Document 128

Written Scots

Author(s): Robert Fairnie

Copyright holder(s): Robert Fairnie


Is Written Scots a Foreign Language tae Maist Hamelt Scots Speakers?

SOME fowk that’s juist been gien a copy o this news letter for the first time, haes come richt oot wi it. “That’s nae guid tae me, it’s ower hard tae read!” Monie o the 1.5m tae 2.5m hamelt Scots speakers identified bi different surveys in raicent years carries the norrie in thair heids that Scots is somethin a bit mair fantoosh nor the wey that they speak; sae fantoosh in fack, that maist o thaim canna unnerstaun it when they see it written doon. Is it onie wunner then that maist o thaim acceps the wey they speak as juist some kinna local workin cless slang juist like they war telt in the schuil.

Upsteerin Scots screivers, blythe tae write in Scots but maistlins haudin back frae the speakin o’t, warsle wi orra spellins an aft losses sicht o the monie words that’s shared atween Scots an English. This mistaen fecht tae fund a Scots word tae uise insteid o whit’s perceived tae be an English ane whiles ends up wi a language that, tho recognised bi Scots scholars as a form o Scots, is aft a language that haes never ever been spoken in Scotland an isna recognised bi the hamelt Scots speaker, uneddicatit in the readin o Scots an never hivin heard the writers speakin it. They’re no gaun tae mak a maucht tae lairn hou tae read a language that, on paper, leuks naethin like the wey they speak ilka day. They haed nae sic bother wi readin Oor Wullie or The Broons, e’en in the first hauf o the last century whan the Scots uised then wis a lang sicht braider nor the wattered doon language that’s uised the day.

Naebody the day is gaun tae propone gaun back tae thon kinna spellins an language but the’r a muckle want for written Scots tae be makit a guid bit mair reader freendly if the’r tae be onie kinna mellin an mutual recognition atween the speakers an screivers o the leid. “Forgotten Folk” is weel aquent wi this kinch an it’s ane that shuid be addressed bi aw Scots upsteerers for it’s weel kent a sindert hoose canna staund an the Scots language o the 21t century will never be hail or the twa haufs comes thegither.

Tae be fair tae Scots writers, they dinna hae onie Scots dictionar that can compear wi e’en the maist hummle o English anes, for aw the guid an necessar work that’s been duin bi the SNDA an ithers. For a stert, aw English dictionars is written in English frae batter tae batter. Scots dictionars is written in English tae. English dictionars is comprehensive an includes aw words imported intae the leid frae the classical Greek, Latin an ither foreign languages while Scots anes juist includes thae words that haes a different form o the classic word in Scots tae that uised in English, sic as the Scots “depute” insteid o the English “deputy”. Tho the’ll aye be a need for an English/Scots vairsion, nae Scots dictionar is gaun tae be complete or it’s written aw in Scots an includes aw the words the leid shares wi English, juist like the English dictionar includes aw the words it shares wi Scots an ither foreign leids. This wad mak it easier for writers tae evyte wrangly owersettin shared words intae an orra kinna pseudo Scots.

Coorse, a comprehensive Scots dictionar the likes o thon isna gaun tae fund its wey intae the shops the morn but, in the mean-time, wi the hamecomin o the Scots Pairlament, the ratifeein o the European Chairter for Regional or Minority Languages, the foondin o the Cross Pairty Group on Scots an a growein swall o intrest in the Scots language, the’r gaun tae come a time, we howp, when fowk is gaun tae hiv tae sit doon an come up wi some kinna standart leet o Scots that’s suitable for uiss on public signage in the pairlament, the schuils, on the street an for uiss on leaflets. In ither words, a Scots Dictionar o Public Signage that’s no gaun tae hae onie lauchable pseudo Scots words for enemies o the leid tae lowp on an uise as ammunition. Aiblins the CPG can hae a think on wha can best tak on this darg an whaur the fundin is gaun tae come frae.

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Cite this Document

APA Style:

Written Scots. 2024. In The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow. Retrieved 17 April 2024, from

MLA Style:

"Written Scots." The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. Glasgow: University of Glasgow, 2024. Web. 17 April 2024.

Chicago Style

The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech, s.v., "Written Scots," accessed 17 April 2024,

If your style guide prefers a single bibliography entry for this resource, we recommend:

The Scottish Corpus of Texts & Speech. 2024. Glasgow: University of Glasgow.


Information about Document 128

Written Scots


Text audience

Adults (18+)
General public
Audience size 100+

Text details

Method of composition Wordprocessed
Year of composition 2001
Word count 762

Text medium

Other Newsletter

Text publication details

Publisher Scots Tung
Publication year 2001
Place of publication S.T. Wittins
Edition NR 91
Part of larger text
Contained in Scots Tung Wittins
Editor R Fairnie
Page numbers 2

Text setting


Text type

Prose: nonfiction


Author details

Author id 95
Forenames Robert
Surname Fairnie
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1930
Educational attainment College
Age left school 16
Upbringing/religious beliefs Protestantism
Occupation Consultant Marine Structural Engineer (Retired)
Place of birth Musselburgh
Region of birth Midlothian
Birthplace CSD dialect area midLoth
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Musselburgh
Region of residence Midlothian
Residence CSD dialect area midLoth
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Fisherman
Father's place of birth Musselburgh
Father's region of birth Midlothian
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area midLoth
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Fishwife
Mother's place of birth Musselburgh
Mother's region of birth Midlothian
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area midLoth
Mother's country of birth Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes At work
German Yes Yes Yes Yes In Germany to communicate with two grandsons
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes Wherever Scots is understood