CAN YOU SPEAK SCOTS?

Aye Can is an interesting site:

As part of this year’s census people in Scotland will be asked to say if they can understand speak, read and / or write Scots.
Listening to people on this site speaking Scots will help you decide whether or not you are a Scots speaker.
You will also find examples of writing in Scots which can help you decide if you can read Scots.

Sent me by bulbul, who says, doubtless correctly, “That’s bound to make Mr. Cowan’s day.”

Comments

  1. dearieme says:

    Not just Cowan.

  2. Not just Cowan indeed. Thanks for this, Hat. And I’m sure my brother and nephews thank you too.

  3. Cowan too. I don’t speak or write Scots, or understand it too well, but read it? Yes.

  4. Also on the census as well as over 50 other languages you can request help in if English isn’t your first language, you can get translation help in Yiddish. I don’t know the figures but how many people in the UK speak Yiddish to the level where they still have difficulties with English?

  5. how many people in the UK speak Yiddish to the level where they still have difficulties with English?
    How would that be possible?

  6. How would that be possible?
    It’s possible that there are a few ultra-Orthodox Hassidic Israeli Jews in the UK whose mother tongue is Yiddish. These people would know Hebrew well, but their grasp of English would be weak or even nonexistent.
    Also: The English of many anglophone Canadians contains a wee bit of Scots pronounciation. The test: Ask one to say “I’m going out and about on the roof.”

  7. How “pure” is the Scots on this site? As an American who has had some exposure to Scots I can follow most of this – I find the “Caithness” difficult, the female Glasgow speaker almost unintelligible. I had assumed the Shetland dialect would be much thicker (because of isolation), but based on this Shetland seems quite transparent, as does Orkney. I’m wondering if the Orkney and Shetland speakers are people who have been educated in English and are making unconscious adjustments to make their Scots more understandable to outsiders just with a few odd words thrown in – “bairns” , “mutty”, etc.

  8. Question 19 on the census asks: “How well can you speak English?” As the Editor of the Telegraph said yesterday:
    Presumably, if you can read the answer box which says “Not at all”, you should not tick it ….

  9. dearieme says:

    “Shetland dialect would be much thicker (because of isolation)”: island people who often make their livings as mariners are quite the opposite of “isolated” (except literally). It’s not like the mid west, you know.
    Historically, the population of Orkney and Shetland must at some point have learnt Scots consciously, their native tongue having been a dialect of Norse.
    “How “pure” is the Scots on this site?” Not remotely: everyone in Scotland can understand, and probably speak, Scots English. But in everyday life bits of the old Scots hang on, sometimes as a conscious flourish, sometimes because it just feels natural. It hangs on especially (well, it did – sixty years ago in my case) in the playground. But with my parents and teachers I always spoke Scots English.

  10. In Root of All Evil, Dawkins makes a point of Rabbi Herschel Gluck’s accent. (YouTube / subtitles.) (Of course, Rabbi Gluck’s English is fine and this situation would be more interesting if not put to such transparently BNPish use.)

  11. marie-lucie says:

    Ask one [Canadian] to say “I’m going out and about on the roof.”
    In Nova Scotia (as the name indicates) a large proportion of the population has ancestors who originally immigrated from Scotland. Many Nova Scotians would say “… oat and aboat …” (with a long vowel), while people in most other parts of Canada would have the diphthong [ow] (as in “abode”), not [aw] (as in most English speakers’ pronunciation of “cow”). This pronunciation is not a Canadian innovation but a retention of an older pronunciation, still used in Scotland.
    “How well can you speak English?” – … Presumably, if you can read the answer box which says “Not at all”, you should not tick it ….
    The box is there for cases in which the form is being filled not by the non-speaker but by someone else who translates the questions orally and fills the blanks according to the responses. This often occurs with an elderly immigrant answering questions through a bilingual relative or neighbour.

  12. aquilluqaaq says:

    If I were from, say, Swaledale, I might find myself asking: what makes Scots so special? When, I might wonder, is the census for other parts of the UK going to start asking whether people can understand/speak/read/write varieties of Northern Anglo-English (i.e. Northumbrian, Yorkshire-Humberside, Cumbrian, which, after all, together with Scots comprise Northern British Isles Traditional English)? Or whether they know one of the varieties of Southern (including Midlands) British Isles Traditional English? Both groups differ again from Standard and Colloquial varieties of Generalized Midland, Southern, Scottish, Cambrian, and Hibernian English. So much for the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, I might think.

  13. CAN YOU SPEAK SCOTS?

    I doubt it, but I can’t tell, since the site keeps killing my browser.

    In Root of All Evil, Dawkins makes a point of Rabbi Herschel Gluck’s accent. (YouTube / subtitles.) (Of course, Rabbi Gluck’s English is fine and this situation would be more interesting if not put to such transparently BNPish use.)

    Decidedly odd. I wouldn’t have expected Dawkypoo to steep that low. I was wrong, unfortunately.

