Scots language

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Languages

Spoken in: Scotland, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, England 
Region: Parts of the Scottish Lowlands, Caithness, the Northern Isles, Ulster
Total speakers: over 1.5 million:
— Scotland: 1.5 million ( General Register Office for Scotland, 1996).
— Northern Ireland: 30,000 (Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey, 1999).
— Republic of Ireland: no official figures, but several thousand in eastern County Donegal.
Language family: Indo-European
   West Germanic
Official status
Official language of: None.
— Classified as a "traditional language" by the Scottish Executive.
— Classified as a "regional or minority language" under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, ratified by the United Kingdom in 2001.
— Classified as a "traditional language" by The North/South Co-operation (Implementation Bodies) Northern Ireland Order 1999.
Regulated by: — Scotland: None, although the Dictionary of the Scots Language carries great authority (the Scottish Executive's Partnership for a Better Scotland coalition agreement, 2003, promises "support").
— Ireland: None, although the cross-border Ulster-Scots Agency, established by the Implementation Agreement following the Good Friday Agreement promotes and invents usage.
Language codes
ISO 639-1: none
ISO 639-2: sco
ISO/FDIS 639-3: sco 

Scots refers to the Anglic varieties spoken in parts of Scotland. In Scotland it is sometimes called Lowland Scots to distinguish it from Scottish Gaelic spoken by some in the Highlands and Islands (especially the Hebrides). Scots is also spoken in parts of Northern Ireland and border areas of the Republic of Ireland, where it is known in official circles as Ulster Scots or Ullans.

Since there are no universally accepted criteria for distinguishing languages from dialects, scholars and other interested parties often disagree about the linguistic, historical and social status of Scots. Although a number of paradigms for distinguishing between languages and dialects do exist these often render contradictory results (See Dialect). Consequently Scots has, on the one hand, been traditionally regarded as one of the ancient dialects of English but with its own ancient and distinct dialects. Scots has often been treated as part of English as spoken in Scotland but differs significantly from the Standard Scottish English taught in schools. On the other hand, it has been regarded as a distinct Germanic language the way Swedish is distinct from Danish. Its subordination to Anglo-English has also been compared to the subordination of Frisian to Dutch in the Netherlands. Thus Scots can be interpreted as a collective term for the dialects of English spoken or originating in Scotland, or it can be interpreted as the autochthonous language of Lowland Scotland. See Status below for further discussion.

Native speakers in Scotland and Ireland usually refer to their idiom as (braid) Scots (Eng: Broad Scots) or use a dialect name such as the Doric or the Buchan Claik. The old fashioned Scotch occurs occasionally, especially in Ireland. Some literary forms are often referred to as Lallans (Lowlands).


The word Scot was borrowed from Latin to refer to Scotland and dates from at least the first half of the 10th century. Up to the 15th century Scottis (modern form: Scots) referred to Gaelic (a Celtic language and tongue of the ancient Scots, introduced from Ireland perhaps from the 4th century onwards). Since the late 15th century , Anglic speakers in Scotland also started occasionally referring to their vernacular as Scottis and increasingly called Gaelic Erse (from Erisch, or "Irish"), now often considered pejorative.

Northumbrian Old English had been established in southeastern Scotland as far as the River Forth by the 7th century. It remained largely confined to this area until the 13th century, continuing in common use while Gaelic was the court language. English then spread further into Scotland via the burghs, proto-urban institutions which were first established by King David I. The growth in prestige of English in the 14th century, and the complementary decline of French in Scotland, made English the prestige language of most of eastern Scotland.

Modern Scots thus grew out of the early northern form of Middle English spoken by the people of southeastern Scotland and northern England. Scots, or more accurately, Middle English, made its first literary appearance in Scotland in the mid-14th century, when its form differed little from other northern Anglic dialects, and so Scots shared many Northumbrian borrowings from Old Norse and Anglo-Norman French. Later influences include Dutch and Middle Low German through trade with and immigration from the low countries, as well as Romance via ecclesiastical and legal Latin and French owing to the Auld Alliance. Scots has loan words resulting from contact with Gaelic. Early medieval legal documents show a language peppered with Gaelic legal and administrative loans. Today Gaelic loans are mainly for geographical and cultural features, such as ceilidh, loch and clan. Many Scots words have also become part of English: flit, 'to move home', greed, eerie, cuddle, clan, stob, 'a post'.


