Sunday, June 15, 2008

No. 3: I am what I am what I am what I am what I am

Last night I had a dream that I met a Catholic cardinal and found myself asking him why he felt I should abandon my protestant upbringing and become a Catholic (other people dream falling or having to give presentations whilst wearing only a thong, but in my dreams various faiths and denominations vie for my soul).

The cardinal got a twitchy little smile on his face; he was overjoyed by this question. This was a question he was confident he could answer, a question that he was going to knock out of the park. Of course, he didn't answer the question, though -- because he existed only in my head and I don't have the answer. Instead he started in with an anecdote about pickup trucks that bored me into waking up.

But at its heart I think mine was a sympathy dream -- an attempt to identify with a friend of mine who recently told me he was interested in learning a bit of Welsh and asked if would I be willing to help. Why would he do that? I don't know. But he did and I promptly inundated him with learning materials.

This morning, I was thinking about other things I could send him and I had one of those "I'm walking through a forest and I've just run smack dab into a tree and been strangely surprised that I would find a tree here" moments of realising that Welsh is at times a bit complicated. It is especially so when it does not need to be. For example: "I am."

"I am" is a pretty basic concept. One can imagine that it was among the reasons that language developed in the first place: "I am hungry," "I am being eaten by a tiger."

In the English language, there aren't a great number of ways to say "I am" beyond simply "I am" and "I'm." But in Welsh, the ways to express such a simple statement are multitudinous. Off the top of my head, here are a few:
- Yr wyf
- Rwyf
- wyf i
- wy
- Yr ydw
- Rydw i
- dwi
- fi

That's just silly, yo. And rather hard to teach.


Rob said...

Very interesting about Welsh "I am".
And not that you asked, but...
Russian has a "to be" verb, but chooses to leave it out of many sentences where you and I are used to seeing it:
He [is] here.
I [am] Bryan.
She [is] from Brussels.
This [is] my dog.

On the other hand, to communicate "I won't be here tomorrow", they will often say what translates literally as "I won't be tomorrow". Given the chance to leave out the "be" as usual, they choose instead to leave out the "here", giving the impression that they're contemplating self-annihilation. Which on the other hand it'sn that surprising if you read some of their literature...
My question is: why did I post this as a comment on Chris's blog? I could have made my *own* blog this boring -- Chris really doesn't deserve this -- but then once a person starts typing it's hard to quit...

heatherfeather said...

I have only had the occasion to use "I am being eaten by a tiger" once, and I am not certain I even used it correctly.