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An Investigation of Attitudes to Scots and Glasgow Dialect Among Secondary School Pupils

Janet Menzies

Introduction: attitudes to Scots and Glasgow dialect

'The accent of the lowest state of Glaswegians is the ugliest one can encounter.'

(University lecturer, quoted in Macaulay 1975:94)

Such judgmental statements reflect a negative and unfortunately widespread attitude towards the Glasgow dialect and, though perhaps to a lesser extent, towards Scots dialects generally. 'A mere dialect of English', 'bad English', 'Standard English corrupted by uneducable Scots', 'corrupt English or slang': these (cited in Aitken 1981: 76) are just some of the subjective labels attached to Scots. It is viewed unfavourably when contrasted with the Standard English language associated with South-East England, stronghold of political power, economic wealth and social prestige.

The opening quotation describes Glasgow dialect as 'the ugliest one can encounter'.
To apply the concept of ugliness to a speech form presupposes the existence of a more aesthetically pleasing alternative. Trudgill (1974:29) states:

This view maintains that some linguistic varieties are inherently more attractive ... and that these varieties have become accepted as standards or have acquired prestige simply because they are more attractive ...

and (1983:214)

... different varieties of the same language are objectively as pleasant as each other but are perceived positively or negatively because of particular cultural pressures operating in each language community. Standard and prestige accents acquire their high status directly from the high-status groups that happen to speak them ...

'Ugly' accents and dialects therefore belong to low-status groups. Aesthetic opinions concerning language systems, however, are neither objective nor based on linguistic knowledge: they are subjective and socially based. The accent of Glaswegians is not intrinsically ugly: it is so perceived because it is heard from people of the 'lowest state'.

Sociolinguistic studies of language prestige find Standard English at the top of the class pyramid and regional British dialects, including Scots dialects, at the bottom with the working classes.

On Glasgow dialect and the negative attitudes to it, Macaulay (1975:94) quotes a university lecturer: is associated with the unwashed and the violent...

Caroline Macafee (1983:27) states:
This simply reflects the very bad reputation of Glasgow generally. This stereotype has a blighting effect on working-class adolescents.

1.1 Focal points of project

The effect of the social stigma attached to the use of Glasgow dialect among working-class adolescents was the main focus of this research project. More specifically, the investigation was concerned with

  1. What effects, if any, could be shown definitely to influence choices made by speakers in
  2. and along a continuous scale of linguistic variables (see 1.2 below) existing between the polar extremes of Glasgow dialect and (Scottish) Standard English?
  3. How much or how little did the subjects know about their own dialect?
  4. Was there any scope for re-awakening or re-education?
1.2 The Linguistic Continuum Theory

Suzanne Romaine (1977:26) claims that 'pure Scots' does not exist but what does is a 'complex continuum in which many speakers operate'. R.K.S. Macaulay (1977:26) also refers to Catford who suggests that the difference between Scots and English is not clear-cut: the terms identify two linguistic poles between which there is an infinite possible range of dialect mixture.

In Glasgow, the two poles would be represented by, on the one hand, Glasgow dialect, historically a hybrid of West Mid Scots vernacular and Standard English introduced in the eighteenth century, subsequently influenced by Highland English and Hibernian English due to the influx of immigrants from the Highlands and Ireland; and on the other, Scottish Standard English (SSE) showing no observable geographically-marked dialect features. Each polar extreme contains numerous linguistic forms which compete for use by individual speakers in actual utterances, e.g. the lexical choice between aye (dia) and yes (SSE), or the phonological choice between /hus/ (dia) and /h^us/ (SSE).

1.3 Standard, Dialect and Social Class

The eighteenth-century Augustan notion of 'correctness' still prevails in the form of subjective opinions held by dialect and non-dialect speakers alike. How do these attitudes affect young dialogue speakers?

In Britain, cultural pressure has established Standard English as the major medium for written language. We also find the same standard for most formal examples of verbal communication, e.g. national television and radio. If the dominant opinion is that those resident in Britain should speak and write in English , it may lead dialect speakers to assume that their particular form of 'English', is by comparison 'bad' or 'corrupt' English. It is to be expected that dialect speakers will view their speech negatively when told that they are speaking a form of English, but one which does not sound like the prestigious standard - i.e. that their mode of communication is sub-standard.

