History of Scots to 1700

3. Characteristics of Older Scots (CM)

This section offers a brief account of the main characteristics of Older Scots. More detailed and technical treatments follow in subsequent sections.

OSc presents difficulties even for the reader who is fluent in ModSc, simply because of changes happening naturally with the passage of time. But there has undoubtedly been more obsolescence in vocabulary than is the case between EModE and modern StE, and there is also a massive literary discontinuity: for instance, whereas neologisms and catchphrases originating in the works of Shakespeare are part of everyday English, the works of Gavin Douglas, once so highly regarded in England as well as in Scotland, are all but forgotten. Fortunately, at least part of the initial strangeness of OSc is merely superficial, arising from unfamiliar spelling conventions. But as a 16th century Englishman commented of a work in Scots:

Howbeit the same is not so hard but that after the reading of two leaues a man may easily enough grow acquainted with it, and doubtlesse the knowledge and monumentes therein contained are wel worth so small a trauell to understand them. (anonymous and undated "copie of a letter written by one in London", c1571, quoted by Bald, 1928: 168)

Before outlining the spelling system of OSc, we shall look briefly at some other characteristics of the language at this period.

3.1 Faux amis

Naturally there are many unfamiliar senses of familiar words. The modern reader is particularly liable to be misled by certain common faux amis:

a - 'one', and in ESc 'a'
and – ‘if’ as well as ‘and’
ane - 'a' as well as 'one'
but – ‘without’ as well as ‘but’
gif – ‘if’ as well as ‘give’
into, intil(l – ‘in’ as well as ‘into’
let – ‘prevent’
mete – ‘food’
quhil(l – ‘until’
quik – ‘alive’
til(l – ‘to’ as well as ‘until’ (s.v. to)
to - 'too' as well as 'to'
wa(l)kand – ‘waking’ (with silent <l>, see below)
without – ‘outside’ as well as ‘lacking’ (s.v. without(in).

3.2 Grammar

The grammar of OSc causes few difficulties, apart from those occasioned by poetic licence, legal convolutions, and sometimes by sheer bad writing. Most readers will encounter the language in modern editions, where punctuation has been supplied by the editor. The only problem of parsing that is likely to remain sometimes is a verse line consisting of a 'dangling participle' - a participial clause that could belong either to the preceding or following clause, e.g.:

Bot than (god wate) quhow afferyt wes I
Traistand tyl be stranglyt with bestiall,
Amyd a stok richt preualy I stall
(London edn. of The Palice of Honour, from Bawcutt ed., 1967, ll.197-9)

Bot than God wait how affrayit was I,
Traistand to be stranglit with bestiall.
Amid a stock richt priuelie I stall
(ibid. Edinburgh edn.).

The impersonal verb think as in me thinks, me thocht 'it seems/seemed to me' can cause confusion. In some styles of verse, the verb can (not 'can' but an altered form of (be)gan) is used redundantly to provide an extra syllable (see §7.8.15). The large number of homonyms of some common grammatical words can also create difficulties. For instance, na can be the negative particle ('not' or, following a word, '-n't'), the negative quantifier ('no, not any'), the word of contradiction ('no, nay'), the conjunction 'nor', or the conjunction 'than', sometimes in constructions not found in ModSc or StE.

3.3 Orthography

For the symbols and conventions used in discussing sounds and spellings, see Abbreviations and Conventions.

3.3.1 Variability

The reader of OSc, or the dictionary user trying to locate specific words, is immediately confronted with the rampant individualism of a spelling system where a person's orthography is as personally distinctive as his or her handwriting (see §5.2.2). As in other languages at this time, there were no fixed spellings for words (this came later as a side-effect of printing). The pupil learned his (less often, her) letters, i.e. the values attached to letters and groups of letters, and applied these values when faced with the necessity of spelling a particular word. But even by the standards of the time, the system, especially in MSc, allowed of many options, accrued over centuries and seldom weeded out. To some extent, the hypothetical freedoms were constrained by conventions of usage, for instance, favouring certain options in certain positions in words, notably:

