Speakin oot for Scots

tea_towel_scots_langLang syne acceptit as a ‘language’ by the Scottish an UK parliaments, oor heidmaist spoken minority leid aye has a want o status or e’en visability in education, the prent press (ootside o cartoons), in braidcastin, academia, science or in onie ither mensefu area.

Tho remainin a near ‘secret tongue’ Scots is spoken yet by hunders o thoosands o Scots. The census nummers will nae doot prove Scots is uised bi monie times the amoot of fowk spaekin Scotland’s ither minoritie leid, Gaelic.

Gaelic, hitsel a language lang pit doon aften waur nor Scots, an gey an near smuired oot, noo has the guid o official support an siller, e’en in Scots-speakin hairtlands. It is braw tae see a tongue aince leuked doon on noo haein muckle mair respeck an status, but Scots is aye sair made – noo hit needs its ain vyce heard.

Ae muckle drawback is the ongaun ‘image’ o Scots as jist for daft-like blethers atween faimlie an freens an the orra lauch on the telly or radio. Aw sic ‘wee leids’ has thon kin o problem whaur the’r a pooerfu official language – here English is ‘sairious’ an Scots jist isna.

It wasna aye thon wey. Scots wis ae time uised regular-like in the press. Did ye ken Keir Hardie wrut reglar columns for a newspaper (the Glesga Weekly Mail) that published airticles, aw in Scots, gien ower til discussion o wechty maitters affectin and smittin society? The ae example nooadays ye coud pynt tae is Robbie Shepherd in the P&J.

Dinna tak tent o the dreich haiverers that lat on Scots is deid, jist acause naebodie speaks it tae thaim. Scots is daein awa (jist) in its hairtlands but wi English aw aboots, in scuils, on the TV an online it is aye fechin for hits verra life.

Scots has a place in oor hairts, but it has a place in oor braider society an aw. Oor bairns needs tae lairn it, we hae tae gie it visability in oor ilkaday lifes. Ae speaker pit it this wey:-

“Ane o the raesons Scots maitters tae me is acause it’s lik Scotland’s secret. It doesna hae onie presence in wir media ..and yit hunders o thoosands o Scots uises it tae blether, communicate their emotion, live their hale lifes. That doesna seem richt”.

Aften fowk dinna ken whit they’ve got till it’s awa, but the guid thing is Scots isna ‘awa’. It’s aye aw aboot us, mibbies a bit wabbit at times, but Scots is a rael story o thrawn survival. It’ll anelie dwine awa tae naething gin we lat it. We need tae gie it a bittie mair love an respeck.

Jist hark at this speaker:-

“It’s a language I didn’t even know I spoke, thanks to the culpable ignorance of so many in our society. I still can’t write it particularly well (hence the English, apologies), but can read and speak it probably with more clarity than any other language, as it was my first. And as such it connects me to my community, my family and so much cultural heritage it would be impossible to turn away from that.”

Somewey acause it’s ‘jist Scots’ we’ve kin o no taken muckle tent o its importance in oor culture. Generations o bairns has been brocht up uneducate in their ain mither tongue. It’s no richt. A muckle opportunity in scuils tae help oor bairns be ‘bilinguals’ is jist tint.

“[W]hen I first attended school they sent me to speech class to make me speak correctly I was 5[…] so school tried to remove the way I talked”

Nooadays they mebbe dinna tawse the bairns or sen thaim tae “speech class” but “respecting the language a child brings to school” doesnae for normal rax tae lairnin thaim hoo tae read and write in it. The punitive stuff has been tynt, but in monie weys the policy steys the same. Scots is no tae hae visability, and is no tae be a language we lairn wir bairns in onie kinna systematic wey. Auld auld-farrant attitudes is hard tae chynge. As ae speaker pit it: “Scots […] needs upbiggit an emancipatit, an that the Scottish estaiblishment is agin that.”
Sae whit can we dae?

The hinmaist speaker is no wrang.

The ‘estaiblishment’ has been dingin Scots doon for hunders o years. Back in the 1700s the first beuks was pitten oot tae help the guid middle-class fowk ‘on the make’ tae ‘expurgate’ their ‘Scotticisms,’ and ither siclike ettles. It’s no been a language o pooer and status for monie’s the year (in fack 1603 tae wale the year).

