Scots: an outline history

The present day

The language of contemporary Scotland can fairly be described as fluid. In the written mode, Scots spelling remains variable. Attempts to make it more consistent, notably the Scots Style Sheet produced by the Makars’ Club in 1947 or the Recommendations for Writers in Scots published by the Scots Language Society in 1985, have had at best only limited success, competing with other systems that have been developed to represent more closely localized varieties of spoken Scots.

The special characteristics of Scots which we have just surveyed – its linguistic distinctiveness, its occupation of its own ‘dialect-island’ bounded by the border, its individual history, its own dialect variation, its varied use in a remarkable literature, the ancient loyalty of many Scottish people to the notion of the Scots language, as well as the fact that since the sixteenth century Scots has adopted the nation’s name – all of these are attributes of a language rather than a dialect. Manifestly Scots is to be seen as much more than simply another dialect of English.

DSL Online is intended not only as a comprehensive record of the copiousness and variety of the Scots language through time, but also – alongside other publications by Dictionaries of the Scots Language — as a contribution to asserting its social validity.


Smith, Jeremy. (2017) Scots: an outline history. Online