  • <y> rather than <i> word-finally and in the vicinity of minim letters,
  • <w> rather than <u, v> word-finally,
  • <v> initially and <u> medially (for both consonant and vowel values);

and favouring older-established spellings (such as fossilised ones) over innovations (such as reverse spellings, see below). Etymology is also a strong constraint in the case of Romance loanwords,[48] with spellings such as <c> for /s/, <que> and silent initial /h/ persisting (and likewise <ph> in words of Greek origin). Again, this is not so much a fixing of individual word spellings as the result of familiarity with Latin and French, and the integration of a multilingual person's spelling habits across different languages.

The absence of fixed word spellings must have made the initial acquisition of literacy much easier, but conversely it increased the processing burden on the reader, including the modern reader, who of course approaches the language without the benefit of a native speaker's knowledge.

3.3.2 Some features of OSc spelling

The modern reader is particularly likely to be misled when spellings usually associated with consonants are used for vowels and vice versa. Some things to look out for are:

  • the interchange of <i, y> (as in ME), e.g. <iere> 'year', <tyme> 'time';
  • the interchange of <u, v, w>, e.g. <wys> could be 'wise' or 'use', <vin> could be 'win', 'wine' or uin 'oven';
  • the use of silent <l> in the graphemes <al, ol, ul>, e.g. <cals> 'cause', <nolt> nowt 'cattle', <pulder> 'powder'.

The last are reverse spellings. After the loss of /l/ in words such as salt, gold, pull (l-vocalisation, see §6.23), the spellings with (now silent) <l> mostly continued to be used. The graphemes <al, ol, ul> therefore became associated with the vowels now occurring in these words, and it became possible to apply them unhistorically to other words containing the same vowels, e.g. <nolt> for nowt 'cattle' (< ON naut): cf. colt (< OE colt), now pronounced, though rarely spelled, <cowt>.

When reduced forms of words are run together in OSc, e.g. Is 'I shall' (see §9.3.7), no apostrophes are used (except in the latest texts). On reduced forms of the before vowels (<thend> 'the end', etc.), see the def. art. 14.

The /n/ of the indefinite article is sometimes carried over to open a word beginning with a vowel: see the DOST article on N.

Some prefixes are commonly written as separate words: see e.g. to- prefix1-2 and non- adv. prefix.

Some other spelling conventions of OSc that differ from modern StE are:

  • <ch> for /x/ e.g. <richt> 'right', as well as for /ʧ/ e.g. fleche (rather than <tch>);
  • <sch> for /ʃ/, e.g. scho;
  • <quh> for /ʍ/, e.g. quha 'who';
  • <ih, jh> for initial /ʤ/, e.g. Ihon 'John', as well as <i, j>;
  • <ff> for capital <F>;[49]
  • <kk> preferred to <ck>;
  • <g> for non-initial /ʤ/, e.g. hege (rather than <dg>);
  • <tht> varies with <th>, and <cht> with <ch>;
  • superscript <t> is used variously for <tht, th, cht, ch>;
  • <th(t)> and <ch(t)> are sometimes used interchangeably with each other, e.g. borch(t, and culrach, culrath;[50]
  • the OE letter <þ> 'thorn' was used (as in ME) as an alternative to <th> e.g. <þat, þt > 'that'. In the styles of handwriting used in MSc, <þ> lost its ascender and became in most cases indistinguishable from <y>. Editors vary in their treatment of this letter, printing it variously as <th>, <þ> or <y>. In DOST it is altered to <th>;
  • the letter <ȝ> 'yogh'[51] was used (as in ME) for /j/ as in <ȝere, ȝhere> 'year'. In manuscripts of the MSc period, it is indistinguishable from <z>, which is written with a tail. Conversely, <z> is used for both in print (see the DOST article on ȝ).

3.4 Sound-change

The extraordinary variability of the OSc spelling system arises both directly and indirectly from processes of sound change. We will therefore glance briefly here at the main changes as they affected the orthography. For a detailed discussion, see §6.