The census figures is oot in Juin. They’re like tae shaw that somewey atween 10% til 15% o fowk in Scotland speaks Scots. Mibbies hauf a million fowk sel-identifyin as Scots speakers. Shuirlie, gien the wey Scots has been sair hauden doon bi oor ‘hie heid yins’ for mair nor 300 year noo, that’s an oot-staundin tale o success.

But ahint the upliftin numbers the’r aften a mair dreicher an dowier story.

“The bairns speak back tae me in English. It’s haurd tae pass it on tae them wi nae mony fowk aroun them speakin Scots, an that’s in Scotland!”

The kenspeckle fact is that Scots sall, no mibbies, but sall be aw but deid wi’in twa-three generations fae noo, and wi the age o maist Scots speakers gettin aulder ilka day, the’r a rael need tae cowp the wey we dae things in Scotland, gin we’re tae mak siccar this muckle pairt o Scotland’s culture doesnae dee oot.

If you haud that Scots shud hae the status o Scotland’s ither twa leids, we want tae hear fae ye. Attitudes is chyngin an we can thank oor Gaelic freens for leadin the wey. The Gaelic has lowpit forrit tae the position it’s in, wharbyes it’s jist aboot haudin its ain, and it has a visability in aw airts and pairts o the kintra, acause Gaelic stirrers has wun forrit wi scuilin, lessons, braidcastin, signage, and a wheen ither important things. Scots has a lang gait tae traivel alang tae we can win forrit wi aw thon, but fowk is mair awaur thir days o ‘linguistic diversitie’ an whit thon can add tae oor society. An the census numbers will help.

It micht be a sair fecht, but it’s time we yoked tae. As the sayin pits it “a gaun fit’s aye gettin”

Are YOU wi us? Mair here.

Categories: Scottish Culture


18 replies

  1. Mak share ye git yer erses alang tae Ane Satyre O The Thrie Estaites fir a fev oor (aye, 5hrs!) feast o auld Scoats!!

  2. Bein fae Dundee, ehd feast on pehs. Plen ains, an ingun ains an’a.

  3. Official support and siller’s no’ the answer, it hasnae worked for Gaelic – juist helped to create a self-serving, self-perpetuating elite. The fok that say the language is haudin’ it’s ain – they’re paid weel tae come oot wi’ thon guff!

  4. It’s easier to speak than to read! I’ve found that if you speak aloud whilst reading, it becomes completely natural – and that’s sad because we’re just not used to seeing it in print.

    I recently bought my niece ‘The Gruffalo in Scots’ and she adores it. Will have a look at your links and thanks for a wonderful article.

    BTW my friend’s mother is originally from Italy and speaks the most brilliant Scottish/Italian eg “Gia mia thata cloota fae ina bloa tha table tae a dichta tha stoora oaffa tha toap” (give me that cloth from underneath the table to wipe the dust off the top) I could listen to her all day :-)

    • That’s a braw example wi yer freend’s mither Annie. A bocht a copy o the Gruffalo in Scots tae. It’s a guid beuk for bairns, altho the grammar’s aw English. The’r a hantle beuks for bairns nooadays. We’re aye needin mair, but we coud dae wi mercatin the anes we div hae wi a thochtie mair smeddum A doot… Appeirinly the war a Scoto-Yiddish incomer dialect a while syne – leastweys the war efter David Daiches onieroads. A like that. The wife is fae England. She was puled up gaun intil a shop in Lanarkshire askin for a roll and tatty scone. They didna believe a wuman wi her accent wad say tatty. A think we need tae ask wirsels whitwey wad a body fae fremmit airts no say tatty (or onie ither Scots)? At ae time the kings o Norroway and Denmark had Scots translators fee’d tae thaim. We can dae a hantle sicht mair tae promote the teachin and leir o Scots, baith amang Scots fowk born and bred here, and amang new Scots forby.

