2011 is a significant year for the languages of Scotland.  This is the census year and after a long and hard campaign by Scots language activists a question about Scots will finally be asked in the Scottish census to be held this coming March.  Prior attempts to have a census question counting the number of speakers of Scots and the number of Scottish people who understand the language were rejected by obstructionist Unionist administrations.  It was only when the SNP administration came into power that the campaign to collect official data about an essential foundation stone of Scottish culture and heritage was finally successful.




As a result of the lack of of official data, it was next to impossible for Scots language organisations to make an effective case for protecting and promoting the language.  If there are no official statistics, it is impossible to prove the demand or need for Scots language education, or the need for Scots language media outlets, or to identify geographical areas where the language remains strong and where measures to protect it should first be concentrated.  Without official data, applications for funding or official protection fell on deaf ears since it was impossible to quantify the language and its speakers accurately.

The previous Labour Lib Dem administration was happy to marginalise and ignore the culture of the land they promoted to tourists as the 'best wee country in the world'.  They only see the value of Scottish culture as a picturesque attraction to bring in tourist dollars and euros, not as a distinctive and beautiful expression of the human experience which speaks directly to the Scottish people ourselves and informs us of who we are.

2011 is also a significant year for Gaelic.  The 19th and 20th centuries saw a catastrophic decline in the number of Gaelic speakers in Scotland, and a massive retreat in the territorial extent of the language.  It is only within the past couple of decades that effective steps have been taken to protect the language, to promote Gaelic education outside the traditional heartlands of the language, and to begin to give Gaelic the public presence it deserves as a national language of our country.

The previous censuses have shown that the number of speakers of Gaelic continued to decline.  In 1981 there were 82,620 Gaelic speakers in Scotland, in 1991 the number had dropped to 65,978, decreasing yet further to 58,652 in the census of 2001.  2011 is the year when we hope to see signs that the decline is starting go into reverse, or at least to slow its pace.

The figures for the number of young people who speak the language will be most significant of all.  Gaelic has been predominately spoken by the older generations, and as these people reached the end of their life-spans they took the language with them, younger generations were not acquiring the language due to the all pervasive presence of English and the lack of official support and protection for Gaelic.  However Gaelic medium education is now established and growing in popularity, although great barriers still remain to its spread and development.  This is the year when Gaelic language activists hope to see signs of a recovery in the language amongst the country's young people.

Gaelic also now enjoys a national TV channel which brings the language into homes across Scotland - at least those with a satellite dish or a Sky TV subscription.  The prejudice and ignorance which the language must still overcome was richly illustrated by the failure of the BBC and the broadcasting authorities to ensure that BBC Alba was available on the Freeview platform.  Most Gaelic speakers in Scotland were still deprived of a Gaelic language TV channel.  It's only within the past couple of weeks that the BBC has announced that BBC Alba will after all be available on the Freeview platform, although details have still to be finalised.

The fundamental problem faced by both Gaelic and Scots is the widespread ignorance and lack of knowledge amongst the Scottish people about our own languages.  Little if anything about the topic is taught in schools, and the teachers themselves are products of an education system which ignored and marginalised the languages.  Even such basic facts like the once widespread presence of Gaelic in Lowland Scotland, or the status of Scots as a language - and not a mere dialect of English - are alien to many.

With the dominance of English we've been taught to view our languages separately.  Gaelic and Scots are seen as opposed to one another, a source of division and conflict.  But there need be no conflict between Scots and Gaelic, both are integral parts of a distinctively Scottish story.  They contradict the Unionist lie that Scottish nationalism is backward looking, ethnic and tribalist.  The true history of Scottish languages proves that the Scottish people developed a non-ethnic and non-exclusionary concept of Scottishness - a truly civic nationalism - long before the Unionists came along to claim that role for the British state.

As a result of the systematic marginalisation of Scots and Gaelic by generations of Unionist authorities who see value only in English, debates and discussion about the future of Scottish languages and how we are best to promote and protect them take place in a knowledge vacuum.  Stereotypes, myths, misinformation, and sheer ignorance abound.

Before anyone can have an informed debate, first they must have information.  With this in mind from tomorrow Newsnet Scotland will publish the first in a series of in-depth articles discussing the history of Scottish languages and issues surrounding this essential and fundamental aspect of Scottishness and Scottish identity.  Starting off with a ten part daily series detailing the history of Scottish languages over the past 2000 years and illustrated with previously unpublished maps, we will then continue with a weekly series exploding the myths and stereotypes which the biased media and education system have spread about our languages and culture.

It's not just in the May elections that your voice will count in deciding the future of our country.  If we want a Scottish voice to be heard we must give Scottish languages a voice, and make Scots and Gaelic count in the census.

Tomorrow : A history of Scottish languages, part 1.


# rgweir 2011-01-24 12:01
After reading the article i was reminded of my time at school when we were only given british history.
Ity was only when i was older and able to think for myself that i realised they were trying to make us grow into unionist adults.
# Bubs 2011-01-24 12:33
Great stuff Newsnet, I'm really looking forward to see how this series of articles develops.
# ScotlandUnspun 2011-01-24 12:36
Help us to get our message out. Send this article and the video to all your friends round the world.

Tomorrow is our Burns Day launch and there'll be a lot of interest. This is a chance for Newsnet Scotland to move up a league so we can begin to take on the mainstream unionist media.

# Robert Louis 2011-01-24 13:00
In the 70's my Edinburgh School teacher point blank refused to offer Gaelic in any shape or form.

The reason? I was told quite bluntly, that nobody speaks Gaelic, it is a dead language, and by the time I am an adult it will have been long forgotten.

As well as teaching me about the battle of hastings, how Scotland wanted the union with England, and other gems like Scottish oil was worthless, my Edinburgh education should have made me a proper little unionist. I'm not.

Gaelic (and Scots) is part of Scottish culture. A smattering of Gaelic understanding, even without fluency goes a long way in helping any Scot truly appreciate Scotland, its history and culture.

I regard it as downright criminal, that even a basic intro (just 2 or 3 short lessons) to Gaelic is not compulsory in Scottish schools.

Gaelic is NOT a dead language, it is merely a Scottish language that has for several centuries been deliberately suppressed and maligned for purely political reasons.
# Exile 2011-01-24 13:20
It can hardly be a coincidence that the Statutes of Iona, the first official attempt to suppress Gaelic, were promulgated in 1610, just 7 years after James Stuart took up his better-paid job in London!