It is unfortunate that in Scotland, spoken dialects are often termed 'English' when their historical origin shows that they are not this. In fact they are Scots dialects, though very often influenced by English, a closely related language, from a country in close proximity; even though both evolved from the common ancestor Old English. Not unlike the situation found today in the politically separate but linguistically related Scandinavian countries, at one time Scots and English were politically separate, languages identified by different names. But by their speech we can distinguish an Englishman from a Scotsman, although politically both are 'British'. Since language is one of the most overt markers of group membership within a national or social community, we can also distinguish the middle-class Scotsman from his working-class compatriot.

[T]here is a correlation between working-class speakers' use of localised variants and their degree of integration into the social networks of the community. S/he interprets the social role of the vernacular in terms of solidarity and that of the standard in terms of status.

Macafee 1983:22

...class identity... in terms of a dichotomy between the working-classes and the middle-classes... The equivalent dichotomy in the ideology is between 'proper' speech and 'slang'.

Macafee 1983:25

It would appear that a Scottish dialect speaker's choice between linguistic forms involves more factors than does that of, say, an Englishman with a strong North-Eastern dialect. To move into the realms of 'proper' speech holds national significance as well as class significance for the Scot. Even if the English dialect speaker takes lessons to perfect an RP accent, he will still be English. If the Scot does this, he may throw away more in the loss of an outward, recognisable national identity. If the, two hypothetical speakers are to talk together, both may disguise their regional origins but only one belies his national identity. This, of course, is an extreme situation.

1.4 Code-switching

By adolescence, dialect speakers will have experienced situations involving, people from different backgrounds, and this may he partly revealed in their speech. For example, at school, most teachers, have undergone tertiary education at a university or similar institution, and by the nature of their work will often use the standard model in their own speech.

It is clear that ten-year-olds ... are aware of stigmatised varieties...

Romaine 1975:204

Romaine goes on to say that there is a reaction to this in the form of

...variation taking place while the extra-linguistic and linguistic context remains the same.


If this is true, then they will also be aware that certain situations and concepts require different degrees of linguistic variation according to perceived notions of propriety. Public speaking, teaching and job interviews are examples of such situations, where emphasis is placed on formality, precision and impressiveness: qualities associated with the standard variety.

The use of stigmatised forms always precedes the conscious awareness of them.

Romaine 1975:53

According to Macaulay, code-switching is a matter of degree. This must involve the choice of certain linguistic items and the avoidance of others. Compromise may often be a common stopping point along the linguistic continuum: e.g. choosing to say uh-huh in affirmation avoids the use of either aye (dialect) or yes (SE). This is summed up rather nicely by terms introduced by Trudgill (1983:190): 'dialect sliding' and 'dialect jumping'. The latter refers to the phenomenon of switching from dialect to standard with little or no observable mix of features. If sliding occurs, the same linguistic variables may not be habitually used in similar contexts and degrees of inconsistency may appear at both the simple level, involving single words and phonemes, and also at the complex Level incorporating interdependent combinations of words and grammatical structures - all of which are indicative of dialect and therefore of social class. Dialect sliding is by association class sliding: this may prove uncomfortable.

Speakers may 'correct' away from stigmatised forms yet come no closer to prestige.

Romaine 1980:184

1.5 Linguistic insecurity

Inconsistent dialect sliding is a likely symptom Of linguistic insecurity. For example, compare the dialect-based slider who may find it difficult to make a consistent choice among a set of points on the linguistic continuum and the SSE speaker who has to depart very little, if at all, from his usual choices. The dialect-speaker is in a disadvantaged position of ill-ease and insecurity. Another phenomenon may arise from such a situation: that of linguistic self-hatred, expressed in shame and distaste for one's own dialect.

As for working-class dialect-speaking adolescents, how are they affected by linguistic insecurity?

