Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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R, letter of the alphabet. The eighteenth letter of the alphabet, now gen. called ar [ar] as in Eng., but formerly er(r) [ɛr] (Sc. c.1775 Signet Lib. MS. 85; Ags. c.1825 D. H. Edwards Men & Manners (1920) 216; Bnff. 1836 Ellis E.E.P. V. 777; Ork. 1922 J. Firth Reminisc. 133; Sh. 1948 P. Jamieson Letters 248), airr [er] (ne.Sc. 1874 W. Gregor Olden Time 39). In Sc. this is the voiced point sound, markedly trilled in all positions, unlike Eng., where it is sounded as a fricative [ɹ] before vowels and disappears entirely before another consonant or finally. This [ɹ] sound is often substituted for [r] in all positions in anglicising speech. [r] tends to be lengthened in stressed position. In Highland areas, esp. in Cai., Rs., Inv. and Nai., [ɹ] has become retroflexed regularly to []. Another form of r, the breathed point trill [], has developed in m. and s.Sc. out of thr- as in Thrae (= Frae), three, throat, through [e, i, ot, u]. See A. Somerville Autobiog. Working Man (1848) passim, who spells it rh- (see Rhae). The uvular r or burr [R] is not found except as a speech idiosyncrasy. For the above see P.L.D. § 80. In Sc.:

1. r freq. suffers metathesis, esp. in certain consonant clusters, e.g. Birse, n.1, n.2, Girse, Turse; Brast, Thrist (Thirst), Girsle, Warsle, Kirsten; girt (Great), Scart, v., Wrat, Girdle; Brecham, Broch, n.1, Brod, n.1, Crub, n.1, Crud, Dredgie, Hunder; Girn, v.1; Skirl, Thirl, v.2, Yorlin;

2. r appears intrusively in Carsackie, Sprigot, Thrissel, prob. due to analogy; and in Dorb, n.1, v., Gorb; Hirple, Hirtch, Hurb; Carble, Garble; Firple, Firsle, Jirble, Purfle, Sirple, Troddle, where it provides a variant form with freq. or intensive force, of the simple form without r, Dob, etc.;

3. r disappears, esp. before s, in fist (First), hoss (Horse), puss (Purse), haist (Hairst), a feature of Mry. and Upper Bnff. (See P.L.D. § 143), also in hissel (Hirsel, n.1), hist (Hirst), Trevis; before -t, in Ersit, Forrit, Wurchet; and from lack of stress in fae (Frae); paitrick (Pairtrick) is phs. due to analogy with Patrick;

4. r is substituted for l, e.g. in Cleesh, Frail, n.2, Ramper, Runk, v.1, Sperticle (see also L, letter, 4.); for d in Scarrow; for t in Parritch; for n in kree, krife, krit, krock, krowe, for knee, etc. in Rs. under the influence of Gaelic where cn- is sounded [Kr-]. See P.L.D. § 153. For l, n for r, see L, and N, letters.

5. The proximity of r final after the long vowels, except a, and diphthongs, and in the collocations -rl-, -rm-, -rn, shr-, freq. produces a glide or svarabhakti vowel [ə, ʌ, ɪ] as in Sair [′se:ər], Spier [′spi:ər], fire [′fɑeər], Farl [′fɑrəl], Airm [′erəm], warm [′wɑrəm], Bairn [′berən], worn [′worən], shrew [ʃə′ru] (cf. Rushyroo), etc. See M.M.S. § 69, Dieth Bch. Dial. § 82, Zai Dial. Morebattle § 229, Wettstein Bwk. Dial. § 59; orig. a between rt occas. > o. Hence protty (Pretty), rot (Ratt), rottan (Ratton); and e between rk, -s > a, as in rack, Reck, Rackless, Rackon, Brak; Rash, n.1 For the occurrence of this feature in Eng. see Luick Hist. Gramm. § 541 n.3 Cf. also Dan., Du. rotte, rat, etc.

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"R ". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jul 2018 <>



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