3.4.1 Terminology

Sounds are discussed here in terms of phonemes. A phoneme is an abstract unit, a single meaningful sound distinction in a language. Sounds that are perceived to be the same, by native speakers of a language, actually vary according to their phonetic environment. For instance, the phoneme /p/ has two main phonetic realisations, with and without a following puff of air known as aspiration. Compare the pronunciation of pin (which will blow out a match) and spin, with /p/ in the environment of a preceding /s/ (which will not). Phonemes are conventionally represented within slash brackets, thus /p/; phonetic realisations within square brackets, thus [ph] (aspirated) and [p=] (unaspirated). Phonemes also vary in realisation amongst accents, both social and geographical, and since no language variety is unmixed, individual speakers typically use a range of variation, for instance, to cite a well-known social marker of modern Scottish speech across the Scots-Scottish English continuum, a mixture of glottal plosives (glottal stops) and alveolar plosives for /t/.

Describing the phonemes of a language can be compared to describing insect colonies in a field. First we divide the field into a grid of equal squares, each with a name, such as /a, o, p, t/. If each square has one and only one insect colony, it is easy to name the colonies after the abstract grid squares. Otherwise, we need to qualify our symbols, e.g. /a/ and /a:/ (short and long vowels respectively). Often colonies are spread over two or more squares: we choose the symbols that best represent their positions. Over time, the colonies may drift, until there comes a point when we decide that a colony is largely in a different square and should be renamed. (In the historical record of a language, sound change often becomes evident precisely because writers begin to change the spellings they use.)

Thus, we have the problem of what symbol to use in discussing the history of a colony. One method is to continue to refer to the colony by the symbol allocated to it at the start of the study. This corresponds to the use of OE vowel symbols in discussing the subsequent history of the vowels of Scots and English; the usual method until recently, and still sometimes used. Thus we speak of the reflexes (outcomes) of e.g. OE ā.[52] In the present work, we use the system of vowel numbers devised by Aitken (1977), revised in Aitken (2002). See Figure 3 (below).

The drifting of whole colonies represents, in our analogy, the type of sound-change known as unconditioned. Such a drift can, of course, lead to merger with a neighbouring colony/sound. This can, however, be avoided by the neighbours moving out of the way. The equivalent in terms of sound change is a sound shift (notably, below, the Great Vowel Shift). Sound-changes are, however, often conditioned by particular environmental factors (such as word-stress, and the preceding and following sounds). In this case, in our analogy, different parts of the insect colony would be differently affected, resulting eventually in the colony splitting, especially if part of it is captured by and merges with a neighbouring colony.

3.4.2 Phonemic and graphemic variation

In many cases, the operation of sound changes created doublets, pairs of word forms, with one showing the effect of the change, the other not, for instance pow and pull, with and without loss of /l/ by l-vocalisation. Part of the variability of OSc, then, is based on actual differences in pronunciation, while other aspects are purely orthographic. Beyond the guidance provided in specific dictionary entries, the reconstruction of pronunciation requires a certain knowledge of historical phonology. Accordingly, we concentrate in this section on spelling variation as such.

3.4.3 Vowels

Vowel sounds are much more subject to change over time than consonants, probably because they involve no contact between the tongue and the other organs of articulation, and are therefore, in some sense, harder to calibrate. By the same token, their spellings are less stable and more liable to be misleading.

3.4.3.1 Double consonants

In OE, consonants spelled with a double letter, such as <dd>, were pronounced long. Vowels were shortened in this environment in late OE, so doubling a consonant letter became a way of indicating the shortness of the preceding vowel.

3.4.3.2 Diphthongs

Other important changes created new diphthongs in the pre-literary Scots/early ME period. OE /j/, spelled <>, combined with a preceding front vowel, e.g. OE > hay. OE /ɣ/, also spelled <g>, combined with a preceding back vowel, e.g. OE āgen > awn 'own'. OE /w/ also combined with a preceding back vowel, e.g. OE cnāwan > knaw 'know'. Again, there are differences in detail between Scots and English, resulting in e.g. Scots snaw 'snow' with the same vowel as gnaw (Vowel 12) and grow with the same vowel as gowk ‘cuckoo’ (Vowel 13). The overworked letter <g> was not kept in diphthong spellings, but the <w> became part of a number of digraphs: <aw, ew, iw, ow>.

