Aye Can - Speak Scots Language

Speak Scots

Scottish Census 2011 - 27th March

Your questions about Scots

Take a moment to read these questions and answers.

Then listen to the Scots voices and read the extracts of Scots writing.

Doing this will help you decide how to answer the questions.

What is Scots?

Scots is the collective name for Scottish dialects such as 'Glaswegian', 'Doric', 'Buchan', 'Dundonian', or 'Shetland'. Taken altogether, Scottish dialects are called the Scots language. Sometimes Scots is known by the names 'Scotch', 'broad or braid Scots', 'Doric' and 'Lallans'.

Can I understand Scots?

If you are able to understand the local Scottish dialect of the area where you were brought up, or the area where you have chosen to live, or both, this means that you can understand Scots.

If you find it very difficult, or impossible, to understand the Scottish dialect of the area where you were brought up, and also cannot understand the dialect of the area where you have chosen to live, this means that you do not understand Scots.

Can I speak Scots?

If you were brought up to speak a local Scottish dialect, or you have learned to speak the dialect of the area where you have chosen to live, or both, this means that you can speak Scots.

If you find it very difficult, or impossible, to speak the Scottish dialect of the area where you were brought up, and also cannot speak the dialect of the area you have chosen to live, this means that you do not speak Scots.

Can I write Scots?

If you can write a poem, story, or e-mail, either in the local Scottish dialect of the area where you were brought up, or the dialect of the area where you have chosen to live, or in literary Scots, this means that you are able to write in Scots.

If you find it very difficult, or impossible, to write Scots this means you cannot write Scots.

Can I read Scots?

If you can easily read a poem, story, or e-mail, written either in the local Scottish dialect with which you were brought up, or in the dialect of the area where you have chosen to live, or literary Scots - such as Robert Burns or Hugh MacDiarmid - this means that you are able to read Scots.

If you find it very difficult, or impossible, to read a poem, story, or e-mail, written in the Scottish dialect of the area where you were brought up, or the dialect of the area where you have chosen to live, or literary Scots - such as Robert Burns or Hugh MacDiarmid - this means that you cannot read Scots.

How is Scots related to English?

The English and Scots tongues began from a common origin but evolved along different paths over hundreds of years until they had grown apart.

This explains why, sometimes, some forms and words can be exactly the same in both, why sometimes they are similar but still different - such as English "more/most" but Scots "mair/maist" - and why sometimes they are completely different - such as English "cry/disgust" but Scots "greet/scunner."

English and Scots are, therefore, sister languages, in much the same way as other closely related pairings, such as Danish and Norwegian, Dutch and German, Irish and Scottish Gaelic, or Spanish and Portuguese.

Are Scots and Gaelic different things?

Yes. Scots belongs to the Germanic family of languages (which includes Dutch, German, English and Swedish) and has traditionally been spoken in the southern and eastern parts of Scotland known as the Lowlands.

Gaelic, on the other hand, belongs to the Celtic family of languages (which includes Irish and Welsh). In recent centuries Gaelic has mostly been spoken in the northern and western parts of Scotland.

Do people in Glasgow speak Scots?

Many people in Glasgow speak a Scots dialect. Many new words and sayings have been coined in the city and have become part of the Scots spoken throughout the country. Glaswegian or Glesga is a dialect of Scots.

Is the Doric of North East Scotland part of Scots?

Yes. Until very recently the name Doric was an alternative name for Scots used all over Scotland, in all the regions. People in places such as Ayrshire or Galloway or Fife also used this name.

People in North East Scotland also used the names Scots and Scotch for their dialect. In recent times most people in the North East have come to prefer the name Doric over the others.

The North East dialect is often regarded as one of the richest dialects of Scots spoken today.

Do Orkney and Shetland speak Scots?

Yes. At one time people in the northern isles spoke a form of Norwegian which was called Norn, the Scots word for Norwegian. During the Middle Ages the Scots language was also introduced.

Gradually Norn in the isles died out but Scots has continued to be spoken to this day with some Norn influence.

People in the islands call their dialects Orcadian / Orkney and Shetland depending on which islands they live on.

I would say I speak Scots, but I don't recognise some of the words used by others. Why is that?

This is because different words are used in different regions. Sometimes older people use different words from younger people. This is normal in all languages.

Why am I being asked questions about Scots?

This is the first time this question has been asked.

Cultural organisations, schools, and government, would like to know more about how many people use and understand the language.

What is the census?

The census counts everyone in Scotland once every ten years. It is the country's biggest statistics gathering exercise. The information gathered in the census provide a snapshot of the number and characteristics of people on census day.

The figures are the only reliable measure of the entire population and they help shape everyone's future as the basis for effective public services for the next decade.

Find out more on the 2011 Census website.