Scots ≠ Scotch ≠ Scottish

Mar 29, 2010 by

In yesterday’s posting I mentioned that Standard Scottish English resulted from the mixture of northern English dialects/accents with Scots. So what sort of language is Scots? Scots is spoken mostly in the lowlands, in southern and central parts of Scotland, as well as in Ulster (Northern Ireland); see the map. It is a Germanic language and a close relative of English. In fact, until the Renaissance period English and Scots were the same language (much like Russian and Ukrainian were the same language until about the same time, as discussed in my earlier postings on Ukrainian). Even though today some people still dispute the language status of Scots and consider it a dialect of English, it is hardly more similar to English than Danish is to Norwegian, which are considered distinct languages.

Those of you who have been in Edinburgh might have noticed the inscription running around the façade of John Knox House on the Royal Mile, which is written in an early form of Scots:

Lufe God abufe al and yi nychtbour as yi self (‘Love God above all and your neighbour as yourself’)

Another familiar example of Scots is the song “Auld Lang Syne” written by Robert Burns in 1788:

An sheerly yil bee yur pynt-staup!
an sheerly al bee myn!
An will tak a cup o kyndnes yet,
fir ald lang syn.

(‘And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
and surely I’ll buy mine !
And we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for the sake of old times.’)

Another poet (or maker in Scots) who wrote in Scots is Robert Louis Stevenson. He wrote most of his prose in English, but in Kidnapped (written in 1886) he masterfully depicted certain peculiarities of Scots pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar. Moreover, his poetry is written in both English and Scots. By his own admission in “The Maker to Posterity”, Scots is a lofty language alongside Greek and Latin (Lallans is one of the several names for Scots, and Tantallon is a mid-14th-century castle overlooking the Firth of Forth):

No bein fit to write in Greek,
I wrote in Lallans,
Dear to my heart as the peat reek,
Auld as Tantallon.

Let me finish this brief description of Scots by mentioning a few interesting words. Your kin are referred to in Scots as ilk, as in It’s yin o ma ilk right enough (‘He is one of my kindred alright’). For ‘slobbering’ or ‘smearing’ use slather; an extremely exhausted person can be described as puggled or wabbit, and of course if you study Scots long enough, you will become knackie (‘adriot, deft, skilful, ingenious’) at it!

Previous Post
| Next Post

Related Posts

Subscribe For Updates

We would love to have you back on Languages Of The World in the future. If you would like to receive updates of our newest posts, feel free to do so using any of your favorite methods below: