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August 2017

New appointments
Chief Executive

Dr Rhona Alcorn has been appointed Chief Executive with effect from 4th September. A native Leither, Dr Alcorn is a lecturer in Linguistics and English Language at the University of Edinburgh, where she also serves as Depute Director of the Angus McIntosh Centre for Historical Linguistics and as co-investigator on a research project tracking the evolution of Older Scots. Rhona also brings extensive management experience from her earlier public sector career.


We have also appointed a new Administrator, Fiona Stewart, with effect from 29th August. Ms Stewart is an experienced book-keeper and administrator.

We look forward to welcoming both Rhona and Fiona to SLD.

April 2017

New Scots dictionary app

We are looking into creating a new Scots dictionary app, to replace and expand our existing one. You can help us by filling in this survey - https://kwiksurveys.com/s/cDWdfOcB#/0


Staff changes

At the end of March we said good bye to two members of staff: Elaine Webster, Outreach and Education Officer, and Catherine Mcdonald, Administrator.

Elaine has retired after nearly eight years with SLD, during which she built up and expanded on our links with a large range of organisations and individuals. Her enthusiasm and hard work forged new relationships both in the sphere of education and in the wider Scots community.

Catherine was our Administrator for nearly three years and helped the wheels of SLD to run smoothly during a period of change.

They will both be missed.

December 2016

Member of staff honoured

Pauline Cairns Speitel, one of our Senior Editors, has been invited to become an Honorary Fellow of the Association for Scottish Literary Studies.

This is an award given 'to women and men who have made a substantial and distinctive contribution to the Scottish literary tradition as writers, scholars, teachers, publishers, and in other related fields'. We’re delighted that her contribution is being recognised in this way.

Many congratulations Pauline!

November 2016

LAS summit: promoting Scots literature and books overseas

SLD are delighted to be attending this summit, organised by Literature Alliance Scotland. Read the full details in the LAS Press Release.

October 2016

'Mither Tongue' event at Stirling Castle

Earlier this month SLD took part in the 'Mither Tongue' event at Stirling castle. One of the features of our stall was a Scots quiz on the subject of food; well done to the winner Richard McCreadie, who wins his choice of sponsored word.

You can see the quiz answers here.

June 2016

Acting Principal Executive Officer

Our Principal Executive Officer Ruth O'Donovan has started a period of maternity leave, and in her absence the role will be covered by Alison Macaulay. Ms Macaulay is a dictionary publishing professional, with over 15 years' publishing experience as both an editor and manager. She has worked on a wide range of dictionary and language learning titles for publishers including Collins, OUP, Chambers and Hodder. Alison came to publishing from an English language teaching background. After gaining an MA in TESOL from the Institute of Education, University of London, she worked for a number of years with international students at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. She also has a BA (Hons) in Modern Languages from the University of Oxford.

June 2016

Professor Christian Kay

All at SLD were very sorry to hear that Christian Kay, who was SLD’s first Convener, died on 4th June. She will be hugely missed. Read an obituary by our current Convener, Professor Jeremy Smith.

February 2016

Lexicography Symposium

Scottish Language Dictionaries is hosting a forthcoming symposium on lexicography in Scotland: see the Symposium website here.

December 2015

SLD Newsletter

Our latest Newsletter is now available from this website. If you have any comments or would like to make a suggestion for a future article, please email us: mail@scotsdictionaries.org.uk.

October 2015

The Mither Tongue at Stirling Castle

SLD took part in a very successful Scots language weekend at Stirling Castle earlier this month. For those who entered the porridge-related quiz, you can see the answers here. The winner of the quiz was Christina Owen, and her prize is a sponsored Scots word.

13 August 2015

Appointment of Scots Scriever

It has been announced today that Hamish MacDonald has been appointed as the first Scots Scriever. The role is a two-year residency based at the National Library of Scotland, supported with funding from Creative Scotland, and its purpose is to produce original creative work in Scots, its variants and dialects, across any art-form, as well as raising awareness, appreciation and use of Scots across the country and amongst all parts of the population. SLD welcomes this appointment, which will give a valuable boost to Scots language awareness and engagement.

