Scottish vowel length rule

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The Scottish vowel length rule (also known as Aitken's law after A. J. Aitken, the Scottish linguist who formulated it) describes how vowel length in Scots, Scottish English, and, to some extent, Mid-Ulster English[1] and Geordie[2] is conditioned by the phonetic environment of the target vowel. Primarily, the rule is that certain vowels (described below) are phonetically long in the following environments:

  • Before /r/.
  • Before a voiced fricative (/v, z, ð, ʒ/).
  • Before a morpheme boundary.
  • In a word-final open syllable, save for the HAPPY vowel /e/ (or, in Geordie, /iː/).

Phonemes[edit]

The underlying phonemes of the Scottish vowel system are as follows:[3]

Aitken (Scots) 1l 1s 8a 10 2 11 3 4 8 5 12 18 6 14 7 9 13 15 16 19 17
IPA (Scots) /ai/ /əi/ /i/ /iː/[a] /ei/[b][c] /e/[d] /eː/[e] /o/ /ɔː/[f] /ɔ/[g] /ʉ/[h] /jʉ/[i][j] /ø/[b][k] /oi/ /ʌʉ/[l] /ɪ/[m][n] /ɛ/[n] /ʌ/[o][n] /a/[p]
Standard Scottish English (Wells) PRICE FLEECE, NEAR N/A FACE, SQUARE, HAPPY GOAT, FORCE THOUGHT, LOT, CLOTH, NORTH FOOT, GOOSE, CURE /kjʉr/ N/A CHOICE MOUTH KIT, COMMA, NURSE, LETTER DRESS, NURSE STRUT, COMMA, NURSE TRAP, PALM, BATH, START
  1. ^ /iː/, which occurs stem final, is diphthongised to [əi] or [ei] in Southern Scots.[4]
  2. ^ a b Occurs only in Scots.
  3. ^ Vowel 3 remains a distinct phoneme /ei/ only in some North Northern Scots varieties,[5][6] generally merging with /i/ or /e/ in other Modern Scots varieties.[6]
  4. ^ The final vowel in HAPPY is best identified as an unstressed allophone of FACE for most speakers of Scottish English and Ulster English: /ˈhape/. In Geordie, it is best identified as an unstressed allophone of FLEECE: /ˈhapiː/.[7]
  5. ^ In most Central and Southern Scots varieties /eː/ merges with /e/. Some other varieties distinguish between the two at least partially.[8] In Ulster Scots the realisation may be [ɛː].[9] In Geordie, which is a non-rhotic dialect they are distinguished by quality; FACE is [eː], [ɪə] or [eɪ], whereas SQUARE is [ɛː], distinguished from DRESS by length.[2] The vowels are not phonemically distinct in Scottish English, which is a rhotic variety.
  6. ^ /ɔː/ is typically not distinguished from /ɔ/ in Scottish English, which features the cot-caught merger. In Geordie, the vowels are distinct as /ɔː/ for THOUGHT and NORTH and /ɒ/ for LOT and CLOTH.[2] They are normally distinct in Ulster English as well, where CLOTH has a long vowel /ɔː/.
  7. ^ /ɔ/ may merge with /o/ in Central and Southern Scots varieties.[10]
  8. ^ Stem final /ʉ/, is diphthongised to /ʌʉ/ in Southern Scots.[4] In Geordie there is a contrastive /ʊ/ vowel which also encompasses the STRUT class, in other varieties there is a foot-goose merger with a contrastive STRUT.[2]
  9. ^ Regardless of the following /r/. English CURE stems from historical /uːr/ (in Scotland, the historical /ʊr/ has evolved into /ʌr/ instead, see nurse mergers) regardless of the preceding /j/. In Geordie (which is a non-rhotic dialect), it is a centering diphthong /uə/, whereas the historical /ʊr/ has mostly evolved into the NURSE vowel /øː/, as it has in most other accents of English.
  10. ^ /j/ merges with the preceding alveolar stop to form a postalveolar affricate in the case of yod-coalescence. Tune is best analysed as /tʃʉn/ for many speakers of Scottish English.
  11. ^ Most Central Scots varieties merge /ø/ with /e/ in long environments and with /ɪ/ in short environments, but most Northern Scots varieties merge /ø/ with /i/.[11] /ø/ 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.[12] Before /k/ and /x/ /ø/ is often realised [(j)ʉ] or [(j)ʌ] depending on dialect.[13]
  12. ^ /ʌʉ/ may be merge with /o/ before /k/ in many Modern Scots varieties.
  13. ^ Some eastern and Southern Scots varieties may have more or less /ɛ/.[14]
  14. ^ a b c Scottish English lacks the nurse mergers, which means that it distinguishes KIT /ə/, DRESS /ɛ/ and STRUT /ʌ/ before syllable-final /r/, as in fir /fər/ (with the same /ər/ as in letter /ˈlɛtər/), fern /fɛrn/ and fur /fʌr/. In other varieties of English (including Geordie, which is non-rhotic), the three vowels fall together as /ɜː/ (transcribed with ⟨øː⟩ in Geordie), though not always when the /r/ occurs between vowels (see e.g. hurry-furry merger, which Geordie lacks). In broadest Geordie NURSE partially falls together with /ɔː/, but the latter is [] instead in some words.
  15. ^ Not distinguished from /ʊ/ in Geordie, see foot-strut split.[2]
  16. ^ In some Modern Scots varieties /a/ may merge with /ɔː/ in long environments.[15] (see below)

