The Scots language [1]

This Phonetic Description of Scottish Language and Dialects appeared in the Scottish National Dictionary, Volume 1 Part 1, which was published in 1931.

§ 1. The area of Scottish speech with which the National Dictionary deals comprises (1) the Lowlands of Scotland, (2) Orkney and Shetland, where it has superseded the Norn language within the last 350 years, and (3) parts of Ulster, especially Antrim, Down and Derry, to which, since c.1606, it has been extended by the immigration of Scottish settlers.

Southern Boundary of Scottish Speech

§ 2. The political boundary between Scotland and England was fixed by Alexander II. and Henry III. before the middle of the 13th cent., and has continued with little alteration up to the present day. It starts from a point on the east coast 3 miles nnw. of Berwick town, follows the line of the Liberties of Berwick to the Tweed, which then constitutes the boundary line to the point where the three counties of Nhb.[2] Rxb. and Bwk. meet; it then proceeds s. by e., but near Cheviot Hill it strikes sw. to Larriston Hill; it descends Kershope burn to the Liddel Water, which it follows to its junction with the Esk; leaving the Esk at Scotsdyke it moves due west till it reaches the little river Sark, which it follows to the Solway.

§ 3. As the dialects on both sides of the Border are sprung from the same source we should expect to find them possessing many phonetic features in common, along with others more or less divergent. The latter are, in most cases, the results of the development of the same sounds in different directions owing to varying physical, geographical, social and political conditions.

§ 4. The modern dialects of Germanic origin in Great Britain are generally divided into four great groups. The first is spoken in the Lowlands of Scotland, the second in Northern England, the third in the English Midlands and the fourth in Southern England. They may be distinguished by a very simple vowel test which consists in tracing in each group the development of O.E. ŭ and O.E. ū as in the O.E. words cŭman (to come) and dūn (down). O.E. ŭ was pronounced as in Mod.Eng. full, O.E. ū as in Mod.Eng. too. In Scots the two words are pronounced cum doon [kʌm dun], in n.Eng. coom doon [kum dun], in the Midlands coom down [kum daun] and in southern Eng. cum down [kʌm daun]. Map 1 gives a rough idea of these divisions; but it must be borne in mind that very often there is a gradual change from one district to another in course of which more than one pronunciation may be heard. The southern limit of the pronunciation of “down” as “doon” is marked in the map by a line which moves in a south-easterly direction from the mouth of the s.Esk (17 miles sse. of Whitehaven), entering Lincoln 3 miles n. of Gainsborough, and terminating on the Humber 3 miles nw. of Great Grimsby. Western Yks., with its great industrial towns, Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield, etc., has lost this “doon” pronunciation, a result due to the enormous influx of population from other districts. The “cum” line starts at the mouth of the n.Esk in n.Cum., crosses Cum., and skirting the foot of the Cheviots reaches the east coast at Bamburgh (12 miles n. of Alnwick). On the Cumberland side the division between “cum” and “coom” is clearly marked, but in Nhb., although “cum” only is heard n. of the line, both “cum” and “coom” can be heard in different localities south of the “cum” line as far as Ryhope (3 miles sse. Sunderland). The line to the south of which only “coom” is heard stretches from Ryhope through Dur. to Alstone on the e. border of Nhb. Scottish speech as a whole, then, differs from the n.Eng. dialects in the development of O.E. ŭ into [ʌ] and agrees with the eastern half of the n.Eng. dialects in retaining O.E. ū. If we were to follow in like manner the history of the other O.E. vowels in the Sc. and n.Eng. border dialects we should find similar agreements and differences, the latter, however, predominating so as to constitute on each side a separate dialect type.

§ 5. A glance at the consonantal distinctions will bring us to the same conclusion as in the case of the vowels. Ch [ = x] as in loch has disappeared all over the n.Eng. area, except in a small portion of n.Cum., of which the southern limit is a line stretching from Bewcastle to Longtown and Gretna. See E.E.P., V., pp. 684-694. As soon as we get south of Carlisle “h” as in Scots “hoo” begins to disappear, and “wh” as in Eng. “why” begins to change into “w” — e.g. at Lorton (4 miles w. of Cockermouth) in 1913 they were no longer heard (Brilioth’s Grammar and Dial. of Lorton, p. 5); at Kendal, east of Lake Windermere, “h” was still in use in 1905, but “wh” [ʍ] was fainter than in Scotland (Hirst’s Grammar and Dial. of Kendal, p. 13); on the eastern side “wh” and “h” still survive within Nhb., so that any Scotsman journeying southward finds the Northumbrian speech not unlike his own. Northumbrian, however, has a dialectal “r,” often called the burr (voiced back fricative consonant with inner or outer rounding), a sound which exists in Scotland only as an individual peculiarity. One other important n.Eng. consonantal feature, unknown in Scotland, may be mentioned — i.e. the pronunciation of “the” as “t’.” The line of division between “the” and “t,” in the north runs from Moricambe Bay (13 miles w. of Carlisle) to Ryhope (3 miles sse. of Sunderland, see Map 1). As an example of this peculiarity, combined with the use of O.E. ū, we would cite the following quotation from the Trans. Yorks. Dial. Soc. (1906), p. 16. “Ah’s boon ta prune t’awd peearthree i’ t’ front o’ t’ hoose” — “I am bound to prune the old pear-tree in the front of the house” (Dialect of n. and e.Riding, Yks.).

§ 5.1. Sir James Murray assigns the greater part of the valley of the Esk and the whole of Liddesdale to n.Eng. See Dialect of the Southern Counties of Scotland, p. 25, footnote, and map. Dr Ellis, however, showed (E.E.P., V., pp. 716-723) that Liddesdale, like Teviotdale, was Scots in its main features, and recent investigation by the Scottish Dialects Committee has justified the same conclusion for the Esk valley. Further, Dr Ellis proved that Sc. phonetic features (e.g. use of [x]) extended beyond the political border on the west to a line running from Bewcastle to Longtown and Gretna. See E.E.P., V., pp. 684-694. Since Ellis’s time (d.1890), religious and secular education directed from the south, modern means of locomotion and the movement of the population during the Great War have all helped to render this line less distinct, and have made the district between Carlisle and the Scottish Border a veritable linguistic Debatable Land. For all practical purposes the political and linguistic boundaries may be considered to coincide.

§ 5.2. A recent investigator[3] writes to say that, so far as his own researches and those of his students go, Ellis’s information about Nhb. dialect is in the main still true. He makes the following qualifications: “The Northumberland sound in coom is, to my mind, libk.l.r. considerably under rounded, lowered and advanced [i.e. a sound approaching u of Eng. cut, but not identical with it]. After the burr [ʁ] it is h.bk.l.r. In Nhb. O.E. ū persists as a monophthong medially, but finally it has become ow [əu] m.fl.l.+h.bk.t.r.” Cf. § 101. In regard to the consonants he says “ch” [x], Sc. loch, has not been heard; “wh” [ʍ] is still heard in stressed words, but often “w” in weakly accented words; “rd,” “rt,” “rl,” “rn”become inverted “d,” “t,” “l,” “n,” with the tongue well behind the upper teeth.

Western Boundary

§ 6. For many generations the boundary between Lowland and Highland speech in Scotland appears to have been approximately what was laid down roughly on the map during the troubled times of the 18th cent. as the “Highland line.” This line runs from the Firth of Clyde along the foothills of Perthshire, crosses the Grampians near Ballater, and turning nw. reaches the Moray Firth a little to the west of Nairn. It is still in general conception the division between Lowlands and Highlands; and until the latter part of the 19th cent. it was still possible to regard it as a linguistic boundary between Scots and Gaelic. The whole of the country to the w. of that line could then be regarded as Gaelic-speaking, with some important exceptions — namely, the town of Inverness, which had long been English-speaking, the Scots-speaking portions of the Black Isle, of Easter Ross and of Caithness, and certain urban communities, like Campbeltown and Rothesay. See Map 2.

§ 7. This line, then, marks, for practical purposes, the western limit of Lowland speech. But during the last few decades many factors have been at work tending to obliterate it as a linguistic boundary. The three most important of these factors have been: the rapid decline of the Gaelic language; movement of population; general education — the latter bringing with it what has been termed “school English.” The Gaelic language has lost ground so rapidly that its effective eastern boundary would now lie much to the west of the old line, its place being taken for the most part by St.Eng.; on the other hand Lowland Sc. still reaches the line. Indeed, at some points (Campbeltown, Grantown) the nearest Sc. dialect may be said to have crossed the line and invaded Gaelic territory; while a yet more noticeable invasion, of a phonologic order, has been the spread in the Western Highlands of the tone system of sw.Sc. (Glasgow).

§ 8. Any Scots-Gaelic border line drawn on the map to-day must be regarded not only as a generalisation, but as considerably more of a generalisation than the corresponding line which it was possible to draw as recently as forty-five years ago. Two important criteria were formerly available for determining whether a district was Highland or Lowland in tongue. The first of these was the language, Gaelic or English, used in church. Particulars upon this point contained in the Statistical Accounts throw not a little light upon the linguistic situation in various parishes along the Highland border at the end of the 18th and in the early 19th centuries; and until the first decade of the 20th cent. the language used in church was a true index of the linguistic affinity of a district. The decline in church attendance has since deprived this criterion of its value. There remains another, the Census figures of Gaelic speakers, available in totals and percentages for each parish. These form an interesting record so far as they go, but they require to be handled with caution if a true picture of the state of the language is aimed at; because, while the Census figures may give the number of people in a parish who can converse in Gaelic, it is certain that any qualitative test applied over the border area would show that much of the language represented by these figures is deficient in vocabulary and faulty in form, the decline in the number of Gaelic speakers between one Census enumeration and another being accompanied by a loss of quality probably equal to the loss of quantity. The Census figures, none the less, represent a definite claim on the part of individuals to an ability to speak Gaelic, and have their statistical value as such.

§ 9. The first mapping of a Highland-Lowland linguistic boundary was Sir James Murray’s, described in his Dialect of the Southern Counties of Scotland (1873). Murray’s line is stated to be based upon information received from clergymen and others, and it possesses permanent value as a record because the data available at that time justified the drawing of a more definite line than is now possible. His line “passes along the east coast of Arran, cuts off the north of Bute, passes behind Dunoon to Loch Long, enters Dumbarton at Gorton, hence through Glen Douglas to Loch Lomond; it enters Stirling north of Rowardennan, crosses to Aberfoyle and to Callander, passes through Glenartney to Comrie, crosses Glenalmond south of Amulree, follows Strath Braan through Birnam Wood to Dunkeld. It enters Aberdeenshire by Mount Blair, passes to a point four miles east of Braemar, and hence on to two miles east of Crathie and Balmoral. It then proceeds north-north-west to go to Strathdon, where it turns north-west and enters Banff six miles north-east of Tomintoul. It skirts the Livet on the west to the boundary of Elgin. It crosses the Spey two miles south of Inveravon, traverses the Knock of Brae Moray, and hence north-west to Nairn, crossing the Findhorn at right angles and going on to Ardclach, and hence to the Moray Firth, three miles west of Nairn. It crosses the Firth to Cromarty, dips again into the sea, to emerge at Clyth Ness, Caithness. It proceeds overland to Harpsdale, through Halkirk to the river Forss, which it follows to the sea. . . .” See Introduction to A. Warrack’s A Scots Dialect Dictionary (Chambers, 1911).

Scottish Limit on the West

§ 10. The revision of this line for the Scottish National Dictionary is based (1) on the Census Returns for the parishes on Murray’s line, and to the west of it, and (2) on the reports from these localities sent in by school teachers who have been good enough to answer the following questions:

(a) Has English or Lowland Scots taken the place of Gaelic?
(b) If Scots, which dialect?
(c) Is Gaelic the speech of the school playground?
(d) Is Gaelic a medium for school instruction in the infant room?

The course of this revised line, as will be seen, takes it along the south of Argyllsh. in such fashion as to keep the urban communities on the coast of the Firth of Clyde within the Lowland area; it crosses Loch Lomond near Rowardennan, and passes by Aberfoyle, Callander, Comrie, Dunkeld, Braemar, Tomintoul and Grantown to Fort George; it takes in the eastern part of the Black Isle (Avoch to Cromarty), parts of Easter Ross, and about half the county of Cai., running from Bruan near Clyth Ness to Crosskirk on the Forss. This line represents the western limit of Sc. speech at the present time. While it is a fair statement of the circumstances of the case, it will be understood that such a boundary has in actuality none of the sharpness it has on a map. Moreover, in any true view it can no longer be treated as a border between Sc. and Gaelic, but should rather be regarded as the border between Sc. and Gaelic or the Eng[4] which has replaced Gaelic.

§ 11. It is reasonable to believe that the boundary which for so long separated Lowland Sc. s from Gaelic, and which, as said, is now in process of obliteration, derived part of its former definiteness from the contrasting characters of the two tongues. The two languages are not only distant from each other in the relationship which comparative philology assigns to them, but they differ remarkably from each other when regarded simply as vehicles of expression. The contrast between them in word order, in idiom and in phonology is very great. Hence the interaction between the two languages has been relatively slight. The interchange of vocabulary, while considerable in both directions, has been moderate if we consider the closeness of contact. All Gaelic speakers along the Highland border are now bilingual; but bilingualism is rare with native speakers of Scots.[5]

The Term “Scottish Language

§ 12. The term “Scottish Language” includes (1) Older Scots, represented in its two main literary phases by Barbour and the “Makars”; (2) the modern literary dialect, emerging about the beginning of the 18th cent.; (3) the modern Scottish regional dialects.

Middle Scots and its Literature

§ 13. Between the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 17th cent. the Scottish Language underwent many phonetic changes which were only partially and imperfectly indicated in the literature of the time. In this literature we find grammatical peculiarities and mannerisms of expression which are wanting in The Brus and in the modern dialects. We find in it also a large number of words either coined or borrowed from Latin and French which have not survived in our modern speech. The avowed object of most of the writers who introduced or adapted these foreign words was to enrich the vocabulary. To the learned, familiar with Latin and French, their meaning was quite plain, but to the average man the expression must have seemed strained or the meaning obscure. The verse literature of this time reached a high degree of excellence, but prose composition was still comparatively undeveloped when, at the Union of the Crowns in 1603, the literary centre shifted from Edinburgh to London. Throughout the 17th cent. the people, high and low, were absorbed in religious and political controversy, and in place of the old poetic literature, so v arious and copious in the major as well as the minor traditional verse-forms, we have only a few lyrics and semi-lyrical pieces, such as Sempill’s Habbie Simson, and others included in the early 18th-cent. collections. These were all of a popular cast, but the known authors belonged to the higher rather than the lower classes, a thing to remember when we come to consider the origin of the modern literary dialect. The simpler style, however, had never been entirely lost in the age of artificial Scots. Henryson’s Fables and Robin and Makyne, Dunbar’s Lament for the Makaris, The Petition of the Gray Horse, The Turnament, etc., the anonymous pieces entitled Peblis to the Play and Christis Kirk on the Green (assigned popularly to royal authorship) are all evidence of its existence alongside of the artificial language of Douglas in his Eneid and of Dunbar in The Thrissill and the Rois., Ane Ballat of Our Lady and Goldyn Targe.

Decline of Scottish Literature

§ 14. Before he became King of England, James VI. of Scotland wrote several treatises in his native speech. After the Union of the Crowns the language of his literary efforts was that of his English subjects. His example was followed by other Scottish writers, like Alexander, Earl of Stirling, and Drummond of Hawthornden, so that when the Union of the Parliaments took place, in 1707, English had become the recognised medium of expression for Scottish authors — at least in all subjects of serious import. The gradual change from Scots to English may be traced in our municipal records. The following excerpts from the Aberdeen Burgh Registers illustrate the first and final stages of the process of change:

31st January 1643. Janet Rany, spous to Sergant M‘Gregor, wes convict and put in amerciament for draging doun among hir feit Issobell Walker be the hair, and for etling to strik the said Issobell with ane brasin pan, ffor the quhilk the said Janet Rany was ordanit to crawe God and the pairtie offendit pardon befoir the magistrats, and to be comitet in waird within the wairdhous of the said burgh, thair to remain for the space of tuentie-four hours, or than to releive hir thairfra be payment of tua merkis money to the dean of gild.

24th March 1747. The said day, the magistrates and councill. . . considering that there is presently in agitation an union of the Kings and Marischal Colleges of Aberdeen, sett on foot by the principalls, professors, and masters of the tuo colleges; and the councill considering the great interest and concern this town has in the said Marischall College, they are of opinion that previous to settling any articles, that the town do make a point of it to have the seat of the University in this town, otherways to oppose such an union with the utmost vigour.

§ 15. The predominance of English in the sphere of letters had its parallel also in the spoken language. First the nobles and then the lower gentry began to send their children to be educated in England. The older Scottish literature had not been able to produce a Scottish Bible, and in consequence the humblest Scot was accustomed to hear English used in Church services, first in readings from the Bible, and later on in the prayers and exhortations of his pastor. Inevitably he came to regard it as the most suitable medium for religious expression. In the consciousness of the average Scotsman the feeling arose that his national speech was inferior to English, and he was apt to modify it in the direction of Eng. or substitute for it the best English he could muster in addressing a superior or a stranger, or in touching upon elevated subjects of discourse. By the end of the 18th century English had supplanted Scots in fashionable circles, in the pulpit, the school, the University, the Law Courts and on the public platform.

Allan Ramsay and Revival of Scottish Literature

§ 16. The political reaction against that Anglicising tendency which culminated in the Union of 1707 was coincident with a great revival of interest in our older Scottish literature, associated chiefly with the name of Allan Ramsay. Ramsay was born in 1686, at Leadhills in Lanarkshire, where he remained till his fifteenth year. The rest of his life was spent in Edinburgh. His local dialect would differ only very slightly from that of Edinburgh, so that the Scots he used may be taken as typical of Central Scots, and may be regarded as the popular and legitimate descendant of the old Anglian speech of the early Scottish kings. Four writers of genius who followed Ramsay — viz. Fergusson, Burns, Scott and Galt — all used the same dialect of Scots, and the great majority of Scottish writers have followed their example, and so have created our modern conventional literary language.

