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A. Jack Aitken, Older Scottish Vowels.

A. JACK AITKEN, OLDER SCOTTISH VOWELS. Edited by Caroline Macafee. 2002. Guildford, Surrey: Scottish Text Society.

The passing of Jack Aitken truly marked the end of an era in the field of Scots linguistics, a field that, if he did not invent, he at least led into the modern age through his scholarly example. This largely self-trained man, who acquired his encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of Scots 'on the job', first as an assistant to W.T. Craigie on the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (DOST), then as its sole editor, became a true giant, forging links between the study of Scots literature and its language, old-style philology and modern historical linguistics, lexicography, phonology, syntax and stylistics, ceaselessly promoting quality and rigour in all facets of the study of Scots. He was a 'broad church' man, welcoming and encouraging all those interested in Scots, whatever their philosophical viewpoint, professional status, or national origin, training many of them in the process, including the editor of this work, Caroline Macafee. He frequently served as a needed voice of sanity and realism when disagreements arose among different schools of Scots advocates, teaching us that we are all on the same side if we are interested in and supportive of the increased use of the language in whatever way. Above all, he loved Scots in all its diversity, whether it be the literary Lallans of MacDiarmid and his followers, the Doric of the North-Eastern Scottish countryside, or the street vernacular of the council estates of Edinburgh and Glasgow, all of which have their ancestry in his biggest love, the Older Scots he compiled and wrote so much about, and all of which he regarded as its rightful heirs. He felt strongly and passionately that the study of Scots is a legitimate subject in itself, not just a footnote in a general description of English, as is so often the case. Therefore, his final major work, a revised and updated history of Scots vowels from Old Northumbrian days to the end of the Older Scots period, following on from his seminal 1977 article, "The Pronunciation of Older Scots", has to be an eagerly-awaited text for Scots language enthusiasts, potentially a work as important as classic handbooks such as Luick (1903, rep. 1964) are to the history of English sounds. After all, as editor of the DOST, Aitken had access to the whole corpus of Older Scots which underlay the dictionary, and was the only scholar at the time who could bring this largely unsorted mountain of data to bear on the task of teasing out the history of Scots vocalism. In short, his book should be the definitive treatment of this subject, superseding all before it, and the baseline to which all future scholars interested in Older Scots pronunciation can refer.

In large part, it is. It is no exaggeration to say that Scots now has its very own historical pronunciation handbook equivalent to the English ones, with a more sophisticated idea of the centrality of variability than would have been possible when they came out, while still exhibiting the traditional Scottish structuralist bent (p. xxix). Aitken, as might be expected, uses copious amounts of diverse types of evidence, whether from rhymes (which he is particularly fond of, and which greatly enhances his treatment of the mergers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries), spellings, or reconstruction from modern dialect distributions. While the book is unfinished--most of the historically-short vowels' developments after 1375 are covered only in summary tables--Aitken has given scholars the fullest treatment of Scots vocalic developments yet, and comes up with ingenious solutions to particularly thorny problems in Scots historical phonology. His biggest strength is his systematic, sequential approach, reminiscent of a skilled detective following clues to reach a solution, which one can see best in the treatment of Open Syllable Lengthening (OSL), the developments of the front vowels (notably Vowels 3, 4, and 8) within the Great Vowel Shift (GVS) complex and the Scottish Vowel Length rule (SVLR), covering developments vowel by vowel, environment by environment, resolutely and doggedly. If the result takes careful reading, it is because of the complexity of the data themselves, and to some extent, the nature of the evidence; but there is no question that Aitken has largely succeeded in his mission as far as he could, since the work is unfinished.

Aitken's editor and dedicated disciple, Caroline Macafee, deserves much credit for putting the material into some sort of organised shape, as far as she could. Working from a half-finished typescript, an earlier manuscript draft, and numerous notes, marginalia and jottings, she has managed to put together a (mostly) internally-consistent work, true to Aitken's intentions and flow of thought; however, she does mention that at times she has revised the text 'to present the reader with AJA's thinking as clearly as possible' (p. xxxi), and to square the material drawn from the first draft with that from later ones, as Aitken sometimes changed his mind about particular analyses during the course of composition. This is not necessarily a bad thing: she is a skilled historical linguist in her own right, and the discoverer of a number of plausible pathways of vocalic developments (Macafee 1989). Indeed, her own comments on his conclusions sometimes improve on Aitken's own solutions on the rare occasions where he fails. These can be found in the endnotes (pp. 163-76), which the reader should peruse carefully to obtain a complete picture.

No doubt readers will want to compare the work with my own history of Scots phonology (Johnston 1997a) which took its place in Charles Jones's Edinburgh History of the Scottish Language. For the most part, the two accounts agree, though the added precision of Aitken's textual evidence will supply a more precise date than mine. Where we disagree, and the evidence Aitken adduces is clear and unambiguous (which is often the case), I concede and now support his interpretation: this is the case with the development of Vowel 3, certainly, and for the most part, 4 and 8. There are even rules which I did not notice at all; like the change producing hyne, syne from earlier hethen, sethen (p. 73), the comparatively early monophthongisation of /ai/ before anterior fricatives (p. 67), and a host of other, mostly restricted and/or variable conditioned changes amply listed in his summary tables in Chapter 2 (pp. 73-87). He has reiterated and argued well for Murray's (1873:105) in-gliding diphthong solution to the yin problem (pp. 133-39; how vowels 4 and 7 became preiotated in Central and Southern Scots) which, along with the greater range of the earlier change of ocht > owcht in words like bocht (pp. 23-24), indicates that the recession of features now confined to the Borders, or even the Western Borders, has been going on for a long time. It is also interesting that the rule I called DOG-diphthongisation (Johnston 1997b: 446, 481-82) and characterised as predominantly Northern and Insular may be both more widespread and older than I figured (p. 100). For these, as well as the more non-controversial developments where all authorities agree, Aitken deserves full credit.

Even giants fall down sometimes, and there are a few instances where Aitken's reasoning is built on less durable ground. As stated before, Macafee spots and refines many of these in her notes, such as the need for separate explanations for ould forms (instead of auld) in the Far North and the South-West / West Central Belt / Industrial Central Belt (p. 165) (1) or what the Vowel 19 reflex was (p. 173). The rare other occasions are discussed (briefly) below where the relevant chapters are, not to denigrate a friend and colleague who encouraged me so much in my early career or to practice one-upmanship in any way, but to cooperate with Aitken in developing the most coherent scenario of the history of Scots vowels that can be mustered.

A warning to the reader expecting a simplified, easy-to-digest history: variability and doublets reflecting multiple pathways of development abound for several changes, only some of which is explicable in terms of simple geographical or temporal variation. This is exacerbated by something which emerges from this book, which I discovered too (Johnston 1997b: 452): Scots vowels are extremely sensitive to the environment surrounding them, and the more sensitivity, the greater tendency toward phonemic splits. (2) Aitken helps the reader out when matters get complex with the visual aid of nineteen strategically placed figures and a few maps, and there are three sets of summary tables, one putting the vowel class breakdown in tabular form (pp. 89-95) and tracing the developments into the Middle Scots period, the other two taking them to the present, one in rather more detail than the other (pp. 152-59 and 160-62). While these are helpful, I wonder, except for revealing changes in Aitken's thought over the period of the book's composition, why both of the last two table sets are presented, as one of them would do.

Otherwise, the macro-organisation is clear enough, with the first chapter covering the changes from the Old Northumbrian period to 1375, and the third, from 1375 to at least the mid-sixteenth century. The second chapter contains an annotated list of the sources of his numbered vowel classes, which follow on from Aitken (1977). (3) It is placed where it is since the vowel classes specifically denote those of the period 1375-1600, but one could argue that it should have gone first, as an introduction (cf. Johnston 1997a, 1997b), and this might make the classes' membership clearer, as well as cut down on redundancy. Some such aid is necessary for a number-based system, since it probably is not as intrinsically 'catchy' as a keyword-based system like Wells's (1982) or mine (Johnston 1997: 453). However, using numbers also eliminates the problem of whether the keywords are really keyed to Scots or English. (4)

