The Scottish Corpus of Texts and Speech project (SCOTS) has created a search facility that allows you to find all occurrences of a given form in their half-million-word corpus. As the Scotsman story puts it:

From today, the most detailed analysis to date of the Scots language will be accessible on the internet.

Containing 400 texts, the Scottish Corpus of Texts and Speech project (SCOTS), aims to help instil in Scots, both native and expatriate, a pride in their national identity, as well as to try to halt the decline of the language, which unlike Gaelic receives relatively little promotion.

It has taken researchers from Glasgow University three years to compile the archive from all areas of Scots culture. Ranging from broad Scots to Scottish English, examples of prose, poetry, drama, essays and correspondence are included, along with additional audio and video material.

All texts will come accompanied with cultural and social commentary and analysis about the work and its author…

Dr Wendy Anderson, from the Department of English Language at the University of Glasgow, said: “We’re interested in the currency of distinctively Scottish words, such as gallus, canny, muckle, sonsie and braw. All Scots know these words; indeed they are often used to stereotype the people of Scotland, but are they actually still used? By whom? Where? In what contexts?

“And what about the grammatical features of Scots? Some people might frown on yous as a plural form of you, but research shows it’s overwhelmingly common in spoken language and written representations of speech.”

(LINGUIST List announcement here.) I got this via Mark Liberman at Language Log, who got it from abnu at Wordlab, and they both quote this wonderful paragraph from Alexander Fenton’s “Craiters: ‘I cannot get enough of it’,” which I can’t resist either:

Faar I wis brocht up, e only seabirds we’d see wis e seamaas. In my time we caad em seagulls, bit aaler fowk wid say seamaas, makin’t soon like ‘simaaze’. Ere’s ay change goin on in e dialect, an ye get a mixter o aal an new, bit it’s e life o language tae be aye adaptin tae different generations an different times. It’s naething tae greet aboot. Naething staans still, bit gin a wye o spikkin’s richt hannlet, fa’s tae say bit fit it michna leave its mark tee on fit ey caa e standard language? – for ere’s nae doot at e standard language sair needs a bit o revitalisation noo an aan. Bit I’m on aboot seagulls, nae hobbyhorses.

“Seamaa” is known to the OED as seamaw, not that it matters (it’s an archaic word for ‘seagull’), and “greet” is Scots for ‘cry’; I assume “bit gin a wye o spikkin’s richt hannlet, fa’s tae say bit fit” is ‘but if a way of speaking is handled right, who’s to say but what.’ The rest shouldn’t be too hard; there’s always the Dictionary of the Scots Language if you’re stuck.


  1. What is really needed is a site that pulls up any Scotts English word that an inquier is looking for not just words that are found in Scottish litterature. All of the Celtic countries (Brittany, Wales, Cornwall, Ireland, Scotland) have relatively little litterature and that is partly why the Celtic language sections in all university librairies range from small to almost non-existant.
    I have a friend who is a big Scottish enthusiast who despises Scotts English and says that it should really be called “Northumbrian English” or just “Border English”. He feels that Gaelic is Scotland’s true national language. I feel kind of the opposite. While I lament the retreat of Gaelic in Scotland and Ireland I believe that even the Scotts and Irish Englishes still allow these people to be somewhat nationally and culturally distinct from the English.
    I’ve heard that the London dialect of English is taking over just about everywhere in the U.K. today and is eliminating even Scotts English because it is the official language and the language of trade and commerce. However, American English is also making inroads into Ireland and Scotland just as it is in Canada and soon Scotts will have to decide between American and British forms. For example, One Scottish resident on another web site has informed me that “chips” is being replaced by “french fries” in his region of Scotland.
    — Brian

  2. inquier should be inquirer B.C.

  3. I missed everyone else’s nice posts. I got it from the BBC News, when I was looking for a St. Andrew’s Day topic!

  4. Pride in identity is the main reason for the existence of the many dialect societies in the rest of the UK. I don’t see the passage quoted as a language: it’s a broad Scottish dialect, just as Cumbrian/Cockney/whatever is a dialect:
    I ast yan o them if I cud get riden to Dublin, an a man in a three nuickt hat, at knackt like rotten sticks, telt me I mud gang wid him, for a thing they caw tide, like t’ post oth land, was gangin an waddent stay o nea body niver.
    But in any case, thanks for the link. Nice one.

  5. How about the word “dekko”? Is it really a Scottish word as suggested here:
    Or is it referring to the hindi word? what do you think?

  6. No, the Scots can’t take credit for that one.
    dekko n 1. a look. Origin: from Hindi, brought to southeast England by the British army returning from India. The word has been used outside its mother language for at least 50 years.

  7. The post Aleas is referring to reads:
    I wanted to leave you with a Scottish word tonight. I did not hear this until I started making friends with Scottish people. When one wants to take a look at something, you say “dekko” as in “I will have a dekko at that later” which translates into American as “I will take a look at that in a minute” or, in more formal English, “I will look at that in a moment”. Another interesting Scottish word for your pleasure.
    In other words, he heard Scottish friends using a word he was unfamiliar with and assumed it was a “Scottish word.” This is actually an excellent lesson in the kinds of assumptions one has to avoid when dealing with other dialects or languages. But in any event he wasn’t talking about etymology; the correction would be not “it’s a Hindi word” but “it’s not Scottish, it’s general UK usage (oh, and if you’re curious, it has a Hindi etymology).”

  8. Another interesting Scottish word for your pleasure
    His post could be read either way and my post did not mislead. Your reply reads very sharply.

  9. Apologies if it read that way; I certainly didn’t intend it so. I was correcting Aleas, not you.

  10. All’s right with the world.

  11. If people speaking or writing Scots use dekko, or slenthem, or sphygnomanometer, then those are Scots words.

  12. Very true.

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