Comparison of SSE and Scots

Essay by tjarksenUniversity, Bachelor's September 2009

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1 IntroductionThe English language has grown and developed enormously during its existence because of geographical, social, political, age of the speaker or educational reasons. It is been spoken for more than 1500 years and has spread over every continent having in almost every continent a considerable number of people who have English as their mother tongue and containing a high number of dialects and accents. English is considered today as the world language. Even though it has such a high number of varieties, each one being quite significant, there is only one promoted ideal form of English, the RP English i.e. Standard English. Standard American English can actually be regarded as another ideal form since recent times. Since its important relevance in the world today, the English language is a quite popular and a highly developed field of research and thus it contains an extensive amount of topics.

The English language in Scotland is particular interesting, because it is so close to England, but it varies the most from RP.

Why is the English spoken in Scotland so different to that spoken in England and using even a diverse grammar etc. And why does the English vary in some regions in Scotland more than others from each other. I will write my paper about English in Scotland the Standard Scottish English (SSE) and Scots and their differences, including an introduction, a main body and a conclusion.

To write about English and Scots in Scotland today, you have to look in the past. I will begin with an overview of the language history of English and Scots in Scotland. Where they came from and under which circumstances they developed to their current form. In the second chapter I will give a summary of how the situation is like nowadays. Where and which form of English and Scots exists, how many speakers there are and which factors are influencing them today. In the following sections I will focus on the phonology, morphology, syntax and lexis to give a more precise view on the language. In the conclusion I want to briefly summarize the previous sections and discuss where the big differences lie and what they mean and make a prospect of the possible future of English and Scots in Scotland.

2 History of English in ScotlandThe English language was at its beginning far away from its present form. It merged as a blend mainly, but not explicitly of the different Germanic dialects that were brought to Britain from the beginning of the fifth century by Jutes, Angles, Saxons and Frisians. Other significant effects include Celtic, which was the original language of the British Isles, Scandinavian, which was imported by the Vikings and Norman French, which influenced English for about two centuries through the French political power after their conquest. These influences have to be considered in different ways when looking at the development of English on the British Isles.

"Although Scottish Gaelic from the Highlands and a plentitude of immigrant language exist, the language ecology of Lowland Scotland has been dominated by the relationship between (…) Scots and SSE. This is one of the most interesting multi-varietal situations in Western Europe, and reveals how the attribution of 'languagehood' is as much of socio-political judgment as a linguistic one." (cf. JOHNSTON 2007: 105ff.).

When looking at the development of English in Scotland, one can see that a Scottish Standard English has developed, but there is also Scots. It is not said quite clear whether Scots is a language in its own or something else.

Scots is also called Lallans from Lowlands Scots. It derived from the Northumbrian or Northern dialect of English during the Old English Period (mid-5th century till the mid-12th century). It had wiped out Gaelic all over eastern Scotland as far north as the Moray Firth and most of the south-west by the sixteenth century. Later it spread further north through migration to Caithness, Orkney and Shetland following many other parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland in the preceding centuries. Gaelic was later restricted to the Highlands, some parts in the North and North-West of Scotland and the islands west of Scotland. Scots was considered to that time as form of English and the name was first officially used in 1494. There was even a different form of Scots in writing other than in England. It remained untouched by any other English, officials and the diminishing process of Northumbrian dialect. The cause for this was socially and politically. Through the Union of the Crowns in 1603, Scotland became an independent state with its own parliament and other institutions. It became the language of the official and literary language of Scotland. There was a so called Golden Age of Scots in literature in the 15th and early 16th century. But a noticeable anglicized Scots started with the Union of the Crowns. And maybe even more considerable, through the Reformation in Scotland at the end of the 16th century. The 'new' Bible was not translated into Scots and therefore English had to be learned and Scots was increasingly regarded as inferior to English. In a much larger scale English had replaced Scots by the end of the 18th century in fashionable circles, in the pulpit, the school, the University, the Law Courts, on the public platform and increasingly in Gaelic speaking areas as well. Through the Act of Union in 1707 when Scotland lost its independence English became the official language and Scots declined to a dialect of English and its range of usage and its broad vocabulary got smaller and smaller. An authentic English accent arose to a social prestige and Scots was limited to the domain of folk-life. Its status continued to fall until the 'Scottish Renaissance' after WWI when Scottish literature rose up again and the interest in Scots grew at Universities etc. After a prequel in the 18th century, the first 'Scottish National Dictionary' appeared in 1931. (PRICE 1984: 187-192)Even though Scots is today not what is used to be, it cannot be compared to other dialects. Its social prestige is higher than others, it is still studied intensively, and it has a more important historical past and is still used on a fairly high scale.

