Translation into Breton (and learning Breton in general)

Jasne
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Translation into Breton (and learning Breton in general)

Postby Jasne » 2016-10-31, 18:07

Hello! I'm looking for a bit of help and direction regarding Breton language, and LJ Linguaphiles sent me here.

Thing is, I'm writing a fantasy novel set in a somewhat parallel world with a bunch of (mashed-up) fantasy-counterpart cultures. In this case I'm dealing with a culture that, lingustically, borrows heavily from Brittany. Because I happened to hear some Breton folksongs a few years back and fell head over heels in love.

Now, I'm bilingual English/Russian, semi-fluent in French, Spanish, and Esperanto, and know the basics of German grammar (yes, I'm a bit of a language geek. I blame Tolkien.)
However, I never really studied Breton beyond picking apart song lyrics. I've seen Russian used awkwardly/improperly in fiction, and, while I personally don't find it offensive, just funny, I'd like to avoid that with Breton if at all possible. It's a beautiful language and I'm afraid to maul it - while at the same time I like it too much to just leave it alone.

Right here right now I'm asking for help figuring out several specific things, but, since I seem to be stuck with this culture for at least a trilogy, I would welcome any recommendations for teach-yourself-Breton resources. Er, for grammar-based teach-yourself-Breton resources. I've already tried http://www.kervarker.org, but it didn't work - I learn languages by first figuring out grammar and then growing a vocabulary, and kervarker just doesn't seem to explain things sufficiently.

Stuff I'm looking to translate at the moment:

1. Titles
How do noble titles work in Breton? I know there are aotrou / itroun, but I don't get what exactly those titles are, since there also seem to be regular titles' equivalents (dug, kont, etc). Are those just generic lord/lady denoting nobility? Can you have a lot of people titled aotrou at the same time, or is it only applied to the current overlord, like the Duke of Brittany (an aotrou Yann from "An alarc'h")? Can you use aotrou as a form of address (see#2), and, if not, what would you use instead?

2. A snippet of conversation
A (female, if it matters): It cannot be, my lord. It simply cannot be. [As in, he just told her something and it's freaking impossible.]
B (male, if it matters): I know. [As in, yeah, it sounds impossible, but...]

After raking the internet I came up with the following:
A: Ne’m eus ket, aotrou. Ne’m eus ket nemet.
B: Gouzon.
Is that correct? Also, is it ne'm or n'em, and why?

3. A battle cry
Something like "to arms" or "arise, X" (X being the name of the country, so 2nd person singular, "you"). Glosbe.com, which is the best online Breton dictionary I've managed to find so far, has nothing certain for "arise" or "to arms", but it gave me dihuniñ for "awake". The Wiktionary seems to show that singular "you" imperative of -iñ verbs cuts off the ending. I'm still not sure, however, if "Dihun, X!" sounds like a call to arms or like "wakey-wakey, sweetie". Besides, for all I know, dihuniñ might be irregular and do something completely different in imperative.

There's also the phrase d'an emgann (dan emgann?) in "An alarc'h", which, insofar as I could figure out, means "to battle". Which would work beautifully, except I wouldn't want to lift it wholesale if it's already a traditional battle-cry.

4. Is falcon - falc'hun - masculine or feminine?
The dictionary seems unsure. If it is masculine, how would a female falcon be called?

Any help is greatly appreciated!

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ceid donn
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Re: Translation into Breton (and learning Breton in general)

Postby ceid donn » 2016-11-02, 4:35

At the moment, I believe I am the only person who comes around Unilang regularly who is studying Breton. There is a native speaker, Zviezda, who occasionally stops in and answers questions. I will leave your questions about Breton literature, titles and grammar to them should they stop in again.

I can help you a little regarding information on Breton learning resources: the short answers is, there just isn't a lot out there and unless you can read French well enough to use French language learning resources, your options are exceedingly limited. There just isn't enough interest in Breton outside of the Breton speaking communities in France to support a lot resources for it.