3.4.3.3 Vowel Length

Scottish students are often puzzled by the mention of long and short vowels in English. This is because for most vowels in Scots (and partly also in ScStE), vowel length is governed by the phonetic environment following the vowel, rather than being intrinsic to the vowel, e.g. the originally long vowel /i/ is still long in see, but short in eat. The rule for vowel length, known as the Scottish Vowel-Length Rule (SVLR) or Aitken's Law, is described in §6.28. Here it is only necessary to note that the vowel systems of OE and OSc had long and short vowels, in pairs that were originally close enough to each other in quality to capture words from each other in processes of lengthening and shortening. A number of sound changes, culminating in the Great Vowel Shift (below), disrupted this parallelism by altering the qualities of the long vowels. It then became possible for new 'shorts' to be created by the SVLR in the second half of the 16th century. It is probably this disruption of the traditional quantity system that we see reflected in late MSc spelling habits (cf. Meurman-Solin, 1999), where long vowel spellings (final <e>[53] and digraphs) are used for traditionally short vowels, e.g. <cate, cait> 'cat', and short vowel spellings (double consonants) are used for long vowels, e.g. <fatte, faitt> 'fate'. Double long spellings partly solve the problem, i.e. both final <e> and a digraph, e.g. <faite, faitte> but these are not always reserved for long vowels either, so <caite, caitte> 'cat' is not impossible. Mixed spellings, with double consonants and final <e> or a digraph, e.g. <catte, caitt, fatte, faitte> become quite common.

3.4.3.4 Open Syllable Lengthening

In PreSc, Open Syllable Lengthening (OSL) lengthened short vowels in stressed syllables followed by an unstressed syllable, where the stressed syllable was 'open', i.e. ended in a vowel. These conditions were met in many words with inflectional endings that were later lost, e.g. name. The retention in spelling of a lost final vowel gives us the characteristic orthographic convention of Scots and English whereby a silent final modifies the vowel in the preceding syllable.[54]

3.4.3.5 The Great Vowel Shift

The most important sound shift in the history of Scots, as of English, is the Great Vowel Shift (GVS). Crudely, the effect of this was to raise long vowels. As one consequence, Scots and English spelling is out of line with Continental sound values for historically long vowels, e.g. cf. the vowels of the loanwords estate, noble, complete with their modern French equivalents état, noble, complet. Since the GVS affected only long vowels, the shortening and lengthening sound changes that preceded it (such as Homorganic Cluster Lengthening (HOCL)) take on added significance: they determine whether groups of words are part of the input to the GVS or not, e.g. blind was not lengthened and consequently not affected by the GVS, in Scots or Northern English.

Two other important changes preceded the GVS, one north of the Humber, affecting Scots and Northern English dialects, the other south of the Humber. The northern change results in front vowels in words such as mune 'moon' < OE mōna (Vowel 7); the southern change results in a back vowel in words such as home < OE hām (= Scots hame, Vowel 4). Scots and English therefore differ in the input to the GVS. There are also differences in the details of the sound shift. In particular, Scots does not shift Vowel 6, e.g. doon, hoose, preserving it as a monophthong /u:/.

3.5 The vowel system of OSc

Figure 3: Vowel systems of Scots: a rough historical outline (based on Aitken, 1977: Table 1 and Aitken, 2002: Figure 21). Only the main spellings of each vowel are shown here. Some others are discussed below.

Figure 3 shows the vowels of OSc, with their ModSc outcomes, and their usual ESc and MSc spellings. Further orthographic possibilities are discussed above and in §5. The main (usually OE) source is mentioned for each vowel below. For a fuller list of sources, see §6.1.