3 August 2015

Announcement - Principal Executive Officer

SLD's Convener, Professor Jeremy Smith, is delighted to announce the appointment of the new Principal Executive Officer for Scottish Language Dictionaries: Dr. Ruth O'Donovan. Read the full announcement here.

15th June 2015

DSL updates
We have implemented various updates and improvements to the search options and results display of the Dictionary of the Scots Language - have a look at it on www.dsl.ac.uk.

4th June 2015

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Studentship

Protocols for the use of name evidence in lexicography: comparative analysis of onomastic and non-onomastic data for historical and contemporary Scots

Applications are invited for a PhD at the University of Glasgow offered under the AHRC CDA programme with Scottish Language Dictionaries.

The studentship will be based at the University of Glasgow and will be co-supervised by Professor Carole Hough and Dr Wendy Anderson (Glasgow) and Dr Alison Grant (Scottish Language Dictionaries). For more information, click here.

3rd June 2015

Creative Scotland launched their first Scots Language Policy today. Read all about it here.

31st March 2015

Chris Robinson

Dr Chris Robinson retires today as Director of SLD, a post she has held since 2004 after a period as Outreach Officer. She will continue to carry out some teaching at the University of the Highlands and Islands and at Edinburgh University. We wish her bonailie!

December 2014

Free Scots Dictionary App Launched

The new, free Scots Dictionary for Schools App was launched on 16th December at Grange Academy, Kilmarnock.

The Scottish Government's policy, Language Learning in Scotland: A 1+2 Approach, is aimed at ensuring that every child has the opportunity to learn modern languages from P1 onwards. The app was produced to support pupils who are studying Scots as a modern language or studying for the new SQA Awards in Scots Language.

Search the App Store or Play Store for Scots Dictionary.

App launch event
SLD's President Dr Margaret Mackay, shown here with the Head Teacher, head girl and head boy, was presented with a beautiful hand-crafted box by the school.

November 2014

Book Week Scotland

SLD is linking up with libraries and schools to mark Book Week Scotland 2014 from 24th-28th November and to celebrate literacy and Scots. Our Outreach and Education Officer will be at Haddington Library on Thursday 24th November. Look out for the Book Week Scotland free publication 'Scotland's Stories of Home' with contributions in Gaelic, Scots and English.

October 2014

Answers to Stirling Castle quiz

For those who had a go at the quiz at Stirling Castle's Scots language Weekend on 11th/12th October, you can have a look at the answers here. We hope you had fun taking part.

Event at Stirling Castle

Come along to Stirling Castle on 14 November to see two warring poets battle it out with words in The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy – first performed in front of King James IV. The event includes information about the Scottish Court of the time, as well as a linguistic introduction by Chris Robinson of SLD. Tickets and more information are available here.

September 2014

Upgraded DSL launched

On 12th September the upgraded version of the Dictionary of the Scots Language (DSL) was launched at an event hosted by the University of Glasgow. The new version was well received by the attendees who were very enthusiastic about the new look. This upgrade paves the way towards many other improvements, which will be announced as they are implemented. Have a look at it and let us know what you think.

August 2014

DSL upgrade

We have been working for some time on an upgrade of the online Dictionary of the Scots Language (DSL) and the new site is due to be launched next month. It will feature improved search facilities and navigation, and will be easier to use. Watch this page for further news.

July 2014

Crowdfunder fundraising project

Have a look at our 'Crowdfunder' fundraising project entitled 'Enjoy the Scots language' to raise funds to support visits to schools and community groups. The money raised would help to cover the costs of the postcards and leaflets which we share with groups on visits. Schools and groups give us donations to cover our travel costs but not all groups can afford to do this. Funding would help us reach more groups and disseminate information about SLD and Scots more widely. This is a new fundraising venture for SLD and we would greatly appreciate your pledges of support.