English as Scottish Standard English (SSE) was formed, as described before, in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. Besides Scots and SSE, other forms of English developed also. The Highland English arose in the mid-eighteenth century, when Gaelic was ousted by English. It is to some extend different because it was not much affected by Scots and has more substratum effects from Gaelic. The Shetland and Orkney Island and Caithness have also their own special dialect, since its substratum was Scandinavian known as Norn on that Scots was set. These regions belonged to Vikings until 1469 but not many documents exist to see to what degree and time the change to Scots took place. But the dialects cannot be described as Norn (MELCHERS and SHAW 2003: 63-64). There is also an influence from Hiberno-English, especially in Glasgow, Galloway, Dundee and widespread in the Lowlands in the nineteenth century by migrants from Ireland for work reasons (MACAFEE and O'BAOILL 1997: 246)3 The situation of English in Scotland today"Scotland as a linguistic area is as varied as its topography" (MELCHERS and SHAW 2003: 61)In Scotland are three main language varieties; each one consists of a number of dialects. The oldest one being Gaelic is spoken by about 60000 people in Scotland which would be about 1,5 %. But practically all of them speak English as well. The main portion lives on the Inner and Outer Hybrids, in the West of the Highlands and Glasgow. Scots is spoken by nearly a third of the population, which would be about 1,5 million. It is mainly spread over the south, central, north-eastern and northern islands, which can be seen on map 2. SSE is increasingly used and is spoken by the majority of Scotland. Gaelic, as a Celtic language, is not included in the topic of this paper. It is worth mentioning though, that it is a shrinking language in speakers and usage, even though work is being done to stop this decline. Scots, but to a larger extend SSE are benefiting from this. As Scots is also decreasing, it is SSE which is in advance ever since it has entered Scotland.

map 1: (dsl 2009)Many writings appearing in Scots today seem to have their own way of spelling. Scots is principally spoken by manual workers and their families. Scots and SSE are both learned in primary socialization. The coexistence can be identified as improper bilingualism because they operate with a bi-polar linguistic system. It is also tried to establish Scots as autonomy and therefore their different dialects ought to be related to it rather than SSE. This is being done through Scottish nationalism, as it wants to create a separate Scottish state in which Scots, along with Gaelic could be amplified as official language to all administrative, educational and other levels. The distribution of Gaelic in Scotland can be seen on map 2. It is doubtful that constitutional changes could initiate the expansion of Scots and Gaelic at the cost of Standard English. The nationalism has provoked interest on a cultural level though in Scots, especially in teaching and writing. But Gaelic could not come to such an elevated level as Irish in Ireland due mainly to the resistance of Lowlands (MACAFEE 1985: 7-10).

Map 2: (sfc 2001)The status of RP in Scotland is not the same as in England or Wales. Quite the contrary a Scottish accent can be more prestigious where a local English accent is not. Some would say, that the so-called 'Morningside' accent from Edinburgh could be regarded as the Scottish RP (MELCORS and SHAW 2003:63).

The SSE ranges from highly-Scotticised ('Basic') version to nearly Standard (British) English i.e. RP, spoken by the lower to the higher social classes. Almost all speakers are easily identified as Scottish and understandable by most native English speakers. All types of SSE tend to be pronounced more Scottish-accented since WW II. The phonology and syntax of SSE in areas where Gaelic is still spoken are influenced by Gaelic, especially in Hebridean English. Scots effect is quite low there, primarily in lexis but its vowel system demonstrates a high-prestige SSE asset (JOHNSTON 2007: 109).

