Phonological history of the Scots language

This is a presentation of the phonological history of the Scots language.

Phonetics below are represented in the International Phonetic Alphabet.

Change Examples
Anglo-Saxon b was lost between m and l or did not develop emmers (embers), skemmle (shamble), thimmle (thimble), and timmer (timber) from æmerge, scamel, þýmel and timber. Similarly with Romance lammer (amber), chaumer (chamber), nummer (number) and tummle (tumble) but Dizember (December), member and November
Final t in ct is often silent in Romance words but may be pronounced in derivatives. act, affect, connect, contact, effect, expect, fact, reflect and strict
Similarly with final t in pt attempt, corrupt, except and tempt. Note crap (crept) and empy (empty) from Anglo-Saxon créopan and æmetig.
Anglo-Saxon nd is often reduced to /n/ and, end, freend (friend), grund (ground), haund (hand), hunder (hundred), lend and staund (stand), from and, ende, fréond, grund, hand, hundred, lænan, stanan. Similarly with Romance graund (grand) and soond (sound).
Final ld is often reduced to /l/ auld (old), cauld (cold), fauld (fold), field and muild (mould).
Anglo-Saxon k was once universally pronounced before n but is now highly recessive knaw (know), knowe (knoll), knee, knife and knock. Similarly with g before n, for example gnaw, gnarl, gnap (snap at) and gnegum (tricky nature).
Anglo-Saxon c remained /k/, perhaps due to Norse influence bick (bitch), birk (birch), breeks (britches), kirk (church), sic (such), steek (stitch), thack (thatch) and yeuk (itch) from bicce, birce, bréc, cirice, swilc, stician, þæc and giccan.
Anglo-Saxon g became /g/ brig (bridge), dreg (dredge), rigg (ridge) and segg (sedge) from bryg, dragan, hrycg and secg.
Anglo-Saxon s became /ʃ/ especially in contact with front vowels hersh (hoarse), shinners (cinders) and shew (sow) from hás, sinder and sáwan. Similarly with Romance creash (grease), mince, notice, officer and vessel.
Romance sc /sk/ was retained sklate (slate), sklenner (slender) and sklice (slice) from esclate, esclendre and esclice. Similarly with Norse sklent (slant).
Anglo-Saxon sc became /sk/ skelf (shelf) and skimmels (shambles) from scylfe and sceamul similarly with Norse scare (share).
Anglo-Saxon f was often absorbed into the preceding vowel or consonant caur (calves), del (delve), deil (devil), dou (dove), e'en (even), gie (give), hairst (harvest), lou (love), ower (over), sel (self), siller (silver) and twal (twelve) from cealfian, delfan, déoful, dúfe, æfen, gefan, hærfest, lufu, ofer, self, silfer and twelfth. Similarly with (from various sources) hae (have), lea' (leave), pree (taste), shirra (sherrif) and Turra (Turrif).
Word final Anglo-Saxon ð (þ) was lost in a few words mou (mouth), quo (quoth), unco (uncouth) and wi with from múð, cwæð, uncúþ and wið.
Anglo-Saxon h /x/ remained so in Scots bricht (bright), fecht (fight), fricht (fright), heich (high), lauch (laugh), licht (light), nicht (night), roch (rough), thocht (thought) and teuch (tough) from beorht, fehtan, fyrhto, héah, hlóh, léoht, niht, rúh, þóht and tóh. But not tho (though), throu (through) and delite (delight).
Anglo-Saxon hw remained /xʍ/ and subsequently the now widespread /ʍ/ wha (who) and whit (what) from hwá and hwæt. Note hale (whole), hure (whore) and wulk (whelk).
Metathesis occurred in many words girse (grass), truff (turf), wrat (wart) and warstle (wrestle) from Anglo-Saxon græs, turf, wearte and wræstan. Similarly with Romance crub (kerb), modren (modern), pertend (pretend), paitren (pattern), provrib (proverb) and rhubrub (rhubarb).
Anglo-Saxon g became vocalised after o resulting in the diphthong /ʌu/ bowe (bow) from boga. Similarly, Norse lowe (flame) from logi.
After a, Anglo-Saxon l became vocalised to /aː/ in Middle Scots subsequently developing to /a/, /ɑ/ or /ɒ/ depending on dialect. aw (all), caw (call), fauch (fallow), faw (fall), gaw (gall), haud (hold), haw (hall), maut (malt), sauch (sallow), saut (salt), smaw (small), staw (stall) and waw (wall) from eal, ceallian, fealh, fallan, gealla, healdan, hall, mealt, salh, sealt, smæl, steall and wall. Similarly with Norse hause (neck) and Romance aum (alum), baw (ball) and scaud (scald).
After o, Anglo-Saxon l became vocalised to /ou/ in Middle Scots and subsequently diphthongised to /ʌu/. In some dialects this is vocalising to /o/ especially before /k/. bowster (bolster), bowt (bolt), cowt (colt), gowd (gold), howe (hollow), knowe (knoll), powe (poll) and towe (toll) from bolster, bolt, colt, gold, holh, cnol, polle and toll. Similarly with Romance rowe (roll) and sowder (solder), also Dutch gowf (golf).
