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A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (up to 1700)

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First published 1963 (DOST Vol. III).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

J. Note on the letter.In Older Scottish MSS. and printed texts the modern letter j, originally merely a final form of i, is unknown before the end of the 16th c., except finally in Latin forms like Maij (the month) or the numerals ij, vij, xij, etc. In the printed texts in roman types a variant form of capital I is often found having a tail extending below the line, but the two forms of the capital were not differentiated in use before the 17th c. Thus in Older Scots, as in English (and other European vernaculars), the modern vowel ‘i’ and consonant ‘j’ were at first normally represented by one and the same letter i, initially often written as the capital I, as Ia (the bird), Iuge also iudgment, iniust, InIust, inIust, and in, ilk, idill, ingyne, inimy, also Idill, Ingyne, Inimy.The differentiation of i and j as separate symbols for the vowel and the consonant is apparently first to be found in Scotland in the prints of Robert Waldegrave, the English printer, 1590–, such as the True Reportarie of the Baptisme of Prince Henry (c 1595) and Skene's Acts (1597). In these, however, the letter j is still fairly infrequent, and the older method of representing consonant ‘j’ with i, I predominates. 17th century printed works mostly follow the same practice or, in some cases, something more exactly corresponding to modern usage. An early example of a manuscript text which uses j is Alexander Hume's Orthographie (see J, the name of the letter), but in many manuscript texts the older use of only i, I continues throughout the 17th c. (For an account of this question, more especially as regards English usage, see s.v. J in the OED., and R. B. McKerrow's The Letters i, j, u and v in Sixteenth Century Printing in The Library, 3rd Ser., I. 239–59, and, more briefiy, in his An Introduction to Bibliography (1928), 310–312).The treatment of these practices by modern editors varies. But many editors of Older Scottish texts wholly or partly normalize to modern practice, some differentiating i, I of their originals as modern i and j, I and J, others differentiating only the minuscule letters and retaining capital I for both vowel ‘i’ and consonant ‘j’, when in modern usage these are capitals.Since the majority of our quotations come from modern editions and it is obviously impossible to verify the readings of each original manuscript or print, in this Dictionary we follow many of the editors in normalizing old I as i or j according to modern practice. For the sake of consistency and to save having to verify large numbers of quotations from not easily accessible texts, in reading from original manuscripts and prints (and from modern diplomatic editions), we have also adopted normalized spellings according to the same rules. But where the original or the modern edition has lower case i representing modern ‘j’, this has usually been retained. Finally, in late 16th c. and 17th c. texts in which the modern practice is already established, this is of course followed also in our quotations. As in other parts of the Dictionary, the capitals (initially in proper names, at the beginnings of sentences and of lines of verse) are editorial and do not necessarily represent capital letters in the original; in such cases I or i of the original are rendered I or J according to the modern rules.

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"J n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 20 Jun 2024 <>



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