The Guid Scots Tongue
--Standardization of English
--Highlands and Lowlands
The state of English in the 17th
Writers experimenting with English lead to the
belief that the language (word
coinages/spelling/grammar was getting out of
“How barbarously we yet write and speak.”
--John Dryden
This resulted in the belief that an unruly
Language was reflective of an unruly society.
Scientific and political advancements in
the 17th century had a strong impact on
The belief that Latin was a pure language
not subject to change
A Proposal for Correcting, Improving and
Ascertaining the English Tongue (1712)
My Lord; I do here in the Name of all the Learned
and Polite Persons of the Nation, complain to your
Lordship, as First Minister, the our Language is
extremely imperfect; that its daily Improvements
are by no means in proportion to its daily
Corruptions; and the Pretenders to polish and
refine it, have chiefly multiplied Abuses and
Absurdities; and, that in many Instances, it offends
against every Part of Grammar.
Dictionaries in English
Few who see or read a play by Shakespeare
realize that he wrote without access to an
English dictionary as we know it. At his
death in 1616, the only lexicons serving
English were Edmund Coote's brief list of
1,368 words in his English Schoolmaster
(1596) and Robert Cawdrey's list of 2,543 hard
words in his Table Alphabeticall (1604).
The first full English-only dictionary, by
Thomas Blount (1656)
Samuel Johnson, a famous poet and critic
as well as a lexicographer, published his
dictionary in two volumes in 1755 and it
immediately set the standard of English
Samuel Johnson
Johnson's dictionary (over 40,000 words)
offered what was by far the most detailed,
orderly, and comprehensive description of
the English language to date, and it
remained so for many years.
In addition to his Dictionary and the
philosophical romance of THE PRINCE OF
ABYSSINIA (1759, later known as
RASSELAS), Johnson published essays in
The Adventurer (1752-54) and The Idler
The new monarch George III awarded
Johnson in 1762 an annual pension, which
improved his circumstances. He spent his
time in coffee houses in conversation and in
idleness. In 1763 he met the young Scot James
Boswell, who became his biographer and with
whom he formed one of the most famous
friendships in literary history. With Boswell he
traveled in 1773 in Scotland and published his observations
SCOTLAND (1775).
Scotland is a nation in northwest Europe
and is a constituent country of the United
Kingdom. It occupies the northern Third of
Great Britain and shares a land border ti the
south with England and it bounded by the
North Sea on the east and the Atlantic
Ocean on the west. The capital of Scotland
is Edinburgh.
Map of Scotland
English in Scotland
The majority of Scotland's population speak
English, a consequence of England's
political and cultural domination. But there
are two other - lesser known - languages
that have been there far longer, and they are
still there—Gaelic and Scots.
Scots in the lowlands adopting English of
the south, Scots in the Highlands had a
more Gaelic identity.
Highland Scots suffered a great blow in
the Jacobite Uprising.
Highlands and Lowlands
Bonnie Prince Charles and the
The Jacobites got to within 130 miles of
London, but at Derby fell to fighting
amongst each other. Without support
from the Scottish lowlands or England,
and with a promised French force never
materializing, they were forced to retreat.
After the failure of the 1745 Rising, the chief
poet and propagandist of the movement,
Alexander MacDonald (or Alasdair mac
Mhaighstir Alasdair as he is known in Gaelic)
O poor Scotland, are you not ashamed of what has
happened to you - a mere handful of Gaels left to
engage the enemy? Will you not summon your
mighty strength, o progeny of Scota of the swords?
This defeat left the Highlanders to be viewed
as “Second-class citizens”
The defeat influenced the persecution of the
Highland Scots and their associated
language (Scots Gaelic)
A thousand years ago the majority of the
Scottish population spoke Gaelic. Nowadays
the language has largely been reduced to
the Highlands and Islands. By the latest
census in 1991 the language was brought
down to 66,000, around 1.5% of a population
of over 5+ million. Furthermore, the
66,000 speakers are mainly the elderly,
Gaelic is a very endangered language. But during the last
20 years it has experienced a revival which is part of the
rising awareness - or creation of - a separate Scottish
identity. Pop and rock stars sing in Gaelic, all the political
parties want to protect Gaelic. There is a growing
movement for Scottish Kindergartens/Pre-schools. Many
schools now teach what was once a proscribed language
and TV and radio broadcast in Gaelic. Together with tartan
and whisky and bagpipes Gaelic is part of the romantic
Scottish myth, and most Scots believe it is Scotland's
aboriginal language. They also believe it is impossibly
Gaelic is an English word for any of three languages
Which form one half of the Celtic language family group.
These three Gaelic languages are
– Irish Gaelic Gaeilge
– Manx Gaelic Gailck
– Scottish Gaelic Gàidhlig
These three languages are spoken in Ireland, Man and
Scots Gaelic
Tha mi sona.
Tha iad beag.
Tha e mór.
Tha sinn òg.
I am happy.
They are little.
He is big.
We are young.
"Tha mi fallain, tha mi òg"
"I am healthy,
I am young"
As Gaelic had been driven from the national
institutions of Scotland, it ceased to have
significance in national identity. Scottish
Gaeldom reoriented itself back towards
Ireland, and away from the estranged
central government.
This language is originally northern form of
English due to migrations of feudal lords.
The feudal movement in Scotland was
accelerated by King David, who had spent his
adolescence at the English court. When David
assumed the Scottish throne in 1124, he
ushered in further church reform, feudal land
grants and the establishment of royal burghs.
The new parish system was often closely related
to feudal land grants, making it function as part
of the policy of royal control and consolidation.
Scots Tung Hame Page
Walcome tae the new wabsite o Scots Tung, the yin that tells ye
a guid Scots tung in yer heid’s nae guid if yer mooth’s ower
blate tae yaise it. If ye’re a native Scots speaker, try an get
yaised tae seein the language ye speak every day in its written
form athin thae pages.
Ye might hiv been telt bi yer teacher an bi ithers that whit ye
speak is juist a local slang or even an ill-moothit kind o English
but it’s no. It’s Scots aw right! There mony kinds o Scots that
depends maistly on whare ye bide an they’re aw dialects o
Scots. Nane o them is dialects o English. Aboot twa thirds o the
words in a guid Scots text is words that the English language
shares wi Scots. Baith thae languages acquired thae words
maistly aboot the same time an baith his an equal right tae
yaise them an cry them their ain.
Polarization between Lowlands and
The manners and customs of the Scots vary with
the diversity of their speech. For two languages are spoken
amongst them, the Scottish and the Teutonic; the latter of
which is the language of those who occupy the seaboard
and plains, while the race of Scottish speech inhabits the
Highlands and outlying islands. The people of the coast are
of domestic and civilized habits ... The Highlanders and
people of the islands, on the other hand, are a savage and
untamed race, rude and independent, given to rapine,
ease-loving ... hostile to the English people and language
... and exceedingly cruel. (John of Fordun c. 1380)
The Highlanders, again, regarded the Lowlanders
as a very inferior mongrel race of intruders, sons of
little men, without heroism, without ancestry, or
genius ... who could neither sleep upon the snow,
compose extempore songs, recite long tales of
wonder or of woe, or live without bread and without
shelter for weeks together, following the chace.
Whatever was mean or effeminate, whatever was
dull, slow, mechanical, or torpid, was in the Highlands
imputed to the Lowlanders, and exemplified by allusions to
them... (Grant of Lagan,1811)
Do you think that a language should be able to
change over time? Why or why not?
2. What was the significance of Samuel
Johnson’s dictionary?
3. Why is there a difference between Scots and
Scots Gaelic?
4. What parallels do you see between the fate of
language in Scotland and the fate of nonstandard languages in the United states?

The Guid Scots Tongue 10/25 - Northern Arizona University