Languages in Scotland

More than a thousand years ago, the majority of the Scottish population spoke Gaelic. Today this language is mainly spoken only in the Highlands and Islands. The Gaelic language has become very endangered, although there are still a few elderly people who speak it and a few pop and rock stars even sing in Gaelic. Gaelic enjoys a high cultural status, together with Scottish whisky, bagpipes, clans and kilts, Gaelic is part of the romantic Scottish image.

After Gaelic became a little less popular, Scots was the main language of Scotland. Scots was spoken and written for about 400 years in Scotland. When Great Britain came to be established in 1707, Scotland's government moved to London, and Scots lost its political status to English. Scots was being rapidly reduced to a purely spoken one, to the status of an everyday colloquial language, not something one could use in school, or in business. From having been an independent language used by all people on all levels, Scots has descended to the status of being considered a dialect of English, a dialect being used only by ignorant peasants, fishermen, and laborers, not by gentleman.

The Anglian language of Scotland developed on its own thereafter. By the late 15th century perceptions of the difference to the language spoken further south arose and English-speaking "Scots" started to call their language "Scottis," Gavin Douglas being the first to use the term in this way. Scots has loan words resulting from contact with Gaelic. These loan words are mainly for geographical and cultural features, such as clan and loch ('lake'). Like any living language, Scots has changed to some extent over the years, though it has arguably remained closer to its Anglo-Saxon roots than English. Many Scots words have become part of English: flit, 'to move home', greed, eerie, cuddle, clan, stob, 'a post'.

 





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