Complete Songs Of Robert Burns - online book

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The Scottish vernacular, commonly known as Broad Scots, is the direct descendant of Anglo-Saxon or Old English, with a mixture of Erse from the Highlands and a sprinkling of French due to the close political and social alliance which subsisted between Scotland and France for several centuries. Most old native Scottish words are to be found in English literature; syne or sine, for example, so well known with a more intense meaning in the present day, is used by Chaucer and other English writers before his time. All the evidence of comparative philology proves that the people of the North of England and of Central and Southern Scotland have best preserved the ancient tongue, and that the language of Wynton, Barbour, Henry the Minstrel, William Dunbar, Gavin Douglas, and Lyndsay is the same (dialectal varia­tions apart) as that of Robert de Brunne, Hampole, Chaucer, and Lydgate. The Scottish dialect is rich in vowel sounds, and it has a smoothness and flexibility which adapts itself to poetry and musical expression. Without taking into account the finer shades, there are at least twelve different vowel sounds in the language of the Songs of Burns, and some of these have no English equivalent. For example, the open a is a much favoured substitute for the more close a, which, as compared with a, is neglected in Scottish orthography. It is remarkable how little the single a followed by a con­sonant is used in the vernacular of Burns. Except in the combinations such as oo, ou, or ow the absence of the o is striking, and the genius of the language seems to avoid it as. much as possible. Decidedly a is the favourite vowel. Another peculiarity is the elision and non-pronunciation of some of the terminal consonants, particularly d and g. The Note prefixed to the Glossary in the first edition of the Works of Burns, 1786, refers only to the terminations in ing and ed. But Burns cancelled this Note, and the following orthoepic instructions appear in all the later editions of his works which he personally revised : ' The ch and gh have always the guttural sound. The sound of the English diphthong 00 is commonly spelled on. The French u, a sound which often occurs in the Scotch language, is marked 00, or ui. The a in genuine Scotch words, except when forming a diphthong or followed by an e mute after a single consonant, sounds generally like the broad English a in wall. The Scotch diphthongs ae always, and ea very often, sound like the French ( masculine. The Scotch diphthong ey sounds like the Latin ei.' Burns wrote for the Ayrshire dialect, and his remarks apply to that district. The difficulty of symbolizing the speaking voice is obvious. In speech the quantity, quality, accent, and stress of the different letters, and particularly of the vowels, form a combination difficult to convey in writing, and therefore any illustration here of the actual sounds can only be approximate. Besides, the fact that no two persons hear exactly alike complicates matters still more. Much of the orthography of the so-called Scotch of the modern school of fiction is unauthorized, and the pro­nunciation is probably intended for the outlander.
The following short and Imperfect sketch of the construction and pronuncia­tion of the dialect of Burns is submitted with diffidence as an introduction to those who are not familiar with the subject:
a, a', au, aw, like a in wall, are as ia', ca', Ian', gaun, bauld, raucJih, daut, jawpish ; the long a in words with an e mute, as in bathe, is exemplified in hame, bane, lane, lave; and the diphthongs ai, ay, as in train, are exemplified in maist, naig, craigie, staig. The ae, and sometimes ea, like the 4 in French eafl, are as in not, brae, wean, teat, healsome. The following with a are the

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