A Tait Wanchancie

John M. Tait

Expository Scots

Wi the recent needcessity for the Cross Pairtie Comatee on Scots ti translate an offeecial blad inti Scots, the leid finnds itsel at a turnin pynt. For a gey lang time, the'r been fowk threipin at Scots shoud be traetit as a langage in its ain richt. At the same time, the'r been fowk - whiles the same fowk - threipin at Scots is only uiss for leeterary ettles, an at English can be uised for aa the practical wark. But ye canna pit Scots forrit as a langage on the same foond as Gaelic an no can write offeecial blads in it, like ye can wi Gaelic. It's no possible for Scots ti get recogneetion as a langage, an at the same time jouk the question o an expository register.

The expository register o a langage is the ane at's uised for the ilkaday wark at we hae tradeetionally left ti English - includin the narrative an expository pairts o prose writin. Sic a register is forordinar conservative - mair conservative nor the registers at ye wad uise for the likes o dialogue, an aften for poietry. Expository Scots needs ti be biggit up an practiced. Ye canna expect ti cobble thegither an offeecial blad ad hoc frae leeterary or colloquial styles whaniver the needcessity kythes, an than forget aboot expository writin til the niest time.

The'r raesons whit wey sic a register maun be conservative. The first haes ti dae wi pittin forrit a hale langage, an no juist sindrie dialects. The example o the word guid haes aften been uised. Gin ye'r writin yer ain dialect, ye micht write gid or gyid or geed or gweed or göd. But gin ye uised ane o thae maks in an offeecial blad (or onie writin, for that maiter) supposed ti be in 'Scots', a lot o fowk micht staw at it, pleenin at it wis 'Glesca' or 'Doric' or whitiver, an no thair langage ava. The tradeetional spellin guid can beir aa thae differin pronunciations, an is aesy recognised as a Scots word. This is juist the maist kenspeckle example o a principle o briggin dialects at shoud be the main principle ahint Scots spellin.

Anither raeson an expository register maun be conservative is the perception o register itsel. In dialogue an poietry relate ti dialogue, it's naitural ti uise spellins at shaws pronunciations - sae eg: 'Fit are ee fusslin fur, min?' or 'Gonnae go doon the shoap for a boa'le o Chardonnay.' Apairt frae bein dialect-specific (the speakers o the first ane wad think on the Central 'shoap' an 'boa'le' as 'Glesca') siccan maks pits ower a colloquial register - ane at's obviously relate ti the wey at dialects o English is written in English leeteratur, no ti the wey at langages is written for expository ettles.

It's aften sayed at Scots is a langage, no juist slang. But hale langages haes colloquial an slang registers as weel as leeterary an expository anes, an for Scots ti be recognised as a hale langage, aa its differin forms maun be recognised as sindrie registers. “Ah seen youse oan the telly” micht be juist as guid colloquial Scots as 'I don't wanna work on Maggie's farm no more' is guid colloquial American, but nane o thaim is the richt register for expository writin.

Register haes adae wi aa the aspects o langage, like spellin, grammar an vocabular. Houaniver, sin the examples I'v gien sae faur haes been adae wi spellin, I'll tak examples frae whit shoud be the foond o spellin - the soonds o Scots.

Thare needna be muckle bather wi consonant soonds in Scots, sin maist o thaim is the same as English. Scots haes some soonds at English disna, or haurdly dis - like 'skl' at the beginnin o words like sklent, an the 'ch' soonds in loch, trauchle, nicht, etc. The glottal stop is whiles thocht ti be characteristic o Scots, but it's no raelly - a lot o English dialects uises it, an some Northern Scots anes disna (I dinna speak wi a glottal stop ava.) For the kynd o conservative writin at's needit for a expository register, this is nae bather - ye can juist write the t - for example, watter, butter - an say it wi a glottal if ye like. For a conservative register, it's necessar ti mak the 'ch' soond obvious, e'en tho words like nicht micht no be uised in less conservative dialects, an the 'ch' soond no uised ava bi youngers in some airts.

Vowel soonds is a bittie mair difficult, cause the'r a lot o confuision aboot whit is Scots soonds. Speakers o some Central dialects, for example, tends ti think on the 'oa' soond in words like 'shoap' an 'boa'le' as a characteristic Scots soond (an pronunciations like 'shop' an 'on' as 'pittin it oan') but gin ye raik throu the Linguistic Atlas of Scotland, volume 3, ye'll finnd at some o the mair conservative dialects maks a disteenction atween 'o' in words like cot, an 'oa' in words like coat, at ither dialects disna mak. It's no a North/Central divide aither - Gamrie in Buchan an Largoward in Fife baith maks a disteenction atween cot an coat, but Wast Kilbride an Rhynie i the hert o kintra Aiberdeenshire disna. An some dialects at disna mak the same soond disteenction as English still maks coat langer nor cot. Sae conservative spellins like shop an got - in thir cases, mair like the English anes, but conform tae tradeetional Scots pronunciations tae - is better for a conservative, dialect- briggin register.

Coorse, whiles conservative Scots maks is no like English anes. Scots is a leid in its ain richt wi its ain tradeetional strynds, an whither the spellins at reflects thir strynds is like English or no shoudna be important. The maks shop, on, guid, bluid, fluir, nicht, licht, eneuch, lang, deid, gless, faither, is some like English an some no, an thay aa belang a conservative register o Scots. The maks shoap, oan, gweed, flair, daid, father an glass is some like English an some no, an thay'r aa characteristic o sindrie dialects o Scots. The maks enough, dead, night, blood an long, tho thay micht be uised in colloquial registers o Scots, is no Scots maks ava - thay shaw English soond strynds (like the tynin o the 'ch' soond; the 'oo' soond in words at haes the sindrie 'ui' soonds in Scots; an the 'e' pronunciation o the vowel in words like dead whaur Scots deid haes 'ee' or 'ai' soonds) at merks thaim oot as English len-words in dialects at haes tint the Scots maks.

Whit maks Scots, an parteecular a conservative Scots at wad dae for an expository register, is no whaur an whither it's different frae English, but whit its ain weel-documentit tradeetional strynds is.

John M. Tait