Document 594

Scots Extended Grammar Essay 1

Author(s): Robert Lawson

Copyright holder(s): Robert Lawson


Thi leids o Scotland an England ar closely intertwinit, but at thi same time, thae retain clear linguistic divisions in mony features, an linguists sic like Aitken, (1971, 1973, 1979), Macaulay (1977, 1991), an McClure (1980, 1983), hae makkit an extensive catalogue o thi numerous differences an similarities atween Modren Scots an English. Ane o thi main systemic differentiations exists in thi modal verb system, an althouch thi Scots modal verb system is identical in form tae its Standard English coonterpairt, thare ar subtle differences in function an in thi semantic range ilka modal verb covers.

This essay wull initially define whit a modal verb is an its function athin discourse. Thare wull then be a discussion o thi twa main areas o Scots; Aulder Scots (1100 – 1700) an Modren Scots (1700 – Present Day). Athin thi Aulder Scots period, thi modal verbs yaised in this period wull be discussed, an comparit wi thi Middle English modal verb system. Thi essay wull then flit tae discuss Modren Scots modal verbs, an these wull be compairt tae Standard English modal verbs. Usage wull be analysit throuch linguistic ensaumples. Lastly, thare wull be a discussion o thi theoretical aspects underpinnin thi modal verb development in Scotland an thi divergence atween Modren Scots an Standard English.

A modal verb, also kent as a modal auxiliary verb, is a verb quhilk cannae staun alane in a clause, an maun be yaised in conjunction wi a main verb in order fur thi clause tae be completit, as in ensaumple 1.

Ensaumple 1
It’s gie het ootside. Ye shoud wear a t-shirt.
* It’s gie het ootside. Ye shoud a t-shirt.

Occasionally, thi main verb kin be omittit frae thi sentence, howe’er this huz tae relate tae wittins that huz jist passit previously.

Ensaumple 2

It’s gie het ootside. Ye shoud wear a t-shirt.
Aye, I probably shoud (wear a t-shirt).

Thi main modal verbs in English ar 'can'/'could', 'may'/'might', 'will'/'would', 'shall'/'should', an 'must' (Greenbaum & Nelson, 2002:281). Ilka pair o modals is dividit intae a ‘near’ modal an a ‘distant’ modal.

"Near modals express proximity in time, factuality and social familiarity. Distant modals express distant time (usually in the past), hypothesis rather than fact, and social distance (in other words, politeness)." (Corbett, 1997:47)

Thus, modal verbs occupy a certain syntactic category o thair ain, an ar separate frae main verbs. Modal verbs ar yaised tae convey certain acts or functions, an hae a wide range o semantic meanins, but these meanins arnae concrete, an thare is a degree o overlap tae be foun in thi modal verbs.

"It should be borne in mind that the meanings denoted do tend to shade into each other, and that some speakers might use several of the modal auxiliaries in different ways to others." (Corbett, 1997:48)

Thi table ablow refers tae Standard English categorisations o meanin.

Meaning - Near modal(s) - Distant modal(s)
Ability - can - could
Possibility - can/may - could/might
Permission - can/may - could/might
Obligation/Requirement - must/have (got) to / need to - had (got) to / needed to / ought to / had better
Deduction - must/have to - had to
Prediction/Hypothesis - will/shall/be to - would/were to
Intention - will/shall/be going to - would/was going to
(Corbett, 1997:48)

Therefore, thi modal expresses twa main types o meanin.

1. human control over events, such as is involved in permission, intention, ability, or obligation.

2. judgement whether an event was, is, or will be likely to happen. (Greenbaum & Nelson, 2002:111)

Modal verbs hae certain characteristics quhilk identify thaim as modal verbs. These features ar normally only applicable tae main verbs, but in modal verbs, wi thi exception o negation, thi addition o these features produces an ungrammatical verb form.

Aw modal verbs hae a singular, invariable form, an cannae be modified in ony wey (negation exceptit). Therefore, modal verbs dinnae tak thi 3rd person addition o s in thi present tense as main verbs dae.

Ensaumple 3

He can cook dinner.
* He cans cook dinner.

Thi addition o '-ed' tae construct thi past tense also cannae be yaised, an thi future tense cannae be markit bi thi addition o 'wull'. Insteid, modals mak a tense distinction yaisin different forms, e.g. may/might, can/could, or bi thi addition o have.

