The source dictionaries

DOST (A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue)
SND (The Scottish National Dictionary)

DOST (A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue)

The History of DOST

This short history of DOST is an abbreviated version of that by M G Dareau which appeared in the 12th and final volume of DOST, published in 2002.

Phase I 1919-1948
Phase II 1948-1981
Phase III 1981-1994
Phase IV 1994-2001
After DOST

Introduction Top Top

The original version of this survey of the history of the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (DOST) was based on three sorts of materials: materials in print, chiefly in the Prefaces of the volumes of the Dictionary and the writings of Sir William Craigie and Professor A. J. Aitken; official papers, principally the minutes of the Joint Council for the Scottish Dictionaries (subsequently, the Joint Council for the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue); and private writings, especially correspondence held in the DOST Archives.

PHASE I 1919-1948 Top Top

On 4th April 1919, Dr (later Sir) William A. Craigie, co-editor of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), read a paper entitled ‘New Dictionary Schemes’ to the Philological Society in London. In this paper he suggested that, following the completion of OED, a number of supplementary dictionary projects should be undertaken. These he referred to as ‘period dictionaries’, each being concerned with a discrete chronological period in the history of English. His last suggested scheme was not exactly of a period of English but the dictionary that, one might surmise, lay closest to his heart, a dictionary of the ‘older Scottish.’ This proposal bore fruit as A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue.

There seems never to have been any doubt in Craigie’s mind that this dictionary of Scots should restrict itself to the earlier period – up to 1700. He saw the project as lying within his plans for English, and the major sweep of English had been encompassed in OED. He conceded that, in the earlier period, Scots was a language, but had no notion that such nomenclature might continue to have any truth or even advantage after 1700. He saw the language as dividing naturally into the two periods now defined by A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (DOST) and the Scottish National Dictionary (SND).

It is evident that Craigie had the dictionary of Older Scots in mind well before his paper of 1919. He had already set out his thoughts for the future of Scottish lexicography in 1916, in a letter to Dr William Grant, the first editor of the Scottish National Dictionary:

I … have made up my mind that when the Oxford Dictionary is finished, I shall undertake the Old Scottish one myself......It would be excellent if the two Dictionaries could be produced concurrently, so that the one could link up with the other and the continuity (or otherwise) of the words be clearly shown….

In the collections made for the Oxford Dictionary there is an enormous amount of material which could be used for the purpose…

This collection of Scottish material consisted of some hundreds of thousands of slips, both used and unused, excerpted for OED.

Craigie set to work seriously on DOST in 1921, and began to expand the collection of quotations inherited from OED. In the winter of 1925-6, he began editing from the collections so far available to him. In 1929 a Memorandum of Agreement was drawn up between Craigie and the University of Chicago, where he was now Professor of English, for the publication of ‘A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue’, which would be printed in Oxford by Oxford University Press. According to the terms of this agreement the University of Chicago would: ‘publish the said work at its own expense, through its University Press.’

The first fascicle of the Dictionary was published in 1931. Volume I was completed in 1937 and Volume II came out in fascicles between 1938 and 1951. The Agreement of 1929 stated that the Dictionary would be completed in 25 parts of 120 pages each.

PHASE II 1948-1981 Top Top

Craigie retired in 1936 and returned from Chicago to Watlington, near Oxford, where he continued to edit material for DOST. This continued largely under his sole hand until the appointment of Adam J. Aitken in 1948. Aitken was 27 when he took up this post and remained with DOST for the rest of his career.

Although DOST continued to be published by Chicago University Press until 1981, there were during that period a number of crises, the first of which occurred in 1950. By 1949 it had become clear that the Dictionary could not be completed in 25 parts but was likely to run to 10-12 more. The Press confirmed that it was neverthless prepared to face the extra cost that this would entail.

In 1950, however, the situation worsened. There was a change of attitude in Chicago due to rising costs and the failure to attract outside funding. The increase in scale and costs led to Chicago’s unwillingness to continue under the previous agreement with Craigie alone. In October a new contract was signed with Chicago to which the University of Edinburgh became a party. To help to meet the increase in costs, Edinburgh agreed to forego royalties; Craigie agreed to hand over to Edinburgh for its use in completing the work, without payment, all records, papers and other data relating to the work if for any reason he ceased compiling the dictionary.