Saor Alba
# J Wil 2011-01-24 14:23
Gaelic can have its down side!

I mean when you hear Raymond Buchanan on Newsnicht Scotland doing his little throwaway gaelic farewell, it would make you want to throwup that this guy could have any affiliation with Scottish culture.
# Dalloch 2011-01-24 14:06
As someone who studies Pictish history, I’m a little worried by the march across the map of the Irish Gaelic. That many place names in modern Scotland are in Gaelic is not in question, nor is the long and proud nature of Gaelic heritage in modern Scotland. However, for just about every Gaelic term in the main areas of that ‘become’ Gaelic there are examples of ‘Britonic’ (or Pictish) place names and personal names. Quite what language the ‘Picts’ spoke is still a debated topic, with the view of a ‘p-celtic, less Romanised Britonic’ being the current favourite.
Research does not stand still however, and increasingly historians are being able to pull apart the label ‘Pictish’ to reveal a great many more groups of people (who here has heard of Fortriu?) living and speaking and among their landscapes than the simplified map on your video shows. For one thing, the status of ‘Pictish’ versus that of ‘North British’ (or Cumbric) is much harder to tell than is implied. Was the ‘Pictish’ identity one that was contemporaneous over all the area of ‘Pictish’, or was the Pictish identity something that was imposed at a certain date, on people that were not culturally Pictish? The same then follows with Gaelic. By the high Middle Ages the Kings of Scotland certainly seemed to think of their cultural heritage being from Ireland, but did people living in say modern Aberdeenshire think the same? To add to the early medieval confusion, thing being written in Gaelic does not prove that the ‘people’ were using that as their day to day language. Hopefully Paul Kavanagh will be able to shed light on some of these issues!
As for learning the modern attitudes towards Gaelic, I can only say that there is no reason; historical, cultural, ethical or logical that a station such as Haymarket in Edinburgh needs to be given a Gaelic ‘translation’ (the one that annoys me most though is Pictlochry). Street names that are not in Gaelic require no similar silly translation. Scotland is a country in which Gaelic is spoken (not just Lewis Gaelic mind, though thanks to the Lewis mafia it’s the most common), not a Gaelic speaking country. However do not get me wrong. Gaelic can be a valuable tool in cementing people’s sense of place and belonging in Scotland, and also vastly improve their education abilities. It has been proven many time that children that learn another (preferably quite different) language from a very young age are more likely to do better at school, and also show a higher aptitude for learning further languages.
early-advantage.com/.../... (Just the one link for this search around though, there is a huge amount of information out there about this).
I do think that all children, from primary 1, should get mandatory lessons in a second language. Does it have to Gaelic? Why not! It is historically a language of great importance for the whole of Scotland. It has the added advantage of being different enough from ‘standard’ English to facilitate its usefulness with the advantages outlined above.
We need to be honest while we do this though, that we creating, not re-establishing Gaelic. To just claim ‘Gaelic is our nation language’ is as wrong as it is divisive. I’m glad to see that some thought is going into this project and I will watch it with interest.
# InfrequentAllele 2011-01-24 14:29
The series will not claim that Gaelic is the national language of Scotland. Gaelic is a national language of Scotland. Scots is equally a national language of all of Scotland. And Scottish Standard English is also a national language of modern Scotland. That's why the title of the series is A History of Scottish Languages - plural.

The series will discuss Pictish, Cumbric and Norn too. But Pictish is not a national language of Scotland because it lacks the essential qualifying criterion - before any linguistic system can be considered a national language, it must survive as a linguistic system which can actually be used as a language. Pictish does not survive, it was never adequately recorded. Like Cumbric, Pictish is a lost language. Claiming it as a national language of modern Scotland is an anachronism.

By the way. Pitlochry is a Gaelic name. The place name element "pit" was borrowed by Gaelic from Pictish and used in the creation of Gaelic place names. The second element in the name Pitlochry is Gaelic, not Pictish - the name was created by Gaelic speakers. In later mediaeval times the loanword pit 'farm stead' fell out of use as an ordinary Gaelic word and was replaced by the synonym baile, hence the modern Gaelic name for Pitlochry Baile Chloichridh.

Paul Kavanagh
# rgweir 2011-01-24 14:34
I have tried to find out how many speakers there are in scotland and which area of scotland has the biggest group of speakers.
One thing that jumped out at me after reading the article was that there are a lot of people work for the bbc in glasgow who are from the islands.
# J Wil 2011-01-24 16:56
Isn't the head of BBC Scotland (MacQuarrie) a Gaelic speaker from the islands?
# haarandrime 2011-01-24 14:53
I come from London and have lived in south Scotland for 3 years. Although I now consider Scotland to be well and truly home I am acutely aware that my presence here adds to the dilution of the vernacular Scots spoken in the area. While I will never to able to produce the rhotic r I am endeavouring to add Scots words to my vocabulary especially as I have to grandchildren who are born here. I feel we should all do our bit to keep the Scots language alive and allow it to thrive.
# cynicalHighlander 2011-01-24 21:54
Round and round the rugged rock the rugged rascal ran if you can tell me how many 'R's' in that I'll call you a clever man.
# LadWiThePhilabeg 2011-01-27 03:17
Quoting cynicalHighland er:
Round and round the rugged rock the rugged rascal ran if you can tell me how many 'R's' in that I'll call you a clever man.

No R´s in ´that´ hee hee hee...
# RTP 2011-01-24 15:49
Sorry but OFF TOPIC

Have just listened to FMQs again with Gray questioning AS character and saying AS should own up when he got things wrong.
Below is what I posted on BWB just had email saying it broke the house rules.

Just listened to FMQs again,Gray on about character and owning up when you get
something wrong correct me if I'm wrong but did Gray get it wrong about £500,000
name change and also he got backing from this blog who said he had seen the
paper,like everyone else we have asked to see this paper,and are waiting for
Gray to say he got it wrong.
# Forteanjo 2011-01-24 19:01
On the subject of BWB (although still admittedly off-topic), does the news of the Beebs budget cut for on-line services sound the death knell for poor BT's blog?

# uilleam_beag 2011-01-24 17:03
Sgoineal. The fledgling resurgence of our own languages is a reflection of the fact we no longer feel the strange need to be apologetic of our culture; not that we should ever have anyhow but many still succumb to the cringe. To some it still sounds parochial and even a bit silly. In reality, fighting for full recognition of all our languages goes a long way to changing mindsets.