Macaulay exemplifies:

... the comments of employers, university lecturers and training college lecturers show that the main criticism of school-leavers is their lack of confidence in speaking.

Macaulay 1977:132

Since the adolescents of today are the adults and parents of tomorrow, where are they taking Glasgow dialect and how do they view themselves as dialect speakers?

1.6 Framework of procedure

The original project involved schoolchildren attending Lochend Secondary School in Easterhouse, in Glasgow's East End. Twenty were taken from the first year and twenty from the fifth, each group consisting of ten boys and ten girls. Each group of twenty completed Questionnaire A, and was then divided into two groups of ten for group discussion on Scots, dialect and English. Then, in their re-formed groups of twenty, they completed Questionnaire B.

1.7 Informants

The small number of informants makes it impossible to make sweeping generalisations about other members of their age, sex and class groups. I hope, however, that the opinions and attitudes given here are generally representative of those who share similar external social factors.

2.1 Questionnaire A

Questions were on background, age, and place of birth. All informants were born in Glasgow with at least one Glaswegian parent. Questions were also posed on feelings of national identity, which I felt to be important in considering attitudes to Scots speech. Similarly, they were asked their feelings towards Glasgow. They were also asked if they sensed any differences between the Scots and the English, and 'also the Irish and the Welsh, in respect of language. This was asked among filler questions. They were then asked if they felt it to be good or bad that those differences existed. Questions were asked regarding feelings about Glasgow dialect in relation to other Scottish dialects, and also comparing eastern Glasgow dialects to those heard in the west of the city.

I sought to extract information on whether the informant, preferred the town or the country; and which areas (from given choices) they would most like to live in, and which least, if they were not living in Glasgow. This was suggested by an idea of Trudgill's, that judgements made on dialect are based on criteria including romantic notions of the rustic ideal (Trudgill 1985:36). Finally in this section questions were asked regarding attitudes to accents of English and to foreign languages.

Another section was designed to glean information on dialect within school life and within the teaching of English. Informants were asked what they liked/disliked about school and about English as a curriculum subject. They were also asked about spelling, how well it reflected their own speech and that of other Glaswegian, Scottish and English speakers; and were asked to provide alternative spellings of some words. They were presented with a list of well-known personalities and asked if they could identify the Scots, and if they did this on the basis of their accents.

A section of the questionnaire was designed to test the informants' familiarity with Scottish literary figures and their works. (This I felt might be related to their perceptions of the status of Scots.) Sets of questions and examples were given to determine knowledge of Scots lexis, lexical incidence and grammatical formations. Attitudes to these were also sought. These examples were set among English filler examples.

The informants were asked to listen to tape-recordings of four Glasgow speakers; and then to say where the speakers were likely to come from, who of their acquaintance spoke like them, and whether they themselves ever spoke like them or would aspire to do so. I was interested to find which of the recorded speakers the informants identified with most closely. They were also asked if the speakers sounded friendly, if they sounded correct, and which class they appeared to belong to. All the speakers were university graduates aged between 21 and 31. They spoke upon a neutral subject: a film which they had all seen.

Speaker 1: Age 21, female, from the south side, of Glasgow. She could be considered an SSE speaker, and can be heard to say yes, /lafIg/ and /^b^ut/ (cf. Glasgow dialect aye, /lafIn/, /^bu2/.

Speaker 2: Age 22, male, residing in Easterhouse. Uses many Glasgow dialect features, e.g. /^bu2/, /wa^r/, boggin (cf. SSE /^b^ut/, /wat^r/, dirty).

Speaker 3: Age- 23, female, residing, in Easterhouse. Uses some dialect features and makes some attempt at SSE forms. Can be heard to say /f^lm/, /^gen/, /bI?/ (cf. SSE /fIlm/, /^gEn/, / bIt /) ; but says yes and /w^n/ instead of Glasgow dialect aye and /wan/.

Speaker 4: Age 31, male, residing in the east of Glasgow, educated at the universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Oxford. Speaks a form of SSE but is nearer to Southern English SE than Speaker 1. can be heard to say /fa(Ir/, /^b^ut/, /hItlIr/ ('Hitler') (cf. Glasgow dialect /fe(^r/, /^bu?/, /hI?I^r/).

