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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

West Central

Studies of modern Scots speakers and writers from Burns Country suggest that this variety of Scots combines tradition and innovation. The Scottish National Dictionary supplements include some well established Scots terms alongside variations on old themes. For example coggle 'rock' has been around since the early 19th century, and survives in expressions such as He's cogglet ower aff the seat. By contrast the verb crunckle 'rustle or crackle' has been turned into a noun that refers to small pieces of coal that crackle when on the grate, as in a "shivelfu' o' crunklies" was waiting to join the cheery blaze, from the Irvine Valley News of September 1950. The familiar verb greet 'weep' has not only been turned into a noun, as in a wee greet, but also an adjective, greety.

Macaulay's exploration of Ayrshire speech in the 1970s and 1980s suggests that, amongst workers at least, there had been little change in pronunciation since the 1920s. If you keep your ears open you will hear pronunciations like aboot, hame, baith, aw, smaw, nicht and bricht, though some of these features are now characteristic of older speakers (e.g. the ch in nicht, bricht).

There is also tradition and innovation in grammar. Part of the old system of demonstratives survives, in expressions like thae men, yon/thon women, and working-class speakers retain the Scots negatives -nae and no, as in ye cannae come, ye'll no go? A notable innovation, probably introduced from Ireland, is the second person plural pronoun, youse, which has spread elsewhere in Scotland.

The Scots spoken in Glasgow is distinctive in a number of ways. Since cities are the meeting-grounds for people of different backgrounds, they provide many opportunities for language contact. Studies are also beginning to show the impact of the media on young people's speech. Cities are therefore the engines of language change. The expression, ken, still used widely in Ayrshire and elsewhere in Scotland in order to check comprehension, is seldom used in the city. Glasgow slang or 'patter' is however a source of colourful coinages, such as the buroo 'the Department of Health and Social Security' ie 'the Bureau', and the baw's on the slates, 'the situation is hopeless'.



Scots has been spoken in this region since the Middle Ages. The dialect covers a large area and is known as West Central Scots, though speakers usually call their dialect Scotch or Scots. Within Glasgow a distinct city dialect is also spoken and sometimes called The Patter. The West Central dialect includes Dunbartonshire, the city of Glasgow, Lanarkshire, North Ayrshire (as far south as the town of Ayr), Renfrewshire, and also speakers in Arran, Bute and Kintyre. Towns included within the dialect are Campbeltown (Cammletoun), Cumbernauld (Cummernaud), Dumbarton, Glasgow (Glesca), Greenock, Hamilton, Kilmarnock (Kilmaurnock), Largs (Lairgs), Motherwell, Paisley, Rothesay (Rossay) and Wishaw (Wishae). Generally speaking, north Ayrshire and Lanarkshire tend to be more traditional spoken than the region around Glasgow which has seen more change and innovation. This region of Scotland, more than any other, saw great changes brought by industrialisation, and significant influence on the dialect from Highland and Irish migrants. In Ayr and Lanark people use traditional Scots words such as awa, braw, nicht, muckle (away, fine, night, great/much) and, generally, people in this dialect use forms such as abin, gid, shae, pair and yin (above, good, shoe, poor and one).  In the Glasgow region people say sentences such as Gaunae no dae it rather than Dinnae dae it heard in other parts of the dialect. Also, it is common for people to cut words down such as gae up or gae oot (go up and go out) to gup and goot or watter and butter to waer and buer (water and butter).  The Glasgow region is also noted for introducing new words to Scots such as The Buroo (unemployment office) or mentions (graffiti). Throughout the whole region people say wean (child) rather than bairn. West Central has produced a large number of poets, singers and writers in both rural and urban Scots down through the centuries. Among the more recent are included Billy Kay, James Kelman, Tom Leonard, Liz Lochhead, Edwin Morgan, Liz Niven, Jamie Stuart, and Rab Wilson.