History of Leith, Edinburgh

December 18, 2004

THE SCOTS TONGUE

The Scots language, the speech of Lowland Scotland which became distinct from Northern English in the 15th century, was the official language of the kingdom of Scotland until the Parliamentary Union of 1707.

It conquered Latin as the language of official written record (with a few exceptions) in the 15tn century and by the 16th century has reached its full status as a national speech, spoken by all classes. Tudor English, in England, and older Scots, in Scotland, were distinct but closely related – rather like the Scandinavian languages of today. From the 17th century onwards, however, Scots began to be subjected to the influence of Southern English, not least through the constant use in churches of the English translation of the Geneva Bible

Written records and personal papers, as much as literary sources, have preserved the Scots tongue of earlier centuries: the expressive vocabulary and idioms which survive today in a number of Scots dialects. Non-literary sources range from the formal records of government and the law courts, through those of local institutions such as the burghs, churches and barony courts to the personal letters, accounts and even jottings of ordinary men and women. These have preserved the language of close personal relations as well as that used to record formal public business personal expressions in a letter, the reported speech of witnesses, the technical terms of work and the vocabulary of home, food, clothes and travel. Written records are the nearest we can now come to the everyday speech of our forebears.

Act of James II, 1457, outlawing football and golf.

Proclamation of Queen Mary 1565 announcing her marriage to Darnley and conferring on him the title ok “King of Scots”.

A letter of 1587 from the young Earl of Lennox to his father A letter of 1664 to the Earl of Argyll, in which James Dalrymple describes the sights of Paris

source-National Archives of Scotland

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