Scots Syntax Atlas.

Stan at Sentence first posts about the Scots Syntax Atlas (SCOSYA), “a fantastic, newly launched website that will appeal to anyone interested in language and dialect, especially regional varieties and their idiosyncratic grammar.”

Its home page says:

Would you say I like they trainers? What about She’s no caring? Have you ever heard anyone say I div like a good story? And might you say You’re after locking us out? All of these utterances come from dialects of Scots spoken across Scotland, but where exactly can you hear them?

To answer this question, we travelled the length and breadth of Scotland, visiting 145 communities, from Shetland in the north to Stranraer in the south. We were particularly interested in the different ways that sentences are built up in these different areas. This part of a language is called its syntax, and it’s one of the most creative aspects of how people use language.

The resulting interactive Atlas has four main sections: How do people speak in…?, Stories behind the examples, Who says what where?, and Community voices. The two questions are self-explanatory. Community voices is a collection of extracts (audio and transcripts) from the conversations recorded – a trove of accent and dialect diversity. […]

The Scots Syntax Atlas was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and created by researchers from the University of Glasgow, University of Edinburgh, and Queen Mary University London. It’s fully and freely available and is a joy to explore. Someone please tell me they’re working on an Irish English version.

Keep putting the good stuff online, O scholars!


  1. These examples look to me like Scottish dialects of English, not Scots.

  2. I have become curious about the phrase “da trig bag”. It is from Shetland. I know that “trig” in Scots means neat or tidy, but what is a trig bag?

  3. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    When I’ve heard expressions like She’s no caring? from Scottish people I’ve heard it as She’s not caring? with a Scottish pronunciation of the t, in other words as a pronunciation difference rather than as a grammatical one.

  4. David Eddyshaw says

    I think this is a lexical/grammatical difference, not a matter of pronunciation: there’s no general rule of t-dropping in such contexts (though Glaswegians do the glottal-stop thing) and the vowel is /o/ not /ɔ/.

  5. Youse, pl of you, they say started in Glasgow; but it’s used elsewhere (Australia, Liverpool) and I’m guessing it’s Irish.

    After her husband George VI died in 1952, and the queen mother was booted out of Buckingham Palace, she was 6 miles from John O’Groats visiting friends when she drove past ‘a dear little castle by the sea.’ So she bought it, even though it was in a bit of a state at the time. It’s called the Castle of Mey and it has a view of Orkney and a lovely walled garden (it must be windy). The decorations are as eccentrically tacky as you’d expect from the queen mother, there’s a weird tartan stair-rug and portraits of herself worthy of Woolworth’s. Dogs can visit but not stay the night.

  6. These examples look to me like Scottish dialects of English, not Scots.

    Are you thinking of Scottish Gaelic? Scots is closely related to English.

  7. Well, I would expect real Scots to have something like “Ye ar eftir locking us oot”, not “You’re after locking us out” which is plain English.

  8. Ah. But they’re concerned with syntax, not pronunciation, so they have no reason to focus on phonetic spelling.

  9. Youse, pl of you, they say started in Glasgow; but it’s used elsewhere

    Philadelphia, especially, and to some degree in NYC traditional dialect (now on the skids). At the other end of Penn’s woods in Pittsburgh, it’s yinz < you ones territory.

  10. Mostly da trig bag (which is Shaetlan, as the article shows; Shaetlan is as far from mainland Scots as Scots is from English if not more) is the name of a fiddle tune. But a trig is a four-foot concrete erection in the form of a truncated pyramid, from the top of which you can sight the next trig with a theodolite; the formal name is triangulation pillar. The first one was built in 1936 and they blanket the UK. Trig-bagging, then is finding and walking to trigs; they tend to be on high points. I’m reasonably sure these are etymologically independent, but ObHat rulez.

  11. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    portraits of herself worthy of Woolworth’s made me think of this:

  12. Fascinating! But this doesn’t make me think well of Tretchikoff:

    The painting brought Monika neither fame nor fortune. “I sat for six weeks. For that I got £6.50,” she says.

    That’s shitty payment in the first place, but fine, she agreed to it, whatever. But when the damn thing unexpectedly becomes wildly popular and brings you fame and fortune, slip the gal a little extra, ferchrissake.

  13. “I’m not green!” she told him.

  14. It is interesting (although, in retrospect, not surprising) how Woolworths in the United Kingdom got itself entangled in the British class system. Nobody in America sneers at the kind of people who shop at Foot Locker.

    (A joke, of course—not that I mean people really do sneer at people who go to Foot Locker, but shopping at the original Woolworths, the canonical middle-American “five and dime” store, was a genuine cultural signifier, although not nearly to the extent it seems to have become in Britain.)

  15. Jen in Edinburgh says

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone particularly sneer at Woolworth’s, except maybe the records they used to do where you got the current hit song sung by someone else. It’s dull but decent, rather than trashy*.

    However, all I know about Walmart is that it’s a place where people go to shop with their trousers falling down.

    *Appropriately, I have just spend a while hunting for an English equivalent of Scots ‘scaffy’!

  16. Appropriately, I have just spend a while hunting for an English equivalent of Scots ‘scaffy’!

    Which is apparently “Curtailed dim. form of Eng. scavenger, a street-sweeper”!

  17. Quite a lot of the examples quoted can be heard across the north of England. “So it is” likewise in Ireland, as was said. And in some cases, the recorder has misheard because of the speed of the quoted speech, as in “it needs (“to be” is barely audible) rewired anyway”.

  18. Also Scots is scaffy boat, but this is apparently unrelated to scaffy cart, just being derived from skiff.

  19. I’d say Foot Locker still has a working-class vibe, but certainly not as much as Woolworth’s had. UK Woolworths was separated from U.S. Woolworths in 1983, which allowed them to survive until 2009. AU and NZ Woolworths never had any connection at all with US Woolworths, although the Woolworths in CA, MX, DE, ZA (an operation more like Marks & Spencer with stores in much of Africa), and BB are offshoots of the original.

  20. Woolworths in SA was wholly owned by Marks & Spencer UK so maybe the other overseas Woolies (as we called them) were as well. It sold top quality goods.

  21. Along with Harrods, Woolworth’s was too tawdry for my taste, as was the queen-mother. After I left England, in 1976, just as punk was reaching its peak Woolies stopped selling glitter & pink gumballs and thereafter only sold brown corduroy cardboard-soled shoes in men’s & women’s sizes; grey, scented tea-towels and brown & orange dented boxes of ancient chocs. In 1938, as a hedge against something or other, starvation probably, my grandfather bought utensils like kitchen knives, a lemon squeezer, a potato peeler and a colander at Woolworth’s. My 93 year-old mother still uses them, so it can’t have been too bad then.

    Foot Locker strikes me as an ugly name, but then there’s a very successful & stylish Swedish-owned fashion empire called Acne.


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