After being asked for their impressions of the recordings, the informants were asked if they were happy with their own speech.
Next, two separate taped readings of Robert Burns's To a Mouse and Tom Leonard's Unrelated Incidents were played, and the informants asked their opinions on the readings. The renditions were by Speaker 1, who used her normal SSE for both poems, and another female reader, who used Ayrshire and Glasgow dialect respectively for the two poems.

2.2 The group discussions

The objective here was to shed light on the following topics:

  1. Scots and English, some historical differences.
  2. The status of Scots.
  3. Glasgow dialect.
  4. 'Bad English' and 'slang' of which Scots is neither.
  5. Code-switching.

2.3 Questionnaire B

These questions were set to investigate any positive reaction to what had been said about Scots in the discussions, and to measure movement away from negative opinions which might have emerged in Questionnaire A. Informants were asked if they had found what was said surprising and/or interesting, and were asked again how they felt about their own speech. The poetry readings were repeated, as were some of the examples of Scots lexical and grammatical items.

3.1 Questionnaire A results

A: first-year girls, B: first-year boys, C: fifth-year girls,
D: fifth-year boys (percentages, estimated on a score out of ten)
E: all first-year informants, F: all fifth-year informants,
G: all girls, H: all boys (percentages estimated on a score out of twenty).
Percentages for the whole group of informants are estimated on a score out of forty.

3.2 Attitudes to dialect and nationality

When asked about nationality, 68% regarded themselves as Scottish and 32% as British; but if they were taken to be English, 70% of the older group would be bothered about this, while in striking opposition only 20% of the younger group would. It seems that with age in this group there comes an increasing awareness of national identity.

When asked if they as Scots spoke differently from the English, 87% said yes; and of those, 51% felt this to be a good thing while 43% felt it to be interesting. Those responses are at first sight very positive, with only a few thinking the difference a bad thing. However, when asked the same questions of the Welsh and the Irish, those who agreed that they spoke differently scored higher on the question whether they thought the differences interesting.

Encouragingly, diversification of regional British dialects/accents is seen positively. Welsh and Irish varieties, however, were regarded from the Scottish informants' viewpoint in a slightly more favourable light than English ones.

53% saw no difference between their own Glaswegian speech and that of other Scottish people. Interestingly, only four informants among the whole group of forty, all girls, felt that the differences they perceived were a bad thing. Boys were marginally higher in the scores for good and interesting.

60% felt that there were no differences between the speech of those living in the east of Glasgow and those in the west.

On residential preference, 80% opted for urban life as opposed to rural. while males showed a liking for both town and country, females seemed to prefer city life. Encouragingly, the informants enjoy their city environments, there is no strong evidence of love of the rustic life, and all informants claimed to like living in Glasgow. Confirming a very positive attitude to their native city, 65% felt Glasgow to be just as a Scottish as any other city in Scotland, and 30% felt that it was more Scottish.

As to who is most influential in shaping their attitudes here, peer pressure, seems to be powerful, as friends are more influential than parents or the media. The schoolchildren are least influenced by what their teachers say.

3.3 Attitudes to school and the teaching of English

When asked what they did not like about this reassuringly, no mention was made of teachers 'correcting' pupils' speech. I can only conclude that this does not occur, the informants expertly code-switching; or that if it does happen it is not seen as a great enough wrong to earn a mention here.

A worrying 70% felt that the spelling system they were taught at school did not reflect their speech well, with 75% of all males stating this. 70% felt that all Glaswegians were in the same position as themselves, and of the 17% who felt that some others in Glasgow were better served by the spelling system, one younger boy gave as an example: 'The mayor [sic!] of Glasgow and I think think she would live in Bearsden.' This statement clearly demonstrates an awareness that language varieties which are closer to the accepted standard (i.e. SSE) are better represented by the standard spelling system. Note also that a high-status language variety is associated here with a high-status residential area.

77% felt that the rest of the Scottish populace were in the same position regarding spelling. The situation, then, may be seen as a national one, since this figure is higher than for the rest of Glasgow. Adding weight to this theory, more felt that the speech of Newcastle was better represented by the spelling than for the previous examples (28%). The 'Englishness' of Newcastle must be a factor in this judgement, since realistically the dialect of north-eastern England may not be any better represented by the English spelling system, and may be actually worse, than, say, SSE. When the question was applied to London and America, the results were very similar, 48% of the informants thinking the speech of those places better served by the spelling system than theirs.

The informants evidently do feel that there are other dialects/varieties of English in Britain and the USA which are better represented by the common spelling system. This could be symptomatic of linguistic insecurity, the informants associating the spelling system with the standard form and feeling that their own speech does not correspond to this. Nevertheless, when asked if they would change the spelling system, 68% said no.

lnformants were asked to give examples of alternative spellings for words which they thought could be represented better. From the few given, most were Scots in character and all came from the younger group: three examples of hame for home, two of aye for yes and one of dae for do. The most outstanding example was telt instead of told: outstanding, because it was given by one of the fifth-year girls unconsciously, in answer to another question in a previous section of the questionnaire.

Trudgill (1983:195) states that

English spelling is probably sufficiently distant from pronunciation not to favour one accent over any other: all speakers are at an equal disadvantage.

The answers elicited from the young Glasgow speakers would seem partly to counter this. For a child who uses Southern Standard English and is told that (home) is pronounced /haum/- i.e. that the spelling represents the pronunciation he habitually uses - there are few problems. For a dialect-speaking child who says /hem/ in the family circle but is taught at school that the word is written (home) and pronounced /hom/, hame has no place in formal writing. For children who speak non-standard dialects of England, in most cases their spoken forms of home are closer in vowel quality to the standard, and they therefore have less of a move to make along the continuum. The result is that the spelling system of English probably reflects English non-standard dialects better than it does Scottish dialects.

The subjective judgements given on other national varieties of English were somewhat inconclusive since informants had the option of leaving blanks; but from the responses given, English, Scottish, American, Australian and Canadian were generally seen as easy to understand. The differences came when they were asked if they liked or disliked the various forms, or found them pleasant or unpleasant. Of the above selection, the English accent scored highest for 'disliked' and 'unpleasant': 30% and 18% respectively. There seems to be a general distaste for English English, although it is seen as easy to understand.

Interestingly, of the non-Germanic languages given (Gaelic, Italian and Russian), Gaelic is viewed less than favourably. It compared poorly with Italian for being liked (33% and 23%) and for pleasantness (35% and 15%). If there are any negative feelings held with respect to the status of Scots, then I feel that the poor attitude to Gaelic may be a defensive reaction to what is often claimed to be the original and ideal language of the Scottish nation.

On the section dealing with observation of Scottish nationality by accent, more thought the Duke of Edinburgh to be Scottish (33%) than David Steele M.P. (23%). I think that perhaps the informants are unfamiliar with Prince Philip; but of those who thought he was not Scottish, 43% said that it was because of his accent that they knew. Billy Connolly and the Proclaimers scored highest for recognition as Scottish: 95 % and 88% respectively. For recognition by accent the scores were 53% and 68%. Some informants, however, do not use accent to decide nationality: association with Scotland is also used. For example, Rod Stewart was thought to be Scottish by 48%, although no-one said it was because of his accent that they knew this.

Familiarity with Scottish literature - important, I feel, for the status of Scots - was disappointingly poor. The informants had a far greater knowledge of English literary figures such as Shakespeare (80%), Enid Blyton (63%) and Agatha Christie (45%) than, for example, Hugh MacDiarmid (8%), Tom Leonard or Edwin Morgan (both 10%). The only well-known Scot was Robert Burns (78%), with 94% identifying him as Scottish. Admittedly, one must take account of the younger group, who consistently recognised fewer of the literary figures than did the older group.

