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The ausbau of present-day Scots.

The aim of this paper is to give an overview of two aspects of modern-day Scots: its range of use (which is larger than sometimes assumed) and its standardisation (or lack thereof). Both aspects have come to be subsumed under the term ausbau, (1) following its introduction by the German philologist Heinz Kloss in 1967. The term itself has led to some degree of confusion, not least, perhaps, due to the difficulty of translating it into English. We will therefore start with a closer look at what ausbau is and how the term has been used. After that, the state of Scots ausbau in relation to domains and standardisation at the beginning of the twenty-first century will be investigated before, finally, we examine the significance of and motivation for the ausbau of Scots.

This paper is not the first study of its kind. In 1979, A.J. Aitken gave an overview of the state of ausbau of Scots at that time, with a special focus on educational and academic contexts. McClure, in the same volume, looked at the 'range of uses' from a more literary perspective. This paper aims to be much broader in outlook, paying attention to as wide a range of domains (2) in which Scots is used at the beginning of the twenty-first century as possible. However, even for a vernacular whose range of uses is somewhat limited, any attempt at describing something as complex as the state of ausbau cannot claim to be comprehensive. Placing the emphasis on breadth rather than depth, but including individual cases that are considered particularly interesting or relevant, this paper operates within the following limitations:

(i) It is restricted to the ausbau of Scots in Scotland. International varieties of Scots (as found in Ulster or Canada) are not considered.

(ii) The paper is concerned only or mainly with the situation as it presents itself at the beginning of the twenty-first century. For historical overviews see Gorlach 1998 Ch. 5 and 2002.

(iii) No consideration is given to works on Scots but not in Scots. Researching and writing on a variety does not, in my view, automatically contribute to its ausbau. This means that a large bulk of academic work on the Scots language is not reflected upon here.

(iv) Finally, literature, one of the strongholds of Scots, can only be mentioned in passing and for the sake of completeness. There are a number of works on Scots literature that deal with the topic in a much more comprehensive way than can possibly be expected in the scope of the present paper.


Stemming from the question of how language can be distinguished from dialect, Kloss distinguishes two qualities by virtue of which speech varieties can be assigned the label of 'language'. They could be structurally different from a (geographically) neighbouring variety, in which case they would be labelled as 'abstand languages', with 'abstand' being the German term for distance. This is the case for Gaelic as opposed to English in Scotland and Ireland or for French and Italian as opposed to German in Switzerland, and this is the traditionally and among non-linguists widely accepted criterion for the recognition of a variety as a language. Alternatively, and perhaps less palpable at first sight, Kloss labelled varieties that attain their language status 'by development' as 'ausbau languages' (Kloss 1967: 29): 'Languages belonging in this category are recognized as such because of having been shaped or reshaped, moulded or remoulded--as the case may be--in order to become a standardized tool of literary expression. We might say that an Ausbausprache is called a language by virtue of its having been reshaped, i.e. by virtue of its "reshapedness" if there were such a word.' By setting the (more or less) absolute criterion of 'standardized tool of literary expression', Kloss leaves little room for questions of degree: most varieties will either clearly pass or fail this criterion. (3)

Kloss's terminology of abstand and ausbau languages has been variously taken up in linguistics throughout the Western world; his definition of the terms, however, has sometimes been altered or even confused. Fishman remarked some twenty years later (1991: 350; my additions in brackets):
   In all three instances [Frisian in the Netherlands, Catalan in Spain
   and Yiddish in Germany and Eastern Europe in the nineteenth century]
   corpus planning efforts were instituted on behalf of Xish [the
   threatened language] to combat the negative interpretation of such
   seemingly excessive phonological, lexical and grammatical similarity
   to Yish [the dominant language] by (a) stressing and (b) increasing
   the differences between Xish and the stronger rivals. Such efforts
   are referred to today as being of an 'Ausbau' nature, or, literally,
   as 'building away', i.e., consciously making Xish less like Yish
   than it might otherwise be.

This interpretation is not supported by the use of the word Ausbau in German. (4) Ausbau has two major readings. In a more literal sense (with Bau meaning 'construction' or 'building'), it refers to the internal development of an existing room or building, which may, for example, include the installation of electricity, sanitary facilities, and everything else that is required to make the place suitable for its particular purpose. An English translation of this sense would either be 'completion' (of a construction) or 'conversion' (of a loft etc.). In a more figurative sense, ausbau refers to the active extension of concrete or abstract entities. One can, for example, 'ausbau' trade relations, rail networks or one's lead in a race. Ausbau, therefore, describes a transition, i.e. an action or process that will eventually change a certain state and make it in some respect greater, or the result of this transition. Possible English translations would be 'development', 'extension' or 'elaboration'. Used in relation to language, 'ausbau' can be understood in both ways, and in both cases the metaphor of a house with several rooms lends itself readily for illustration. For a variety to achieve the status of an ausbau language, the number of domains (rooms) in relation to the total number of domains available (the house) has to be extended (a more abstract concept). On the other hand, just as the rooms are made fit for the purpose they were created for, so a speech variety has to be made fit for certain domains. This may include the invention of new lexical items, the creation of a unified spelling system or the establishment of a prestigious standard.

If understood this way, the question of ausbau is a continuum with many shades of grey between the black and white extremes. This is how Gorlach later on understood ausbau. He devised the 'four A's'--abstand, ausbau, attitude and acquisition--to determine the 'languageness' of a variety (cf. Gorlach 1998, 2002), stating that he considers 'languageness' to be 'a question of degree' (2002: 33). For him, ausbau contains the two elements of functional range and standardisation, apparently because standardisation is an important step or process in the development of a language. It is in this way that ausbau is understood and treated here.


It is commonly accepted that Scots is the spoken variety used in informal situations mostly, but not exclusively, by the working classes in Lowland Scotland. Corbett's statement (2003: 255) can be seen as a starting point: 'As far as can be gathered from evidence available, Broad Scots today is largely the spoken language of the domestic sphere, and the spoken medium of manual labour and traditional industries, such as farming and fishing; while Scottish Standard English is largely the language of public life, education and official documentation and pronouncements.' However, spoken Scots in Scotland does not constitute a clearly demarcated entity. Scholars widely agree that there is a continuum between Scots on the one side and Scottish Standard English on the other. Among the factors that may determine the choice of a more Scottish or a more English pronunciation, lexis, or grammar may be the region, the social class, the age, the sex, and the national or regional loyalty of the speaker as well as situational factors (Aitken 1985: 42), whereby the use of Scottish forms is usually associated with informality. Within the guidelines mentioned above, we will therefore focus on usages of Scots that transcend the restriction to informal speech.