Lufe God abufe al and yi nychtbour as yi self (Love God above all and your neighbour as yourself) an example of Early Scots on John Knox House, Edinburgh
Lufe God abufe al and yi nychtbour as yi self (Love God above all and your neighbour as yourself) an example of Early Scots on John Knox House, Edinburgh

Before the Treaty of Union 1707, when Scotland and England joined to form the Kingdom of Great Britain, there is ample evidence that Scots was widely held to be an independent language as part of a pluricentric diasystem.

Today, in Scotland, most people's speech is somewhere on a continuum ranging from traditional broad Scots to Scottish Standard English. Many speakers are either diglossic and/or able to code-switch along the continuum depending on the situation in which they find themselves. Where on this continuum English-influenced Scots becomes Scots-influenced English is difficult to determine. (see language change below). Consequently it is often disputed whether or not the varieties of Scots are dialects of Scottish English or constitute a separate language in their own right.

The British government now accepts Scots as a regional language and has recognised it as such under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Evidence for its existence as a separate language lies in the extensive body of Scots literature, its independent — if somewhat fluid — orthographic conventions and in its former use as the language of the original Parliament of Scotland. Since Scotland retained distinct political, legal and religious systems after the Union, many Scots terms passed into Scottish English. For instance, libel and slander, separate in English law, are bundled together as defamation in Scots law.

After the Union and the shift of political power to England, the use of Scots was discouraged by many in authority and education, as was the notion of Scottishness itself. Many leading Scots of the period, such as David Hume, considered themselves Northern British rather than Scottish. They attempted to rid themselves of their Scots in a bid to establish standard English as the official language of the newly formed Union. Enthusiasm for this new Britishness waned over time, and the use of Scots as a literary language was revived by several prominent Scotsmen such as Robert Burns. There is no current institutionalised standard literary form. During the second half of the 20th century, enthusiasts developed regularised cross-dialect forms following historical orthographic conventions, but these have had a limited impact. In the written Scots language, local loyalties often prevail, and the written form usually contains some Standard English adapted to represent the local pronunciation. However, many Scots words (which do not appear in Standard English) are still used in everyday speech.

No education takes place through the medium of Scots, though English lessons may cover it superficially, which usually entails reading some Scots literature and observing local dialect. Much of the material used is often Standard English disguised as Scots, which has upset both proponents of Standard English and proponents of Scots alike. One example of the educational establishment's approach to Scots is "Write a poem in Scots. (It is important not to be worried about spelling in this – write as you hear the sounds in your head.)", whereas guidelines for English require teaching pupils to be "writing fluently and legibly with accurate spelling and punctuation." . On the one hand, this can be seen as revealing the institutionalised disregard for the idea of treating Scots as a language on a par with English. On the other hand, it can be seen as a teaching method to get around the fact that the pupils, the teachers, and the teachers' parents alike have been taught in school that Scots is 'bad spelling', and thus that pupils will self-censor any Scots that they do know. Scots can also be studied at university level. The educational system often fails to further the objective to produce people able to read, write, and speak Scots as an autonomous alternative to English, thus contributing to its perceived status by non-Scots speakers as a series of local dialects of English.

The use of Scots in the media is scant and is usually reserved for niches where local dialect is deemed acceptable, e.g. comedy, Burns Night, or representations of traditions and times gone by. Serious use for news, encyclopaedias, documentaries, etc. rarely occurs in Scots, although the Scottish Parliament website offers some information on it. Attitudes towards Scots in the media vary widely, as may be seen by contrasting this sober official BBC Ulster article with this satirical H2G2 entry.