The Older Scots values Aitken gives to the classes have changed since 1977 in some cases. Aitken now uses /y:/ to represent Vowel 7, to account for the pre-consonantal merger with French /y/ and the pre-velar diphthongisation, eventually winding up as /ju/ before /k x/ and, in the North, /r(d)/. (5) Diacritics have been added to vowels 5 and 18 (and the diphthongs 9 and 13, which contain the vowel of 18 as a first element), to make them /o:/ and /o/ respectively, instead of /o:/ and /o/, which brings them a little more in line with traditional English values and means that the Great Vowel Shift does, just barely, apply to one Scottish back vowel. Vowel 19 is /u/, to square with remarks by the eighteenth-century orthoepist Alexander Douglas suggesting a value that might be spelled with <oo>, and which 'approaches nearer' Vowel 6 = /u:/ (p.150; Jones 1991). Vowel 12 is now said to monophthongise as /[??]/ (p.82) rather than /[??]:/, and we have at least three trimoric diphthongs (though Vowel 11 is inconsistently represented as such: compare pp. 24-5 and 82 with p. 155; the others are Vowels 14a and 14b), and, in some areas, two triphthongs [[epsilon]ou] and [[epsilon]au], the first standing for [[epsilon]:u] in the North-East (>modern /j[LAMBDA]u/), the second only in a few words with French eau. (6) Most of these values are improvements on the earlier postulations; both the spelling and dialect-geographical evidence point toward a monophthongisation of /au/ to [a:], not [[??]] (Johnston 1997a: 90), for instance, although why Vowels 5 and 18 are not represented by [[??]] and [[??]:] respectively, and why Vowel 19 is not [[??]], particularly because Vowel 15 = /I/, is not clear. As to the typologically-odd triphthongs, eighteenth-century spellings like rawme, lawte actually confirm the second one, at least in some dialects, and the first one, which probably is regional, exhibits similar (North-Eastern) tendencies toward breaking before velars with Vowel 4 (byaak, kyaak, blyaave; cf. Johnston 1997a: 90). However, I would think that both triphthongs would fairly quickly turn into diphthongs beginning with yod, and the modern reflexes can be derived from those.

Vowel 7 certainly went through an /y/ stage in the Scottish North-East, the Berwick area, and one or two localities in Galloway and Ulster which have /i/ now; and postulating this value explains why French /y/ merges in. The question, though, is: does it have to be peripheral? An unfronted /[??]/, as found in Gourdon, Kincardineshire (Mather and Speitel 1986: 79-80) would front directly not to /y/, but /Y/, which, depending how high in absolute terms it was, could become either /y/ or /o/ if it became peripheralised, as when lengthened. The pre-velar developments that produce /ju/ forms could be explained as involving raising before high consonants, and the Fife / West Mid hyuck < hook presupposes non-peripherality (Johnston 1997b: 467). Also, pre-consonantal Northern English equivalents to Vowel 7 diphthongise to non-peripheral forms like [I[??] I[??] I[??]], though here, the French loans have Vowel 14, which produces peripheral diphthongs of the [iu:] type (Orton and Halliday 1962).

When Aitken describes vowel change processes, however, he tends to be on firm ground, for the most part, despite considerable obstacles. In the first chapter, Aitken is working within an era where direct evidence is thin indeed, and he uses the spellings of place names in cartulary rolls that comprise our only contemporary 'witnesses' most when dealing with the development of final schwa (which disappears after causing OSL in the thirteenth or early fourteenth century). (7) Otherwise, he tends to use Older Scots spelling evidence extensively, with some reconstructions from modern dialect data. Where he takes a more or less traditional line, he fleshes out the description of the rules, so one can tease out some general tendencies, possibly even 'maximal' and 'minimal' environments for the change. It appears, for instance, that Homorganic Lengthening (Aitken's HOCL) overall applies more before /ld rd/ than /nd/ in Scots, and gets extended to higher vowels later than lower ones, sometimes in the early ME period (so-called 'belated HOCL', pp. 16-17), while the later Open Syllable Lengthening (pp. 11-16) has a 'core' which is the same all over Britain, affecting low and mid vowels before syllables ending in /[??]/ (as Minkova (1982) suggests), and at least two sets of extensions, one extending the rule with the same input to syllables ending in other final vowels and sonorants (Aitken's environment (2), p.12, which should be rewritten to add Vowel 7, Aitken's /y:/, in Scots) and the other, somewhat counter-intuitive but probably correctly identified extension to /I/ > /e:/ before all open syllables, the largest contributor to the set of words where Scots has /i/ but Standard English has /I/.

