Scottish vowel length rule

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The Scottish vowel length rule, also known as Aitken's law. It is named after A. J. Aitken, the Scottish linguist who formulated it.

It describes how vowel length in Scots, Scottish English, and to some extent Mid-Ulster English,[1] is conditioned by the phonetic environment of the target vowel.

Certain vowels are long before /r/, voiced fricatives or a morpheme boundary. Also, vowels in word-final open syllables are long.

Phonemes[edit]

The underlying phonemes of the Scottish vowel system are as follows:[2]

Aitken 1l 1s 8a 10 2 11 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
/aɪ/ /əi/ /i/ /iː/1 /ei/2 /e/ /o/ /u/3 /ø/4 /eː/5 /oe/ /ɑː, ɔː/ /ʌu/6 /ju/ /ɪ/7 /ɛ/ /ɑ, a/8 /ɔ/9 /ʌ/
Standard Scottish English (Wells) PRICE FLEECE, NEAR FACE GOAT GOOSE, FOOT SQUARE CHOICE THOUGHT MOUTH CURE KIT DRESS TRAP, BATH, START LOT, CLOTH STRUT
  1. Vowel 11, which occurs stem final, is diphthongised to /əi/ or /ei/ in Southern Scots.[3]
  2. Vowel 3 only remains a distinct phoneme /ei/ in some North Northern Scots varieties,[4][5] generally merging with vowels 2 or 4 in other Modern Scots varieties.[5]
  3. Vowel 6, when stem final, is diphthongised to /ʌu/ in Southern Scots.[3]
  4. Most Central Scots varieties merge vowel 7 with vowel 4 in long environments and with vowel 15 in short environments but most Northern Scots varieties merge vowel 7 with vowel 2.[6] Vowel 7 generally remains /ø/, sometimes /y/ in short environments, in the conservative dialects of Scots spoken in parts of Perthshire and Angus, Berwickshire, Roxburghshire, East Dumfrieshire, Orkney and Shetland.[7] Before /k/ and /x/ vowel 7 is often realised /(j)u/ or /(j)ʌ/ depending on dialect.[8]
  5. In most Central and Southern Scots varieties vowel 8 merges with vowel 4. Some other varieties distinguish, at least partially, vowels 4 and 8.[9] In Ulster Scots the realsation may be /ɛː/.[10]
  6. Vowel 13 may be vocalised to /o/ before /k/ in many Modern Scots varieties.
  7. Some eastern and Southern Scots varieties may have more or less /ɛ/.[11]
  8. In some Modern Scots varieties vowel 17 may merge with vowel 12 in long environments.[12] (see below)
  9. Vowel 18 may merge with vowel 5 in Central and Southern Scots varieties.[13]

Vowel length[edit]

The Scottish vowel length rule affects all vowels except 15 and 19, and in many Modern Scots varieties, vowels 8 and 12.[14] The further north a Scots dialect is from central Scotland, the more it will contain specific words that do not adhere to the rule.[15]

  • /ə/, /ɪ/, /ɛ/, /ɑ, a/, /ɔ/ and /ʌ/ (15, 16, 17, 18 and 19) are usually short.
    • In some Modern Scots varieties vowel 17 (/ɑ/) may merge with vowel 12 (/ɑː/) in long environments.[12] In Ulster Scots /ɛ/, /ɑ/ and /ɔ/ (16, 17 and 18) are usually always long and the /əʉ/ realisation of vowel 13 is short before a voiceless consonant, or before a sonorant followed by a voiceless consonant but long elsewhere.[16]
  • /i/, /e/, /o/, /u/, /ø/ and /ju/ (2, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 14) are usually long in the following environments, and short elsewhere:[17]
    • In stressed syllables before voiced fricatives, namely /v/, /ð/, /z/, /ʒ/, and also before /r/.[14] In some Modern Scots varieties before the monomorphemic end-stresses syllables /rd/, /r/ + any voiced consonant, /ɡ/ and /dʒ/.[18] In Shetland Scots the /d/ realisation of underlying /ð/, usual in other Scots varieties, remains a long environment.[19]
    • Before another vowel[20] and
    • Before a morpheme boundary,[14] so, for example, "stayed" is pronounced with a longer vowel than "staid".
  • The long /ɑː/, /ɒː/ or /ɔː/ realisations of vowel 12 usually occur in all environments in final stressed syllables.[12]
  • /iː/ and /eː/ (11 and 8) are usually long.
  • The diphthong /əi/ (1s & 10)usually occurs in short environments, vowel 8a, which occurs stem final, is always short,[5] and /aɪ/ (1l) occurs in the long environments described above.[17]
  • The diphthong /ʌu/ (13) is usually short.