Ensaumple 4

* She musted studied lots for the test.
* He will can go with us.
She could have made dinner.
They might have invited us.

Modal verbs dinnae hae aither present or past participles.

Ensaumple 5

* Cann-ing shopping is great fun.
Being able to go shopping is great fun.
* He mayed play football.
He has been allowed to play football.

Modals ar restrictit tae finite expressions, whereas main verbs arnae.

Ensaumple 6

* Dave wants to can go to America this summer.
Dave wants to be able to go to America this summer.

Aw modal verbs kin be negatit bi thi addition o a negative marker 'not' or 'n’t' (or nae in Scots).

Ensaumple 7

I can’t go out.
He might not make it.
He cannae drive yit.

Thi addition o 'do' causes a major difference atween modal verbs an main verbs. Usually, thi addition o 'do' tae thi root verb adds emphasis tae a sentence or statement.

Ensaumple 8

I did do the washing up!
They do like us!

Whan do is addit tae a modal verb, howe’er, thi resultin sentence is ungrammatical.

Ensaumple 9

I do can drive!
They do will come!

Thus thare ar mony clear differentiations atween main verbs an modal verbs, but thi leid situation in Scotland allows fur further differentiations tae be makkit frae English modal verbs.

In thi period o Aulder Scots, thi range o modal verbs in English is quite limitit in comparison. Thi Aulder Scots period hud a large quantity o modal verbs in its word stock; approaximately 15 separate modal verbs, althouch mony o these hae dee’d oot. These include 'aucht'/'aw' ‘ought’; 'behove'; 'kin', 'couth'/'c(o)ud'; 'da(u)r', 'durst'; 'ma(u)n'/'mone' ‘must’; 'may', 'mycht'/'mocht'; 'sall', 'suld'; 'usit tae'; 'wull', 'wa(l)d'; 'dow' ‘be able, may’, 'dought' ‘could’; 'mote' ‘may, might, must'; 'note' ‘need’; 'tha(i)r' ‘need’ (Görlach, 2002:106). Some o these forms wur rare e’en in thi Aulder Scots period, sic like 'behove', 'dow' an 'dought'. Thi English form 'shall' isnae yaised at aw in spoaken Aulder Scots, a situation quilk hus continuit up till thi present day. Instead thi form 'sall', and occasionally 'schall', is yaised in Aulder Scots, an concordantly is foun oan comparatively few occasions in Aulder Scots literature.

"The loss of sall is fairly recent. Literary attestations of both the full form and the reduced ‘se /z/, used with personal pronouns, are common until the beginning of the present century; the reduced form may still be heard in conservative speech." (Aitken, 1994:71, cited by Görlach, 2002:107)

'Sall' also appears tae be closer tae Germanic roots than English 'shall' does. Thi German form is 'sollen', thi Dutch is 'zullen', thi Danish is 'skall', an thi evidence o thi Aulder Scots modal suggests that Scots maintainit its Germanic roots langer than English did. Thare wur also equivalents in Middle English, but these forms hud wee deviation in meanin. In thi period o Modren Scots, howe’er, differences in modal verb meanin becomes mair pronouncit, an quhile maist Scots modal verbs operate in a similar fashion tae thi English modal verbs, thare ar a few modal verbs sic like 'can', 'must', 'shall' an 'will' quhilk hae a distinctly different function in discourse.

Modren Scots shaires mony lexical an grammatical features o Standard English, an thi modal verb system is ane sic case in quhilk thi forms foun in Scotland ar identical tae thi forms foun in England. Thare is, howe’er, a large amount o semantic variation in thi Scots modal verbs compairit tae thi English modal verbs. Thus, thi form is thi same, but thi overaw grammatical function is different. Corbett (1997) offers a comprehensive table o modal verb comparisons.

[CENSORED: table removed]
(Corbett, 1997:49)

Athin Standard English, 'can' is yaised in a number o roles. Its main functions include, thi ability tae dae somethin:

Ensaumple 10

Ye kin play yon piano gif ye want.
I kin gae intae toun gif ye want me tae.
I kin drive noo.

Askin questions:

Ensaumple 11

Kin ye play thi piano?
Kin I gae in thi motor wi ye?

Or choice an opportunity:

Ensaumple 12

Ye kin either bide here wi yer Granddad, or come wi us.
Ye kin hae thi cheesecake, or thi ice cream, but no baith.