Ever since about the fourteenth century, literature has been one of the great fortes of Scots, and this is no less true today. McClure (1979: 40) claims that 'although spoken Scots has never been weaker, Scots literature has never since the eighteenth century been stronger'. However, due to the diversifying development of the Scottish dialects and to the lack of a common standard, today's literature is often linguistically grounded in a particular region. Contemporary writers who at least sometimes write in Scots include Edwin Morgan, Kathleen Jamie, Janet Paisley and Irvine Welsh. The latter achieved international fame through his novel Trainspotting (1993), which was adapted for the screen in 1996 (directed by Danny Boyle), thus even providing for the Edinburgh dialect to be heard in the cinema. Unlike many of his predecessors, who make their characters speak Scots while the narration itself is in English, Welsh uses Scots (Edinburgh) also for large parts of the narration. The major foci of today's Scots literature, however, are not so much the novel but poetry (which has the magazine Lallans of the Scots Language Society as one of its main outlets) and literary translation. (5) An interesting endeavour in this context is the proposal for a new series by Clo Ollscoil na Banriona at Queen's University of Belfast, to be edited by John Kirk and Donall O Baoill, which, under the series title of Queen's Scots Texts, aims to publish major works of world literature in Scots, among them Macbeth and the first complete translation of the Bible.

The stage

One of the most pervasive domains of spoken Scots outside informal conversation is the stage. Especially comics like Stanley Baxter (Parliamo Glasgow), Billy Connolly, and the duo Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill (Still Game and Chewin' the Fat) have achieved great popularity, as have some lesser known stand-up artists. It is probably due to these comedians that the Glasgow dialect, in addition to its often negative connotations of toughness and perceptions of being 'guttural' and bad language, occasionally also conjures up connotations of being 'funny'. What is more, the fact that Glaswegian is often perceived by outsiders as the typical Scottish dialect is probably also due to these comedians' fame beyond the boundaries of Scotland through their appearance on television. Outwith the purely comical, there are a number of independent or established theatrical companies that use literary or contemporary Scots in their performances. The play Oor Wallace (Gill Bastock), for example, was written entirely in Scots and was first performed in Stirling in 2005 as part of the 700th anniversary festivities for William Wallace.

An interesting play both in terms of content and language is Singin I'm No a Billy He's a Tim (Dillon 2005), which deals with sectarianism in Glasgow: the Protestant and Rangers supporter Billy is locked up in the same prison cell as the Catholic and Celtic fan Tim. On the Scottish English-Scots continuum, Billy's language is consistently closer to the Scots pole than that of Tim. This is reflected in the seventh act as the two protagonists talk about their jobs. After Billy has informed Tim about his work as a barber and his dismissal, he wants to know about his cellmate's occupation (ibid. 56):

Billy: So. Well, what about you?

Tim: Eh?

Billy: Come on. Where d'you work?

Tim: Call centre. Cos we talk that wee bit posher than normal, us Tims. Know--fuckin shop instead of shoap. House instead of fuckin hoose.

This passage is an indication that there is a consciousness of the differences in language between (potentially) Irish-descended Catholics and Lowland Protestants; whether or not these perceptions are based on reality has not yet been researched. However, this perception goes hand in hand with a classification of the two varieties: whereas Billy's Scots is, in the given context, described as 'normal', Tim's vernacular is considered 'posher', which hints at a greater proximity to the perceived standard.

An interesting project in this connection (if not a play itself) is the production of Scotspeak (Robinson and Crawford 2001), a pronunciation guide with accompanying CD for actors who want to learn urban Scots. The book, published by the Scots Language Resource Centre, provides a brief introduction to phonetics and to the more general features of Scottish English and Scots phonology and grammar. The main part contains the (orthographic) transcriptions of 23 recordings from the urban centres of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen and describes the idiosyncratic features of these speakers.


Probably the best-known form of contemporary written Scots is that found in the comic strips Oor Wullie and The Broons, which have been published by the Sunday Post for nearly seventy years now. Gorlach (1998: 67) describes the language of The Broom as 'witty, highly conversational and composed in a middle-of-the-road, easy-to-understand Scots, lexically enriched by overt scotticisms [sic] and stereotypes.' Since September 2005, every issue of the weekly Orcadian features a similar, if considerably shorter, comic strip entitled The Giddy Limit (Alex Leonard). It centres on Sandy, Orcadian, husband and father, his wife Liz from 'doon sooth' (which, from an Orcadian perspective, may mean both the Scottish mainland and England) and their son Cheemo, who return to Orkney after some years of exile. The linguistic behaviour of the family members reflects their background: whereas Liz speaks English, Sandy and the locals speak Orcadian. The six-year-old Cheemo assimilates his language quickly to the new environment: in the first issue, just after arriving in Orkney, he complains in English that he hasn't seen a McDonald's yet on the island; from the third week on, his speech is that of the local Orcadians.


The Friday issue of the Daily Express features a crossword puzzle (Keith Aitken) which has some of the clues (for obvious reasons, however, not the solutions) in Scots. The clue 'quat, lave, lea or be uptail an awa', for instance, requires the solution 'leave'. The broadsheet The Herald, in collaboration with Scottish Language Dictionaries, selects every week a "Scots Word of the Week", explaining the etymology and usage of the word. The Press and Journal has a weekly column in Doric by Robbie Shepherd. In connection with articles relating to Scottish culture or language, editors frequently use overt Scotticisms (cf. Aitken 1984: 105-8), especially in headlines. The headline 'Gonnae no dae that' (Sheppard 2006), for example, introduces an article on the Glasgow Comedy Unit, which produces programmes like Chewin' the Fat and Still Game. Sometimes, especially in regional papers, writers of letters to the editor use the local vernacular--thus triggering a mixed response from the readers.


Printed advertisements in Scotland are almost entirely in English. If, however, Scots is used, this is almost inevitably in some form of reproduced speech, employing, for example, quotation marks (Fig. 2), a speech bubble (Fig. 3), or comic strips. The use of Scots in Fig. 2 is somewhat remarkable because it occurs outwith Scotland. Once again, an overt Scotticism (the -nae negation particle) is used, not primarily to convey the content of the message, but for the sake of recognition and thus to strengthen the association with Scotland. (6)


Within Scotland, those who produce advertisements and use Scots make use of another feature common to non-standard dialects and l-varieties: they use the covert prestige of these speech forms to convey trustworthiness and solidarity. In Fig. 3, factual information is given in English, whereas the potential customer is addressed on a personal level ('Ye'll be fancyin' getting [sic.] yersel away') using the photograph of a woman who speaks through a speech bubble in the vernacular.

Radio and television

In the broadcast media, too, Scots employs only a marginal role. While this is understandable with programmes that are broadcast UK-wide, it may come as a surprise with regional stations, especially since with spoken language there is no question of how to spell words. Scots can be heard, however, when performances of the comics mentioned above are aired, in the programmes of writer and broadcaster Billy Kay (The Mither Tongue) or in programmes like River City, which features characters with various dialects of Scots. The Scottish language can also be heard when locals of the dialect areas like the Northern Isles or the North-East are interviewed, for instance in connection with oil production or fishing. Similarly, on the radio, call-in programmes enable listeners to share their views in their local speech. In the 90s, BBC Radio Scotland held two Scots Language weeks with short contributions in Scots, while the rest of the time was filled with discussions about Scots in English (Wilson 2002: 109). In contrast, Scottish Gaelic enjoys the privilege both of a relatively strong presence on television and radio and a wide variety of programmes.