4 Description of English in ScotlandSSE has only existed for a few hundred years. But this varies from region to region, resulting in different forms of SSE. The social class of the speaker belongs to also play an important role in his or her degree of using SSE or even RP or what kind of syntax or lexis he or she would use. The same stands for Scots. Being actually considered as a language in it-self, it has developed distinctive dialects as well resulting in different varieties. The following description of SSE and Scots will not take all these variation in detail into account, because there is simply not the space for it describing for example a small variation on Orkney Island.

4.1 SSE and Scots pronunciationThis section is organized as follows: SSE and Scots are not discussed clearly separated. The division is made between vowels and consonants and to lower degree by the different authors.

SSE is relatively different to other forms of English in pronunciation. And Scots is probably the most distinct form of English, especially in pronunciation. SSE and Scots are very much similar from a phonemic point of view, if not identical. There are many variations resulting from the social class a speaker comes from or wants to belong to. A speaker from a higher social class will most likely sound more RP-like in his or her pronunciation. There are plenty of varieties that only exist in Scots. There are not many rules or comparable norms that say how Scots is supposed to be like. It is the most distinct English form of Standard English and RP, even though it is debatable if Scots is a variety of English anyway.

(1)In consonant phonemic inventory SSE and Scots are the same, they only differ in /x ʍ/. They occur in SSE only in names and place names from Gaelic. But in Scots also, when there is no English cognate, f.g. dreich. /ʍ/ also arise in words from OE /xw/, spelled like where or whiskey. The phonology of vowels is quite different from SSE to Scots. The vowel system by Aitken, also called the Scottish Vowel Length Rule was established to distinguish between SSE and Scots and RP. It can be said, that SSE vocalism is a compromise of RP and Scots norms (JOHNSTON 2007: 112-114)(2)The vowel system is smaller than many others due to the fact that SSE and Scots being rhotic. No diphthongs exist in SSE and Scots. The RP vowels /ɪǝ/, /ɛə/, /ʊǝ/ and /ɜ:/ do not appear, and words like "sawed" are distinct.

(3)Another clearly characteristic of SSE and Scots is that also short vowels stay distinct before /r/. For instance fern, bird, hurt have different vowels but are frequently fused in middle-class speech.

(4)Many middle- and upper-class speakers, in both, make a diphthong in /e/ and /o/ as in RP.

(5)In most SSE varieties there is no distinction between /æ/ and /ɑ:/ thus e.g. for bad /ɑ/ is used. As a consequence of RP influence, some middle-class speakers make this differentiation.

(6)The /ʊ/ and /u:/ as another RP feature does not exist in SSE and Scots. This is an extent of vowel contrast. So pool and pull or foot and goose are homonyms. But there as in other dissimilarities to RP, the 'elegant' pronunciation tends to [ʉ]. This applies also to front [a] vowels like in bath and palm which would be realized [ɑ] in upper classes.

(7) And no RP differentiation of /ɒ/ and /ɔ:/ in SSE and Scots. Thus /ɔ/ for cot and caught.

(8)Almost all SSE and Scots vowels are phonetically monophthongs, except /ai/ = [ɛɪ] ~ [ɐɪ]; /au/ = [ɜʉ]; and /ɔi/. Both /ɪ/ = [ɪ ˫ ~ɘ] and /ʌ/ are central vowels, and /u/ is markedly fronted at [ʉ] or even [y].

(9)The vowels are different in lengths compared to EngEng. In SSE all vowels have an equal lengths, thus /ɛ/ sounds longer than in EngEng, and /i/ sounds shorter than /i:/ in EngEng. But the Scottish Vowel Length Rule bears for all SSE vowels, except /ɪ/ and /ʌ/ a complication. According to it vowels are longer before /v/, /ð/, /z/, /r/ and word-finally than they are in another place. F.e. the /i/ in leave is longer than the /i/ in lead. Word-final vowels stay long yet after an extra suffix. And thus a differentiation of length is made among the vowels of pairs.

(10)In certain words like serenity or obscenity, the second syllable is often pronounced with /i/ in SSE and Scots.

(11)In the pronunciation of consonants SSE and Scots to slight higher degree maintains a distinction amid /ʍ/ or /hw/ and /w/; e.g. which /ʍɪtʃ/, witch /wɪtʃ/.

(12)Primary /p/, /t/, /k/ are often unaspirated in SSE and Scots.

(13)The glottal stop [Ɂ] in SSE and Scots is a repeated realization of non-initial /t/.

(14)The dark /l/ may well be realized in all places, more noticeable in Scots than in SSE; e.g. lilt [ɫɪɫt].

(15)In some SSE words the velar fricative /x/ arises, e.g. loch [lɔx] 'lake'. In Scots dialect appear even more words that contain /x/ like nicht [nɘxt] = night (SSE [nɛɪt]).

(16)Additionally there are non-systematic differences between SSE and EngEng pronunciation e.g. length /lɛnɵ/, realize /riʌláiz/ or though /ɵo/ (TRUDGILL and HANNAH 2008: 95-97)(17)Further additions to these descriptions of SSE and Scots pronunciation are: depicted by Melchers and Shaw (p. 65-68) as follows. SSE has a smaller phonemic inventory. 'Expected' short vowels sound fairly long and 'expected' long vowels relatively shorter.

(18)The Scots vowel system varies in most accents the /ɪ/ like in kit is centralized or even further retracted and more open; e.g. finger pronounced by a Shetlander was understood as fungus by a Lancashire lady.

(19)The vowels of SSE and particularly the Scots end of the continuum are clearly dissimilar in their division over the lexis. E.g. stone spelled stane in Scots and pronounced /sten/.

(20)Further it is to say that vowels can differ quite a lot. As foot and goose are almost the same in SSE, there are more than six local varieties in pronunciation. Or f.g. the word boot would have the vowel [Ø] in a Glenesk dialect and be similar in a Shetland dialect.

(21)A few variations on the Shetlands have pronounced as /kw-/, and occasionally with hypercorrect /hw/: ['kwɪskɪ] for whisky, [hwin] for queen. An additional realization of as /f/ exists in the north-east of Scotland, thus making what and foot sound almost identical. Another feature of Shetland is that in urban areas glottal stop in medial and final position is increasing depending social background. And dental fricatives hardly exist.

(22)The typical rhotic /r/ in SSE and Scots occurs only sometimes in thrilled form. The alveolar tap, i.e. flapped /ſ/ and a post alveolar or retroflex fricative or approximant [ɹ] are the most common forms in Scotland, the latter more used by middle-class speakers. Also uvular /r/ appears in some areas e.g. Glasgow.

(23)Some influences of Gaelic on the English in Scotland can noticeably heard in e.g. a clear /l/ and the strongly aspirated voiceless plosives on the Western Isles and the Highland. Also the coalescence of /r/ + /s/ into a retroflex sound can be derived from Gaelic (MELCHERS and SHAW 2003: 65-68).

(24)Words like fern, fur and fir are distinguished in SSE to a certain degree, depending from where they are from, through different vowels. But this seems to disappear in urban areas towards RP [ɜ:] and the post-vocalic /ɹ/ is retained.

(25)The /h/ is generally realized in SSE and Scots, as already exemplified earlier.

(26)-ing ending is pronounced /ɪn/ in many parts of Scotland, thus in SSE and Scots (HUGHES, TRUDGILL and WATT 2005: 102-103)(27)Different realizations of vowels often occur in Scots, like /u/ in words which in RP have /aʊ/; e.g. house would be /hus/ and pronounced [hʉs] or [hys], and is often written as hoose or hous in Scots literature.

(28)For coat /kot/ and cot ~ caught /kɔt/ would in Scots often be said as coat ~ cot /kot/ and caught /kɔt/. Thus such pairs like socks and soaks sound often the same.

(29)In many cases where in RP /ǝʊ/ is used and /o/ in SSE, Scots has /e/; e.g. home is /hem/ or no is /ne/ and with other vowels like do becomes /de/. This difference also appears in written form in Scots.

(30)The vowel /a/ occurs in many cases in Scots as /ɛ/; e.g. arm is pronounced /ɛɹm/.

(31)Such words like long and strong are primarily realized with /a/ rather than /ɔ/in Scots; e.g. wrong /ɹaɳ/.

(32)And the vowel /a/ in words such as land or hand, is in the west of Scotland, like Glasgow, changes to /ɔ/, thus Scots; e.g. handy /hɔndi/.