It is often held that, had Scotland remained independent, Scots would have remained and been regarded as a separate language from English. This has happened in Spain and Portugal, where two independent countries developed standardised languages, Portuguese originating from a common Galician-Portuguese language, which itself originated from a common Iberian Romance language shared with Castilian Spanish. On the other hand a situation similar to that of Swiss German and standard German might have occurred. Equally, the present situation might have occurred, where the social elites and the upwardly mobile adopted Standard English, causing institutional language shift. A model of language revival to which many enthusiasts aspire is that of the Catalan language in areas spanning parts of Spain, France, Andorra and Italy, particularly as regards the situation of Catalan in Catalonia.

Language change

After the Union of Scotland and England, the issue of language became topical, and foremost was the question of whether Scottish people should speak English or Scots. Gaelic was never considered an option; at the time, it was mostly relegated to the Highlands and Islands. Scots became considered to have a substratal relationship to English, as opposed to an adstratal relationship.

On one hand, well-off Scots took to learning English through such activities as those of the Irishman Thomas Sheridan (father of Richard Sheridan), who in 1761 gave a series of lectures on English elocution. Charging a guinea at a time (about £65 in today's money), they were attended by over 300 men, and he was made a freeman of the City of Edinburgh. Following this, some of the city's intellectuals formed the Select Society for Promoting the Reading and Speaking of the English Language in Scotland. This was not universally welcomed, as was illustrated by the summary by F. Pottle, James Boswell's 20th century biographer, concerning James' view of his father Alexander Boswell's speech habits: He scorned modern literature, spoke broad Scots from the bench, and even in writing took no pains to avoid the Scotticisms which most of his colleagues were coming to regard as vulgar.

On the other hand, the education system also became increasingly geared to teaching English, though this was initially impaired by the teachers' and students' lack of knowledge of English pronunciation through lack of contact with English speakers. Aspects of English grammar and lexis could be accessed through printed texts. By the 1840s the Scottish Education Department's language policy was that Scots had no value " is not the language of 'educated' people anywhere, and could not be described as a suitable medium of education or culture". Students, of course, reverted to Scots outside the classroom, but the reversion was not complete. What occurred, and has been occurring ever since, is a process of language attrition, whereby successive generations have adopted more and more features from English. This process has accelerated rapidly since wide-spread access to mass media in English, and increased population mobility, became available after the Second World War. It has recently taken on the nature of wholesale language shift. These processes are often erroneously referred to as language change, convergence or merger.

A rather more positive take on this is that, rather than reject English culture, the Scots mastered and conquered it, becoming bilingual and writing some of the greatest works of the time, such as Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, in what was still a foreign language. However, most younger Scots today see a Scottish accent, that is, Scottish English, as a sufficient marker of their Scottishness, and are generally not interested in retaining bilingualism in a language they consider old-fashioned, parochial, or simply uncool. Residual features of Scots are often regarded as slang.


Examples of the first English literature include Christ's Prayer in Northumbrian Anglo-Saxon from c. 650, which begins "Faeder ure, Thu the eart on heofonum,". Some Scottish and Northumbrian folk still say "oor faither" and "thoo art". The Genesis Poem attributed to Cædmon of Whitby in Northumbria opens with the words "Us is riht mikel" which is translated as "We are mighty great", but in Scots could appear as "Us is richt muckle". The words were written around 675 by a monk trained by the Celtic church of Iona taking dictation from the illiterate herdsman Caedmon singing in Northumbrian Anglo-Saxon in a monastery then known by the Gaelic name of Streaneshalch. Cædmon's name is Brythonic, and some scholars think that he may have been bilingual.

Among the earliest Scots literature is John Barbour's Brus (fourteenth century), Whyntoun's Kronykil and Blind Harry's Wallace (fifteenth century). From the fifteenth century, much literature based around the Royal Court in Edinburgh and the University of St Andrews was produced by writers such as Robert Henryson, William Dunbar, Douglas and David Lyndsay. The Complaynt of Scotland was an early printed work in Scots.

