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"Lufe God abufe al and yi nychtbour as yi self"

(Love God above all and your neighbour as yourself). 


This example of Early Scots is on John Knox House, Edinburgh


Scottish Gaelic…

A member of the Goidelic branch of Celtic languages that also include the Irish and Manx languages. It is distinct from the Brythonic branch of the Celtic languages, which includes Welsh, Cornish, and Breton.  Scottish, Manx and Irish Gaelic are all descended from Old Irish.  Scottish Gaelic is the traditional language of the Scotti or Gaels, and became the historical language of the majority of Scotland after it replaced Cumbric, Pictish and Norse.  It is not clear how long Gaelic has been spoken in Scotland. However, the consolidation of the kingdom of Dál Riata around the 4th century, linking the ancient province of Ulster and western Scotland, accelerated the expansion of Gaelic, as did the success of the Gaelic-speaking Christian church establishment. The Gaelic language eventually displaced Pictish north of the Forth, and until the late 15th century it was known in English as Scottis.  Gaelic began to decline in mainland Scotland by the beginning of the 13th century, and with this went a decline in its status as a national language.

By the early 16th century, English speakers called the Gaelic language Erse (meaning Irish).  Thereafter it was usually the collection of Middle English dialects spoken within the Kingdom of the Scots that they referred to as Scottis. Nevertheless, Gaelic has never been displaced a national language, and is still recognised by many Scots, whether or not they speak Gaelic, as being a crucial part of the nation's culture.

Gaelic has a rich oral and written tradition, having been the language of the bardic culture of the Highland clans for several centuries. The language preserved knowledge of and adherence to pre-feudal laws and customs. It suffered as Highlanders and their traditions were persecuted after the Battle of Culloden in 1746, and during the Highland Clearances.  But pre-feudal attitudes were still evident in the complaints and claims of the Highland Land League of the late 19th century.


Lowland Scots…

Refers to the Anglic varieties spoken in parts of Scotland - sometimes called Lowland Scots.  Scots is also spoken in parts of Northern Ireland, where it is known in as Ulster Scots or Ullans.  Scots has, on the one hand, been traditionally regarded as one of the ancient dialects of English, but with its own ancient and distinct dialects. It differs significantly from the Standard Scottish English taught in schools. On the other hand, it has been regarded as a distinct Germanic language, the way Swedish is distinct from Danish. Its subordination to Anglo-English has also been compared to the subordination of Frisian to Dutch in the Netherlands. Native speakers of Scots usually refer to it as Broad Scots.

Northumbrian Old English was established in southeastern Scotland as far as the River Forth by the 7th century. It was largely confined to this area until the 13th century, continuing in common use while Gaelic was the court language. Early northern Middle English, also known as Early Scots, then spread further into Scotland via the burghs, first established by King David I.  The growth in prestige of Early Scots in the 14th century, with the decline of French, made Scots the prestige language of most of eastern Scotland.

Scots shared many Northumbrian borrowings from Old Norse and Norman French. Later influences include Dutch and Middle Low German through trade with and immigration, as well as Romance via ecclesiastical and legal Latin, and French from the Auld Alliance. Scots also has loan words from contact with Gaelic where early medieval legal documents show a language peppered with Gaelic legal and administrative loans. Today Gaelic loans are mainly for geographical and cultural features, such as ceilidh, loch and clan. Many Scots words have become part of English: flit, greed, eerie, cuddle, clan.

Before the Treaty of Union in 1707 there is ample evidence that Scots was widely held to be an independent language. Today, in Scotland, most people's speech is somewhere on a continuum ranging from broad Scots to Scottish Standard English. Many speakers are able to switch along the continuum depending on the situation in which they find themselves. Where on this continuum English-influenced Scots becomes Scots-influenced English is difficult to determine. The British government now accepts Scots as a regional language and has recognised it as such under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages

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