§ 17. Though the vernacular on which this literary dialect was founded had lost status as the standard speech for the highest purposes, it was still in a sense the national tongue. In the beginning of the 18th century all classes spoke Scots, even although the educated upper sections of society had begun to write and speak English. All over Scotland a great body of song and balladry, of satiric and romantic tales, and of proverbial wisdom was lodged in the memory of the people. The heroic stories of Bruce and Wallace were better known then than they are at the present time, even if the actual lines from Barbour and Blind Harry were not recited as in former centuries. Diligent collectors of the 18th and 19th centuries, such as Percy in England and Scotland, Scott and his followers in the South of Scotland and Buchan in the North, gathered enough of this ancient store of legendary song and ballad to show what its extent must have been before the art of memorising had declined. This widespread knowledge of ancient song, ballad and story ensured a comparatively copious vocabulary in the popular speech. Although the “termis aureate” of the old literary dialect found no place in it. the language of the people incorporated a considerable number of words from Anglo-French, from Latin and from continental French. The last-named came in later than Anglo-French from the intercourse between the French and Scottish Courts in the 15th and 16th centuries, and from the commercial relations between Continental ports and towns like Aberdeen, Leith and Kirkcudbright. The words from these three sources mostly, but not exclusively, indicate things and ideas that relate to the common life of the ordinary folk rather than to that of the literary lite or fashionable circles.

§ 17.1. Examples from Mod.Sc. — antrin, appleringie, aumrie, backet (a trough), canaillie (riff-raff), corbie (crow), cordiner (shoemaker), dambrod, devall, douce, dour, fasch (trouble), fugie (play truant), gardies (arms), geen (wild cherry), grosset (gooseberry), guttam (a drop of ink), goutte (drop), liege-pousté (free exercise of one’s powers), lingle (shoemaker’s thread), maugre (in spite of), melishan (malison), mingie (a crowd), mortersheen (glanders in horses), moyen (means), palmie and pandie (stroke on hand), poper (the boy who swept out the school and lit the fire), potestatur (height of one’s powers), spulzie (booty), trevis (partition in byre), vacance (holiday), vivers (provisions).

Scottish Spelling

§ 18. As a literary medium the language has been for a long time practically confined to the production of lyrical poems (song and ballad), satirical and descriptive poetry, the dialogue in novel or play, and the short humorous story. Even here the vernacular often gives way when the thought becomes more serious or elevated. In The Cotter’s Saturday Night, for example, of the twenty-one stanzas of the poem only nine can be regarded as Scots — viz. those devoted to the description of the humble home and its occupants — and even in these latter, English often predominates. In stanza xii. the last five lines change into English when the father turns to family worship. So also in stanza xviii. the description of the conclusion of the evening is in stately English, to match the serious attitude of the “parent-pair.”

§ 18.1. It cannot be denied that skilful writers have used this bilingual consciousness to produce some considerable artistic effects, but the net result of this process of Anglicisation is that a great deal of our prose and verse seems to differ very little from St.Eng., except in the occasional use of a distinctively Scottish word or phrase, and the clipping of words of their final consonant with the apology of an apostrophe. This spurious Scots is very popular with English readers and on the English stage, because it is easily understood. It is sometimes forced on reluctant authors by publishers, who naturally desire a wider circulation for their books. Many Scots writers pander to it because it saves them the trouble of searching for the appropriate Scottish rhyme, word or phrase. Except in the case of rhymes, the Scotsman who speaks any Scottish dialect will probably read such Scots with his own local pronunciation. The effect, however, of seeing the English words and spellings is to tend to change our Scottish speech into a bastard English, a very good example of which may be seen in the autobiographical parts of Mansie Wauch.

§ 19. This deplorable result is due in some measure to the chaotic state of Scottish spelling. In Older Sc. most words could be spelled in a variety of ways. As an example of this one might cite the word “abune,” for which in Older Sc. we find abone, abune, abon, abonne, aboyn(e), aboin, abun, abwn, abwne. The same writer may even spell the same word differently on the same page. In the case of most vowels in Older Sc. the best that can be said is that one r way was rather more commonly used than the others — e.g. “ei” was the most common way of writing the “ay” [e] sound which later became “ee” [i] as meit, deid, scheip, for meet, dead, sheep, and “ou” the most common way of writing the “oo” [u] sound as in house, mouse, and “ow” the most common way of writing the diphthong in lowe (a flame), gowk (a cuckoo). Very often in Older Sc. the exact sound intended can be reached only by comparison with the word in the older forms of n.English and in the Mod.Sc. dialects or by a reference to its record in cognate languages.

§ 20. Early writers of the 18th cent. Renaissance did very little to normalise Scottish spelling. To take the case of Allan Ramsay, he discarded the Older Sc. spellings of sch and quh for sh and wh as in scheip, schake, quha; v, u, w, which were used indifferently by writers in Middle Sc., he used as in Mod.Eng., and all these changes were simplifications. He used gh as often as ch for [c̜] and [x] in words like micht, thocht — i.e. might, thought — thereby suggesting an Eng. pronunciation. In the pa.p. of weak verbs written correctly with yt or it in Middle Sc. he used the English ending d or ed. For the O.Sc. terminations and of the pr.p. and ing, yng of the gerund he writes an or in, but also ing after the Mod.Eng. usage, whereas, except in three dialects in Mod.Sc., these two terminations are now pronounced alike [m] or [ən]. Words which generally have an ee [i] P ronunciation in Sc. he writes with ei, ie, ey, a + cons. + e (all Older Sc.), ea and ee — e.g. deid — dead, dee — die, threed — thread, ee — eye, bleeze — blaze, meer — mare; i.e. he uses Older Sc. and Mod.Eng. spellings with very little consistency or method. The oo sound he represents generally in the Middle Sc. way — i.e. by ou, sometimes by ow, in the latter case generally suggesting an Eng. pronunciation as in sow (pig), cow, now, how, crowd, flow’r. The sound ui [y or ø], which in his time was probably still a rounded front vowel, he treats with the same inconsistency, the Eng. spelling of the word being the most common, broom, poor, goose, etc., although ui and u +cons. +e are also found, as bluid, guid, gude, schule. See Wilson’s Dialects of Central Scotland, pp. 194-203.

§ 21. Fergusson, Burns and Scott all followed Ramsay’s example, mingling Older Sc. spellings with Mod.Eng. spellings in the delineation of their common dialect, thus helping to obscure the real differences in pronunciation between it and St.Eng. The pronunciation can be best shown by means of a phonetic transcription which, though anathema to the average reader, is of great value to scholars. A form of simplified spelling was adopted by the late Sir James Wilson in which he used the ordinary letters of our alphabet but confined himself to one way, or in a few cases to two ways, of indicating ev ery sound — e.g. the vowel sound in Eng. lea is always written, by this system, ee, and the vowel in Eng. fade by ai, or, if final, ay. Sir James has rewritten in this simplified spelling a number of well-known Scottish songs and poems, and has thus been able to represent to the average reader, with a great deal of accuracy, the dialect pronunciation of their writers. The following is a sample from CallerHerrin’:

Neebour wives, now tent my tellin
When the bonnie fish ye’re sellin’,
At ay word be in your dealin. —
Truth will stand when a’ thing’s failpa

Neebur weifs, noo tent ma tellin.
Hwun dhu boanay fush yee’r sellin
At ay wurd bee in yur dailin —
Truith ull stawnd hwun awthing’z fa ilin.
(Wilson, Dial. Cent. Scol., 162-163.)

Wives, now, my, when, bonnie, fish, dealin’, truth, all misrepresent the Sc. word to the eyes of the reader, and dealin’ and failin’ spoil the rhyme. Read or recited with a pronunciation radically different from that of its author, a poem loses the sensuous effect intended, and therefore a very important artistic element. Sir James Wilson’s handling of the common text will at least make everyone realise that, apart from vocabulary, there is a very great difference between written and spoken Scots.

Dialect Literature

§ 22. There have been, however, many Scots writers. from the early part of the 18th cent. up to the present, who have preferred to write in their own local dialect. They have been forced, in order to represent its peculiarities to outsiders, to spell their words in such a way as to indicate the pronunciation, and have followed, only with less consistency and effectiveness, a method similar to that adopted by Sir James Wilson as described above. We have verv little trace of these dialects prior to 1600, but we must assume their existence from an early date because of their marked differences from the standard form. In the modern period, Robert Forbes gives us, in his Ajax’s Speech to the Grecian Knabbs and A Journal to Portsmouth (c.1742), examples of the Buchan dialect. From the same district, at a later period, we have an imitation of Christis Kirk on the Green in John Skinner’s Monymusk Christmas Ba’in’, and later still W. Alexander’s Johnny Gibb of Gushetneuk (1871). More recent examples of similar attempts are ’E Silkie Man by Rev. D. Houston, Lerwick, portraying the Cai. fisher dialect of Canisbay; Mang Howes an Knowes, by the late Elliot Smith, in s.Sc.; Galloway Gossip, by R. Trotter, in sm.Sc.; Dennison’s writings in the Ork. and T. Manson’s Humours of a Peat Commission in the Sh. dialect. Most Scotsmen whose eyes are accustomed to the spelling of literary Scots find considerable difficulty in reading these specimens of local speech. There are, however, many authors who lie between these two extremes. They wish to address themselves to all Scotsmen and accordingly follow the general literary convention, but every now and again they use a spelling that indicates a local pronunciation, or employ a word or an idiom that betrays their district origin. Their whole atmosphere, all their associations, may be local notwithstanding the general form of their speech. George Macdonald belongs to this type of Scottish author — e.g. he spells who and good as wha and gude, but his own pronunciation would be fa and gweed. Some writers even vary their Scots with their subject or with their supposed audience — e.g. Charles Murray in Wha draws a Blade is addressing all Scotsmen, and on a dignified subject — therefore he uses the conventional literary dialect. In Fae France he puts the “braidest Buchan” into the mouth of the poacher who becomes a soldier. Sir Walter Scott makes a subtle distinction between the Scots of the town weaver Bailie Nicol Jarvie and that of Rob Roy, his Highland kinsman. Jeanie Deans suits her dialect to her listener, and the Scots of Jonathan Oldbuck is not exactly the same as the speech of Edie Ochiltree and the Mucklebackits.

§ 23. Dialect writers brought to the rest of Scotland some knowledge of the less familiar parts of the country and presented to their compatriots the feelings and thoughts of their inhabitants. They preserved many “couthy” Sc. words, idioms and proverbial sayings t embodying old customs and habits of thought. They helped to keep the conventional literary speech in touch with the real living language of the common folk.

Kinds of Phonetic Change

§ 24. Before describing the phonetic features that distinguish Mod Sc. from Mod.St.Eng., and differentiate the Sc. dialects from one another, a summary account is here given of some of the more important phonetic changes to which all spoken language is subjoct. Phonetic changes to which all language is subject are of two Kinds, Organic and Inorganic. The first is dependent on the condition and movement of the vocal organs, and the second is due to acoustic causes (such as faulty imitation) and to the play of reason upon the brute matter of speech, especially through the mental process called analogy.

Organic Change

§ 25. There are two kinds of organic change. The first, called Isolative, occurs where ther e is a gradual development from one generation to another, extending sometimes over centuries, and often unnoticed by the speakers of the language or dialect. An Isolative change in any given dialect carries with it the great body of words which have in their initial stage the same accented vowel sound. For instance, in Primitive Old English — i.e. the form of English from which all English dialects, provincial or literary, are derived — the word bān (bone) had the sound of ā as in our Mod.Eng. father. In the North of England and in Scotland at an early period the sound, while still retaining its length, began to approach that of a [a] as in Mod.Eng. (northern standard) pat; then it became [æ] as in Mod.Sth.Eng. pat [pæt], then e [ɛ] as in Mod.Eng. pet, then [e] as in Mod.Eng. pate. Thus we have our Mod.Sc. bane, stane, with variations in the Scottish dialects. In the Middle and South of England, on the other hand, this Primitive Old English ā sound became deeper and fuller, and at length, by the action of rounding in the lips and in the back-opening of the mouth, developed into a broad o sound [ɔ], so that even before the time of Chaucer bān was pronounced as [bɔ:n]. The difference between this sound and King Alfred’s bān was so marked that Chaucer wrote it always with an o symbol, but in The Reeve’s Tale he represented it, in the mouth of the northern students, by the letter a. Examples; na, ham, swa, gas, fra, for no, home, so, goes, from. The other O.E. long vowels, e, i, y, o, underwent similar isolative changes, the process of which we can often imagine or trace, although the cause remains obscure.

§ 26. The second kind of organic change is known as Combinative, because it is due to the influence of adjacent sounds on each other when combined into words, phrases and sentences.

§ 27. The most common kind of Combinative change is called Assimilation, where one sound is made to approach another (1) by becoming breathed or voiced, or (2) by an alteration in (a) manner of formation, or (b) place of formation in the vocal organs. Assimilation may work forwards (progressive) or backwards (regressive).

§ 27.1. Progressive assimilation. — In wadge for wedge, wab for web, the w has turned the front vowel e into a back vowel. In the pronunciation of w the back of the tongue rises and this back position is kept right through the vowel, with the result of a. In some dialects web is pronounced wob. The rounding of the lips necessary for the formation of w is carried forward into the a and produces the rounded vowel o. In the words bacon, taiken (token), when the second vowel is omitted, final n is changed into [ŋ], thus [ˈbekŋ].

§ 27.2. Regressive assimilation. — E.g. knowe becomes tnowe. n is a point nasal sound and k back plosive. n attracts the k to its own position and makes it the point plosive — i.e. tnow — as in Ags. and e.Per. dialect. So length, strength become Sc. lenth, strenth.

§ 28. Stress — i.e. the relative force of the breath current — plays an important part in the modification of sounds. Assimilation, shortening, dropping of sounds, smoothing of diphthongs all begin in syllables that are losing stress. The following are examples of the play of stress in a sound, a word and a sentence.

§ 28.1. O.E. ā a nd open ă became [iˈa] or [ˈiə] in s.Sc. — i.e. the single sound is broken up into two. When the stress fell on the first element the second vowel became more feeble = [ə] as in [stiən] (sto n e). When it fell on the second vowel the first became weak and eventually became consonantal = y [j]. O.E. ān = one bccame ien, then yen or yin [jɪ̜n]. So yae = one (adj.), yill = ale, yits = oats, etc. See §§ 97.1, 97.4. O.E. céosan gives rise to Sc. chese (to choose) and ceósan to Eng. choose.

§ 28.2. Sometimes the stress shifts in a word, leading to a change in vowel or consonant — e.g. ˈunˈcūð became ˈuncŭð and then ˈunco or ˈunca = [ˈʌŋkə]; Eng.poˈlice, Sc. ˈpollis [pəˈlis, ˈpolɪs]. So also gutcher (grandfather) for gudeˈsire, ˈcummer (gossip) for comˈmère.

§ 28.21. In unaccented position the mid flat vowel [ə] is most commonly used in the body of a word and in prefixes and suffixes. The verbal suffix ing and the participial suffix and have been levelled in most dialects into [ən] or [In]. The ending ow tends to have a short ay [e] sound in most of the central dialects and in othe r districts an [ə] vowel as in barrow, marrow, etc., [ˈbare] as against [ˈbarə]. So with the enclitic na, as in canna, mauna. Final ie or y has in most parts of m.Sc. [e], elsewhere some variation of i [ɪ, ɪ̜ or i]. In n.Sc. and e.Per. final ie or y varies (1) according to the character of the preceding vowel, (2) according to the preceding consonant. In the first case if the stem vowel is ee [i] or ey [əi, ei] final ie or y tends to become ee [i] — e.g. wheelie, weety (wet), wily.[6] Secondly if the preceding consonant is a voiced plosive or fricative — e.g. d or z — the suffix is [i] as body, bosie (bosom).[7] The suffixes -like and -rife may have [əi, ei] or [ɪ], daft-like, waukrife[8]; -ual becomes [wəl], as in annual, actual[9]; -ful is reduced to fa [fə] — e.g. waeful[10] -ward (direction) appears as wart, art, ert, it, as doonwart, ackart, afiedlert, forrit.[11]

§ 28.3. Words of small importance in a sentence are slightly stresseed and their elements change in quality — e.g. O.E. ān = one becomes ăn and ă = indef. art., then [ən and ə]. So his becomes is [ɪz], then z and s. “That is him” becomes “that’s him”, where that and him are both stressed, and “that’s im,” where ony that is stressed = [ðats m]. So O.E. on bæc = on back becomes a back = [əˈbak].

§ 29. Quantity is influenced by stress especially in the shortening of vowels in weakly stressed syllables. See § 28.2. Vowel quantity is often dependent on the character of the following consonant(s). In Scots the vowel tends to maximum length in stressed syllables ending in voiced fricatives [v, ð, z] and [r]. At one stage in the history of the language vowels were lengthened before certain voiced consonant combinations — e.g. mb, ld, as in waim, caim (womb, comb), field, chield, and shortened before certain breathed combinations — e.g. sk, st, as in ask, blast, dust. At another stage O.E. ă, ĕ, ŏ, were lengthened in open[12] position irrespective of adjacent sounds, and subsequently developed in a different direction from the same short vowels in close position. For examples see articles on dialects, §§ 81-166.

§ 29.1. When a word is used in composition its vowel is frequently shortened. O.E. hlāf gives rise to Sc. laif. In its compound hlāfmæsse the a is shortened and we get Lammas, hūswīf becomes Eng. hussif and Sc. hizzy; lickly in n.Sc. for likely results from an early shortening of the original long i [i] sound. In Cai. this shortened vowel is transferred to the original word by a process of analogy — leck for like. Lallan(d)s = Lowlands is another example of this shortening.

Inorganic Change

§ 30. Organic change is mechanical in character, and if left to itself would produce an embarrassing variety of forms. Reason, playing on these diverse forms, associates words similar in sound, in meaning, and in function, or related in some inflexional system. Remembering the conjugation sing, sang, sung, and arguing from analogy, a child might say bring, brang, brung, or on the analogy love, loved, it might infer brin, bringed. Brang, brung actually occur in the dialects, but such formations have not been ratified by general use. Others, however, have been received — e.g. wear originally formed its pa.t. and pa.p. in ed, but the analogy of tear, tore, torn, bear, bore, born(e) has given us wear, wore, worn. Shae for shoe and shin for shoes may be the regular phonetic forms in a Sc. dialect, but the desire for uniformity of sound in words of the same meaning may give a second plural form, shaen, which ultimately supplants the regular form. Need and necessity are associated in meaning, hence we find such a form as needcessity. A more plausible result of analogical reasoning is the form delicht, which has found some currency in literary Scots on the ground, apparently, that as light gives licht so delight should give delicht. Delight, however, is a mis-spelling for delite, as the word never had a guttural sound in it. Some modern writers of Sc. who have no real knowledge or feeling for any Sc. dialect coin false Sc. words by such analogical reasoning — e.g. as lord gives laird, so accord should give accaird, as home gives hame so roam should give raim [13]; as knee and knife had originally a sounded k, so also must nowt (cattle), hence we find knowte[14] written though the original word, Scand. naut, never had this sound.