History[edit]

The Scottish Vowel Length Rule is assumed to have come into being between the early Middle Scots and late Middle Scots period.[21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Harris J. (1985) Phonological Variation and Change: Studies in Hiberno English, Cambridge. p.14
  2. ^ Aitken A.J. (1984) ‘Scottish Accents and Dialects’ in ‘Language in the British Isles’ Trudgill, P. (ed). pp.94-98.
  3. ^ a b Scottish National Dictionary, Introduction p. xxx
  4. ^ Scottish National Dictionary, Introduction p. xxxvi
  5. ^ a b c A History of Scots to 1700, pp. xcviii
  6. ^ Aitken A.J. (1984) ‘Scottish Accents and Dialects’ in ‘Language in the British Isles’ Trudgill, P. (ed). p.99.
  7. ^ Aitken A.J. (1981) 'The Scottish Vowel-Length Rule' in 'So meny People Longages and Tonges' Benskin, M. and Samuels M.S. (eds). p.144-145.
  8. ^ Scottish National Dictionary, Introduction p. xix
  9. ^ Aitken A.J. (1981) 'The Scottish Vowel-Length Rule' in 'So meny People Longages and Tonges' Benskin, M. and Samuels M.S. (eds). p.151.
  10. ^ Johnston P. Regional Variation in Jones C. (1997) The Edinburgh History of the Scots Language, Edinburg University Press, p. 465.
  11. ^ Aitken A.J. (1984) ‘Scottish Accents and Dialects’ in ‘Language in the British Isles’ Trudgill, P. (ed). p.101.
  12. ^ a b c Aitken A.J. (1981) 'The Scottish Vowel-Length Rule' in 'So meny People Longages and Tonges' Benskin, M. and Samuels M.S. (eds). p.150.
  13. ^ Aitken A.J. (1981) 'The Scottish Vowel-Length Rule' in 'So meny People Longages and Tonges' Benskin, M. and Samuels M.S. (eds). p.152.
  14. ^ a b c Aitken A.J. (1984) ‘Scottish Accents and Dialects’ in ‘Language in the British Isles’ Trudgill, P. (ed). p.98.
  15. ^ Coll Millar. 2007. Northern and Insular Scots. Edinburgh: University Press Ltd. p.20
  16. ^ Harris J. (1984) English in the north of Ireland in Trudgill P., Language in the British Isles, Cambridge p.120
  17. ^ a b A.J. Aitken in The Oxford Companion to the English Language, Oxford University Press 1992. p.894
  18. ^ Aitken A.J. (1981) 'The Scottish Vowel-Length Rule' in 'So meny People Longages and Tonges' Benskin, M. and Samuels M.S. (eds). p.147.
  19. ^ Aitken A.J. (1981) 'The Scottish Vowel-Length Rule' in 'So meny People Longages and Tonges' Benskin, M. and Samuels M.S. (eds). p.141.
  20. ^ A.J. Aitken in The Oxford Companion to the English Language, Oxford University Press 1992. p.910
  21. ^ Aitken A.J. (1981) 'The Scottish Vowel-Length Rule' in 'So meny People Longages and Tonges' Benskin, M. and Samuels M.S. (eds). p.137.