The Welsh definite article has three surface forms, 'r [r], yr [ər] and y [ə]. Though it might appear that all three forms are derived from a single underlying representation, with the surface forms representing a case of simple (morphophonological) allomorphy, in fact such an account is untenable: in this article we show that the interaction of phonetic, phonological, morphological, and lexical considerations all bear on selection of the correct form. The solution to the problem of choosing the correct form of the definite article involves the staggered insertion of various classes of lexemes over the course of the syntactic derivation, with content words inserted first and functional elements inserted later on. Evidence from initial consonantal mutation in Welsh further supports the view that lexical insertion takes place at different stages, rather than as a single operation. We also consider the properties of a number of functional elements in Welsh involving interactions between distinct parts of the grammar. Finally, we show how our solution also sheds light on the system of initial mutation, which displays some interesting features with respect to the functional items that trigger mutations.
© Walter de Gruyter