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Orkney Scots

Consonants

Consonants, other than those listed below, usually have the same phonetic values (pronunciation) in Orkney Scots, as in Standard English. For more detail see Orthography.

An initial <d> before a vowel may be pronounced /dj/ or even /ʤ/.
Initial <f> (/f/) may be pronounced /fj/ in words like fact, fauch and ferm etc. In North Ronaldsay /ʧ/ for initial /k/ occurs in words such as cake, care and kiosk.

Medial and final <ch> is usually /x/ in words such as bocht, nicht and loch.

Initial <ch> is usually /ʃ/ in words such as chap, chield, chirl and chowk.

The cluster <nch> is usually /nʃ/ in words such as brainch, clinch, dunch, hainch, inch and French.

The trigraph <tch> are usually /ʧ/ in words such as fleetch and wratch.

The trigraph <dge> is usually /ʧ/ in words such as begrudge, cadge, cruldge and fadge.

The graphemes <g> and <ge> is occasionally /ʧ/ in words such breinge and gigot.

Initial <gn> is usually /gn/ (predomionantly among older speakers) in words such as gnap and gnaw.

Initial <kn> is usually /kn/ (predomionantly among older speakers) in words such as knap, knee, knot and knowe.

Initial <j> /ʧ/ in words suh as Jean, jeely and jyle.

Medial and final <ld> is usually /ld/, however, syllable final <ld> is often simplified to /l/, in words such as auld, bield, cauld, elder and fauld.

Medial and final <nd> is usually /nd/, however, syllable final <nd> is often simplified to /n/, in words such as baund, daunder, find, haund and sindry

The digraph <ng> is usually /ŋ/ in words such as finger, hing, ingan and single.

The digraph <nk> is usually is /ŋk/ in words such as bink and hank.

The digraph <qu> is usually /kw/, after /s/ or /sw/ it may be /ʍ/, in words such as acquent, quair, queen, square.

The digraph <sh> is usually /ʃ/, but the cluster <shr> may be realised /sr/, in words such as creash, sheep. It may occasionally be /ʒ/ in words such as fushion and pushion.

The digraph <th> is usually /θ/ in words such as mooth, sooth, thing, thrawn, truith and wirth and usually /ð/ in words such as blether, buith, meith, thaim and thair.

The digraph <wh> is usually /ʍ/ in words such as wha, whan, wheech and wheel.

Initial <wr> is often /r/ in words such as wrack, wrang, wricht and write.

Vowels and Diphthongs

Vowels in unstressed positions are usually /ə/ in words such as aboot, the, oxter, duntit, bannock and smeddum.

Initial <a> is usually /ə/ in words such as ahint and awa etc.

The grapheme <a> is usually /a/ in words such as aff, lang, mak, wash, watch.

Final <a> is usually /a:/ in words such as awa, twa and wha.

Cauldhame, OrkneySouth Ronaldsay, Orkney

Initial and medial <au> is usually /a:/, in North Ronaldsay, before /r/, it may be /ɛ/, in words such auld, haud, haund, saul, saund and slauchter. The cluster <auld> may be /ʌul(d)/.

Final <aw> is usually /a:/ in words such as aw, blaw, caw, draw, faw, gaw, gnaw, haw, slaw, snaw and staw. That occasionally occurs word initial or medial in, for example, awn, awfu, bawbee and bawsant.

Initial and medial <ai> is usually /e(:)/, in some areas /ɛ(:)/, in words such as aiblins, aik, aiple, ait, aith, braid, craitur, fain, gaither, graith, haimer and laim. Before /p/, /t/, /k/, /ʧ/, /f/, /s/ and /ʃ/ it may be /æ:/ in words such as aik, aiple, ait and craitur. Occasionally it may be /i/ in baith and laich.

The cluster <a-e> is usually /e(:)/, after /w/ it may be /əi/ and in In North Ronaldsay it may be /ɛ:/ before /r/, in words such as alane, ale, ane, ance, bane, face, gane, gate, hame, mane, nane, Pace, stane and wame. In some dialects the cluster <ane> is /in/ in words such as alane, ane, bane, gane, mane, nane and stane, occasionally it may be /i/ before other consonants.

Final <ae> is usually /e/, occasionally /i/, in words such as ae, brae, f(r)ae, gae, sae, tae n. and wae. However, <ae> is /ø/ or /Y/ in adae, dae, shae and tae v. On the island of Stronsay those may be /e:/ and /ɪ/ in daes (dis), daesna (disna) and daena (dinna).

Final <ay> is usually /e/ in words such as day, gray and lay.

The digraph <ea> is usually /e(:)/ or /i(:)/, before /k/ it may be /ɛ/, in words such as beast, cheap, deave, east, heap, hear, leak, meat, ream, sea, peak and tea.

The Peedie Hoose, OrkneyMainland, Orkney

The digraph <ee> is usually /i(:)/ in words such as dee, dree, eetem, freet, jeely, keep, meet, teeth, weel and weet.

