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Tracing L-­vocalisation in early Scots

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-217
JournalPapers in Historical Phonology
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2016


This paper provides novel evidence for the frequency and spatio-­temporal distribution of the earliest instances of Scots L-­vocalisation. This so-­called “characteristic Scots change” (McClure 1994: 48) entails the loss of coda‑/l/ following back vowels, with concomitant vocalic lengthening or diphthongisation (e.g. OE healf > OSc hawff; OE bolster > OSc bouster; OE full > OSc fow, cf. Johnston 1997: 90). Using data from the Linguistic Atlas of Older Scots (LAOS), spanning 1380-­1500, we reassess the claims for the emergence of L-­vocalisation in the early 15th century (Aitken & Macafee 2002: 101-­4) and for its completion by the beginning of the 16th (cf. Stuart-­Smith et al. 2006, Bann & Corbett, 2015). Based on attestations of <l>-­less forms and reverse spellings, we map the spread of <l>‑loss over time and space. Emphasis is placed on the relative chronologies and lexical and geographic distributions of the change in different phonological contexts, including morpheme‑final, pre-­labial, pre-­velar and (more lexically sporadic) pre-­alveolar. Particular attention is also paid to the under-­explored /l/~Ø alternation in borrowed items from (Norman) French (cf. realme~reaume ‘realm’) and their potential influence on the development of coda-­/l/ in Scots. The results show low-­level presence of the phenomenon throughout our corpus, but no signs of a categorical change in any of the target contexts.

    Research areas

  • Older Scots, L-vocalisation, From Inglis to Scots (FITS)

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