He applies the same systematic investigation to the smaller, more conditioned early changes, some of which, like the late fourteenth-century monophthongisation (smoothing) of /ai/ > /a:/ before anterior fricatives (and to some extent of /[??]i/ > /[??]:/ (Aitken's /oi/, /o:/) have never been identified before as such (pp. 66-68). Eschewing both the traditional line, going back to Murray (1873: 52), that Older Scots <Vi, Vy> spellings represent the merger of monophthongs and diphthongs ending in /i/, and the post-Kniesza (1982) line that monophthongisation only took place late, he reveals it as a multi-stage process, already possible in words that had ON/OE doublets like again, them, and in items with OE, ON /aej [epsilon]j/ before sonorants (p.142) and before original schwa (p.147), where retention of a consonantal /j/ into the thirteenth century could lead to variable compensatory lengthening of the Vi 'smoothing' in the same way that Vowel 11 /e:i/ (as in die, high etc.) develops to /e:/, (8) and in the same environments; then before /r/ in the fifteenth century (p.144), and only after that, in other cases. Despite the tact that he is torn about whether or not the final monophthongisation precedes or follows the Scottish Vowel Length Rule (and he concedes that the ordering could have been different in different dialects, cf notes 58 and 59, pp. 174-5), this is one of the most elegant of his descriptions and fleshes out the opinions of Stockwell and Minkova (1988: 368-70) that the monophthongisation was entirely due to lexical transfer via doublets, even if the conclusion is not exactly identical.

The developments of the often ignored Vowel 14 diphthongs (my NEW and DEW classes; Johnston 1997b: 491-93) are particularly well documented. Except for the proposed triphthongs, the line taken about the coalescence of Vowel 14a is traditional, but one interesting departure concerns the possibility that final French /y:/ may have passed through an /y:u/ stage on its way to /i:u/ > /ju:/ (p.30). There are also cases where /i:u/ rhymes with /u:/, however (pp.31-2). Aitken states that this represents a backing of /y:u/ to /u:/, found particularly in the fifteenth-century Legends of the Saints, the Troy-Book, and Ratis Raving, as well as various regional records from Ayrshire and the North-East. These developments seem especially common after yod-absorbing consonants like palatals, /l r t d s/, and are not found so early in words that had native diphthongs. The word argue also appears in this set. Aitken's explanation, of straight backing, is probably the most plausible on balance, and might give evidence for an earlier /y:u/ rather than a direct dissimilation to /i:u/; but the Ayrshire cases could conceivably show something I also thought I saw instances of: (9) early /u:/-fronting to [u:] or the like, which might also produce near rhymes. Stress-shift and yod-absorption of other occurrences of Vowel 14, except after /j/, are later (pp. 36-7).

In the third chapter, Aitken uses the extant contemporary spelling and rhyme evidence to the fullest, supplemented by reconstruction from LAS3 data from modern dialects to deal with changes that include the Great Vowel Shift and the Scottish Vowel Length Rule, as well as conditioned changes such as L-Vocalisation. Thankfully, he appears to be sensitive to a special type of pitfall when using the modern survey data, which can bedevil researchers (Johnston 1997b: 450-52; 2000).

The firmly structuralist nature of LAS3 enables one to see vowel contrasts right away, as the words are picked to maximise the occurrence of minimal pairs. However, it is a comparatively short survey, and there are only a few words per word class in any given environment: sometimes no more than one or two. Some of these words might have undergone what Aitken calls 'lexical misplacement' and I have called 'lexical transfer' (Johnston 2000), either tightly phonologically conditioned or lexically conditioned roles that affect a very small set of words. In some cases, this obscures the identification of an 'isolative' reflex of a given vowel class, or suggests wrong conclusions. For instance, based on LAS3, CLEAN-raising, the raising of Vowel 3 before /n/, appears to be a General Scots change (Johnston 1997b: 456-59), or the nearest thing to one, given that there are some exceptions in Orkney (and Stow, Midlothian, where a separate Vowel 3 only exists in this environment; Mather and Speitel 1986: 138). (10) The majority of LAS3 words in this subclass always show raising in the dialects that have it, but lean and sometimes scene occasionally do not. Are these, then, to be taken as the real isolative reflex of Vowel 3 before /n/, instead of the /i/ of bean, clean or mean? Does our determination depend on the specific source of Vowel 3: something that urgently needs to be investigated, not just in Scotland, but in England also? In a work like Dieth (1932) or Zai (1942), where there are many words for a given vowel class, the isolative reflex and any allophony shines through--and usually gives simpler patterns than LAS3, where there are sometimes strange patterns of apparent allophony that do not involve natural classes (Johnston 2000). These may be due to yet another problem: the phonemicising of simple variability, a consequence of one token of a particular word being used where variability exists, and a potential pitfall of using any traditional dialect survey's data, not just those of LAS3. Other causes of the strange patterns involve relic distinctions, where a dialect is situated between a group that lacks a distinction and one that does not, i.e. transition zone phenomena: and we must remember that a good deal of Scotland can be characterised as transition zones, large or small (Johnston 2000).