Another thing, and I go through this time and time again with people interested in Scottish Gaelic and Irish who insist on "grammar-based" resources, is Breton is a Celtic language. It is not English and it is not Russian. When someone asks for a "grammar-based" resource for a Celtic language, I find inevitably they are asking for a method that teaches them a Celtic language according to a grammar they are already comfortable with. Celtic languages are their own family of languages are a reason--actually, several reasons--and you have to deal with them on their terms. Many methods for beginners take into account that Celtic languages have grammar elements that are very foreign to most learners, and so they approach the language is a more familiar way, introducing these elements gradually. When i was learning Scottish Gaelic, my first Celtic language, I spend maybe the first two years feeling absolutely clueless. Looking back on that, that's exactly how I should have felt. I was learning a language that "thinks" very differently from any other language I had studied previous, and there is just no way to rush through that. If you really want to understand Breton grammar, and you've never studied a Celtic language before, it will take time to get your head around it. And I hate to be the one to tell you this, but as someone who's studied or at least dabbled in all six of the modern Celtic languages, I can tell you that you picked possibly the hardest one of the bunch, and that's not counting how hard it is to get decent resources for it or the politics around it. Compared to most other Indo-European languages, Breton is just not very easy.

Kervarker is based on a long OOP book for beginners and the site isn't maintained any longer. There are a few tidbits about grammar on Skolober.com, but that site isn't updated anymore either. Globse is OK, but it's far from complete and at times not accurate. I usually double-check some questionable entries via Twitter where I can get into contact with Breton speakers.

I use Le Breton (previously Le breton sans peine) by Assimil, and I am working through the book alongside doing the Memrise course based on it that another Breton learner created. That is really the best teach-yourself type resources available right now, but it is only available in French. It does go through the grammar, but in a very casual, non-academic way, similar to how the Teach Yourself books do (TY has never had a Breton volume, to my knowledge). I am also using Brezhoneg... buan hag aes, along with a similar corresponding Memrise course, but this book came out in 1977, is full of rather useless vocabulary (unless you think knowing mous (galley-boy) and kezeg-koad (merry-go-around) are useful for beginners) and generally isn't regarded as a very good resource for learning contemporary usage. But it is one of the very few resources available in an English version, hence why I am using it. And I use the French/Breton learner's magazine #brezhoneg, published by Skol an Emsav, which is a really good resource for learning contemporary Breton via reading immersion.

In order words, I make do with what's available. This is how it goes with minority languages. And seeing there are many other minority languages that have even fewer available resources, I consider myself fortunate to have enough to make progress in Breton, despite how difficult it is. and if you really want to stick with Breton for this novel of yours, you will have to make do with what's available as well.

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Zviezda
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Re: Translation into Breton (and learning Breton in general)

Postby Zviezda » 2016-11-05, 1:43

Hello

Right here right now I'm asking for help figuring out several specific things, but, since I seem to be stuck with this culture for at least a trilogy, I would welcome any recommendations for teach-yourself-Breton resources. Er, for grammar-based teach-yourself-Breton resources. I've already tried http://www.kervarker.org, but it didn't work - I learn languages by first figuring out grammar and then growing a vocabulary, and kervarker just doesn't seem to explain things sufficiently.


There isn't much reliable material to learn Breton on the web, unfortunately, and there's probably nothing in English.
There are only a few books in English, and they all teach a kind of artificial Breton that mostly can't be used to communicate with native speakers...

Stuff I'm looking to translate at the moment:

1. Titles
How do noble titles work in Breton? I know there are aotrou / itroun, but I don't get what exactly those titles are, since there also seem to be regular titles' equivalents (dug, kont, etc). Are those just generic lord/lady denoting nobility? Can you have a lot of people titled aotrou at the same time, or is it only applied to the current overlord, like the Duke of Brittany (an aotrou Yann from "An alarc'h")? Can you use aotrou as a form of address (see#2), and, if not, what would you use instead?


the noble titles all come from French:
duk/dug, French duc, English duke
markiz, French marquis, English marquess
kont, French comte, English earl
baron, French baron, English baron
beskont, French vicomte, English viscount
priñs, French prince, English prince.