While this went some way to securing the Dictionary’s future, its production was by no means secure. The competing demands of the publishers and of the task produced a precarious financial situation. Moreover it was not possible to have the staff that ideally were required for the task, and Craigie and Aitken had to struggle on as best they could.

In 1951 the matter was brought before the Scottish Universities’ Conference by Edinburgh University. The timing of this was provoked not only by the situation with DOST but that of the Scottish National Dictionary (SND) which was undergoing a financial crisis of its own in Aberdeen.

One of the outcomes of these initiatives in Scottish studies, in which such a prominent part was taken by Angus McIntosh, Professor of English Language and Linguistics at Edinburgh University, was the setting up in 1952 of the Joint Council for the Scottish Dictionaries with McIntosh as its Convener. In 1955 Aitken took over from Craigie as editor of DOST and by the close of this period its funding and government had altered radically. DOST had become for management purposes a department within the University of Edinburgh, which also provided accommodation. DOST was overseen by the Joint Council representing the four Universities and funded in part by them and in part by a variety of charitable foundations. Two years later Craigie, a notable scholar in many fields, and one of a line of extraordinary Scottish lexicographers, died at the age of ninety.

As it turned out, so far from being a time of disintegration, this was a period both of consolidation and expansion; despite perennial financial pressures the number of staff increased.

Aitken was the sole Editor until, in 1973, Dr J.A.C. Stevenson, who had come to DOST in 1966 from a career in teaching, was appointed Joint-Editor with him. Stevenson’s scholarly instincts and meticulousness in the analysis of language were fully in keeping with the quality and attention to detail for which DOST was renowned. He fitted with ease into a lineage of high scholarship and, through the 1970s especially, developed the highly analytical style that is so evident in the volumes from that period on.

In 1969, Aitken expressed the hope that DOST might be completed in 1976, shortly after the scheduled completion of SND in 1974. In 1971 the fact that SND was approaching completion (it was completed in 1976) and the expectation that DOST would follow soon thereafter, gave rise to a number of proposals for the future. One suggestion was a project to produce an abridged dictionary. This led ultimately to the publication of the Concise Scots Dictionary (CSD). As the completion of SND drew closer it led to a further debate as to whether the Joint Council should be wound up and DOST supported until its completion by Edinburgh alone. However, by the end of 1976 the old Universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews and the new Universities of Dundee and Stirling had confirmed their desire to continue to participate in funding the project.

Such support did not preclude financial problems, and in 1981 what was perhaps the most serious crisis yet blew up.

In 1980 the Universities threatened withdrawal of support if a firm end date were not established. The Conference of the Scottish Universities Courts made it clear that it would be unlikely that the Universities would continue to support the Dictionary after 1988. It was undeniable that the editing was taking too long. The calculations of Aitken and Stevenson proved that this date could not be met following the traditional methods.

The whole situation was explored at the Joint Council meeting in February 1981, when various options were proposed. A further meeting was arranged for April to give Aitken time to complete his researches into the viability of these options, so that a final decision might be reached.

In the meantime a crisis of another sort arose with the publisher, Chicago University Press. The basic problem was that the scale of the Dictionary had doubled, at least, in comparison with what was envisaged in 1929. In 1981, Chicago University Press withdrew as publisher.

This news was announced at an emergency meeting of the Joint Council in April that year when the question of the whole future of the Dictionary was addressed.

DOST’s financial predicament produced an outcry of complaint from a range of eminent scholars, in the form of an open letter reported on the front page of the Scotsman. This was sufficient to ensure the continuation of a high standard of editing, albeit with no guarantee that funding would continue beyond the working lives of the present staff. Indeed, part of the package of 1981 was that after the retirement of Stevenson in 1985 and Aitken in 1986 the Universities would support only two posts, one editor and one editorial assistant.

By November 1981 Aberdeen University Press (AUP) had expressed an interest in publishing DOST, and in 1983 they were granted the right to publish the rest of it. They installed a microcomputer in the DOST offices and from then until 1994 edited copy with a minimal level of tagging was prepared for printing in-house and recorded for the first time in electronic form.

PHASE III 1981-1994 Top Top

The 1980s started inauspiciously with the crisis of 1981 and promised worse with the imminent retirement of both the editors who had brought the project through the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Aitken retired in January 1983 and was re-appointed, part-time, as a University Fellow. Stevenson became Editor-in-chief in December 1983. At this point two and a quarter editors were expected to finish the rest of DOST – the bulk of S and the whole of T-Z. When Aitken retired in 1986, the editorial staff consisted of Mr H D Watson and Mrs M G Dareau who was experienced in editing from previous employment on DOST, but was part-time.