  5. For mair information on Scots visit http://www.scotslanguage.com

  6. For information aboot Scots in the census ye can visit http://www.ayecan.com

  7. The question of what is Scottis/Scots in the contemporary context is highly contentious. Much of the modern written language is often English reconstituted in a Scoticised form. The lack of an official and standardized orthography and lexis sometimes gives text an inelegant appearance. Mixed register also adds to the confusion. That the modern language is much degraded and Anglicised as a result of the loss of a royal court and the process of political integration in the British state is incontrovertible. However the ancient lexical stock is rich. We have examples of style, syntax and grammar from the 16th century and back which reveal a Scottis leid capable of a wide range of uses from domestic and literary to official. The vocabulary was expanding by systematic borrowings from French and Latin and exhibited particular characteristics more than suggestive of a language distinct from Inglis. The question of “at which point does one begin the reconstruction” is contentious and, if the experience of issues concerning language planning in languages such as Greek, Norwegian, Hebrew is taken into account, often hotly partisan. It is to be hoped that when we are once again a sovereign state the promotion of our indigenous cultures and the form in which those cultures are expressed will be a major element in the process of our national renewal.

  8. No disrespect, but your Scots sounds like a Google translation. It’s just a dictionary substitution from one language to another with no feeling for nuance, rhythm, idiom, or flow. It’s dull and mechanical – unforgivable, in a country crowded with poets. But that’s maybe the problem – prose is much harder to do than poetry.

    You need to find good exemplars. I’d suggest you take a look at your old Town Council minutes – unaffected Scots, in use as the normal language of the day.

    • Vronsky, whit are you on at? A doot we’re aw sair made whan it comes tae bein lairned the Scots i wir bairnheids, but A canna see the need for thon kinna snash, Wir airticle was pit thegither bi twa-three Scots speakers. A’d fleetch ye tae tak the rue at it. We want mair prose and pedestrian ilkaday Scots in uiss. Scots has tint an expository register fae back in the eild. Ay, we can aye read laws and siclike, but i the same wey that English laws fae the 1500s doesna witter ye til English idiom nooadays, the same is true o Scots.

    • Vronsky, have you considered that perhaps an article like this isn’t MEANT to be like poetry? Maybe it’s more of an, I don’t know, an informative text or an article? Also that, just perhaps, Scots may have changed just a little in the centuries since those papers you mention were written? You don’t expect an article like this written in English to look and sound like Shakespeare, so you shouldn’t expect this article to look and sound like Burns.

      Also, it’s interesting that you wrote in English to criticise someone else’s Scots. Especially when it’s obviously written by someone using their first language, just putting down on paper what normally comes out of their mouth.

  9. There’s a google translation from English to Scots? Wow! Thanks! I’m off to look it up :-)

  10. Very interesting, thank-you. Unfortunately I don’t speak enough Scots to write in it but I find it interesting to read about the language. I’m from Australia but when I was a child my paternal grandparents spoke to me in Scots until they died when I was about 10… I can understand it well enough spoken and written but can speak or write it myself. And when I do, it comes out a lot more like Strayan (Strine) than Scots – I think the two languages are quite similar even if no-one thinks Strayan exists.

    I think it’s sad that people try to forget about the language and tell children they’re not allowed to speak it and make them use English all the time when it’s not their language. We can only hope that when Scotland gains independence, they’ll make Scots and Gaidhlig official and more people will use them – in school and in literature.

  11. A cannae thole the idee thit ain gruip o byleids o Northumbrian Inglis in Scotland shuild be gien mair entitlement nor anither in Northumberland and Newcastle, tae be cryed Scots as Gaelic is the origeinal leid thit the wurd wis yaised bi Inglis spaikers in the kintrie fir tae decry. Thons whits fashin me gin the hail “Scots langage muivment the day.Its nae mair nor a repone tae the success o Gaelic on the tails o the sae-cried “Guid Fridy Agreement” whaurbi the “Ulster Scots leid” wis gien pairitie wie Irish in Nothren Ireland jist fir tae placate the sib unionist chiels thit wir agin onie Gaelic leid bin gien siller or official recogneition. Gin ye gang back twenty year forbi, thur wis nae serious belief thit “Scots” wis oniemair nor a quaint wye o speakin at Burns Suppers and a jalousie thon wis cos the speakers o this form o Inglis, hid been the foremaist proponers o thirldom thegither wae Ingland in the first place, in it wus Scots leid high heidyins sic as John Knox and the Stuart kings, thit wir at the farefront in chyngin the wye fowk spak Inglis in the North o Breitain fur tae ettle at strengthening thur ain poseitiouns in a new united kinrick. The hail noton is gay fantoush an peelie wallie gin ye keik under its surface.


  1. A wee wuird anent ‘Scots’ | enchevêtrements

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