Aotrou is like "Mr." in English. Traditionally, it's used to call public figures (doctors, mayors, teachers, lawyers, solicitors, and nobles). Now in learning books, they tend to use "Aotrou" just like "Monsieur" in French, ie. like "Mr." in English, even farmers etc (which makes native speakers laugh).

Can you use aotrou as a form of address (see#2), and, if not, what would you use instead?


yes you can use it as a form of address, but only to the kind of people I mentioned.

"Itron" is just the same for married women, and "Dimezell" for unmarried women.

2. A snippet of conversation
A (female, if it matters): It cannot be, my lord. It simply cannot be. [As in, he just told her something and it's freaking impossible.]
B (male, if it matters): I know. [As in, yeah, it sounds impossible, but...]


A: Ne c'hell ket bezañ, Aotrou. Ne c'hell ket tamm ebet.
B: Goût a ran.

After raking the internet I came up with the following:
A: Ne’m eus ket, aotrou. Ne’m eus ket nemet.
B: Gouzon.
Is that correct? Also, is it ne'm or n'em, and why?


no it doesn't make sense. It means "I don't have, Mr. I have only." and "I know" but the sentence is wrong, you can't start a sentence with a conjugated verb like that...

3. A battle cry
Something like "to arms" or "arise, X" (X being the name of the country, so 2nd person singular, "you"). Glosbe.com, which is the best online Breton dictionary I've managed to find so far, has nothing certain for "arise" or "to arms", but it gave me dihuniñ for "awake". The Wiktionary seems to show that singular "you" imperative of -iñ verbs cuts off the ending. I'm still not sure, however, if "Dihun, X!" sounds like a call to arms or like "wakey-wakey, sweetie". Besides, for all I know, dihuniñ might be irregular and do something completely different in imperative.


"Dihunet" would sound funny, it means "wake up".
"To arms" would be something like "Savet, X". Or "d'an armoù, X". Instead of the name of the country, I would rather use the name of the people (in the plural), for instance "Bretoned!" (Bretons!)

There's also the phrase d'an emgann (dan emgann?) in "An alarc'h", which, insofar as I could figure out, means "to battle". Which would work beautifully, except I wouldn't want to lift it wholesale if it's already a traditional battle-cry.


yes, "d'an emgann" would probably work as well. It's hard to say because I couldn't find written examples of what war leaders say to their soldiers...

4. Is falcon - falc'hun - masculine or feminine?
The dictionary seems unsure. If it is masculine, how would a female falcon be called?


the word "falc'hun" or "falc'hon" is masculine. A female falcon would be "ur vamm-falc'hon/falc'hun".

And I hate to be the one to tell you this, but as someone who's studied or at least dabbled in all six of the modern Celtic languages, I can tell you that you picked possibly the hardest one of the bunch, and that's not counting how hard it is to get decent resources for it or the politics around it. Compared to most other Indo-European languages, Breton is just not very easy.


I don't agree, Breton isn't the hardest, as a language. Irish and Scottish Gaelic have declensions a hard syntax and a complicated spelling and pronunciation. Parts of Welsh grammar are very complicated too.
The main problem with Breton, is that the native language is very seldom taught, the spelling isn't phonological nor etymological (it should be reformed), most of the material you can find is in a kind of artificial literary Breton, often full of mistakes and of French idioms translated word for word etc, most of what you can find in the media is awful Breton (since most people you can hear or read there just don't master the language).

There's no Breton-speaking community left, native speakers only speak Breton with their friends or siblings etc, so you can't immerse you in the language as you could do with most other languages.

It's hard to learn proper Breton without being in contact with native speakers, and since there is very few material to teach native Breton... You can just use the most reliable resources and go and see native speakers (or prepare yourself first by listening and mimicking native speakers' recordings, there are quite a lot on the web, if you know where they are) ; if you learn artificial Breton and go and see native speakers, they will all tell you "it's not the same Breton, I don't understand you, let's speak French" and you can't make them speak Breton anymore. That's why learning "literary" Breton is useless, except if you intend to use your Breton only with other learners (most of these don't master the language anyway).
So, it's very difficult to learn Breton properly if you don't come to Western Brittany... and you have to know French too, in order to use the material and also to ask things to native speakers when you don't know the Breton word.


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