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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.

F, n., letter of alphabet. The sixth letter of the alphabet, called eff [ɛf], or [†fɛf] in Sh, and sometimes written ph, esp. in the 18th cent., e.g. pheer, philibeg. Cf. 2. below. In Sc., f has more or less the same phonetic value as in Mod.Eng., being defined as a breathed lip-teeth fricatile, but the articulation tends to be weaker. Whether f < wh (see 7.) was at one time a bilabial sound, is uncertain.

Sc. usages:

1. f appears for th: in Fuirsday, Thursday, Gen.Sc., obsol.; in certain words, esp. initially, in s.Sc., e.g., Fain, Fearn, Feet; Frock (also in ne.Sc.); Frunter; liff, s.v. Lith; and in Cai., where, e.g., thresh, Meeth, are pronounced [frɛʃ, mi:f]. Conversely, f becomes th in Thrae, = Frae, in s.Sc. and Bwk.

2. f, sometimes written ph, appears as a Variant of Eng. p in grumf(-ph), humf(-ph), trumf(-ph). Gen.Sc.

3. f appears for Eng. v in shuffel, shovel. Nephew is pronounced with [f]. Both Gen.Sc.

4. f has become voiced as v under the same conditions, e.g. in inflected forms, as Eng., and has very frequently disappeared, as the result of later vocalisation, etc. as in gie, hae, lo'e, ower. See under v. Formerly in North.Mid.Eng. and O.Sc. f final remained because of the early loss of inflection (O.Sc. gif, haif, etc.). Survivals occur in Mod.Sc. in Graff, graif, grave, and Giff-gaff, and in the plurals of such words as calf, half, knife, leaf, sheaf, wife, where the f has been carried over from the sing. This feature is Gen.Sc. but obsol. Conversely in certain areas in s.Sc. f is voiced to v in a few words, e.g. caff, chaff [kɑ:v], staff [stɑ:v], sheaf [ʃi:v].

5. f final in an unstressed syllable disappears in Hizzie (cf. Eng. hussy), Shirra, sheriff. Gen.Sc.

6. f tends to be palatalised in I., n. and mn.Sc., and hence the spellings fy- (fj-), as in fyack, fyauch, fyarm, fyunk.

7. f appears for wh in n.Sc. generally (exc. Rs.) in the relative prons. and advs. Fa, Fan, Far, Fat, etc., and in mn. and nn.Sc. in most words beginning with wh-, e.g. faal, fite, fommle, fup, fussle, fuskie, futtle, fye, etc. Many exx. of this change are now obsol. See P.L.D. §§ 122, 134. This change has been suggested to be due to Celtic influence, a view strongly opposed by Dieth Buchan Dial. pp. 120–1. The data are still insufficient to decide the point. f in Foo, how, q.v., is to be explained on the analogy of this change.

8. f appears for v in representations of Highland speech, Celtic speakers having a tendency to unvoice voiced sounds in Sc. and Eng., cf. Dougal Graham's Writings, Scott's Rob Roy, etc.

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



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