|Last updated 29 Nov 2006||©2002-2006 by Sharon L. Krossa. All rights reserved.|
Below are published resources for the different languages that were spoken at one time or another during the Middle Ages in the area that is now Scotland. (More resources will be added as time permits.) Sections marked www in the index to this page include links to texts available online. See also the Literature and Published Primary Sources sections of this bibliography.
Index to this page:
Below is a rough timeline of the Gaelic language in Scotland:
Where Spoken and by Whom
|400-600||Archaic Gaelic aka Archaic Irish|
Early Gaelic aka Old Irish
|900-1200||Middle Gaelic aka Middle Irish|
|1200-1700||Common Classical Gaelic aka Common Literary Gaelic aka Common Gaelic aka Early Modern Gaelic aka Early Modern Irish aka ...|
|1700 onwards||Scottish Gaelic|
King, Dennis. Focal an Lae Language Timeline [WWW]. Focal an Lae, [cited 25 Aug 2000]. Available from http://w3.lincolnu.edu/~focal/docs/focaltl.htm.
A graphical chart showing the different historical stages of Gaelic. Note that the Gaelic terms used for each period are in modern Irish.
Gaeilge [WWW]. Ireland: Ambásaid na hEireann - Embassay of Ireland - Washington D.C. [cited 23 Oct 2001]. Available from http://www.irelandemb.org/gaeilge.html.
A brief history of the Irish language.
Krossa, Sharon L. Lenition in Gaelic Naming Step by Step [WWW]. Medieval Scotland, 12 Dec 2004. Available from http://MedievalScotland.org/scotnames/lenitionstepbystep.shtml.
Resource for when grammatical lenition occurs in Gaelic names and how lenited consonants are spelled and pronounced in Gaelic in different periods.
Krossa, Sharon L. The Spelling of Lenited Consonants in Gaelic [WWW]. Medieval Scotland, 19 Mar 2003. Available from http://MedievalScotland.org/scotlang/lenition.shtml.
An explanation of how lenition was shown in medieval Gaelic spelling.
Thurneysen, Rudolf. A Grammar of Old Irish. Translated by D. A. Binchy and Osborn Bergin. Revised and Enlarged, with Supplement ed. Dublin: School of Celtic Studies, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1975. Reprint, Dublin University Press Ltd., 1993. Amazon.co.uk - Amazon.com
Lehmann, R. P. M., and W. P. Lehmann. An Introduction to Old Irish. Edited by W. P. Lehmann. Vol. 1, Introduction to Older Languages. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1975. Order paperback from Amazon.com Order paperback from Amazon.co.uk
Quin, E. G., et al., eds. Dictionary of the Irish Language Based Mainly On Old And Middle Irish Materials. Compact ed. 1983. Reprint, Dublin: Royal Irish Academy, 1998. Original edition, 1913-1976. Amazon.com - Amazon.co.uk - Barnes&Noble
Sometimes familiarly referred to as the "DIL", this is the equivalent of the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) for medieval Gaelic; it includes datable example quotes of Early Gaelic (600-900) and Middle Gaelic (900-1200) words.
King, Dennis. Old-Irish Spelling and Pronunciation. Sabhal Mór Ostaig, 11 Dec 1998 [cited 25 Aug 2000]. Available from http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/old-irish/labhairt.html.
As the title suggests, an explanation of Old Irish (aka Early Gaelic) spelling and pronunciation. Old Irish refers to the period of Gaelic from roughly 600 through roughly 900 A.D. Another version of this article, Reading Old Irish: The Value of the Letters, can be found at the Focal an Lae web site.
Dwelly, Edward, ed. The Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary. Ninth ed. Glasgow: Gairm Publications, 1977. First edition original publication, 1901-1911. Birlinn hardcover Amazon.com - Amazon.co.uk - Barnes&Noble; Gairm 11th ed. paperback Amazon.com - Amazon.co.uk - Barnes&Noble; Birlinn paperback Amazon.co.uk
Krossa, Sharon L. Pronunciation of Scottish Gaelic Consonants (Draft Edition). WWW: Medieval Scotland, 19 Nov 2005. URL: <http://MedievalScotland.org/lang/gaelicconsonants.shtml>.
The spelling and pronunciation of consonants in modern Scottish Gaelic (which can reasonably be used as an approximation of the pronunciation of consonants in late medieval/early modern Gaelic). This article uses technical phonetic terminology to describe the sounds and although it does explain this terminology, I still recommend those not already familiar with formal phonetics read Heather Rose Jones' "Linguistics for Heralds" first if possible. (Unfortunately, at the moment I cannot find an online version of Linguistics for Heralds, but when I do I will provide a link here.)
