The Scottish Dialect

Published 16th November 2011
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The Scottish Dialect

The blog post below on Italian dialects got me thinking about the UK, and if we have anything similar occurring here. This led me straight up north to Scotland. ‘Scots’ is the collective name for a number of dialects spoken in Scotland. These are also known as Doric, Lallans, Scotch, Buchan, Dundonian, Glesca and Shetland. It is the traditional Germanic language of lowland Scotland and the Northern Isles.

Languages of Scotland

There are three main languages spoken in Scotland. These are Scots, Scottish English and Gaelic.

The language arrived with the Angles who arrived in South East Scotland in the fifth century. Southern English began to encroach as the language used for formal speech and writing. English was the language of the Scottish Reformation of 1560, the Union of the Crowns in 1603 and the Union of the Parliaments in 1707. It was in this period that Scots began to be seen as a ‘dialect’ rather than a ‘language’.

The dialect spoken in Shetland shares some vowel sounds which are common in Scandinavia. The most obvious one here is ö. Although the vowel sounds can shift throughout the isles, the distinctive ae sound (e.g. paet and speak) is found in all areas. The tendency to replace the English or Mainland Scots’ th with d or t is very noticeable. E.g.; this becomes dis, that becomes dat, thin becomes tin, thick becomes tick.

Currently, the Scottish use a variety of English and Scots in their daily speech with a larger influence from one or the other depending on their upbringing and environment. Recently, thanks to changing attitudes, the language has been going from strength to strength. It has been recognised as a language under the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages.

This, coupled with excellent resources for teaching the language to children and a growing awareness of the cultural importance of the language, is contributing to the ever increasing longevity of Scots.

Here are a few examples of idioms in Scots;
A wee thing amuses the bairnsSimple people are amused by simple things
Tak tent o time ere time taks tent of theeTake care of how you spend your time before run you out of it
Guid things come in sma bulkGood things come in small packages

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