Vowel 1, as in mine and five, was diphthongised by the GVS.

Subsequent to the establishment of the SVLR, it split into two distinct diphthongs, as shown in Figure 3.

The usual spelling reflects the main OE sources, ī and ȳ (the latter having merged with the former in late OE), with length often signalled by <e> after a consonant (see §3.4.3.4 on OSL), e.g. <mine>, or in MSc (but infrequently) by the digraph <yi, iy>, e.g. <myin>.

Occasional late MSc spellings in <ay, ai> reflect the GVS diphthongisation.

Vowel 2, as in sene 'seen', was raised by the GVS.

The usual spelling reflects the main OE source, ē, with length often signalled by <e> after a consonant, e.g. <sene>, or by the digraph <ei, ey>, e.g. <sein>. Notice that the latter is also a Vowel 8a spelling, thus e.g. <hey> could be 'he' or 'hay'.

The anglicised spelling <ee> appears in late MSc (and see §8.2.1).

Occasional spellings in <ea> in late MSc are reverse spellings reflecting the merger in some dialects of Vowel 3 with Vowel 2.

Vowel 3, as in lene adj. 'lean', mostly merges in the course of the GVS either with Vowel 2 (most dialects south of the Forth, and also much of the North-East) or with Vowel 4 (Fife, Angus, and parts of the NE). The merger in some dialects with Vowel 4 is only rarely reflected in spelling.

There is no shortening before /d/ (as in English head) so this includes e.g. hede 'head'.

There is no distinction in spelling between Vowel 3, from OE ǣ and ēa, and Vowel 2, until the borrowing of <ea> spellings from PreStE. Thus the usual spellings are the same as for Vowel 2, e.g. <lene, lein>.

Vowel 4, as in bane, developed as a front vowel (in contrast to English bone), and raised by the GVS.

The usual spelling reflects the main OE source, ā, with length often signalled by <e> after a consonant, e.g. <bane>, or in MSc by the digraph <ai, ay>, e.g. <bain>. Notice that the latter is also the usual Vowel 8 spelling, thus e.g. <payn> could be '(window) pane' or 'pain'.

The spelling <ae> is also found e.g. frae (see §8.2.1).

Occasional spellings in <e> reflect the GVS raising.

Occasional spellings in <ea> in late MSc are reverse spellings reflecting the merger in some dialects of Vowel 3 with Vowel 4.

Vowel 5 consists mainly of originally short vowels that have undergone OSL, e.g. cole 'coal', and French loans, e.g. noble.

In ModSc it has usually merged with Vowel 18.

The usual spelling, <o>, reflects the sources, with length often signalled by <e> after a consonant, e.g. <cole>, or in MSc by the digraph <oi, oy>, e.g. <coil>. Notice that the latter is also the usual Vowel 9 (and in ESc also Vowel 10) spelling, thus <coil> could also be 'coil'.

Vowel 6, from OE ū, as in doun, did not diphthongise by the GVS.

The usual spelling <ou> is AN in origin, with Scots adding the alternatives <ov, ow>. Word-finally, <ow> is preferred. Notice that these spellings are shared by Vowel 13, thus e.g. <grow> could be 'grue, shudder' or 'grow'.

Following l-vocalisation, the reverse spelling <ul>, with silent <l>, is found, e.g. <pulder> 'powder'.

Vowel 7, as in mune, fronted north of the Humber prior to the GVS, merged with OF ǖ , and remained a front rounded vowel in OSc. In ModSc the outcomes are varied in different dialects, with Central Scots having e.g. yis 'use' n. and yaize 'use' v., and NE Scots having eese for both. The NE already had /i/ by the middle of the 16th century, but there is no evidence for the Central Scots unrounded vowels before 1635 (Grant and Dixon, 1921: §151).

The usual ESc spelling reflects the main OE source, ō, with length often signalled by <e> after a consonant, e.g. <mone>.

<o> continued to be the usual spelling word-finally in MSc, e.g. <do>.