Phonetic Method of Comparison of Languages and Dialects

§ 31. Languages and dialects may be compared in regard to pronunciation, grammar, idiom, vocabulary and intonation. Here we confine our attention to pronunciation, as being the distinction that most people notice first in varieties of their own speech, whether standard or dialect. Take for instance a sentence such as this: “Who whipped the poor little whelp that stood between you and me near that old stone dike?” In St.Sc. it might be written: “Wha whuppit that puir wee whalp at stude atween you an’ me near the aul(d) stane dyke?” Whae, pair, stid, auld, stane, would indicate a Lothian Scottish speaker, but whaw, puir, stude, a Fif. or Perthshire man; yow and mey, stee’n, a Rxb. and e.Dmf. speaker; fa for who can be heard along the coast from the mouth of the Tay to the Pentland Firth; fuppit for whipt and folpie for whelp have their southern limit just south of the Dee; ssteen for stone is heard along the coast from the Tay to the Spev; puir becomes peer along the coast between the Dee and the Spey, but is pronounced with the diphthong of fewer in the Lowlands situated between the Spey and the Pentland Firth; it takes the sound of the Fr. eu [ø,æ] in Fif., Per., Ags. and the Mearns, Gall. and s.Sc., Ork. and Sh. In the insular area that, adj., and the are pronounced dat and de. In the following pages we shall give the principal phonetic differences between Sc. generally and St.Eng. and note a few of the differences between the various dialects, in both cases using O.E.[15] — their common ancestor — as a background of comparison, with a few illustrations drawn from other languages, more especially Norse and Fr.

Phonetic Comparison between Mod.Sc. and Mod.St.Eng

§ 32. Words with ā in O.E.

The following belong to a class of words which have ā in O.E. (pronounced like a in Mod.Eng. father) in their accented syllable. In Middle Sc. the representative of the sound is written variously ai, ay, a + cons. + e, æ, a, aa. In Mod.Sc. the vowel is pronounced as a in fate [e]; in Mod.Eng. it is spelled generally o, oa, o + cons. + e.

§ 32.1
§ 32.2
maemoe (obs.)
§ 32.3
ārair (obsol.)oar
hāshairse, hairschhoarse
§ 32.4
ān, pron.aneone

§ 33. Words with ā in Scand.

§ 33.1
frāfrae, faefro
§ 33.2
Scand., ei, oei, ey, egSc.Eng.
greiõah[harness, etc.]

§ 34. When O.E. ā was followed by w, ā becomes in Mod. Sc. either [ɑ:] or [o̜:]. The spelling for either is au or, when final, aw, but for [ɑ:] aa is found in some of the dialects.

§ 34.1
crāwan, v.crawcrow
crāwe, n.crawcrow
sāwolsaul, salsoul
slāwslaw (obs.)slow

§ 34.2. When O.E. āg was followed by a vowel, g was pronounced as a voiced fricative and developed into w — e.g.


So, late O.E. lāh = low from Scand. lār became law- in oblique cases and gave rise to Mod.Sc. law in lawland(s), shortened into lallan(s). Lāh gave rise to Mod.Sc. laich but we find in O.Sc. forms like lawche where the vowel of the oblique cases has been transferred to the nominative form. See § 30.

§ 35. Words with ō in O.E.

O.E. ō. — m.bk.t.r., Middle Sc. o’ oi, u, u + cons. +e, ui. ō at an early period began to shift forward in the mouth until it became a front vowel like the Fr. eu [ø] = Generally when the vowel was in final position, or occurred before [r, z, ð, v,] it remained [ø], but before other consonants it was raised to or towards the high front position, and became lax, resembling the Ger. ü in hütte. It is a fact that when ui (O.E., Rom., or Scand. in origin) is unrounded in some Mod. dialects — e.g. em.Sc.,wm.Sc. — two distinct vowels are the result — e.g. guid becomes gid, brute becomes brit, shune becomes shin, use (n.) becomes yis, but ruise (= praise) becomes raise [re:z], muir becomes mair [me:r], use (v.) becomes yaise [je:z], shoe becomes shae [ʃe:]. In the dialects of Ags. and the Mearns and of Ork. and Sh. the ui vowel has the same value in all words where it occurs — i.e. = [ø]. When it is unrounded by younger speakers in Ags. and the Mearns the result is the same for a] words — viz. [e1 or e]. Sometimes in other dialects there is a mixing of the two classes, generally by the working of analogy. See § 30.

§ 35.1
§ 35.2
gōdgude, guidgood
§ 35.3
§ 35.4

§35.5. When followed by w, the diphthong ow [ʌu] is the result.


§ 35.6. When followed by a back consonant [x] or [k], a diphthong [iu, ju or jʌ] is most common, though some dialects have simple [u] or [ø]

(a) bōg, bōhbeuchbough
(b) bōcbeukbook

§36. Words with original ō in Scand. are cooth (young coal-fish), loof (palm), roose (praise), Fuirsday (Thursday).[16]

§ 37. Romance words with original u [y] b rute. truit, use, n., tune, schule, puir, meuve (move), refuse, use, v., sure.[17]

§ 38. O.E. ū, h.bk.t.r. In Older Sc. it is written u, w, ou, ow. This vowel has remained unchanged in quality, but is generally fully long only be fare [r, z, ð, v,] or in final accented position. In Mod.Eng. ū has developed into a diphthong [au] spelled ou and ow.

§ 38.1
clūd (a rounded mass)clood + cludcloud
§ 38.2

§ 39. Scand. [u:] — boun (ready), cour (cower). droop, stroup (spout of kettle).[18]

§ 40. Romance [u:] — allow, bouat (a lantern), count, doubt, gown (Celtic), powder, round.[19]

§ 41. O.E. ē from various sources, (1) North. ē, w.Saxon æ, (2) ēo, (3) i-umlaut of ō, ēa, (4) ēh, becomes ee [i] in Sc., as generally also in Eng. — e.g. (1) cheese, deed, sleep, (2) bee, creep, knee, (3) grieve (farm overseer), teeth, wheen (a few), hear, (4) heich. In breist, freend, seek, for breast, friend, sick, Sc. retains the [i] vowel.

§ 42. Some Romance words, with this e sound originally, have kept it [e] in some Sc. dialects — e.g. beast, cheat, cream, creature, deceit, ease, please, reason, season.[20]

§ 43. O.E. ī (h.bk.t.) and y (h.bk.t.r.) are diphthongised as in Mod.Eng. In Sc. the diphthong [əɪ] is in general use. In some dialects, before the consonants [r, z, ð, v] and in final accented position the sounds [aɪ + aɪ] are common but not universal. Examples: wyce (wise), wyte (blame), bide (remain), kye, hive, fire.[21]

§ 44. Scand. [i] — grice (pig), sile (fry of fish), sile (to strain), tyke, lythe (shelter), tyne(lose).[22]

§ 45. Romance [i] — advice, fine, cry, sybo (an onion). When the Romance word came into Scots after this change was completed the ee [i] remains as in item, licence, oblige, liberal.[23]

Diphthongs in Mod.Sc.

§ 46. i diphthongs (1) [aɪ, aɪ. əi] from O.E. ī, y. Scand. ī, y and Romance ī, see § 43; (2) [ɔɪ, oɪ] from O.Fr. oi, ui. The diphthong oi [oɪ + ɔɪ] is found in Sc. as in boy, ploy, foy (a farewell feast), but in most words which have oi in St.Eng., Scots has [əi] — e.g. avoid, boil (v.), choice, coin, join, oil, ointment, oyster, point, poison [pəizn, puʒn, pʌʒn], soil, spoil, voice, but see § 105.2.

§ 47. u diphthongs, ow, owe [ʌu], (1) from O.E. ow, see § 35.5; (2) from O.E. og, see § 66.2; O.E. ol, see § 78.2; (3) from Scand. au — e.g. dowf (dull), gowk (cuckoo), gowpen, howe (hillock), cowp (trade), lowp (leap), lowse (loose), nowt (cattle), rowp (auction, v.), rowan; (4) eu, ew [ɪu (ju, jʌ)], from O.E. ōh, ēaw — e.g. eneuch, teuch, dewfew.[24]

O.E. Short Vowels

§ 48. O.E. a or æ in close position (see § 29 n.) is represented by a [a] or in some cases by au, aw [o̜]:

(1) before n, ng and n + cons., as can, man, pan. ran, lang, sang, strang, thrang (busy, crowded), sank, band,. candle, hand, sand, etc. [kan, man, etc.].
(2) before ch [x], dracht (draught), fracht (freight), lach (laugh), slachter, acht (eight), acht (owned).

(3) before Middle Sc. ll or l + cons. where ll and l were vocalised and absorbed by a — e.g. ca’, caa or caw from call [a:,o̜:]. See § 78.1.

(4) before medial ll, as fallow, gallow(s), hallow, tallow.
(5) after w, wh, as in wag, waken, want, watch, what.

§ 48.1. O.E. a or æ in close position becomes [ɛ, e] as in Eng. met or Eng. mate.

(1) before sh [ʃ], sn, st, sp, ss — e.g. ash-tree, fasten [ fɛsn], fast [fɛst], clasp, hasp, glass, grass, (gress and girs), brass.

(2) before r + cons. — e.g. arm, harm, warm, bairn, darn, harvest [herst], sharp, arrow.

(3) before some other consonants — e.g. after, apple, axe, axle, path, wrath (obsol.).

§ 49. (1) O.E. a or æ in open position (see § 29,n.) becomes generally [ɛ, e] in Mod.Sc. — e.g. sale, tale, father [ˈfeðər], gather, cake, hammer, lame, etc. (2) O.E. æg also becomes [ɛ, e], as in day, brain, fair, lay, nail, tail.

§ 49.1. Ag- and aw- (a being in open position) become [a:], or [o̜:] (in em. and wm.Sc.), as in draw, gnaw, haw, law, maw, saw, claw, O.E. dragan, gnagan, haga, lagu (orig. Scand.), maga, sagu, clawa.

§ 49.2. In early O.E. æ appears instead of a, unless when a back vowel, a, o’ u, follows in the next syllable. E.g. we find dæg (day) in the sing., but dagas, daga, dagum in the pl. In the sing., g was first sounded like y [j], then like i [ɪ], æg [æj] forming later a diphthong = [eɪ], and still later a single vowel, as we have it in our Sc. pronunciation of Eng. In the pl. forms, g [g] changed into w and then into u. The a and u formed a diphthong which later on was reduced to a single long [a] or [o̜] sound, which we have in the St.Eng. dawn and the Mod.Sc. daw (O.E. dagian): “The cock may craw, The day may daw.” — O’ Willie brewed (Burns).

§ 50. Scand. a is retained in close position — e.g. dag, flag-stone, caller (caldr, Flom 32), ban (curse), stang (a sting or a pole), wrang; Scand. open a becomes [ɛ, e] as haivel (sea-eel), gait, scaith.

§ 51. (1) Romance words with a [a], backet, stank (a drain), glanders, grand, chancy. See § 48. (2) Romance words with ar + cons. — e.g. cards, carry, garden. regard, marry, martyr, part. See § 48.1(2).

§ 52. O.E. ŏ, m.bk.l.r. [ɔ] in close position retains on the whole its original value in n.Sc. It is identical with Ger. o in sonne (the sun) but diff’ers from St.Eng. (sth. type) o in rock, which is a much opener sound. In m. and s.Sc. this sound has generally been made more tense, and might, in many cases, be written oa [o] — e.g. rock — roak. lock — loak, box — boax.

§ 53. o [ɔ] in open position generally was lengthened as in St.Eng. and became oa [o] — e.g. thole, hole, foal, coal.

§ 54. When o comes into contact with lip consonant s like m, p, b, f, the vowel is unrounded by a process of dissimilation to a [a], hence, crop, top, sob, Tob, croft, loft, soft, become crap, tap, sab, Rab, etc.

§ 55. l following o is vocalised and the two form a diphthong — e.g. bowster. See § 78.2.

§ 56. O.E. e [ɛ] in closed position remains generally as in St.Eng. — e.g. bed, ebb. After w it may become a or o. See §§ 27. 1, 76.1.

§ 57. In open position O.E. e is lengthened and has the sound of a in mate [e] in some dialects, and ee [i] in others. See § 88(3).

§ 58. O.E. i,]. [ɪ] also O.E. y,; Older Sc, l. y, e; Mod.Sc. i and e [ɪ, ɪ̜, ɛ].

§ 58.1. ln Sc. speech this sound is very generally made to approach the sound of e as in St.Eng. red. It is often so written in dialect. The same tendency is seen in Middle Sc., where it is sometimes written with the letter i or e and sometimes with the letter y [ɪ̜] = Before r and ch [x] the tongue seems to be flattened and a vague sound [ɪ̜], something similarto [ə] in St.Eng. her, is produced. Acoustically it approaches the sound of the vowel [ʌ] in Sc.; hence we have the gradation [ɪ, ɪ̜, ɪ̜, ə, ʌ], and a tendency in many of the dialects for these sounds to interchange because of their acoustic and organic resemblance. English listeners accused the famous Dr Chalmers, the Free Church philanthropist and divine, of saying: “He that is fulthy, let him be fulthy stull” (D.S.C.S., p. 108, note). What he probably said was: “He that is [fÏ̜lþɪ̜] let him be [fÏ̜lþɪ̜ stÏ̜l], using a sound between St.Eng. hill and St.Eng. hull.

§ 59. In contact with w and wh, i [ɪ] in Sc. speech tends to become [ʌ]. Thus will, wit, win, wish, whip, whin, whisper, whisky, witch, wind are pronounced wull, wut, wun, etc.

§ 60. O.E. ŭ [ŭ or u]; Mod.Sc. m.bk.t. [ʌ] as in Eng. but. This vowel was short in O.E. and has developed in most of the dialects in a direction quite different from O.E. ū. Curiously enough southern Eng. dialect and Sc. agree in the development of ŭ into the vowel which we find in St.Eng. cut, but — viz. [ʌ].

§ 60. 1. In Sc. many of these O.E. ŭ words have [ɪ, ɪ̜] instead of or along with [ʌ], as: —


§ 60.2. When l was preceded by u the consonant was vocalised and a long oo [u:] was the result — e.g. pull, full became pu’, fu’ [pu:, fu:], sometimes written poo, foo. See § 78.3.
§ 61. Romance words with i [ɪ or ɪ̜] instead of [ ʌ]: cousin, kimmer (commère), cover, couple, onion [ˈɪ̜ŋən], supper, stubble, trouble.


§ 62. b is either lost betw cen ml or not developed, as in rummle, thummle, tremmle, crumle, nummer, chaumer, for rumble, thimble, tremble, crumble, number, chamber.
§ 63. t replaces d in the pa.p. suffix ed and in ppl. adjs. This was the common usage in Middle Sc. Examples in Mod.Sc., stoppit or stopt, jaggit or jaggt, rummlt, for stopped, jagged, rumbled.

But then, to sec how ye’re negleket,
How huff’d, an' cuff'd. an' disrespeket!
(Burns, The Twa Dogs.)

§ 63.1. t also takes the place of d in a few words, not verbs, as ahint, fient, eerant, heelant, for behind, fiend (in exclamations – e.g. fient a ane o’ them kent), errand, highland.

§ 63.2. t is dropped after p and k, as ap, ack, empy, enack, fac, infeck, temp, etc., for apt, act, empty, enact, fact, infect, tempt.

§ 63.3. t takes the place of th in ordinals, fowrt, fift.

§ 64. d is frequently absorbed into a preceding n or not developed, except in em.Sc., as bin, fin, ahin, blin (adj. and v.), grin, kin, vaigabin, han, gran, san, men, len, sen, soun, hinner, thunner, canle, trinnle, for bind, find, behind, blind, grind, kind, vagabond, hand, grand, sand, mend, lend, send, sound, hinder, thunder, candle, trundle.

§ 64.1. d after l is also frequently lost, as taul, saul, haul, caul, faul, mool(s), for told, sold, hold, cold, fold, mould(s).

§ 65. k was once universally pronounced befor e n. as in knock, knee, knife, kneel, knowe, but the pronunciation is now confined to the North and Insular dialects, and even there it is. disappearing.

§ 65.1. k takes the place of Eng. ch [tʃ] in a large number of words — e.g. birk, kirk, kirn, larik, cauf, bick, sic, steek, thak, yeukie, for birch, church, churn, larch, chaff, bitch, such, stitch, thatch, itchy.

§ 66. g is used before n in the same districts as k, as in gnaw, gnarlish (crabbed), gnapp (snap at), gnaff (stunted creature), gnegum (tricky nature). (Obsol. like k, § 65.)

§ 66.1. g is also used in some words for dge [dʒ], as in brig, rig, seg, for bridge, ridge, sedge.

§ 66.2. g is vocalised after o’ with a resulting diphthong — e.g. bow, O.E. boga, lowe (flame), Scand. logi.

§ 67. s is often replaced by sh [ʃ], especially when the vowel with which it is in contact is a front vowel — e.g. leeshens, minsh, notish, offishers, shinners, shune, veshel, winshey, for licence, mince, notice, officers, cinders, soon, vessel, wincey.

§ 68. sh, b.a-bl.fric., [ʃ] is replaced by sk in words like skelf, skimmels (Fr.), skair (obsol.), skevel (squint), for shelf, shambles, share, shevel (dial.).

§ 69. sl is often replaced by scl [skl], the second seeming, in most cases, to add greater emphasis to the expression — e.g. slent — sclent, slate (Fr.) — sclate, slice (Fr.) — sclice, slender — sclender, slype — sclype (a disreputable character), slaffert — sclaffert (a vigorous blow with the flat of the hand), slidder — sclidder, sleutch — scleutch (slouch).

§ 70. f takes the place of v in the pl. of nouns, contrary to Eng. usage, as in laifs, lifes, leafs, wifes, knifes, thiefs, for loaves, lives, etc.

§ 70.1. f and v, when final, are often absorbed by the preceding vowel; when medial they often disappear — e.g. hae, doo, gie, gya, lea, loe, prie, shirra, Turra, deil, een, for have, dove, give, gave, leave, love, prove, sheriff, Turriff, devil, even.

§ 70.2. f for th in Thursday [ˈø:rzdɪ̜] seems once to have been common all over Scotland (see Vocabulary), although often supposed to be peculiar to the North. For instances off = wh see § 134.

§ 70.3. v is also lost after l — e.g. del, saw, sel, siller, twal, for delve, salve, self, silver, twelve.

§ 71. Final th, b.p-t.fric. [þ], is dropped in a number of words — e.g. fro’, mou, quo, unco, wi', for froth, mouth, quoth, uncouth, with.

§ 71.1. th, v.p-t. fric. [ð], is lost in colloquial language in that (rel, and conj.) and, in some of the dialects, in the other pronominals when it is initial. See. § 158.