Similar to experiences mentioned by others on here, when I was in school during the Thatcher era we were taught a strange set of history. Nobody mentioned the Wallace or the wars of independence (the founding of the concept of Scotland as a popular nation). Growing up near Culloden, we were naturally taught about the Jacobites (only because we lost?) but teachers went to great pains to stress it wasn't Scotland-vs-England; that the Jacobite forces were strongly anti-union was never mentioned. Most bizarrely, they taught a huge amount about 1066 and the "Norman invasion" but explained little about the huge impact of the gradual and peaceful "Normanisation" of feudal Scotland over the following couple of centuries.

Onyhoo, thainks for screivin sic a muckle fine article and ah'm looking forrad tae reading the rest. Meanwhile, ah'm daen ma wee bit oot here in th'aist -- fair gettin warkit ap aboot gien a rendition o Tam o'Shanter th'morro nicht at Shanghai's anely Scottish pub. Muckle cairns can be built wi peedie stanes.
# bobb4you 2011-01-24 17:20
What are the best steps a mature person can take to learn Gaelic without any prior knowledge?
# ScotlandUnspun 2011-01-24 17:41
You can take a distant learning class with the Sabhal Mòr Ostaig - that's one way

# Tocasaid 2011-01-24 19:17
The Ulpan courses will have you speaking some Gaelic at least within weeks.

Or, there's the free and online 'Gaelic for Punks' in case you're mature yet young at heart.
# chicmac 2011-01-24 23:20
You can get the 'Speaking Our Language' conversational language lessons on you tube now. Easy pace.

Here's lesson/episode 1 part 1 (3 X 10 min. parts per episode)

# welsh 2011-01-24 18:35
Great article and looking forward to the rest.

Any chance each article could be accompanied by a relevant thumbnail? I intend to put a link out, to the article, as my facebook status but only have the option of a facebook or twitter thumbnail to illustrate the article. The newsnet. logo would do.
# Tocasaid 2011-01-24 19:10
Wasn't 'Scots' called 'Inglis' back in yon day and Gaelic as 'Scottish'?
# GrassyKnollington 2011-01-24 19:50
Looking forward to these articles and I think you hit the nail on the head by pointing out that Scots and Gaelic are not in competition with each other. There are sadly quite a few Scots who for reasons they probably can't articulate are hostile to Gaelic. They are often to be found complaining about Gaelic road signage or lamenting the amount of taxpayers money spent on keeping what they've been conditioned to regard as a "dying" language alive.

Scots and Gaelic must not be in competition with each other any more than Glasgow and Edinburgh or the Highlands and the Lowlands. When I see people saying "how come Gaelic gets all this money and Scots gets nothing" it reminds me a bit of "what if Shetland wants to go it's own way?" in that it's a form of divide and rule.

I'm looking forward to learning more about how important both these languages are to our nation.
# Early Ball 2011-01-24 21:09
Bit off topic but did anyone see Douglas Alexander on Andrew Marr? I was away to count his "absolutely clears" after his first one he changed to several "very clears"

He also said they can't just oppose for oppositions sake.
Except for viewers in Scotland he failed to add.
# chicmac 2011-01-24 21:26
Language can give insights into a culture, but the importance of it can be greatly overplayed.

This can easily be seen within these Islands.

Scotland has had a varied linguistic history and unlike Wales and England the nation of Scotland has not had an identity with a single language. 'Scots' was originally (probably) a descriptive word for 'sea raiders' or similar, then became the word used for Gaelic and finally became the word used for the way 'Inglis' was developed in Scotland. There has been no constancy of meaning.

So Scots do not have anything like the same historical linguistic baggage. For example the over-exaggeration of the numbers involved in the A-S incursion, their cultural effect and other distortions I would put down to the overriding identity with the English language which exists in the English national psyche. Especially amongst historians.

Many, who think they know the history of the English language tolerably well are quite oblivious to the North to South influence which strongly pushed Middle English in a more modern recognizable direction and indeed lead to the complete abandonment of West Saxon and Kentish in the South of Engfland.
More interesting are the reasons for this general ignorance, but that is another story.

How many Scots, even, are aware of the long line of Makaris and their significant contribution to the development of Middle English?

Or how many are aware of the Southern English complaints about the major influence of Scots on Henry V's Chancery English, the first attempt at a standard?

Yet in the English 'national identity' the English language is of paramount importance as too Welsh is for the Welsh.

But in Scotland's case, the currently used most common tongue is named after the people. Thus its use for Gaelic gave way to a use for the Inglis used within Scotland approximately when it became the majority language (which was the same as that used down to the English Midlands at the time).

I see that as an advantage. I see that as a mechanism which removes linguistic obfuscation and allows for a clearer view of that which is of more importance to cultural identity, namely the moral and social benchmarks and priorities of the nation and less distortion of self-image.

I think Scots have a clearer view of who they are than most other peoples who might reply "I speak X therefore I am Xish".
# Castle Rock 2011-01-24 21:44
I’ve been following Newsnet for some time now and thought it was about time that I registered and made a comment.

I’m really impressed by the quality of this article and I’m looking forward to reading the rest in the series. I think it’s just raised the bar for other sites to follow and once you produce your new layout I’m sure it won’t be just the CalMerc who will be worried. The future design of this site is really important and I very much hope that you come up with something that matches the quality of the articles.

The standard of posting is also quite impressive and some of the posters on here should also be encouraged more to write their own articles. I know that you already work closely with other sites but I would encourage you to develop further collaboration with Bella and other bloggers\commen tators who help to shape and move forward the political debate and dialogue in Scotland.

In my view, the success of Newsnet is not about reporting what we already know it’s more about challenging ourselves, educating ourselves and posing questions on what’s the best way to move forward.

There are numerous obstacles still to be overcome before we reach our final goal but in many respects I believe that we’re a lot closer than many people think.

I think Newsnet is a much needed news outlet for taking Scotland forward and I’m sure that it’s going to be very successful.
# ScotlandUnspun 2011-01-24 22:30
Thanks for your kind words and welcome to Newsnet Scotland.

Our new site should be up tomorrow and hope you won't be disappointed.
# chicmac 2011-01-24 22:36
Great news.
Then we can start promoting it in earnest.

Is the Burns day date a coincidence or planned?
# ScotlandUnspun 2011-01-24 22:59
Launch theme: History of Scottish languages. Burns Day launch a coincidence?