June 2014

SLD Newsletter

Our latest Newsletter is now available from this website. If you have any comments or would like to make a suggestion for a future article, please email us: mail@scotsdictionaries.org.uk.

Staff changes

We wish a warm welcome to Catherine McDonald, who has joined SLD as Administrator. Ruth Martin is moving to editing, where she will work on the second edition of the Concise Scots Dictionary.

April 2014

Margo MacDonald

We at SLD were greatly saddened by the death on 4th April of Scottish politician Margo MacDonald. She was a staunch supporter of SLD and the Scots language.

February 2014

StAnza poetry festival

The StAnza festival (5-9 March) is famous for its friendly atmosphere and international focus, the place to hear favourite writers, including poets who write in Scots, and to enjoy the beautiful town of St Andrews and StAnza's lively festival hub, with readings, performances, talks, exhibitions and workshops. Thanks to StAnza for displaying SLD's leaflets.

Find out more at www.stanzapoetry.org, or phone 01334 474609.

January 2014

Happy New Year!

We at Scottish Language Dictionaries wish all our friends, supporters and visitors a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2014.

November 2013


Our autumn/winter Newsletter is now available from this website. If you have any comments or would like to make a suggestion for a future article, please email us: mail@scotsdictionaries.org.uk.

October 2013

Answers to Stirling Castle quiz

For those who took part in the quiz at Stirling Castle's Scots language Weekend on 12th/13th October, you can have a look at the answers here.

Forthcoming Events

Whether you're interested in a historic setting, conference discussion, live performance or lively debate, there are a few interesting Scots-related events coming up - see our Events page for details.

September 2013

Scottish Census results

According to the Census results released today, 1.9 million people understand, speak, read or write Scots. We really need to support the interests of this vast body of people whose linguistic heritage can no longer be ignored. The support which the Scottish Government gives to SLD is a positive foundation for what we hope will be a robust Scots language strategy.

August 2013

Tribute to Gavin Wallace

On 16th August the Edinburgh International Book Festival hosted an event to pay tribute to Dr. Gavin Wallace, who died in February. The Studio Theatre was packed with colleagues, friends and writers, including representation from SLD. In particular, the number of writers who attended was exceptional; many of them talked warmly about the support and encouragement Gavin had given them, and read moving poems.

It was also announced at the event that writer Kirsty Logan has been awarded the first Dr. Gavin Wallace fellowship, details of which are given in the Creative Scotland website.

July 2013

The Glory of Scotland, 1513 A.D.

The epic Eneados, one of the pinnacles of Scottish Renaissance poetry, was completed by Gavin Douglas on St Mary Magdalene's Day, 22 July 1513. To mark this 500th anniversary, there is to be a two-part celebration on Sunday 21st July in Augustine United Church and St.Giles' Cathedral.

3.15pm - Augustine United Church, 41 George IV Bridge. "The batalis and the man I wil discrive"; poet and reciter Rab Wilson performs an hour of highlights from Douglas's Eneados, with commentary by Dr Jamie Reid Baxter.

6.00pm - St Giles' Cathedral. Robert Carver's sumptuous Mass for Six Voices will be sung by Sang Scule, directed by James Hutchinson, in a concert reconstruction of Procession and High Mass for St Mary Magdalene, as it might have been celebrated by Gavin Douglas himself as provost of the High Kirk. The performance will end at 7pm.

SLD Newsletter

Our spring/summer Newsletter is now available from this website. If you would like to make a suggestion for a future article, please email us: mail@scotsdictionaries.org.uk.

June 2013

Professor Christian Kay

Emeritus Professor Christian Kay, our former Convener, was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (D.Litt.) by Glasgow University at a ceremony on 27th June. Warmest congratulations from all at SLD.

Overseas links
Ohio students with statue of Fergusson

Chris Robinson has been teaching students from Ohio about Robert Fergusson and other great Scottish literary figures from John Barbour onwards, using the texts on the Scuilwab. We explored our common linguistic heritage and, with the help of Michael Montgomery's Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English uncovered quite a lot of shared vocabulary. We also discussed attitudes to language and found that Scots speakers and Appalachian speakers often face the same kinds of prejudice. Over four weeks, Envisioning Edinburgh: Ohio University Summer School in Historical Linguistics provides a cross-disciplinary introduction to the cultural and linguistic significance of Edinburgh.