Non-finally, MSc has <u, v, w> with length often signalled by <e> after a consonant, e.g. <mvne>, or the digraph <ui, uy, vi, vy, wi, wy>, e.g. <mwyn>. Notice that the digraph spellings are also the usual MSc Vowel 10 spellings, thus <juin> could be 'June' or 'join'.

The anglicised spelling <oo> appears in late MSc (and see §8.2.1). (This gives rise to Vowel 6 spelling pronunciations in ModSc, e.g. Toom Tabard and aboon (for abune 'above').)

Vowel 8, as in pain, has merged with Vowel 4 (e.g. pane) in most ModSc dialects. On the date of this merger, and the MSc rhyming practice, see §6.29.

Word-finally (Vowel 8a), the ModSc outcome remains diphthongal. This diphthong is the same as the SVLR-short outcome of Vowel 1 (which cannot itself occur in word-final position). This merger is apparently later, then, than the establishment of the SVLR.

The OSc spelling <ai, ay> reflects the AN source ai. This spelling is also used in MSc, as we have seen, for Vowel 4.

Vowel 9, as in noise, was introduced into the language in AN and OF loans.

The spelling <oi, oy> reflects the source, oi. It is also used, as we have seen, for Vowel 5.

Vowel 10, as in point, was also introduced into the language in AN loans. In ModSc, the outcome is the same as the SVLR-short outcome of Vowel 1 and Vowel 8a. This merger is apparently later, then, than the establishment of the SVLR.

In ESc, following French spelling practice, Vowel 10 is not distinguished in spelling from Vowel 9. The spelling <ui, uy, vi, vy, wi, wy> is characteristic of MSc, and is also, as we have seen, used for Vowel 7.

Vowel 11, as in dey 'die', is numbered as a separate vowel because it is still distinct in the rhyme practice of Barbour and the author of Ratis Raving, but otherwise it is merged with Vowel 2. It only occurs word-finally, and the spellings are the same as Vowel 2.

Vowel 12, as in law, became a monophthong in MSc.

The date of its rounding to [ɔ] in Central Scots is uncertain.

The spelling <au, av, aw> reflects the OF source au (e.g. cause), as well as OE aw (e.g. claw) and āw (e.g. snaw). Word-finally, <aw> is preferred.

The l-vocalised outcome of Vowel 17 (e.g. aw 'all') merges with Vowel 12, resulting in MSc reverse spellings with silent <l> in other Vowel 12 words, e.g. <chalmer> ‘chamber’ and the place-name Falkirk.

Vowel 13, as in loun 'calm' and grow, remains a diphthong in ModSc.

The spelling <ow, ov, ou> reflects the OE source ōw. It is also used, as we have seen, for Vowel 6. Word-finally, <ow> is preferred.

Vowel 14 consisted of two separate diphthongs in the earliest texts of ESc, /i:u/ Vowel 14a and /ε:u/ Vowel 14b(i), which merged as /iu/, although the usual spelling <ew, ev, eu> is more appropriate to /ε:u/ (see §6.9.5).

Vowel 14 remains separate in Modern Southern Scots, but in most dialects became /ju/ in MSc (e.g. dew, due), merging with Vowel 6, and losing /j/ after some consonants (e.g. true, blue).

Some MSc dialects had instead of Vowel 14b(i) a separate diphthong, Vowel 14b(ii), which gives ModSc deow, etc. for dew, etc. (now mainly NE, but formerly more widespread). This is not normally reflected in spelling, apart from a few <(y)ow> spellings in MSc.

Vowels 15-19, the short vowels, are less complicated in their spellings. Examples are:

  • Vowel 15, OE i, y: pin,
  • Vowel 16, OE e: men,
  • Vowel 17, OE æ, a: man,
  • Vowel 18, OE o: lok,
  • Vowel 19, OE u: burn.

As in English, Vowel 19 usually has <o> for clarity rather than <u> in the vicinity of other letters written with minim strokes, e.g. wonder and the prefix <on-> un-.