We're raising the standard. We're small but we're going after the mainstream media. Enough complaining, let's do what has to be done and take our nation back.
# tartantommy 2011-01-24 23:53
Can't wait it's time Scotland had a voice that is not against the idea that we can do it & become an NATION on our own on the road from Devaluation to ?

# ianbeag 2011-01-25 00:12
Hugely significant event tomorrow, This site has travelled far in a few months and like many here it is my first port of call on a daily basis. It is interesting that there are several new posters on this string and the level of interest in this subject is greatly encouraging to those of us who are native Gaelic speakers. Your personal contribution and sheer volume of output is impressive indeed. We are indebted to you and all the other contributors. I can't wait!!
# tartantommy 2011-01-24 23:24
Another fine article Newsnet

Thank you for putting up the info, I will now be able to improve my Gaelic so when I get the usual mob coming to the door at election time. I will have myself some fun.

# ianbeag 2011-01-27 22:29
Good luck with your Gaelic studies. You will find it is also very useful when you are accosted by street vendors in Mediterranean countries - repels them every time!
# tartantommy 2011-01-28 18:29

Tapadh leibh

I am having great fun learning, just wish I had done it when I was younger.

# Gaavster 2011-01-25 00:26

Looking forward to the relaunch tomorrow and also looking forward to the rest of this series....

Like many on here, I have had to source and learn my Scots' history on my lonesome....

Looking forward to learning something new in the coming days Paul...

Thanks for all your hard work guys, it's not lost on many of us here, all the hours and the effort you have all put in that has gone to making NNS what it is today....

The first real challenge to the unionist MSM in our, and previous, generations...

Now it's up to us to 'spread the word' folks and put something back....

# InfrequentAllele 2011-01-25 00:47
Like every who comments below the line on articles, I'm just a punter. I got involved with Newsnet because the articles in the MSM I was commenting on were Unionist bilge. Frankly, Bladder with Brainless doesn't deserve the benefit of my erudition. Does that sound big-headed? Too right. I have every confidence I'm smarter than the eejits that run BBC Scotland.

I'm fed up complaining. I'm fed up being treated like a child by morons who couldnae think their way out of a wet paper poke and who couldn't follow a logical argument if it was signposted in neon. It's time to do something.

We've all got our areas of expertise. Mine just happens to be Scottish languages and linguistics. But we can all contribute and we can all educate one another.

If Scots want a decent media we have to build it. It's not difficult, the clowns at the Beeb and the Daily Retard can manage it. Our collective knowledge and experience is a whole lot better than theirs. We can do it ourselves.
# Dalloch 2011-01-25 23:11

First thank for the reply, the issues with the site prevented my more expedient response.

I’m not claiming that Pictish is the national language of Scotland, (or even that it was a language at all in the way we would understand it) but I will say that that the Pictish contribution to modern Scotland cannot be ignored (nor can the Anglian, Bernician).

I’ll be pedantic and say that Pitlochry is not a Gaelic name. It is at best a hybrid. To my understanding the etymology is not conclusively understood. It’s like Cupar. Which has been interpreted as Gaelic or Britonic/Pictish, with very different meanings. The 'popular' interpretation being Gaelic, the academic being Pictish. According to Simon Taylor, who has some pedigree when it comes to Scottish place-name studies, Baile and Pit do not mean the same thing. I can point you to the article where he argues this if you like.

I think we can agree though, as you say that a history of Scottish languages should be plural. I shall watch this with interest.

Out of interest, will French (both from Norman and later French) be considered in this History of Scottish languages?
# InfrequentAllele 2011-01-26 01:33
Glad you're interested, and I'll try not to disappoint. Norman French gets a mention when the series deals with the Middle Ages but doesn't figure on the maps because it was never the dominant spoken language of any district in Scotland.

Even though this is a 10 part series, you'll appreciate that it can only be a taster to introduce people this complex subject. A list of links for further reading will be presented at the end so that people can pursue an interest in particular languages in more depth if they desire. My over-riding concern has been to present the history of Scottish languages in a way that is easy to follow for people with no background in historical linguistics or sociolinguistic s. Naturally I've had to simplify and to omit huge amounts of information. I mention in the intro to the first part that some may feel I've over-simplified, but I'm afraid that's the nature of the beast. If you want an in-depth and thorough discussion I'd have to write a very long book.

I'm aware of Simon Taylor's work thanks. There have been a lot of publications recently dealing with aspects of Scottish toponymy. Some of it excellent and of a far higher standard of analysis than when Watson was the only source of information!

Etymology is fascinating, but whether Pitlochry is really a Pictish name or not has little relevance to the validity of a place name sign in Gaelic. It's not about etymology. It's about restoring a public presence to a Scottish language that was driven out of the public sphere.

I'm keen on Gaelic signs in Haymarket never mind Pitlochry. I don't care if the name is modern. A living language is a daily exercise in invention. After all, what exactly is the point of keeping a language alive if you're not going to use it creatively and inventively?

Public signs serve to remind the English speaking majority that the English language isn't the only language of Scotland. I'd like public signs in Scots too, and yes I'd like them in the Highlands as well as the Lowlands. I believe that Gaelic belongs to all of Scotland and that Scots belongs to all of Scotland. Our languages are not legitimised by their historical geographic extent. They are legitimised by the roles that they have played and continue to play in creating the modern Scottish identity. That's something that's relevant to all of us, whether we live in Scots speaking Buchan, Gaelic speaking Lewis, or English speaking Morningside.

In a few weeks Newsnet will be publishing an article dealing with the topic of public signs and notices in minoritised languages. We can agree to disagree until then!
# Dalloch 2011-01-27 10:28
Thanks for that. I will save further discussion until then. I do feel this is a very important subject for Scotland, and we do have to get it ‘right’!
# Donnie Mac 2011-01-26 14:55
The 'fashionable' claim today is that the Picts spoke Brythonic. However I feel this is wrong.

Evidence? The Brythonic theory, which sadly today many take as fact, was first written about by Scottish Antiquarian George Chalmers. His evidence is based largely on partial Brythonic placenames in so-called Pictish areas of Scotland. That is PARTIAL not wholly. A wee look at Chambers' life reveals not only was he integrated into the Brit establishment but was in fact a political writer. What agenda is there to equating Picts to other Brythonic (i.e. British) speaking peoples.

However that is contemporary evidence for the Picts speaking Gaelic.

