Early spelling evidence for Scots L-vocalisation: A corpus-based approach

Benjamin Molineaux Ress, Joanna Kopaczyk, Warren Maguire, Rhona Alcorn, Vasileios Karaiskos, Betty Los

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


L-vocalisation (henceforth LV) is a common feature among regional and social varieties of the Insular West Germanic languages, both historical and contemporary. It is also one of the phonological changes that are deemed "characteristic" of Scots (McClure 1994: 48), representing “a persistent and vigorous feature of working-class speech” (Stewart-Smith et al. 2006: 77) in present-day Scotland. Why is it then important to revisit LV in the context of the earliest extant Scots documents, dating back to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries? Firstly, this study highlights the need for in-depth corpus-based engagement with historical material to cast light on a phonological process that is perceived as a regional diagnostic. Secondly, the inception and operation of the change has usually been illustrated in reference literature with a series of stock examples, which are recycled and repeated by consecutive authors, giving the impression of a systematic, uncontroversial, across-the-board process. A close reading of the literature, however, may cast some doubt on this purported systematicity and (degree of) completion of the change in the pre-modern period. Finally, the process has not been studied in a quantitative, corpus-based fashion, in order to contrast spellings indicative of LV with those indicative of its absence
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHistorical Dialectology in the Digital Age
EditorsRhona Alcorn, Bettelou Los, Joanna Kopaczyk, Benjamin Molineaux
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
ISBN (Print)9781474430531
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2019
EventFirst AMC Symposium hosted by The Angus McIntosh Centre for Historical Linguistics - Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 9 Jun 201610 Jun 2016


ConferenceFirst AMC Symposium hosted by The Angus McIntosh Centre for Historical Linguistics
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Older Scots
  • historical linguistics
  • corpus linguistics
  • phonology
  • spelling


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