After the seventeenth century, anglicisation increased, though Scots was still spoken by the vast majority of the population. At the time, many of the oral ballads from the borders and the North East were written down. Writers of the period were Robert Sempill, Robert Sempill the younger, Francis Sempill, Lady Wardlaw and Lady Grizel Baillie.

In the eighteenth century, writers such as Alan Ramsay, Robert Burns, Robert Fergusson and Walter Scott continued to use Scots. Scott introduced vernacular dialogue to his novels.

Following their example, such well-known authors as Robert Louis Stevenson, William Alexander, George MacDonald and J. M. Barrie also wrote in Scots or used it in dialogue.

In the Victorian era popular Scottish newspapers regularly included articles and commentary in the vernacular, often of unprecedented proportions.

In the early twentieth century, a renaissance in the use of Scots occurred, its most vocal figure being Hugh MacDiarmid. Other contemporaries were Douglas Young, Sidney Goodsir Smith, Robert Garioch and Robert McLellan. However, the revival was largely limited to verse and other literature.

In 1983 William Laughton Lorimer's translation of the New Testament from the original Greek was published.

Highly anglicised Scots is often used in contemporary fiction, for example, the Edinburgh dialect of Scots in Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh (later made into a motion picture of the same name, though with language allegedly anglicised even more to make it suitable for an international audience).

But'n'Ben A-Go-Go by Matthew Fitt is a cyberpunk novel written entirely in what Wir Ain Leid (Our Own Language) calls "General Scots". Like all cyberpunk work, it contains imaginative neologisms.


There are at least five Scots dialects:

  • Northern Scots, spoken north of Dundee, often split into North Northern, Mid Northern—also known as North East Scots and referred to as "the Doric"—and South Northern.
  • Central Scots, spoken from Fife and Perthshire to the Lothians and Wigtownshire, often split into North East and South East Central, West Central and South West Central Scots.
  • South Scots or simply "Border Tongue" or "Borders' Dialect" spoken in the Border areas.
  • Insular Scots, spoken in the Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands.
  • Ulster Scots, spoken by the descendants of Scottish settlers (and also many of Irish and English descent) in littoral Northern Ireland and County Donegal in the Irish Republic, and sometimes described by the neologism "Ullans", a conflation of Ulster and Lallans. However, in a recent article, Caroline Macafee, editor of The Concise Ulster Dictionary, stated that Ulster Scots was "clearly a dialect of Central Scots".

As well as the main dialects, Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow (see Glasgow patter) have local variations on an anglicised form of Central Scots. In Aberdeen, Mid Northern Scots is spoken.

Wee Donald Angus. "Please, Sirr, what time wull it be?" Literal Gentleman. "When?" Cartoon from Punch magazine, August 25th 1920
Wee Donald Angus. "Please, Sirr, what time wull it be?"
Literal Gentleman. "When?"
Cartoon from Punch magazine, August 25th 1920


Many writers now strictly avoid apostrophes where they supposedly represent "missing" English letters. Such letters were never actually missing in Scots. For example, in the 14th century, Barbour spelt the Scots cognate of 'taken' as tane. Since there has been no k in the word for over 700 years, representing its omission with an apostrophe seems pointless. The current spelling is usually taen. The following is more a guide for readers. How the spellings are applied in practice is beyond the scope of such a short description. Phonetics are in IPA.


Most consonants are usually pronounced much as in English but:

