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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

L, n., letter of alphabet. The twelfth letter of the alphabet, called el [ɛl] (Bnff. 1836 Ellis E.E.P. (1889) V. 777), representing mainly the voiced point-back lateral sound in which the back of the tongue is slightly raised, the “dark” l, which is now widespread in Sc. usage. In some dialects, however, the back of the tongue is not raised, thus giving the “clear” l, in gen. use in all positions in Rs., s.Ayr. and Wgt., and common initially, after front vowels and labial and dental consonants in I. and s.Sc. and among speakers with Gaelic contacts, and prob. in earlier times universal. In orig. l represents O.E., O.N., O.Fr. l, O.E., O.N. hl-. It is sometines written initially as Ll- instead of l-. 

1. In Sc. (dark) l was vocalised after an orig. short back vowel: (1) when final, as A', Ba', Ca', Ha, Wa, Fou, Pou. Where alternative forms with -ll remain, as Bull, Full, Pull [bʌl, fʌl, pʌl], these are due to disyllabic forms in the original paradigms where l(l) became intervocalic. See note to Full; (2) before another consonant, except in the combination -ald. In either case the preceding vowel was altered, by lengthening in the case of a and u to n. and sm.Sc. [ɑ:], e. and wm.Sc. [:], s.Sc. [ɒ:], and [u:] ([ʌu] when final in s.Sc.), and by diphthongisation in the case of o to [ʌu], the changes being reflected in the spelling by the addition of u or otherwise. Hence Fa, faa, faw; Bauk, n.1 and v.1, baak, bawk; Bauk, n.2 and v.2, baak; Cauk, n., v.1, cawk, kaak; wauk s.v. Waulk (shrink); Fauch, Sauch, maat, Maut; saat, Saut; Fause, Hause, hawse; Dwaum; Bouk, bowk; Coom; Oo, woo; Bowster; Cowk; Fowk (folk); Howk; Howm; Gowd; Gowf; How; Knowe; Pow, n.1, v.; Pow, n.2; Row; Gowan; Powan; Bowt; Cowt; Shouther. In Sud (O.Sc. suld, O.E. sceolde) the vowel has been shortened in the usu. unstressed position of the word. (3) In the combination -ald, the l is normally retained, as in Auld, Baul(d), adj., Bauld, adv., Bauld, v., Cauld, sauld (Sell), tauld (Tell). But, mainly owing to lack of stress, l disappears in Haud, q.v., faud (Fauld), Wad ( < wald), though doublet forms with l retained are also found, as hauld, Fauld. In certain dialects final d is assimilated to a preceding l and disappears. See D, letter of alphabet, 2. l also disappears from lack of stress in sanna < Sall, winna < Will;

2. The palatal l [ʎ], or voiced front lateral, which was appar. at one time general in Sc. in words of Fr. (l mouillé) and Gael. origin, after O.Fr. ai, ei, oi and Gael. mutated vowels, and was written variously as , lz (cf. O.Sc. bailȝe, taillȝeour), survives in the spelling of proper names as Dalziel, Drummelzier, Colzium, Culzean, but has disappeared in pronunciation, leaving: (1) in s.Sc., a clear l as in bailie [′bəili], teyler [′təilər]. See P.L.D. § 108; (2) in ne.Sc., the sound ly [lj], now nearly obs. (cf. Failyie, Fulyie, Scailie, Spulyie, Tulyie, Ulyie from Fr., Capercaillie from Gael.). The palatal l still heard in I.Sc. is a survival from Norw. Cf.N, letter of alphabet;

3. Where a palatal glide developed after l, as before [u:] < orig. -ōȝ, -ōh, -eu, -ew, and in ne.Sc. also before orig. ā, l may disappear, esp. in em.Sc.(a) (cf. Fif. 1845 Stat. Acc.2 IX. 42), as in byoo (Blue), pyoo (Ploo), fyeuk (Fleuk), yeuk (Leuk); ne.Sc. yaag < lyaag, Laig. See P.L.D. § 141.1.;

4. l appears irreg. in Chimley, nolt s.v. Nowt (by the reverse process of 1.) and interchanges with r in Beelan, Beeran; Channel, n.1, Channer, n.1; Glamour, Grammar; Gleesh, Greesh, n.1; Grosel, Groser; and with n in lingen, Lingel; Trowan;

5. l suffers metathesis with d in ne.Sc. Feedle, wardle, Warld; with m in Whommle; and with r in bedlar, bedral, Beddal;

6. l final after a consonant is gen. less distinctly syllabic than in Eng., i.e. [əl, ʌl] as well as [].

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"L n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 16 Jul 2024 <>



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