The Bible and the Church

Two names are currently most associated with Scots translations of parts of the Bible: William Laughton Lorimer and Jamie Stuart. While the former is highly regarded for his work among the experts and activists of Scots language, the latter seems to be better known with the public. In 1983, Lorimer's New Testament in Scots was published posthumously. In several respects, this translation was something special: it was one of only three complete translations of the New Testament into Scots, it was the only one that had been translated from the original Greek, and it showed a high degree of internal consistency. The former professor of Greek, however, did not apply this consistency across all the books of the New Testament; rather, following the pattern he found in the New Testament itself, he distinguished twelve units which he aimed at making internally consistent. The translation found high acclaim among the experts. McClure (1994: 90) refers to it as "[o]ne of the most remarkable works of Scots literature, in quality and range, of the twentieth century", Gorlach (1991: 84) talks about the "niceties of Lorimer's rendering" and Tulloch (1989: 72) pays homage to its creator as "certainly the greatest of our translators". Since the language of his work both is pan-dialectal and also uses historical sources, the latter even draws the conclusion that "[i]f a model is sought for a standard modern Scots, then Lorimer has provided it." (ibid. 82)

In many ways different from Lorimer, both in person and in work, Jamie Stuart came to Biblical translation through acting. His Scots Gospel (1985) was originally designed as a play, and also his Auld Testament Tales (1993) were performed at the Fringe Festival. Stuart's 'translations', however, are not translations in the strict sense but rather easy-to-read retellings of selected Biblical stories. The Glasgow Bible, first published in 1997, has achieved wide circulation and has been reprinted eleven times so far. Some of Stuart's works are also available in audio and video formats.

The question remains, of course, to what extent Scots is actually used in the life of the church in Scotland. In the course of an extensive survey I carried out in 2005-6, some people spoke about their experiences of Scots-language church life: one lady from Glasgow had attended a number of services and one funeral that had partly been carried out in Scots; a man from Orkney reported about two brothers who had regularly preached on the radio in 'Broad Scotch' and one language student who had done likewise in Kirkwall Cathedral. These, however, appear to be rather exceptional cases. Wilson (2002: 199) seems to be right when he writes: 'As regards language, none of the religious denominations active in Scotland use Scots in any regular way in their worship. The only exception to this is a small number of ministers in the Kirk, who at their own discretion occasionally conduct services in Scots. A few weddings, baptisms and funerals are conducted in Scots.' Religion is, after all, no longer 'central enough in modern society to be very influential--whether in morals or linguistic norms.' (Gorlach 1998: 63). The reason why extensive projects like translations of the Bible are nevertheless undertaken will be examined under point 4.


For a few years now, there have been Scots language books specifically designed for primary and secondary education. The pioneering work The Kist/A Chiste from 1996, an anthology of Scottish and Gaelic texts plus support materials for teachers, is now partly out of print and also seems to be losing significance. One of the most important recently formed institutions in connection with Scots Language education is a team of writers, illustrators and a publisher under the name of 'Itchy Coo', whose founding goal was 'to establish a publishing imprint which would provide a range of high quality texts and other resources in Scots, for use in education from nursery to Advanced Higher. And through these to work with teachers and young people in developing appreciation of and confidence in their Scots usage.' (Robertson and Fitt 2004: 3) In addition to their editorial work, Itchy Coo visit schools and train teachers in the Scots language. Among the works published is the first textbook in Scots (A Scots Parliament) and even the first Scots Braille book. Itchy Coo is, like many other projects in connection with the Scottish language, supported by the Scottish Arts Council.

Scottish Language Dictionaries offer two dictionaries specifically designed to be used at school (the Scots School Dictionary and the Essential Scots Dictionary). In addition, SLD have produced a short grammar for the upper primary and lower secondary level, which is consistently written in colloquial Scots (Grammar Broonie), further support materials for teachers and a special website for 'bairns o aa ages' ( Besides stories, games and exercises in Scots for pupils, this site also contains teaching materials in Scots for non-language specific subjects like Biology and History.

Another remarkable project in the field of Scots teaching materials is the Luath Scots Language Learner (Wilson 2002), a self-study guide with the aim 'to teach the reader not only to comprehend Scots as it is spoken, but also to speak Scots for practical purposes' (l). Understandably, writing the language is not considered one of the aims (4): 'The writer points out, as always, that this is a book written for people to learn to speak Scots, not to write in it. It is his sincere hope that the problem of the spelling convention will be solved eventually--the main problem is a lack of acceptance rather than a lack of proposed solutions [...].' The course is divided into 25 graded lessons, each with dialogues, word lists, a grammar section (Language Pattrens), exercises and--in most cases--some cultural remarks. Without restricting himself to this variety, Wilson uses the Doric of the North-East as a basis for the course. In cases where lexemes or grammatical features are only found in this region or, on the other hand, not found in the North-East at all, symbols are used to point out the restriction. A set of two CDs can be purchased to supplement the book. Wilson is well aware of the fact that, at the moment, learning Scots as a foreign language is not comparable to learning most other foreign languages. His advice, therefore, to foreign learners is understandable (ibd. 15):
   If you are from outside Scotland, and intend to visit
   Scotland at some stage, my sincere advice to you is not
   to try immediately to deal in Scots with people that you meet
   casually. For one thing, not all Scottish people speak
   Scots, and even of those who do, some who hear it spoken with
   a 'foreign' accent, and do not yet understand the sincerity
   of your interest, may jump to the conclusion that you are
   'mimicking' them in order to make fun of them.

The question remains, again, to what extent these materials are actually used in schools or for self-study. In contrast to translators or editors of classical literature, one of whose aims, very often, it is to increase the prestige of Scots (cf. section 4), the creators of teaching materials can be far less content just by knowing that their books have made it into the bookshelves of reference libraries and language enthusiasts; rather, to be effective, they must achieve a wider distribution and actually be used in class. The National Guidelines on English 5-14 suggest that pupils be confronted with dialect literature of various kinds so as to develop an understanding and appreciation of linguistic variety. A report of Her Majesty's Inspector of Schools even stated that 'it should be the aim of English teaching throughout the secondary school to develop the capacity of every pupil to use, understand and appreciate the native language in its Scots and English forms' (Niven 2002). Scotland, however, does not have a fixed curriculum like England, but guidelines which grant schools and teachers a higher level of autonomy. There has been little research into the question to what extent these actually make use of the opportunities (since 2001, for example, it has been possible to opt for Scottish Language as a module on the Advanced Higher level), but there are some indicators that suggest that Niven's assessment (2002) is correct: 'In summary, there is no compulsory Scots education and very little is taught in schools. The amount taught varies according to the enthusiasm and interest of individual teachers.' On the other hand, even if active Scots teaching is very limited at present, the attitude of many teachers to its use in the classroom seems to have changed considerably. Whereas the vernacular used to be frowned upon, 'corrected' or, some decades ago, even punished, today there is an increasing tolerance towards its use in the classroom.