§ 72. h is used in Sc. as in St.Eng. except in a few fisher dialects on the east coast. The O.E. hit (neut. of “he”), Cai. and Ork. hid, has been retained in emphatic position, especially in the schoolboy phrase “A’m hit” — i.e. the one to pay the forfeit, the pursuer in a game. Hiz occurs also as an emphatic form of us. “That’s hiz.” “Him and hiz (huz) is gran’ friens.”

§ 73. [x], b.bk.fric., is commonly written ch as in broch (borough), brocht, forfochen (exhausted), lauch, nocht (nothing), sauch (willow). It is also used by many speakers before wh = [xʍ], as in whan, wha [xʍan, xʍa:, xʍo̜:].

§ 74. [c̜],, used with front vowels. After ee [i] and i [ɪ] it has the value of Ger. ch in ich. Heich (high), sich (sigh), sicht [hic̜, sɪc̜, sɪc̜t]. After the other front vowels it is midway between Ger. ch in ich and Sc. ch in loch. It is heard also in many pronunciations initially as heuk (hook), heuch (cliff), hoe = [c̜juk, c̜jux, c̜jʌu].

§ 74.1. y = [j], ic., is found in some words which had a diphthong in the older stage — e.g. yerl, yirn (of milk), yird, yowe, for earl, earn (coagulate), earth, ewe. The prefixing of y seems to be regarded by many writers as giving a very distinct archaic or dialectal flavour to a word. Hence we have, in Scott’s Heart of Midlothian, Yerastian in the mouth of Davie Deans for Erastian, and yepic, yessay in Noctes Ambrosianæ in the mouth of the shepherd.

§ 75. wh [ʍ], b.l-bk.fric. (O.E. hw), has remained in Sc. The Sc. for whelks [wIlks or wʌlks], O.North wioluc, retains the original [w] sound. wh [ʍ] seems to have been weakened in England at an early period, as may be inferred from the fact that its spelling alternates with w — e.g. in The Peterborough Chronicle (12th cent.). The O.Sc. spelling for this sound was quh, as in quhan, quha. In Cursor M.undi it is qu. Perhaps the Sc. spelling indicates a stronger aspiration which may still be heard in emphatic utterance, thus [xʍa:t] = what, but cf. chua, chuat, for W.S. hwā, hwæt, in O.North texts.

§ 76. w. After s, in some words w is vocalised — e.g. soom, sook (deceive), soord, for swim, swick, sword.

§ 76.1. w changes a following e into a, as in well (w ater), w eb, wealth, west, wedge, twelv e, dwell (see § 27.1), i following w becomes [ʌ], as wit, win, wind, wish = wut, wun, wund, wuss. § 76.2. Initial w is lost in a few words, but this pronunciation is now almost obsolete — e.g. umman (n.Sc.), ooman (Fife), ook and owk and ouk (week), oof, oo and oolm oo, for woman, week, wolf, wool, woo.

§ 76.3. It has been developed out of u in wir or wur, meaning our unemphatic: “Wir ain fowk” = our own people.
§ 76.4. In only two Scottish dialects — viz. Crm. and the Lth. speech of Newhaven and Cockenzie — does w regularly take the place of wh.

§ 76.5. w before r was still pronounced in words like wright, wrong, wrote, wrought, in most of the
Sc. dialects, till well on to the end of last century. See Ellis’ E.E.P., V., WordLists, pp. 684–820, and E.D.D., VI., Word Lists. It is now rarely heard. For its substitute v in n.Sc. see § 137.

§ 77. l is pronounced as in St.Eng., except that the back variety may sometimes be heard when it is adjacent to a back consonant, as in the phrase “muckle guid may it dae ye.” For the so..called liquid l see § 108.

§ 78. l coming after back vowels ă, ŏ, ŭ was generally vocalised in Middle Sc.

§ 78.1. When the original vowel was a, [a:] is now the result. In em. and wm.Sc. this ā has become [o̜:] very generally.

ba’ (Rom.)ball
a’m (Rom.)alum
hause (Scand.)"halse" [neck]
scaud (Rom.)scald
tauch (obs.)tallow

§ 78.2. When the vowel was , a diphthong is now generally the result = [ʌu]

moudiewort, moudiewarpmouldwarp (Eng. dial).
row (Rom.)roll
souder (Rom.)solder
thowthole (pin of boat)

§ 78.3. When the original vowel was ŭ, a long ū is now the result, with occasional shortenings.

coom (Rom.) roots of grain in malting)culm
pu’pit (Rom.)pulpit

§ 79. ng in the middle of a word is a single sound [ŋ] v.bk.n., pronounced as in the St.Eng. sing-er — e.g. sing-le [sɪŋl], ang-ry [ˈaŋrɪ̜], lang-er [ˈlaŋər]. In the suffix ing, ng is always sounded n as sing-in or sing-en [ˈsɪŋən] = singing, pr.p. or gerund. In length, strength, ng also = n [lɛnþ, strɛnþ]. For so-called liquid ng see § 110.

§ 80. In Sc. the letter r stands for the point trilled r. r is not generally lost before another consonant. In districts which have recently been Gaelic in speech the r is generally a v.p.fric. retracted. The burr is known only as an individual defect of speech.

Dialect Districts

Main Dialect Division

§ 81. On the basis of phonetic distinctions the Mainland of Scotland is divided into three great areas, Mid, Southern and Northern. Mid Sc. again has three subdivisions, em.Sc., wm.Sc. and sm.Sc. Southern Sc. comprises m. and e.Dmf., Rxb. and Slk. Northern Sc. is subdivided into sn.Sc., mn.Sc., nn.Sc. Outside Scotland we have (1) the Insular Division, embracing the Ork. and the Sh. Is., and (2) Ulster Sc., spoken chiefly in the counties of Antrim and Down. The counties corresponding to these divisions are named on pp. xlvii, xlviii.

Character of Dialect Division

§ 82. It must not, however, be inferred that the dialect districts marked on Map 2 are like watertight compartments, entirely separate from each other. Unless a great natural barrier intervenes, such as a barren waste of country, a mountain range or a wide river, dialects pass gradually into each other, leaving a neutral district between every two — e.g. as we pass westward from Angus coastline we come to a district where the fa and steen and heid of the coast and whaw and stane and head of Perthshire can all be heard, but before we reach the west border we enter a region where the second series alone is in common use. The map will show that the dialect regions are not always identical with the county divisions — e.g. Abdsh. dialect extends across the Dee into the Mearns. The dialect of Rxb. extends through e. and m.Dmf., but disappears in w.Dmf., which dialectally belongs to Gall. Sc. It will thus be seen that, in order to indicate the distribution of the sounds with complete accuracy, a whole series of maps would be required. At this stage, however, we shall content ourselves with giving the main distinctions, with the county background familiar to all our readers.

§ 82.1. The lines in Map 2 that run parallel to the coast indicate the peculiar pronunciation of the test words in the district lying between the coast and the western limit of Scottish speech. The lines run unbroken up to the River Forss although, strictly speaking, they ought to be discontinued between Dornoch Firth and Clyth Ness, as in these parts of Sutherland and Caithness only English or Gaelic is heard.

Mid Scots

§ 83. Of these dialect districts the most populous and extensive is the Mid Sc. area, the importance of which is enhanced by the fact that it is the home of our conventional literary language. See §§ 15, 16.

East Mid Scots

§ 84. em.Sc.(a) the district north of the Forth retains the older ae, ane, aince, against the yae, yin, yince of em.Sc.(b) and of all the other central and southern districts. These y forms are the result of the diphthongising of O.E. ā and open a which is a regular feature of the s.Sc., from which, probably, yae, etc., have been borrowed. In one or other of the central dialects, some other diphthongised forms of ā or open a can be found — e.g. yill (ale), yits (oats), yiblins (aiblins).

§ 85. The [o̜] sound, unknown in the Northern dialects, is the rule in em.Sc. in all words of O.E. āw, ăw, ăg origin. See §§ 34, 49. 1. This sound has been extended to many words which have [a] but no original final w or g. South of the Forth this extension is more in evidence than north of it — e.g. in the Lothians, what, warm, cat, hat, back, black have this new sound where north of the Forth the original a is retained. Curiously enough, two, who, whose, where, away have generally a as in fate [e] in em.Sc.(b) but aw [o̜] in em.Sc.(a).

§ 86. Words like mune, spune, gude (see §§ 35.1, 35.2) preserve the ui vowel [y] in em.Sc.(a),[25] but have i [ɪ, ɪ̜] in em.Sc.(b).[26] Words like do, shoe, moor, floor (see §§ 35.3, 35.4) have ui [ø] in em.Sc.(a),[27] but ai or ae [e] in em.Sc.(b),[28] written dae, shae, mair, flair. In e.Lth. and Bwk. older people may still be heard using the rounded vowel. Words like enough and tough (see § 35.6) have u [ʌ] in em.Sc.(a),[29] written eneuch or enyuch, teuch or tyuch, and oo in em.Sc.(b), written enewch or enyooch, and tewch or tyooch.[30]

§ 87. In Fife, words like think,[31] rink, sink, link, drink. swing are pronounced with a diphthong similar to what we hear in Eng. fight; words like big, egg, leg[32] have the same diphthong, known also in e.Abd., Black Isle, Cai., n.Rxb.

§ 88. Words which in O.E. have (1) æ (i-umlaut of ā), (2) ēa, (3) e in open position have
a as in fate [e] in em.Sc.(a), and ee [i] in em.Sc.(b). Examples (the footnotes show the difference between em.Sc.(a) and (b)):

(1) Clean, deal, heal, leave, least, lead (v).[33]

(2) Bread, cheap, dead, deaf, deave, dream, east, hea, heap, lead (n.), leaf, threap, threat.[34]

(3) Bear (v.), tear (v.), mare, swear, pear, steal, eat, meal.[35]

§ 89. em.Sc. has a decided predilection for ay as in day [e] in the endings y, ie, ow, ful, and in na (not) after verbs — e.g. lady, laddie, weedow, carefu’, canna, dinna.[36]

§ 90. As we approach the Celtic Border in Per. there is a distinct tendency to substitute u [ʌ] for i in words other than those beginning with w, as hill, milk, silk. The Gaelic speaker seems to find a difficulty with the vowel i ɪ]. He substitutes for it [ʌ or ɪ̜, ɪ̜ or i] — e.g. for fish he may say fush [fʌʃ], fesh [fÏ̜ʃ] or feesh [fiʃ].

§ 91. d after n and l (see §§ 64, 64.1) is generally retained in em.Sc. “It” becomes “id” in a number of phrases — e.g. of it, to it, till it, for it, be it, do it — as, “he’s weel free o’d” [37]; “see till’d”[38]; “naething else for’d.”[39] Cf. Cai. and Ork., §§ 158, 165.

§ 92. In Bwksh. the vowel ui as in guid, etc., has survived longer than in Lth. au [o̜] is not so common as in Lth. — e.g. cat, hat, back, black, lamb instead of cawt, hawt, etc., of Lothian (see § 85). The influence of Rxb. speech can be traced (1) in the use of oi [oɪ] for the general Sc. [əi], as in boil, toil, voice; oil [əil] is an exception; (2) in the weakness of the ch sound and its disappearance in some words where it is replaced by ow, as bowt and sowt for bought and sought, although boacht [boxt] and soacht [soxt] may also be heard alongside of the s.Sc. [ɔuxt] and [sɔuxt]. Water is pronounced waiter [ˈwetər] as in Rxb. The burred r as a sign of dialect is not found in Bwksh. although known in Berwick town. In Chirnside, initial ch [tʃ] was pronounced sh [ʃ] and the following sentence was quoted in derision of the inhabitants: “There’s as guid sheeze (cheese) in Shirset (Chirnside) as was ever showed (chewed) by shafts (jaws).” See Black Isle, Cai. and Sh. dialects for the same peculiarity. It is also found at Chillingham and Chatton in Nhb.: “The Sheese o’ Shatton is nae mair like the sheese o’ Shillingham nor shaak’s like sheese.” In Older Sc. it is not unknown — e.g. schansit, scheker, schapel, scheeks, schyld. About thirty words have been absorbed into Bwk. dialect from the gipsy speech of the inhabitants of Yetholm (Rxb.).

[man]A “Gadgie” when he is a “Chor”[thief]
A “Jugal” always fears,[dog]
For “Jugals” as a rule are kept
By “Gadgies ” with big “keirs”.[houdes]
This means a man who goes to steal,
A watchdog may expect,
‘Tis mystifying all the same,
This Berwick Dialect.
(Thomas Grey, Tweedmouth, in Berwickshire Advertiser, 4 Nov. 1910.)

§ 92.1. The dialect of Berwick town is a mixture of Sc., Northern Eng. and St.Eng. It has lost the ch sound in laugh, enough, daughter,[40] etc., and in words like night, etc., which it pronounces with a diphthong [nɛit] and not neet [nit] as in other parts of Nhb. and in Dur. and Yks. It uses a species of the r burr, and treats this r as in St.Eng. of the southern type — i.e. drops it before another consonant and at the end of words, but often restores it when the next word begins with a vowel. See E.E.P., V., p. 647. It retains wh [ʍ] as in Sc. and h as in Sc. and St.Eng. It retains the Northern Eng. and Sc. oo [u] as in hoose, moose, with some exceptions, and unrounds ŭ [ŭ or u] as in Sc., St.Eng. and Southern Eng. dialects — i.e. some and come[41] are pronounced nearly as in St.Eng. and not soom and coom.[42] O.E. ō and Fr. u have not become [y or ø] as in Sc. O.E. ā and a in open position are not diphthongised as in the greater part of Northern Eng. and in s.Sc., but have some kind of [e] vowel — i.e. stane and not stian.[43] Final [u:] and [i:] are not diphthongised, as in s.Sc. — i.e. there are no yow and mey for you and me. See E.E.P., V., pp. 645-651. The dialect of the town of Berwick shows, with the county, a number of gipsy words derived from the gipsy colony of Yetholm.

West Mid Scots

§ 93. In this sub-dialect the aw vowel [o̜] is prevalent instead of ā [a:], but not so widespread as in Lth.

§ 93.1. The words in the first four classes of O.E. ō words and in the last class are all unrounded. Thus we find for mune, guid, do, shoe, muir, puir, teuch, eneuch: min, gid, dae, shae, mair, pair, tyuch, inyuch.[44] See §§ 35.1-35.4, 36, 37. In Burns’ time the rounded vowel was already being superseded by ay [e] and i [ɪ], as his rhymes sometimes suggest:

I sell’d them a’ ane by ane—
Guid ale keeps the heart aboon!
(Burns O’ Guid Ale Comes.)

O’ merry hae I been teethin a heckle,
An’ merry hae I been shapin a spoon!
O’ merry hae I been cloutin a kettle,
An’ kissin my Katie when a’ was done!
(Burns O’ Merry Hae I Been.)

The rhymes are perfect if we take Burns’ own pronunciation yin and abin and spin and din. Elderly people in Avrsh. say that they remember quite well the difference between their pronunciation f words like guid and muir and that of their grandparents. In Vol. V., pp. 732-737, of E.E.P. appears a phonetic version of Tam o’ Shanter, all in Sc. dialect. This was based on an earlier attempt in 1848, which had passed through several hands until finally revised for Dr Ellis in 1883 by Mr R. Giffen, the well-known statistician, a native of Strathavon. In the text the ui words are all represented phonetically as rounded vowels but the notes give frequent unrounded alternatives. The version is really based on a traditional pronunciation of ui words.

§ 93.2. The u vowel [ʌ] takes the place of o or a in some words, as body, porridge, bonnet, Robert, mauna (mustn’t), mony, stomack, foreign.[45]

§ 93.3. Words which in O.E. have (1) æ (i-umlaut of ā), (2) ēa, (3) e-, in open position (see § 29, note), have in this division of m.Sc. the vowel ee [i] — e.g. mare, bear, swear, tear, etc. See § 88 (3).

§ 93.4. In Glasgow and its neighbourhood the sound oo [u] is pronounced with the highest part of the tongue well advanced, giving a sound midway between Eng. oo [u] and Fr. u [y]. The same sound may be heard also in Cai. See § 157(4).

§ 93.5. d is generally dropped after n and l as in n.Sc. See §§ 64, 64. 1.

§ 93.6. p, t, k, medial and final, are very frequently replaced by the glottal catch — a plosive sound in the larynx, as in water, butter, cap, rack — waer, buer, ca” ra’.[46] This sound is quite strong as far south as Kilmarnock, but decreases until it disappears in s.Ayr and Gall. It can be heard also in em.Sc. but with decreasing effect as we proceed eastwards. Fifty years ago it was unknown in n. and s.Sc., but it can now be heard in many of the larger towns in these districts, not by natural development but through association with people from Glasgow and its neighbourhood.

§ 93.7. l is sometimes replaced by y [j] — e.g. blue, plough, laik’s (marbles in play) — bew or
byoo, pyoo, yakes.[47]

§ 93.8. Owing to the influx of Irish and foreign immigrants in the industrial area near Glasgow the dialect has become hopelessly corrupt.

§ 94. se.Slg. is an intermediate dialect between em. and wm.Sc. It agrees generally with Lth., but is affected, owing to geographical position, by wm.Sc. speech. It agrees with wm.Sc. in pronouncing hook, nook, crook, as hyuk, nyuk and cruk, and not with the oo sound as in Lth. Who, whose and two are also pronounced hwaw, etc., as in wm.Sc., and not hwae, etc., as in Lth. Porridge, bonnet, bannock are pronounced purritch, bunnit, bunnick,[48] as in wm.Sc., instead of parritch, bawnit, bawnick as in Lth. The termination ay [ĕ] so common in Lth. is less so in c.Slg. — e.g. the Lth. awfay, Gleskay, bawray become awfa, Gleska, barra, as in wm.Sc., and the Lth. cannay, arnay, winnay, etc. — can’t, aren’t, won’t — become canna, arna, winna[49] In this district also the glottal catch as a substitute for p, t, k, is heard. d after l and n is dropped also as in wm.Sc. Words in O.E. with æ, ēa, e in open position agree partly with em.Sc.(a) in having [e] and partly with em.Sc.(b) and wm.Sc. in having [i]. See § 88. Yin (pron.) instead of ane has pressed as far north as Stirling town, according to our correspondent Slg.2, but ae (adj.) as in “ae man” is still the more common form.

