View site in Scots
Flickr YouTube

Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

South Central Scots

SUB DIALECT OF CENTRAL SCOTS:

SOUTH CENTRAL

Name

Scots has been spoken here since the Middle Ages. The dialect is known as South Central Scots, because it is closely related to the other dialects of Central area. Its speakers usually call it Scots or Scotch, though in Galloway people might also say they speak Gallowa.

Characteristics

The dialect of this region shows influence coming in from further north, from West Central, and, in Wigtonshire, there has been some influence from Irish migrants, principally around Stranraer and Wigtown.  In Nithsdale people traditionally said blaa and craa instead of blaw and craw (blow and crow) and through most of the region dialect speakers use pronunciations such as gyid, min, shin (good, moon, shoes). It is common to hear certain things in the dialect contracted in speech. For example, in the, on the, and at the become i’e’, o’e’, etc, as for example i’e’ toun or i’e’ mornin (in the town and in the morning).

The anonymous author of Gallawa Gossip (1901), who began writing in the 1870’s, was a native of the region, and described aspects of the culture in Scots. In the first the author speaks about names:

Forbye thae, there’s lots o’ ither names gaun, joost like whut ye’ll fin a’ ower Scotlan; some o’ them importit, but far mae o’ them substitutes for native yins; lots o’ English yins too, an nae en’ o’ Eerish yins, only the Eeerish is ey tryin to cheinge theirs intae Scotch yins, or English anes. Than there’s lots o’ names yt’s native yins, an haes neither “Mac” nor “A” at them; an some o’ the names yt wus commonest at yae time’s harly kent noo – aither exportit or improve’t oot o’ existence, like the Gallawa Pownies an the Mug Sheep.

The same author gives a comparison between what he calls ‘Scotch-Eerish’ grammar and actual Scots grammar by providing a short passage in two versions, as follows:

Scotch-Eerish Grammar.

They was sayin, that if Aw hadn’t went oot, Aw wudnae see’d whoe gien him the whiskey, an Aw wudnae hae knew he was drunk. “They thocht they waz better as me, but Aw seen whoe best put-on.” “If Aw had spoke tae the anew hoe gien him’t, he wad hear’d whoe din’t, but if he had did it when Aw was there, Aw wad told him that we was better as him.”

Translatit inta Scotch, that wud be in

Scotch Grammar

They wur sayin, yt if A hadna gane oot, A wudna ‘a’ seen wha gied him the whiskey, an A wudna ‘a’ kent he wus drunk. “They thocht they wur better nor me, but A saw wha wus best put-on.” “If A had spokken tae the yin yt gied him’t, he wud ‘a’ heard wha did it, but if he had dune’t whun A wus there, A wud ‘a’ tell’t him yt we wur better nor him.”

Thumbnail History

Much of this region comprised the powerful lordship of Galloway in the Middle Ages. Both the Gaelic and Scots tongues were spoken here, with Gaelic last certainly recorded in the 1560’s (in Carrick), while society was organised around clans and kin groups. The Kennedy family were important until modern times. In the 16th and 17th centuries the Maxwell and Johnstone families were dominant in the west. In Gallawa Gossip the author was quite critical of apparent changes in the dialect. He claimed that the dialect of the south west was “nae wey different frae whut they speak a’ ower Scotland, a’ but Aiberdeenshire…”, but continued “Thae Ayrshiremen’s bringan doon their horrid Ayrshire-Eerish wi them – Glesca-Eerish some folk ca’s’t; an they’r bringan baith Ayrshires an Eerish tae speak it, an it’ll no be lang till there’s naething else in Gallowa.” It was reckoned that the border between traditional speech and this so-called ‘Glesca-Eerish’ was the River Cree.  One person, named Willie Scott, published a small word book about the speech of Mid-Nithsdale in 1925. 

Region

The dialect covers Nithsdale, South Ayrshire (from the town of Ayr southwards), Stewartry and Wigtown, It is bounded to the east by the town of Dumfries and includes within it Castle Douglas (Carlinwark), Crossmichael (Crossmickle), Dalbeattie (Dabaittie), Dalmellington (Damelintoun), Girvan, Kircudbright (Kirkcoubrie), New Galloway (New Gallowa), Newton Stewart and Stranraer (Stranrawer).  Since the Middle Ages the region has been famed for cattle rearing and cheese making. The most famous of the poets in Scots – Robert Burns – was born and bred in this dialect region. His family home at Alloway (Allowa) is now a museum. Other native writers include William McDowall and the late William Neill.