expressions figurées (2 vol.). Emgleo Breiz - Brud Nevez, 1993 (rééd.), 560p. (graphie non unifiée)
- Jules Gros, Le Trésor du breton parlé (3 vol.). Emgleo Breiz - Brud Nevez, 1996 (rééd.), 288+560+658p. (1) langage figuré, (2) dictionnaire, (3) style populaire
- Jules Gros, Le Trésor du breton parlé, 4 (présenté par D. Giraudon). Morlaix: Skol Vreizh, 1989, 151p. (lexique, locutions)
- Jules Gros, Le Trésor du breton parlé : éléments de stylistique trégorroise. Brest: Emgleo Breiz-Gwalarn-Brud Nevez, 1982 (3è éd.)
- Le trégorrois à Plougrescant Dictionnaire breton français - Jean Le Dû (dictionary for a specific sub-dialect of Tregerieg, very difficult to find)
- Korentin Riou, Naig Rozmor, Visant Seite, Lexique français-breton, breton-français.
- Visant Sèité, Laurent Stéphan, Lexique breton-français et français-breton - Geriadur brezoneg-galleg ha galleg-brezoneg. Brest: Emgleo Breiz-Ar Skol dre lizer, 1993 (27è éd.), 480p. + additions
- Claude Troude, Nouveau dictionnaire pratique breton-français du dialecte du Léon. Mayenne: J. Floch, Reprint 1979 (éd. 1869), 823p.
- Claude Troude, Nouveau dictionnaire pratique français-breton du dialecte du Léon. Mayenne: J. Floch, Reprint 1979 (éd. 1869), 940p.
- Per-Jakez Helias (dir.), Dictionnaire breton-français, français-breton. Paris: Garnier, 1986
- ERNAULT, Emile, (1919, rééd. 1998), Dictionnaire Breton-Français du dialecte de Vannes, Brud Nevez
- HERRIEU, Mériadeg, Dictionnaire breton-français, vannetais, Bruz Nevez - Emgleo Breiz, Brest.
- HERRIEU, Mériadeg, Dictionnaire français-breton, vannetais, Bruz Nevez - Emgleo Breiz, Brest.
- Andreo Ar Merser, Précis de grammaire bretonne. Brest: Emgleo Breiz - Ar Skol vrezoneg, 1997 (rééd.), 171p.
- L. Le Clerc, Grammaire bretonne du dialecte de Tréguier. Brest: Emgleo Breiz, 1986 (1911), X-248p.
- Visant Fave, Notennou Yezadur. Emgleo Breiz, 1998, 145p.
- Fransez Favereau, Yezhadur ar brezhoneg a-vremañ - Grammaire du breton contemporain. Morlaix: Skol Vreizh, 1997, 480p.
- Pierre Trepos, Grammaire bretonne. Brest: Emgleo Breiz-Brud Nevez, 1996 (1980) 3è éd., 399p.
- Pierre Trepos, Le pluriel breton
- GUILLEVIC, A., LE GOFF, P., (rééd. 1999), Grammaire bretonne du dialecte de Vannes, Ar Skol Vrezoneg - Emgleo Breiz, Brest.
Multiple radios in several dialects
Lots of lyrics of traditional songs, some have a french translation.
- Denez Prigent, Yann-Fañch Kemener, Glenmor, Gilles Servat, Alan Stivell, Gweltaz Ar Fur, Youenn Gwernig, Louise Ebrel, Erik Marchand, Barzaz, Sisters Goadec, Brothers Morvan, Marie-Josèphe Bertrand, Pilpazig...
Singers of traditional songs.
- Soldat Louis (french rock), EV (celto-finnish rock), Añjel I.K., Tri Bleiz Die, Daonet, Les Ramoneurs de Menhirs (breton punk), Heol Telwen (breton metal),...
More modern stuff.
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