Constraints on terminal sounds in the inscriptions of early Scotland

Geoffrey R Adams (Author)

Bronze Vessels
Medieval, Roman


A survey was undertaken of the inscriptions from the early medieval period in Scotland in both Roman and Ogham script which have not been deciphered to the satisfaction of all scholars. It is argued that these inscriptions are linguistic in nature, implying a link between letters and sounds. The inscriptions of this period, excluding ones known to be in Latin or Old Irish, are surveyed, drawing attention to patterns in the distribution of sounds. The occurrence of sounds represented by letters in terminal positions in units of speech is contrasted with the occurrence of sounds in other environments, and it is shown that the terminal sounds conform to a constraint excluding consonantal stops. This is consistent with the behaviour of a single language, reasonably identified as Pictish, in these texts, though it is possible that there is more than one language within these undeciphered inscriptions.


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How to Cite
Adams, G. R. (2007). Constraints on terminal sounds in the inscriptions of early Scotland. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 136, 215–226.