Dialect of Campbeltown

§ 95. The wm.Scots dialect extends westward across the Firth of Clyde to Bute and to the southern extremity of Kintyre. Our correspondent. Mr McInnes, Campbeltown, reports as follows:

“The almost complete swamping of Gaelic by LoTwand Scots in s.Kintyre is due primarily to the big Lowland immigration in the 17th cent., from 1640 onwards. There were at least four big waves during this century, and the inflow has gone on at intervals ever since right down to the 40’s and 60’s of last century. These immigrants were for the most part ‘bien’ people and settled, mainly as farmers, in the agricultural portions of south Kintyre. They have had a marked effect both on the character of the local speech and in hastening the decay of Gaelic. The Lowland Church in Campbeltown was founded as early as 1654 and the Church Records of Southend Parish show that there was a Grammar School in Campbeltown in 1656; evidence that the Lowlanders did not after their settlement here let the grass grow under their heels. With nearly three hundred years of this dominating Lowland element at work in the district and operating all the time with other causes that brought Gaelic into disrepute and threatened its entire extinction, it is surprising that we still have from five to eight per cent. of Gaelic speakers left.

“Trade and passenger intercourse with Glasgow and the other Clyde ports have also influenced local speech away from Gaelic towards Glasgow Scots, and in this connection one important fact must be remembered — namely, that for some twenty-five or thirty years in the latter half of last century the Glasgow militia, several hundreds strong, were billeted on the people for three months every summer. No wonder then that we have Glasgow vocables and Glasgow idioms here.”

The result in Kintyre of the mingling of Glasgow and wm.Sc. in contact with Gaelic is very curious, both on the pronunciation and idiom, and will be illustrated in the Dictionary under the various items. We here cite some examples: hoot and whoot for what. “Hoot are ye sayin’?” “He wuz cairryin on like I donno whoot (hoot),” but whit (Glasgow) can be heard in conjunction with another word, as whit wey and whit for. Cf. the h for wh in Avoch, Black Isle, Rs. and Crm., where the h is lost altogether if the word is not under stress. The Gaelic plosive after t and d can still be heard, even in the speech of children. Initial t and initial d followed by a [j] sound frequently become ch = [tʃ] and j [dʒ] — e.g. Tuesday, tune, tough, dew, duck.[50]

§ 95.1. Some points in which this dialect agrees with Ayrshire:

(1) in dropping “d” after “n,” as in gru and lan for ground and land, etc.;

(2) in changing “o” with a labial consonant into “a,” as in aff, drap, laft, larry, tap, for off, drop, loft, lorry, top, etc.;

(3) in preferring the u [ʌ] sound to oo [u] in the O.E. ō class (see § 35.6) — e.g. enough, hook, tough, for enyuch, hyuk, chuch [51];

(4) in unrounding the ui vowel — e.g. abuin becomes abin (above).

§ 95.2. On the other hand it differs in the following points:

(1) it prefers “u” [ʌ] to i and e [ɪ, ɛ], not only after “w” but in other words — e.g. cluver, duvle, fush, hull, shulter, slup, for clever, devil, fish, hilt, shelter, slip;

(2) it prefers “aa” to “aw” [o̜], as in aa, baa, daar, kaaf, smaa, waa, whaar, for all, ball, dare, chaff, small, wall, where;

(3) in the O.E. ǣ (i-umlaut of ā), open “e” and “ēa” classes there is a balance between “ai” [e] and “ee” [i] — e.g. chape, daith, for cheap, death, against deˈ e, heed, meer, sweet, for deaf, head, mare, sweat (see § 88);

(4) we find also howld, owld, sowld, for hold, old, sold, as in other Celtic areas;

(5) the diphthong i [əi or ei] before k is often monophthongised, especially in emphatic position — e.g. in like and dile, which become lake and dake. “Hoot wuz it lake?”[52] “He wuz leanin’ ower the dake.” A similar change has been noted for Gall., some parts of n.Sc. and Sh. See § 29.1.

(6) Scand. words like gowk, roup (see § 47(3)) have [o] in this dialect.

South Mid Scots

§ 96. sm.Sc. includes the extreme south of Ayr, Wgt., Kcb., w.Dmf or Nithsdale, the country west of Locharmoss and the high ground to the north of it.

§ 96.1. This district retains the ui vowel, but the influence of Ayr settlers from m. and n.Ayrsh. has had an effect on the purity of the old pronunciation. There was a time when such pronunciations as min for moon and shae for shoe excited the derision of the natives and were considered a vile importation of the hated Kyloes or the “Glesca Eerish.” See Trotter’s Gall. Gossip, Intro., pp. 5-8. In the towns — e.g. in Kirkcudbright — the ui vowel, when final and before [r, z, ð, v] was beginning to be unrounded into a as in fate [e] even before the War — e.g. shoe, do, moor, poor had become shae, dae, mair, pair. Since the war other O.E. ō (see §§ 35.1, 35.2) words and Romance words in u and ui are beginning to be unrounded, and min shin, gyid may be heard for the older mune, shune, guid, the vowel being either [ɪ̜ or Ï̜]. This is especially the case in w.Dmf. Words like enough, tough retain the older pronunciation — i.e. enyooch, tyooch [əˈnjux, tjux] — as in the Lothians.

§ 96.2. The O.E. vowels (North.) æ (i-umlaut of ā), ēa and in open position (see § 29, n.) have the same development as in em.Sc. (b) and wm.Sc. See § 88.

§ 96.3. The aw sound of em. and wm.Sc. = [o̜] has not been adopted in this dialect except in Nithsdale, where its presence may be due to the fact that it lies on the direct route to Glasgow; thus blaw, craw, bawr are blaa, craa, baar, etc.

§ 96.4. The vowel a [ɒ] in āw, ā words is of a deeper variety, l.bk.l., than that used in n.Sc. and is often confused with [o̜].

§ 96.5. In some words the diphthong əi is monophthongised — e.g. in like and dike — probably from the shortened vowel in derivatives and compounds. See § 29. 1.

§ 96.6. In the, on the, of the, at the, in many phrases are contracted into i’ e’ and even to one sound ee [i] as i’ e’ toon, i’ e’ mornin, wrang i’ heed, i back i dike = in the town, in the morning, wrong in the head, at the back of the dike.[53] See §§ 125, 158.

§ 96.7. c = [k] and g as in get coming before front vowels are followed by a y sound [j], which is assigned to Gaelic influence — e.g. ken, kirk, get, girn = kyen, kyirk, gyet, gyirn (see § 141); Gall. has been subjected to many linguistic influences, but the evidence of place and personal names shows that Gaelic must have been at least a very important factor in its dialect, yet f = wh, as in fa and fat and far of the n.Sc., is not found here at all. d is dropped after l and n, and in the second case the n is distinctly lengthened. In Wigtownsh. the dialect has been influenced in some parts by the influx of Irish immigrants.

Southern Scots

§ 97. This district comprises m. and e.Dmf., Rxb. and Slk. It may be described as the dialect of the valleys of the Annan, the Esk, the Liddel, the Teviot and the Yarrow. It is remarkable for its peculiarly developed vowel system, which in some respects resembles that of the n.Eng. dialects.

§ 97.1. O.E. ā, which becomes [e] in the other dialects, is diphthongised in this. Murray writes the diphthong i’ representing [ɪə]. The first element is half tense and slightly lowered, the second being very weak and often elided in rapid speech — e.g. blate (modest), baith, braid, claes, drove (v), grope, load (n.) in leead treis (shelmonts or frame laid on a cart), loaf, rope, soap[54] These words might be written beeath, breead, cleeaz, etc.

§ 97.2. O.E. ă in open position also developed into this diphthong — e.g. made, spade, sale, tale, bake, cake, rake (n.), make, shake, lamiter (lame man), name, shame, tame.[55] This sound was common in Teviotdale c.1870 (see D.S.C.S., pp. 105, 144), and can still be heard from middle-aged and old people in Langholm and Canobie and e.Dmf., but in other districts it is obsolescent or obsolete, as in Jedburgh, where it has been replaced by [è]. See Watson’s W.-B., Intro., §§ 37 and 53.

§ 97.3. O.E. æg words have [e] in this dialect — hail (frozen rain), nail, tail.[56] See § 49(2).

§ 97.4. When the word began with a vowel or h the stress fell on the second element of the diphthong and a y [j] sound was produced instead of i [ɪ], as in yae, yin, ‡yick, ‡yicker, yill, yince, yits, hyim, hyirsch, hyil[57], for one (adj.), one (pron.), oak, acre, ale, once, oats, home, hoarse, whole. Teviotdale has yen, yek, etc., in the above. See D.S.C.S., p. 105.

§ 98. Scand. ā likewise gives rise to [ɪə] — e.g. flake, kail, spae, but Scand. ei, æi, ey, eg give rise to the vowel sound in fate [e], as in skail (scatter), swaip (to slant), fley (frighten), hain (save). Many N.Eng. dialects observe a similar distinction between O.E., Scand. ā on the one hand, and Scand. ei, ey, etc., on the other.[58] This distinction enables one to say whether the dialect form of a word like weak (O.E. wāc, Scand. veikr) is of O.E. or Scand. origin.

§ 99. Instances of Romance words having this diphthong [ɪə] are ace, face, mason, place, scailie (slate pencil), able, table, search, term.[59]

§ 100. O.E. ō is still represented by a rounded front vowel. In the towns the vowel is beginning to unround, especially in final position and before r, se= [z], v, so that shoe, do, too, moor, floor, use (v.) from the younger generation are shae. dae, tae, mair, flair, yaiz.[60] Before other conson ants, the ui sound has been kept with the v alue of [y] and lowered as in mune, guid. § 100.1. The O.E. ō group (see § 35.6), containing words like enough. to u gh, has [iu] Langholm and [øu] Canobie [ɪˈniux or ɪˈnøux]. § 100.2. T his iu diphthong occurs irregularly in leuch and deuch from o.N. lāgr = low, and O.E. dāh = dough, which should give [lɪəx and dɪəx] in s.Sc., laich and daich in other Sc. dialects. Leuch [x] occurs frequently in the order Ballads:

Up bespake then Jocky Ha,
For leugh o Liddisdale cracked he
(Archie o Cawfield, No. 188, Child, 1904.)

He has tane the Laird’s jack on his back,
The twa-handed sword that hangg lieugh by his thigh.
(Dick o the Cow, No. 185, Child, 1904.)

§ 101. O.E. ū in final position is diphthongised in t his dialect. So likewise is any long ū in final position, arising from the loss of a consonant. such as g or l or v, or from Rom. ou. The diphthong thus produced is [ʌul].
Examples: brow, cow, dove, ‡dow (O.E. dugan) — as in “How do you dow (e.Dmf.)?” — how, now, full, pull, sow (n.), allow (Rom.), through, you.[61] In all the other Sc. dialects oo [u:] occurs normally in these words.

§ 102. The [o̜] vowel regular in the Mid Sc. dialects from O.E. āw, ăg, does not occur in this dialect, except as an intruder — e.g. (1) blaw, craw, snaw; (2) claw, draw, gnaw, daw (dawn), which might be written blaˈ or blaa [blɒ:]. The vowel [n] in these words, as in Gall. also, is of a deeper quality (= l.bk.l.) than the a of the northern district, which is either m.bk.l. or (as in I.Sc.) m.bk.l. adv.

§ 103. All the O.E. vowels or combinations of vowels that have become ee [i] in final position in other Sc. dialects have a diphthong in this dialect, ey = [ei, æi or əi].

§ 103. 1. O.E. ē: he, me, thee, we; O.E. æ (i-umlaut of ā): sea; O.E. ǣg: elay, key; O.E. ēah, ēag: lea, eye; O.E. ēo: be, bee, free, knee, lee (lang), see, three, tree; O.E. ēog: dree (suffer), fly (n. and v.), lie (fib), thigh [þei]. Because of this curious diphthongisation of final oo and ee the dialect is often called the dialect of yow and mey, or as a Lockerbie couplet has it —

Yow an’ meyee, an’ the bern dor keyee,
The sow an’ the threyee weyee pigs.
(Dumfriesshire, by Hewison, p. 181.)

§ 104. One of the most marked features of this dialect is the use of the [æ] vowel, which is almost identical with the vowel used in southern St.Eng. in words like back, bad, bat, rap, ram. The vowel in s.Sc., however, does not, as a rule, occur in the same series of words as in southern St.Eng., but (1) in words which have the spelling e (O.E. e in closed syllables) — e.g. bed, led, pen, hen, ken, fend, lend, send. Hence their neighbours often twit these dialect speakers with saying bad for bed, pan for pen, and Nallie for Nellie. (2) Freq. in words where a occurs before ss, sh, r, that have [e] or [ɛ] in other Sc. dialects — e.g. ash, wash, asp, clasp, hasp, fasten, grass, cart [+ e], harvest. (3) In words with O.E. e in open syllables with later shortening — e.g. bever (tremble), feather, fettle (condition), fret, leather, trade, tread. (4) In later shortenings of other long vowels (see § 29) — e.g. bled, bless (e.Dmf.), bred, met, adder [ˈæðər], bladder [ˈblæðər], herring, read, bet (hardened — of feet), farl (quarter of an oatcake), yammer (e.Dmf.), heard, ten. (5) In Romance words with the spelling e [ɛ], as in vessel, pet, fenny (clever), mend, stent (assessment), sense, tent (in “Tak tent” = take care).

§ 105. O.E. had a peculiar development in this dialect — viz. uo [uə] — and in Murray’s time, in the Hawick district, it was still a main feature of the dialect. Till the end of the last War the same sound was general in the same class of words in Langholm and Canobie. Examples in open syllables, chosen, coal, collier, foal, froth, nose, throat[62]; in closed syllables, corn, horn, folk, poll, poke (Scand. in poke-net).[63] From Romance we have brooch, cloak, close (n.), coat, boast, rogue, dose, report, roset, sole, sort, vote [bruətʃ, etc.]. In some of the northern Eng. dialects this o is also diphthongised, but the stress may be thrown on to the second element of the diphthong: thus for s.Sc. cuorn [kuərn] we get Cum. cworn [kwɔrn]. Watson, in his W.-B., p. 30, says that in Jedwater the [uə] had by 1870 become oo [u] in body, bogle, bonnie, ony, mony.

§ 105. 1. Murray says (D.S.C.S., pp. 111, 112) that (1) when o is initial or preceded by a silent h the result is [wʌ], but (2) when the h is sounded the result is [ʍ]. His examples of (1) are orchard, orpkine, open [ˈwʌrtʃət, wʌrpi(leaf), ˈwʌpən]; of (2) hole, hope [ʍʌl, ʍʌp]. Wurtvhet is still known in Canobie, but is obsol. in Rxb. (Watson, W.-B., p. 335). Wurpie is now obs. in e.Dmf. and obsol. in Rxb. In s.Sc. howp is hope, meaning expectation, and whup a narrow valley; cf. Whupland for Hopland, Sanday, Orkney (Marwick, Intro., xlv).

§ 105.2. When o comes in contact with a lip letter, p, b, m, f, in e.Dmf. and Teviotdale dialects it does not change into a, thus crop, croft, thropple, etc., are not changed into crap, draft, thrapple. See § 54. The diphthong oi [ɔɪ] does not change into [əi] as in other Sc. dialects — e.g. oil, boil, toil. See § 46.

§ 106. Murray (D.S.C.S., pp. 116-117) says that the U. Teviotdale dialect of Rxb. distinguishes between (1) the diphthong derived from ow, ol, og and (2) that derived from ū (final), uv, ul, ug. The examples given of the first set are bowe (a bow to shoot with), lowe (a flame), powe (poll), howe (hollow), grow,[64] so that bow (n.) [bɔu] is distinguished in this dialect from bowe (v.) [bʌu] (to bend), powe (head) [pɔu] from powe [pʌu] (to pull). All other Scottish mainland dialects have [ʌu] in (1) and [u:] in (2), and the distinction between the two diphthongs has now been lost in many parts of s.Sc. See Watson, W.-B., Intro., §§ 63, 69.

§ 106.1. The following are examples of ol heard from older speakers in e.Dmf. (Langholm and Canobie): yolk [jɔuk], Mid.Eng. ʒolke, m.Sc. (18th cent.) yowk, bolsr, bowt (skein of wool), bowl, colt, dowie (low-spirited), howk (dig(, knowe, moudiewart (mole), also stolen.[65]

§ 106.2. From O.E. of, og, ōw, ēw: yowe (ewe), ower, owerm (confusion), bow (n), forhowe (forsake nest), enow, grow, four, choke.[66]

§ 107. O.E. ĭ and y̆. In this dialect the representative of these two vowels is a sound which approaches very nearly to the e of Mod.Eng. set. In words like big, pig, rig and ring, king a diphthong between [ei and əi] has been heard in n.Rxb. — e.g. in Smailholm.[67] Cf. Fif., e.Abd., nn.Sc.

Consonants in Southern Dialect

§ 108. ʎ voiced front lateral. In Middle Sc. there was a sound represented by lʒ, ly, lz, which is supposed to have been identical with l mouillé in French (dialect) tailleur, Sp. calle, It. egli. Murray (D.S.C.S., p. 124) says that this sound was still in existence in his time in such words as bailie, tailor, collier, feverfuilyea (feverfew). Watson, W.-B., p. 11 gives bailyea, collyer, Dalyell, tailyir, feverfuilyie (obsol.), tuilyie (obsol.) He adds, however, that even derivative forms with simple l are obsol. In Canobie, older people until recently used a peculiar l sound after all vowels, the contact being between the after-blade and fore-palate (or after-gum). In Langholm a more forward sound is heard after [i] and the diphthongs [əi, ei, ɛi]. The point of the tongue comes forward to the teeth and the after-blade rests on the fore-gum. The Canobie variety closely resembles the Continental liquid l, but the Langholm rather that of the Continental teeth l. The difference between the Canobie and Langholm varieties forty years ago was so marked that Langholm schoolboys made great fun of the pronunciation of their Canobie comrades. In other Sc. dialects this Middle Sc. sound has become either point l or point l + y, as Dalzell = Dalyell[68], tailor = teilyər, spuilzie = spoolie, kiˈnallie, Fr. canaille; ʎ was often written lz in Middle Sc. and hence arose the artificial pronunciation Dalzell.

§ 109. k and g have been lost before n in words like knowe, gnaw.

§ 110. ɲ voice front nasal. This sound was written in Middle Sc. nʒ, ny, nz, and approached probably the sound of the Fr. gn in digne, signe. These Fr. words in Middle Sc. rhymed with native words like sing, ring, etc. In Dr Ellis’s E.E.P., I., p. 298, Murray gives gaberluinzie and cuinzie as still in existence c.1863. In Rxb., Watson says lunzie (loin) was still current c.1840. See Rxb. W.-B., p. 10. The sound is no longer heard in e.Dmf., although loon = loin [lun] survives. The place-names Glenzier in Canobie and Enzie in Westerkirk probably had this sound. The pronunciation of the former in the Stat. Acc. of Scot., XIV., 1793, is given as [ˈglɪŋjir]. Its modern pronunciation is [ˈglɪŋər], and that of Enzie is [ˈeini]. Cf. Enzie in Bnffsh., pronounced [ˈi ŋi] derived from O.N. engi = a grassy field.