In the world of academia there are some new initiatives that largely originate, at least as far as the active use of the language is concerned, from the Queen's University of Belfast. The series Belfast Studies in Language, Culture and Politics (Kirk/O Baoill) regularly features contributions in Scots (and Gaelic). These papers were first presented as lectures in the Language and Politics Symposia at Queen's, so that Scots has found its way into tertiary education both in the spoken and the written form--albeit to a very small extent yet.

Some Scottish universities, most prominently Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, offer courses in which aspects of Scots can be studied. However, these courses are mostly in English and place an emphasis on literature, culture or history. A highly interesting project from a linguistic point of view is the Scottish Corpus of Texts and Speech (SCOTS), based at the Department of English Language of the University of Glasgow. SCOTS contains authentic written and spoken data right across the Scottish English-Scots continuum, is accessible online ( and is being extended continually. Finally, the first dissertation and PhD thesis in Scots have been written, submitted and accepted at Glasgow and Aberdeen universities, respectively (cf. Allan 1998).

Reference Works

In view of the lack of a standard for Scots (cf. 3) it might come as a surprise how many reference works, particularly dictionaries, have been produced for Scots since about the beginning of the 90s. The latter vary considerably in quality, design, target group and size. Whereas most of the dictionaries are pan-dialectal, there are also those restricted to a certain local dialect (e.g. Flaws and Lamb 1997, Graham 1999, Kynoch 2004); unidirectional dictionaries (7) stand side by side with bidirectional ones (e.g. Ross and Smith 1998); school dictionaries (e.g. Macleod and Cairns 1996) are being produced alongside dictionaries primarily aimed at tourists (Terrell 2005), and in terms of quality, the scope ranges from short and simple word-lists to comprehensive and detailed works that, in addition to the lemma and its translation, provide information on the etymology, regional distribution, pronunciation, spelling variants and, if applicable, homonyms of the word (e.g. Robinson 1999).

Most of today's dictionaries are produced by Scottish Language Dictionaries (SLD), a company that builds upon the tradition of the two great dictionaries of the last century, the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (DOST) and the Scottish National Dictionary (SND). DOST was a collaborative project by various Scottish universities; in twelve volumes, it contains all the words used in Scotland (including those shared with English) until 1700 and was completed after more than 70 years in 2002. The ten-volume SND (1976, supplement 2005) only contains exclusively Scottish material from the time after the Union. Both dictionaries have been united electronically and can be searched as the Dictionary of the Scots Language (DSL) on the internet (

Scottish Language Dictionaries has published a wide variety of reference works, among them a Scots Thesaurus and a Pocket Scots Dictionary. The most unusual project, in view of the current socio-linguistic situation in Scotland, is probably CannieSpell, a Word- and Word Perfect-compatible spellcheck for Scots. In a situation where there is no lack of suggestions for a spelling standard, but where there is an inability to agree on any one standard and where debates on spelling standardisation can generate, as Corbett (2003: 261) puts it, 'righteous fervour' amongst those who take part in it, such an enterprise can only be called bold. This holds even if SLD remark on their webpage: 'Canniespell is not meant to dictate how Scots words should always be spelled, but rather to show the most frequent and widespread forms of Scots words today.' On the other hand, most of the dictionaries (including the school dictionaries of SLD) do not list spelling alternatives and thus also have a standardising influence. The difference between a dialect dictionary (or a dictionary of a non-standardised language) and a spellcheck for word processors, however, is that the very purpose of the latter (and its only purpose) is to check and, if applicable, correct the spelling of a writer according to a given standard--which, in the case of Scots, does not exist yet.

Various aspects of individual dictionary projects have attracted criticism. One major point is that many of the words listed frequently belong to neither the active nor the passive vocabulary of Lowland Scots. Some studies have shown that even older folk struggle when asked to explain certain lemmas (cf. Macafee and McGarrity 1999: 172). Many of the words listed are only used in a very limited context, depending on the region, the age or the profession of the speaker. The Concise Scots Dictionary, for example, uses no less than 50 labels to identify the regional restriction of a lexeme. McClure (1994: 77) confirms that for many lemmas there have only been few or even only one reference. However, even if the requirement of only one reference for the inclusion of a word in a dictionary seems quite low indeed, the fact cannot be overlooked that, due to the diversification of Scots in the last few centuries, there is a general need to include low-frequency words into larger dictionaries.

Horsbroch's criticism (2000: 140) is of a completely different nature:
   Ane ither thing that daesna help Scots muckle is the wey
   fowk affen pickle the leid lyke ferlies in jaurs tae be
   putten awa in museums. It is sicna fowk that get maist o
   the scant siller for Scots in Scotland, but a speech
   communitie haes mair wants nor thon alane. Bi no takin
   tent tae the ither wants, we hiv gien the idea that govrenment
   juist haes tae tax a bit bawbees intae dictionar projecks
   an Scots is sairtit. We'r in danger o the siller no streitchin
   tae the leivin leid.

If one considers that the Dictionary of the Scots Language alone received 320,000 [pounds sterling] from the Arts and Humanities Research Board, this criticism is understandable. The question of whether the money would have been more 'effective', had it been spent on other projects remains, of course, a matter of debate.

Similar in range, even if far lesser in number, is the ausbau of Scots in the area of modern grammars. Amongst them, the best known is probably David Purves's A Scots' Grammar (1997, [sup.2]2002), according to Scott (1998: 84) 'a sheer pleasure to read'. A most unusual feature for a grammar of the early twenty-first (or late twentieth) cenury is its prescriptive character:
   In any language revival, an essential stage is the
   fixing of standards amongst the welter of variation that is
   always found in the untended garden of natural speech. This
   work is an attempt to fix such standards for Scots grammar.
   It is not a descriptive, but a prescriptive work. The Scots
   set out here is an ideal, not something that the reader should
   expect to encounter in exactly this form either in Scottish
   literature or in the streets and fields of the Lowlands.
   (Macafee in the foreword to Purves 2002)

To understand this decision, one has to know that Purves is one of the strongest advocates of a standardisation of Scots, particularly in the field of spelling.

Bergs (2001, [sup.2]2005) is a descriptive academic grammar. Malzahn (2002) is aimed at (German-language) tourists who want to understand the vernacular and through it the Lowland culture. Rennie and Robertson (2000) has been specifically designed for schoolchildren and is the only Scots grammar which has been written in Scots throughout. Macafee's Characteristics of non-standard grammar in Scotland (1992) is available on the internet. Several works which have not been designed as grammars have more or less extensive descriptions of the structure of Scots (e.g. Jones 2002). Finally, a reference work of slightly older age but equally high significance is the three-volume Linguistic Atlas of Scotland (Mather and Speitel 1975, 1977, 1986).


