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Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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First published 1960 (SND Vol. V). Includes material from the 1976 supplement.
This entry has not been updated since then but may contain minor corrections and revisions.

K, n., letter of the alphabet. The eleventh letter of the alphabet, called kay [ke:] (Bnff. 1836 Ellis E.E.P. (1889) V. 777; ne.Sc. 1874 W. Gregor Olden Time 38), key, kye [kɑe] (Ags. c.1825 D. H. Edwards Muirside (1920) 216; Bnff. 1893 G. G. Green Kidnappers ii.), kee [ki:] in Sh., Cai., representing the voiceless back plosive or guttural stop and pronounced initially before vowels without the aspiration of Eng. k.

In origin and orthographic representation it is, gen. speaking, the same as in Eng., i.e., it usu. appears as c before back vowels, l and r; as k before front vowels and n; as ck when intervocalic after a short vowel, and final. k may, however, be substituted for c, esp. in I.Sc. in imitation of Norwegian spelling, and where an attempt is being made to represent a dialect phonetically.

1. k [k] corresponds to Eng. -(t)ch [tʃ] ( < O.E. palatal c) in e.g. Breek, n.1, Birk, n.1, Bick, n.1, Steek, Streek, Theek, Yeukie; Muckle; Kist, Kirk, Kirn, Kink, v.2, n.2, Caff, Cauk, n., v.1, Coup, v.2, n.2 This is common in n.Eng. dial. and gen. speaking results from the substitution or retention of the corresponding Scand. or, less commonly, Du. or L.Ger. sound. See P.L.D. § 65.1. Caff, Cauk, n., v.1 ( < *cæf, *calc) preserve Anglian [k] before æ, a (unbroken). The k of Streek, Theek, Yeuk (O.E. streccan, þecc(e)an, ȝicc(e)an) may arise from the absence of palatalisation before s or þ in the inflected forms of the verb;

2. Palatalisation of k before front vowels occurs (1) freq. in sm.Sc., e.g. kyen (Ken), kyirk (Kirk). See P.L.D. § 96.7; (2) and reg. in I.Sc., e.g. kjaemp (Kemp), kjen (Ken). See Kj-, and cf. G, 5. This is not always indicated by the spelling. The pronunciation sometimes develops from [kj] to [tʃ]; (3) for forms like kyaard (Caird), cyarn (Cairn), etc., see P.L.D. § 141.1;

3. The pronunciation of k initially before n is obsol. in I. and n.Sc., obs. elsewhere. A vowel, semi-vowel, hyphen or apostrophe between k and n may be used as an orthographic device to indicate that k is pronounced, as kanave (Knave), k-nee, kjnee (Knee), kjnark (Knark), k'neyfe, k'nowe, k'neycht (s.Sc. 1873 D.S.C.S. 122). Orig. k sometimes disappears before n in spelling where it is no longer pronounced, as nab (Knab n.2), nack (Knack), and conversely, an unhistoric k may be introduced before n, esp. in n. and I.Sc., as knabb (Nabb), knabble (Nabal), knickum (Nickum). Cf. G, 4. and see P.L.D. §§ 65, 109, 136, 158, 165.

4. (1) kn alternates with gn in ne.Sc., esp. Bnff., e.g. gneep (Kneep), gneggum (Kneggum), gnick (Knick), gnief (Kneef), knaper (Gnapper); (2) kn may alternate with kr in Highland border areas, under the influence of the Gael. pronunciation of cn, as [kr], e.g. Knapparts and Croupert, Knockle and Crockle (Suppl.). This change is reg. in Avoch. See P.L.D. § 153;

5. k becomes t (1) before n, from assimilation of the guttural k to the dental n, reg. in Ags. and e.Per., e.g. tnife (Knife), tnock (Knock), tnowe (Know). The forms tnoalege, tnoan are recorded in 1779 (A. Scott The Contrast 9), and tnyfe, tnee from Shetland (Sh. 1836 Gentleman's Mag. II. 589–593). The change was also found in Cum. and Wm. dials. up to the late 19th c. See E.D.D. VI. Grammar § 335, and P.L.D. § 123; (2) sometimes before l in e.Dmf., e.g. tlaw, tlean, tlock. This change is widespread in Eng. dials. and has prob. crossed to Dmf. from Cum. See E.D.D. VI. Grammar § 335;

6. Conversely, in Per. and w.Lth., kw is sometimes substituted for tw, in kwaw = twaw, kwaal = twal, kwintee = twenty, akween = atween (Per. 1915 Wilson L. Strathearn 28), as a result of assimilation. See also Q;

7. k appears for orig. t in gemlick s.v. Gemlet, whitterick s.v. Whitrat, under the influence of the dim. ending -Ock;

8. For k (or c) developing between s and l, as in Sklent, Sclender, Sklidder, etc., see S;

9. k alternates rarely with g in Sh. before l, as in klovaben (Gluvabane);

10. k alternates with h in Sh. (1) freq. before n and in some other cases. See H, 6; (2) to represent orig. hv (spelt kw or qu, e.g. kwal < O.N. hvalr, kwamm < O.N. hvammr). See also W. This change is most common on the Westside and Whalsay. See P.L.D. § 165;

11. The combination ct [kt] becomes ck [k] by a process of assimilation when intervocalic or final (Sc. 1779 A. Scott The Contrast), e.g. fack, instruck(it), proteck(it), rejeck(it);

12. (c)k represents occasionally (1) an orig. g [ȝ], phs. on the analogy of the diminutive -ock rather than from phonological development, in Elbock ( < O.E. eln-boȝa), Winnock ( < O.N. vindauga), Warlock ( < O.E. wærloȝa). See also -Ock; (2) unvoicing of final g in borrowings from Gael., e.g. Keerack ( < Gael. caoireag), Earock ( < Gael. eirag), phs. also Pollack (? < Gael. pollag). See also -Ock.

13. ck becomes g in Cai. in the termination -ock, probably as a result of Gaelic influence, in e.g. bannag (Bannock), paddag (Paddock). See P.L.D. § 158 and -Ock.

14. Medial and final k is represented by a glottal stop [ʔ] in the speech of parts of wm.Sc. and se.Slg. See P.L.D. §§ 93.6, 94. This change is spreading and may be observed in most urban areas.

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"K n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 12 Jun 2024 <>



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