§ 110.1. As in the similar case of lʒ, nʒ was mistaken for nz, and a new pronunciation of proper names arose, like McKenzie, Menzies, Cockenzie. The older pronunciation is McKingie, Mingies, Cockengie (also Cockennie), where ŋ takes the place of the original ɲ. In other Sc. dialects this old sound is generally represented by ng [ŋ], as spaingie (Spanish cane), mengie (a crowd), lingle (a shoemaker’s thread), and fingan (feigning), sign-ifie (Bch.).>[69]

§ 111. ch [x] with back vowels. This consonant is generally pronounced with back or lip rounding, as in lach = laugh [laxʍ]. The on-glide to ch = [x] is voiced by the preceding vowel and the whole gives a diphthongal effect, hence the word might be written phonetically [laux]. So also saugh, cough, trough.>[70] There are two forms for words like bought, sought, daughter, fought>[71]; dafter has also been heard in Teviotdale, see Watson, W.-B., p. 6.

§ 111.1. This labialised [x] is interesting because it helps to explain the transition from O.E. h [x] to the St.Eng. and dialectal f in words like rough, tough, cough, enough. In the Eng. sound the lip action has been developed and the back action of the tongue lost. Cf. a similar change of wh to f in n.Sc., as in fa for wha. See § 134.

§ 111.2. ch [c̜] with front vowels [i, ɪ, æ, e, ɛ]. The tongue is always advanced in the mouth and for [i] and [ɪ] it reaches as far forward as in the German ch in ich, siech, mich. In the other Sc. dialects the advance of the tongue is well marked for [i] and [ɪ], but much less so for the other front vowels. In the older s.Sc. pronunciation of hicht, licht, micht, fecht the ch is still heard with a [j] glide before it — e.g. fight, height [fæjc̜t, hejc̜t], etc., but in the younger generation a diphthong [ei] or [æi] has taken its place, hence we have the doublets [fæit, heit], etc.

§ 112. f is replaced by th [þ] in [þræ] = from, cf. throm = from in Easter Ross, and per contra in feets = theets (traces in plough), frock-soam (ox-chain), [þ] is replaced by f.

§ 113. d after l and n (see §§ 64, 64.1) is not much in evidence in e.Dmf. or in Rxb. See Watson, W.-B., p. 8, § 4.

§ 114. In this dialect the distinction between the pr.p. and the gerund is maintained in Teviotdale and Canobie as an and in — -e.g. runnan and runneen.>[72] “He’s chappan at the door”>[73] “He likes chappeen at the door.”>[74]

§ 115. This district was the meeting-ground of Anglian, Gael, Briton, Norse and Norman. Three of its river valleys, the Esk, Annan and Liddel, with the country up to the walls of Carlisle, including the old Debatable Land or Thriepland, witnessed many an exploit celebrated in the Border ballads, as in Kinmont Willie, Dick o the Cow, Johnnie Armstrong. There were Graemes and Armstrongs on the English and Scottish sides of the Border, and the modern dialect also shows this commingling of the people. Some of the vowels have developed along the same lines as in northern Eng., for instance O.E. ā, a and o in open position. On the other hand the consonants ch, r, wh, h have remained in southern Sc. and l and n have a peculiar development of their own. On the whole the balance is to the Scottish side, as most certainly is the feeling of the inhabitants north of the political boundary, who repudiate with some warmth the contention of Sir James Murray in his D.S.C.S. that their Border speech is more akin to n.Eng. than to Scots. See § 5.1.

Northern Scots

§ 116. Northern Scots is divided into three sub-dialects — i.e. (1) sn.Sc. — e.Angus and the Mearns; (2) mn.Sc. — Aberdeen, Banff, Moray, Nairn; (3) nn.Sc. — including the Black Isle and Easter Ross and Caithness.


§ 117. Dr Ellis, E.E.P., V., p. 755, gives the north boundary of this division as stretching from Mount Battock to Skateraw on the coast (5 miles n. Stonehaven). At the present time it is not till the traveller from the North passes Stonehaven that he can definitely say that he is in the sn. area. Stonehaven itself is thoroughly mixed, because of the emptying into it of the fishing villages from the northern and southern sides. The Deeside valley and the area between it and Stonehaven must be regarded as Abdsh. in speech. In the extreme west of Ags. we find the characteristics of e.Per., in the extreme east those of Abdsh., while the central area is a compromise between the two.

Vowels of sn.Sc.

§ 118. Words like one, once, bone, stone (see § 32.4). having ā + n in O.E., have [i] as in Abdsh., so we write them een, eence, been, steen.

The vowel [a] in words derived from O.E.. āw, ag, is used in this dialect as in the mn. area instead of the [o̜] of m.Sc.

§ 118.1. In this dialect the vowel the ordinary spelling of which is ai, ay, ae, a + cons. + e, is, pronounced with the tongue retracted and raised [e1]. In a list[75] of 385 ai words in common use in Ags. 249 had this peculiar [e1] sound and the rest [e] — 136. As there seems to be no rule to determine the distribution of the vowel, it is impossible to say whether it is a late development or a survival from the past.

§ 118.2. In this dialect the vowel [ɪ] or [ɪ̜] has almost the quality of e in St.Eng. bet — i.e. [ɛ].

§ 119. Among middle-aged people the ui sound is still rounded and the same vowel [ø],, is used for all words of the four classes. See §§ 35.1–35.4. Sir William Craigie reports that in his boyhood parents in Dundee used to frown on such pronunciations as pair for puir and the younger generation of to-day seem to be still more affected by the tendency to unround the vowel, the resulting sound being ai or ae [e or e1]. In respect to this ui vowel, Ags. agrees with the southern dialects and not with Abdsh.

§ 119.1. Words of the enough, tough class (see § 35.6) have en(y)ooch and t(y)ooch, resembling Abdsh. rather than Per.

§ 120. O.E. ē, æ, ēa (see § 88) tend to have both ai and ee [e, e1, i] in e.Ags. and ai [e1] in w.Ags.

§ 121. Mr J. Ross, late Rector of Arbroath High School, gave an account of the Mearns dialect of Glenfarquhar (11 mls. w. by s. Stonehaven) as it was c.1849. He considered the dialect to be more akin to m.Sc. (e.Per.) than Deeside. Been, neen, steen are used for bone, none and stone, as in e.Ags. and Abd. O.E. ǣ. (i-umlaut of ā) is ee [i] in sea, mean (v.), clean, but [ɛ] in lead (v.), leave, heathen, and [e] in either, heat, neither. Anglian ē is [i] in deed, thread, sheep; [e] in fear, breath. O.E. open e words like heav en, mare, seven, tear, wear (see § 88) have a raised e vowel approaching [i] but not identical with it. O.E. ēa has ee [i] in head, dead, bread, but a raised [e] in beat, sheaf, deaf, leaf, cheap, threat, death, but red has the same vowel as in St.Eng. O.E. ō (see § 35.1) has ui [ø] — e.g. broom, do, done, noon, spoon, root and soot. Good (see § 35.2) is gud, gyud, gwid (Abd. infuence).[76] Plough, enough, tough (see § 35.6) are ploo (v.), plooch (n.), enyooch and tiooch. Moor, floor, poor, school, sure[77] (see §§ 35, 35.4). The peculiar word quine, a girl, well known in north-east Scots, occurs here also. See E.E.P., V., pp. 760-763.

Consonants of sn.Sc.

§ 122. f, b.l-t.fric., is a substitute for initial wh in the pronominals who, what, where, when, why, but this pronunciation does not extend to other words as it does in mn.Sc. and nn.Sc. See § 134.

§ 123. Initial kn becomes tn, as in tnife, tneel, tnowe, tnock, etc., as it does in e.Per. The pronunciation is not so common in e.Ags. and does not occur in the Mearns. It is found in Arbroath and neighbourhood, as evidenced by Salmond’s My Man Sandy, but not in Montrose and Brechin. It is known also in the town of Forfar, where it is embedded in a local place-name — viz. the “Gallet Nowe” — i.e. “The Gallow Knowe” [ˈgalət nʌu]. The change arises through a regressive assimilation. See § 27.2.

§ 124. d after l and n is not dropped to the same extent as in the mn. and nn.Sc. — e.g. in fauld, cauld, bald, find, wind, etc. See §§ 64, 64.1.

§ 125. In some phrases beginning with in the, on the, at the, of the, these two words are contracted into ee [i] from the town of Forfar westwards, as ee haid o’ ee toon and ee haid ee toon, glower ee mune an’ fa’ ee midden.[78] See §§ 96.6, 158.


§ 126. The southern boundary of this dialect district extends beyond the Dee valley and its tributaries as far as Stonehaven, including all the Mearns lying between the coastline and the Stonehaven-Banchory road.
§ 126.1. mn.Sc. has two main divisions. The first (a) includes Abd. and the part already mentioned of the Mearns and the coast parishes of Bnffsh. as far as the Spey, sometimes called L.Bnffsh. The second division (b) comprises (1) the county of Bnff. to the south of the sea-coast district until it reaches the higher land where Gaelic was once spoken, and (2) the counties of Mry. and Nai. as far as the Scottish Limit on the south and to the boundary of Nai. on the west.

§ 126.2. In mn.Sc. a diphthong [əi] (sometimes [aɪ]) appears where an [e] or [i] would be expected in the following. Those marked a also occur in sn.Sc. SpellingSc.Eng.
wāmb wyme a wəɪm wame womb [belly]
wāt wyte (weel a wyte) wəit wat wot
hwǣte whyte a and fyte ʍəɪt and fəit wheat wheat
swǣtan swyte a swəit sweat sweat
wegan, wæg wye a waɪ, w əi a wee weigh
specan spyke spəik speik speak
seofon seyvnsəivn seevn seven
wefan wyve awəiv weeve weave
cwene quine a kwəin quean [a girl]
grēat † gryte a grəit great great
(wāc), veikr (O.N.)wyke wəik wake weak
TīwesdægTyseday a taɪzdɪ̜, teizdɪ̜ (Ags.) TuesdayTuesday
col quile [a burning coal] kwəil coal coal
wēod, wīod *wide a wəid (wid, Bch.) weed weed
sweiyen (Mid.Eng.)swye a swəi a and swaɪ sway sway
sweigia (O.N.)

* Middle Sc., weid, wyde. † In Ags. restricted to physical size or force.

§ 126.3. Rom. chine, convye, quite, deycon, wyte, reyns, for chain, convey, coat, deacon, wait, reins.[79] All these words except coat have also [əi] in sn.Sc.

§ 127. This is not by any means homogeneous, and it is often subdivided into (1) the Bch. area, roughly the ne. of Abdsh. between the Ythan and the Deveron, with the Bnffsh. coast, and (2) the valleys of the Dee and Don, the old provinces of Formartine and Mar.

Vowels in mn.Sc.(a)

§ 128. The mn.Sc.(a) dialect agrees with sn.Sc. in having ee [i] in words like bone, stone, but moon, spoon, shoe, moor become meen, speen, shee, meer; good, cool become gweed, cweel, and this is the case generally when a back stop consonant precedes the vowel; book, hook, enough, tough are byook, hyook, anyooh, tyooch.[80]

§ 129. O.E. in close position does not tend to become oa [o] as is the case so frequently in the central dialects. See § 52.

§ 130. O.E. æ (i-umlaut of ā), ēa and e in open position (see § 29, n.) tend to have ee [i] rather than [e] in the coast districts of mn.Sc.(a).

§ 130.1. O.E. ēaw has [ʌu] in mn.Sc. — e.g. dyow, fyow, hyow, nyow, for dew, few, hew, new; so for the Rom. words beauty, duty, mew, pewter we find byowty, dyowty, myow, pyowter.[81]

§ 131. In words like mine, fine, pipe, bite, dike, bide, the diphthong used in Bch. sounds very like oi[82] in boy. It may be heard in the same class of words in the Black Isle and Cai. The people in the inland parts of Bch. are of the opinion that these pronunciations came up from the fishing population of the coast. This oi pronunciation of the vowel in pipe, etc., seems, however, to be of ancient date — e.g. Stirling Rec., 17th March 1546-7, “wyne . . xviijd the point”; Records of Elgin, ed. Cramond (Aberd. 1903), I. 168 (22nd Oct. 1582), “fooll swoin carle that he wes” (swoin = swine); Ib. I. 180 (15th Aug. 1623), “Rys, koyne” (koyne = quine, girl[83]); Pitcairn’s Assembly, 1692 (1722), p. 38: “Fat hae they deen? if that be true we’re but a Boick of drone Bees without stangs.” Cf. also Johnny Gibb of Gushetneuk, p. 192, 2nd ed., 1871: “The places is to be set aboot the twenty-foift, so ye’ll need a’ be owre bye”; but here David, the ground officer, is probably intended by the author to be attempting to speak very fine.

§ 132. In the coast villages yet another curious diphthong may be noted and compared with a similar one in the Black Isle and Cai. This diphthong is [ei] and the following are examples: O.E. ā — raids (fishing ground), braid; O.E. open e — e.g. leather, feather, stead, steal; O.E. close e — e.g. leg, edge, egg, segg (cf. n.Rxb., Fif., Bl. Is., Cai.), end, bend, send, etc., length, strength.[84]

§ 133. a before a nasal is rounded in the Bch. fishing villages, as in brand, brander, sand, land, sandeel — bron, bronner, son, lon, sonle. Cf. a similar rounding in O.E. and in Chaucer, hond, lond.

Consonants, mn.Sc.(a) and nn.Sc.

§ 134. The most characteristic change in mn.Sc., and also in nn.Sc., is that of wh [ʍ] into f, br. lip-teeth fric., which is not confined to the pronominals as in sn.Sc. but extends to other words beginning with wh — e.g. what, whistle, whisky, whilie,[85] etc. Wh = [ʍ] is a b.l-bk. fric. — i.e. in the production of the sound the back of the tongue is raised to narrow the air-passage simultaneously with the rounding of the lips. This back action of the tongue is first eliminated, giving rise to a pure lips-consonant such as is heard in Ger. u of quelle, and then this lips-consonant is changed into the lip-teeth f of ordinary pronunciation. This curious change has been often assigned to Celtic influence, and the ancient speech of the Baronies of Forth and Bargy, in County Wexford, Ireland, is cited in confirmation of this theory. The Saxon and Flemish followers of Strongbow, Earl of Pembroke, were settled in the Baronies of Forth and Bargy in Wexford, Ireland, in the year 1169. They formed a little island of Saxon speakers in the midst of a sea of Celtic speech. Although they retained their old dialect up to the early part of the 19th cent., it was not unaffected by the speech of their Celtic neighbours, and among other results was the change of O.E. hw into f in the pronominals who, whose, what, when, where, which became fo, fose, faad, fan, far, corresponding very closely to the n.Sc. faa, faa’s, fat, fan, faar. See E.E.P., V., pp. 24-31. It is, however, rather curious that old Gaelic areas like Fif. and Gall. do not present this phenomenon.

The earliest known examples of the use of [f] for wh in n.Sc. occur in the Abd. Town Council Registers, 12th March 1539, wherefor is used for quhar = where, and 18th April 1539, where phingar is written for quhynggar = whinger. Other examples later in time are these: Walter Cullen’s Chronicle of Aberdeen, 1580 (Spald. Club Misc. II. 52), “The fyrst tyme that I, Walter Cullen, reder of Aberdeen, sehit his graice, was the xx day of the said monett of June, 1580 yeris, and that at the woid of Fetteresso, he beand at the huntis with sertane of his lordis; and thair eftir I paist to Dunnottar, fair I beheld his draice [James VI.] at his supar, quhill he paist to his chalmer”; Elg. Rec., Kirk Session, 17th May 1592, phippit [ = whipped]; Trials for Witchcraft, 1597 (Spald. Club Misc. I. 190), forl [ = whorl]; Pitcairn’s The Assembly, 1692, fat [ = what].

§ 135. In Bch. dialect, especially towards the coast, d replaces th when the latter is followed by the suffix er: thus fader, midder, bridder and breeder, redder, gedder, badder, widder, idder, stand for the Eng. father, mother, brother, rather, gather, bother, weather, other. In some of the words cited above the original sound is d, as in father, mother, O.E. fæder, mōdor. In the pronunciation of d by the people of the coast the tongue is advanced to the teeth.

§ 136. k and g can still be heard before n, in mn. and nn.Sc., as in knock [knɔk] (a clock), and knock (v.), knievelick (lump), knife, knee, knowe, kneef (alert), knot, gnaw, gnap.

§ 137. v, v. lip-teeth fric., is used before r instead of w, but chiefly by the older people, as in vricht, vrannie, vratch, vrath, vrocht, for wright (mill), wren, wretch, wrath, wrought. “That peer vratch o’ a vricht is vrang, for aa ye’ve vruttn aboot it.” It once replaced an older w all over mn.Sc. — e.g. blaave or blyaave, shaave, hyaave (gray) (O.E. hæwen, hæwi, hēawi), gnyaave, lavyer, for blow, sow (corn), haw (Sc.), gnaw, lawyer. For other examples see § 141.2.

§ 137.1. Initial v is often replaced in mn.Sc. by w in much the same way as Dickens’ Cockneys used it, but not w by v — e.g. weggyban, weil, wertue, wulipend, weeshion, weshel, for vagabond, veil, virtue, vilipend, vision, vessel. “Yon weggybons o’ loons.” “That weeshion o’ a cratur.”

§ 138. th [þ] stands for cht [xt or c̜t] in mith, dother, noth (Ross, Helenore, 2nd ed., 1778, p. 92), for might, daughter, nought. Walter Cullen writes douther for daughter in his Chronicle of Abd., 1580. Mith and dother are also current in sn.Sc. and noth survives in proverbs — e.g. in Bch. Wark for noth gets mony maisters, and in U. Banff, It’s nae for noth ‘at the gled fustles (Abd. Press and J., 30/1/31.)

§ 139. Initial th [ð] is dropped in Bch. not only in that (rel.), but in that (dem.), and in this, there, than, as in Cai. This pronunciation except for the relative is dying out, and is generally assigned to coast influence. A similar phenomenon is found in Middle Eng. For examples and probable explanations see M.M.Sc., p. 64.

§ 140. h, according to Dr Gregor,1 was once used in Cockney fashion in the ne. coast villages. This is still the case amongst the older inhabitants of Fitty (Footdee), Aberdeen, and of Cove on the Mearns coast, and until recently was a marked feature in the schools of these places.

§ 141. y [j]., is often omitted in the spelling, and occurs frequently in mn.Sc. when it is unknown elsewhere. The examples in the following paragraphs are taken from the Bch. district.