Known (and celebrated) far beyond the Scottish borders is the Burns Supper, which commemorates the national poet's birthday on January 25. Traditionally, this includes the recitation of Scots-language poems of the bard. The most central piece in the festivities is his ode To a Haggis, which is read out before the actual supper (first verse):
   Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
   Great Chieftain o' the Puddin-race!
   Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
   Painch, tripe, or thairm:
   Weel are ye wordy of a grace
   As lang's my arm.

The other minimal requirement of a Burns Night is the singing of Auld Lang Syne, which, with the exception of the word loch (as in 'Loch Ness'), are probably the best-known Scots words worldwide.

Less well known, but also celebrated annually, is the Doric Festival, dedicated exclusively to the North-Eastern variety of Scots. The festival was inaugurated in 1994 and has come to be led by a team of Doric enthusiasts. Each year, in the autumn, those interested in the culture of the North-East meet in various venues across the region to celebrate the language and culture through concerts, storytelling and ceilidhs.

The internet

Probably the domain with the largest growth both in written and in spoken Scots is the internet. Due to its more changing nature it is difficult to make definite statements about the use of Scots on the web. It is clear, however, that all Scots language organisations present themselves wholly or partly in Scots. A good starting point for the discovery of the Scots-language section of the internet is Scots-Online ( In addition to the obligatory introduction to Scots, a selection of Scots texts and links to other relevant pages, this project by Andy Eagle offers an online dictionary (from and into English) and, so far unique, a live chatroom ( As far as language is concerned, the following rules apply for the chatroom: 'Scots is lief on us but Suddron is awricht for thaim that disna ken onie better. Gin ye dae write Scots, non-regional tradeetional Scots is preferred.' Not overly frequented at the moment, there are still some people who contribute every now and then to the 'clishmaclaiver' (which, according to the CSD, means idle talk, gossip or endless talk).

'A guid Scots tung in yer heid's nae guid if yer mooth's ower blate tae yaise it' is the motto of Scots Tung ( Consequently, the internet presentation of this language organisation (as well as their circular, the 'Scots Tung Wittins') is entirely in Scots. It is one of Scots Tung's aims 'tae gie the een o thae ordinar Scots speakers mair exposure tae written forms o their language', and they encourage their readers to do likewise: 'Whit wey no try yer hand at writin some o yer letters in Scots for a chynge insteid o juist in English aw the time? An honest letter should soond the wey ye speak when it's read oot, itherweys it's juist no you.' Scots Tung could therefore be seen as the one language organisation that drives hardest for the ausbau of Scots in the domains of everyday life.

Conversely, the Scots-language section of the Scots Independent is mostly in English ( It does, however, contain a large number of Scots sound files, covering text types like jokes, idioms and poems as well as a complete Burns Supper. A more academic approach is the Click and Listen Project, hosted by the University of St Andrews (, which also features sound files of Scots and Scottish English as well as a general introduction to the phonetics and phonology of these varieties. The Elphinstone Kist Project by the University of Aberdeen is dedicated specifically to the North-East variety Doric ( Their pages, too, contain several 'sound bites' of this variety. Taken together and including, most importantly, the aforementioned Scottish Corpus of Texts and Speech, Scots now also features strongly as a spoken variety on the internet.

One of the most interesting internet projects in connection with Scots is the development (ausbau!) of the Scots version of the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia. At one can find articles about 'Glesca', 'Scotlands maist muckle ceity' or 'Edinburrie, caipital ceity o Scotland syne 1437'. This project is of particular importance because Wikipedia is a free encyclopaedia, i.e. everybody can read, write and edit contributions. It remains to be seen whether the large number of contributors to this project will eventually lead to the quasi-establishment of a written standard.

Potentially risky and potentially highly effective are the current attempts to establish an independent .sco domain on the internet. The initiative, acting under the name of dotSCO ( tries to follow the example of the Catalans, who have successfully campaigned for and eventually established the domain .cat. Membership, according to dotSCO, 'is open to individuals and organisations that work to encourage and promote the Scots language and culture.' This restriction, however, bears a large potential for conflict. Once established, a .sco domain will be highly sought after, not just by those interested in culture and language, but by all sorts of private people and businesses in Scotland. To bar them from obtaining this domain would mean to raise protest. On the other hand, this might also be a considerable opportunity for Scots language activism: those without any specific cultural interest might be granted access to the domain under the condition that while it might be possible to link the pages to English-language .com or pages, .sco pages would have to be written in Scots. This approach would resemble the current usage of multinational companies who offer their pages in various languages (or country versions), and it would bear a considerable potential for the ausbau and people's awareness of Scots. However, there also remains a risk that it may eventually turn people against the Scots language.

Not open to public observation and therefore hard to determine is the use of language in private written conversation, be it through electronic means of communication or the classical letter format. Some of my informants acknowledged 'texting' in Scots; others use Scots for emails. For one example each of an email and a private letter in Scots see Gorlach 2002: 58f and 285f.

Fringe Domains

It is one feature of non-standardised varieties that they sometimes make their way into domains that commonly arouse little attention, be it because the actual use of the language is quantitatively relatively small (sometimes only a few words), be it because these domains do not usually carry any prestige. The reason for using vernacular forms is frequently the desire to share in the covert prestige the non-standard varieties have, which, in the case of Scots, may also go along with feelings like nostalgia or a sense of identity or belonging. To achieve this, Scots is used frequently in the speech of English-speaking Scots who use a few overt Scotticisms to underline their Scottishness. For similar reasons, Scots is also employed in the names of pubs, cafes, shops or other localities, frequently using lexemes like auld, hoose, wee etc.


A particularly distinctive example is the following shop sign, found in Shetland (note the absence of the copula and, again, the use of quotation marks to indicate speech):


Historical naming is less concerned with a folk-related sense of belonging; name-givers simply used the vernacular as the repertoire from which to choose. Today, a number of streets, buildings and other localities still bear Scottish names, recognisable especially through expressions like Sooth, Kirk or Brae.


Likewise, since Scotland retained its own legal (and clerical) system at the Union of the Parliaments in 1707, several technical terms of Latin origin have been preserved in Scottish jurisprudence that cannot be found south of the Border. Among them, there are terms like habite and repute, executor-dative and homologate (Murison 1978: 54).

A completely different domain, which is far more accessible to the general public and which, therefore, might be of greater relevance for the estimation of linguistic attitudes today are Scots-language keepsakes. Many shops in Scotland now offer mugs, coasters, tea towels, tee-shirts and other items with printed Scotticisms. Occasionally, these printings imitate dictionary entries; linguistic or lexicological precision is, as the following example of a table mat imprint shows, of secondary importance:
   blether (ble-thir) Dialect, chiefly Scot. ~n. 1. person who
   chatters incessantly; someone who babbles on and on ("That wee
   yin o' yours is an awry blether getting'"). ~v. 2. to engage
   in conversation, long-winded or idle talk (as in "Ah met yer
   granny doon the toun, we haud a richt guid blether thegether")
   [see also sweetie-wife]

Alternatively, typical Scottish speech acts are represented--individually or as collections--including their English equivalents. A particularly humorous effect is achieved when the English 'translation' belongs to a decidedly more formal style (example from a tea towel):
   Gonnie gie's a wee haun?
   Is it feasable [sic] to suggest that other persons who have
   partaken of a meal from these dishes could perhaps contribute
   to the cleaning thereof?

