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Scots Orthography

Written Scots

The way Scots is written has changed and varied since the emergence of Scots as a national language during the period leading up to the fifteenth century.

Modern Scots has no officially sanctioned authority which prescribes the ‘right’ way to spell Scots. Nevertheless, Modern Scots does have an extensive written canon. That modern tradition, vibrantly expressed during the 18th and 19th centuries, employed prestigious literary conventions that represented no dialect in particular and were used by writers who spoke various dialects. The pronunciation of the written word being interpreted by the reader according to their own dialect.

Scots Dictionaries usually record a range of spellings in common use. This results in writers using a mixture of spellings reflecting historical, regional, accidental and idiosyncratic variants.

Since the Scots Revival of the early twentieth century various attempts have been made by Scots writers to harmonise their orthography. The first of these was the Scots Style Sheet of 1947. The Scots Language Society's (SLS) Lallans Magazine founded in 1973 publishes both poetry and prose in Scots and has through the years contributed to, and to a certain extent led the debate on the development of Scots orthography, by frequently publishing articles on both orthography and grammar.

In 1977 the Association for Scottish Literary and Linguistic Studies and The Scots Language Society jointly sponsored the short lived Scots Language Planning Committee to look into the possibility of a standard orthography for modern Scots.

In 1985 a number of Scots writers met at the School of Scottish Studies in Edinburgh and using their consensus as a basis, the Scots Language Society published their Recommendations For Writers In Scots in Lallans 24. The SLS also published an extensive list of recommended spellings in Lallans No's. 39-43.

The Concise English-Scots Dictionary (1993) and the Scots School Dictionary (1996), both published by the Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. (SLD Ltd.) in also included recommendations for a (more) standardised spelling. On the whole the SLD Ltd. (SNDA) agreed with the recommendations published by the SLS. Their main objection was to spellings based on historic rules of Scots orthography. The SNDA's objective is to encourage the use of Scots more widely in the community, subsequently the SNDA contended that historical spellings were often unfamiliar to modern readers and they would make the language seem more difficult.

On November the 10th 1996 The SLS and Scots Language Resource Centre (SLRC) hosted a public meeting at the A.K. Bell library in Perth, with the aim of setting up a standing body to look into, and develop a 'standard' Scots orthography. Although fraught with difficulty this endeavor was taken up and the Scots Spelling Committee duly established.

Orthography

The spellings used here are based on frequently used prestigious literary conventions of non-regional traditional Scots that was written through 18th and 19th centuries into the first half of the twentieth before widespread knowledge of that tradition began to wane. For details the spelling conventions, historic practice and etymology see Aw Ae Wey(1.43 MB).

Those diaphonemic (or polyphonemic) spellings and conventions used can can usually be found in the Concise Scots Dictionary and can to the most part, be read and pronounced in any Scots dialect. In this diaphonemic system the same spelling can represent various dialect pronunciations. In addition, position, environment and overt markers enable the same letter or cluster of letters to perform several distinct functions. Several letters or letter clusters may also represent the same sound.

The spellings of inflections and some compounds may be morphemic, representing meaning rather than an exact sound. The assumption being that the reader knows the phonemic alterations that accompany the formation of derivatives and inflections. This may be a hindrance to learning Scots pronunciation from the spellings, but Scots spelling is geared for the convenience of native speakers, not for the learner.

The Alphabet

The Scots alphabet now consists of the same letters as the Standard English alphabet, but in older and middle Scots the additional letters <þ> (thorn) equivalent to the modern <th> /ð/ (eth) as in the and <ʒ> (yogh) representing a sound similar to the <gn> /ɲ/ in the French Bretagne and <y> /j/ as in the modern word year. These are of course now obsolete. (Still occurs as <z > in many words and is pronounced /j/ as in capercailzie and /ŋj/ or /ŋ/ as in senzie and Menzies.)

The Scots letters originally had Scots pronunciations, the education system has unfortunately all but eradicated the Scots pronunciations. The Scots pronunciations were/are:

A aw [a, ɑ:]
N enn [ɛn]
B bay [be:]
O oa [o:]
C say [se:]
P pay [pe:]
D day [de:]
Q quee [kwi:]
E ay [e:]
R err [ɛr]
F eff [ɛf]
S ess [ɛs]
G gay [ge:, ʤe:]
T tay [te:]
H aitch, itch [eʧ, ɪʧ]
U ou [(w)u:]
I ey, ee [əi, i:]
Vv owe [vʌu]
J jye [ʤəi]
W dooble-ou, oulou ['dubl'u:, 'ulu:]
K kye, kay [kaɪ, ke:]
X ex [ɛks, eks]
L ell [ɛl]
Y wye [wəi]
M em [ɛm]
Z (i)zed [(ɪ)'dzɛd, ɪ'dzɪd, ɪ'dzɪt]

Connected Speech

Words are of course written as separate units but in everyday speech there is a difference in the pronunciation of words in isolation and in connected speech. The changes are usually regular an predictable.
This usually involves:

Deletion - or the loss of sounds similar to the silent letters explained above.
Assimilation- where a sound changes to become like a neighbouring sound.
Reduction - here vowels are reduced to /ɪ/ or /ə/.