3.4 Identification with recorded speakers

The strongest identification was with Speaker 2 (95%), and he also was rated most highly as sounding like people the informants knew. However, while he scored 88% for being easy to understand, the other speakers scored 100%. He also scored highest for 'incorrect' and 'lower class' (although his score for 'middle-class' was the same). Since the informants identified closely with this speaker, their judgements on his speech would seem likely to reflect those on their own. Nonetheless, when asked their feelings on their own speech, 93% expressed themselves happy with it.

Comments on Speaker 2:
'Cool accent.' (Group A)
'I speak that way.' (all groups)
'Too much Scottish.' (Group A)

Comments on Speaker 1:
'Some people might like you better if you spoke polite.' (Group A)
'Too much effort to speak polite all the time.' (Group B)

The last comment again adds weight to the suggestion that code-switching presents some difficulty.

Comments on Speaker 4:
'Too snobby. (Group C)
'I could get a better job when I grow up if I spoke polite. (Group B)

3.5 Reactions to Poetry

To a Mouse by Burns: sadly, more preferred the SSE reading (75%) than the Ayrshire dialect one (25%).

Unrelated Incidents; by Tom Leonard: reactions here were split, but 65% of the girls preferred the SSE version. In these examples, the use of dialect in what may be viewed as a formal situation, seeming to require formal language, is viewed more favourably by males than by females.

Comments on the SSE reader:
'Easier to understand.' (Group B)
'She is talking English.' (Group C)

Comments on the Glasgow dialect reader:
'More Scottish.' (Group B)
'Real Scottish.' (Group B)
'More expression.' (Group A)

3.6 Knowledge and attitudes on Scots items

Examples of words showing Scots/Glasgow dialect features: /hus/, /hosp%Zl/, /hem/, /boZl/, wa2Ar/, I udar/ and /hid/. When asked to label these words (which were set amongst other English words, including non-British English), a high proportion of informants rated them Scots; but, disturbingly, many also rated them slang. /hus/, for example, was rated Scots by 75% and slang by 88%. However, when the informants were asked in more detail about /hus/ and /hem/, the words were found to be commonly used and well-liked. An interesting demonstration of the importance of peer pressure is that the SSE form /b@tl/ as contrasted with the Glasgow dialect /bozl/ would be disapproved of, according to some informants, by their friends.


/hus/: 'My way of speaking.' (Group C)
'I like slang words.' (Group A)
/hem/: 'Not unusual in Glasgow.' (Group C)

Most agreed that there would be some people who would disapprove of the use of these words, especially parents and grandparents.

Interestingly, telly (shortened version of television) scored higher for English than the above set of words, but had high enough scores for both Scots and slang to make it appear that words which can be readily contrasted with a standard alternative are all thrown into the same general bag. Non-standard examples are labelled slang, but some are thought to be Scottish slang (e.g. /hus/ and /hem/) and others indeterminate Scottish or English slang (e.g. telly).

Bampot, bramble, chanty, close, clype, dreich, gallus, pinkie. swither, tenement. (Ang. 'stupid person, blackberry, chamber-pot, front entrance to a tenement building, tell tales, dull and wet (weather), spirited or rough, little finger, be undecided, block of flats,')

Swither. dreich and chanty appeared to be relatively unfamiliar, and scored highly for disapproval. A large proportion of informants rated them as Gaelic: e.g. dreich was so described by 73%. Clype had 40% for Scots and 40% for slang. Pinkie and close were more familiar, but they scored high for Scots and slang although not as high as /hus/ and /hem/. Tenement, which has no English equivalent and therefore no stigma, had no score at all for slang; and similarly bramble scored highest for English with 58%. Gallus, judged as Scots and slang, was generally disliked, perhaps because it is developing pejorative meanings of 'hard' and 'tough'.

'Too slang' (Group A)
'It's horrible.' (Group C)

Interestingly, whisky, a word which came into Scots and English from Gaelic, was thought to be Scots and English, having no score at all for slang. Clan and Hogmanay, however, were perceived as slang by some informants: it would seem that the more peculiar a word is to Scotland, the more it is seen as non-standard and therefore liable to attract a derogatory label.

Sadly, Scots is too often synonymous with 'slang' in the opinions of these school pupils. Words most unfavourably judged appear to be so because of unfamiliarity or pejorative meanings. There is a definite tendency throughout this section for females to rate Scots words as slang more frequently than males. This is consistent with their preference for the SSE speaker in the Scottish poetry readings.

3.7 Sentences exhibiting Scots phonology, morphology and syntax

  1. An urny gaun tae bed. (Glasgow dialect phonology and morphology)
  2. I wear my hair in a side-shed. (Scots lexis: cf. 'parting')
  3. You missed yourself at his party. (Scots idiom)
  4. Can I have that book, please? (Non-standard use of modal verb, c.f. 'may')
  5. She knoaked a boa'le over iz heid. (As I above)
  6. I will put it out. (Non-standard use of modal verb, cf. 'shall')
  7. That's an awful nice watch. (Scots form of the adverb, cf. lawfully')
  8. She has a ghastly sore head. (Scots lexis, cf. 'aching')

Sentences 1 and 5, which were spoken in Glasgow dialect, were considerably stigmatised, with respectively 50% and 60% of informants judging them incorrect. 4 and 7, which were spoken, in SSE and contain non-standard forms which are perhaps less readily detectable, scored respectively 13% and 23% for incorrect.

When asked for alternatives to individual words given, in order to determine knowledge of Scots, the following examples appeared:

  Given word Alternatives
1 midden bin, midgy
2 messan (less well known, but pejorative responses were offered, e.g. 'tramp')
3 splinter skelf
4 lake loch (only one response)
5 church kirk (only one response)

It appears that some Scots words, e.g. messan, are less well-known and perhaps dying out. Dreich and chanty are other words with which these informants were unfamiliar.

4.1 Results of Questionnaire B

When asked what impression the discussions had made on them, 75% said they had found the content surprising and 93% had found it interesting.

'We learned about the Scots background.' (Group C)
'I didn't know about the Scots language.' (Group C)
'Words I thought were slang, weren't., (Group B)
'I found out about my dialect.' (Group C)

Even a brief airing of the subject has positive effect's. Note the encouraging change in their manner of speaking, e.g. 'my dialect'. This can only instil confidence in the vernacular, possibly leading to an enhanced ability in both it and the standard.

The majority felt that the Glasgow dialect was one of the city's good points; but since no-one noted it as being either good or bad in Questionnaire A, I have no way of knowing whether this represents a change in attitude.

There was a healthy increase in those who preferred the dialect speaker's poetry renditions, with 78% now preferring his reading of Unrelated Incidents and a lessened majority preferring the SSE speaker's version of To a Mouse.

The tendency to classify Scots or Glasgow dialect words as 'slang' had markedly decreased. /wa? ^r/ and /hem/, forms of which the historical explanation had been given in the talks, now had no score at all for slang, though they still, as previously, scored high for Scots. It appears that a basic introduction to the facts relating to the Scots language is sufficient to cure the habit of equating all non-standard variables with slang. (In the first questionnaire, it was observable that the older informants had a wider knowledge of Scots words but also a greater tendency to classify them as 'slang'.) Similarly, there was much less agreement in rating, sentences 1 and 5 as incorrect: only 13% and 20% as compared to the previous scores of 50% and 60%.


From the results of Questionnaire A, it appears that even though feelings of national and regional (Scottish and Glasgow) identity are strong, these young people held underlying negative attitudes to their spoken vernacular. These attitudes seem to originate principally with the close family unit. Girls are much more likely than boys to have prejudiced attitudes towards Scots and to incline in their own speech towards the standard; and this phenomenon increases with age. it may be intimately related to self-image and how one appears to others. Females may have more awareness of this through their social conditioning; but as I am not a sociologist I will refrain from too much speculation here.

Feelings of linguistic insecurity were evident throughout the study, e.g. regarding spelling and the tendency to describe words which the informants themselves regularly used as 'slang' . Nonetheless, it seems to me that these feelings are countered by an almost indignant pride: the inconsistency of attitude is shown, e.g. by their claiming to be happy with their own speech yet judging that of the taped dialect speaker, with whom they strongly identified, to be 'incorrect'. The subjective distaste for Southern Standard English and Gaelic is also striking: it may be defensive, since those are the two languages with which Scots dialects are constantly being compared, the former as a model and the latter as a nationalistic ideal for the language of Scotland.