Modren Scots yaises 'can' in a similar way, but in addition yaises 'can' as an indicator o permission an aw, whereas Standard English yaises 'may' tae express permission (or denial).

"In the absence of may in contemporary Scottish speech, ‘permission’ is expressed by means of can or – more frequently – be allowed to." (Görlach, 2002:107)

Ensaumple 13

Kin I stey oot the nicht Maw?
Kin we hae some siller please?
Contrasted with English: May I use the car?

Althouch gie little recent research huz been carrit oot (Orr, 2003), thare is some evidence tae suggest that thare is also a stylistic difference atween 'can' an 'may' athin thi public sector. Caw centres an telephone operators in particular demonstrate this feature, an ane ensaumple kin be foun in a number o caw centre operators workin in thi Glesgae Science Centre.

Maist o thi workers in this public eddication attraction ar Scottish English speakers, coverin a wide geographical area o Scotland. As a result o thi centre bein locatit in Glesgae, howe’er, muckle o thi workforce comes frae Glasgow an thi surrounding area. Thi caw centre staff ar Scottish English speakers, but oan answerin public calls, thare is an increasin tendency tae speir ‘How may I help you?’ as opposit tae thi prototypical Scottish English form ‘Hou kin I help ye?’ This stems in some respects frae thi notion o politeness that Standard English hauds in public opinion, an thi operators ar attemptin tae portray a politer, mair conservative, an educatit projection o themselves an thi centre fur quhilk thae work. Ongoin work oan caw centre leid (Orr, 2003) wull determine gif this is a universal feature o caw centre interaction, or gif this is an individual feature o Glesgae Science Centre operators.

Althouch may is a feature o middle an upper class English speech it kin be, an often is, ridiculit bi Scottish speakers in a parody o Standard English speakers. Thi Scots form is also, howe’er, occasionally stigmatisit bi wey o reference tae its Standard English usage o ‘ability tae dae somethin’. This, howe’er, is a feature quhilk is becomin less common in Scotland as thi permission denotation taks precedent. Could is also yaised fur permission or possibility in thi same wey as kin.

"Note that 'may' is avoided in Scots and that 'can' and 'coud' (sic) cover both permission and possibility." (Purves, 1997:26)

Baith 'can' an 'could' ar also yaised in a construction kent as ‘thi double modal’ construction, in quhilk can or could is yaised as a main verb alang wi anither modal verb. This double modal construction is a sentence structure quhilk is becomin increasingly common in speakers o urban varieties an kin be foun in certain geographical areas o thi south an west o Scotland.

"A few modals, especially 'can', also occur in constructions such as 'he wull niver kin unnerstaun'. Double modals, though not unattested in Older Scots, are not a very new phenomenon; their use, however, appears to have increased in the 20th century, especially in urban Scots." (Görlach, 2002:107)

Ensaumple 14

Wull ye kin get thi milk?
I wull kin dae it!

Standard English yaises thi modal verb 'ought tae' or 'should' mark obligation, but Scots normally yaises 'need to'.

Ensaumple 15

I need tae gae an buy some stuff fur supper.
Ye need tae stert gaun tae thi gym.

Görlach notes that this is ‘a usage which is very rare in Standard English’ (Görlach, 2002:197), an that 'should' or 'ought to' is mair usual. Occasionally, 'must' is also yaised in this wey, but this is an antrin usage in Scots, an gif it is yaised in this wey then ‘specific emphasis is put on the necessity of the action’ (Görlach, 2002:107).

"In Scottish usage, must is restricted to its epistemic meaning, referring to ‘conclusion’ and ‘probability’. It does not normally imply ‘obligation’ or ‘necessity’; have to, have got to or are to occur instead." (Görlach, 2002:107)

'Maun', howe’er, covers baith obligation an permission, althouch this is a modal verb quhilk is no widely yaised in Modren Scots, particularly in urban varieties.

'Shall' is yaised in Standard English tae mark future events, predictions an intention, an ane famous ensaumple o this is utterit bi thi Fairy Godmither in 'Cinderella': ‘You shall go to the ball Cinderella.’ Thi statement offers an indication o future events an certainty. Gif thi Fairy Godmither wis Scottish, howe’er, thi equivalent statement wid be ‘Ye wull ga tae thi ba’ Cinderella.’ Scots 'will' also covers different functions dependin oan gif it is yaised in thi first, seicont or thrid wicht. Gif it is yaised in thi first wicht, 'wull' simply expresses prediction or occasionally hypothesis, quhile in thi seicond an thrid wicht it indicates thi speaker’s intentions.