§ 141.1. Words which have normally ai [e or ɛ] in other dialects hav e [ja:] generally alongside the ai forms — e.g. byaak, cyaaks, cyaarn, cyaard (tinker), fyaak (plaid), lyaag, also yaag (to gossip), peeriemyaks (equals in age), nyaakit, slyaach (bedaub), ryaak, for bake, cakes, cairn, caird, faik, laig, naked, slaich, rake.

§ 141.2. Words having v for final w (see § 137) often take [j] before — e.g. blyaave, gnyaave, tyaave (taw, a hill, in place-names — e.g. the Llave Cairn), todder-lyaave (rough, outlying field or farm), snyaave for blow, gnaw, law, snow. Yaave, meaning respect, power of keeping in subjection, is of the same origin as Eng. awe. “The maister hiz nae yaave amo’ the scholars (Gregor, Dial. of Bnff., p. 213). Yaave meaning to own is cognate with Eng. owe — e.g. “fa yaavesye?’” or “fa’s yaave ye?” = to whom do you belong? (Abd.[86]). This word is now obsol., aucht or aicht taking its place. The others are not much heard, but are known to most middle-aged speakers and are regarded as curiosities of the dialect of the last generation. Note the Bch. proverb, “A blyaavin fire is a thryaavin fire.”

§ 141.3. Go in Bch. is gae, gya(ng), gying. Gying becomes dying where d is a sound intermediate between g and d. Dying eventually becomes jing [dʒɪŋ] and gya-in becomes jain [dʒa:ɪn]. Hence the sentence “A’m ja’m to jing awa hame”[87] (heard on the Bnffsh. coast and in the neighbourhood of New Pitsligo).


§ 142. As we move inwards from the Bnff. coast we gradually enter the mn.Sc.(b) area, including U.Bnff., Mry. and Nairn. It differs from Abd. speech (1) in the O.E. ān series (see § 32.4), which has [e] instead of [i] — e.g. stane, bane, ane, aince; (2) in the O.E. ō (Rom. u) series (see § 35.4)– — e.g. ford, moor, poor, which have oo and yoo [u:, ju:] instead of ee, written sometimes f(y)oord, myoor, pyoor, but more commonly fuird, muir, puir[88]; (3) in the series ǣ, ēa, open e (see § 18) which have more regularly [e] in this district than mn.Sc.(a).

§ 143. In Sir John Sinclair’s Statistical Account of Scotland (1793), VIII., p. 396, a contributor gives a good description of the Scottish dialect of Duffus, a parish in the Laich o’ Moray, close to the town of Elgin. The writer speaks of the “narrow” a sound in words like (1) law, draw — i.e. [la:, dra:] against the southern [lo̜: dro̜:]: Agust for August and al for all [al for o̜l]; (2) also the “narrow” o in close, road, rode, note, no, choke, post, pronounced closs, rod, not, no, chock, post — i.e. [ɔ] was used instead of [o]; (3) ee sound in moon, spoon, fruit, yule, use (n.) — viz. meen, speen, freet, yeel, eese; (4) the peculiar sound of i in pit, fit, pick, etc., something, he says, nearer to e in Eng. pet, peck [ɪ̜]; (5) the use of f for wh in fat = what, etc. These are all characteristic of mn. and nn.Sc. at the present time. In addition he mentions the dropping of r before a consonant, as in first, horse and purse — fist, hoss, puss, which have been noted for U.Bnff. by Gregor. See Dial. of Bnff., p. 4.

§ 144. The county of Nai. has the same dialect as Mry., with a large percentage of Eng. words. The intonation, however, savours more of Gaelic speech and the inverted r (see Symbols, Intro., p. xili) is common in pronunciation. As we move westwards the language changes into Eng. or Gaelic.

Black Isle and Easter Ross. nn.Sc.(a).

§ 145. If we cross the Inverness Firth at Ardersier we again find Sc. speech of a very curious and interesting type in the fishing village of Avoch and the fisher quarter of the little town of Cromarty, on the firth of that name, as well as in a few of the coast villages of Easter Ross.


§ 146. Most words of the “moon, spoon, stool” class (O.E. ō, Fr. u) have ee in this dialect, as in the N.E. generally. When a back consonant (g or k) precedes the vowel, in Crm. and Avoch, no w is developed as in the N.E., hence for good, school, cool, cuits (ankles) we get geed, skeel, keel, keets, as we find also in Cai. See § 35.2. When the vowel comes before r, or a guttural, the development is the same as in Mry. and Cai. — e.g. fyoord, myoor, pyoor, swoor, lyooch, for St.Eng. ford, moor, poor, swore, laughed, but enough is anyoch [əˈnjɔx].

§ 147. This dialect has a diphthong [ei], like, but not identical with, the sound in Eng. time. It occurs in many words in the following classes:

§ 147.1. (1) (a) O.E. ā as in caes (clothes), kame (comb), hairse (hoarse), hame (home), tangs (tongs), hale (whole), wame (belly), alane (alone), bane (bone), aince (once), ane (one), stane (stone).[89] (b) Scand. ā as in kail, scare (splice a rope).[90] (c) Scand. ei or æi or ey as in graith (water for washing), hain (save).[91] (2) O.E. ēa as in ear, east, cheap, great, head, leaf, sheaf.[92] (3) O.E. ǣ (i-umlaut of ā), errand, lead (v.), sweat.[93] (4) O.E. open e as in eat, heaven, pear, scare, seven, speak, swear, tear, wear.[94] (5) Before g this diphthong also appears, in words like pig, big [peig, beig]. Found also in Fif., ne. coast Abd., Cai. and ‡n.Rxb. (6) Also in Romance words — e.g. chain, chair, change, damock (a girl), ease, easy, feast, pay, place, reins, table, wait.[95]

§ 148. Words like bide, bike, line, pipe, have a diphthong often written oi, also occurring in Abd. coast dialect and Cai. See §§ 131, 157(2).

§ 149. Instead of o before l and g, a diphthong ow [ʌu] is often used — e.g. dog, fog, bold, cold, sold may be heard pronounced as dowg, fowg, bowld, cowld, sowld. Cf. Irish pronunciation of these words, also Cai. and Kintyre. In Avoch, caul’ and selt are also used.


§ 150. The so-called aspirate is often inserted or omitted contrary to standard usage, as in some of the coast villages in mn.Sc. dialect — e.g. ale-house, Annie, hand, house become hile-us, Hannie, an, oos. See § 140.

§ 151. In the pronominals who, what, whose, when, where, wh [ʍ] is either omitted or replaced by h when the word is emphatic — e.g. “At thoo daein there?” “Ar thoo gaean?” “As dowg’s that?” Fa, far, fat are also to be heard, probably through contact with Mry. Firth fishermen.

§ 151.1. In Cromarty wh [ʍ] is often replaced by w as in St.Eng. of the southern type, so which and whiskers become wutch and wuskers.

§ 152. r is generally pronounced with the point of the tongue turned backwards. The inversion, however, is not so great as in the trailing r of Cai.

§ 153. In words beginning with kn the n has been changed to r — e.g. for knee, knife, knit, knock, knowe we hear kree, krife, etc.[96] This is no doubt the result of Gaelic contact.

§ 154. ch = [tʃ] initially is pronounced sh [ʃ] — e.g. child, choose, cheat, chair, cheap are sheelie (dim.), sheyse, sheyte, shɛyre, sheype.[97] We find the same peculiarity in Cai. and Sh. and in Chirnside in Bwk. sh was not unknown in Middle Sc., witness the spellings scheikes for cheeks and schyld for child in Wariston’s Diary, 1637-1639.

§ 154. 1. ð is often lost initially in the pronominals — this, then, there, etc. Thoo and thee are still in use.

§ 155. This old dialect has been modified very much in recent years by contact with Moray Firth fishermen and by modern education. Twenty years ago the local teachers had as much difficulty in training the children to use the aspirate properly as Yks. teachers still have. Avoch was originally a Scots settlement in the midst of a Gaelic population. The first settlers were no doubt boats’ crews with their families from farther south who came up in search of good fishing or at the request of the local magnates. One of our contributors, Mr James Reid, belonged to a fisher family said to have been brought into the district in the 17th cent. by Sir George Mackenzie, known to the Covenanters as the Bluidy MacKingie. His forbear had come from Dunbar to be the laird of Rosehaugh’s official fisherman and the office remained in the family till the time of our correspondent’s father.

Examples of Avoch Scots.

§ 155.1.
(1) Gae thee waz, byoch — go thy ways, boy.
(2) A steek in time eynes (hains) nine — a stitch in time saves nine.
(3) Reeze the fyoord az ye funt — praise the ford as you find it.
(4) Twuz a braa knap o’ a sheelie an’ no a dymock — it was a fine knap of a boy and not a girl.
(5) Gee the yellie (yawl) a strok o eycht (height), she’s ower laich i the wud.
(6) Ould on, m’dear shylde, tul a get a shaa (chew) i ma sheek — hold on, my dear fellow, till I get a chew of tobacco.
(7) Al keyme thee dossan for thee — I’ll comb your hair for you.
(8) On Aloseen the wutchis do be seen, some white, some rud, some black, some dansan on the green.

Caithness. nn.Sc.(b)

§ 156. The area of Scottish speech in Cai. lies to the east side of a line drawn from Clyth Ness to 4 miles w. of Thurso. This includes all the lowlying land of the county. On the other side of this line lie the hills where Gaelic used to be spoken. Reports from our correspondents as well as the returns from the last Census (1921) show conclusively that this region cannot now be counted as inhabited by Gaelic speakers, but the language spoken is either school Eng. or an amalgamation of it and Sc. The Sc. dialect of Cai. has a large number of Gaelic and Norse words in it, and Norse was probably spoken there up till the 15th cent. In the extreme north — e.g. in the neighbourhood of John o’ Groat’s — the dialect resembles that of Ork.


§ 157. The vowel (O.E. ō and Fr. u) in the “moon, spoon” class and the “good, school” class and in the “ford, muir” class develops in the same way as in the Black Isle dialect.

(1) The diphthong ei occurs in the same classes as in the Black Isle, and in the younger generation is replaced by the a of fate [e], the Mry. vowel. See § 147.1.

(2) The diphthong oi also appears in words like pipe, but only among old people, and ow before g and l can be heard, as in dowg, bowld, fowg.

(3) o̜, written au, aw, is wanting in this dialect, as in n.Sc. generally. The long a that takes its place, written often aa, and the short a as well, tend to be sharper than in other parts of the north — i.e. pronounced with the tongue advanced from the back position. Examples: wall, old, hold, cold, all, owe are waa, aal, haad, caal, aa + aal.

(4) u. This vowel is pronounced with the tongue very much advanced in the mouth, giving a sound midway between the Fr. u in rude and the Eng. oo in rood. This is a very marked feature of Cai. speech; for a similar phenomenon in Gsw. speech see § 93.4.


§ 158. d and t before r are pronounced with the tongue advanced to the teeth. In the suffix ed, d does not become t as in other Sc. dialects — e.g. chapped, crabbed, barefooted are chappid, crabbed, beirfeeted [ˈʃapɪd, ˈkrabɪd, etc.]. So likewise the noun termination et becomes ad, as limpet, packet = limpad, packad. It is either hid or id.

k. Words ending in ock (unaccented), whether diminutive or not, change ock into ag — e.g. bannick, paddock become bannag, paddag; bairn — bairnag, bairnagie; wife — wife-ag, wife- agie. d may be inserted between the ag or ie diminutive endings and n or l ending the word — e.g. John — Johndie, Johndag [ˈtʃɔndi, ˈtʃɔndəg], Wuldag [ ˈwʌldəg].

l medial, and final l and n are pronounced with the point of tongue advanced to the teeth, as in siller, pale.

f is used for initial wh as in ne.Sc.

th [ð] becomes f in a few words — e.g. meeth (sultry), thresh (corn), Thursday become meef, fresh, Fuirsday [ˈfju:rzdɪ̜]. Place-name Thrasvik is now Freswick. Cf. feets for theets (plough- traces) in Rxb.

th initial is dropped in all pronominals — e.g. the, they, there become ee, ey, ere. This gives a curious wheedling effect to the speech. In the, on the, of the, at the are often reduced to ’e in Canisbay speech. See two examples in § 158.1. See also §§ 96.6, 125.

ch [tʃ] initial is pronounced as sh [ʃ], as in the Black Isle, Sh., and Chirnside in Bwksh. — e.g. chalk, cheese, chimney are pronounced shaak, sheeze, shumley.

Initial j or g [dʒ], as in Jean and gin, is pronounced like ch in chin, hence Janet becomes Chinnad.

In the speech of the last generation the distinction between the pr.p. and the gerund was still recognised, representing the Middle Sc. and and ing — e.g. fechtand and fechting. “He wis aye gutteran aboot.” “He's fond o’ gutterin aboot.”

v is still heard for w before r, in words like wreck, wrong — e.g. vrack, vrang — but chiefly in Canisbay.

r is pronounced with inverted point of tongue and is commonly called the trailing r [ɹ̣], the on-glide being particularly strong.

k is still known before n, as in knife and knowe, in the older speech.

An example of the Caithness speech of Canisbay

§ 158.1. Cai.(D) 1909 D. Houston ’E Silkie Man 4: “En Donel’ says tee’s brither: ‘Boy, he[98] micht be a shance ’e day for a dip ’e Soon’, gin we hed twa’r three lempads.’ ‘O aye,’ says Peter, ‘at may be, bit ’ey’ll be nee ebb nor Soon’ for his ’iss day, we man feenish ’e barlan[99] reeg, Donel’, if we dinna feenish ’ir ’iss week, we’ll be ’e mooth ’e pairish. Ither shither’s[100] a’ feenished a week sin.’” Note “’e” for in the.

Insular Scots

§ 159. Orkney and Shetland were colonised from Norway in the 9th cent., the greatest influx taking place in the reign of Harald Harfager. The Scand. speech of the colonists had, at that time, probably not yet broken up into distinct dialects. At a later period that variety of it spoken in Norway and its colonies came to be known as Norroena (i.e. Northern), and its Mod.Eng. form Norn is now given to the old Norse sp e cch of the Ork. and Sh. Islands. Under the sovereignty of Denmark the islands were governed from 1321 to 1468 by Scottish Earls of Angus, Strathearn and St Clair. In 1468 the islands were assigned in pledge to Scotland from Denmark as security for the dowry of Margaret, a Danish princess, who married James III. of Scotland. The dowry was never paid and the islands became a Scottish province, and were treated scurvily enough by their Scottish governors. The old Norn died very slowly. Brand, in his Description of Orkney, Zetland, etc. (1701), says that “English (i.e. Scottish language) is the Common Language among them (i.e. the people of Shetland), yet many of the People speak Norse or corrupt Danish, especially such as live in the more Northern Isles, yea so ordinary it is in some places that it is the first Language their Children speak” (ed. 1703, p. 69). Martin, in his Brief Description of the Isles of Orkney and Shetland (1703), says of the inhabitants of Mainland that “they generally speak the English tongue, and many among them retain the ancient Danish Language, especially in the Northern Isles” (pp. 383-384), and he writcs similarly of the natives of Ork. (p. 369).

§ 160. In modern times the Norn element in the Sc. dialect of the islands has been verv carefully and scientifically investigated by two scholars — the late Dr Jakobsen, in his Etymo- logical Dictionary of the Norn Language in Shetland, and Dr Marwick, in his recently published The Or kney Norn. Of the present-day Orkney speech Dr Marwick says (The Orkney Norn. Intro. xxvii): “The two tongues (Norn and Scots) were cognate; many words were practically identical inoth, and, before the one lapsed, each language must have been largely stocked with words from the other. The speech of Orkney to-day must be termed Scots, but it is stil richly stocked with words that were part and parcel of the Orkney Norn. . . . On the other hand, before it ultimately died, the Norn tongue must have been increasingly impregnated with words from Scots. Yet the change was something more than a steady inflation of Norn with Scots words until it became more Scots than Nor n. Wlhat probably happened was that tlhe common everyday phraseology of Norn ceased and was replaced by the corresponding Scots terms of speech. In this respect the most important change would be in the pronouns, common verbs and the intermediary words — prepositions and conjunctions.”

§ 161. Dr Jakobsen, speaking in his Intro. to his great Dictionary of the Shetland Norn, xx, says: “The Shetland dialect in its present form cannot without further consideration be described as Lowland Scottish, although it falls under the L.Sc. dialect-system. The main portion of it is Lowland Scottish, embracing most of the words in daily use as well as inflectional forms; but the older stratum in the language, the Norn, still makes its influence strongly felt. not only in the vocabulary, notably in the case of special words, but also in the construction of the verbs.” Among the classes of words which survived from the old language Jakobsen mentions:

(1) Nouns (more than other parts of speech those betokening something visible — with or without life.
(2) Jocular and derisive names and pet names.
(3) Words expressing anger or ill humour.
(4) Adjectives that denote differently shade differently grouped colours of domestic animals.
(5) Words relating to the weather, the wind, the sea and fishing.
(6) Words relating to the superstitions of fishermen, and especially the taboo words intended to deceive the deities of the deep.

§ 162. Scottish speech had already assumed its principal dialectal forms before 1600, when the islanders were beginning to acquire it. They heard it as the speech of the nobles and their retainers who were sent to administer the island province. There must have been diverse types of Sc. spoken by these, although no doubt the Lth. of Edb. would be regarded as the most fashionable. The Scotsmen whose settlement in the islands was encouraged by the ruling power consisted of all classes — lairds, tenants, clergymen, peasants, tradespeople. We might expect, therefore, to find divergencies in pronun ciation from any given standard, arising from the mixture of speakers, and in addition to those imposed on Sc. by the Norn speech basis. Words from many Sc. dialects might find their. way into the Ins.Sc. and survive after becoming extinct in their first home.

§ 162.1. Dr Jakobsen’s dictionary contains more than 10,000 words of Norse origin. In our Scottish National Dictionary we shall include not only genuine Sc. words adopted into the old Norn and still current, but many of the old Norn words which have found their way into the insular literature and those which are still current in everyday speech.

§ 163. If Sc. had been the only alternative to Norn, in process of time many of the anomalies would have been weeded out by social and commercial associations, but since 1872 all the children have been taught St.Eng. in the schools, and the younger generation are fast losing hold of the Scots vernacular. In the case of the older Sc. dialects, the Bretts, the Gaels, the French and Flemish had an experience of seven hundred years in the use of Sc., and a keen conviction of nationality to impress their adopted language on their consciousness. This partly accounts for the wonderful resistance of their Sc. to the destructive agencies arrayed against it. But in the case of the Insular dialect the period of effective use has been barely two hundred years, and instead of a strong national feeling to start with, there was, for a long time, a hearty dislike of the intruding Scots and their grasping ways. We need not be surprised, therefore, if, for these two reasons, apart from other considerations, Sc. should be losing its hold on the island population.

