The Development of Scots

As I say in the introduction, the purpose of this website is primarily forensic - that is, to investigate why Scots has not been, and is not likely to be, developed as a language. The purpose of this section is to outline how I think it should have been developed (to some extent, as a response to friends on social media who regard my opinions on Scots as too negative.)

The idea is not so much to give specific recommendations - there is no point in an individual giving recommendations - as to demonstrate the sort of approach that I think would be, or would have been, necessary in order to create an expository register for Scots. It is presented in contradistinction both to the currently prevalent non-standardising narrative, as illustrated in the dictionaries produced by Scottish Language Dictionaries, and to cursory approaches of the past, such as the Scots Stylesheet and Recommendations for Writers in Scots, neither of which gave very comprehensive recommendations. The main purpose is so that I can direct interested people to my opinions on the subject when it crops up on forums.

This presentation avoids the use of phonetic script and other linguistic conventions which readers may not be familiar with, and instead uses the following rough conventions:

Capital letters are used for written letters, e.g. A

Italics are used for written words, e.g. glaikit, whether these are Scots, English or both.

Quotation marks are used for (1) rough pronunciations, e.g. 'yaize'; and (2) sometimes for words and phrases used for purposes of illustration.

Some abbreviations are:

CSD - Concise Scots Dictionary
CESD - Concise Scots Engish Dictionary
SSE - Scots School Dictionary, later ESD - Essential Scots Dictionary

One way of beginning this process is to ask the 'wh' questions - Why, Who, Where, What, When, and - the exception that proves the rule, not being a 'wh' word - How. These questions are discussed in the following section.

The following section outlines certain principles which must be considered to arrive at guidelines for an expository register. Previous attempts have often gone ahead without specific consideration of presuppositions, sometimes relying on unexamined assumptions. It would be necessary to consider at least the following before even starting on the consideration of details.

The following section divides Scots words into different categories for purposes of orthographic planning.

The following sections discuss the spelling of Scots in detail.

The following sections discuss grammar and vocabulary for an expository register.

Much of the above is given in more detail in my A Tait Wanchancie articles, in Scots.


AaAeWey - a detailed historical study of Scots orthography by Andy Eagle, including an extensive bibliography. In particular, this study demonstrates how 'Broad Scotch' was written with broad standards during the 18th and 19th centuries, and that the present tendency to represent local varieties of Scots primarily as English dialects only became prevalent in the 20th Century. It also discusses in detail the history of Scots spelling recommendations.