  14. I suspect (though I have absolutely no evidence) that Geordie, ie the English spoken in Newcastle upon Tyne, England, would be a lot less intelligible to many native English speakers from outside the British Isles than most of those Scots accents – and as an Englishman from the South East, I find the Black Country accent (west of Birmingham) pretty impenetrable.
    As far as those Scots ones go, the only one I had trouble with was Caithness: Glasgow is pretty familiar across most of the UK, I think, thanks to TV programmes such as Rab C Nesbitt.
    The answer to your question “what makes Scots so special?”, aquilluqaaq, is, of course, that Scotland has an independence movement, while the North of England has decisively turned down the idea of even limited devolution. Places that want independence are, of course, much more likely to see their language as different from the language in the place they want to be independent from than places that want to stay united: see Slovak versus Czech, to name only two.

  15. As a North American English speaker, I have a hard time with most of the Scots examples on that website. The hardest examples for me are the Borders, Caithness, and West Central. The Angus example is hard because of lexical differences, though I follow the syntax fairly well. In contrast, the three I have the most trouble with often just sound like strings of impenetrable noise, with no word divisions coming out at all. This is all despite me being a linguist and having a reasonable command of basic Dutch. I suspect that because UK residents are exposed to Scottish English more, they’re more likely to know parts of the phonology so that Scots is more transparent. For me it definitely qualifies as a foreign language.
    I’ve never heard any northern English dialects, so I can’t comment on how intelligible they are to me. I can say that I have no problem with General Australian, Kiwi, South African, or Irish Englishes.

  16. aquilluqaaq says:

    Scotland has an independence movement, while the North of England has decisively turned down the idea of even limited devolution.
    That’s true of course, but I gather that even among habitual speakers, not much more than half think of Scots as a distinct language. Plus, linguistically, the Northumbrian dialects are both closely related to Scots and, as you say, at least as differented from Generalized British English as it is.
    Geordie, ie the English spoken in Newcastle upon Tyne, England
    Geordie (i.e. the dialect of Northumbrian) has been to a large extent submerged by a generalized British Midland English in Newcastle. The accent is still distinctive, as is a fairly narrow range of widely recognized vocabulary, but comparatively few people there these days spontaneously say things like: Thi bumlors are stottin doon thi lonnen’s dyke, powkin thor snitches i thi pittleybeds.

  17. Geordie (i.e. the dialect of Northumbrian)
    Hmm, we could have an argument about how far the term “Geordie” stretches, but let’s just say there are differing opinions.
    I can say that I have no problem with … Irish Englishes.
    I’d be interested in how you get on with a strong “Dub” accent. Here’s a set of accents from the British Isles, all speaking the same words
    Dublin (a very “Dub” sound); “Newcassel”; London; Belfast; and Leeds.
    And for a wider selection, though from the United Kingdom only, try
    here.

  18. dearieme says:

    On the definition that a language is a dialect with an army or law courts, Scots was a language until 1707, when the separate army was abolished, or until the mid 19th century, by which time Scots English had displaced remnants of Scots from the courts. On the definition that a dialect is a subset of the language most akin to it, the dialects of Northern England should logically be called subborder Scots.

  19. aquilluqaaq says:

    Hmm, we could have an argument about how far the term “Geordie” stretches, but let’s just say there are differing opinions.
    On the definition that a dialect is a subset of the language most akin to it, the dialects of Northern England should logically be called subborder Scots.
    So, it goes something like this?
    Major premiss: What Geordie is is a matter of opinion.
    Minor premiss: That Geordie is a dialect of Scots is a matter of logic.
    Conclusion: Therefore, logic is a matter of opinion.
    Glad we got that cleared up.

  20. the definition that a language is a dialect with an army or law courts, Scots was a language until 1707
    Or a Bible. For reasons I’ve never fully understood, Knox discouraged any attempt at a Scots translation and insisted on the Kirk using Tyndale or some derivative thereof. I can’t help feeling that if, during the critical years of the 17th century, the Word had been read every Sabbath in Scots rather than English, the differences between the two would have continued to widen.

  21. The Shetland example reminded me a good deal of Icelandic, which I then realized made sense.
    I understood all the examples despite not much exposure to Scots.

  22. marie-lucie says:

    Thi bumlors are stottin doon thi lonnen’s dyke, powkin thor snitches i thi pittleybeds.
    Can someone translate for the benefit of those of us not from the blessed Isles?

  23. aquilluqaaq says:

    Thi bumlors are stottin doon thi lonnen’s dyke, powkin thor snitches i thi pittleybeds.
    The bees are bouncing down the hedge along the lane, poking their noses in the dandelions.
    A Day Oot Wi Me Marras.

  24. David Marjanović says:

    I can’t help feeling that if, during the critical years of the 17th century, the Word had been read every Sabbath in Scots rather than English, the differences between the two would have continued to widen.

    On the other hand, Luther did produce two Bible editions in Low German, and look what happened. :-/
    I once read he refused to do any in Sorbian, and Wittenberg was no less than half (Low?) Sorbian-speaking in his time. No idea if that’s true, the source isn’t very trustworthy…

  25. Sorry, aquilluqaaq, don’t follow your logic. “A is part of the set B; A is part of the set C; therefore set C is equal to set B”. “The UK is part of the Commonwealth; The UK is part of the EU; therefore the EU is the same as the Commonwealth.”

