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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1965 (SND Vol. VI).
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

N, 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.), 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, s.v. Chainzie, 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 n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 23 Jun 2024 <>



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