This occurs in Scots much the same as it does in Standard English.

Syntax and Morphology

The grammatical structure of Scots sentences can usually be extrapolated from the examples given in each section. Where necessary further explanation is included. The changes in word form due to tense etc. are explained in the appropriate sections.

Little effort is made to explain the differences between Scots and Standard English. These should be apparent from the examples given.

Punctuation and Use of Capital letters

Standard English usage is followed.

Other aspects of spelling, especially irregular changes due to inflexions and tense changes, are dealt with in the appropriate sections.

Some spellings of course don't always adhere to the 'rules' explained here. Those are considered 'established spellings' because dictionaries usually have only one entry for the word in question.

Scots Vocabulary

When discussing Scots words are often divided into three groups:

1. Shared vocabulary consists of words which are both common to Standard English and Scots (and other languages as well), often spelled the same in both languages. Many people mistakenly refer to these words as 'English Words'—this is the result of an anglocentric view of the world. The German language uses all, Arm, Dame, Finger, Hand and Land these words are common to both Standard English and German.

2. Close cognates are words which are common to Standard English and Scots (and other languages as well), but which are pronounced (and spelled) differently in Scots i.e. aw, airm, and haund etc.

3. Words particular to Scots. Many people refer to these as 'Scots words', an by implication assume the words in the previous groups are somehow not 'Scots words'. This is based on the false assumption that anything that occurs in Standard English can't be Scots. The fact is that all the words in these groups are Scots words whether they occur in other languages or not.

The Spelling Conventions

Some words which only have a slightly different pronunciation in Scots than in Scottish Standard English, usually the vowel sound, generally have same the spelling. Do not assume that because a word is spelled the same as in Standard English it is pronounced as such.

Some words are spelled the same as in Standard English but have a different pronunciation in Scots e.g. /a/ in aunt(ie), swap, want and wash etc., /ʌ/ in bull, full v. and pull etc., /ɪ/ in bind, find and wind v. etc. (Note in those words the final <d> is often silent.)

Mither Tongue KeithKeith, Moray

Words that sound the same in Scots as in Scottish Standard English usually retain the same spelling e.g. come, door, for, hear, some, the, tongue and young etc., except where a Scots spelling has become established or the words have a different 'stressed' form, e.g. A (I), an (and), ma (my), thare and thaim etc.

In some words the spellings may differ slightly in order to accommodate the Scots pronunciation, e.g. lenth and strenth etc.

Carseburn Road, ForfarForfar, Angus

Short vowels are usually written with:

1. A final consonant or consonants i.e. buff, bak, ban, lib, licht, seck, tint, wat and wid etc.

2. Two consonants followed by <e> i.e. birse, carse, dulse, ense, girse, grilse, mense, merse and winze etc.

The spelling <a> for the vowel /a/ in words like aff, at, back, bak, bap, lat, rax, tak, tap, wad, wash and watch etc.

The spelling <e> for the vowel /ɛ/ in words like ken, gled, ferm and yett etc.

A final lexical <e> is used to prevent verb homographs of plural nouns like brouse - brous, please - pleas and tease - teas etc.

Whistlebinkies EdinburghEdinburgh

The spelling <i> for the vowel /ɪ/ in words like bird, brig, find, kist, shilpit, whisper, will, wir, wird, wirm, wirthy and wittins etc. The pronunciation /ɪ̞/ (/æ̈/) also occurs in Antrim and /ɛ̈/ in some Northern dialects and Donegal. The pronunciation /ʌ/ may also occur, especially after <w> and <wh>. Some writers spell that <u>.

The spelling <u> for the vowel /ʌ/ in words like dubs, bull, drumly, hunder and pull etc.

Schwa /ə/ may be represented by <a, e, i, o> or <u> in unstressed positions i.e. aboot, the, oxter, loanin, bannock and smeddum.

Threestanes StrathavenStrathaven, South Lanarkshire

Long vowels are usually written with:

1. A single letter in the absence of a following consonant i.e. <e> in be and we /wi(:)/, also /we(:)/, <i> in wi /wi(:)/ also /wɪ/ and /wə/. The <y> in by is often pronounced /bɪ/, /bi/ and /be/ (especially in the West and Ulster) also occurs. <o> in jo and no is usually pronounced /o(:)/.

2. A single consonant followed by <e> i.e. bane, fere, bode and hure etc.

3. Two letters <au, aw, ae, ai, ay, ea, ee, ei, ie, oa, oo, ou> i.e. faw, glaur, snaw, brae, bairn, day, fear, weet, dreich, bield, gloam, hoose and broun etc., and very rarely <aa> in, for example, haar.