Scots developed out of the northern dialects of Old English as spoken in Scotland, while what became the standard language in England developed out of the southern dialects of Old English. Although modernly both Scots and English are spoken in Scotland, this was not true in the later Middle Ages.
Below is a rough timeline of the Scots language in Scotland (CSD, ix-xiii):
Where Spoken and by Whom
|Early 7th century -1100||Old English||South-eastern Scotland, and to a lesser extent along the Solway.|
|1100-1700||Older Scots||Older Scots is further divided into Early Scots and Middle Scots.|
Spreading "beyond the south-east, first to other parts of southern Scotland, then in the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries to eastern Scotland north of the Forth." Scots was also the language of the burghs (towns), which began to be founded in the 12th century.
"By the fourteenth century ... [Scots] had become the dominant spoken tongue of all ranks of Scots east and south of the Highland Line, except in Galloway". It also had become the language of the royal court. "From about this time, too, the same ... tongue was beginning to be used in Caithness, Orkney, and Shetland".
(In this period, Scots-speakers themselves refer to their language as Inglis.)
Early Middle Scots
(From the end of the 15th century  Scots-speakers begin to refer to their language as Scottis, although Inglis is still used as well.)
|Scots continued to spread further towards the Highland Line in the eastern Lowlands north of the Forth, and also spread into parts of Galloway in the southwest and along the eastern coast north of Inverness. Some upperclass and educated Highlanders spoke Scots as well as Gaelic|
|1550-1700||Late Middle Scots||Scots continued to spread further towards, and in some areas across, the Highland Line, and also further into Galloway.|
|1700 onwards||Modern Scots||At the start of the 18th century, Scots was spoken in all of the Lowlands and Northern Isles, except by many of the upper and educated classes (see below). Over the course of the 18th-20th centuries, the number of Scots speakers declined in favor of English, although still today some Lowland Scots speak both Scots and Scottish English.|
Below is a rough timeline of the modern English language in Scotland (CSD, ix-xiii):
Where Spoken and by Whom
|1600 onwards||Scottish English||
In the 17th century, upperclass and educated Lowlanders increasingly spoke English rather than Scots. Upperclass and educated Highlanders increasingly spoke English in addition to or instead of Gaelic.
In the 18th century, the trend to speak Scottish English rather than Scots spread further into the middle classes. Increasing numbers of Highlanders also spoke English instead of Gaelic. These trends continued over the following centuries, with English displacing both Scots and Gaelic. Modernly nearly all Scots speak Scottish English, either as their only language or in addition to Scots or Gaelic.
Jones, Charles, ed. The Edinburgh History of the Scots Language. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1997. Order hardcover from Amazon.com
Order hardcover from Amazon.co.uk
Order from Amazon.com (unknown binding)
An excellent, comprehensive history of the Scots language. Written for an academic audience, so basic familiarity with linguistic concepts and terminology, such as IPA (International Phonetics Alphabet), is often assumed by the authors. But if you really want to know about Scots, this book is The Book.
Robinson, Mairi, ed. The Concise Scots Dictionary. Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1987.
Amazon.com - Amazon.co.uk - Barnes&Noble; Polygon paperback: Amazon.com
- Amazon.co.uk - Barnes&Noble; Chambers paperback (used):
Amazon.com - Amazon.co.uk; AUP hardcover (used):
Amazon.com - Amazon.co.uk - Barnes&Noble; Crown hardcover (used):
Amazon.com - Amazon.co.uk - Barnes&Noble; MacMillan hardcover (used):
Amazon.com - Amazon.co.uk - Barnes&Noble; MacMillan paperback (used): Amazon.com - Amazon.co.uk - Barnes&Noble; AUP leather cover (used):
Amazon.com - Amazon.co.uk - Barnes&Noble
Covers both historical and modern Scots. Very helpfully indicates in which centuries spellings and meanings were in use. Introduction includes a brief history of Scots. There have been editions of this work of the Scottish National Dictionary Association by several different publishers, but all are essentially the same book (perhaps some with updated entries). However, there is also at least one other book titled "Concise Scots Dictionary" that is an entirely different work, neither as authoritative nor useful. The key indicator that a book is the right Concise Scots Dictionary is that it is produced and copyrighted by the Scottish National Dictionary Association. Sample pages are available for viewing at Amazon.com
Macleod, Iseabail, Pauline Cairns, Caroline Macafee, and Ruth Martin, eds. The Scots Thesaurus. Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1990. Order Polygon 2001 paperback from Amazon.com
Order Polygon 1999 paperback from Amazon.co.uk
Order AUP 1991 paperback from Amazon.com (used)
Order AUP 1990 hardcover from Amazon.com (used)
Order MacMillan 1991 library binding edition from Amazon.com (used)
Produced by The Scottish National Dictionary Association. Organized thematically, it includes both historical and modern Scots, and is based on the Concise Scots Dictionary. Very useful for discovering Scots words used in and for various aspects of historical Scottish life and culture. Should be used in conjunction with The Concise Scots Dictionary, which contains more historical information on Scots words.