1. The first Pict written of in history is Calgacus, leader of the Caledonian Confederacy at Mons Graupius. Calgacus certainly appears to be a Latinised form of Calgach which is a Gaelic word meaning amonst other things Passionate/Ardent (armed, ardent and read) good name for a warrior eh?

2. When Bede wrote of the peoples and languages of Britain he listed the Gaels, Picts, Britons as separate from each other.

3. In writing about the Battle of the Standard (1138) Richard of Hexham attributed the Gaelic word Albannich to the war-cry of the Gallwegian Picts.

Personally I feel the Picts spoke what we now call Primitive Irish which eventually evolved into Middle Gaelic with the spread of Gaelic culture from Ireland.

Before anyone replies I have tried to have this debate several times. Unfortunately those who subscribe to the Brythonic theory tend to get very hostile. Usually slagging off my sources instead of countering them with their evidence.

So can we have a bit of maturity and less name calling
# Jimbo 2011-01-26 21:02
Hi Donnie,

I've seen this argument before (Our Scotland perhaps?).

Is it not the accepted case that the P-Celtic language (Brythonic) was spoken throughout the whole of this island (what is now England, Scotland and Wales) pre-Roman times?

Do they not claim that the names in the King list of the Picts are all Brythonic?
# Dalloch 2011-01-27 10:00
Some versions are Old and Middle Irish, some (presevered in English manuscripts) are in a Britonic (but not Welsh) form:

Pictish British

British (Welsh)

# J Wil 2011-01-26 16:30
I noticed that a new news outlet is being advertised for the princely sum of 20p. It claims to be have no frills, basically news. Made me think that it was about time Newsnet Scotland had such a publication.
# Dalloch 2011-01-26 22:03
Hi Donnie,

It’s a little hard to take serious opposition that the Picts spoke a form of Britonic. I have noticed some nationalists get up in arms over the term ‘Britonic’. It’s a language term, not an ethnic, or national term. It is hard to ignore the evidence of the place names, there are so many Aber, carden, pit etc elements. However, I think it is equally obvious that the Picts did not speak the same tongue as the Britons (Welsh). To engage with you points in order:

1. Yes, but Tacitus might just have made it up, from the CELTIC language stock. Bare in mind that Welsh/Britonic/Gaelic etc are all part of the insular Celtic language family, and Tacitus was writing history for the salons of Rome. Calgacus is a Celtic name, which of course can be made to translate in modern Gaelic. Does that mean it was render in Gaelic?

2. Bede (in I.12 of the Ecclesiastical history) gives the name of a location, modern anglicised Kinneil. The name he gives, which he says is the Pictish word for it is peanfahel. This is quite clearly a Britonic in it first element. The second is more ambiguous for much the same reasons as outlined above. At some point, the pe has changed to the Q-celtic Ce and the f has follow silent. Moreover Bede is recording the situation in the early 730s. At that time, the Picts were going from being the separate kingdoms dominated by Fortriu to being self identified as ‘Picts’ (in much the same way that a from the 870s onward the conquering West Saxon kings took on the name of the Angles as the name of their ‘united’ kingdom). It was ‘politic’ to recognise the Pictish identity.

3. The Gallwegian ‘Picts’ is a something that has long be identified as being an out of place anachronism. However, we could discus this further (of site) if you wish.

I am willing to believe that the people we know as the Picts spoke a Celtic tongue, in a likely verity of accents and dialects. Those controlling literacy though, was from Irish Gaelic (apart from perhaps a brief period in the early eighth century).

I am glad as a historian interested in this period that people are interested in it, and I would be glad to discuss these issues further (perhaps over email? Fascinating though this discussion might be, I think it’s better not to take up to much space on the comments section with it!).
# InfrequentAllele 2011-01-26 22:49
I've been busy this evening with other Newsnet related stuff, so haven't had a time to reply until now.

The language Bede identified as Pictish was quite clearly a "P-Celtic" language. As Dalloch pointed out, Bede tells us that the Pictish name for Kinneil was Peanfahel. The first element is obviously Brittonic, P-Celtic or Gallo-Brittonic. (Terminology varies.) The second element is interesting in that it appears to display some Gaelic influence, although this may very well simply be due to Bede getting his information from a Gaelic source.

There is little doubt that a language indistinguishab le from Brittonic was widespread in northern Scotland immediately prior to and during the Roman occupation of Britain. It may very well be that amongst the people later known as the Picts there were those who spoke early varieties of Goidelic, it may also be that there were speakers of pre-Celtic languages too. But there is no solid evidence for any of these languages, the only certain evidence is evidence for a Brittonic language. The language Bede knew as Pictish was an early offshoot of Brittonic.

By the time Goidelic is adequately recorded in the form of Old Irish, and Brittonic is adequately recorded in the form of Old Welsh, both languages had undergone a massive set of sound changes and grammatical changes which radically altered their character. In Roman and pre-Roman times they were far more similar to one another. At this remote date the similarities between them outweighed the differences. Telling them apart isn't always easy.

None of the earliest attested names from Pictish territory display any features which allows them to be recognised as Goidelic. Goidelic and Brittonic were both closely related Celtic languages which shared a great deal in common. Linguists are only able to distinguish Goidelic from Brittonic at this early date if the word or name happens to contain a "diagnostic feature". The name Calgacus doesn't contain any such feature. Sure it could be Gaelic, but it could just as equally be Brittonic. However it's relevant that the only early names from northern Scotland which do contain diagnostic features show distinctly Brittonic features. The chances are then that Celtic names from the same area which don't happen to display diagnostic features are Brittonic too.

Language is not static. Under certain political and cultural conditions a speech variety which was previously considered a single language can become regarded as two different languages. When a speech community is politically fractured in this way, speakers in the different sections are very highly motivated to distinguish their new communities from each other linguistically. Sound changes which occur after the political split do not cross the new political frontier. Words borrowed by one of the "political" varieties do not get borrowed by the other. Often each group looks to a different language for source vocabulary. In early Scotland the Britons borrowed massively from Latin, the Picts probably borrowed substantially from Goidelic. Under certain social and cultural conditions, language change can proceed very rapidly indeed.