Aitken does use these problematic data, but judiciously, mostly to illustrate the merger patterns that exist and to compare them to those implied by fifteenth- and sixteenth-century rhymes. Oil the whole, the rhyme evidence yields simpler patterns than the LAS3 data, though perfectly compatible with a plausible history of Central Belt dialects: the 'top half' changes (particularly /e:/ > /i:/) are datable to the mid fifteenth century, and Vowel 1 (original /i:/) reaches the proximity of /[epsilon]:i/ or so a century later (p. 114-15). At about the same time, or slightly before, the 'bottom half' changes begin, with /a:/ > /[epsilon]:/ first in evidence before /s/ (pp. 113-14), and /au/ > /[??]/ happens around 1460 (p. 105). Since Vowel 3 could have risen to /e:/ without merging with anything and with the same orthography, we cannot date this change, but since full-scale merger with Vowel 2 happens before /r/ as early as the Buke of the Howlat (p. 119), the raising must have happened before then. Sixteenth-century poets show merger in more environments (Lyndsay with a Fife-like pattern in embryo), but the final merger of 2 and 3 so common in dialects south of the Forth-Clyde line is only evident in the latter part of the century (p.122). Offhand, we cannot tell whether or not the GVS is a single chain, as is traditionally postulated (and as Aitken believes, pp. 110-12), or some sort of complex of smaller chains (Johnston 1990, 1993). The early date (c.1420) of the raising of Vowels 3 and 4 makes the latter a real possibility, but is not absolutely conclusive.

The account of the development of Vowel 8, /ai/, is among the most elegant in the book. Here, Aitken points out the conditions under which one got early doublets, and then goes through the evidence for merger and non-merger with Vowel 4 in each environment in turn, taking on the yin problem in the process. To determine the date of the 4/8 merger is not easy, because of the presence of doublets, where merger appears even in the earliest poetry, but only sporadic non-doublet rhymes appear in most medial positions except before /r/, where early smoothing akin to what one gets in many Southern and Midland American dialects, where fire = /faI [??]/ > /fa:[??]/. The other 4/8 rhymes that do appear, Aitken interprets as near rhymes (p.144). The set of words where /ai/ does monophthongise finally, like day, lay etc., only rhyme with Vowel 4 in some (later) poets, although some rhymes occur as early as Henryson. As the evidence from Gallovidian (and Northern English) dialects shows, lack of merger does not necessarily imply lack of monophthongisation here: Aitken postulates a vowel lower and backer than Vowel 4 (11) (though the /[??]/ of the table on p. 111 and 148 seems to create problems with the reflex of Vowel 12. It is fine for the labialised vowel in awa, but the monophthongisation product of Vowel 8 is more likely to have been either centralised front, contrasting with a fully front 4, or fully front [a:], contrasting with Vowel 4 = [ae:], as I have argued for in Northern English dialects (Johnston 1993)).

Included also in this chapter is a thorough, and in my view effective, discussion of the yin problem: how Vowel 4 in initial position became pre-iotated and developed to [j[??]] or the like in Central Scots dialects. Despite the fact that yane forms are attested as early as 1527 in Ayrshire, and yin itself appears in the same county a half-century later (p. 132) with other initial vowels pre-iotated as well, Aitken now sees yin as being derived from a downgliding diphthong close to [i[??]], similar to the one that Murray (1873) found in Border Scots as the reflex of Vowel 4 short, and still found in a few Western Border dialects. The best evidence for a range for [i[??]] up to the Forth-Clyde line involves the word wean /wen/, not found in the Borders (but it is in Galloway), stemming from wee ane [wi en] presumably through [wion], plus the fact that yape, with original /j/, never becomes *yip. If this is true, Vowel 4 must have gotten as far as [I:] in short environments before SVLR applied, and in these dialects, Vowel 3 already equalled 2 (p.139). If this diphthong existed this far north, it links up the examples of ingliding diphthongs in North Mid (Mather and Speitel 1986: 95-97, 109-111) with the Borders, provides a parallel with the recession of other 'Border Scots' forms such as bowcht, dowchter for bocht, dochter, and possibly, the full-blown Border Scots Vowel Shift itself (Jones 1996), and could easily be reflected by late sixteenth-century <ea> spellings catalogued on p. 116, which can reflect [I[??]] as well as [e(:)]. Of course, this is speculative: the Elizabethan dramatists representing Scots seem to have heard monophthongs.

