of the strongest claims a people can make to nationhood is that
they have their own language. It has been said that a nation is
a dialect with its own army. For a people whose political independence
exists only in the past, a unique tongue used among themselves
is both a cultural safe deposit box for the present and a potential
rallying point for the future. Scotland is unlike other countries
in this respect, since English, its present first language, is
the native tongue of numerous other states around the world.
Scots are right to seek assurance of their separate identity in
their language, for Scottish English is unique, and very different
from the English of England, America or Australia. There are two
ways that varieties of the same language can differ. The first
is in pronunciation: What kind of accent does a person have? The
other is in dialect. What words, and what ways of forming sentences,
are unlike those of other English speakers?
English and the English of England developed from the same medieval
mixture of Anglo-Saxon and Norman French. Scottish English was
well on the way to becoming a separate, standard form of speech--as
different from that spoken in London as modern Norwegian is from
modern Danish--when a dramatic political and religious upheaval
swung it back into line with London English.
is no such thing taught in Scotland's schools as a "correct"
Scottish way of speaking or spelling. Scottish speech and writing
are not taught at all in Scottish schools. On the one hand, most
modern Scots have the desire and instinct to use at least some
Scottish vocabulary and grammar. On the other hand, the TV, radio,
movies and books from England and America tell them that to do
so marks them as unfashionable or socially inferior.
native Scots retain a distinct accent. Although there are common
elements, accents differ widely from region to region. The amount
of dialect vocabulary and grammar used also varies according to
upbringing. The wealthy, people who went to college and people
in white-collar jobs tend to use English that is closer to that
spoken in London.
Scottish words and expressions are used and understood across
virtually the whole country. Among them are: dinnae, cannae, willnae
(don't, can't, won't), wee (small), aye (yes), ken (know), greet
(weep), kirk (church), breeks (pants), lassie (girl), bairn (child),
flit (move from one home to another), bonny (pretty), chap (knock),
and bide (stay).
phrases, though using internationally recognizable English words,
reveal their Scottishness not just by accent but by grammar. Scots,
for example, will say "Are you not going?" or "Are
you no going?" rather than "Aren't you going?"
And "I'm away to my bed," often replaces "I'm going
these well-used everyday words and expressions, every Scot has
his or her extra Scottish vocabulary. In its heyday, the Scots
tongue produced enough unique words to fill dictionaries as hefty
as any Webster's, and many of these terms survive in one way or
another. Scottish writers dip into the pool at will, enriching
their English, often finding words for which there are no equivalents
in any other language. Gloaming, for instance, means more than
just "sunset"; it implies the whole light and atmosphere
that envelops a landscape as the sun goes down. The speech of
most older Scots is scattered with a selection of such expressions,
and varying in degree from family to family, the younger generation
is a haphazard uncertainty about this passing-on process, which
makes for awkward gaps in communication not just between the generations
but in other relationships. Examples: A Scotswoman comes home
from work one day and says, "I'm absolutely wabbit."
Her friend will probably know wabbit means "exhausted,"
but may never have used the word before. A retiree complains to
a young veterinarian about her cat: "He just sits there a'
day, spanning his thrums." A perfectly normal way of saying
"purring" to the elderly lady, but the veterinarian--who
has lived in Scotland all his life--doesn't know what it means.
A Scots schoolboy reads the first line of a poem: "She canna
thole her dreams." He has never heard anybody use the Scots
word thole, meaning "endure," and has to ask the teacher
daily crises in the survival of Scottish English are partly compensated
for by the variety of dialect words and phrases that survive in
the regions. Glaswegians, for instance, call children weans, not
balms. People in the northeast say quine instead of lassie for
"girl," and replace "how" and "what"
with fa and fit. Dundonians, as the inhabitants of Dundee are
called, don't say aye for "yes," but eh. Orkney and
Shetland have a deep wellspring of dialect words from their Norse
past: Faans is what Shetlanders call a snowdrift; haaf-fish and
tang-fish are Orcadian for the two different species of seal that
frequent their islands.
very recently, the use of the Scots language in public life and
in school was frowned on. Ever since Scotland was joined to England,
efforts have been made by well-intentioned teachers and pro-London
writers to make Scottish speech conform more to the southern pattern.
But in the past fifteen years a resurgence of nationalist feeling
and a growing respect for writers who use Scots of any kind in
their work has given Scottish English a fighting chance. Joy Hendry
said in 1985, hailing the publication of a new Concise Scots Dictionary:
" Today, the position of the language couldn't be much worse
in many ways, with fewer and fewer people actually speaking it
in any reasonably pure form. . . . Yet survive it does.... Like
predictions of the apocalypse, forecasts of the demise of Scots
in X years have proved false; the beast refuses to die, though
weakened by the blood-letting of centuries. ."
of the pleasures of visiting Scotland is hearing the Scots speak
their native language with their particular local accent. And
you may learn lots of new words - to add to your vocabulary. "
Ken whit I mean ? "