Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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N, letter of the alphabet. The fourteenth letter of the alphabet, called en(n), ainn [ɛn] (Sc. 1761 Magopico (1810) 1; Bnff. 1836 Ellis E.E.P. V. 777, 1874 W. Gregor Olden Time 39), and representing the voiced point nasal sound, freq. occurring with syllabic value after d and t [dn, tn] and fricatives [xn, ðn, zn, vn] in unstressed positions (cf. M), though the degree to which this operates varies in different dialects, being less pronounced in n.Sc. (see e.g. Dieth Bch. Dial. 93). A more dental n, voiced teeth nasal, is common in I.Sc., as a survival from Norw. Cf. L, 2. In Sc.:

1. Initial n is freq. palatalised to ny- [nj] , esp. before a, in I. and n.Sc. as nyakit, Nakit, nyarg, Narg, nyarr, Narr, nyatter, Natter, nyawn, Nawn, nyurr, Nurr, Nyaff. This has led occas. to the dropping of the n as in Yave ( < nave), Yatter ( < Natter), or to its development unetymologically, Nyarm < Yarm, nyuckie from Yeuk;

2. By a wrong division of the syllable when a word ending in a vowel or n precedes a word beginning with n or a vowel, esp. involving collocations with the indefinite article, the prep. in or the possessive pron. mine, n is sometimes lost as in Ether, n.2, ile, Nile, Osel, imsch, Nimsh or is accreted as in Nain, Nettercap, Nettle-Earnest. Cf. Eng. apron, orange, nickname;

3. Final n is dropped: from the preps. In and On when unstressed (see I, prep., O, prep.2), hence also Astid; from Kill, n.1 and Mill, though retained in the spellings kiln and Milne, the surname; Orpie; and in the comb. Mertimass, Martinmass;

4. n is assimilated to m before a labial consonant in gamfer, Ganfer, Pumphel, Toomal, q.v. Cf. also the place-names Banff, Dumbarton, pronounced [bɑmf, dʌm′bɑrtən]. Dunbar as a place-name is now usually [dʌn′bɑr] but, as a surname, freq. [dʌm′bahr];

5. For n in gn-, kn-, -nd see G, 4., K, 3. and 4., D, 2. In the first two cases where g and k have ceased to be sounded, variant spellings with initial n- are found, as in Nap, v.1, Gnap, v., Knap, v.4; Nirl, gnirl, Knirl; nackie, Knackie; nidge, Gnidge, Knidge; noose, Knuse, etc.;

6. n appears irreg. for l in lingen, Lingel, Trowan; for r in bountree, Bourtree, Garten; excrescently in Ballant, meenint, Minute, phs. also in Minnon, q.v., Sinnen; for m in suntin, something (Sh.); and in certain collocations with -na to avoid hiatus, esp. in ne.Sc., as in mithnin he, wunnin ye, amnin aw, wasnin't (Abd. 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb x., xi., xxi., xl.);

7. n appears as the voiced back nasal [ŋ] in the collocation ng, in which the [g] is never sounded in Sc. Hence anger, angle, finger, hunger, single are [′ɑŋər, ′ɑŋəl, ′fɪŋər, ′hʌŋri, ′sɪŋəl]. See P.L.D. § 79. This [ŋ] has been replaced by [n] in Lenth, Strenth as in 18th c. Eng. and in the ending -ing, most commonly in the vbl.n. This coalesced with the -n ( < -nd) in the pres. ppl. and the orig. distinction between these has now been obliterated except in I.Sc., Cai. and s.Sc. where the -ing of the vbl.n., etc. ends in [-in] and the ppl. in [-ɪn, -ən]. But there is evidence that this distinction was formerly more gen., for which the last syllable in e.g. Emmerteen, q.v., may provide evidence. See -In(g), suff., 1. and P.L.D. § 158. In good Sc. something and naething have regularly [ŋ] though there is a growing tendency to reduce this to [n], esp. in m.Sc. [n] is regular in I.Sc. [′sʌntɪn, ′netɪn];

8. Palatal n, the voiced front nasal [ɲ] or n mouillé, occurring gen. in words of Fr. orig. spelt -gn-, appears as ng, ny or in O.Sc., the last becoming confused in early printing usage with -nz- and surviving in the spellings †Chainzie, †Cunzie, feinzie, Feingie, Gaberlunzie, and in the personal names Benzie, Mackenzie, q.v., Menzies, where [nz] is now commonly heard. In mod. Sc. this was represented by [nj] or [ŋj] now simplified to [ŋ], e.g. Aippleringie, Chinny (Suppl.), Feingie, Ingan, Lingel, n.1 Menyie, Pingan, Pleengie, Ring, v.2, Scaignie, Spaingie. See P.L.D. § 110 and cf. L, 2. Otherwise the sound is now represented by n as in Eng., e.g. Cheen, Compleen, rein. ng [ŋ] and ny [nj] interchange in Lnk. and Cld. in Cangle, Canyel, and Danyel, v.2, to dangle.

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"N ". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 21 Jun 2018 <>



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