Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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E, letter of alphabet. The fifth letter of the alphabet, now pronounced ee, ‡s.Sc. ei [i:, ‡əi] though originally [e:] (see e.g. Bnff. 1836 in Ellis E.E.P. V. 777). In Sc., e has for the most part the same uses and values as e in Eng., varying in sound, when accented, from mid front lax to high front tense and to mid mixed, when unaccented:

1. (1) Final and no longer pronounced, it represents generally an inflectional ending, and, by frequently producing an open syllable, affects the quality or quantity of the preceding vowel, e.g. ban, bane; her, here; rip, rype; dun, dune.

(2) (a) In an accented open syllable followed by a mute e, e has the sound [i:] as in Eng., e.g. bene, bere, dede, eme, fere, tene, but is frequently shortened with change of quality, esp. in em.Sc.(a).

(b) In unaccented syllables, the sound of e is reduced and can be represented in a broad transcription by [ə] but there is a tendency in Sc. to retain a slight trace of the original quality of the vowel somewhere in the range between [ɛ] and [ɪ], e.g. begunk, deval, oxter. As a result, e is occasionally written for the historical i in the ending -it of the pa.t. and pa.p. of weak verbs, e.g. cracket.

(3) When the vowel is short, and the syllable is closed, it usually has the sound [ɛ], e.g. fecht, seck, with variants [æ], esp. in s.Sc., e.g. bed, leg, [], in em.Sc.(a), e.g. ken, gless, fell (see P.L.D. p. xliii.), except before r, where it tends to [e], this sound sometimes being represented by ai, e.g. merchant, mair-; sair, ser (serve). See A, II. 2.; em.Sc.(a) retains [] in this case. This sound is found corresponding to Eng. [ɑ:] in such words as clerk, hert, sergeant.

2. e appears in combination with another vowel to indicate a diphthong: (1) ei, ey [ei, əi], e.g. fey, gey, pey; eident, gleid, and, in s.Sc., key, mei (me); (2) ie, ye [ɑe], usually in words common to Sc. and Eng., e.g. lie, pie, cried; also fye (ne.Sc. form of whey), kye.

3. e is found in various vowel digraphs: (1) ae: (i) [e: Gen.Sc., but e1: em.Sc.(a)], representing usually O.E. and O.N. ā in final syllables, e.g. blae, frae, strae, faem; (ii) [e] representing an unrounding of [ø] from O.E. ō in final syllables, now prevalent in m.Sc., e.g. dae, shae; (iii) esp. in I.Sc. representing the sound [æ] of various origin, e.g. aet, daek, fael;

(2) ea [now mostly [i:] but, in Sh., mn.Sc. (b) and em.Sc. (a) and prob. Gen.Sc. in 18th cent., [e:], and in Ags., in certain words, often in association with a front consonant, [e1:], e.g. beat, deaf, death. See P.L.D. §§ 41, 42, 88 (3), 118.1, 120, 121, 142]. This spelling, alternating with the less frequent ai, represents mostly, as in Eng., O.E. , ēa, ē, e in open syllables, e.g. ream, quean, swear, tear, threap;

(3) ee [i:], often as a variant spelling for (4) or (6) below, e.g. cleek, deel, dreech, een, pree, commonly in n.Sc. for the sound corresponding to [ø, y] in the other Sc. dialects, i.e. from O.E. ā before n; O.E. ō and Fr. u (m. and nn.Sc. only), e.g. speen, fleer, g(w)eed; peer, eese (see P.L.D. §§ 118, 121, 128, 146, 157); in Ork. for O.E., ā, e.g. heem, nee (see P.L.D. § 164.1); and in Gen.Sc. for Romance [i], e.g. eemage, feenish, leeshance, obteen, peety. See P.L.D. § 45;

(4) ei [i:], from O.E. (Anglian ē), ēa, ēo, ē in open syllables; Gen.Sc. except for conditions under 3 (2), e.g. breid, deid, deil, dreich, eik, eild, ein (eyes), heid, reid;

(5) eo, eu, where e represents the semivowel [j], e.g. deuk, leuch. eo appears in I.Sc. words derived from O.N., e.g. geo, skeo. eu derives mainly from O.E. ō, esp. before -k, -ch, e.g. beuk, eneuch, heuk, teuch, varying in pronunciation from [ju, jʌ] to [ø] according to dialect (see P.L.D. §§ 35.6, 86, 93.1, 96.1, 100.1, 121) and alternating with the spelling ui to represent [ø];

(6) ie, occurring (i) as a variant spelling of ea, ee or ei, e.g. bield, ‡diel, ‡flie (fly, n.), driech, shieling; corresponding frequently to O.E. ēo, e.g. fien(t), frien(d); (ii) finally, as a dim. or hypocoristic ending, e.g. Jockie, lassie, lintie; (iii) finally, as an adj. ending, corresponding to Eng. -y, e.g. bonnie, couthie, pawkie; the pronunciation of (ii) and (iii) varying from [i] to [e] in different areas and different conditions according to the preceding vowel and consonant;

(7) oe, usually only in final syllables of various origin, e.g. loe (love), joe (alternating with jo).

4. Phonologically, e [e, , ɛ] develops from an original a in a closed syllable before r + cons., s + cons., and some other conss., prob. by the process of lengthening to ā and thence by fronting to ai, e. See P.L.D. §§ 32, 33, 48.1; e.g. erles, erm, herm, Merch, mercat, sherp; festen, Glesca, hesp, mester; efter, epple, gether, peth. The spelling e alternates with ai in many cases, as in 3 (2). It is probable that this change was universal in earlier Sc. but has since been modified under the influence of St.Eng.

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"E ". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 20 Mar 2018 <>



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