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Scots, which is sometimes incorrectly called Scottish English,[4] is a West Germanic language, very similar to English, that is spoken in Scotland.[5][6] A spin-off, Ulster Scots can be found in the north of Ireland. It is quite different from the Scottish Gaelic language, which is a Celtic language.

[(Braid) Scots, Lallans] error: {{lang}}: text has italic markup (help)
Native toUnited Kingdom, Republic of Ireland
RegionScotland: Scottish Lowlands, Northern Isles, Caithness, Arran and Campbeltown
Ulster: Counties Down, Antrim, derry and Donegal
Native speakers
100,000 (1999)[1]
1.5 million L2 speakers[1]
Total: 17%[2] to 85%[3] of the Scottish population speak it to some degree
Early forms
Official status
Official language in
— Classified as a "traditional language" by the Scottish Government.
— Classified as a "regional or minority language" under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, ratified by the United Kingdom in 2001.
— Classified as a "traditional language" by Tha Noarth/Sooth Boord o Leid
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3

There have been disagreements about the linguistic, historical and social status of Scots. Focused broad Scots is at one end of a scale, with Scottish Standard English at the other.[7][8] Scots is generally regarded as one of the ancient varieties of English, yet it has its own distinct variations.[7]


The growth and distribution of Scots in Scotland and Ulster:      Old English by the beginning of the 9th century in the northern portion of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria, now part of Scotland      Early Scots by the beginning of the 15th century      Modern Scots by the mid 20th century

Northumbrian Old English was established in what is now southeastern Scotland as far as the River Forth by the seventh century. The region was part of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria.[9] Early Scots began to diverge from Northumbrian English in the twelfth and thirteenth century. There was immigration of Scandinavian-influenced Middle English-speakers from the North and Midlands of England.[10]

Later influences on the development of Scots were from Romance languages via ecclesiastical and legal Latin, Norman[11] and later Parisian French from the Auld Alliance and Dutch and Middle Low German influences by trade and immigration from the Low Countries.[12] Scots also includes loanwords from contact with Gaelic.

From the 13th century, Early Scots spread further into Scotland through the burghs established by King David I. The growth in prestige of Early Scots in the 14th century and the decline of French in Scotland made Scots the prestige dialect in most of eastern Scotland.[13]

From 1610 to the 1690s, during the Plantation of Ulster, many Scots-speaking Lowlanders, about 200,000, settled there.[14] In the core areas of Scots settlement, there were five or six times as many Scots as Englsih settlers.[15] Southern Modern English was adopted as the literary language after 1700, and "Modern Scots" is sometimes used to describe the spoken language after 1700.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Scots at Ethnologue (16th ed., 2009) (The figure of 200,000 is an error, from the total being listed in two countries.)
  2. [Iain Máté] (1996) Scots Language. A report on the Scots language research carried out by the General Register Office for Scotland in 1996, Edinburgh: General Register Office (Scotland).
  3. The Scottish Government. "Public attitudes towards the Scots language". Retrieved 3 January 2010.
  4. Less often Lowland Scots or Lallans
  5. Grant, William 1931. Scottish National Dictionary
  6. Gregg R.J. 1972. The Scotch-Irish dialect boundaries in Ulster. In Wakelin M.F. Patterns in the folk speech of the British Isles. London.
  7. 7.0 7.1 A.J. Aitken 1992. In The Oxford Companion to the English Language. Oxford University Press, p894
  8. Stuart-Smith J. 2008. Scottish English: phonology in Varieties of English: the British Isles. Kortman & Upton (eds), Mouton de Gruyter, New York. p47
  9. A History of Scots to 1700, Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (DOST) Vol. 12 p. xxxvi
  10. A History of Scots to 1700, DOST Vol. 12 p. xliii
  11. A History of Scots to 1700, pp. lxiii-lxv
  12. A History of Scots to 1700, pp. lxiii
  13. "A Brief History of Scots" in Corbett, John; McClure, Derrick; Stuart-Smith, Jane (eds) 2003. The Edinburgh Companion to Scots. Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0-7486-1596-2. pp. 9ff
  14. Montgomery & Gregg 1997: 572
  15. Adams 1977: 57