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  Scottish Language - links at page end.

The people of Scotland now speak variants of Scots dialect, and have spoken Scots for hundreds of years. For many centuries the larger part of the Scottish people have spoken a variant of the original Inglis/Anglish (a Germanic language from southern Denmark and northern Germany / Friesland) first known as Inglis, and later known as Scots. Scots is different from English in that it derives from Anglo-Norman roots and so is closer to Danish and Frisian in many respects. Above the highland line, Gaelic was the dominant language from around the 10th century, but has been in steady decline since the 16th century.

At present, in the Western Isles Gaelic speakers account for around 70 per cent of the population. This is the modern homeland of Gaelic. Figures elsewhere are much lower - Grampian 0.5 percent, Highland 7.4 percent, Strathclyde 0.8 percent, Orkney 0.4 percent, Shetland 0.4 percent, and so on. Even Highland - less than 1 in 10 is a Gaelic speaker.

The goidelic tongue was brought to Scotland by the celtic tribes known by the Romans as the Scotti (we do not know what they called themselves). They came from Gallicia in the North-West of Spain, and have their roots in the North of India in more ancient times.

These 'Scots' initially populated the Western Isles and some remote Western parts while establishing Dal'Riata - a colony that spanned Western Scotland and Ulster.

The remainder of the country was controlled by Picts who were dominant and who subdued the Scots, yet took up their tongue in the North (having previously shared language roots with the Britons).

The Anglo-Saxons expanded from Bernicia and the continent since the 7th Century. The vernacular Scots language has its roots in these times and is a Germanic language. The language was initially termed Inglis (from Anglish - originally from Angeln meaning the corner in Denmark), but this terminology became unpalatable after Anglo-Norman had been eclipsed by the English language within England from the late 14th century onwards. Gaelic, which had earlier been referred to as 'Scottis' (pronounced 'Scots'), was increasingly referred to instead as Erse, the word used for Irish. This terminology has now fallen out of use within Scottish Standard English, however, and Gaelic is now normally used instead.

In the aftermath of the Viking raids on Iona (795), the Norse Jarls of Orkney took hold of the Western Isles, Caithness and Sutherland, while Norse settlers mixed with the inhabitants of Galloway to become the Gallgaels. Gaelic survived this period, although a little Nordic may have been mixed in !

So it is that Scotland has always had more than one language, although the romantics like to hark back to a purely Gaelic period which never existed - there has always been more than one language in Scotland.

Burns and later writers like McDairmid tried to modernise the Scots tongue and called it Lallans. Some say this was a 'clean-up' and others argue it was partly invention. However, it does give us a great part of our written and cultural heritage, and we cannot be sure of the agendas of critics. No Englishman argues against Shakespear 'cleaning up' and creating some of the great English linguistic inventions in use to the present time. So the Scots should also be proud of the investment in their own language.

Scots Language in Wikipedia

Scots Language Centre - for current initiatives.

See The Scots Language Society - for more details on Lallans

See The Scottish Corpus - for a major Academic collection of Scottish writings, songs and more (funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council).

See The Gaelic Society of Inverness - for the language, poetry and music of the Scottish Highlands. This society aims to further the interests of the Gaelic-speaking people.

See The Literacy Trust - for links to information about Gaelic language teaching and promotion in Scotland.

See Scots Wikipedia - for a large corpus of Scots material.

See The Guardian article on the return of Scots.