How does Scots work?

In everyday speech Scots has become increasingly mixed with Scottish English. This is a way to resolve the tension between two main functions of language; communication and conveying identity. Scots and Scottish English are sufficiently alike to allow on-the-fly switching and blending between the two varieties. Depending on the formality of the context, the Scots language skills of the speakers and the topic itself, conversations can easily slide between Scots-rich and English-rich mixtures. However Scottish people have a varying ability – and willingness – to do this. Scots is a stigmatized minority language, so people have to feel safe using it in public for fear of ridicule. With friends and family this is fine but there is a tendency for Scots speakers Anglicise their speech (i.e. use more Scottish English) with strangers to avoid loss of face though misunderstanding.

One of the curiosities of language in Scotland is this dynamic mix between Scots and Scottish English does not really have a name. Without a distinct a label like ‘Spanglish’ or ‘Franglais’ it is unhelpfully referred to as ‘Scots’ or ‘Scottish English’ even by professionals in the field. Especially as a learner it may be useful to distinguish the ‘Braid’ Scots language as described in Scots dictionaries and grammars, from the Scottish English you learned in school but also the dynamic spoken mix just described. This mix seems to be vaguely referred to ‘Scottish Language’ in some contexts, so that will have to do for the moment.

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