In 1984 the charitable organisation The Friends of the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue, was set up to help with fund raising. This initiative grew directly out of the concern felt by scholars at the possibility, made public in 1981, that DOST might founder. It was administered by a distinguished body of Trustees. By the end of the decade they had raised enough money from a variety of funding sources to maintain a part-time editor (Dareau) and a full-time editorial assistant/editor, Miss K.L. Pike.

Watson became Editor-in-chief on Stevenson’s retirement. He had at that point six years experience of lexicography, having like Stevenson come to it from teaching. Watson was assiduous in applying the methodology passed on to him by Aitken and Stevenson, which meant that the conditions that had provoked the crisis of 1981 simply continued to exist. During the second half of the 1980s Dareau’s experience led gradually to her becoming responsible for the revising stage of editing, and from 1987 Pike became the third member of the editorial team. In 1988 both Watson and Dareau were re-titled Senior Editor, with Watson retaining administrative responsibility and the title Director.

In 1993 the collapse of AUP added renewed publication difficulties to DOST’s other problems, which were resolved with a return to OUP. This seemed to bode well for the final stage of DOST and there was a hope that the publication of the paper version might lead on to an electronic version similar to the electronic OED.

PHASE IV 1994-2001 Top Top

In November 1993, in a letter to the Convener of the Joint Counci, Dr Victor Skretkowicz of the Department of English in the University of Dundee, Dareau took stock of the situation with regard to editing. She suggested that a completion time of 12 years would be necessary for the remaining unedited material. Skretkowicz instituted a review of the editorial methods and management of DOST in relation to the costs to completion of the project.

The review was carried out in March 1994. Its aims were:

  1. to fix a firm date for completion and make recommendations on how this might be achieved;
  2. to examine the organisation and working practices of the staff, and editorial policy;
  3. to make recommendations concerning staffing levels, and to consider replacement or addition of equipment.

The result of their deliberations was the proposal that funding might be easier to obtain if a completion date of 2000 were to be guaranteed. However, it was unanimously agreed that the DOST published post-Review must maintain the quality of that published before. It was hoped that the time saving required on the production side would be made largely by employing a data-entry agency to key the edited copy from slips. A trial demonstrated the practicality of this approach and a contract was agreed covering the keying and three phases of corrections for some 180,000 citation slips.

An important consequence of keying the material at a relatively early stage in the process was the ability to sort the quotations electronically. However, the challenge of speeding up the editing still remained. It was clear to the editorial team that there was no time to waste, as evidenced by their response to the Review document:

We have carefully addressed the specific points made by the Review and our responses will demonstrate … our commitment … to achieve completion by the end of the year 2000.

As soon as S was completed in August 1994 a simple calculation was made, dividing the time available by the work to be done. This crude calculation gave a target editing rate which would have to be achieved, and then sustained over the six year period to 2000. New editing guidelines were instituted and tested, which showed that the target was achievable but challenging; there was certainly very little slack in the system.

By the end of 1994, Professor William Gillies of the Department of Celtic in the University of Edinburgh had been appointed Project Manager. Mr William Aitken, Secretary of the Joint Council, formerly Director of Management Information Services in the University of Edinburgh, took on responsibility for the budget. The production schedule drawn up by the staff in the months immediately succeeding the Review was monitored and refined in collaboration with Aitken. A schedule was drawn up by Aitken and checked regularly in the light of actual progress. It served to demonstrate to the Joint Council and to the Universities that the demanding targets set in 1994 were in fact being achieved. The quality and size of the team was also critical. It consisted of the three full-time editors and one full-time and two part-time editorial assistants. The team combined size and experience to a greater degree than at any time in the past.

In 1996 a follow-up review took place, and the reviewers reported that they were favourably impressed with progress, and that the target completion date remained at 2000. As a result, the Universities affirmed their willingness to fund the project to completion. The funding situation was somewhat eased by events in 1999 when an Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB) grant of £155,000 was secured. An application to the Heritage Lottery Fund also yielded a sum of £34,000.

Editing was completed in early December 2000 and all copy finally dispatched to OUP by mid-July 2001. The final part of DOST was published in 2002, 87 years after Craigie outlined his idea for a dictionary of the ‘older Scottish’.

