A Tait Wanchancie

Articles on Expository Scots


These are articles on expository Scots which I wrote for my A Tait Wanchancie column in Lallans magazine around the year 2000, as part of a debate on expository Scots when my late friend John Law was editor. Following closely on devolution, this was probably the last historical window in which recognition of Scots as a functioning language with its own characteristics might have been possible.

At the time, these articles were dismissed by John Corbett, a Scottish linguist, in the following terms:

John Tait gets doun tae bress tacks ower the course o thrie wanchancy airticles, fleetchin for a regular modren grammar an ward-stock o Scots, an than pittin doun twa-thrie merkers for guid Scots uissage. His sang is an auld ane o the whilk David Purves, amangst ithers, wad shairly approve: gin Scots culd juist finn a canny linguistic dictator, lik Samuel Johnson or Bishop Lowth, tae dicht the guid Scots fae the ill, than we culd aw faw intae step.

The 'linguistic dictator' comment is typical of that class of Scottish linguists, writers and educators who see no need for expository Scots. Twelve years later another linguist, Dr Christine Robinson, writing in Lallans 79 with the benefit of hindsight and from a 'non-prescriptionist stance', can satisfactorily say the death rites over such purist, prescriptionist language extremism - that might have run a small risk of elevating Scots into a functional language like Faroese or Catalan and breaking the stranglehold of Embroscotery - with the apposite phrase, 'Wae tae the modren grammarian.' And features which I then described as 'mistaks' have now become posteritised in exemplary texts.