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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1956 (SND Vol. IV). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

H, n., letter of the alphabet. The eighth letter of the alphabet, called aitch [etʃ] or itch [ɪtʃ, †itʃ] (Sc. c.1775 Signet Lib. MS. 69; Ayr. 1792 Poets Ayr. (Macintosh) 313; Bnff. 1836 Ellis E.E.P. (1889) V. 777), and representing the breathed glottal fricative sound, somewhat more forcibly pronounced than Eng. h. It has gen. speaking the same orig. as Eng. h, viz. O.E. (initial), O.N., O.Fr., Lat. h.

1. h appears and is pronounced [h] initially before all vowels except (1) in the pronouns he, him, his, her(s), and in parts of the verb Hae, q.v., when these are in unstressed position. Cf. similarly Eng. 'im, 'er, etc.; (2) in many words of Romance orig., where the usage now gen. follows that of Eng. Older speakers are still heard to say 'erbs, 'ospital, pronunciations now also obsol. in Eng.; (3) in certain fisher dialects of the East Coast where h is omitted and sometimes also wrongly inserted, as in Cockney dialect, e.g. in Avoch and Cromarty (see P.L.D. § 154.1), Bnff. and Bch. (Ellis E.E.P. V. 777, now obs.), Abd. (Footdee in 1878 Trans. Nat. Hist. Soc. Abd. 93, now obsol.), Kcd. (a.1823 Fraser Papers (S.H.S.) 55, nearly obs.), Ags. (1819 G. Beattie Poems (1882) 237, now obs.), Fif. (1779 D. Graham Writings (1883) II. 219, now obs.), Bwk. (almost obs.) and occas. in Sh. For exx. see Ebit, Hankle, n.2, Hansper, Heelack, Heesins, Hermel, Hile, and cf. P.L.D. §§ 72, 140, 150.

2. h sounds as (1) [ç] before the semivowel [j] and as (2) [x or h] before the semivowel [w, ʍ] which develop in various dialects before or out of Mid.Eng. ā, ō and are written as (i) y, ye, yi, e; and j (Sh.); (ii) wh (see W), hw, e.g. h(y)euk (Huik), Heuch, hy(e)ow (How). Cf. P.L.D. § 74; s.Sc. hyit (Haet), hyem (Hame), hyirse (Hairse), ‡hwup (Hope), ‡hwol (Hole), hwust (Hoast). Hy, hj has occas. resulted in [ʃ] as in shuch < Huik, Shetland < Hjaltland, Shuimit < Norw. hjelmutt. This same feature occurs in n.Eng. dials. and is prob. of Scand. orig. (see E. Dieth in Eng. Studies XXXVI. 5). h also occasionally develops before an initial [j] as in Heuk, n.2, v.2

3. h fuses with various plosives to produce affricates, gen. written as digraphs, ch, gh, ph, †quh, th; also sh, †sch, for which see notes to the initial letter of each.

4. h is retained in Hit (O.E. hit), it, when in emphatic position and appears, prob. on the analogy of this, in hiz, huz, emphatic forms of us (but cf. also Mid.Eng. hus).

5. h, medially and finally, is written ch, ‡gh, and is sounded [ç] before and after front vowels, [x] before and after back vowels and consonants. See under C and G. O.E. final h is retained, as a front or back fricative, unlike Eng., as in Flech, Heich, Lauch, Rouch, Sauch, Teuch.

6. Occasionally h appears: (1) in Sh. as an alternative for k before n, e.g. hnab, hnepp, hniff, hnit for Knap, Knep, Kneef, Knit, and as a result of or on analogy with sound-changes in Norw., as in Himps, Kims; hjalpinsten, Kilpinsten (for Sh. kwite (white), wheer (queer), etc., see W); (2) esp. in s.Sc., replacing wh before orig. ō, as in Horl, Huizle, v.1 Cf. 2. (2) (ii). For the converse process, see W; (3) for th- before r as in hrae, see Thrae, from, hree, three, hreep, Threap, hru, Throu, etc. This is esp. common in s.Sc. (see Watson W.-B. § 29, Zai 22) but occurs elsewhere usu. as an idiosyncrasy.

For comb. fickle H's, see Fickle.

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"H n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 24 Jul 2024 <>



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