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Notes on Scottish English.vowel sounds


The following very helpful notes on Scottish English were kindly provided by Eleanor Lawson, lecturer in phonetics and phonology at Oxford University's phonetics laboratory, with contributions from Tim Bowyer in square brackets:

It is a feature of Scottish English that we don't have as many vowel sounds as speakers with English accents. We lack about five vowel sounds that English speakers use. Scottish speakers don't use a schwa sound like English speakers. The sound in 'the' is the same as the sound in 'bit'. The other words in the list after 'the' have various different vowels in them, but never schwa [Tim's comment : and yet I could swear I've heard Scottish citizens use the schwa, not only sometimes in "the" but also in such words as "frivolous"].

Also, for Scottish speakers, 'bird' and 'heard' are not homophones [the same sound], although they are for speakers with an English accent. Scottish speakers lack the vowel that English speakers use here. The vowel in 'heard' will always be the same as the vowel in 'bet', 'let' and 'set' and the vowel in 'bird' can be the same as the vowel in 'but' or 'bit' depending on the accent and gender of the speaker.

Scots, like many speakers from the North of England, also do not differentiate between front and back 'a' sounds as in 'Sam' and 'Psalm'; both sounds are always fronted and short. Nor do we differentiate between 'cot' and 'caught'; both these words are homophones for Scottish English speakers and they both have a short vowel in them.

In the diphthongs section, two of the sounds [listed] as diphthongs, 'coat' and 'face', are actually monophthongal vowels [single vowel sounds] in Scottish English /kot/ /fes/.

For words ending in /r/, you write the sequence of sounds as a triphthong, which is accurate for English English, but in Scottish, of course, we didn't lose the /r/ at the end of words so 'fewer' is /fjur/ etc. [Tim: I think the same goes for Irish English].


[A last note from Tim : All of the English sounds in fonetiks are categorised and transcribed according to their British English identity, and solely to facilitate comparisons. Please disregard the categorisation and transcription of the other six Englishes; the sounds are authentic and speak for themselves. The same applies for French and French Canadian, and for German and Swiss German.]



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