Cauldcots AngusArbroath, Angus

The spelling <au> for the vowel, variously /ɑ:/, /ɔ:/ and /a(:)/, is usually used initially and medially, giving: auld, cauld, caunle, draucht, haund, laund, saund and wauken etc.
The cluster <auld> is often pronounced /ʌul(d)/ in Ulster.
Note laund has an unstressed vowel in compounds and is spelled land e.g. hieland and Scotland etc.


Hareshaw North LanarkshireNorth Lanarkshire

The spelling <aw> is usually used finally for that vowel, giving: braw, draw, gnaw, law, maw, saw, and claw etc.
A few exceptions exist e.g. bawbie and bawsant.

The spelling <aw> is usually used for that vowel where Standard English cognates have <all>, giving: aw, awbody, baw, caw and haw etc.
Some writers use <aa> instead of <au> and <aw>, particularly when writing Northern and Insular Scots.

The Twa Tams PerthPerth, Perth and Kinross

The spelling <a> is usually used finally for that vowel in words like awa, twa and wha etc. In the south east that vowel may be pronounced /e/ in those words.

Stane_Brae, StewartonStewarton, East Ayrshire

The spelling <a(consonant)e> usually used initially and medially for the vowel /e/ in words like ane, ance, bane, face, gate, hale, hame, lame, nane, Pace and stane etc.
In some northern dialects the cluster <ane> is pronounced /in/.

The spelling <ae> is usually used finally for that vowel, rarely medially, giving: ae, brae, frae, sae and strae, and faem and claes etc.

Braidland, AyrshireEast Ayrshire

The spelling <ai> is used initially and medially for the vowel /e(:)/, often /ɛ/, especially before /r/, giving: aiple, airm, bairn, braith, cairt, dairn, hain, jaiket, pairt, sair, shairp, stairt and wairm etc.

Gray_Den, AngusLiff, Angus

The spelling <ay> is usually used finally for that vowel, giving: day, gray, lay, pray and say etc.

Threaplands MorayLhanbryde, Moray

The spelling <ea> is used initially and medially in common with many Standard English cognates. Though in Standard English the spelling represents two pronunciations /i(:)/ as in "meat" and /ɛ/ as in "head". In Scots the <ea> is usually pronounced either /i(:)/ or /e(:)/ depending on the lexeme or dialect, in words like beard, beast, creash, ease, east, eat, fear, gear, heap, lead v., meal, meat and read etc. The pronunciation /ɛ/ may occur before /r/ in words like early, earn, hearth, learn and pearl etc.

Stairheid KinghornKinghorn, Fife

Scots also uses the traditional digraph <ei> to represent those pronunciations, especially where Standard English cognates are spelled using <ea> as in Standard English "head", giving: deith, eild, eith, beir, breid, breinge, deid, deif, dreid, eleiven, heid, leid n., meidae, peir, pleisur, seicont, seiven, sweir, teir v. and weir etc.

Some writers may use the spelling <ei> in all of the above.

The spelling <ea> is retained in words pronounced /ɛ/ in Scots and Scottish Standard English e.g. read (past tense). Some writers use <e> for that sound in all words.

The spelling <e(Consonant)e> is usually always pronounced /i(:)/ e.g. here and fere etc.

Watch Weel SelkirkSelkirk, Borders

The spelling <ee> is pronounced /i(:)/ in all Scots dialects, except in Southern Scots where root final it is /əi/, in words like een, freend, freet, neebour, neer, permeesion, see, wee, weel and weet etc.The digraph <ea> occasionally occurs in words like lea, plea and sea.

The spelling <ee> is retained in words pronounced the same in Scots and Scottish Standard English. e.g. creep, feel and seek etc.

The Bield, TraquairTraquair, Borders

The spelling <ie> may also be used for that vowel, usually medially before <v>, <l> and in words shared with Standard English, giving: bield, chief, chield, lief, nieve, scrieve, shield and shielin etc.

The spelling <ie>, always /i(:)/, is also used at the end some other words e.g. gie and hie etc.

Before <ch> (/x/) the spelling is often <ei> for that vowel, giving: dreich, heich, skeich and wheich etc.

The spelling <ei> may occasionaly be used in other words for that vowel, giving: deil, neist and speir etc.

For the above some writers variously use <ee>, <ei> or <ie>.

Maggie's Hoosie, InverallochyInverallochy, Aberdeenshire

The spelling <ie> is traditionally used for diminutives giving: grannie, laddie, lassie, shappie and wifie etc.

The spellings <ie> and <y> are used for forming adjectives, adverbs and some nouns. <ie> tends to be used in particularly Scots words and <y> in words the same or similar to Standard English. <y> is usually used for adverbial endings giving: reekie, pernicketie, sairy, stany, stourie, brawly, bonnily, cannie, cannily, feckly, fully, geyly, likely, specially, sairly, shuirly and uncoly etc.

Cuttyhill, AberdeenshireAberdeenshire

The pronunciation is usually /e/ in Central Scots dialects, but /i/ and /ɪ/ also occur. In Northern dialects, and East Perthshire a variation of /i/ and /ɪ/ occurs, where /i/ occurs when the preceding vowel is /i/ or /əi/, or the preceding consonant is /b, d, ð, g, v, ʒ/ or /z/. Otherwise /ɪ/.
The internal inconsistency caused by unpredictably using <ie> or <y> will be found on this site. Some writers simply use one or the other.

When forming the participle from verbs ending in <ie> the <ie> changes to <y> giving cairyin and couryin etc.

For the sake of orthographic consistency many writes use either <ie> or <y> in all those words.

North Loch Road ForfarForfar, Angus

The spelling <oa> for the vowel /o:/ and <o> for the vowel /ɔ/. In many dialects /ɔ/ has merged with /o/ but some dialects retain the distinction between /o:/ and /ɔ/.
The distinction is usually retained in spelling, giving: boat, coal, foal, hoast, rose, and thole etc., and boss, box, cod, common, dochter, on, loch, nocht, rock and thocht etc. In Mid Northern Scots, after /k/, /wəi/ may occur e.g. coal and coat etc.

The Soothie, MontroseMontrose

The spellings <ou> or <oo> are used for the vowel /u(:)/." In Southern Scots, when final, it is pronounced /ʌu/.

<oo> is used in words like hoose, aboot and soond in order to avoid confusing <ou> with the Standard English pronunciation.

Scotstoun GlasgowGlasgow

The traditional Scots spelling <ou> is used in all other words where confusion with the Standard English pronunciation is unlikely, giving: allou, brou, broun, bouk, cou, coum, cour, dou, doun, dout, fou, hou, nou, poupit, sou, thoum and you etc.

Some writers use either <ou> or <oo> for that vowel in all those words.

The spelling <u(consonant)e> may occasionally be used for that vowel in words where the spelling is established e.g. dule and hure etc.

Guid MornScots inscribed sugar bowl

The spelling <ui> for the vowel, variously (:)/, /ɪ/ or /e(:)/, and /i(:)/, in words like guid, ruif, tuim, spuin, puir, juist and truith etc.

Coal Neuk TranentTranent, East Lothian

The spelling <eu> for the vowel, variously (:)/, /(j)u/ or /(j)ʌ/, in words like beuk, deuk, eneuch, teuch, leuk, teug, teuk, neuk and heuch etc.

Newgate, CulrossCulross, Fife

The spelling <ew> for the vowel /ju/ in words like dew, ewest, few, new, pewter, spew and tew etc. In Mid Northern Scots the pronunciation may be /jʌu/. Other spellings may also occur in a few words like beauty, duty, feu, fuel and peuther etc.

Diphthongs are usually written with two letters <i-e, y-e, ey, oi, oy, ow(e)> and <y(e)> etc.

Syke End TushielawTushielaw, Borders

The spelling <i(consonant)e> for the diphthongs /əi/ and /aɪ/ in words pronounced similarly in Scots and Scottish Standard English e.g. wife, knife, thrice and lice etc. Particularly Scots words are often spelled with the traditional Scots <y(consonant)e> e.g. dyke, fyle, syne and tyne etc.
The traditional spelling <y> is used in words like wynd and also in mynd (mind) and kynd (kind) in order to indicate the Scots pronunciation difference from words like find and bind etc. - rhyme with 'pinn(ed)'.

Some writers use <y(consonant)e> in all words with this diphthong.

Stey Brae, The Ards PeninsulaThe Ards, County Down

The spellings <y>, <ye>, <ey> are used for the word final for those diphthongs in words like aye (always), ay (yes), cley, gey, kye and wey etc.

The spelling <ey> occasionally represents /əi/ initially in words like eydent and eyster etc.

The Howff, CrailCrail, Fife

The spellings <ow> for the diphthong /ʌu/, <owe> finally, in words like growe, growthe, thowe, howff, dowie, fowk, lowp and cowp etc.
Before <k>, that diphthong may be vocalised to /o/ e.g. bowk, fowk and howk etc.

As in Standard English, in disyllabic words where the first syllable is stressed, the consonant following the single vowel in the first syllable is doubled giving blatter, watter, verra, fremmit, biggit, dizzen, donnert and butter etc.

Happit Clothes ShopArbroath, Angus

The following letters are not doubled <h, j, q, v, w, x,> and <y>.

Many verbs that end with a single consonant letter double it in the present and past participles, and past tense, as do some adjectives for the comparative and superlative i.e. drap - drappin - drappit, het - hetter - hettest.

<f, l, s> and <z> are usually doubled after short vowels i.e. baff, nyaff, dwall, mell, bass, bress and bizz etc.

Double consonants are avoided where simple differences to Standard English spelling exist.

aiple
apple
mairy
marry
cairy
carry
mainer
manner
haimer
hammer
maiter
matter
jaiket
jacket

Consonants are not usually doubled after long vowels and diphthongs i.e. ail, kail, gean, neep, heid, loan, heuk, stale and tyne etc.

The internal consonant in the past tense and past perfect of some verbs like sell, tell, spell and coff become single giving selt, telt, spelt and coft etc.

The spelling <ch> for /x/ in words like loch, dreich, brocht and nicht, except initially where it usually represents /ʧ/ in words like chield, cheetie and chowk or where it follows <r> in words like airch. Otherwise <tch> is usually used e.g. catch and pootch etc.

Inch Island, DonegalLough Swilly, County Donegal

The cluster <nch> is always pronounced /nʃ/ giving: brainch, clinch, dunch, hainch, inch, French, painch etc.

The spelling <c> for /s/ is usually used before the letters <e> and <i>. Such words are generally of Romance origin, giving: censor, ceevil, cedent, ceil and mediciner etc.

Cuddies' Wynd, Coupar AngusCoupar Angus, Perth and Kinross

Initial <c> for /k/ is usually used:
Before vowels, spelled <a>, <ai>, <au>, <aw>, <o>, <oa>, <oo>, <ou> and <u>,
before the vowel (a few exceptions) spelled <ui>,
before the diphthong spelled <ow> or <owe>,
before <l> and <r>,
giving caw, caddie, carle, caird, cairt, cleid, creash, cou, cloot, croun, coff, corrupt, cosy, coar, cruldge, cushat, cowp, cowt, cley, cryne, cuist and cuit etc.

The Corn Kist, AbernethyAbernethy, Perth and Kinross

Initial <k> is usually used:
Before the vowels spelled <e> and <ei>, <ee> and <ea> and <i>.
A few exceptions with the vowels spelled <ai> and <ae>, and <ui> exist,
before the diphthong spelled <i(consonant)e> and <y(consonant)e>,
before <n>,
giving keek, keeng, kebbock, Keith, kelter, ken, kirk, kye, kyte, kythe, kail, kaim and knife etc.

The Scaur, Longtown, CumbriaLongtown, Cumbria

Initial <sc> for /sk/ is usually used:
Before the vowels, spelled <a>, <au>, <aw>, <oo>, <ou>, <o>, <oa>, <u> and <ui>,
before the diphthong spelled <ow> and <owe>,
before <l> and <r>,
giving scantlins, sclaff, sclate, scaud, scaur, scaw, sclent, scone, scoor, scowe, scowth, scunner, scrieve and scuip etc.

Skyreburn, Dumfries and GallowayDumfries and Galloway

Initial <sk> is usually used:
Before vowels spelled <ai>, <ae> and <a(consonant)e>,
before the diphthong spelled <i(consonant)e> and <y(consonant)e>,
giving skail, skaith, skelf, skelp, skeel, skirl, skive, skyme and skite etc.

Medial and terminal <ck> is used in words like beck, brickle, feck, muckle and puddock etc.

The terminal <le> is used in words like dreeble, muckle, souple and trauchle. That is changed to <elt> in the past tense and past participle to give soupelt and trauchelt etc. Exceptions such as aiverel, cavel, raivel and traivel also exist.

Kaimend LanarkshireSouth Lanarkshire

In Many dialects the terminal <d> of <nd> and <ld> is usually silent but is often pronounced in the derived forms (especially past tenses) of many words. In order to achieve orthographic consistency such words are spelled with the <nd>, e.g. haund and soond, and haundit and soondit. Entries in dictionaries often include the terminal <d> in brackets, e.g. haun(d), soon(d), sen(d).

In many words the final <d> of a medial <nd> is also silent. Many words no longer have the <d> pronounced at all. Such words are now spelled using a medial <nn> or <n>.
Here spellings like bind, blind, find and wind are considered adequate for representing the vowel /ɪ/. Some writers use spellings like finn(d) in order to show the Scots pronunciation.

Something tae the bairn.Scots inscribed porridge bowl

The initial <th> in thanks, thing, awthing and think is often pronounced /h/.
The final <g> in thing is often silent. It is used in writing because the final <ing> is not the suffix for the gerund or present participle. This word is cognate with German Ding and Scandinavian ting.

Final <the> to indicate the voiced consonant /ð/ in bathe, kythe, laithe and skaithe etc.

The pronunciation /s/ or /z/ for final <s> or contracted and genitive forms with <'s> or <s'>.
The pronunciation /s/ usually occurs after /f/, /k/, /p/, /s/, /t/, /θ/ and /x/ and before an inflexion.
e.g. laifs, wifes, wife's, hooses, lochs and threaps etc.
The pronunciation /z/ usually occurs in plurals ending with <es> and after a vowel sound or /b/, /d/, /g/, /l/, /m/, /n/, /r/, /v/, /ð/ and /ŋ/.
e.g. dous, haunds, ludges, steams, gie's, his, hers and thairs etc.

Final <ss> is usually pronounced /s/ e.g. miss, bliss, bress, uiss and wiss etc.

Final <se> is more complicated and it may be worthwhile consulting a pronunciation dictionary.
Final <se> is usually pronounced /s/ after short vowels /l/, /n/, /p/ and (long vowels before) /r/.
e.g. coorse, grilse, hoose, manse, mense and traipse. etc.
Final <se> is usually pronounced /z/ after long vowels and diphthongs e.g. jalouse, lowse, phrase, please and uise etc.

<z> for /z/ is seldom used in Scots, though it does occur in some words as a substitute for the older <ʒ> (yogh) representing the pronunciations /ŋ/, /ŋj/ and /nj/. <lʒ> became /lj/. This has led to a number of variants using the spellings <z>, <y>, <n> and <ng>.
e.g. brulzie - brulyie, gaberlunzie - gaberlunyie, senzie - senyie, Cockenzie - Cockennie, Mackenzie - Mackennie and Menzies - Mingis etc.

Glottal stops /ʔ/ are not indicated in writing. Many speakers substitute a glottal stop for /t/ and sometimes /k/ and /p/, between two vowels.

Silent Letters

As described above, some letters in Scots words are not pronounced.

Willie Wastle's, AyrAyr, South Ayrshire

The <t> after medial <ch> /x/, in medial <st> and before final <en>.

castle
castle
cuisten
cast (ppt.)
lichtnin
lightning
fochten
fought
listen
listen
frichten
frighten
tichten
tighten
kirsten
christen
saften
soften
warstle
wrestle

The <t> in <ct> and <pt>.
These are often written <ck> and <p> although the <t> is often pronounced in derived forms.

act
act
attempt
attempt
contact
contact
corrupt
corrupt
fact
fact
tempt
tempt

Note the following exceptions:

'cep
except
crap
crept
empie
empty
disjaskit
dejected
perfit
perfect
 
 
Auld Hoose, DunlopDunlop, East Ayrshire

In many words a <d> after <n> and <l> may be silent.

auld
old
sinder
separate
cauld
cold
laund
land (a tenement)
haund
hand
roond
round
hunder
hundred
mynd
remember

Standard English and Scots Cognates

Many Scots and Standard English words are derived by direct descent from the same source. Some insights into the spelling of Scots may be gained by comparing the spelling of Scots words to the spellings of their Standard English cognates. There are of course exceptions to the 'rules' explained here.
These comparisons in no way imply that Standard English is a 'corrupted' form of Scots!

Different Consonants

Timmeryetts BroxburnBroxburn, West Lothian

Scots has no 'b' in the accented or any following syllable, where Standard English has it after <m>.

St. English
Scots
St. English
Scots
amber
lammer
rumble
rummle
chamber
chaumer
shamble
skemmle
cumber
cummer
thimble
thimmle
embers
emmers
timber
timmer
number
nummer
tumble
tummle

Note

December
December
member
member
September
September
November
November

As previously mentioned the final <d> after <n> is usually silent. In many words the historic <d> in medial positions is not pronounced. In such words the spelling <n> or <nn> is used.

candle
caunle
dwinnle
dwindle
thunder
thunner
wunner
wonder

Scots often has no final 'f' where Standard English does.

self
sel
sheriff
shirra
Sillerhole Road LevenLeven, Fife

Scots often has no medial and final 'v' where Standard English does.

calves
caur
have
hae
delve
del
leave
lea'
devil
deil
love
lue
dove
dou
over
ower
even
e'en
serve
ser
give
gie
silver
siller
harvest
hairst
twelve
twal

In some words Scots has no final 'th', where Standard English does.

mouth
mou
(uncouth)
unco
quoth
quo
with
wi

Letter Differences

In some words Scots has <dd> where Standard English has <th>.

smithy
smiddie
stithy
stiddie
withy
widdie
 
 
Kirk Ports North BerwickNorth Berwick, East Lothian

Scots often has <k> or <ck> where Standard English has <ch>. The Scots <k> or <ck> is often claimed to be of Scandinavian origin.

birch
birk
larch
larick
bitch
bick
reach
reak
breeches
breeks
stitch
steek
church
kirk
stretch
streek
itchy
yeukie
thatch
thack

Note: such sic.

Scots often has <scl> where Standard English has <sl>.

slant
sclent
slender
sclender
slate
sclate
slice
sclice

Scots often has <sk> where Standard English has <sh>.

shambles
skemmles
share
skare
shelf
skelf
Lea Rig ForthForth, South Lanarkshire

Scots often has <g> or <gg> where Standard English has <dge>.

bridge
brig
ridge
rig
dredge
dreg
edge on
egg
sedge
seg
 
 

Note the exceptions hedge hedge and sledge sled.

Thornybauk EdinburghEdinburgh

Scots often has <au> where Standard English has <al>.

calf
cauf
malt
maut
calm
caum
palm
paum
chalk
cauk
psalm
psaum
false
fause
salmon
saumon
half
hauf
salt
saut
halse (neck)
hause
scald
scaud

Note stalk, talk and walk.

Smelly Baws Glasgow BarrasThe Barras, Glasgow

Scots usually has <aw> where Standard English has final <all>.

call
caw
hall
haw
all
aw
small
smaw
ball
baw
stall
staw
fall
faw
wall
waw
Whiteknowe DumfrieshireDumfries, Dumfries and Galloway

Scots often has <ow> medially and <owe> finally, where Standard English has <ol(l)>.

boll
bowe
hollow
howe
bolster
bowster
knoll
knowe
bolt
bowt
poll
powe
colt
cowt
roll
rowe
gold
gowd
stolen
stowen
golf
gowf
 
 

Note the exception: soldier sodger.

Stotfaulds AngusWellbank, Angus

Scots often has <aul> where Standard English has <ol>.

bold
bauld
old
auld
cold
cauld
scold
scauld
fold
fauld
told
tauld

Note the exceptions:

hold
haud
solder
souder
soldier
sodger
Bruntland Road, PortlethenPortlethen, Aberdeenshire

In Scots the position of <r> is often switched compared to the preceding or following vowel in Standard English.

burnt
brunt
proverb
provrib
christen
kirsten
rhubarb
rhubrub
grass
girse
turf
truff
curb
crib
wart
wrat
modern
modren
wrestle
warstle
pretend
pertend
 
 

Scots often has a pronunciation variation between /ʃ/ and /s/ in many words of Norman French origin. These words may be spelled using <s>, <c> or <sh>.

officer
offisher
gusset
gushet
cinders
shinders
hoarse
hairsh
sew (clothes)
shew
mince
minsh
vessel
veshel
notice
notish

The <ual> in some words may be pronounced /wəl/.

actual
gradual
annual

In some words of Latin origin, Scots has kept the original pronunciation /i(:)/ where Standard English has /ɪ/ or /aɪ/.

baptise
bapteese
oblige
obleege
civil
ceevil
original
oreeginal
item
eetem
pity
peety
liberal
leeberal
position
poseetion
licence
leeshence
spirit
speerit

Note. system seestem.

Scots often has <-fee> where Standard English has <-fy>.

magnify
magnifee
satisfy
saitisfee
modify
modifee
signify
seegnifee

Scots often has <i> where Standard English has <u>.

nut
nit
summer
simmer
Gressy Loan LerwickLerwick, Shetland

Scots often has <e> where Standard English has <a>.

brass
bress
glad
gled
clasp
clesp
glass
gless
hasp
hesp
fast
fest
Aye The PairtScots inscribed butter dish

Scots often has <ai> where Standard English has <a>. Especially in words with <r> + consonant.

arm
airm
saddle
saidle
bedraggle
bedraigle
sharp
shairp
father
faither
warm
wairm
manner
mainer
yard
yaird
Lang Dykes SelkirkSelkirk, Borders

Scots often has <a> where Standard English has <o>.

appen
open
soft
saft
crop
crap
song
sang
drop
drap
strong
strang
long
lang
throng
thrang
pot
pat
top
tap
sob
sab
 
 
Dirliebane AlythAlyth, Perth and Kinross

Scots often has <a(consonant)e> where Standard English has <o(consonant)e>.

bone
bane
one
ane
home
hame
stone
stane
lone
lane
whole
hale
Eat Mair Fish, BuckieBuckie, Moray

Note the exceptions in <ai>.

cole
kail
sore
sair
rope
raip
stroke
straik
more
mair
 
 

Scots often has <ee> where Standard English has <e>.

well
weel
fret
freet
wet
weet
jelly
jeely

Note the exception red reid.

Scots often has <u> or <i> after <wh> and <w> where Standard English has <e>, <i>, or <o>.

whelk
wulk
word
wird
woman
wumman
wirth
worth
worm
wirm
whurl
whorl

Scots often has <y> where Standard English has <oi>.

anoint
anynt
join
jyne
boil (sore)
byle
point
pynt
boil (water)
byle
spoil
spyle
choice
chyce
voice
vyce

Note.

ile
oil
eyster
oyster
queir
choir
noise
noise
eyntment
ointment
pushion
poison
ryal
royal
evite
avoid
Kelso MottoKelso, Borders

Scots has <ch> /x/ where Standard English has <gh>.
Most dialects of Scots have a German like Ich/Ach rule governing the pronunciation of <ch>. <ch> is pronounced /ç/ following a front vowel, and /x/ following a back vowel. For the sake of simplicity /x/ has been throughout this site.

bought
bocht
might v.
micht
bright
bricht
night
nicht
fight
fecht
rough
roch
fright
fricht
sight
sicht
high
heich
thought
thocht
laugh
lauch
tough
teuch
light
licht
weight
wecht
might n.
maucht

Note the exception, delight comes from Old French deliter. The Standard English spelling arose by analogy with light. The word is not pronounced delicht in Scots and is written (and pronounced) delite.
Burgh retains the <gh> in Scots.