Even when two related speech varieties retain a high degree of mutual intelligibility , they can still be considered as distinct languages. Czech and Slovak are largely mutually intelligible, yet are thought of as different languages. It may well have been the case that Picts and Britons could still understand one another in Bede's day, yet their distinctive varieties would still have been regarded as quite different languages.
# Dalloch 2011-01-27 09:56
I think as well we have to get away from the notion that ‘the Picts’ ‘the Britions’ ‘the Gaels’ and even ‘the English’ were homogenous groups with no variation therein, (I'm not saying that you are doing this btw, but the coffee-table histories do tend towards this view). A Pict in Modern Fraserburgh might make more use of English words (close contacts up the east coast, there is evidence of this) and a Pict on the shores of Loch Tay might make more use of Goidelic words. A Gael in Ardnamurchan might have more than a few Pictish words; another Gael in Cowal might know more Britonic words and so on. The northern British Isles (I use the term in its true geographical meaning before anyone lynches me!) were a true melting pot in the first millennium AD. The changes that all the languages involved were undergoing during this same time make for an even more complex picture. Add into this the ongoing warfare and very flexible borders the picture gets even more blurry. The study of the early medieval period in the northern British Isles (geographic!) is like trying to put together a jigsaw without an idea of what the picture is, without most of the pieces, and most of the pieces have had the picture removed from them. Not an easy task. I love it (I have been studying it since 2000)!
# LadWiThePhilabeg 2011-01-27 03:49
"Even such basic facts like the once widespread presence of Gaelic in Lowland Scotland, or the status of Scots as a language - and not a mere dialect of English - are alien to many."

Exactly! Well done fur organisin this series. Lookin forwurt tae it...

The biggest challenge I see (and you can tell by my attempts at Scots above), is the need to adapt a formalised version of Scots for writing purposes. Once it´s standardised, folks will be less ashamed or embarrassed to use it (I don't like this fact, but I think it's true). If you had a written published standard somewhere and it became more common on signs and newpapers (imagine that!) and subtitles on the tele!, folks would be proud to write in Scots.
# LadWiThePhilabeg 2011-01-27 03:53
Also, as a half-hearted gaelic learner (stymied by the difficulty of it), do you think it would be possible to create a phonetic version to make it easier to learn. I mean, Spanish is pronounced as it's written. Is gaelic prounced exactly as written? Am I just being too lazy to learn the new sounds??
# chicmac 2011-01-27 13:33
Quoting LadWiThePhilabe g:
Also, as a half-hearted gaelic learner (stymied by the difficulty of it), do you think it would be possible to create a phonetic version to make it easier to learn. I mean, Spanish is pronounced as it's written. Is gaelic prounced exactly as written? Am I just being too lazy to learn the new sounds??

Yes, Gaelic is spelled phonetically like Spanish.
You just need to learn the spelling rules.
BTW things were simplified quite a bit in the 70s. - no kidding.

The only Gaelic spelling I can remember which has more than one phonem is 'bh' which sounds either like 'v' in English or occasionally like 'w'. An exception which may have origins in regional variation.

But there is no doubt Gaelic spelling is strange compared to English, so much so that I was once, as a Gaelic learner, in the bizarre situation where I had to read out a Gaelic article (re the finding of oil on Skye) in a newspaper to a native speaker on Skye, because she couldn't read Gaelic (although she could read English no problem.)
# Robert Louis 2011-02-01 10:32
You last paragraph, is part of the legacy of schools refusing to teach Gaelic, even in areas where Gaelic was srill widely spoken. If you grew up say in recent Scotland, you would be speaking English before going to school, but you would only learn spelling, and how to write sentences in English at School.

Not so long ago, Gaelic and Welsh speakers were punished if they spoke their languages in school - and I know this from first hand account. The upshot is, that many fluent gaelic speakers grew up, completely unable to read or write gaelic.
# Dalloch 2011-01-27 09:42
The problem with standardising Scots, is which version do you standardise? Urban, North East, Angus..? All areas of Scotland have their own unique dialect. Even the distance of a few miles can make a substantial difference to words that are used, and how they are pronounced. Who decides who gives up 'their' language for the greater good?

This is already a problem with Scots Gaelic, as Lewis Gaelic has become the dominate form, despite being only one of many forms of Scots Gaelic. The Gaelic of Easter Ross is largely no-more because most of the Gaelic language teaching is done in Lewis Gaelic.

Now, this might be the price we pay, but Scots identity has always been pluralistic. Which version of Scottishness should become the Scottish identity? That’s why I don't think this is necessary.
# chicmac 2011-01-27 13:21
Quoting LadWiThePhilabe g:
"Even such basic facts like the once widespread presence of Gaelic in Lowland Scotland, or the status of Scots as a language - and not a mere dialect of English - are alien to many."

Exactly! Well done fur organisin this series. Lookin forwurt tae it...

The biggest challenge I see (and you can tell by my attempts at Scots above), is the need to adapt a formalised version of Scots for writing purposes. Once it´s standardised, folks will be less ashamed or embarrassed to use it (I don't like this fact, but I think it's true). If you had a written published standard somewhere and it became more common on signs and newpapers (imagine that!) and subtitles on the tele!, folks would be proud to write in Scots.

Indeed and the situation could not be desribed better than by our new Makar, Liz Lochead in a poem which illustrates the point admirably.

kidspoem / bairnsang
Liz Lochhead

it wis January
and a gey dreich day
the first day Ah went to the school
so my Mum happed me up in ma
good navy-blue napp coat wi the rid tartan hood
birled a scarf aroon ma neck
pu'ed oan ma pixie an' my pawkies
it wis that bitter
said noo ye'll no starve
gie'd me a wee kiss and a kid-oan skelp oan the bum
and sent me aff across the playground
tae the place Ah'd learn to say
it was January
and a really dismal day
the first day I went to school
so my mother wrapped me up in my
best navy-blue top coat with the red tartan hood,
twirled a scarf around my neck,
pulled on my bobble-hat and mittens
it was so bitterly cold
said now you won't freeze to death
gave me a little kiss and a pretend slap on the bottom
and sent me off across the playground
to the place I'd learn to forget to say
it wis January
and a gey dreich day
the first day Ah went to the school
so my Mum happed me up in my
good navy-blue napp coat wi the rid tartan hood,
birled a scarf aroon ma neck,
pu'ed oan ma pixie an' my pawkies
it wis that bitter.

Oh saying it was one thing
but when it came to writing it
in black and white
the way it had to be said
was as if you were posh, grown-up, male, English and dead.