(33)And typical for Scots pronunciation, with /t/ at the end of past participles of verbs, is /d/; e.g. married /mɛɹɪt/ (HUGHES, TRUDGILL and WATT 2005: 127-128)4.2 Scots (and SSE) MorphologySSE morphology differs only very little in writing to Standard English (English) the main variations lie in phonology. But Scots has quite a few, therefore it is only regarded here. They are as follows:(1)Single, recessive irregular plurals appear, like ee/een 'eye', shae/ shuin 'shoe', oax/ owsen 'ox', broo/ breer(s) 'brow', the latter is typical in the north.

(2)Like in other dialects, the uninflected form of words of temporal or spatial measurement such as year, pound or mile may arise after numerals, as in three year ago, seiven mile fae here. But, semi-liquid foods, like as parritch 'porridge', kail, brose and so on, are normally dealt with as plurals: Thae kail arenae het eneuch.

(3)The differentiation of thou/you, is very recessive apart from the Northern Isles.

(4)Like in numerous colloquial forms of English, the objective case can be used as sort of resumptive pronoun, also in subject position (Me, I had chased't) and in conjunct structures ( as in the Border shibboleth Yow an mey'll hae some tey, gaun up the hill an pow a pey).

(5)The form us/it/wis is frequently used treated as singular, especially in indirect object constructions (Gie's a pint of special.).

(6)The Scots reflexive pronouns end in -sel, which is also used for the free-standing self for many speakers.

(7)Scots contains a three-way demonstrative deictic system, with this/thir designating something near the speaker, that/ thae close to the hearer and yon or thon something distant from both. These/ Those much used Scots and SSE, though (th)is/ (th)at can often be found as a plural in the north, and thae endures elsewhere, just like them/ thaim and Standard those. Thir exists in Scots only.

(8)In Scots are two distinct present tense paradigms. One is like in St Eng and the other one in other cases uses the suffix -s.

(9)In peripheral Scots dialects still keep a dissimilarity between gerundive -ing > [-in] and present participial -an(d) > [-ʌn ~ n].

(10)The usual Scots past tense/ weak past participial indicator is -it, with allomorphs -t, -(e) d next to sonorants (JOHNSTON 2007: 117-118).

(11)Some irregular forms of verbs in past tense occur in Scots deriving from different sources; e.g. sellt for 'sold', killt for 'killed, driv 'drove' or taen for 'took'. Others are ken for 'know' with kent as past tense or gie for 'give' with gied as pt.

(12)Some plural forms in Scots like wife or leaf still have the voiceless consonant, i.e. wifes or leafs. And SSE preserves irregular plurals like shune for 'shoes'.

(13)In Orkney and Shetland the general perfective auxiliary have is replaced by be. And the usage of addressing someone with the informal du against the formal (sing.) you is still kept (MELCHERS and SHAW 2003: 68-69).

(14)The suffix -ie is sometimes used in Scots as a diminutive; e.g. laddie, wifie (BEAL 1997: 339).

4.3 SSE and Scots SyntaxThe syntactical features are sometimes the same in Scots as in SSE, only a few distinctive parts of Scots grammar remained. And sometimes they differ, according also to the region and social class, using more the SSE variation or more Scots. Fashion and register are more significant in syntax differences than geographical reasons. And some distinctive types only exist in certain dialects.

(1)The negation of verbs by either the clitic -nae or the separate negator no, with the first linking on to auxiliaries and the second go after main verbs, also, preferentially, to be an the main verb to have. Scots and more frequent SSE use more often the separate negator in questions with do-support.

(2)Scots and SSE allow 'benefactive' genitive pronouns; e.g. I'm away to my bed.

(3)In many cases in Scots and SSE the definite article occurs, for example before names; e.g. The bairns are gaun tae the schuil this year. He has got the cold.

(4)Scots still uses some double modals constructions such as may can, might could, would could or used to could. And they are negated on the second component.

(5)In Scots and SSE verbs of mental process such as think, doubt can liberally used in progressive. Same with other stative verbs; e.g. Where are you staying in Edinburgh?(6)Primarily in Scots by two pronoun objects, the indirect object precedes.

(7)In Scots the preposition or conjunction than does not appear, instead nor or as are used; e.g. This stick is longer nor that yin.