The digraph <ei> is usually /i(:)/ or /e(:)/ in words such as beir, deid, heid, meidae, peir, spreid, teir and threid. Before /x/, <ei> is /i/, in words such as dreich, heich and skeich.

The digraph <ie> is usually /i(:)/ in words such as bield, chield, scrieve and shielin.

The grapheme <e> is usually /ɛ/, in some areas before /l/ it may be /e/, in words such as bed, ebb, esh, fecht, gled, gless, seck and wecht.

Millbrig B&B, OrkneyMainland, Orkney

The grapheme <i> is usually /ɪ/, before /g/, /k/ and /m/ it may be /i/, before /l/ it may be /ɛ/, before /x/ it may be /əi/ and a preceding /k/ may be /kj/ or /tʃ/, in words such as drink, in, inch, licht, lift, nicht, pit, rin, simmer, sin, stibble, whin, whisper, whit, wid, wind, wir, wird, wirm and wittins.

The graphemes <o> and <oa> are usually /ɔ/, but may also be /o/, in words such as boat, boss, box, coal, cod, common, dochter, hoast, loch, on, rock and thocht.

The digraph <oo> is usually /u/ in words such as aboot, coont, droop, hoose, moose, oot, scoor and soond.

Gray's Noust, OrkneyStromness, Orkney

The digraph <ou> is usually /u/ in words such as allou, bouk, broun, cour, coum, doun, dout, poupit and thoum.

The cluster <u-e> is usually /ø/ in words such as dule and hure.

The grapheme <u> is usually /ʌ/ in words such as bund, burn, drunken, fund, grund, truff, unce and wund.

The digraph <ui> is usually /ø/ or /Y/, before /p/ it may be /(j)u/, in words such as abuin, abuise, bluid, bruit, buird, cuil, cuit, duin, fluir, fruit, fuird, guid, luif, luim, muin, muir, muisic, ruise, schuil, shuir, spuin, uise, uiss and Yuil. On the island of Stronsay it may be /ɪ/ in abuin, abuiss n., bluid, bruit, cuil, cuit, duin, fruit, guid, luif, luim, muin, schuil, spuin, uiss and Yuil etc. and /e:/ in abuise v., buird, fluir, fuird, muir, muisic, ruise, shuir, v. and uise.

The digraph <eu> is usually /ø/, /Y/ or /(j)u/, in words such as beuch, beuk, eneuch, heuk, leuch, leuk, neuk, sheuch, teuch and teug.

The digraph <ew> is usually /ju/, in Mainland Orkney it may be /ʌu/, in words such as dew, few, new and spew.

The clusters <i-e> and <y-e> are usually /əi/, in North Ronaldsay /oi/, in words such as advice, bide, byle, fine, fire, ile, rive, tyne, wice and wyte.

Initial <ey> is usually /əi/ in words such as eyntment and eyster. Final <y> and <ye> is usually /ai/ in words such as cry and kye etc.

The digraphs <oi> and <oy> are usually /ɔe/ in words such as Boid, foy, noise and ploy.

Initial and medial <ow> is usually /ʌu/ and occasionally /ɔ/, in words such as bowt, cowp, cowt, gowd, gowf, lowp and owsen. Root final <owe> is also /ʌu/ and occasionally /ɔ/, in words such as flowe, glowe, growe, howe, knowe, lowe, rowe and towe.

Suffixes

Strictly speaking not a suffix, <ae> is usually /ə/, also /ɔ/ and /u/, in words such as Americae, airae, barrae, nairae, swallae and windae.

Dimutive <ie> is usually /i/ in words such as grannie, laddie, lassie, shappie and wifie.

Diminutive <ock> is usually /ək/, but may be reduced to /ɔ/, in words such as bannock, hillock and lassieock.

Subjective <fu> is usually /fu/ in words such as awfu, carefu and mensefu.

The negative particle <na> is usually /nə/ in words such as daena (dinna), haesna, maunna, winna and wisna.

The verbal endings <t> and <it>are usually /t/ and /ɪt/ in words such as scunnert, selt, telt, duntit and skelpit. In south east Orkney they may be /d/ and /əd/, similarly /ɪd/ for final <et> in words like lempet and packet.

Adverbial and adjectival <y> and <ie> are usually /i/ in words such as reekie, sairy, stany and stourie.

Adverbial <ly> is usually /li/ in words such as brawly, feckly, fully, geyly, likely and uncoly.

Older speakers still differentiate the present participle and the gerund (verbal noun). In Older Scots the present participle was written <and> /an(d)/ and the gerund <ing> /in/. Those pronunciations are still used.

Present Participle: 
He wis aye stravaigan aboot.
He was always roaming around.
Gerund: 
He's fond o stravaigeen aboot.
He likes roaming around.

Examples of the Orkney dialect can be found at
Sigurd Towrie's excellent website about the Orkneys

Literature:

Flaws, M. and Lamb, G. (1997) The Orkney Dictionary, The Orkney Language and Culture Group, Kirkwall.

© 1996 - 2015