Scots Syntax Atlas
19th December 2019
On 17 December the new Scots Syntax Atlas was launched by a research team based largely in the universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow and headed by Professor Jennifer Smith. The word syntax – originally from the Greek suntaxis (‘arrange’) – basically means how the parts of a sentence are arranged or put together. How the order of words in a sentence is arranged differs from region to region, community to community, and is also affected by age and social outlook.
Between 2015 and 2018 the research team carried out an ambitious survey of over 500 speakers in 146 locations across Scotland, targeting the age groups 18-25 and 65 plus, and asked people how they might phrase things in their daily speech. Speakers had to be born and largely raised in the area, having spent most of their life there, with both parents also from the same place, and the respondent had to be someone who had not attended higher education. These conditions were required to ensure that speakers were as fluent in the typical speech of the given area as possible. Altogether 275 hours of recorded speech and over three million words were collected by undergraduate fieldworkers mostly recruited from the universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Though the new site describes its material as coming from the ‘dialects of Scots’ and ‘different varieties of Scots’ it is much more complex as it also contains material from Scottish Standard English (English spoken in a Scottish accent with occasional features drawn from Scots) or what scholars call relexified English, that is, a sentence in English with some words or forms changed to Scots. In fact, the site records Scots dialects, Scottish English, and Scots-English mixtures as found throughout the country.
Who is the site aimed at? Basically, anyone with an interest, though doubtless linguistic scholars will be first and foremost given that this is such a rich, fresh source of research materials. The research team hopes that the Syntax Atlas will become a handy online tool for teaching and for community-based events.
In order to access the Syntax Atlas please visit https://scotssyntaxatlas.ac.uk/ where there are instructions on how to use the material or take a video tour.