29 AUGUST 1931, Page 17

The Scottish National Dictionary

The Scottish National Dictionary. Edited by William Grant. (Scottish National Dictionary Association. Vol I, Part I.)*

LET not anyone think that the Scottish National Dictionary is a matter that concerns Scots and Scotland alone. It has a much wider value and a much wider appeal, for it is an immense contribution to the history of the English language. Scots is in fact and within limits the lineal de§cen- dant of Northern English, the tongue spoken by the Anglian invaders of our islands. The Editor, Mr. Grant—to whom all philological scholars owe a vast debt for his unwearying and, as it seemed, for a time almost desperate labours—puts the matter succinctly and clearly. Mid Scots, which is the branch of the language best known to southerners, is (he says) " the popular and legitimate descendant of the old Anglian speech of the early Scottish Kings." It is one of the curiosities of history that Scotland east of the Highland Line, though pre- dominantly Celtic by race, should in language be predomi- nantly Germanic (though at one time the majority of the Inhabitants must have spoken a Celtic tongue) and that because a comparatively few Germanic immigrants, who seldom came by clans, but rather as individual raiders and pirates, should have settled themselves in the south-cast corner of Scotland.

Lowland Scots, as we know it to-day, the language which it is the aim of this great Dictionary to illustrate from the year 1700 to the present time, was of course coloured by the sur- rounding Gaelic-speaking population and contains many words corrupted from the Gaelic. Into the Scots spoken in the Hebrides and in the Orkneys and Shetlands many Scandi-

4' Part I. is not on sale by itself but can be procured by subscribers of £15 (or five annual instalments of £3) for the whole dictionary. Subscriptions or donations, which are urgently desired for the advancement of the work, should be sent to the Hon. -Treasurer, A. A. Middleton, Esq., F.S.A.A., North of Scotland Bank, Ltd., Hanover Street, Edinburgh. navian words enter, and, as Jakobsen has pointed out, "the older stratum in the language, the Norn, still makes its influence strongly felt," notably in words relating to the chief conditions of Island life, the wind, the weather, the sea and fishing, and also in a characteristic trait of the Norsemen, the giving of nicknames. French, too, has left its traces in Low.. land Scots, as is-testified by very many words, amongst others ashet, aumrie, canaillie, donee and dour, the Scots coun- terparts of assiette, armoire, canaille, doux and dur ; and the present writer once heard in Fife the word mishantydour applied to a dunghill, which would seem to be the French mechanic odeur. But at bottom Lowland Scots is of Germanic origin—is a branch of the great English tongue which the Angles and the Saxons brought with them to these islands, and Scots is often nearer to its original than modern English. The O.E. for grass was goers, and it is gairss in Lanarkshire to this day ; while in Canobic the word wurichet is still known, which is much nearer to the O.E. wyrigeard, wort-yard, than orchard. The Scottish surname Reid keeps alive the Old English pronunciation of mid, red. Modern English makes ing the ending of the present participle and of the gerund indiffer- ently, but in the old form of Northern English the participial ending was ande or and and the gerundial yng or ing, and this distinction yet obtains, in Teviotdale, where you may hear "he's chappan (knocking) at the door," and" he likes chappeen at the door."

But modern Lowland Scots has suffered greatly from Anglicization. When Burns wrote" Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled" he was really writing modern English with a disguise of Scots pronunciation ; the real Scots for this line would have been "Scots at hes wi' Wallace bled." The first blow to true Scots was the Union of the Crowns in 1603; King James VI of Scotland wrote in Scots, but King James I of England wrote in English, and many Scottish writers imitated him. Then

followed the Union of Countries in 1707, but worse than all perhaps was the fact that no Scots translation of the Bible was ever made, and there thus arose "in the consciousness of the average Scotsman the feeling that his national speech was inferior to English, and he was apt to modify it in the direction of English or substitute for it the best English he could muster in addressing a superior or a stranger "—in addressing an Englishman or his God. (Hence proceeds that bastard Scots which strives to conceal honest Doric under a mask of "fine English" and which made Johnson tell Boswell that his speech was "not offensive.") Further solvents have been school- board English, English as heard from the pulpit., increased powers of locomotion which are gradually breaking down linguistic boundaries, the Great War, and the irruption into the west of Scotland of the " Glesca Eerish," who have spread their nasty tone-system throughout the Western Highlands. The more necessity, therefore, for a book like this which shall in the face of these destructive forces preserve and in a measure stabilize the speech of Scotland. The more necessity, too, in that it may be hazarded that not many Scots in Scotland to- day can construe Burns's The Auld Fariner's Salutation to Maggie.

Quite briefly the contents of this First Part of the First Volume are the Introduction, which includes a brief phonetic description of the Scottish Language and its Dialects, two coloured dialect maps and a key to pronunciation, all of which must invite the attention of philological scholars. In the matter of pronunciation it will be news to most people that there is a district in Scotland where the letter h is inserted or dropped Cockneywise—just as the Duke of Suffolk in the sixteenth century wrote " in hall hast possebbyll," and as Henry Bennet in the seventeenth called himself Lord Arlington, though he took his title from the Middlesex village of Harlington. The different areas of the different varieties of Scottish speech are clearly indicated, though it is pointed out that in this matter it is impossible to draw hard and fast lines. Then comes the vocabular dictionary itself from A—Aggle, which last word in the Shetlands and Orkney means "to make a mess." With this dictionary in their hands and when it is completed, it will be no longer possible for Scotsmen to make a mess of their language (to write, for instance, barbarous nonsense like willie-waught), and the editor, who has earned the gratitude of Scots all over the world, has every right to promise that the book "will conduce to a fuller presentation of Scottish thought and feeling."