After u, Anglo-Saxon l became vocalised to /u/ in Middle Scots fou (full), pou (pull) and oo (wool) from full, pullian and wull. Similarly Romance coum (culm) and poupit (pulpit).
A w before e resulted in /a/, /ɑ/, or /ɒ/ depending on dialect wab (web), wast (west), wadge (wedge), twal (twelve) and dwall (dwell) from web, west, wecg, twelfth and dwellan.
Anglo-Saxon a or æ in close position became /a/ occasionally /ɑ/ or /ɒ/. back, bath, blad (leaf/blade), cat, clap, hack, mak (make), ram, rax (stretch), tak (take), wall (well for water), wash, watter (water) and waps (wasp) from bæc, bæþ, blæd, catt, clappian, haccian, macian, ram, raxan, tacan, wælla, wæscan, wæter, and wæps. Similarly with Norse bag, flag (flagstone) and snag and Dutch pad (path).
Before /n/ and /ŋ/, /a/ developed can, lang (long), man, pan, sang (song), sank, strang (strong), than (then) and wran (wren) from cann, lang, mæn, panne, sang, sanc strang, þanne and wrænna. Similarly with Norse bann (curse), stang (sting), thrang (busy) and wrang (wrong).
Before /x/ and /n/ + consonant, Middle Scots /a/ became /ɑ/ or /ɒ/ caunle (candle), draucht (draught), haund (hand), lauch (laugh), saund (sand) and slauchter (slaughter) from candel, draht, hand, hæhhan, sand and slæ. Similarly with Norse baund (band), Dutch fraucht (freight), and Romance chancy, glanders, graund, and stank (a drain).
Before /?/ /s/ /sn/ /st/ and /sp/, /ɛ/ occurred bress (brass), clesp (clasp), ess (ash), fest (fast), gled (glad), gless (glass), gress (grass) and hesp (hasp) from bræs, claspe, æsce, fæst, glæd, glæs, gæs and hææpse.
Before /r/ + consonant, depending on dialect /e/ or /ɛ/ occurred airm (arm), airae (arrow), bairn (child), dairn (darn), hairm (harm), hairst (harvest), wairm (warm) and shairp (sharp) from earm, arwe, derne, hearm, hærfest, wearm and scearp. Similarly with aiple (apple), aix (axe), efter (after), peth (path), and wraith (wrath) from æpel, æx, æfter, pæþ and wræþþu. Similarly with Romance caird (card), cairy (carry), gairden (garden), regaird (regard), mairy (marry), mairtyr (martyr) and pairt (part).
Anglo-Saxon a or æ in open position became /a/ in Middle Scots and subsequently /e/. /ɛː/ may also occur, especially in Ulster. faither (father), gaither (gather), haimer (hammer), day, brain, fair, nail and tail from fæðer, gaderian, hamer, dæg, brægen, fæger, nægel and tægel. Similarly with Norse cake, gate (street), sale and scaith (damage).
Anglo-Saxon ag- and aw- became /a/, /ɑ/ or /ɒ/ depending on dialect draw, gnaw, and law from dragan, gnagan, haga and lagu, and Norse maw (seagull) and claw from maga and clawa.
Anglo-Saxon á became /e/ aik (oak), ait (oat), braid (broad), gae (go), hale (whole), hame (home), lade (load), mair (more), raip (rope), saip (soap), sair (sore) and nae (no) from ác, áte, brád, gá, hál, hám, lád, mára, ráp, sáp and ná.
Before /n/ Anglo-Saxon á became /e/ in central, southern and Ulster varieties and /i/ in northern varieties ane (one), ance (once), bane (bone), gane (gone), nane (none) and stane (stone) from án, ánes, bán, gán, nán and stán. Similarly with Norse, for example frae (from), kail (cole) and spae (foretell) from frá, kál and spá. The vowel /e/ occurs in other words of Norse origin, for example fley (frighten), graith (harness), hain (spare) and lair (mud) from fleyja, greiða, hagna and leir.
Anglo-Saxon áw became /aː/ in Middle Scots and subsequently /aː/, /ɑː/ or /ɒː/ blaw (blow), craw (crow), maw (mowe), sawe (sow), saul (soul) and snaw (snow) from bláwan, cráwe, máwan, sáwan, sáwol and snáwan. Similarly with Anglo-Saxon ág and Norse lágr which became awn (to own) and law (low).
Anglo-Saxon é became /i/ early on and remained so bee, breest breast, cheese, creep, deed, freend (friend), hear, heich (high), knee, seek (sick), sheep, sleep, teeth and wheen a few from béo, bréost, cése, créap, déd, fréond, héran, héah, cnéo, séoc, scép, slép, téþ and hwéne;. Also grieve (overseer) from grœfa.
Anglo-Saxon ea and éa became /e/ in Middle Scots, remaining so in some dialects and words and becoming /i/ in others "beard", breid (bread), deid (dead), deif (deaf), heid (head), "meat" (food), steid (stead) and tread from beard, bréad, déad, déaf, héafod, mete, stede and tredan. Similarly with Romance words like beast, cheat, conceit, creitur (creature), deceit, ease, please, ream (cream), reison and seison.
