Demonstratives vs pronouns

I’ve started noticing situations where demonstratives (hon, hwn, honno, hwnnw) are used when my (first language English) brain was expecting either a normal pronoun “hi” or “o/e”, or an emphatic one.
All the cases I can think of have some kind of emphasis. Do these forms inherently convey emphasis and, if so, is that the reason for using them? Is it as simple as thinking how it would sound if you said “this woman” or “that one” or whatever?
Also, it’s entirely possible that I’m mishearing but it seems that people often use the “this” version when I would expect the “that” version (see examples 1 and especially 3 below). I’ve heard the “that” versions as well, but are they more interchangeable in Welsh than English?
Some examples that spring to mind are:

  1. “Mae hwn 'di marw” (“he’s dead”) - Sophie in Rownd a Rownd telling her mother about Elen’s late husband (emphasis because she was talking about someone else immediately before).
  2. “Lle mae hon?” (“Where is she?”) - exclaimed in exasperation in Tipyn o Stad while waiting to pick someone up who was late.
  3. “Pwy 'dy hwn?” (“Who’s that?”) the dad in Bron Meirion from Tudur Owen’s programme when someone mentions Mark Drakeford.

I’ve heard similar things in normal conversations too so I don’t think it’s just a TV thing.
Sorry for the rambling post, but if anyone has any thoughts on this sort of stuff it would be great to hear!

No, only if they are the first word in the sentence (e.g. “Hwn ydy’r un drutaf” - That (one) is the most expensive)

yup, pretty much! hwn and hon mean ‘this (one)’. hwnna and honna mean ‘that (one)’, but as you say, that’s not what a English-thinking brain puts in there.

In your examples, 1. This one is dead 2. Where is this one? 3. Who is this (one)? just don’t sound right in English so we make them sound right in translation by using he, she & that - but then when we come to translate from English back to Welsh, our brain forgets that the English sentences had to be compromised and tries to put the normal pronouns back in.

Nope, it’s definitely not just a TV thing, but what is a TV thing is subtitles - remember that subtitles are often very limited for space, so often sentences are paraphrased or translated in a slightly different (but still accurate) way to achieve a shorter wording.


Thanks for the clarification. That’s really helpful. I’m hoping to get better at this sort of thing by just more exposure to the way people actually talk.

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Yes, it’s certainly the best way :slight_smile: