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Thread poster: Monika Rozwarzewska
What language do they speak in Scotland?

Monika Rozwarzewska  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 02:57
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
Jul 17, 2006

During my recent trip to Scotland I met many individuals who spoke a language that was difficult for me to understand (especially for the first couple of days). My Polish friends, who have been living in Scotland for a year or so, told me that it is a dialect or even a separate language called "Scots". Is that so? Others say that if I cannot understand somebody, it's most probably because this person speaks "bad English", not a dialect. So what language is spoken in Scotland? Bad English, a dialect or a different language?

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Marcus Malabad  Identity Verified
Canada
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Scots Jul 17, 2006

From Ethnologue:
http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=sco

I'm sure you had no intention of offending anyone with your 'bad English' comment.

M


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Monika Rozwarzewska  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 02:57
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Of course I didn't mean to offend anyone!!!!! Jul 17, 2006


Marcus Malabad wrote:

From Ethnologue:
http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=sco

I'm sure you had no intention of offending anyone with your 'bad English' comment.

M




[Edited at 2006-07-17 17:34]


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Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 20:57
German to English
Language or accent/pronunciation? Jul 17, 2006


Monika Rozwarzewska wrote:

During my recent trip to Scotland I met many individuals who spoke a language that was difficult for me to understand (especially for the first couple of days).


I've been to Scotland too and have had a number of Scottish friends (and still do). As an American it takes me a while to adjust to Scottish pronunciation. Just as with all the other varieties of English, Scottish English also includes a number of words that are unique to Scotland.

But I think you may well have heard English spoken with a Scottish accent.


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Kim Metzger  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 20:57
German to English
Scottish English Jul 17, 2006

Apart from those terms, reminding of the independent history of the country, Scotland has kept some more traces of its freedom in its modern Standard English. A number of Scots words, e.g., have found their way into even the most standardish speak, which normally is referred to as Scottish English (analogous to American English, Australian English etc.). This is more amazing, as this speech cooccurs with very vigorous local dialects, which indeed keep serving a the common vernacular. Notice, too, that there are orthography standards for those "borrowings" from Scots. Some examples (Bähr, 1974: 138; Crystal, 1988: 219; Ohff, 1992: 152-155):
Scottish English Standard English
aye yes
janitor caretaker
loch lake
wee small
wheesht be quiet
pinkie little finger
mind remember
dram drink (of whisky)
bonnie good, nice, beautiful
kirk church
stook plaster

Special attention should be paid to the mentioned word loch. It is pronounced , thus with a sound that an Englishman thinks uneasy to pronounce. This sound occurs in words like technical, technique as well (Abercrombie, 1979: 71). There are other phonological habits particular to Scottish English, stemming from Scots. Scotsmen do not distinguish between and , they always say. The StE diphthongs are monophthongised, r tends to be kept in all places and rolled (maintaining vowel contrasts the r-coloured vowels of English have dropped; Aitken, 1979: 101), the sound of w is kept apart from that of wh, the latter being voiceless. There are distinctions in vowel length StE does not know: agreed [ ] is different from greed [ ], brewed with the long vowel from brood with a short one, tied [ ] distinguished from tide [ ] (Aitken, 1979: 101). Besides, a Scotsman can be recognized by his intonation pattern. In many situations, this intonation pattern will be the only reminder of the Scottish descendance of the speaker, e.g. in the media.

http://www.linguist.de/reese/English/scotland.htm


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Paunitka  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 02:57
Member (2011)
Polish to English
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accent, dialect, language Jul 17, 2006

These three should be distinguished! So we have English with Scottish accent, Scots, which is a respectable dialect with a long tradition, Burns being its most famous promoter, and a separate language with Celtic roots that is as different from English as it is from Polish, not to look far.

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Daniel Bird  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:57
German to English
In your case... Jul 17, 2006

...since you managed to pick it up after a few days it was probably English, rather than e.g. Scots Gaelic which I believe is most widely spoken on the west coast and is of Celtic origin.
There are some well-known Scots Gaelic native speakers in the UK e.g. actress/writer Arabella Weir. And of course some well-known Scottish English speakers such as our Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Cheers
DB


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Monika Rozwarzewska  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 02:57
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
it wasn't Gaelic... Jul 17, 2006


Daniel Bird wrote:

...since you managed to pick it up after a few days it was probably English, rather than e.g. Scots Gaelic which I believe is most widely spoken on the west coast and is of Celtic origin.


I had a chance to see Gaelic written and hear it spoken on the Isle of Skye. I must say, it was a great experience!


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RobinB  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:57
German to English
Scots and all that Jul 17, 2006

We don't necessary speak in Scotland so that foreigners, including the English, can understand what we're saying.

Personally, I speak with an awfy proper accent, having been sent to school south of the border and lived abroad for so long.

But after a few days back home in Fife, my wife (English) starts having problems understanding me.


Monika Rozwarzewska wrote:
During my recent trip to Scotland I met many individuals who spoke a language that was difficult for me to understand (especially for the first couple of days).


Then that's indeed what's called generally referred to as "Scots", which is a distinct variant of English (though to be honest, there are many, many variants of English in Scotland, some of them mutually incomprehensible). You'd probably have just as many problems understanding the locals if you were to go to deepest Cornwall, to Liverpool, Birmingham or Newcastle-upon-Tyne, or the depths of the Yorkshire moors. Or to Antrim.

If it had been Gaelic (pronounced Gaalic, as opposed to Irish Gälic), you wouldn't really have understood a word, except for the odd English word thrown in here and there. And you presumably weren't in Glasgow either, where the local dialect of English is often considered to consist of nothing but glottal stops and the word fu'

Dialects are not normally taught at school or university, whatever the language. After all, many people come to Germany with a good command of Hochdeutsch and then wander around in a daze when they hit cities like Cologne or Munich. Or indeed, if they're lucky to end up here in Mainz. And of course German isn't much use if you go to "German"-speaking Switzerland...

Long live diversity.

Robin

[Edited at 2006-07-17 20:58]


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Monika Rozwarzewska  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 02:57
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
been to Glasgow Jul 17, 2006


RobinB wrote:

And you presumably weren't in Glasgow either, where the local dialect of English is often considered to consist of nothing but glottal stops and the word fu'


Robin

[Edited at 2006-07-17 20:58]


This is something I really want to forget about. I asked a man who was working at a parking lot how to get to the market. He repeated several times but I could not understand anything. I was thinking to myself: maybe I should change my job?


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Richard Creech  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:57
French to English
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Three Languages Jul 17, 2006

There are three indigenous languages spoken in Scotland: English, Scots, and Scots Gaelic. Scots Gaelic is a Celtic language related to Irish, and more distantly to Welsh, which is spoken by only around 70,000 people, mostly in the Highlands and islands off the west coast. Scots is a Germanic language which is related to English, and both languages are descendants of the Anglo-Saxon tongues spoken in Britain in the Middle Ages. They are related in a way that is not dissimilar to the relationship between French and Italian Scots has long been derided as "bad English" or as simply a "dialect" of English, but this is no more accurate than it would be to say that Italian is "bad French" or a "dialect" of French (or to say that Polish is "bad Russian"). Scots is generally recognized as a separate language by linguists and has been accorded such status by the European Bureau for Lesser-Used Languages.

The disparagement of Scots is largely due to the historical subjugation of Scotland within the United Kingdom. If Scotland were a sovereign state its language would be unproblematically recognized as separate. Many, probably most, residents of Scotland speak Scots to some extent.

Many differences between English and Scotish are attributable to the different impact of the two major historic invasions of Britain: the Vikings starting in the 9th century, and the Normans in 1066. The Viking influence was most strongly felt in Scotland and Northern England, and as a result many Scotish words (e.g. kirk ("church"), barn (child) can also be found in modern Norwegian and Swedish. English, on the other hand, was more influenced by the Normans, and there are more French-based words in English than in Scots.

The Scotish parliament's website is available in Scots (and many other languages) at www.scottish.parliament.uk. A sample from the Scots section will illustrate the significant differences from English:

Scots: "We want tae mak siccar that as mony folk as can is able tae find oot aboot whit the Scottish Pairlament dis and whit wey it warks."

English: We want to make sure that as many people as possible are able to find out about what the Scottish Parliament is and how it works.


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Andy Watkinson
Spain
Local time: 02:57
Member
Catalan to English
+ ...
Congratulations, Monika Jul 17, 2006

"During my recent trip to Scotland I met many individuals who spoke a language that was difficult for me to understand (especially for the first couple of days)."

I know the feeling.
My longest standing client is based on BCN. The owner is Scottish with, what I'm told, is a fairly gentle accent.

I've known him for over 10 years.

Whenever he phones me I always have to ask him to either speak to me in Spanish or pretend he's English. If he doesn't do one or the other I can't understand a word he says.

Just a "couple of days"? You ought to be proud.

Andy

PS. I'm from Liverpool. Not exactly known for speaking the Queen's English

PPS. If I were Spanish and had a second surname, it'd be McOwan.


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Marion Lurf  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:57
English to German
+ ...
No worries... :-) Jul 17, 2006


Monika Rozwarzewska wrote:
This is something I really want to forget about. I asked a man who was working at a parking lot how to get to the market. He repeated several times but I could not understand anything. I was thinking to myself: maybe I should change my job?

Hi Monika,

I hope you enjoyed your trip to beautiful Scotland! Don't worry, this initial language barrier is normal, it takes you a while to get used to the Scottish accent and even longer to get used to Scots, the dialect. I've been here for 3 years and by now I manage to understand people with a Scottish accent very well, and also most of what Scots speakers say. However, there's still the odd phrase every now and then, coming from a stranger at a bus stop, for instance, when I have no clue what s/he is saying!

Today I was (supposed to be) interpreting a couple of presentations about finance for a group of German visitors, bankers. The first speaker had a clear, English accent, so when I started my interpretation, the group members burst out laughing and stated: "We can understand it, we don't need an interpreter." Fine, so I just sat there quietly and listened.
However, the second speaker was Scottish, and after the event had finished, half the group dared to admit that they didn't really understand much of his presentation and were wondering what accent he had. In that moment, I once again saw the benefits of living in Scotland, and now I'm busy translating the presentations for them


PS: When explaining the linguistic situation here, I often compare Scottish English to Austrian German. Both are very similar to their respective more widespread variants, but there are differences in pronunciation, vocabulary, etc.
At university we once had a discussion about the status of Scots, and the 2 lecturers, both Scottish, defended different points of view: one claimed that Scots was an own language that had evolved more or less independently from English, and the other one admitted that it was a dialect of English (more than an accent, though) - but this discussion could be endless

[Edited at 2006-07-17 22:56]


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Marion Lurf  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:57
English to German
+ ...
Something to add Jul 17, 2006


Richard Creech wrote:
The disparagement of Scots is largely due to the historical subjugation of Scotland within the United Kingdom. If Scotland were a sovereign state its language would be unproblematically recognized as separate.

Didn't someone once say "a language is a dialect with an army and a navy"?


Scots: "We want tae mak siccar that as mony folk as can is able tae find oot aboot whit the Scottish Pairlament dis and whit wey it warks."

English: We want to make sure that as many people as possible are able to find out about what the Scottish Parliament is and how it works.

I find that written Scots (and afaik, there is no commonly valid written standard - even though there are Scots dictionaries) differs more from English than spoken Scots. If I read the sentence out to myself it's much easier to understand!


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Giovanni Guarnieri MITI, MIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:57
Member (2004)
English to Italian
Italian bad French? Jul 18, 2006


Richard Creech wrote:

They are related in a way that is not dissimilar to the relationship between French and Italian Scots has long been derided as "bad English" or as simply a "dialect" of English, but this is no more accurate than it would be to say that Italian is "bad French" or a "dialect" of French (or to say that Polish is "bad Russian").


I know it was just an example, but since Italian and French are 'romance' languages, descending from Latin, I would say that maybe French is bad Italian...

Giovanni


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What language do they speak in Scotland?






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