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


In this chapter, we provide novel, corpus-based 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.

In Historical Dialectology in the Digital Age Eds. Rhona Alcorn, Bettelou Los, Joanna Kopaczyk and Benjamin Molineaux, Edinburgh University Press.
Benjamín Molineaux
Benjamín Molineaux
Lecturer in Linguistics

I am a historical linguist, working on sounds, spellings, word structure and stress in Mapudungun and Older Scots.