One of the students blogged: "I found all of the content so interesting and was just pleased to have the experience to gain some materials tied to the history of the Scots language and actually hear it spoken.....Talking about how Scots were being told to speak proper english and drop the roots from where they came from, reminded me in particular of what is happening to vernaculars like african american speech and appalachian dialect today in the United States."

April 2013

On Friday 26th April, SLD's former Convener Professor Christian Kay was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by the Association of Scottish Literary Studies (ASLS). The ASLS Honorary Fellowships are awarded to those who have made 'a substantial and distinctive contribution to the Scottish literary tradition as writers, scholars, teachers, publishers, and in other related fields', and this is a fitting recognition of Professor Kay's contribution to Scots language scholarship during her long academic career.

March 2013

Conference in Toulouse

On 22nd March our Director Chris Robinson gave a paper on 'Scots and Scottish English in 2013' at a Scots Study Day at the University of Toulouse II Le Mirail. The Dictionaries were very well represented as our consultant and former Principal Editor Marace Dareau also presented a paper on 'Scots and Gaelic Lexicology'.

The day provided an opportunity to publicise our Modren Scots Grammar: Wirkin Wi Wirds, and a leaflet which Chris Robinson authored for Creative Scotland on The Languages of Scotland was distributed.

Scholars from many French universities attended and it was very heartening to know that Scots generates so much interest throughout France. The Auld Alliance is alive and well.


Many thanks to Hazel Nairn for inviting Elaine to talk about the work of SLD and the Scots language to the Hard of Hearing Support Group who meet in Bathgate Academy. It was a lovely evening sharing information and memories.

28th January 2013

The Origins of Our Tongue

SLD Director Chris Robinson is taking part in a lively evening of discussion and debate about the origins of Scotland's indigenous languages, as part of the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow.

See details and book tickets (free) here.

8th January 2013

Tam o Shanter 'TamTag' event

SLD celebrates our first ten years, in the company of the Scottish Poetry Library.

Get ready for Burns Night by testing your knowledge of Tam o Shanter and the Scots language in a quick-fire, not-too-serious challenge.

Competitors can win a Compact Scots Dictionary or A Modren Scots Grammar. Can you get Tam to the keystane o the brig, or will you be like Maggie - stumped? Spectators are needed to help us pick a winner. This will be Burns as you have never heard him before. With some braw music too.

Includes a dram sponsored by the Scotch Whisky Association.

Book at: Eventbrite.co.uk

2nd January 2013

A Guid New Year to all our friends and supporters - and many thanks for all the festive greetings.

5th December 2012

SLD Christmas card sold out

Our Christmas cards, designed for us by pupils of Aileymill Primary School, Greenock, have been very popular and are now sold out. Thanks to all who bought some.

Latest International Newsletter

Issue 12 of our International Newsletter is now available from this website. If you would like to make a suggestion for a future article, please email us: mail@scotsdictionaries.org.uk.

November 2012

Scots Grammar Book now available

Chris Robinson's Modren Scots Grammar: Wirkin wi wirds is now available - you can find it on Amazon here, at a cost of £7.19. Written in Scots and delightfully illustrated by Bob Dewar, it aims to give readers confidence in using the Scots language, and provides the grounding for further exploration.

Good news! Scottish Parliamentary Motion

Linda Fabiani MSP has tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament wishing SLD a happy anniversary and commending our work. The motion was well supported and it is very gratifying to receive this recognition. Read the full wording here.

October 2012

Looking for something different? Send the SLD Christmas card...

SLD Christmas card

As part of our 10th anniversary celebrations, we asked pupils of Aileymill Primary School in Greenock to design a Christmas card for us, and we chose this appropriate design. You can see a larger image of it along with details of how to buy here.