George's Hoose AuchmithieAuchmithie, Angus

Scots often has <oo> where Standard English has <ou>.

about
aboot
out
oot
house
hoose
round
roond
mouse
moose
sound (healthy)
soond
our
oor
sound (noise)
soond

Scots often has <u> where Standard English has <ou>.

found
fund
mount
munt
fountain
funtain
mountain
muntain
ground
grund
mourn
murn

Among the exceptions are:

though
tho
group
group
colour
colour
thought
thocht
country
kintra
through
throu
enough
eneuch
tour
tour
Broun Drive AyrAyr, South Ayrshire

Scots often has <ou> where Standard English has <ow> medially.

brown
broun
gown
goun
cower
cour
powder
pouder
crowd
croud
power
pouer
crown
croun
shower
shour
down
doun
towel
touel
drown
droun
tower
tour
flower
flouer
town
toun
fowl
foul
Craws Nest CarnoustieCarnoustie, Angus

In some words Scots often has final <aw> where Standard English has final <ow>.

blow
blaw
show
shaw
crow
craw
snow
snaw
mow
maw
low
law
row (line)
raw
throw
thraw
Wee Windaes AyrAyr, South Ayrshire

In some words Scots often has final <ae> where Standard English has final <ow>.

arrow
airae
pillow
pillae
barrow
barrae
shadow
shaidae
bellows
bellaes
sorrow
sorrae
borrow
borrae
swallow
swallae
follow
follae
widow
weedae
marrow
marrae
window
windae
meadow
meidae
yellow
yellae
narrow
nairae

Similarly in some words Scots often has final <ae> where Standard English has final <a>.

algebra
algebrae
Canada
Canadae
America
Americae
China
Cheenae
alpha
alphae
omega
omegae
Cousland MidlothianMidlothian

In some words Scots has <ou> where Standard English has final <ow>.

allow
allou
cow
cou
bow
bou
how
hou
brow
brou
now
nou

Exceptions to the above are:

bellow
buller
furrow
furr
below
ablo
minnow
minnin
elbow
elbuck
Muirkirk AyrshireEast Ayrshire

The Old English long <o> /o:/ became /ø/ and /y/ in older Scots, then spelled <ui> and <u(Consonant)e> respectively. Now generally spelled <ui> or <eu> (see below) in Modern Scots and usually <oo> in Standard English. Similarly with Scandinavian and Romance words.
This remains /ø(:)/ and /y(:)/ in peripheral dialects. In parts of Fife, Angus and Ulster /e(:)/ occurs. In northern dialects and parts of Ulster /i(:)/ occurs, where in Mid Northern Scots after /g/ and /k/ it is /wi(:)/. In Central Scots and parts of Ulster it became /ɪ/ when short and /e:/ when long.

blood
bluid
palm
luif
board
buird
pool
puil
brute
bruit
poor
puir
cool
cuil
roose
ruise
done
duin
refuse
refuise
floor
fluir
school
schuil
ford
fuird
spoon
spuin
fruit
fruit
sure
shuir
good
guid
Thursday
Fuirsday
loom
luim
use n.
uiss
moon
muin
use v.
uise
moor
muir
(young coal-fish)
cuithe
Tae Ken Oor Kin.Dundee

In some of the above the Central Scots pronunciation has established itself in the spelling.

ado
adae
do
dae
shoe
shae
to
tae

e.g. do dae, did did, done duin and does daes or dis.

Some words descended from the long <o> now have <i>.

brother
brither
mother
mither
foot
fit
other
ither

Note. wood wid, not descended from long <o>.

The Old English long <o> /o:/ was followed by /k/ or /x/ the sound shifted to <eu> in many Scots dialects. Pronounced /(j)u/ or /(j)ʌ/ depending on dialect.
Similarly with Scandinavian words.

Craigcleuch Dumfries & GallowayDumfries & Galloway
bough
beuch
laughed
leuch
book
beuk
look
leuk
(cliff)
heuch
nook
neuk
(ravine)
cleuch
plough
pleuch
duck (bird)
deuk
(ditch)
sheuch
enough
eneuch
slough
sleuch
hook
heuk
tough
teuch

Note (sparrow) speug, tug teug.

In some words Scots has no final <e> as in Standard English <ure>.

creature
craitur
nature
naitur
lecture
lectur
picture
pictur
mixture
mixtur
venture
ventur

Note secure siccar.

In many words Scots has initial <a> where Standard English has <be>.

because
acause
beneath
aneath
before
afore
beside
aside
behind
ahint
between
atween
below
ablo
beyond
ayont

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