Dechrau v cychwyn; dweud v meddai?

Hi Folks, tibyn bach o advice plis. What is the difference between ‘dechrau’ and ‘cychwyn’ (to begin or start) and when we use one or the other please?
Same with ‘ddudais’ / dduden’ and ‘meddai / medden’ (said). What’s the difference and when would you use one or the other?

Regards,
Chris

2 Likes

Dechrau and cychwyn both basically mean begin / start, but dechrau I think is most common in everyday speech. In my experience I’d associate cychwyn more with the act of starting a car or computer - although you could also cychwyn on a journey for example, or probably anything else.

Again, dweud (and variants) is what you hear most in speech. You are more likely to see meddai in writing, and particularly for specific reported speech (i.e. in quotation marks).

6 Likes

I think by now that dechrau and cychwyn are interchangeable, particularly in speech, but originally, cychwyn meant to start moving, so @netmouse 's car and journey examples are relevant. I think the distinction would still be made in formal poetry and prose, but out on the street, there’s no difference.

Meddai/medden is a storytelling verb, so, yes, reported speech. You also hear it spoken in a few set phrase situations: Medden nhw is used where in English we might say So they say - the moon is made from cheese, medden nhw. Or maybe if I were to assert that I could win an eisteddfod with my poetry, you might reply incredulously “Meddet ti!” - so you say!

6 Likes

That’s really helpful and interesting. Diolch yn fawr iawn i chdi.

1 Like

Diolch netmouse!

Just to confirm:

Dechrau and cychwyn ar interchamgeable in speech, although historically they did have subtly different meanings. I think dechrau is more commnon in the south, and cychwyn more common in the north, but I don;t really think of them as dialect words either (unlike gallu / medru which also have subtly different meanings, but have become “the northern word for” and “the southern word for” over the years)

Meddai is a bit more complicated - it can only be used for reporting speech, although we count things like “so he said” as reported speech. If in doubt, you can always use ddudais / dduden (southern: dwedais / dweden), even in places where medden would be possible.

(Edited to add: I could have said “exactly what RobBruce says” if I’d seen his reply…)

5 Likes

Diolch yn fawr Iestyn. Much appreciated.

1 Like

Or, to be slightly more precise, for QUOTING speech. So it’s used mostly after speech in quotation marks, and by extension (as Iestyn correctly mentions) in the set phrases meddai fo/hi so he/she said and medden nhw so they said. :slight_smile:

4 Likes

Sorry to be so thick, but I am right, am I not, that meddwl means ‘to think’ and is there any confusion in literature between ‘he thought’ and ‘he said’? Is it ever more correct to use dweud when writing?

Two different words. Just learn meddai and medden as one-offs, and treat meddwl (stem meddyli-) as a separate item. :slight_smile:

5 Likes

What I should have said was: they are doubtless related, but in the modern language they might as well be regarded as separate.

5 Likes

Diolch for both answers! I had not realised there were two different words! Live and learn every day on the Forum and in life!

1 Like

As opposed to being ‘thick’, which is what you were unjustly accusing yourself of being earlier on! :slight_smile:

3 Likes

On cychwyn vs dechrau:

I very occasionally have the chance to exchange some Welsh with a charming old man who is now a less active member of our walking group (he’s turned 90…). From north east Wales originally, I don’t think he has ever lived in Wales since after his war service as a young man.

He welcomes any chance to reconnect with Welsh, but confesses to being a bit rusty, and tells me that I remind him of words he thought he’d forgotten. However, when I used “dechrae”, he said that in that case he’d have used “cychwyn” which was then a new one on me. I think he did think they were slightly different in meaning, and it sounds like they probably were when he was growing up, but perhaps less so now.

2 Likes

There certainly is a difference, although there is overlap. A parallel situation exists in English with start and begin. A meeting can start or begin, but an engine can only start. Similarly in Welsh I am pretty sure that cychwyn would be used for an engine starting, not dechrau - perhaps your example was something like that?

5 Likes

When writing in English, particularly if describing a discussion or conversation, i have always tried to avoid said, said, said! So, replied, answered, remarked, interjected, etc. etc.Now I am not planning to write even a paragraph of Cymrawg much less a 3 volume novel, so this is a hypothetical question, but would such use of varying ways of saying ‘said’ be as acceptable in Welsh or would it be seen as most peculiar?

1 Like

Nail on the head, Gareth!

1 Like

A good question to which I am equally looking forward to the answer.
Edit: I feel sure there are too many “to’s” in that sentence, but I’m going to live dangerously and let it stand. :wink:

No, I think it’s OK to say for example 'Cerwch o ‘ma!’ atebodd Eleri, or ‘Cymer ofal,’ sibrydodd Sioned. But I don’t subscribe to the idea that repetition of the quotative ‘said’/ meddai is in any way bad style, myself. :slight_smile:

4 Likes

I see a nail…I hit it on the head.

It’s what I do.

4 Likes

I also tend to find that my mother-in-law (soon to be) and her sister use cychwyn (Gogs) but my Welsh speaking friends here in Cardiff use dechrau (said dechra). So there’s a but of a regional difference but not like rŵan and nawr.