Vowel length[edit]

The Scottish vowel length rule affects all vowels except /ɪ/ and /ʌ/ and, in many Modern Scots varieties, /eː/ and /ɔː/.[16] The further north a Scots dialect is from central Scotland, the more it will contain specific words that do not adhere to the rule.[17]

  • /ə/, /ɪ/, /ɛ/, /a/, /ɔ/ and /ʌ/ are usually short.
    • In some Modern Scots varieties /a/ may merge with /ɔː/ in long environments.[15] In Ulster Scots /ɛ/, /a/ and /ɔ/ are usually always long and the [əʉ] realisation of /ʌʉ/ is short before a voiceless consonant or before a sonorant followed by a voiceless consonant but long elsewhere.[18]
  • /i/, /e/, /o/, /ʉ/, /jʉ/ and /ø/ are usually long in the following environments and short elsewhere:[19]
    • In stressed syllables before voiced fricatives, namely /v, ð, z, ʒ/, and also before /r/.[16] In some Modern Scots varieties, before the monomorphemic end-stresses syllables /rd/, /r/ + any voiced consonant, /ɡ/ and /dʒ/.[20] In Shetland dialect the [d] realisation of underlying /ð/, usual in other Scots varieties, remains a long environment.[21]
    • Before another vowel[22] and
    • Before a morpheme boundary[16] so, for example, "stayed" [steːd] is pronounced with a longer vowel than "staid" [sted].
  • /ɔː/ usually occurs in all environments in final stressed syllables.[15]
  • /iː/ and /eː/ are usually long.
  • The diphthong /əi/ (1s & 10) usually occurs in short environments, vowel 8a, which occurs stem final, is always short,[6] and /ai/ occurs in environments where /i/, /e/, /o/, /(j)ʉ/ and /ø/ are long.[19]
  • The diphthong /ʌʉ/ 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.[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Harris J. (1985) Phonological Variation and Change: Studies in Hiberno English, Cambridge. p. 14
  2. ^ a b c d e Watt, Dominic; Allen, William (2003), "Tyneside English", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 33 (2): 267–271, doi:10.1017/S0025100303001397
  3. ^ Aitken A.J. (1984) 'Scottish Accents and Dialects' in 'Language in the British Isles' Trudgill, P. (ed). pp. 94-98.
  4. ^ a b Introduction. Scottish National Dictionary. p. xxx. Archived from the original on 19 August 2014.
  5. ^ Scottish National Dictionary, Introduction p. xxxvi Archived 17 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ a b c A History of Scots to 1700, pp. xcviii
  7. ^ Wells, John C. (1982), Accents of English, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-22919-7, (vol. 1)
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Johnston P. Regional Variation in Jones C. (1997) The Edinburgh History of the Scots Language, Edinburg University Press, p. 465.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Aitken A.J. (1984) 'Scottish Accents and Dialects' in 'Language in the British Isles' Trudgill, P. (ed). p. 99.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Scottish National Dictionary, Introduction p. xix
  14. ^ Aitken A.J. (1984) 'Scottish Accents and Dialects' in 'Language in the British Isles' Trudgill, P. (ed). p. 101.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ a b c Aitken A.J. (1984) 'Scottish Accents and Dialects' in 'Language in the British Isles' Trudgill, P. (ed). p. 98.
  17. ^ Coll Millar. 2007. Northern and Insular Scots. Edinburgh: University Press Ltd. p. 20
  18. ^ Harris J. (1984) English in the north of Ireland in Trudgill P., Language in the British Isles, Cambridge p. 120
  19. ^ a b A.J. Aitken in The Oxford Companion to the English Language, Oxford University Press 1992. p. 894
  20. ^ 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.
  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. 141.
  22. ^ A.J. Aitken in The Oxford Companion to the English Language, Oxford University Press 1992. p. 910
  23. ^ 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.