Sets of little magnet signs are available in the varieties 'Scottish', 'Glaswegian' and 'Doric', which can be arranged individually to form sentences and then attached to fridge doors or other metal surfaces. Custom-made cards (for festivities etc.) in Scots can be ordered from Mither Tongue, a company in the North-East of Scotland, which has decided on the following language policy:
   Please note that, whilst happy to provide customers'
   own wording, adjustments may require to be made in connection
   with Scots idiom and spelling in particular, to conform to the
   authentic traditions of the language as set out by Scottish
   National Dictionaries Limited [...]. We also reserve the right not
   to provide a mixture of Scots and English which, in our opinion,
   may compromise the integrity of Scots as minority language in its
   own right. (Mither Tongue catalogue, p. 2).

The fact that this 'merchandising of the language' has achieved quite a large scale, that people actually pay for Scots language products and that the point of sale is not restricted to tourist information centres is a strong indication that, for some people at least, the Scots language has become a means of positive identification, even though in the case of mugs, coasters and tee-shirts, this still carries humorous overtones.

Finally, one can encounter Scots in a rather unexpected place in Edinburgh: the Indian (!) restaurant Suruchi offers, according to its menu, 'the brawest Indian food' to enable an 'experience ye'll keep mind o'. For their dishes like 'Murgh Tikka Pakora--briest o chucken stappit wi masked tattles an spices' or a 'richt guid sterter' like 'Salmon Tikka--the king o fish, cubit and grillit wi flavourful spices', Suruchi uses 'the maist caller ingredients an spices, wi nae additives, colours or pre-servatives at aw.'

This overview shows that, whilst Scots has lost many domains to the English language in the recent centuries, it has also found its way into domains that it had never occupied. 'Scots is far more extensively developed towards ausbau status than any other Anglo-Saxon-derived speech-form except standard literary English itself' writes McClure (1988: 27). How, then, can the present situation, concerning the actual use of Scots in different domains, be regarded? Kloss, in a later publication (1978), developed a number of criteria for the assessment of the state of ausbau of any given variety. On the most general level, Kloss would accept the status of ausbau language under the following conditions (ibid. 32; my translation):
   Naturally, this raises the question which minimum degree of
   ausbau we consider sufficient to be able to talk about an
   ausbau language [...]. Perhaps if two of the following three
   conditions are met, this could be regarded as such a minimum
   degree of ausbau:

   that the speech variety in question is used by at least by one
   magazine which does not solely reproduce fictional texts for a
   major part of its factual contributions.

   that it is employed as a subject anda means of education in the
   first four years of schooling and that, also, a part of the
   textbooks for this level are written in it.

   that it is the regular and frequently used language of address
   texts (Zusprachetexten) (e.g. sermons; speeches in broadcasting
   and in adult education programmes)

Using, as he typically does, metaphors from the non-linguistic world, Kloss regards these criteria to be the minimum requirements for a Gesellensprache, a journeyman's language, which he contrasts with the more fully developed Meistersprache, a master craftsman's language.

Having stressed the importance of factual prose for ausbau, Kloss develops a more elaborate model to assess the state of ausbau in this area. He distinguishes the Entfaltungsstufen (levels of development: topics) from the Anwendungsbereiche (areas of application: contexts or levels of elaboration). Both criteria can be integrated into the following diagram (after Kloss 1978: 48; my translation):

Areas of application (Levels of elaboration):

F: Folk prose (level of elementary education)

E: Elevated prose (level of secondary education)

A: Academic prose (level of tertiary education)

Levels of Development (Topics):

sr: self-related topics (topics concerning the experience of the speech community)

c: cultural topics (topics from the humanities)

sc: scientific topics (topics from the domains of science and technology)

Finally, Kloss develops a phase model which describes the features of the phases that speech varieties typically go through on their way to ausbau status (ibid. 52; my translation):


Non-elaborate comic (jokes, humoristic "newspaper letters")--additionally, notes of folk songs, children's songs, riddles, proverbs etc.

First Phase:

Poetry. Humoristic writing of all kinds (including comedy and humoristic narration), dialogues in novels and in broadcasting.

Second Phase:

Drama; serious prose narration (not just the dialogues); verse, idyllic and epic narration. Minor essays in magazines representing the beginning of factual writing.

Third Phase:

Extension (ausbau) of factual writing: text books for primary education; minor original essays (e.g. obituaries) in the realm of local heritage studies. Folk magazines (possibly only copied), sermons, broadcast speeches on folk topics and beginning factual utility topics.

Fourth Phase:

Textbooks on all kinds of topics (i.e. not just local heritage studies). Major original research on local heritage. High-quality magazines. Important broadcast speeches.

Fifth Phase:

Major original research in various areas of knowledge. Use of variety in official documents on the local and national levels and in business. Entire newspapers in the tribal language.

The application of Kloss' concepts to real-life Scots may cause some rethinking of those who claim that Scots has already achieved language status. Of the three criteria regarded as minimal requirements for basic (Gesellen) ausbau status, Scots meets at best the first one (a magazine largely in Scots). However, the magazine Lallans of the Scots Language Society is largely concerned with poetry, and the Scots Tung Wittins, the two-page circular of Scots Tung, can hardly be called a magazine yet.

The application of the second model concerning the ausbau of factual texts to a real-life vernacular like Scots may trigger theoretical as well as practical questions, such as how is one to distinguish the levels of elaboration; it is quite apparent, however, that the vast majority of prose in Scots is to be found in the Fsr sector. Thanks to the large amount and the diversity of dictionaries available (other reference works are mostly in English), Scots is also represented on all three levels of the c column. Texts in the Esr/Ec sectors (A Scots Parliament) or the Asr/Ac sectors (among them the papers published in the Belfast Studies Series) are pioneering feats. The sc column is, to my knowledge, completely void. This limitation largely to the folk and self-related domains is typical for a number of (potential) ausbau languages. Kloss talks about a 'dividing line' (Seheidelinie) which 'small or literally little developed speech communities find very hard to cross and which can be regarded as one of the major obstacles in their developmental process' (ibid., my translation). It is only within these self-related domains that Scots has achieved a relatively high degree of ausbau. McClure (1988: 26f), in another reflection, states that '[o]ne only has to imagine a quality newspaper, containing reports and analyses of local, national and world politics, editorials, sports commentaries, reviews of books, theatre and broadcasting, and the other regular features of The Scotsman or The Glasgow Herald, written entirely in Scots, to realise how far it is from the ausbau level of a world language.' If Scots is to gain prestige (and the status of a proper language), it has to overcome these limitations:
   I wish to emphasize at least one point I made at that time: that
   in our age it is not so much by means of poetry and fiction that a
   language is reshaped (and perhaps salvaged) but by means of
   non-narrative prose. It need not be--certainly not from the
   outset--scholarly literature of a high calibre, but at the very
   least popular prose (suitable for unsophisticated magazines and
   educational textbooks) seems indispensable. Achievement in the
   realms of information, not of imagination, lend lasting prestige
   in our age to standard languages old and new. (Kloss 1967: 33)

At the moment, however, Scots is far from this level of achievement. Finally, in terms of its developmental stage, Scots seems to be somewhere between the second and the third phase: while fictional narration is traditionally one of the strong sides of Scots, the conquest of the domains of factual writing is only just beginning.