  26. David Derbes says:

    A true story. I lived four years in Edinburgh. I had a Scottish girlfriend, who loaned her car to a friend who was off to be a journalist in Aberdeen. Alas the car was totaled (happily no one was hurt) but Mary needed to go to Aberdeen to sign some papers and acknowledge that the dead car was hers. She had nae mair car, but she had me, so away we went. We had near enough direction (this was 1977, nae GPS nor Google Maps) to the garage, but once inside the main part of Aberdeen, couldnae find the place. We stopped to buy petrol, and I asked the man if he knew the place (City Garage or some such on Kirkaldy Street maybe). He understood me, but I didnae follow a word he said. I told Mary, ye’ll havetae ask ‘im, I’m too thick to get it, his language is beyond my ken. So off she goes, and I see her having a try, and after maybe four minutes she comes back. Well, says I, where to? Says Mary, Damned if I know, I couldnae understand him. And that’s Mary, Gillespie’s and Edinburgh’s finest, all her life raised a Scotswoman with Scottish parents. [Gillespie's was the school of Muriel Spark, and the basis for Miss Jean Brodie's school.]
    Four years later my wife (not Mary) and I honeymooned in the UK, and went to Aberdeen to visit some of her friends. We went to a cafeteria, and we could not understand the folks behind the counter.
    Aberdeen is really tough, even for native Scots.

  27. aquilluqaaq says:

    Sorry, aquilluqaaq, don’t follow your logic.
    It wasn’t meant as a valid syllogism, but as a tongue-in-cheek reflection on what constitutes matters of opinion and logic. So, I equivocated on the middle term (what Geordie is ~ Geordie is a dialect of Scots) – partly as a response to what I took to be dearieme’s own tongue-in-cheek suggestion that the dialects of Northern England should logically be called subborder Scots, and partly wondering out loud whether there actually are differing opinions on whether Geordie is the Northumbrian dialect. (Obviously, though, people do say they speak Geordie, usually meaning they have the accent, but without speaking the dialect of that name.)

  28. David Marjanović says:

    Aberdeen is really tough, even for native Scots.

    What’s going on? Reduction of common words together with use of plenty of particles, like what results in the Bavarian-Austrian vowel-only sentences [ʔaˈɛi], [ʔiˈɛa] and [ʔaˈɛia]?

  29. Well, I finally got a chance to hear all the Scots varieties as well as the five clips that Zythophile posted, though not yet the BBC ones. The only ones I couldn’t understand were the West Central ones (unsurprisingly for a Yank who only hears what’s on PBS and a small amount of BBC America) where I would catch a small stretch and then lose the thread again. A few of the others I had to play twice to catch every single word. The examples of people reading from “Cinderella” were 100% clear, but having to read aloud is not a fair test: it doubtless triggers memories of school, which is the only place that most people read aloud.
    The phonology of the speakers and some of their lexis was Scots, though none of it words I didn’t know. Their grammar was not: I only heard one grammatical deviation from Standard English, tellt for told, and even that could be classed as lexical in nature. No singular verbs with plural nouns or the like.
    I really laughed out loud at the discussion under “Dundee, Perthshire, and Fife” by “a group” about learning to replace /æ:/ ‘I ken what you’re sayin’ with an exaggerated /aɪ/ because English-speakers heard it as Eh? and repeated what they had just said!

  30. marie-lucie says:

    Thi bumlors are stottin doon thi lonnen’s dyke, powkin thor snitches i thi pittleybeds.
    The bees are bouncing down the hedge along the lane, poking their noses in the dandelions.
    Thanks, aquilluqaaq.
    About “pittleybeds”: even though “dandelion” is from French dent-de-lion ‘lion’s tooth’, the common French word for these plants is pissenlit, from pisse-en-lit ‘piss-in-bed’. Could “pittleybed” be from a literal translation of the French word?

  31. Pi(t)tleybed is not in the OED, the Dictionary of the Scots Language, or the English Dialect Dictionary, so who knows? Dandelion is, however, a diuretic, which doubtless accounts for the French name.

  32. There is a more recent translation of the New Testament into Scots. I understand that it covers many dialects of Scots, and the only person who speaks English is the Devil.

  33. aquilluqaaq says:

    Pi(t)tleybed is not in the OED
    pissabed, n. and adj.
    A. n.
    1. a. The dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, formerly well known for its diuretic properties.

  34. David Marjanović says:

    There is a more recent translation of the New Testament into Scots. I understand that it covers many dialects of Scots, and the only person who speaks English is the Devil.

    LOL. Reminds me of the parody Western Der Schuh des Manitu, where the good guys speak Bavarian to extents that vary with the situations, and the boss of the bad guys speaks an impressive Standard German that is impossible to localize more precisely than Germany as a whole (or maybe even Switzerland!).
    There are many clips of this on YouTube.

  35. I think Lorimer (who died in 67) made an alternate translation of the Temptation story like that, and his son (who completed the work in 83) published it as an appendix. In the manuscript, the Devil’s speech was spelled like (bad) Scots, but in the book like (normal) English. This from a review back then; I do not have a copy, and so may well be mistaken.

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