(8)In speech the regular relative pronoun that; e.g. That´s the man that did it. Appears in inanimate and animate reference, as in restrictive and non-restrictive clauses. Also other relative pronouns and relatives are used differently; f.g. It´s every house has got a TV. Or: There's mony yins does that. It's Jim that is ill.

(9)There are many manners in informal Scots and working-class SSE to point at NPs; e.g. via it clefting: It was her that got there. Or via NP fronting: Ed Smith you called him. (JOHNSTON 2007: 119-120)(10)In SSE when negating, it is common not to contract not with auxiliarys; thus I'll not let you down instead using won't. Negation in Scots is done by no or not; e.g. She's no leaving. Or with nae and n't which are added; e.g. She isnae leaving.

(11)Scots is lacking modal verbs such as shall, which is changed to will, and may, and ought. Need is exclusively treated as a main verb.

(12)SSE often has an invariant tag, typically e put after positive or negative clauses; e.g. You're liking this, e? (MELCHERS and SHAW 2003: 69).

(13)In Scots different prepositions are often used. The prefix a-/ an- is common instead of 'be-'; e.g. afore or aneath. Some English prepositions are just used in a different context; e.g. Tom git married on Mary. Or Hamish threw the book ower the window. The Scots preposition anent means 'opposite' (JONES 2002: 21)(14)Scots uses sometimes other past-participle forms for irregular verbs such as hurted or putten.

(15)Personal pronouns are sometimes in Scots treated like in French; e.g. Him and me set out together. Instead of He and I…(16)The word see is in Scots applied to extract and foreground the theme of a sentence; e.g. See him, he can drive (BEAL 1997: 339-340).

4.4 SSE and Scots LexisThe lexis of SSE is only slightly different compared to St Eng, most differences constituted of Scots words. But it is by far not as distinct as Scots lexis. Scots has so many, that would need numerous pages to list them all. Many of them words used for describing the environment, traditional life or specific tools and such. The Scots lexis derives from various sources such as Old English, Gaelic or Norse, which comprise the most typical Scots lexis. Then there are also influences, borrowings from North Middle English, which had a lot of borrowings from Scandinavian; like gate for 'road'. Also from Anglo-Saxon; e.g. bannock - 'a sort of cake' or Latin, which was slightly different than in Eng Eng; e.g. dispone 'beside dispose' Because of the 'Franco-Scottish Alliance' for more than 250 years there is a fair amount of French borrowings; e.g. leal for 'loyal. And there is even a certain degree of Dutch influence; e.g. pinkie meaning 'little finger'. Many of the words in Scots have a steady usage because they are for example institutionalized or have symbolic status or were even taken over to General English (MELCORS and SHAW 2003:69-70).

At least for as long as Scots literature exists, there has always been new words coined or calqued and resuscitate obsolete vocabulary meaning that many Scots words are, theoretically, still in use. There is also an inventory of new localized coined words, mostly slang, which could result in a new dialect vocabulary. Or at least remove old terms, which are out of use. They could also withdraw from active use to passive knowledge and only leaving a solid core of commonly used everyday words, which would develop to a vital, but less distinguishing regional norm (JOHNSTON 2007: 121).

But as everywhere n the world, because life, especially in rural areas is changing, the use of language changes, thus reducing the lexis.

5 ConclusionsAs it can be seen in the section describing for example the history of the English language in Scotland, the situation of Scots and English today and the languages themselves used to be much more different than today. For various reasons such as geographical, social, political and others this has changed. But Scots and English in Scotland, called 'Standard Scottish English' still have numerous variations today.

Many differences in phonology are in Scots and SSE the same compared to RP. A few vowels are a bit more different in Scots because SSE pronunciation stands sometimes closer to RP. Scots has e.g. a higher use of /x/ and the /r/ has more effects there. The morphology and lexis contains by far the biggest differences from Scots to SSE. Scots has an enormous lexis, much of it not in use any longer and the morphology of SSE has almost no variations to Standard English at all. In syntax they differ a few times in the same ways to St Eng. But again Scots has there quite a few more differences to SSE.

All of Scots, considering all its dialects as well, has so many differences to SSE which cannot all be listed here, because of lack of space. Many of the main differences talked about here show, that Scots and SSE are quite different to each other. Scots is officially considered as language by the EU. But Scots and SSE are becoming more and more like Standard English.

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