A variety that wants to overcome the limitation to the folk and self-related domains, that, in other words, is to be further developed or ausbau-ed, needs to have a quality that, so far, Scots cannot claim: it needs to possess a standard. Fishman pointedly remarks that '[j]ust as one cannot make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, so one cannot discharge (or, at times, even pursue) modern power statuses for the beloved language without providing it with the outer vestment (the nomenclature, standardized spellings, grammars, and stylistic conventions) that modern pursuits and modern institutions require.' It comes therefore as no surprise that one of the main targets of Scots language activism has for many years been the standardisation of the language. In the centre of attention is the standardisation of the spelling system, whereas other linguistic levels have remained largely unnoticed. McClure (1995: 24) characterises the current situation: 'If spoken Scots is a group of dialects, it is not much of an exaggeration to say that written Scots is a group of idiolects.' The problem is not at all a lack of concepts or ideas for the standardisation of the spelling. On the contrary, '[d]evising a normative orthography for Scots has been one of the great linguistic hobbies of the past century.' (Corbett 2003: 260) As this is always the case with private endeavours, however, these have no normative power for others. Even suggestions jointly developed and supported by interest groups like the Scots Style Sheet of the Makars' Club (1947) or the Recommendations for Writers in Scots of the Scots Language Society (1985; both reprinted in Purves 2002) have not achieved universal recognition; only the rejection of the 'apologetic apostrophe' seems to be something like a bond of union. Derrick McClure, along with Purves and Allan one of the main proponents of a standardisation of Scots, admitted at the 2005 conference of the Forum for Research on the Languages of Scotland and Ulster:
   The trouble is, [...] everybody who has ideas on how Scots should
   be written, has his own ideas and isn't going to compromise with
   anybody else. That's why a standard Scots has never been devised.
   [...] The most ridiculous thing of all is that we are still
   debating whether [dun] and [tun] should be spelled 'doon' or
   'doun'. This has been argued since I don't know how long.

McClure here addresses a weak spot: as long as diverging views cannot be overcome to achieve a common goal, this goal will not be realised. Examples like modern Hebrew or the Euskera Batua (Unity Basque), which was developed in 1979 and which has gained more and more acceptance ever since (Haarmann 2004: 248), show that it is quite possible to find and establish an accepted norm if the desire to do so surpasses individualistic ambitions.

There are three general ways how such a spelling system for Scots could be developed (after Wilson 2002: 11):

1. Frequent and established sound-letter correlations of English could be applied to Scots. Since, due to the Great Vowel Shift and the more conservative nature of spelling, the sound [u(:)] is still frequently spelled <oo> in English (as in shoot, loop, too) and constructions of a word-final long vowel or diphthong plus fricative often have a silent <e> at the end (please, mouse, lose), the Scots word [hus] (or [hus]) would be spelled hoose. An argument in favour of this approach would be the fact that all Scots speakers are familiar with the English spelling. An ideologically problematic point would be, as in the case of the 'apologetic apostrophe', the acceptance of English norms for the Scots language.

2. The modern spelling is based on the traditional spellings from the 'golden age' of Scots. [hus] would be spelled hous in this case. The advantage here would be historical consistency; however, pronunciation conventions may have changed in the meantime, and even in the past there were spelling variants, albeit, perhaps, fewer.

3. The third possibility would be a breach with all Anglo-Saxon spelling conventions and the development of a completely new, possibly more phonemic spelling. In their search for appropriate symbols for individual sounds, the creators of such a system could model the spelling system on various Germanic languages. [hus] could then be rendered as hus, Hus or hus. There are two good reasons for this radical approach: first, Scots would also break away optically from English, thus giving its claim that it is 'a language in its own right' more substance. This reason should not be underestimated in the case of varieties that have little chance of gaining abstand status. Second, once established, this system could be learnt a lot more easily than, for example, the English spelling system, since inconsistencies could be reduced to an absolute minimum (i.e. homophones). However, such a system is neither historically rooted nor, due to its 'foreign' appearance, likely to be supported by large parts of society, and therefore this option is the least likely to be realised.

In addition to the question of how, in principle, sound and spelling should be correlated, a question which is only relevant for the spelling, there is another problem which applies to all areas of standardisation including grammar and lexis: which linguistic variety of Scots should serve as the basis for the standard? A 'natural' solution is not immediately apparent: 'Although many Scottish people speak a language variety that is distinctive, few speak a single, homogeneous, variety that Scots language supporters would happily accept as "Good Scots".' (Corbett 2003: 262) A standard developed on the basis of a single dialect could easily be subject to criticism or rejection by speakers of other dialects. What is more, lack of prestige (Glaswegian) or the rejection of the very idea of being part of a community that speaks Scots (particularly from speakers of so-called 'Insular Scots') might be further complicating factors. Alternatively, refuge might, as in the case of spelling, be sought in the literary tradition; this has been tried on various occasions, most prominently by MacDiarmid. This 'synthetic Scots', however, has no native speakers and is therefore regarded by many as too artificial.

A lack of willingness to co-operate and no final authority--how can a perspective for standardisation be found under these circumstances? Corbett (2003: 261) believes in a solution of further ausbau, since further development requires standardisation:
   Ultimately [...], however, the orthography of Scots will only be
   fully standardised if there is social pressure on all writers to
   conform to a fixed set of norms. This pressure is not likely to be
   felt if Scots is used for literary purposes alone: literature is
   by its very nature experimental, and its departures from
   homogeneous norms are often deliberately intended to give a sense
   of the regional or social specificity of a character or text. It
   follows that Scots orthography will only be standardised if Scots
   were to be used more widely in functions beyond the literary, and
   if a standard Scots spelling system were to be taught in schools
   so that writers could perform these functions adequately.

In contrast, McClure (2005) favours a top-down approach. He pleads for a commission ordained by the government to develop a standard:
   If [...] the Scottish parliament were to pass an act saying,
   'Right, you go and select half a dozen academics: your job,
   your government-ordained task, is to devise a canonical grammar
   and spelling system for Scots, and this is to be it. You've got
   a year to do it, go ahead. And then, get that printed and get it
   published and get it used in the schools.' This would be it. It
   would work.