As one might expect given Aitken's history of publications on the subject, the Scottish Vowel-Length rule--and its exemptions--is fully treated, though most of the section is concerned with sorting out the yin and 4/8 merger problems. Though the existence of SVLR is convincingly 'proven' (pp.125-26), more does need to be done whether or not phenomena like the 'Glasgow Drawl' and the occasional lengthening of Vowels 16 and 17 one gets in the Lothians and Borders have any degree of time depth.

When Laing and Williamson's Linguistic Atlas of Older Scots comes out, it may help us place more firmly some of the sources Aitken uses. If so, we can add a more solid geographical dimension to the discussion, and see, for instance, if West Central Scots was as innovative a centre then as it is now, as some of Aitken's changes imply (cf. pp.103, 132), as well as answer the above-mentioned question about recession of forms to the Borders. In the meantime, this book serves as a near-masterpiece, and constitutes a fitting monument to a great linguist's legacy.


Aitken, A.J., 1977. 'How to pronounce Older Scots', in A.J. Aitken et al. (eds.), Bards and Makars, 121. Glasgow: Glasgow UP.

Bawcutt, P. (ed.), 1998. The Poems of William Dunbar. 2 vols. Glasgow: ASLS.

Dieth, Eugen, 1932. A Grammar of the Buchan Dialect. Cambridge: Heffer.

Johnston, Paul A., 1980. 'A Synchronic mid Historical View of Border Area Vowel Systems.' Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, U. of Edinburgh.

--1992. 'English vowel shifting: a Great Vowel Shift or two "Small Vowel Shifts"' Diachronica 9:2, 129-68.

--1997a. 'Older Scots phonology and its regional variation', in Jones (ed.), 47-111.

--1997b. 'Regional variation', in Jones (ed.), 443-513.

--2000. 'Taming Volume III of the Linguistic Atlas of Scotland', Scottish Language 19:45-65.

Jones, Charles (ed.) 1991. A Treatise on the Provincial Dialect of Scotland by Sylvester Doughts. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP.

--1996. A Language Suppressed. The Pronunciation of the Scots Language in the Eighteenth Century. Edinburgh: John Donald.

--(ed.) 1997. The Edinburgh History of the Scots Language. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP.

Kastovsky, Dieter and Bauer, Gero (eds.), 1988. Luick Revisited: Papers read at the Luick Symposium at Schloss Liechtenstein, 15-18 August 1985. Tubingen: Gunter Narr.

Kniesza, Veronika, 1982. '<ai> and <a> in Medieval Northern English Manuscripts', Folia Linguistica Historica 3:1, 45-53.

Luick, Karl W., 1903, rep. 1964, Studien zur Englischen Lautgeschichte. New York: Johnson.

Macafee, Caroline I., 1989. 'Middle Scots dialects--extrapolating backwards', in McClure mad Spiller (eds.), 429-41.

McClure, J. Derrick and M.R.G. Spiller (eds.), 1989. Bryght Lanternis: Essays on the Language and Literature of Medieval and Renaissance Scotland Aberdeen: Aberdeen UP.

McIntosh, Angus, Michael L. Samuels, and Michael Benskin (eds.), 1986. A Linguistic Atlas of Late Medieval English. Aberdeen: Aberdeen UP.

Mather, James Y. and Hans-Henning Speitel, 1986. The Linguistic Atlas of Scotland Vol. III: Phonology. London: Croom Helm.

Minkova, Donka, 1982. 'The Environment for Open Syllable Lengthening', Folia Linguistica Historica 3:1, 29-58.

Murray, James A.H., 1873. The Dialect of the Southern Counties of Scotland. London: Asher.

Orton, Harold and Wilfrid H. Halliday, 1962. The Survey of English Dialects: Basic Material. Vol I, The Six Northern Counties and the Isle of Man. 3 parts. Leeds: Arnold.