  • c: /k/ or /s/, much as in English.
  • ch: /x/, also gh. Medial 'cht' may be /ð/ in Northern dialects. loch (Lake), nicht (night), dochter (daughter), dreich (dreary), etc. Similar to the German "Nacht".
  • ch: word initial or where it follows 'r' /tʃ/. airch (arch), mairch (march), etc.
  • gn: /n/. In Northern dialects /gn/ may occur.
  • kn: /n/. In Northern dialects /kn/ or /tn/ may occur. knap (talk), knee, knowe (knoll), etc.
  • ng: is always /ŋ/.
  • nch: usually /nʃ/. brainch (branch), dunch (push), etc.
  • r: /r/ or /ɹ/ is pronounced in all positions, i.e. rhotically.
  • s or se: /s/ or /z/.
  • t: may be a glottal stop between vowels or word final. In Ulster dentalised pronunciations may also occur, also for 'd'.
  • th: /ð/ or /θ/ much as is English. Initial 'th' in thing, think and thank, etc. may be /h/.
  • wh: usually /ʍ/, older /xʍ/. Northern dialects also have /f/.
  • wr: /wr/ more often /r/ but may be /vr/ in Northern dialects. wrack (wreck), wrang (wrong), write, wrocht (worked), etc.
  • z: /jɪ/ or /ŋ/, may occur in some words as a substitute for the older <ȝ> ( yogh). For example: brulzie (broil), gaberlunzie (a beggar) and the names Menzies, Finzean, Culzean, MacKenzie etc. (As a result of the lack of education in Scots, MacKenzie is now generally pronounced with a /z/ following the perceived realisation of the written form, as more controversially is sometimes Menzies.)

Silent letters

  • The word final 'd' in nd and ld: but often pronounced in derived forms. Sometimes simply 'n' and 'l' or 'n'' and 'l''. auld (old), haund (hand), etc.
  • 't' in medial cht: ('ch' = /x/) and st and before final en. fochten (fought), thristle (thistle) also 't' in aften (often), etc.
  • 't' in word final ct and pt but often pronounced in derived forms. respect, accept, etc.


In Scots, vowel length is usually conditioned by the Scots vowel length rule. Words which differ only slightly in pronunciation from Scottish English are generally spelled as in English. Other words may be spelt the same but differ in pronunciation, for example: aunt, swap, want and wash with /a/, bull, full v. and pull with /ʌ/, bind, find and wind v., etc. with /ɪ/.

  • The unstressed vowel /ə/ may be represented by any vowel letter.
  • a: usually /a/ but in south west and Ulster dialects often /ɑ/. Note final a in awa (away), twa (two) and wha (who) may also be /ɑ/ or /ɔ/ or /e/ depending on dialect.
  • au, aw and sometimes a, a' or aa: /ɑː/ or /ɔː/ in Southern, Central and Ulster dialects but /aː/ in Northern dialects. The cluster 'auld' may also be /ʌul/ in Ulster. aw (all), cauld (cold), braw (handsome), faw (fall), snaw (snow), etc.
  • ae, ai, a(consonant)e: /e/. Often /ɛ/ before /r/. In Northern dialects the vowel in the cluster -'ane' is often /i/. brae (slope), saip (soap), hale (whole), ane (one), ance (once), bane (bone), etc.
  • ea, ei, ie: /iː/ or /eː/ depending on dialect. /ɛ/ may occur before /r/. Root final this may be /əi/ in Southern dialects. In the far north /əi/ may occur. deid (dead), heid (head), meat (food), clear, speir (enquire), sea, etc.
  • ee, e(Consonant)e: /iː/. Root final this may be /əi/ in Southern dialects. ee (eye), een (eyes), steek (shut), here, etc.
  • e: /ɛ/. bed, het (heated), yett (gate), etc.
  • eu: /(j)u/ or /(j)ʌ/ depending on dialect. Sometimes erroneously 'oo', 'u(consonant)e', 'u' or 'ui'. beuk (book), ceuk (cook), eneuch (enough), leuk (look), teuk (took), etc.
  • ew: /ju/. In Northern dialects a root final 'ew' may be /jʌu/. few, new, etc.
  • i: /ɪ/, but often varies between /ɪ/ and /ʌ/ especially after 'w' and 'wh'. /æ/ also occurs in Ulster before voiceless consonants. big, fit (foot), wid (wood), etc.
  • i(consonant)e, y(consonant)e, ey: /əi/ or /aɪ/. 'ay' is usually /e/ but /əi/ in ay (yes) and aye (always). In Dundee it is noticeably /ɛ/.
  • o: /ɔ/ but often /o/.
  • oa: /o/.
  • ow, owe (root final), seldom ou: /ʌu/. Before 'k' vocalisation to /o/ may occur especially in western and Ulster dialects. bowk (retch), bowe (bow), howe (hollow), knowe (knoll), cowp (overturn), yowe (ewe), etc.
  • ou, oo, u(consonant)e: /u/. Root final /ʌu/ may occur in Southern dialects. cou (cow), broun (brown), hoose (house), moose (mouse) etc.
  • u: /ʌ/. but, cut, etc.
  • ui, also u(consonant)e, oo: /ø/ in conservative dialects. In parts of Fife, Dundee and north Antrim /e/. In Northern dialects usually /i/ but /wi/ after /g/ and /k/ and also /u/ before /r/ in some areas eg. fuird (ford). Mid Down and Donegal dialects have /i/. In central and north Down dialects /ɪ/ when short and /e/ when long. buird (board), buit (boot), cuit (ankle), fluir (floor), guid (good), schuil (school), etc. In central dialects uise v. and uiss n. (use) are [jeːz] and [jɪs].


