Things to know about Scottish Languages

Things to know about Scottish Languages
Scottish Languages

Things to know about Scottish Languages

Scottish Languages:
Officially, Scotland has 3 languages — English, Gaelic and Scots.

Scots and English are Germanic languages which evolved after Anglo Saxons settled in the low-lands, eventually overtaking Gaelic as the most spoken languages in Scotland. Some people consider Scots to be merely a dialect of English, whilst others (myself included) see it as a language in its own right — that is, when spoken in its truest form, which is a rarity today so mostly, the Scots you would hear spoken on TV would be Scots-English which is a dialect. Doric is a very close relative of Scots, and probably could be considered Scots in itself but it has a lot of differences, likely due to its influence from Norse, which came mainly from the North and speakers of Norse and its descendant language, which was called Norn — sadly no longer spoken but it was the language spoken in the North, in places such as Caithness, Orkney and Shetland due to these regions having being ruled by the Norse for some time.

Scottish Languages 2

Gaelic (a Celtic language) was once spoken all over Scotland though many people are unaware of this and think that it has always been a language spoken only in the Highlands; this is untrue as it was the dominant language throughout Scotland, which can be seen in the numerous place-names with Gaelic origin, as well as the language, having been the official language of the crown and courts for a long time before English/Scots, or Inglis, as it was known to the Highlanders, took over from it.

Scotland has a diverse history. We are romanticised a lot as being a Celtic country, and while this is true as we have a huge amount of Celtic history and tradition — we are also very much a Germanic nation in that the Scots language originates from Anglo Saxon (Old English) which was the language of the Saxons who arrived on our shores following the end of Roman rule. The Vikings and Norse were also Germanic-speaking people (Germanic languages today include Dutch, Frisian, Norwegian, Swedish, Icelandic, Faroese, Danish, German, English, Scots, Doric) so with our Anglo Saxon influence as well as our Norse and Danish influence, Scotland’s Germanic heritage is strong.

Scotland roadsigns

Gaelic and what would have been Pictish were Celtic languages, but they were from two separate Celtic language groups. The Gaelic we know today belongs to the Q Celtic language group, which is the same language group as Irish Gaelic and Manx. Pictish was a Brythonic/Brittonic language (there may have been several Pictish tribal languages, we’re not too sure) which was shared with the Brittonic/Cumbric Celts who live in Southern regions such as around Edinburgh/Lothian and Strathclyde etc. These people are known today as Brittonic Celts and spoke a Celtic language known as P Celtic, which is the same language group as Welsh, Cornish and Breton spoken today — this is because the Britons of this area were hired to go and rid parts of Wales of Gaelic Celts and it is thought that much of them settled this region.

The legend of King Arthur is thought to have originated from Welsh mythology, but in fact, this mythology comes from the Y-Goddodin, a poem written in what is now Edinburgh.

About Author

Lucy Stewart
Born and raised in Scotland, I have always loved my country and its colourful history. A childhood fascination for castles and ancient Celtic tales led to my studying history at university, and ultimately specialising in Celtic Civilisation. Since my time in university, I have gone on to further my research in archaeology, anthropology, mythology, psychology and linguistics. It gives me great pleasure to share my interests with anyone who will listen and it brings me even greater pleasure, knowing that so many people are interested in visiting this beautiful country of mine. Please, if you would like for me to help tailor-make your very own bespoke trip to Scotland (or wherever else your heart desires) please do get in touch at where we can start making your dreams come true.


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