--and Michael V. Barry, 1969. The Survey of English dialects: Basic Material. Vol. II, the West Midland Counties. 3 parts. Leeds: Arnold.

--and Philip M. Tilling. 1969. The survey of English dialects. Basic Material. Vol. III, The East Midland Counties and East Anglia. 3 parts. Leeds: Arnold.

--and Martyn Wakelin, 1966. The Survey of English Dialects. Basic Material. Vol. IV, The Southern Counties. 3 parts. Leeds: Arnold.

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(1) It is also not clear what these have to do with the earlier spellings Aitken mentions (p. 62). With the exception of 1449 Aberdeen old, these are not too early to be Anglicisations. The Aberdeen form--which is extinct there outside of SSE now--does need explaining, and I am not totally happy about my own theories linking the change to DOG-diphthongisation, as /l/ is or was often clear and NON-velar in the parts of the North where ould is common. Peripheral Scots forms like this are still problematic as far as I can see, and the rarity of other cases of /w/-epenthesis makes the explanation of wan = one in the North given by Aitken in the notes (p. 173) fairly unconvincing also, though Irish influence (ultimately from Southwestern English) can be invoked in Galloway, Glasgow and Fife.

(2) Whether or not this is a tendency of Scots alone, or is a general British characteristic, remains to be seen. My guess is that there has always been more allophony in English short vowels than has been reported in dialect surveys, and a comparison of the dialect material from the Survey of English Dialects on the Web ( with the transcriptions in the print version (Orton et al., 1962-69) confirms this, to my ear, for the modern period.

(3) Although they are sometimes given different values, about which more below.

(4) Though the system used in Johnston (1997a, 1997b) is certainly more appropriate in terms of number of classes for work with Scots than the more widely-known Wells (1982) classification, my use of 'common core' keywords--a conscious choice, as I also wanted to talk about SSE using these classes--has led to some criticism that I was keying my system to English alone. It is hard to avoid this accusation if one uses Standard English spelling (which I did), but the alternative is talking about something like a BOOT/BUIT or a STONE/STANE class, or finding exclusively Scots words (a SYNE class, a LEID class, etc.) to represent the vocalic sets.

(5) Does this patterning of /r/ with velars reflect a uvular or highly retroflexed /r/ in the North? [R] is relatively common in some North-Eastern areas (Johnston, 1997b: 511).

(6) While these may seem typologically odd, they are in fact close to the values traditionally assigned to OE eow and eaw, as in neowe (new) and eawe (few), respectively.

(7) I tend to agree with Bawcutt (1998:14-15) and Macafee (note 18a, p.166) that apparent examples of -[??] in Dunbar and other later makars cannot show retention. It is significant that so many apparent examples are found in The Kingis Quair, where Southern English influence is so profound. Either the scansion allows for different foot structures or Chaucerian or similar influence may account for this.

(8) A cursory examination of Northern SED material (Orton & Halliday 1962: passim) reveals that some of these pre-sonorant doublets with Vowel 4 for an expected 8 may have 'made it' to the present in the English North-East, where dialects closely related to Scots are found, but not the Norse Crescent dialects. These are not local Standard loans, which tend to substitute Vowel 8 for 4 (Johnston 1980: 423), and there is no continuous distribution with the North Midlands, which had wholesale early merger.

(9) In the form of <oCe> spellings for <ouC, owC> from LALME, mostly confined to South-Western Scots (McIntosh et al. 1986: 681-2, 690). Northern Scots either has not fronted /u/, or did so very recently, except in Caithness, so this explanation does not hold for this area.

(10) Whether or not this change belongs to the Older Scots period or not is another question. Macafee is right in that 'this needs to be substantiated by contemporary rhyme evidence (p. xxx)', and from what Aitken shows, it is not, at least as far as the early sixteenth century. It has to precede the raising of Vowel 4 to /i/ (STONE-Raising) in the North-East, however, as there is no dialect with the latter change that does not also have the former.

(11) The [[??]] postulated in the diagrams on p. 111 and p.148 seems to be too far back, and one would expect more transfer to Vowel 12 here. A solution that seems more likely is one where Vowel 4 had already raised to [ae:] while Vowel 8b was [a:].


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Author:Johnston, Paul A., Jr.
Publication:Scottish Language
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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