Scots: Oor European Leid
As oor First Meenister speiks tae Europeans baith at hame an abroad, ah wunner whither ony o thaim wad recognise ane or twa wirds that she micht weel yaise. The Auld Alliance hus gien us the lyks o: ’tassie’ (tasse), ‘tae fash’ (fâcher), and ashet (assiette). Fae freens in The Netherlands, we hae the verb ‘tae keek’ (kijken’) as weel as guid ‘crack’ which stems fae the Dutch ‘kraaken’. An luik at the similarity, tae, atween Scots ‘ilka’ an Dutch ‘elke’. If she’d yaised ony o the follaen wirds in Berlin lest week, meanwhile, ah daursay she’d hae been unnerstuid nae boather, fur they aw either derive fae, or share a root wi, the German: ‘tae ken’ (kennen); ‘tae shoogle’ (schaukeln); ‘fremit’ (fremd: shared, tae, wi Dutch vreemde an Frisian frjemd), an ’tae fecht’ (fechten). Fae Scandinavia, we hae ‘tae flit’ fae the Danish ‘flytte’, whilst ’kirk’ is gey sib tae the Danish ‘kirke’, an oor wird ‘bairn’ soons awfy lyk ‘barn’, in Danish, Swedish an Norwegian. The wey we pronoonce wirds in Scotland shaws the European roots o Scots tae. Fur exaimple, we sey ‘hoose’, ‘stane’, an ‘alane’ as the Danes sey ‘hus’, ‘sten’, an ‘alene’, an wi speik aboot ‘coos’, an sey that we ‘thocht’ or ‘brocht’ sumthin, jist as the Germans say ‘Kuhe’, ’dachte’ an ‘brachte’.
Fae Alyn Smith’s wee smatterin o French in his speech tae the European Pairlament; tae the owersettin o Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘Message Tae EU Ceetizens’ intae ilkae European leid ye can think o; an Swinney’s annooncement that Polish micht be gien a place in the Scottish school curriculum, the symbolic signeificance o language in expressin identity an affinity wi ithers hus been weel exploitit by the SNP in the aiftermath o the EU referendum. Yet perhaps naewhaur is Scotland’s European identity better reflectit than in oor ain leid.
Scots is owerflowin wi European wirds, testifyin tae the mony strang tradin, intellectual, military, dynastic, releegious, freenship an faimily links biggit wi the lyks o France, the Low Kintras, an Scandinavia ower the centuries. In Scots is reflectit a time afore the relocation o poleetical pooer fae Scotland tae England gart us luik anely sooth, a time whan Scotland wis a free-staunin an ootward-lookin European kintra, an Scots its national institutional leid.
By the airlie middle ages, Scots hud jeed oot Gaelic as the naitional leid o the kintra. Scots at this time wis the leid o kings an commoners baith: the hummel speech o the maist mundane tae the maist intimate aspects o iveryday life, as weel as the presteegious leid o the offeecial institutions o the state, includin the Pairlament an the Privy Cooncil. Forby it wis the means throu whilk Scotland communicatit wi Europe an the wider warld, no least as the vehicle o a muckle ruised leeteratur. It micht be haurd tae imagine oor current Queen speikin in braid Scots, but, back in 1423, King James I scrievit a hail buik, the Kingis Quair, in the Scots o the day. Jist aboot hauf a century later, the owersettin o Virgil’s Aeneid by the Scots makar, Gavin Douglas, wis tae become regairdit as ane of the greatest warks o European leeteratur o the era. Thegither wi the lyks o Dunbar an Henrysoun, Douglas wis ane o the Scots makars o the gowden age, whae screivit fur the coort o James IV an James V. Mary Queen o Scots (1542-1567), tae, spak Scots as her mither leid alang wi French, learnin Latin, Greek, Spanish, Italian an English later oan.
“As Scotland proodly reasserts itsel as an independent-thinkin, European nation in the aiftermath o Brexit, ah fur ane cannae think o a better time fur oor poleetical leaders tae embrace, promote an celebrate oor European leid o Scots aw the mair. As Nicola micht hae seyd oan the mornin o the 24th o June – dinnae fash, ah’m oan it.”
As is weel kent, hooivver, a series o historical developments fae aroon the mid-saxteenth century led tae Scots bein jeed oot by English as the leid o prestige an authority, resultin in its bein misleared, miscawed an mislippened ower the centuries, laithit by the Enlightenment intelligentsia an rejeckit by the educatit clesses. Paramoont amang thir events wur the dominance o English as the leid o the Protestant Reformation, the flittin o the Scottish king an coort tae London follaen the Union o the Croons in 1603, an, jist ower a century later, the dissolution o the Scottish Pairlament in 1707.
Though fell lowden in status fae its apotheosis as the offeecial leid o the state, hooivver Scots hus bidit fendfu an strang, baith as a vieve leeterary leid, an as the mither tongue an ivery-day speech o a conseederable pairt o the population, spoken fae Orkney an Shetland tae the Borders.
Though mony’s the time dung-doun as a dialect, or, warse, as coorse, roch English, Scots is a European leid, an a national leid o this kintra. In recent years in parteecular, fechtin agin centuries o miscawin an unkennin, muckle wark hus been duin tae teach fowk aboot Scots, an tae heize up its status aince mair – fae speirin aboot Scots in the census in 2011, tae the appyntment o a Scots-speikin Meenister fur Scotland Leids the same year, as weel as a government-furthset policy fur Scots lest year, an its inclusion in oor new educational curriculum. Gin we’ve come a lang wey, thou, there’s an e’en langer wey yet tae gang.
As Scotland proodly reasserts itsel as an independent-thinkin, European nation in the aiftermath o Brexit, ah fur ane cannae think o a better time fur oor poleetical leaders tae embrace, promote an celebrate oor European leid o Scots aw the mair. As Nicola micht hae seyd oan the mornin o the 24th o June – dinnae fash, ah’m oan it.
Ashley Douglas is a graduate o the University o Sanct Aundres, whaur baith her undergraiduate an postgraiduate studies focused oan aspects o Scottish language, politics, an historie. She noo warks as a researcher in the Scottish Pairlament, an newlins jyned the Cooncil o the Centre fur the Scots Leid.