Regarding different dialects, in my childhood Scots of the time I went to school the lines would have gone something like this:

it wiz Jenyery
an a gie dreich day
the furst day Ah went tae skale
sae ma mither happit me up in ma
guid navy-blue napp coat wi yon rid tartan hoodie,
birillt a skerrif roon ma neck,
pu'd own ma pixie an ma pawkies
it wiz sae snell
said noo yee'll nae be sterivt
gie'd me a wee kiss and a kiddie-oan skelp oan the doup
an sent me off across the playgrund
# JRTomlin 2011-01-27 05:43
Excellent article and a great idea for a series. I am so pleased to see this.
# InfrequentAllele 2011-01-27 15:20
There's a difference between a standard language and a standardised spelling system. And there's different types of language standardisation . Due to our experience of English, we tend to view a standard language as a normative prescriptive language - "this is the correct way you should write". But that's not the only kind of language standardisation .

English has a standardised spelling system, but we still use this spelling system for dialect writing. Cockney and Geordie speakers use standard English spelling when writing their own dialects, they have no other spelling systems available to them.

A standardised spelling system for Scots would entail the adoption of a distinct set of spelling rules, presumably based firmly on traditional Scots spelling, but made more regular and systematic. This would still allow the writing of dialectal varieties of Scots, but would also bring to the fore the similarities between different Scots dialects, and make it easier for speakers of say West Central Scots to understand a written text in North Eastern Scots.

So for example the sound pronounced f in Aberdeenshire but wh in Glasgow and chw in Orkney could be represented by the traditional Scots grapheme (spelling convention) quh. Similar arguments apply to the vowel sound pronounced variously i, ee, wee, ö in different parts of Scotland, all could be united under the traditional Scots grapheme ui. People in Aberdeen, Glasgow, and Orkney would continue to pronounce these sounds according to their own regional dialect of Scots, but on the page the three dialects would now have a common written form, increasing the legibility of a dialect text for speakers of other Scots dialects. This sort of orthography would increase the potential readership for a Scots dialect text and encourage the writing of local dialects.

It also has the immense advantage of making Scots and English visually distinct, and spelling Scots with reference to Scots and not with reference to English. In this kind of orthography we'd sometimes spell words differently in Scots even when they happen to be pronounced the same as English - eg. Scots 'yeir' but English 'year'. When children acquired written Scots they'd now learn that it was something different from English, but they'd not be forced to adopt Scots forms which were alien to their own dialect. A standardised orthography would make it easier for them to acquire new Scots words, but wouldn't impose an artificial Scots on them which was just as far removed from the way they actually spoke as English was.

Then there are standard languages, which is a different thing from a standardised spelling system. Not all standard languages are intended as prescriptive norms. The various dialects of the Rumantsch language of Switzerland recently adopted a common written form called Rumantsch Grischun. Rumantsch Grischun is not intended as a written variety which all Rumantsch speakers should adopt, it was devised by linguists on the basis of maximum intelligibility . It is no one's native dialect, the words used in Rumantsch Grischun are those which have the widest currency throughout the Rumantsch speaking areas. People learn to read Rumantsch Grischun, but they continue to write in their own local dialects.

The creation of Rumantsch Grischun permitted the use of Rumantsch by government bodies and agencies, instead of having to produce documents in several different dialects of Rumantsch, they now only needed to produce them in Rumantsch Grischun. This greatly increased the public presence of the language.

It also promotes and fosters dialect writing, as Rumantsch speakers are now familiar with words from Rumantsch Grischun which don't happen to occur in their own dialect, they are able to recognise them when reading texts in other dialects. All the dialects, as well as Rumantsch Grischun, share the same spelling rules. The various dialects are all now clearly seen as local expressions of a common language.

A standardised spelling system for Scots, and the adoption of a "Scots lingua franca" similar to Rumantsch Grischun for official govt publications and the like, would assist the dialects of Scots to thrive and flourish.
# LadWiThePhilabeg 2011-01-27 15:27
Thanks for that post InfrequentAllel e. I wonder when we'll get such a standardised spelling system for Scots?
# Dalloch 2011-01-27 17:38
Quoting InfrequentAllel e:
It also has the immense advantage of making Scots and English visually distinct, and spelling Scots with reference to Scots and not with reference to English.

Why is this an advantage? It seems to be making thing more complicated than they need to be. Increasing complexity leads to diminishing return. Scots is the wonderfully vibrant and localised language it is precisely because it is not standardised. What of people who don’t speak Scots, but are proud to be Scots? It just seems to be an exercise of making ourselves ‘not English’ (without making the distinction between language and identity, which seems a little narrow minded to me.
Modern Scotland should be looking out and forward, not tying ourselves in knots trying to re-invent ourselves in to something we never were.

A standardised written Scots seems like a good idea, but how would it work in a particle sense, in the real world, where English is still largely written?


914,398,325 people who are native writers or have learned to write English. That’s a hell of a lot of people who would have to learn our ‘new Scots’, in order to do business with us. Unless we have to learn ‘standard English’ as well, or do we spend millions learning every language in the world?

For home use I can see some uses, but why does that need to be standardised?
# InfrequentAllele 2011-01-27 17:04
It won't happen until people start asking for it. And most people don't realise it's a possibility.

I don't hold out much hope for quh ever making a comeback though. I'm pretty much a one man band in advocating it. I like it because it's a distinctively Scots spelling that no other language uses and adopting it would make Scots instantly recognisable on the page.
# uilleam_beag 2011-01-27 19:14
Sorry big man, I don't think there's any chance of quh- coming back, fun though it would be for anoraks like us. For any new spelling system to really catch on it will need to be accessible and practical the public at large, even if it isn't the most perfect one from a linguist's point of view.

One example is the jyutping romanisation system developed for Cantonese. For a linguist it's excellent and clearly and simply represents the phonetic structure of the language. Unfortunately it has a number of elements that confuse the lay person. The 'j' for instance is pronounced as in IPA, the equivalent of a 'y' in English; for a linguist that's no problem but most Hong Kong people are only familiar with the western alphabet through primarily English and for some the pinyin romanisation for Putonghua, in both of which the 'j' is pronounced as in 'jingle-jangle'. Obviously, the (theoretically great) spelling system is a non-starter.

Not that you should give up the one man quh- band act, though!
# InfrequentAllele 2011-01-27 20:08
Quoting uilleam_beag:
Sorry big man, I don't think there's any chance of quh- coming back, fun though it would be for anoraks like us.

Aye. I know. Quhit a bummer eh?
# InfrequentAllele 2011-01-27 20:57

You still seem to be confusing a prescriptive standard with a standardised spelling system.

