Scots: Oor European Leid

Scotland-map-web2As 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.

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  1. Wullie says:

    A skellum, similar tae Dutch!

  2. jimnarlene says:

    A fair joy tae read, braw.

  3. James Henry says:

    I’ve always liked the Dutch oksel (oxter).

  4. Dav says:

    Living in Denmark I notice there are a load of other good scots words that are Danish as well. A few of the top of my head:
    Dram = Dram
    Kist = Kist
    Toom / Teem = Tom
    Scrieve = Skrive
    Speir = Spørg
    Loup = Lobe

    And of course, in Swedish:
    Braw = Bra (pronounced the same)

    1. Gaavster says:

      Mycket bra literally translates as muckle braw

      1. Gaavster says:

        In GammelNorsk (old Norwegian) you have words like –
        Loft for loft and windae (translates as eye to the wind)

        In Swedish the list is long
        Ut = oot
        nu = noo
        Tva = twa
        Bror = brither or as pronounced all over ‘Ma brer’
        mor = mither or ‘Ma mer’
        Cusin = Cisen (cousin)
        Brod = breid
        Mus = moose
        Sma = Sma’ (wee)
        Mer = mair

        I could go on but you get the drift 🙂

        I found when learning Swedish that if I thought in Scots and not in English that it was so much easier to learn and I was forever finding words that shared their roots in the olden trading days between ourselves and our neebors to the North

  5. schweppeslimone says:

    For God’s Sake.

    You have enough problems in yoor eddyookayshun system already.

    And you are spending your time trying to promote a made-up dialect?

    Who is sponsoring this idiocy?

    1. Neil Anderson says:

      Awa an’ bile yir heed.

    2. Graeme Purves says:

      Gomeral!

    3. jimnarlene says:

      Dinnae blether pish chield!

  6. Dave says:

    In Norwegian or Dutch ( ?) is a stoor sooker what it sounds like ?

    1. norwaywalker says:

      Støvsuger in Danish, støvsuger in Norwegian (bokmål)

  7. Alf Baird says:

    A braw airticle. Wir ain leid is wir cultur an withoot fowk unnerstaundin or haein readin/writin in Scots leid wi hiv nae richt Scottish cultur.

    The ongoing refusal of state authorities to ensure that the Scots language is formally taucht tae aw bairns an aw fowk in Scotland is effectively cultural discrimination.

    Respect for equality and human rights require that we have a Scots Language Act – to belatedly follow the Gaelic Language Act of 2005. Until that happens there is no real respect for the Scots language, only weasel words from Ministers and their officials.

  8. Fay Kennedy. says:

    Aye Aye. It’s the foundation of culture. Language the greatest gift the basis of democracy.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      Aye Fay, yer richt thair, langage is the verra foonds o cultur – oor wey o thinkin an daein stuff.

      I now believe the No vote in the 2014 Referendum was largely as a result of cultural factors/impediments, especially the ingrained feeling of Britishness among many due to the ongoing cultural Anglicisation of the Scots pumped into our people by a constant British propaganda media machine, supplemented by our Anglicised education, and reinforced by an army of Anglicised class-ridden unionist overseers who administer all of institutional Scotland and essentially do the ‘high level speaking’ for us poor simple common fowk. The No vote had little really to do with the issues many commentators are dwelling upon, such as the economy, currency etc. It should seem obvious, therefore, that to diminish this perceived/false feeling of ‘Britishness’ due to ongoing cultural oppression, there is a need to allow for the natural ‘Scottishness’ of people to develop and flourish.

      So, gie Scots fowk bak thair ain naitural leid (an cultur) an thay’ll shuirly want thair ain nation bak anaw. Language is Scotland’s key to independence.

  9. Durham Miner. says:

    ‘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.’

    Hahaha, and in the next breath…no othering of the English in Scotland at all.

    Most of these words are derived from Old and Middle English – The Angles who settle and created the Northumbrian Kingdom that stretched from the Humber to the Forth – came from came from frieseland in the mutli-national state of the Netherlands. The Danish influence was predominantly due to the viking invasions and Dane Law. The French has little if nothing to do with the Auld Alliance but is rooted in the Normans. See names like Lambert, Lamont, Bruce – the feudal peasants had to speak to their French overlords somehow.

    But hey ho, there couldn’t possibly any link with England could there? Scots is totally different to the dialectin Yorkshire and Northumberland and Humberside despite the curious fact that most of the words listed, Ken, fash, divent, Skelp, Braw, aye, Keek, Breeks, Briks, flit, flyte, tyke, fae are all commonly and regularly used south of the Tweed.

    Hence the reason Macdarmid and the other Scots writers had to invent a synthetic langauage to distinguish Scots from Northern English.

    Haddawa unt git yer ooan tongue, unt halt twokin oors if ye reckon yer nee haein owt te dee wi us. It’s calde inglis fer a reason.

    1. Graeme Purves says:

      Ye’re ower sensitive, loon! Naebuddy his claimed thar’s no a sib relationship ti Middle English.

    2. Seumas Mì-Rìoghachd MacTalla says:

      Scots is a form of English. Or rather its forms of English. I dont think that takes a way from it as a language.

  10. D. Smart says:

    Jist an observation… If we look at the writings o Robert Burns and contemporary English writers, there is a very noticeable difference in the language. Over the centuries Scottish words have disappeared, being replaced by English words. Most of the smaller European countries have English as their 2nd language because of the the American world dominance.
    The Americanisation of English is well underway. Wha ken’s what speech will be like in twa hunner years time!!

    1. Alf Baird says:

      English is fine as an ‘administrative language’, as in many former UK colonies. However if you want to retain a distinctive national culture, you also need to ensure you teach the indigenous language(s).

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