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ORKNEY AND SHETLAND DIALECTS The DIALECTS of the Northern Isles of Scotland: conservative varieties of SCOTS heavily influenced by the NORN which they superseded. The most similar mainland varieties are the most conservative of the Central Scots dialects: west Angus and east Perthshire.


(1) Retention of the old front rounded vowel /ø/, written ui, u-e, or ö, as in guid/gude/göd and scull/scule/scöl (2) The preservation of the initial consonant clusters kn-, gn-, and wr-, as in knee /kniː/, gnaw /gnaː/, and wrong /wraŋ/. (3) Due to the Norn substratum: the stopping of the voiced and voiceless dental fricatives (this and blithe pronounced ‘dis’ and ‘blide’; three and earth pronounced ‘tree’ and ‘eart’); unvoiced realizations of /dʒ/ (‘chest’ for just). (4) Shetland tends to simplify /tʃ/ to /ʃ/: ‘sheese’ for cheese. (5) Shetland, like Icelandic, merges /hw/ and /kw/, in most localities as /kw/ (white pronounced ‘quite’), but in south Mainland as /hw/ (quite pronounced ‘white’), or with the sounds interchanged (‘kweel’ for wheel, ‘hween’ for queen).


(1) Familiar thou/the/thy alongside respectful ye/you/your. (2) Probably of Norn origin is the use of gender-marked personal pronouns, especially he, for weather, time, and other natural phenomena: He was blaain a gale It was blowing a gale. (3) Commonly, perfective be rather than have: I'm walked a piece the day I've walked a long way today. (4) Limited use of simple inversion to form questions, as an alternative to the use of an auxiliary: Whit tinks du?/Whit does du tink? What do you think? and—a further example of (3) Is du heard aboot yun afore? Have you heard about that before? (5) Characteristic reflexive usages, especially in the imperative: Heest dee! Hurry up!; Dip dee a meenit! Sit down for a minute!; A'll geng an rest me whin a'm pitten da bairns ta da scöl I'll go and have a rest when I've put the children to school.


(1) The vocabularies of the Northern Isles are distinct from those of other Scots dialects, mainly in their massive borrowing from Norn, of which over a thousand items survive. Typical examples of those in everyday use are: benkle dent, crumple; frush splutter, froth; gaan gawp; glaep gulp down, swallow greedily; oag crawl; peedie (Orkney)/peerie (Shetland) little; roog heap, pile; skoit peep, take a look; smucks carpet slippers; spret rip open, burst; tirn angry; trivvel grope, feel one's way. (2) Some words are structurally unusual for Scots, such as andoo to row a boat slowly against the tide, brigdie/brigda a basking shark, fluckra snow in large flakes, glimro phosphorescence (Orkney), hyadens animal carcasses (Shetland). (3) Some words fossilize Old Norse inflectional endings: the strong masculine -r in ilder fire (in the now-obsolete Shetland sea-language), shalder an oyster-catcher; the weak masculine -i in arvie chickweed, galtie a pig, boar, hegrie a heron; the weak feminine -a in arvo chickweed, shaela hoar-frost (Shetland); the vocative in the former Birsay terms of address gullie to a man, gullo to a woman; and the gender distinctions in the Shetland sea-terms russie a stallion, russa a mare. (4) Some nouns contain the Old Norse suffixed definite article (i)nn: croopan trunk of the body, fyandin the devil (Shetland), knorin boat (Shetland), and the Shetland sea-terms birten fire, hestin horse, monen moon, and sulin sun. (5) Unique to Shetland, though now mostly archaic, are words borrowed from Dutch fishermen, who have visited Shetland since the 17c: blöv to die, forstaa to understand, kracht energy, maat a friend, stör a penny. See DIALECT (SCOTLAND).

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