  • Negative na: /ɑ/, /ɪ/ or /e/ depending on dialect. Also 'nae' or 'y' eg. canna (can't), dinna (don't) and maunna (mustn't).
  • fu (ful): /u/, /ɪ/, /ɑ/ or /e/ depending on dialect. Also 'fu'', 'fie', 'fy', 'fae' and 'fa'.
  • The word ending ae: /ɑ/, /ɪ/ or /e/ depending on dialect. Also 'a', 'ow' or 'y', for example: arrae (arrow), barrae (barrow) and windae (window), etc.

Some grammar features

Not all of the following features are exclusive to Scots and may also occur in other " Anglic varieties".

The definite article

The is used before the names of seasons, days of the week, many nouns, diseases, trades, occupations, sciences and academic subjects. It is also often used in place of the indefinite article and instead of a possessive pronoun: the hairst (autumn), the Wadensday (Wednesday), awa til the kirk (off to church), the nou (at the moment), the day (today), the haingles (influenza), the Laitin (Latin), The deuk ett the bit breid (The duck ate a piece of bread), the wife (my wife) etc.


Nouns usually form their plural in -(e)s but some irregular plurals occur: ee/een (eye/eyes), cauf/caur (calf/calves), horse/horse (horse/horses), cou/kye (cow/cows), shae/shuin (shoe/shoes). Nouns of measure and quantity unchanged in the plural: fower fit (four feet), twa mile (two miles), five pund (five pounds), three hunderwecht (three hundredweight). Regular plurals include laifs (loaves), leafs (leaves), shelfs (shelves) and wifes (wives), etc.


Diminutives in -ie, burnie small burn (brook), feardie/feartie (frightened person, coward), gamie (gamekeeper), kiltie (kilted soldier), postie (postman), wifie (woman), rhodie (rhododendron), and also in -ock, bittock (little bit), playock (toy, plaything), sourock (sorrel) and Northern –ag, bairnag (little) bairn (child), Cheordag (Geordie), -ockie, hooseockie (small house), wifeockie (little woman), both influenced by the Scottish Gaelic diminutive -ag (-óg in Irish Gaelic).

Modal verbs

The modal verbs mey (may), ocht tae (ought to), and sall ( shall), are no longer used much in Scots but occurred historically and are still found in anglicised literary Scots. Can, shoud (should), and will are the preferred Scots forms. Scots employs double modal constructions He'll no can come the day (He won't be able to come today), A micht coud come the morn (I may be able to come tomorrow), A uised tae coud dae it, but no nou (I could do it once, but not now).

Present tense of verbs

The present tense of verbs adhere to the Northern subject rule whereby verbs end in -s in all persons and numbers except when a single personal pronoun is next to the verb, Thay say he's ower wee, Thaim that says he's ower wee, Thir lassies says he's ower wee (They say he's too small), etc. Thay're comin an aw but Five o thaim's comin, The lassies? Thay've went but Ma brakes haes went. Thaim that comes first is serred first (Those who come first are served first). The trees growes green in the simmer (The trees grow green in summer).