The realisation (exact pronunciation) of Vowel 15 in ModSc is considerably lower than that of the corresponding vowel in English accents, and this was apparently the case also in MSc, on the evidence of occasional spellings in <e> (see §5.2.8).

The realisation of Vowel 19 was apparently still rounded in the late 16th century, more like Vowel 6 than the present ModSc pronunciation, on the evidence of late MSc interchange of short and long vowel spellings (see above) between these two, including <ou> spellings for Vowel 19. Aitken (2002: §23), on the evidence of 18th century Scottish English, considers that Vowel 19 was still rounded at that time, but this is not accepted by Macafee (2004), who sees the 18th century forms as transient interdialectal phenomena (like many others) resulting from contact with StE, and points out that the unrounded realisation is found not only in most of Lowland Scotland but also in Ulster Scots, where it was presumably taken in the 17th century.

3.6 Manuscripts and modern editions

Many readers of OSc have no occasion to look at texts in manuscript. For those who do, excellent guidance can be found in Simpson (1973) and Rosie (1994). However, it is useful for the dictionary user to be aware of the difference between manuscripts and modern printed editions, and the degree of editorial intervention that is practised. There is a margin of error that has to be borne in mind, since much of the DOST excerption and editing was done before microfilm, etc., made facsimiles of manuscripts and early printed books more easily available, and forms are therefore cited from the editions then existing. See the notes under the letters J, L, M, Q, S3, U, ȝ, and s.vv. and, letter, li., not, quod, s(c)hiref, scor(e, sir(e.

In secretary hand, the main style of handwriting in most of the period, <t> and <c> are easily confused with each other, as are <f> and the long form of <s>, and sometimes also <e> and <i>. Combinations of minim strokes can be confused, e.g. <u> and <n> (see e.g. abufe), and either of these with <ri>. <ß> can stand for <s, ss> or <is> word-finally (in the combination <sß>). It can also be an abbreviation of <ser> or the word sir(e. The inflection -is is frequently abbreviated. There is an abbreviation that variously stands for <ir, ar, ri, re>. Initial <pro>, <con, com>, <per, par>, and the word and have their own abbreviations. Jesus is usually abbreviated as Ihs or Ihus. Numbers in scores, hundreds and thousands are generally shown as 2xx, 2c, 2m, etc. Final <e>, as expanded by modern editors, is often no more than a flourish of the pen, probably a habit carried over from Latin, where most words have either an inflectional ending or an abbreviation in place of an ending (Houwen, 1990: 22).

Except in diplomatic editions (such as the Acts of Parliament), the modern editor generally provides punctuation and capital letters. The treatment of some letters and abbreviations has already been mentioned. Abbreviations can be expanded silently, or the interpolated letters put in italic.

For a particularly clear statement of editorial practice, see Houwen (1990: 20-26) or (1994: I, xcvii ff.).

[48] Meurman-Solin (1993a: 192-3) points out that recent loans, especially ones not related to any earlier loans, are particularly likely to retain the spellings of the source language. Houwen (1994: I, xxii-xxiv) discusses the unusually strong immediate influence of French orthography in a technical work translated from the French.

[49] DOST normalises <ff> to capital <F>.

[50] See note 87 below.

[51] Originally the form of <g> written by Irish and Anglo-Saxon scribes, and usefully employed later to reduce the functional load of <g> by splitting it across the two letters <, g>.

[52] Another method is to use keywords, e.g. CAT for the vowel /a/. This has a number of drawbacks, which there is no space to discuss here. See Macafee (f/c b) for some reasons for not using Wells' (1982) system of keywords in discussing Scots.

[53] But this is often merely a decorative flourish of the pen (see §3.6).

[54] As Hume puts it, disapprovingly, "We use alsoe, almost at the end of everie word, to wryte an idle e" (Hume Orthog. p. 21).

Macafee, Caroline and †Aitken, A. J. (2002) ‘A history of Scots to 1700’ in A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue vol. XII, xxix-clvii. Online http://www.dsl.ac.uk/about-scots/history-of-scots/characteristics/