After DOST Top Top

As completion approached, the DOST Team and the Joint Council thought more about what would come after DOST. A Colloquium of representatives of all of DOST’s user groups was asked to contribute to a discussion of where Scottish lexicography should direct its efforts at the beginning of the twenty-first century. One of the results of this was that a Liaison Group was set up to further co-operation between DOST and SND. As a result of its deliberations an application was made to the AHRB for funds to digitise DOST and SND and make them available online. This was the genesis of the DSL.

Thus it is with the sense of coming full circle that we recall Craigie’s hope that DOST and SND, although dealing with the language in different ways, might be organised so as to allow the connections between the older language and the modern to be clarified. The creation of DSL would no doubt have given him enormous satisfaction.

The Scottish National Dictionary (SND)

The first Editor: William Grant (1929-1946)
The second editor: David Murison (1946-1976)
Into the 21st century

Inception Top Top

The inception of SND was greatly influenced by Sir William Craigie (the original editor of A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue) who gave a lecture in Dundee in December 1907 on the action necessary to involve local people in collecting ‘Scots words, ballads, legends, and traditions still current’. Soon afterwards, the Scottish Dialects Committee was set up, with William Grant as convener, to pursue an ‘investigation into the present condition of the Scottish dialects’. Grant proposed finding correspondents in the different dialect areas who would be provided with lists of words culled from written sources and printed slips for new words or meanings, and four volumes of the Transactions of the Scottish Dialects Committee (1913, 1916, 1919, 1921) containing a preliminary dictionary. In the 1920s the goals of the Committee became more focused and in 1924 Craigie gave a series of lectures on ‘The Study of the Scottish Tongue’ in order to recruit volunteers to assist with the study of Scots and to help produce the new Scottish dictionary.

The first Editor: William Grant (1929-1946) Top Top

The Scottish National Dictionary Association (SNDA) was founded in 1929 to foster and encourage the Scots language, in particular by producing a standard dictionary of modern Scots. William Grant was the driving force behind the collection of Scots vocabulary and his persistence in the face of many obstacles ensured that the project had a solid foundation. The first fascicle of the SND was published to great acclaim in 1931.

A wide range of sources was used by the Grant and his editorial staff in order to represent the full spectrum of Scottish vocabulary and cultural life. Literary sources of words and phrases were thoroughly investigated, as were historical records, both published and unpublished, of Parliament, Town Councils, Kirk Sessions and Presbyteries and Law Courts. More ephemeral sources such as domestic memoirs, household account books, diaries, letters and the like were also read for the dictionary, as well as a wide range of local and national newspapers and magazines, which often shed light on regional vocabulary and culture. Given the fact that Scots has often been perceived as inappropriate for formal situations (including formal written text) during the period from 1700 onwards, many words and expressions that were in regular everyday use did not appear in print. In order include this rich linguistic oral heritage, field-workers collected personal quotations across the country.

The second editor: David Murison (1946-1976) Top Top

When David Murison took over the editorship of the dictionary in 1946, following William Grant's death, he greatly increased the number and range of written sources and expanded the coverage of oral material. He improved the layout and clarity of the entries, revealing the healthy position of modern Scots usage in spite of centuries of neglect. Murison was therefore instrumental in encouraging the study of modern Scots and fostering respect for it as a language. He was responsible for the completion of Volume III, and for overall control of Volumes IV to X.

In the early 1950s, due to rising publication costs, it became imperative for the SNDA to seek financial support on a much larger scale than before, and an approach was made to the Scottish universities. After protracted negotiations it was arranged that the dictionary should work in co-operation with the similar enterprises of the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue and the Linguistic Survey of the University of Edinburgh. Supervisory control was now exercised by a Joint Council consisting of representatives of the then four Scottish universities and of the Dictionaries. Additional funding was provided by the Carnegie Trust, and the main task of the Executive Council was to find the additional funds necessary to finance the work.

The SNDA continued on this basis until the project was completed in 1976 with the publication of the final part of volume 10, which included a supplement to bring the earlier volumes up to date.

Into the 21st century Top Top

In the early 2000s, a Heritage Lottery Fund award funded a second supplement to SND, which brought it up to date as far as 2005. As by this time the content of the Scottish National Dictionary was available online in the Dictionary of the Scots Language (DSL), the second supplement was published in electronic form only, as part of DSL. This supplement was compiled by Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd (SLD), the successor organisation to both the Scottish National Dictionary Association and A Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue.

SLD continues to research Modern Scots in all written and spoken media.