I feel it to be significant that the informants have a very poor knowledge of Scottish literary figures and their work (whether in Scots or English). in my opinion, a vital factor in cultivating a healthy attitude towards a language within the language community is that it must be perceived as having enough status to be an acceptable medium for creative art. Scots literature must be a contributory factor towards the survival of the Scots language. In addition, if schools took a little time to highlight the history, status and use of Scots, the effects could only be beneficial. Perhaps the result would be a greater confidence in the use both of the vernacular and of English.

I am, however, very happy with the- results of the short discussion periods. After the removal of some of the myths about their language, the informants changed their attitudes to the words which they used regularly but had felt to be 'incorrect' in comparison to the standard forms. Instead they now described those words as 'my dialect' or 'the Scots language'. The abolition of that quintessentially negative term 'slang', which taints attitudes towards any speech form to which it is applied or misapplied, might contribute to the saving of Lowland Scots.


Aitken, A.J. (1981) 'The Good Old Scots Tongue: Does Scots have an identity?' , in Haugen, McClure and Thomson, eds, Minority Languages Today, pp. 73-88 (Edinburgh University Press).

Leith, Dick (1983) A Social History of English. Language and Society Series, Ch. 6 (Routledge and Kegan Paul, GB).

Low, John T. (1975) 'The Scots Language: The Contemporary Situation'; in McClure ed., op. cit., pp. 17-27.

Macafee, Caroline (1983) Glasgow. Varieties of English Around the World, Text Series, Vol.3 (John Benjamins Publishing Co., Amsterdam, Philadelphia).

Macaulay, R.K.S (1975) 'Linguistic Insecurity', in McClure ed. ,op. cit. , pp.35-43

Macaulay, R.K.S. (1977) Language, Social Class and Education: A Glasgow Study. (Edinburgh University Press).

McClure, J.D., ed. (1975) The Scots Language in Education, ASLS Occasional Papers No 3, pp. 17-27. (Waverley Press, Aberdeen).

Munro, Michael (1985) The Patter: A Guide to Current Glasgow Usage. (Glasgow District Libraries).

Reid, Euan (1974) 'Social and Stylistic variation in the speech of children: some evidence from Edinburgh', in Sociolinguistic Patterns in British English, pp. 158-73, ed Peter Trudgill (Edward Arnold)

Robinson, Mairi, ed.-in-chief, (1985) The Concise Scots Dictionary (Aberdeen University Press).

Romaine, Suzanne (1975) 'Linguistic Variability in the speech of some Edinburgh schoolchildren'. M.Litt. thesis, University of Edinburgh.

Romaine, Suzanne (1978) 'Post-vocalic /r/ in Scottish English: sound in progress?' in Sociolingustic Patterns in British English, pp. 144-58, ed, Peter Trudgill (Edward Arnold).

Romaine, Suzanne (1980) 'Stylistic variation and evaluative reaction to speech: Problems in the investigation of Linguistic Attitudes in Scotland.' In Language and Speech, Vol. 23, part3, pp. 213-32 (January-March 1980)

Trudgill, Peter (1980) 'Sociolinguistics and Scots Dialects', in ASLS Ocassional papers, No.3, The Scots Language in Education, pp. 28-33 (Waverly Press, Aberdeen).

Trudgill, Peter (1983) On Dialect: Social and Geographical Perspectives, chapters 11 and 12 (Basil Blackwell, Oxford).

Trudgill, Peter (1985) Accent, Dialect and the School. (Edward Arnold).

Poetry Sources

'To a Mouse', Robert Burns, in Poems and Songs of Robert Burns, ed. James Barke (1976) (Collins, Great Britain)

'Unrelated Incidents', Tom Leonard, in Intimate Voices: Selected work 1965-1983 (1988) (Galloping Dog Press, Newcastle uopn Tyne).