§ 164. Although the Ork. and Sh. dialects have many characters in common, they are not by any means identical. The pronunciation of the vowels in Ork. seems to be much tenser than in Sh.


§ 164.1. In Ork., O.E. ā (see § 32.1) has become ee [i], but with examples also of ai [e and ɛ] — e.g. heem, heel, leen, geen, nee, for home, whole, alone, gone, no; and baith, sae, laich, wame, for both, so, low, womb.

In Sh., O.E. ā becomes a very open sound, heard in the southern Eng. pronunciation of pair, but [ɛ] also is used — c.g. hame, bane, stane, sair, claes, baith, haerse, nae, naethin = [he̢m, be̢n, etc.], for home, bone, stone, sore, clothes, both, hoarse, no, nothing.

ee [i] nay sometimes be heard as in ae, ane, for one (adj. and pro.) [i:, in].

§ 164.2. In Ork., O.E. open a is generally ee [i] — e.g. meed, teel, neem, sheem, for made, tale, name, shame.

In Sh., O.E. open a develops into a broad e sound = southern Eng.[e̢] in fare — e.g. lame, stame, shame, sake, gate, redir, tail, snail, nail; but take, make are taek, maek and mak.

§ 164.3. al- + consonant becomes aa in both Ork. and Sh. and not [o̜] as in Central Scotland. See § 78.1.

§ 164.4. O.E. āw and ag are generally aa in Ork. and Sh. and not [o̜] as in Central Scotland — e.g. blaa, snaa, saa, for blow, snow, sow. Central Sc. [blo̜:, sno̜:, so̜:]. Marw., Intro. xli., gives this vowel [o̜] for two words of Norse origin — e.g. bawkie = a bogle, and oro = mad, and mentions (p. 228) that in N. Ronaldshay tang-tangle (seaweed), long, sang, ran, came are pronounced with the vowel [o̜].

§ 164.5. O.E. ō and Fr. u: generally ui [ø] — e.g. shui, dui(z), suirly, stuid, puir, for shoe, do, surely, stood, poor.

§ 164.6. In Ork., O.E. open e is generally [æ or e], act, spaec, haeve, for eat, speak, heave. In Sh. it tends to a broader sound in words of this class [e̢].

§ 164.7. O.E. . as in pit, fit, limpit, etc., approaches the value of e in Eng. pet [pɛt, fɛt, ˈlɛmpɪt].

§ 164.8. O.E. is generally [ɔ] not [o], sounded as o in the Sc. pronunciation of Eng. lot. With a labial it may become a as in trapl and tap for thropple and top, as in most parts of Scotland. It also sometimes takes the place of u, as anoch, onca, for enough, unca (strange), joggs for juggs.

Mod.Eng. hold, bold, cold, old are often pronounced howld, bowld, etc. [hɔuld, bɔuld, etc.]. A similar diphthong has been noted also for Cai., Black Isle and Kintyre.O.E. o before l becomes [ɔu] in Ins. speech instead of [ʌu] in most parts of Scotland — e.g. bowt, cowt [bɔut, kɔut], for bolt, colt. See § 78.2. For [ɔu] see also s.Sc. ow, § 106.

§ 164.9. O.E. ēa (see § 88) in Ork. tends towards ee = [i], while Sh. has [ɪ̜, e̢ and e], and rarely ee [i], as in head, dead, bread, death, strae.


§ 165. th [ð] v. p-t. fric. is replaced by d with tongue advanced, as blide, feader, midder, nedder, idder, dee, doo, dis, dat, wirdy, for blithe, father, mother, neither, other, the, thou, this, that, worthy.

th [þ] b. p-t. fric. becomes t with tongue advanced to teeth — e.g. eart, lent, tank, trou, trapple, wirt, for earth, length, thank, through, thrapple, worth.

th [þ] is changed into f in Thursday [ˈfø:rzdɪ̜], but t has also been heard.

qu [kw] becomes [xʍ], as in quick, queer, queen, question — hwick, hweer, hween, hwestion.[101] Cumberland, colonised by the Norse, also has this peculiar pronunciation.

ch initial [tʃ] remains in Ork., but becomes sh [ʃ] in Sh., the latter agreeing in this respect with Cai., Black Isle, and Chirnside in Bwk.

kn and gn, in words like knowe and gnaw, in older speech are still used in both Ork. and Sh.

d is used for t in hid = it only in Ork. It is in evidence after n and l, as in pund, grund, fund (found), friend, mind, and in caald, faald, aald, baald, but not thoosan’ and han’s.

wh is not replaced by f in either Ork. or Sh. unless in isolated cases through contact with Moray Firth fishermen and tradesmen. wr as in wrong, wrote, wrought[102] is pronounced [wr] or [wər].

r is a point trill in both Ork. and Sh.


§ 166. “In the year 1600 the Gaelic-speaking MacDonnells were in the Glens of Antrim and in the Route. Apart from these there were only a few Scots in Ulster. Yet it is only a little over twenty miles from Donaghadee to Portpatrick, and it is barely that distance from Ballycastle to Kintyre.

“A few years, however, altered the situation. Large numbers of Scots began to come to the northern half of the Ards Peninsula from 1606, to settle on lands granted to Montgomery and Hamilton, two Ayrshire men. By 1614 they numbered 2000 fighting men. From the Ards they soon spread through Newtownards and Comber and across the northern half of Down. From Belfast to Island Magee were the English, on land granted to Sir Arthur Chichester in 1603. There were English settlements at Lisburn, at Hillsborough, and up the Lagan Valley, stretching from Donaghcloney in Down, along the Lough shore, and up as far as Killead. The Scots were settled from Island Magee to Glenarm; they were in the West as far as Antrim town, and in the North at Ballymoney and the Route. Outside ‘The Glens’ in every Scots settlement there was the Scottish language, and by this language the Scots settlements are recognisable to this day.

“A little later than this settlement of Down and Antrim was the ‘Ulster Plantation,’ which dealt with six other counties.

“The traffic in the 17th cent. between Ulster and Scotland must have been considerable. Sir William Brereton states that in 1634 and 1635 10,000 people from between Aberdeen and Inverness passed through ‘Erwin’ on their way to Ulster. The Rev. John Livingstone of Stranraer, who had been minister of Killinchy (Down), on one occasion baptized twenty-eight children brought over from his former charge, and on another administered Communion to 500 people who had crossed to receive it (Rowe’s Life of Blair). The rebellion of 1641 slacked the tide of immigration, but to make up for this a Scots army served in Ulster for many years, and when peace came the Scots flocked across in greater numbers than before. In 1689 many fled to Scotland, to return later with a multitude of new settlers attracted oversea by the offer of favourable leases of land. The immigration continued to a certain extent in the 18th cent., particularly after 1715 and 1745. The Scots settlers were always more numerous than the English, and from 1717 till 1780 were able to spare at least 100,000 of their number to America.

“To be acquainted with the geographical position of the settlements in Ulster is to be acquainted also with the differences in the Ulster speech. In Fermanagh, Armagh and a large part of Tyrone the Scottish element in the speech of the people is much less apparent than the Irish. So also in South Down. The shoreline of Lough Neagh and the North East corner of Antrim have each distinctive dialects that are rich in Gaelic words and phrases. But in the rest of Antrim (except the extreme S.W.), in Mid-Down, North Down and the Ards, in County Derry outside the mountains, in East Donegal and in North Tyrone the Scottish language still makes a good fight for its life”[103] (W. F. Marshall, author of Ballads and Verses from Tyrone).

Antrim Scots — Paraphrase of a County Antrim Poem.

“Haleve[104] Nicht wos a guid nicht lang ago. Piles o’ tay an’ iverythin’ ye’d name, dookin’ for epples in the tub, hanchin’ for epples hingin’ frae the baak, spaein’ wi’ turnip peelin’s an’ pokin’ at nits bleezin’ roon the fire. That wos inside; ootside wos the yins sthrivin’ tae blaw tow-reek in at the kay-hole. But, man dear, there’s naethin’ o’ that noo, naethin’ ava” (W. F. Marshall).

Ulster Scots is in the main a variant of wm.Scots.

[1] References in the Introduction marked § followed by a number indicate paragraphs of this Introduction, I.

[2] 'For this and other abbreviations, see the list of SND abbreviations

[3] Mr H. Orton, B.Litt., M.A.(Oxon.), Lecturer in English, Armstrong Tollege, Newcastle-on-Tyne.

[4] Often interspersed with Scots and Gaelic words and idioms.

[5] We are indebted to the following correspondents for help in determining this Scottish line: Mr William Alexander, Aberdeen, for collating the results; Mr R. Barron, H.M.I.S., Dornoch, for information regarding the condition of Gaelic in the schools in the north of Scotland; Mr W. G. Fraser, H.M.I.S., Kilmacolm; Mr A. Millar, H.M.I.S., Crieff; Mr G. Watson, H.M.I.S., Strathpeffer, for information respecting their special districts, and to Mr D. McIntosh, Ardersier; Mr T. Hunter, Grantown-on-Spey; Mr J. Scott, Nethybridge; Mr E. Roberts, Kingussie; Mr W. A. Fraser, Tomintoul; Miss Farquharson, Ballintuim; Mr A. McLeab, Ballibluig; Mr Downie, Campbeltown, who speak for their own schools. Mr McInnes, Campbeltown; the Rev. W. S. Allan, Callander; Mr Mackay, Shebster, and the Rev. D. Beaton, Wick, have also helped us with details about the boundary line.

[6] ˈʍili, ˈwiti, ˈwəili.

[7] ˈbɔdi, ˈbo:zi.

[8] ˈdaftləik or -lɪ̜k, ˈwo̜krəif or -rɪ̜f.

[9] ˈanwəl, ˈak(t)wəl.

[10] ˈwe:fə.

[11] ˈdunwərt, ˈakərt, əˈfidlərt, ˈfɔrɪt.

[12] A syllable is said to be closed or close when it ends with a consonant, as fat, harvest. It is open when it ends with a vowel, as la = dy, low.

[13] Culled from a modern Sc. magazine.

[14] Waddell’s Isaiah lxv. 19. This word has been severelyy dealt with in its passage down the ages. Its doublet nolt received an l because of its resemblance in sound to words like bowt and cowt which were originally spelled and pronounced with an l, bolt, colt.

[15] O.E., as early as the 8th cent., appears in four dialects (1) West Saxon, (2) Kentish, (3) Mercian, (4) Northern English. From the third of these is descended St.Eng., and from the fourth, Sc. speech. The first — West Saxon — has come down to us in a fairly complete form, through a very extensive literature, and it has been written with a wonderful degree of phonetic accuracy. When the northern Eng. form of a word is not recorded, recourse will be had to West Saxon or to the other dialects.

[16] kyθ, lyf + luf, rø:z + ru:z, ˈfo:rzdɪ̜.

[17] bryt, fryt, jys, tyn, skyl, pø:r, mø:v rəˈf)j)o:z, jo:z, ʃø:r.

[18] bun, ku:r, drup, strup.

[19] əˈlu:, ˈbuət, kunt, dut, gun, ˈpudər + ˈpuðər, run(d).

[20] best, tʃet, krem, ˈkretər, dɪˈset, e:z, ple:z, ˈre:zən, ˈse:zən.

[21] wəis, wəit, bəid, kaɪ, haɪv, faɪər + əijər.

[22] grəis, səil (bis), təik, ləiþ + laɪð, təin.

[23] ədˈvəis, fəin, kraɪ, ˈsəibo + ˈsaɪbo: ˈitəm, ˈliʃəns, əˈblidʒ, ˈlibrəl.

[24] ɪˈniux, əˈnjux, əˈnjʌx; tɪux, tjux, tjʌx; dɪu:, dju:; fiu:, fju:.

[25] myn, spyn, gyd.

[26] mm, spɪn, gɪd.

[27] dø:, ʃø:, mø:r, flø:r.

[28] de:, ʃe:, me:r, fle:r.

[29] əˈn(j)ʌx, t(j)ʌx

[30] əˈnjux, tjux.

[31] þəiŋk or þeiŋk.

[32] bəig, əig, ləig, or beig, etc.

[33] (a) klen, del, etc.; (b) klin, dil, etc.

[34] (a) bred, tʃep, etc.; (b) brid, tʃip, etc.

[35] (a) be:r, swe:r, etc.; (b) bi:r, swi:r,etc.

[36] ˈlɛdĕ, ˈlo̜:dĕ, ˈwidĕ, ˈkerfĕ, ˈkanĕ, dɛnĕ.

[37] hiz wil fri od.

[38] si: tʌld.

[39] ˈneþɪŋ ɛls ford.

[40] laf, ɪˈnʌf, ˈdautər.

[41] sʌm, kʌm.

[42] sum, kum.

[43] stɪən.

[44] mɪn, gɪd, de:, ʃe:, me:r, pe:r, tjʌx, ɪˈnjʌx.

[45] ˈbʌdɪ̜, ˈpʌrɪtʃ, ˈbʌn t, ˈrʌbərt, ˈmʌnə, ˈmʌnɪ̜, ˈstʌmɪk, ˈfʌrən.

[46] ˈwaʔər, ˈbʌʔər, kaʔ, raʔ.

[47] bju:, pju:, jeks.

[48] ˈpʌrɪtʃ, ˈbʌnɪt, ˈbʌnɪk.

[49] ˈkanə, ˈarnə, ˈwɪ̜nə.

[50] tʃuzdɪ̜, tʃun, tʃʌx, dʒu:, dʒʌk.

[51] Ayr and Kintyre: əˈnjʌx, çjʌk, tʃʌx. Lothian: əˈnjux, çjuk, tjux.

[52] hut wʌz ɪ̜t lek (hut lek wʌst)

[53] i e tun, i e ˈmɔrnm, raŋ i hid, i bak i dəik (dek). Cf. a similar contraction in Per., w.Ags. and Cai.

[54] blɪət, bɪəþ, brɪəd, klɪəz, etc.

[55] mɪəd, spɪəd, sɪəl (but sail is se:l), etc.

[56] hel, nel, tel.

[57] je:, jɪ̜n, jɪ̜k, jɪ̜kər, jɪ̜l, jɪ̜ns, jɪ̜ts, hjɪ̜m, hjɪ̜rʃ, hjɪ̜l.

[58] See Gr. of Dial. of Lorton (Cum.), by Brilioth; of Kendat (Westmorland), by Hirst; The Dial. of Hackness (e.Yks.), by Cowling; Der Dialekt von Stokesley (n.,Yks.), by Klein (Palaestra, 124).

[59] jɪəs or jɪ̜s, fɪəs, ˈmɪəsn, plɪəs, ˈskɪəli, jɪ̜bl, tɪəbl, sɪərtʃ, tɪərm.

[60] ʃe:, de:, te:, me:r, fle:r, je:z.

[61] brʌu, kʌu, dʌu, dʌu, lʌu, nʌu, fʌu, pʌu, sʌu, əˈlʌu, þrʌu, jʌu.

[62]tʃuəzn, kuəl, ˈkuəlɪər, fuəl, fruə, nuəz, þruət.

[63] kuərn, huərn, fuək, puəl (as in puəlðə hid = crop the hair), puək.

[64] bɔu, lɔu, pɔu, hɔu, grɔu.

[65] ˈbɔustər, ˈbɔuwəl, kɔut, mɔu, stɔun, etc.

[66] jɔu, ɔuwər, ˈɔurəm, ɔu, fərˈhɔu, ə ˈnɔu, gr,ɔu, f,ɔuwɪ̜r, tʃɔuk.

[67] bəig, pəig, rəig, rəiŋ, kəiŋ (Rxb1.).

[68] Also [dɪˈɛl],

[69] ˈspeŋi, ˈmeŋi, lɪŋl, ˈfɪŋən, ˈsɪŋɪfi.

[70] saux, kɔux, trɔux.

[71] bɔuxt + bɔut, sɔuxt + sɔut, ˈdɔuxtər + ˈdɔutər, fɔuxt + fɔut.

[72] ˈrʌnən, ˈrʌnin.

[73] eiz ˈtʃapən ət ðə dø:r.

[74] i leiks ˈtʃapin ət ðə dø:r.

[75] Compiled by Dr J. C. Smith, H.M.C.I.S., and checked by Sir William Craigie, University of Chicago, and Dr Soutar, University College, Dundee, all natives of the district.

[76] gʌd, gjʌd, gwid.

[77] mø:r, flʌr, pø:r, skjol, ʃø:r.

[78] i hed o i tun, i hed i tun, glʌuər i møn an, fa: i mɪ̜dn.

[79] tʃəin, kɔnˈvəi, kwəit, ˈdəikɔn, wəit, rəinz.

[80] bjuk, çjuk or hjuk, ɪˈnjux, tjux.

[81] djʌu, fjʌu, hjʌu, njʌu; ˈbjʌutɪ, ˈdjʌutɪ,mjʌu, ˈpjʌutm.

[82] The first element in the diphthong is a vowel like [ʌ] in but with slight lip rounding.

[83] In Montrose (Ags.1) this pronunciation has survived = [kɔɪn].

[84] reidz, breid; ˈleidm, ˈfeidɪr, steid, steil; leig, eidʒ, eig, seig, ein, bein, sein, leinþ, streinþ.

[85] fat, fʌsl, ˈfʌskɪ̜,ˈfəili.

[86] See E.E.P., V., p. 777, Notes aud Phrases (2).

[87] am ˈdʒa:m tə dʒɪŋəˈwa hem.

[88] fju:rd, mju:r, pju:r, etc.

[89] kleiz, keim, eirs, eim, teiŋz, eil, weim, əˈlein, bein, eins, etc.

[90] keil, skeir.

[91] greiþ, ein.

[92] eir, eist, ʃeip, etc.

[93] ˈeirən, leid, sweit.

[94] eit, eivn, etc.

[95] ʃein, ʃeir, etc.

[96] kɹ̣i:, kɹ̣əif.

[97] ˈʃili, ʃaɪz, ʃeit, ʃe

[98] Used in speaking of the weather.

[99] Bereland — i.e. barley land.

[100] People.

[101] xʍɪk, xʍi:r, xʍin, ˈxʍɛstʃən.

[102] wræŋ, wəræŋ, wəraŋ; wərɔt, wərɔut.

[103] Authorities. — Montgomery MSS. Hill, The Plantation of U lster U lster Journal of Archæology, 1st Series, several articles. Woodburn, The Ulster Scot. Colles, History of Ulster.

[104] Halloween.

Grant, William (1931) ‘Phonetic Description of Scottish Language and Dialects’ in the Scottish National Dictionary vol. I, ix-xli. Online