The problem, obviously, lies in the chicken-and-egg relationship between the development of Scots and standardisation. It is certainly true that a further ausbau of the vernacular increases the pressure towards a supraregional standard; in this context, it might be interesting to follow up the development of the Scots Wikipedia. An official directive, on the other hand, will not be given unless there is pressure from below. In 1985, four years before the fall of the Berlin Wall and fourteen years before the opening of the Scottish parliament, McClure wrote (209): '[O]fficial sponsorship of a standardised orthography for Scots is about as likely, under existing circumstances, as the reunification of Berlin.' Chances are, therefore, that there will be official support for a standardisation at some stage.


The question of why ausbau is vital for Scots and why, therefore, it is pursued with such vigour can be answered from psychological, status-related and ausbau-internal perspectives. In reality, however, these reasons are hardly ever isolated but, depending on the type of ausbau effort (domain type, standardisation), they are often interrelated and a matter of degree.

A mixture of language preservation motives and psychological reasons dominates the production of modern dictionaries and other reference works. While word lists and dictionaries with Scotticisms were produced to prevent their readers from the use of such uncouth vernacularisms in the eighteenth century, the production of today's dictionaries is supported by the opposite motivation: rather than eliminate a variety, their aim is to preserve it. One of the sorrows of some Scots is, in fact, that many (particularly younger) contemporaries are no longer able to read classical Scots literature (especially Burns and Scott) in the original. For this reason, all the more comprehensive dictionaries also include large parts of the traditional vocabulary. This tension between the highly regarded, but no longer frequently used historical literary and the contemporary Scots is one of the unique features of the sociolinguistic reality in Scotland today: '[T]here are many speakers who show a wide discrepancy between passive knowledge and active use of Scots vocabulary, and also many whose experiences of Scots as a literary and as a spoken language are very dissimilar.' (McClure 1994: 78)

In more recent years, the motivation for the production of reference works has gone beyond the language-preservationist and shifted towards psychological aspects. Macafee (2001:166) remarks: 'Ah wad claim at the Scottish National Dictionary Association (SNDA), lik modern museums, hes made a successfu transection fae a stoory curatorial role tae yin o outreach an the biggin up o the culture. Like museums they hae had tae switch fae a rhetoric o curatin bygones tae projeckin--if no sellin--cultural heritage.' Similarly, the Concise Scots Dictionary (Robinson 1999: xiii) confirms that '[t]he present dictionary is intended not only as a record of the copiousness and variety of the resources of the Scots language, but also as a contribution to the self-assurance of the Scottish people about that language, which enshrines their past and lives in their daily speech.' The mere practical value of a dictionary is supplemented by the hope of its psychological effects--a hope that has some justification, as experience all over the world shows.

Psychological reasons may have dominated the production of modern Bible translations. Nisbet, the first translator of the New Testament into Scots, may still have been driven by the Reformation ideal of giving each people a translation of the scriptures in its own language. Without wanting to deny this motivation to all of his successors, it seems that it was later often supplemented or even superseded by language protectionist or patriotic motives (Tulloch 1989: 1). Smith, in the preface to his 1901 translation, already reveals this double motivation:
   And at a' times, ahint the pen that was movin, was a puir but leal
   Scots heart, fu' o' prayer that this sma' effort micht be acceptit
   o' the dear Maister--and, survivin a' the misca'in o' the
   pernickity and the fashionable--micht bring the memory o' a worthy
   tongue, and the better knowledge o' a Blessed Saviour, to this ane
   and that ane, as they micht chance to read it.

Similarly, the 1982 Scots-English parallel of the four gospels (Smith 1982) displays strongly patriotic features in the whole presentation of the book (title, photographs, a poem of Burns) and its foreword. Bible translators and publishers have recognised that, even in a secularised, yet formerly Christian-influenced society a translation of the Bible into one's own vernacular yields a considerable gain in prestige, for the vernacular is deemed both worthy and capable of transporting the Word of God. This, in turn, may lead to a stronger cultural emancipation of the speakers. Language activists, therefore, seek the gain in image that accompanies the translation of the Bible (and, for this matter, other 'key texts' (Kloss 1978: 38)); the fact of translation dominates the motivation, while the questions of distribution and actual use are, if not negligible, at least secondary.

The efforts in the area of standardisation, on the other hand, are often supported by a combination of ausbau-internal and psychological motives. Without a standard, further development of the language becomes unlikely. If domains like official documents, signage or the actual use and teaching at school are to be 'conquered', a standard is indispensable. Another important reason for a standardisation is the question of the status of Scots. Unlike the other indigenous speech form of Scotland, Gaelic, which is clearly recognised as an abstand language, Scots can only ever hope to gain full language status on the ausbau scale. In other words: for a potential ausbau language, ausbau is essential. Depending on the definition of dialect and language, standardisation may either be the very criterion that separates languages from dialects or one of its prerequisites. Stewart's threshold criterion of autonomy also presupposes a standard: '[I]n situations where two or more historically related linguistic systems are involved, the presence vs. absence of autonomy can serve as a useful criterion for distinguishing between language and dialect.' (Stewart 1968: 535) This autonomy, however, can only be achieved by the establishment of a new centre of orientation, which usually is the variety with the greatest overt prestige: the standard. At present, however, this centre of orientation for most Scots is Scottish Standard English.

There is evidence, even within the history of Scots, that these expectations connected to the ausbau of Scots domains or standardisation are not without reason. Aitken (1979: 97; 1981: 83) ascribes the psychological effect of a change of attitude in large parts of the population to the publication of Jamieson's Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Tongue in 1808; McClure associates this very publication with a gain of academic prestige of the vernacular (1994: 42). In my own research, I have found that the confrontation of a test person with modern ausbau has led not just to more or less enthusiastic rejection or approval, but, in some cases, also to a change of attitude. And finally, I do not consider it an exaggeration that today there would be little or no awareness of the distinctness of Scots (and even less language activism), if it were not for the written ausbau of centuries gone by, especially, of course, that of Burns.


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(1) See Kloss 1978 for the most comprehensive treatment of the concept of ausbau. For a general discussion of the terms ausbau and abstand languages see Haarmann 2004. For examples of the use of the term ausbau in connection with Scots see Falconer 2001, Macafee 2001 and McClure 1988.

(2) The term 'domain', in this paper, is used in a broad sense, encompassing situational contexts as well as text types.

(3) Compare, however, Kloss 1978.

(4) The common prefix for 'away' is weg- as in weglaufen (to run away) or even weghoren (to shut one's ear, literally to 'listen away') etc. There is no such thing as Wegbau; an extension to an existing building would be called an Anbau.

(5) See Corbett (1999) for a historical overview of translations into Scots.

(6) In a similar fashion, Audi uses the well-known but not-so-well-understood German slogan 'Vorsprung durch Technik' in Britain to support the mental link with 'German engineering'.

(7) Most of the Scots dictionaries are unidirectional, and most of these are from Scots into English. This is a typical feature for dialect dictionaries since all dialect speakers also understand the Dachsprache ('roof language', another term used by Kloss). A remarkable exception is the unidirectional Concise English-Scots Dictionary (Macleod 1993), which operates from a world language into the vernacular.


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Title Annotation:Ausbausprache
Author:Schmitt, Holger
Publication:Scottish Language
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EUUS
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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