Reading though the Scots language and culture – part 2 again, the free online course from The Open University. Scots has often been misunderstood as ‘slang’, as corrupt or inferior English, or as a dialect of English, but in the first unit, History and linguistic development of Scots, Simon Hall provides a good summary of why “most linguists and academics agree that Scots is a language in its own right“.
- Following the ratification by the UK Government in 2000 of the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages, most academics are now in agreement that Scots is a Germanic language in its own right, and that it is a sister language to English, with which it shares a common ancestor in dialects of Old English.
- Scots has a vast range of vocabulary, a wide variety of unique grammatical features, a huge store of idiomatic expressions, and a number of sounds that are never used in English. Scots has some 60,000 unique words and expressions.
- Scots has la long history. It is the language of a magnificent, centuries-old literature, and was once a language of state used by kings, politicians and ordinary people alike.
- In the 2011 Scottish Government census, about a million and a half people reported that they use and understand Scots to some degree.
- There are many different varieties of Scots. Some of these have local names of their own, and they are sometimes known as ‘dialects’. Scots is also the name that we use for the distinctive language used in the cities of Dundee, Edinburgh or Glasgow. It is important not to confuse these dialects of Scots with dialects of English, or to imagine that Scots is a dialect of English. So, the dialects of Caithness, Orkney or Shetland are varieties of Scots. The language used in the North East of Scotland and known as the Doric is a variety of Scots.
- As the linguist Max Weinreich famously put it: ‘A language is a dialect with an army and a navy’, meaning that the distinction between a ‘language’ and a ‘dialect’ is largely a political distinction. Scots has a vast range of vocabulary, a long history, a wide variety of unique grammatical features, a huge store of idiomatic expressions, and a number of sounds that are never used in English.