Ensaumple 16

1st Wicht: I’ll see ye thi morn’s mornin.
2nd Wicht: Aye, ye wull so gae!
3rd Wicht: He’ll hae hud his tea?

'Shall', like 'ought to' (Millar & Brown, 1982:10), is completely absent frae spoken Scots, an sociolinguistic research fur thi Edinburgh Corpus o Spoken Scottish English also determinit that thare ‘is not a single occurrence [of shall] in ECOSSE’ (Millar, 2003:88), howe’er 'shall' is occasionally yaised in written announcements sic like public notices an bulletins.

So, hou huz this division in semantic referents come aboot? Whit huz causit thi modals tae diverge oan thair meanings? Ane answer micht be suggestit bi analogy wi thi Auld English period.

During thi period o Late Auld English, inflectional distinction wis becomin less an less markit, an ane grammatical category particularly affectit bi this obscuration wis thi formal subjunctive. Thi formal subjunctive wis a form quhilk expressit ‘hypothesis, potentiality and possibility’ (Smith, 1996:151). Thi result wis that althouch thi formal subjunctive wis separate frae thi indicative mood, thi unstressit syllable o thi vowels endit up mergin. In thi case o ensaumple 17, this vowel would be /^/.

Ensaumple 17

hie bundon --> ‘thae bound’
hie bunden --> ‘thae micht hae bound’

As this merger continuit, thi formal subjunctive became less common an thi form dee’d oot o common usage. Thare still remainit a need, howe’er, tae mark thi functions expressit bi thi formal subjunctive, an this wis ta’en o’er bi 'may' an 'might'. This left yit another gap in thi modal verb system, an a ‘dominoes effect’ took place resultin in a ‘modal shift’.

[CENSORED: diagram removed]
(Smith, 1996:152)

This systematic shift occurrit in Scotland, but in addition similar shifts micht hae occurred in ither areas o thi modal verbs. Syne thare ar a number o English modal verbs quhilk arnae yaised tae mark certain semantic categories, sic like 'shall' an 'ought to', Scots hud tae substitute ither modal verbs in place o thi ‘lost’ modals. Ane possible point whaur this wis initiatit is durin thi transition frae Aulder Scots tae Modren Scots, syne thi loss o a large number o Aulder Scots modal verbs wid hae propoundit thi need fur modal shift, particularly in thi loss o 'sall', considert thi Scottish equivalent o 'shall'. In addition, thi framework o a substantially different modal verb system wis a’ready in place in Aulder Scots.

[CENSORED: diagram removed]

So, the loss o ither modal verbs causit thi Scottish modal system tae alter in order tae ‘fill in thi blanks’ coverit bi thi loast modal verbs.

Thi overaw function o a modal verb remains constant frae Scottish tae English in that thae refer tae certain individual acts sic like obligation, volition an possibility, but thare remains a large degree o variation in thi individual functions o modal verbs in Scots. It is clear that modal verbs ar pairt o a larger system quhilk separates Scots an English, an that this variation is a result o thi simultaneously divergent an convergent paths o Scots an English, but further research intae modal shift micht provide a greater understaundin o thi processes ahint thi differentiations atween this aspect o leid in Scots an English.

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Information about Document 594

Scots Extended Grammar Essay 1


Text audience

Adults (18+)
Audience size 3-5

Text details

Method of composition Wordprocessed
Year of composition 2004
Title of original (if translation) Grammar Essay 1
Author of original (if translation) Robert Lawson
Language of original (if translation) Standard English
Word count 2786

Text medium

Other Essay submitted for university course.

Text setting


Text type



Author details

Author id 741
Forenames Robert
Surname Lawson
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1980
Educational attainment University
Age left school 18
Occupation Student
Place of birth Lanark
Region of birth Lanark
Birthplace CSD dialect area Lnk
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Glasgow
Region of residence Glasgow
Residence CSD dialect area Gsw
Country of residence Scotland
Father's place of birth Lanark
Father's region of birth Lanark
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Lnk
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's place of birth Wishaw
Mother's region of birth Lanark
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area Lnk
Mother's country of birth Scotland


Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes