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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

East Central South

This dialect lies between the Firth of Forth and the Borders region, and Scots and its ancestor Anglo-Saxon have been spoken here since the 7th century AD, that is 1,400 years or so. Because the Scottish government became centralised in Edinburgh, it was the Scots of this region which provided a general Scots standard for written records when Scotland was an independent country.

Name

It is known as East Central South to distinguish it from the related dialect further north. Speakers call their dialect either Scotch or Scots, or simply refer to it by the name of the region. So, for example, a person in East Lothian who speaks the dialect could either say they speak Scots, or they speak Lothian Scots.

Characteristics

One of the most distinctive features of the language in this area is the sound in words like whae and twae, where other dialects would use wha and twa. Yin (or yae before vowels) is used instead of ane (or ae before vowels). Like other Central dialects, East Central speakers split the sound in words like mune, dune, fluir, spune, use, abune and puir into two groups according to whether the vowel is long or short, giving min, din, spin, yiss and abin, but flair, yaise and pair.

In southern parts you’ll hear the pronoun ou used where other speakers would use we, in phrases like ‘Ou’ll can dae that the morn’.

Many well-known local words have come into the language from Romany speech: Edinburgh shibboleths like radge and barry, as well as more locally specific words like pannie (river), chorie (steel), lowie (money) and deek (look), all come from the language of the travelling people. Ironically, the word gadge (or its diminutive gadgie) that has come to be just a general term for a man, was originally used by travellers to indicate an outsider, a non-traveller.

 

Region

While Edinburgh has been the home of many of the Scots language’s best-known writers: Allan Ramsay, Robert Fergusson, Walter Scott an Robert Louis Stevenson all lived or worked in the capital; these writers often didn’t emphasise local features when they wrote in Scots. Perhaps because of the historical associations of Edinburgh with the Scottish court, East Central Scots writers have often written in a Scots that links their work to that of the Older Scots Makars, pushing Edinburgh speech to the margins of Scots-language writing. In the twentieth century, the poet Robert Garioch used a general kind o Scots most of the time, despite writing about the city in many of his poems. More recently, however, the novelist Irvine Welsh, who writes in both Scots and English, has catapulted East Central Scots to centre stage, with large parts of his famous novel Trainspotting, set in Edinburgh and in Leith, written in the local dialect.