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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

East Central North

The dialect of this region has long been called either Scots (the traditional name) or Scotch. In the city of Dundee, which is on the edge of this region, the Scots dialect of the city is known specifically as Dundonian. People in Fife sometimes call their speech Fife Scots, and you may also hear the term East Neuk Scots.

This is a large dialect region which covers the western half of Angus, all of Clackmannan, Fife, Kinross, Stirlingshire and Falkirk, and half of Perthshire.

Characteristics

This is a large dialect region which covers the western half of Angus, all of Clackmannan, Fife, Kinross, Stirlingshire and Falkirk, and half of Perthshire. Together these areas form the northern version of East Central Scots because they show an underlying similarity, but you will certainly find variations at more local level. 

To the north of Dundee and in eastern Angus you can find the forms foo, fit, far and fan (how, what, where and when) and been and steen (bone and stone), but in Dundee and western Angus, and in the other parts to the south, in Perth, Stirling and Fife, for instance, these examples become hoo, whit, whaur and whan and bane and stane. 

There are in Angus some points of pronunciation which differ from further south.  Whereas in the south the sound i is usual to words such as muin, spuin and guid, in Angus the same words substitute an oo sound, becoming mune, spune and gude (moon, spoon, good).  Also, in Angus, the word ane (one) is pronounced as it looks while to the south it becomes yin. 

In the city of Dundee there is also a ‘classic’ sound by which native Dundonians may be recognised: eh. Billy Kay, in Scots The Mither Tongue, gives a good example of this sound in the following sentence: ‘Eh hud meh eh on a peh’ (I had my eye on a pie). Within Perth and Kinross, Stirling and Falkirk, the dialect differs somewhat from Dundee in accent and there are regional variations in the use of certain words. 

In Fife, particularly in the East Neuk, there are strong associations between the dialect and words and phrases used by fisher communities, who tend to raise their pitch at the end of sentences. The old mining communities of west Fife also have distinct ways of pronouncing the dialect.

The following excerpt is a newspaper article about young men in the year 1869. It is taken from the Dundee newspaper The People’s Journal, and is an example o the journalist style Scots once written in this region:

Laddies, as a rule, are na sae muckle influenced by the external warld o’ fashion as men, for onything they dae pick up is learned mair through a speerit o’ imitation than ony inherent vanity in themselves. For instance, laddies never think o’ pairtin’ their hair in the middle; it is only when they hae grown up an’ their brains hisna grown wi’ them that sic notions enters their heids; an’, generally speakin’, they tak’ possession o’ a cane, an’ the idea at the same time...Auld fowks, it is said, are lauched at noo-a-days, an’ for nae ither reason than that they are auld an’ grey-heided. This disrespect o’ age, and mair especially o’ parents, is a noticeable feetur o’ the laddie o’ the peeriod...The laddie o’ the peeriod carries a concealed pipe, generally wi’ a cherry tree shank, an’ a wee pickle shag rowed up in a bit paper. You fa’ in wi’ three or four o’ them at close mooths equipped in this fashion. The ae pipe serves the lot, an’ the gemmest speerit o’ the pairty carries it. They smoke till they’re sick a’ roon’, an’ gang hame wi faces like chauk to be treated for a filed stammack by their unsuspectin’ an indulgent parents.

The second example is a sample of text from the book Shriek of the Maws A Tale of Scottish Fisher Folk, by Eileen Montador, and was published in 2003. Montador is a native of St Monans in the East Neuk of Fife:

It’s grand tae hae some time tae yersell, tae jist sit quiet-like an’ winder aboot things, without somebody aye yammerin’ on at ye. If it’s no Eck or the bairns, it’s folk lookin’ fur a crack. Noo, A’ll no hae it said that Ah’m wan o’ them that’s aye tae be speerin’ intae ither folks’ daein’s, bit, weel ye need tae kin whit’s gan on roond aboot the doors. Ye hive tae listen tae them, in case ye miss ocht. Mind, Ah try no tae say ower muckle, ye’ve tae watch, there’s aye some blether’ll be rinnin’ tae pass on onythin’ ye’ve said, aye an’ maybe no passin’ it on like ye meant it. That’s the weiy ye git yersell intae bother, the next thing some auld craw’s at yer door, roarin’ aboot whit ye’ve said aboot her man or her bairns. Aye, an ye’ve tae watch as weel, half them in the toon’s connecit, ye’ll be passin’ jist a wee comment on somebody, maybe ye heard that somebody wis fu’ or whitever, then they’re doon at ye. “Ah’ll hive ye kin, that’s ma ain cizzin ye’re bad-moothin”, then they’ll gan on. “Aye, an’ ye’ve nae room tae spik, yer man hid a few the same day.” Next thing ye kin ye’ve faun oot wi’ that ain, the next ain fauns oot wi’ some ither biddy, an’ afore ye kin it the hale toon’s in a roar. Aye, maybe sometimes ye’d be better no stoppin’ ata’, bit jist pass them by wi’ a quick, “Ah’ll no stop the day, Ah’ve a lot tae be gittin’ on wi’.” Ye kin fine it’ll be ye that’s gittin’ yersell spoken aboot. No that awbody shud hae ony ill tae say aboot me, bit whit they dinnae kin they’ll mak up.

Thumbnail History

This region contains a large number of historic towns. On its northern edge is Dundee, founded in the late 12th century by Earl David, brother of King William The Lion.  In the west is Perth, also founded as a burgh in the 12th century.  

To the east, in Fife, are both Dunfermline and St Andrews, which date back to the 8th and 9th centuries and were important royal centres. Towards the southern edge of the region is Stirling. There has been a fort at Stirling since at least the 7th century when it was a stronghold of the Anglo-Saxon speaking kings of Northumbria, and it was a favourite residence of rulers until the 17th century.  

The small burghs of eastern Fife were very important to the Scottish economy and helped establish strong links between Scotland and her trading neighbours in Flanders, France, Denmark, Norway and the Baltic. 

In Perth and Stirling the two great families were the Drummonds and Murrays while the Hay and Ogilvy families were important in west Angus and the Lindsay and Wemyss families in Fife. 

Traces of the early Scots language appear in charters in this region, beginning in the 12th century, while full texts appear from the 14th century onwards.

Region

Covering the heartland of Scotland, this region includes a whole series of towns.  Within Fife there are Anstruther (Ainster), Cowdenbeath (Coudenbaith), Cupar, Dunfermline (Dumfaurlin), Glenrothes, Kirkcaldy (Kirkcaudie) and St Andrews (Saunt Aundraes), while Perth and Kinross include Auchterarder (Auchterairder), Dunkeld (Dunkell) and Perth. 

Further south, in Stirlingshire region, we find Falkirk (The Fawkirk), and Stirling (Stirlin). Sir James Kay Wilson published two important studies of the form of Scots in this area. The first wasLowland Scotch As Spoken in the Lower Strathearn District of Perthshire(London, 1915) and the second was The Dialects of Central Scotland (Oxford, 1926) which included Fife. 

There are a number of poets, singers and writers in the dialect including Willie HershawMary KermackAndrew McNeil andWilliam SoutarWilliam L Lorimer, who translated the New Testament in Scots, also came from this dialect region. The biggest town within this dialect is the city of Dundee which has its own city dialect of Scots known by its speakers as Dundonian. Writers, poets and singers in Dundonian include Ellie McDonaldGary RobertsonMark Thomson, and Sheena Wellington.