Anglo-Saxon í and ý /i/ in Early Scots became /ei/ in Middle Scots and subsequently /əi/ and /aɪ/ or /ɑɪ/ when long wyce (wise), wyte (blame), bide (remain), kye (cows), hive and fire from wís, wíte, bídan, cý, hýf and fýr. Similarly with Norse grice (pig), sile (strain), tyke (curr), lythe (shelter) and tyne (lose), and Romance advice, fine, cry, sybae (onion) but where Romance words entered Scots after this sound shift the original /i/ remained, for example bapteese (baptise), ceety (city), ceevil (civil), eetem (item), leeberal (liberal), leecence (license), meenister (minister), obleege (oblige), peety (pity), poleetical (political), poseetion, releegion (religion) and speerit (spirit).
Anglo-Saxon i and y became /ɪ/ but approach /ʌ/ in some dialects especially after /w/ and /ʍ/ hill, filthy, will, win, wind, whip, whisper and whisky.
Anglo-Saxon o in close position became /ɔ/ but in some dialects became /o/ box, lock and rock.
In open position o became /o/ coal, foal, hole and thole endure.
Before /m/, /p/, /b/ and /f/ Anglo-Saxon o became /a/ or /ɑ/ depending on dialect craft (croft), crap (crop), drap (drop), laft (loft), pat (pot), saft (soft) and tap (top) from croft, cropp, dropa, loft, pott, softe and top.
Anglo-Saxon ó became /ø/ early on and has remained so in peripheral dialects. In Fife and parts of Perthshire the /ø/ became /e/. In central varieties /ø/ became /ɪ/ when short bluid (blood), duin (done), muin (moon) and spuin (spoon) from dón, blód, móna, and spón. Similarly with Romance words like bruit (brute), fruit, schuil (school), tuin (tune), uiss (use n.).
In central varieties /ø/ became /eː/ when long buird (board), fuird (ford), fluir (floor) and muir (moor) from bórd, fórd, flór and mór along with dae (do), shae (shoe) and tae (to) from dó, scó and tó. Similarly with Norse words like Fuirsday (Thursday), luif (palm) and ruise (praise), and Romance words like puir (poor), shuir (sure), use (use v.).
In northern varieties /ø/ became /i/, in mid northern varieties after /ɡ/ and /k/ it became /wi/ guid (good), cuil (cool), from gód, cól and Dutch cuit (ankle), and Romance schuil (school). Note: But not fit (foot), wid (wood), wad (would), wud (mad), oo (wool), coud (could) and shoud/su(l)d (should).
Where /k/ or /x/ followed Anglo-Saxon ó, depending on dialect, it became /ju/, /u/, /jʌ/ and/or /ʌ/ beuch (bough), beuk (book), ceuk (cook), eneuch (enough), heuch (cliff), heuk (hook), leuch (laughed), leuk (look), pleuch (plough), sheuch (ditch), teuch (tough) and teuk (took) from bóh, bók, cók, genóh, hóh, hók, hlóh, tók, plóh, sóh, tóh and tók.
Anglo-Saxon ów became /ʌu/ flowe (flow), glowe (glow), growe (grow) and stowe (stow) from flówan, glówan, grówan and stówigan.
Anglo-Saxon u became /ʌ/, for example but and cut, but in some words it became /ɪ/ din (dun), hinnie (honey), simmer (summer), son and nit (nut) from dunn, hunig, sumor, sunne and hnut. Similarly in some Romance words, for example kizzen (cousin), kimmer (commère), kiver (cover), ingan (onion), stibble (stubble) and tribble (trouble).
Anglo-Saxon ú remained /u/ in Scots.
At the end of a word Anglo-Saxon ú became /ʌu/ in southern Scots.
brou (brow), broun (brown), cou (cow), dou (dove), doun (down), hoose (house), hou (how), mou (mouth), moose (mouse), nou (now), soor (sour) and thoum (thumb) from brú, brún, cú, dúfe, dún, hús, hú, múð, mús, nú, súr and ðúma.Similarly with Norse boun (ready), couer (cower), droop and stroup (spout), and Romance allou (allow), bouat (lantern), coont (count), dout (doubt), pouder (powder) and roond (round).
Anglo-Saxon í and ý became /ui/ in older Scots and subsequently developed into /ɑɪ/, /aɪ/ and /əi/ depending on dialect byle (boil) from býl, Similarly with Romance chyce (choice), eynment (ointment), eyster (oyster), evyte (avoid), jyne (join), ile (oil), pynt (point), syle (soil), spyle (spoil) and vyce (voice)
Various Anglo-Saxon word endings became any of /ɪ/, /i/, /a/, /ɑ/, /e/, or /ə/ depending on dialect borrae (borrow), follae (follow), marrae (marrow), meidae (meadow), pillae (pillow), sheddae (shadow), swallae (swallow), weedae (widow) and yallae (yellow) from borgian, folgian, mearh, maedwe, pyle, sceadu, swelgan/swealwe, widwe and geolo. Similarly with Norse windae (window).

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