Wis 'was' may replace war 'were', but not conversely: You war/wis thare.

Past tense of verbs

The regular past form of the verb is -(i)t or -(e)d, according to the preceding consonant or vowel hurtit, skelpit (smacked), Mendit, kent/kenned (knew/known), cleant/cleaned, scrieved (scribbled), telt/tauld (told), dee'd (died). Some verbs have distinctive forms: greet/grat/grutten (weep/wept), fesh/fuish/fuishen (fetch/fetched), lauch/leuch/lauchen~leuchen (laugh/laughed), thrash/thruish/thrashen~thruishen (thresh/threshed), wash/wuish/washen~wuishen (wash/washed), gae/gaed/gane (go/went/gone), gie/gied/gien (give/gave/given), pit/pat/pitten (put/put/put/), git/gat/gotten (get/got/got(ten)), ride/rade/ridden (ride/rode/ridden), drive/drave/driven~dreen (drive/drove/driven), write/wrat(e)/written (write/wrote/written), bind/band/bund (bind/bound/bound), find/fand/fund (find/found/found), fecht/focht/fochten (fight/fought), bake/bakit~beuk/baken (bake/baked), tak(e)/teuk/taen (take/took/taken), chuse/chusit/chusit (choose/chose/chosen).

Word order

Scots prefers the word order He turnt oot the licht to 'He turned the light out' and Gie me it to 'Give it to me'.

Certain verbs are often used progressively He wis thinkin he wad tell her, He wis wantin tae tell her.

Verbs of motion may be dropped before an adverb or adverbial phrase of motion A'm awa tae ma bed, That's me awa hame, A'll intae the hoose an see him.

Ordinal numbers

Ordinal numbers ending in -t seicont, fowert, fift, saxt— (second, fourth, fifth, sixth) etc. first, Thrid/third— (first, third).


Adverbs are usually of the same form as the verb root or adjective especially after verbs. Haein a real guid day (Having a really good day). She's awfu fauchelt (She's awfully tired).

Adverbs are also formed with -s, -lies, lins, gate(s)and wey(s) -wey, whiles (at times), mebbes (perhaps), brawlies (splendidly), geylies (pretty well), aiblins (perhaps), airselins (backwards), hauflins (partly), hidlins (secretly), maistlins (almost), awgates (always, everywhere), ilkagate (everywhere), onygate (anyhow), ilkawey (everywhere), onywey(s) (anyhow, anywhere), endweys (straight ahead), whit wey (how, why).

Subordinate clauses

Verbless subordinate clauses introduced by an and expressing surprise or indignation She haed tae walk the hale lenth o the road an her sieven month pregnant, He telt me tae rin an me wi ma sair leg (and me with my sore leg).


Negation occurs by using the adverb no, in the North East nae, as in A'm no comin (I'm not coming), or by using the suffix -na (pronunciation depending on dialect), as in A dinna ken (I don't know), Thay canna come (They can't come), We coudna hae telt him (We couldn't have told him), and A hivna seen her (I haven't seen her). The usage with no is preferred to that with -na with contractable auxiliary verbs like -ll for will, or in yes no questions with any auxiliary He'll no come and Did he no come?

Relative pronoun

The relative pronoun is that ('at is an alternative form borrowed from Norse but can also be arrived at by contraction) for all persons and numbers, but may be left out Thare's no mony fowk (that) leeves in that glen (There aren't many people who live in that glen). The anglicised forms wha, wham, whase 'who, whom, whose', and the older whilk 'which' are literary affectations; whilk is only used after a statement He said he'd tint it, whilk wis no whit we wantit tae hear. The possessive is formed by adding 's or by using an appropriate pronoun The wifie that's hoose gat burnt, the wumman that her dochter gat mairit; the men that thair boat wis tint.

A third adjective/adverb yon/yonder, thon/thonder indicating something at some distance D'ye see yon/thon hoose ower yonder/thonder? Also thae (those) and thir (these), the plurals of this and that.

In Northern Scots this and that are also used where "these" and "those" would be in Standard English.

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