The reason Scots should have its own orthography is because that's what normal languages do, including languages which have considerably greater internal dialectal diversity than Scots does. The dialectalisatio n of Scots is often over-stated. It is not some special case. Scots dialect variation is as nothing compared to the dialectal variation within some other languages - yet they still manage to have a common orthography. Dialectal variation within Finnish, Estonian, and Norwegian is considerably greater than variation within Scots - yet all those languages have common orthographic systems which can be used to write any of their dialects in a way which maximises the intelligibility of dialect writing for speakers of other dialects. Scots need be no different. A standardised orthography promotes dialect writing, the reverse of what you fear it would do. It is not the same thing as a standard language.

Currently what happens when people try to write Scots is that they start off with English spelling in mind, then make haphazard changes to the spelling when the word in question happens to be pronounced differently from its English equivalent. Sometimes they use traditional Scots spelling, sometimes they use variations on English spelling. There is nothing systematic or principled about it. It's an ad hoc process. The result is that children acquiring Scots and English are never taught to differentiate between Scots and English. This has a negative effect both upon their acquisition of Scots literacy and upon their acquisition of English literacy. Additionally it creates the mental view of Scots as something "derived from English", and so continues to add to the confusion surrounding the Scots language and its status as a language.

Improving the status of Scots and establishing common orthographic principles would make it easier to teach English to Scots speaking children, and would improve their English literacy skills. Far from causing confusion, it actually makes things simpler. The bilingual child is then confronted with two different spelling systems, each appropriate to one of the child's linguistic systems. This not only teaches the child to distinguish between the two languages, it also teaches the child to distinguish between sound and symbol - an essential foundation to literacy skills. There are many studies of childhood bilingualism which support the view that this form of orthographic differentiation provides a massive boost to general literacy skills. Typically these children exhibit fewer problems in literacy acquisition than their peers who are acquiring only one of the languages. It also gives such children an immense advantage when they later come to acquire a foreign language like French or German. They approach it forewarned, and will expect it to have its own sounds and its own spelling rules.

What currently happens with Scots and English is the worst of all possible worlds, and a recipe for confusion and a lack of linguistic confidence. Children with two languages are taught one orthography for both, so never learn to distinguish what linguistic forms are proper to where. We end up with what we have now, thousands of Scots speakers who feel they speak poor English and poor Scots.

English would continue to be the language that Scots speakers use to communicate with Scottish people who speak only English or Gaelic and English, and with the outside world. Where do you get the bizarre notion from that people from outside Scotland would have to learn Scots to communicate with us? I have never proposed that Scots should not learn English and would oppose any attempt to make English a non-compulsory language in Scottish schools. No one is advocating that anyway.

At the moment Scottish people who speak only English do not have much opportunity to learn Scots as a second language should they choose. Without an orthography, or a common reference variety of Scots, it is very difficult to teach Scots to non-speakers.
# InfrequentAllele 2011-01-27 21:01
Can I just apologise for the SNAFU with the comment moderation. I've only just starting doing moderation, and I'm still getting used to the new site layout.

I've got it sorted now, and comments will appear a lot more promptly.

Thanks for your patience.
# LadWiThePhilabeg 2011-01-27 21:31
No problemo, I´m really enjoying the debate here. It´s funny how I can totally see the point in standardising Scots yet other folks can´t. I honestly believe that formalising the way we talk (by for example following the Swiss example mentioned above) would help Scots become more positive in their outlook and raise self-esteem. It's funny how you have one way of speaking in your head but another comes out when you talk due to social pressures, for example, when I first went to uni in Edinburgh, I was in a tutorial with about 15 other students and a Scottish tutor. I spoke-up with the answer as I always had done in my local school, but was met with silence... the tutor then said "perhaps you could repeat that because I don't think many of the class understood what you said." Naturally this made me feel pretty self-conscious about the way I spoke and I changed my pronunciation and vocab so that the predominantly English and foreign students could understand me.

Now I don't have a problem with that and I see it as normal that one must change one's habits to adapt to whatever situation life throws at one :-)

However, I can't help feeling that I could have avoided the feeling of shame if I had been taught from a young age that I spoke Scots (albeit influenced by English). Then I could have learned proper English as well and been better prepared for facing life at uni.

Note, when I when back home during term or for xmas or whatever, I reverted back to my natural and more comfortable way of talking which is Scots based. At times I felt like a fake or a bit pretenious because if I was with a uni friend and a friend from home I didn't know what way I should talk, proper English could leave me being ridiculed by local friends but if I spoke Scots, the uni friend might not understand and/or think I was putting on an accent. You see the problem? If everyone was aware that speaking Scots is different to English, there would be less confusion. Furthermore, we could avoid people feeling inferior as I did when I realised they couldnt understand me. I thought "but I got the exam results to get here, and it is the capital of my country afterall, yet somehow I feel lesser qualified to be here than them". I could read and write English perfectly well but my mouth couldn't speak it. Conversely, I can speak Scots but I can't read and write in to because no standard exists...

If you consider Scots a language, even if you think it's a language now heavily influenced by English, then that mean a majority of Scots are illiterate in their own language!

Let's try to change that.
# uilleam_beag 2011-01-28 07:19
It's called "code switching" and happens naturally in multi-lingual and/or multi-dialect* speakers, particularly where one is the language of the home and the street while another is the language of 'polite society' or the establishment. We tend to learn early to use one set of words and constructs in one situation and another for more formal settings. Another trend is "code mixing", the pic-n-mix use of bits of both languages/dialects particularly in cases where there is no distinct linguistic division between the two or in societies with a high level of bilingualism.
Though most Scots speakers are pretty adept at this (often not even realising they doing it) this is by no means a unique trait; the concept of a "telephone voice" is one obvious example which can be found right across the geographic British Isles, even in places where dialectal variation is minimal. In Hong Kong, people regularly pepper their Cantonese speech with English loanwords and even phrasal constructs, often when the original Cantonese is considerably simpler to say. I've known people with the infuriating habit of starting sentences in Cantonese and finishing it in English, then doing the reverse in the next; only the fully bilingual listener has a hope of following.

[* NB: as I'm sure many people in this discussion are well aware, the technical distinction between the terms "language" and "dialect" is a political one, not linguistic. Closely related languages in adjoining countries are often as mutually intelligible as the dialects within their respective borders. Nobody could point, with any degree of surety, at the precise spot on the spectrum where Scottish-flavoured English ends and the Scots language begins.]

You must be logged-in in order to post a comment.


Donate to Newsnet Scotland


Latest Comments