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, 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, /i/).

Exceptions can also exist for particular vowel phonemes, dialects, words, etc., some of which is discussed in greater detail below.

Phonemes[edit]

The underlying phonemes of the Scottish vowel system (that is, in both Scottish Standard English dialects and Scots dialects) are as follows:[3]

Aitken's Scots
vowel
number
1 2 3 16 4 8 8a 10 9 5 6 7 11 12 18 13 14 15 17 19
Scots phoneme /ai~əi/ /i/ /ei/[a] /ɛ/ /e/ /eː~eːə/[b] /əi/ /oi/ /o/ /ʉ/[c] /ø/[d] /iː/[e] /ɔː/ /ɔ/[f] /ʌʉ/[g] N/A /jʉ/ /ɪ/[h] /a/[i] /ʌ/
Scottish English phoneme /ai~əi/ /i/ /ɛ/ /e/[j] /ɔi/ /o/ N/A /ʉ/[k] N/A /ɔ/[l] N/A /ʌʉ/ /jʉ/[m][n] /ɪ/ /a/ /ʌ/[k]
Wells'
lexical
sets
PRICE FLEECE DRESS FACE, happY CHOICE GOAT N/A FOOT, GOOSE N/A THOUGHT, LOT, CLOTH N/A MOUTH N/A KIT TRAP, PALM, BATH STRUT
Example words bite, shire beet, sheer beat, shear breath, head bet, fern bate, race bait, raise bay, ray boil, join boy, joy boat, four (aboot, mooth) boot, fruit (dee, lee) bought, flaw bot, for (nout, owre) about, mouth beauty, true bit, fir bat, farm butt, fur

★ = Vowels that definitively follow the Scottish Vowel Length Rule.

  1. ^ Vowel 3 remains a distinct phoneme /ei/ only in some North Northern Scots varieties,[4][5] generally merging with /i/ or /e/ in other Modern Scots varieties.[5]
  2. ^ In most Central and Southern Scots varieties vowel 8 /eː/ merges with vowel 4 /e/. Some other varieties distinguish between the two at least partially.[6] In Ulster Scots the realisation may be [ɛː].[7] In non-rhotic Geordie, 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.
  3. ^ Stem-final /ʉ/, is diphthongised to /ʌʉ/ in Southern Scots.[8]
  4. ^ 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/.[9] /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.[10] Before /k/ and /x/ /ø/ is often realised [(j)ʉ] or [(j)ʌ] depending on dialect.[11]
  5. ^ Stem-final /iː/ is diphthongised to [əi] or [ei] in Southern Scots.[8]
  6. ^ /ɔ/ (vowel 18) may merge with /o/ (vowel 5) in Central and Southern Scots varieties.[12]
  7. ^ /ʌʉ/ may be merged with /o/ before /k/ in many Modern Scots varieties.
  8. ^ In some eastern and Southern Scots varieties /ɪ/ approaches /ɛ/ in quality. Whether this results in a phonemic merger needs to be further researched.[13]
  9. ^ In some Modern Scots varieties /a/ may merge with /ɔː/ in long environments.[14] (see below)
  10. ^ 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/.[15]
  11. ^ a b /ʉ/ corresponds to two phonemes in Geordie (as in most other English accents): /uː/ GOOSE versus /ʊ/ FOOT; however, this /ʊ/ is not distinguished from /ʌ/, those vowels having never historically split in Geordie. In other words, the two relevant phonemes in all Scottish and Ulster varieties are FOOT/GOOSE versus STRUT, whereas in Geordie the two are FOOT/STRUT versus GOOSE.[2]
  12. ^ Vowel 12 /ɔː/ is typically distinguished from vowel 18 /ɔ/ in Scots but not in Scottish English, which features the cot-caught merger. Furthermore, this merged vowel may be invariably long in all environments, for some dialects. In Geordie, the vowels are distinct as /ɔː/ for THOUGHT/NORTH and /ɒ/ for LOT/CLOTH.[2] They are normally distinct in Ulster English as well, where CLOTH has a long vowel /ɔː/.
  13. ^ The sequence corresponding to the CURE set is /ʉr/ (regardless of the preceding /j/, so including /jʉr/), not /jʉ/, as CURE stems from historical /uːr/. Both /ʉr/ and /jʉr/ function as vowel+consonant sequences in the phonologies of Scots and Scottish English. In English, /jʉ/ is normally regarded as a consonant+vowel sequence as well, rather than a diphthong. In this article, it is analyzed as a diphthong, following Aitken.
  14. ^ /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.

Rule specifics and exceptions[edit]

The Scottish Vowel Length Rule affects all vowels except the always-short vowels 15 and 19 (/ɪ/ and /ʌ/) and, in many Modern Scots varieties, the always-long Scots-only vowels 8, 11, and 12 (here transcribed as /eː/, /iː/ and /ɔː/) that do not occur as phonemes separate from /e, i, ɔ/ in Scottish Standard English.[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]

  • /ɪ/ and /ʌ/ (vowels 15 and 19) are usually short in all environments.
  • In some Modern Scots varieties /a/ may merge with /ɔː/ in long environments.[14] 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/, /ø/, /ʌʉ/, and /jʉ/,(vowels 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 13, and 14) 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/ (vowel 12) usually occurs in all environments in final stressed syllables.[14][clarification needed]
  • Vowel 8a, which only occurs stem-finally, and vowel 10 are always short;[5] therefore, vowel 1 in its short form (according to the Rule), vowel 8a, and vowel 10 all merge as the diphthong /əi/. In its long form, vowel 1 is here transcribed as /ai/.[19]

History[edit]

The Scottish Vowel Length Rule is assumed to have come into being between the early Middle Scots and late Middle Scots periods.[23]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Harris J. (1985) Phonological Variation and Change: Studies in Hiberno English, Cambridge. p. 14
  2. ^ a b c d 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. ^ Scottish National Dictionary, Introduction p. xxxvi Archived 17 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ a b c A History of Scots to 1700, pp. xcviii
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Johnston P. Regional Variation in Jones C. (1997) The Edinburgh History of the Scots Language, Edinburg University Press, p. 465.
  8. ^ a b Introduction. Scottish National Dictionary. p. xxx. Archived from the original on 19 August 2014.
  9. ^ Aitken A.J. (1984) 'Scottish Accents and Dialects' in 'Language in the British Isles' Trudgill, P. (ed). p. 99.
  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. 144-145.
  11. ^ Scottish National Dictionary, Introduction p. xix
  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. 152.
  13. ^ Aitken A.J. (1984) 'Scottish Accents and Dialects' in 'Language in the British Isles' Trudgill, P. (ed). p. 101.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Wells, John C. (1982), Accents of English, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-22919-7, (vol. 1)
  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.