Macleod, Iseabail, and Pauline Cairns, eds. The Concise English-Scots Dictionary. Edinburgh: Chambers, 1993. (Pre-)Order Polygon paperback from Amazon.com
(Pre-)Order Polygon paperback from Amazon.co.uk
Produced by The Scottish National Dictionary Association. Emphasis is on current Scots, but some archaic words are included and of course some modern words have been in use for centuries. Should be used in conjunction with The Concise Scots Dictionary, which contains historical information on Scots words.
Dictionary of the Scots Language. [cited 27 Mar 2004]. Available from http://www.dsl.ac.uk/dsl/.
The DSL is a combination of the full text of the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (DOST, which covers Scots to 1700) and the Scottish National Dictionary (SND, which covers modern Scots).
Craigie, William, A. J. Aitken, James A.C. Stevenson, Harry D. Watson, Margaret G. Dareau, and K. Lorna Pike, eds. A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue from the Twelfth Century to the End of the Seventeenth, founded on the collections of Sir William A. Craigie. 12 vols. Chicago (1-4), Aberdeen (5-7), Oxford (8-12): University of Chicago Press (1-4), Aberdeen University Press (5-7), Oxford University Press (8-12), 1931-2002.
Familiarly referred to as "DOST", this is the Scots language equivalent of the OED (Oxford English Dictionary); it includes dated earliest and illustrative example quotes of all known Scots words through 1700. (Oxford University Press started reprinting all volumes in 1993.) Note that "paperback" publications of DOST are actually sub-sections of the hardback volumes -- several paperback "parts" make up a single hardback volume.
Aitken, A. J., ed. Lowland Scots: Papers Presented to an Edinburgh Conference. With Supplement ed., Association for Scottish Literary Studies, Occasional Papers, no. 2. Edinburgh: Association for Scottish Literary Studies, 1981. Order from Amazon.co.uk
The first three articles include illustrative texts. Contents:
Aitken, Adam J. "How to Pronounce Older Scots." In Bards and Makars: Scottish Language and Literature: Medieval and Renaissance, edited by Adam J. Aitken, Matthew P. McDiarmid and Derick S. Thomson, 1-21. Glasgow: University of Glasgow Press, 1977. Order hardcover from Amazon.co.uk
Order hardcover from Amazon.com (used)
Pronunciation of vowels in Early Scots (to 1450) and Middle Scots (1450-1700). Assumes knowledge of IPA (International Phonetics Alphabet).
Macafee, Caroline, and Marina Dossena. A Selected Classified Bibliography of the Scots Language [WWW]. Last Update Jun 2003 [cited 6 Jun 2003]. Available from http://wwwesterni.unibg.it/siti_esterni/anglistica/slin/scot-bib.htm.
Excellent resource listing important and recent works on the Scots language. Covers both historical and modern Scots. Maintained by and for academic scholars.
A knowledge of basic linguistic concepts and principles can be very helpful for learning about historical Scottish languages, but unfortunately formal linguistics is rarely taught outside of university linguistics departments. Below are some good web articles about basic linguistics aimed at a general audience -- they assume no prior study or knowledge of linguistic concepts or terminology.
The Highland Line is essentially a geographic division between the main mountainous region (Highlands) and the non-mountainous region (Lowlands) of Scotland. Very roughly, it runs northeast from Dumbarton to Ballater and then northwest from Ballater to Nairn or Inverness. But the best way to get an appreciation of the geographic division into Highlands and Lowlands is to look at a map that clearly indicates higher elevations, such as the Coloured and Hillshaded LANDMAP DEM - Scotland at The Landmap Project. (To compare to the locations of named places, see Historical and Modern Maps.)
Scots is a language closely related to English. There are many terms, some more respected than others, used for the modern Scots language and/or specific dialects of Modern Scots, including "Broad Scots", "Lallans", "Lowland Scots", "Aberdonian", "Doric", "Glaswegian", and many others. In the 14th and 15th centuries, Scots speakers themselves called their language "Inglis", while in the 16th century they took to calling it "Scottis".
Some linguists consider Scots to be a separate language from English, others consider it a dialect of English. Since the categorization of independent language vs. dialect is a subjective one, there is no "one true answer". I choose to refer to Scots as a language for several reasons, including that I find it makes it easier to talk about and explain the linguistic situation in both modern and medieval Scotland.
Note that "Scots" has several other, more common, meanings in addition to referring to the Scots language, including, as an adjective, the meaning "Scottish" and, as a noun, the meaning "more than one Scottish person".
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