Stirling Castle Quiz

SLD was represented at Stirling Castle's Scots language event 'The Mither Tongue' on 20th and 21st October. There was great interest in our 'Dictionary Corner', and visitors could take part in a Scots language quiz with one of our dictionaries as a prize. If you were there and want to know the answers, they are shown here.

Scottish Learning Festival: Wall-to-Wall Scots

Liz Niven, the well-known poet worked with youngsters from Sighthill Primary School in an interactive workshop at the Scottish Learning Festival in conjunction with Scottish Language Dictionaries’ Education and Outreach Officer Elaine Webster. The workshop was proposed as part of the work of the Literature in Learning subgroup. Ideas were generated using a word wall. Passers-by contributed Scots words to the wall too. The youngsters enjoyed using iPads to make a PowerPoint relating to the work and to interview Liz. The work formed part of Creative Scotland’s Cultural Village stall along with workshops on animation and dance. The youngsters were a credit to their school and the work attracted interest from teachers and educationalists.

Scottish Language Dictionaries Library Quiz

During recent visits to Edinburgh libraries in Leith and Oxgangs, our Education and Outreach officer Elaine Webster engaged visitors to the library in discussion about Scots language and the work of Scottish Language Dictionaries. The events were part of our 10th Birthday celebrations. Our new banners with Scots words attracted attention. Visitors enjoyed the opportunity to ask questions about our work and Scots language generally. They viewed some of our publications and a selection of the birthday cards which youngsters have sent in to us. Visitors were invited to take part in a small quiz relating to the banners. Many thanks to the library staff and visitors to the library for their enthusiastic interest in our work.

We have three winners who will each receive a £20 book token. Well done. Thank you to everyone who entered.

The answers to the quiz were:

Word meanings
heelstergowdie head-over-heels
peely-wallie ill-looking
fantoosh fancy
stramash commotion
semmit a vest
dookers swimming trunks
glaikit foolish
skelp smack
What would you do with these?
gutties? wear them on your feet (plimsolls)
tumshie? eat it (turnip)
cullen skink? eat it (fish soup)

September 2012

SLD sell-out event at Edinburgh Book Festival

SLD was represented at the prestigious Edinburgh Book Festival this year. Our Outreach and Education Officer Elaine Webster ran an activities workshop for children aged 5-10 along with their parents/carers, based around awareness of Scots words. The event was a great success and every youngster went away with a goody-bag to remember it by.

New books

Have a look at our Buik Neuk page for details of two new books on Scots and Scottish lexicography: Older Scots: A Linguistic Reader by Jeremy J. Smith, and Scotland in Definition: A History of Scottish Dictionaries, a collection edited by Iseabail Macleod and J. Derrick McClure.

August 2012

Mini-exhibition in Leith Library, Edinburgh

Following a successful mini-exhibition earlier this month in Oxgangs Library, Edinburgh, another library exhibition will go on display in Leith Library on Thursday 30th August. Our new display banners will be on show, and SLD staff will be on hand between 10am and 5pm to answer questions.

14th June 2012

Henry Gratwick

On 8th June we said goodbye to Henry Gratwick, who had been a member of the editorial staff for nearly 3 years. Henry is moving south of the border to do online editorial work for a charity, and we wish him well with this new venture.

Latest International Newsletter

Issue 11 of our International Newsletter is now available from this website. If you would like to make a suggestion for a future article, please email us: mail@scotsdictionaries.org.uk.

30th May 2012

SLD's 10th anniversary reception

At the end of May we hosted a reception in the Burgh Halls of the historic town of Linlithgow, which was well attended. We displayed the exhibition banners that we had paid for with part of our anniversary 'seed-corn' fund, and took the opportunity to put on show many of the birthday cards we have received following our challenge to schools.

Read an account of the celebration.

Professor Sandy Fenton 1929-2012

The death last week of Professor Alexander (Sandy) Fenton CBE marks the loss of an intellectual of quite remarkable calibre who had a lifelong involvement with SLD, having started his eclectic career with the Scottish National Dictionary Association (SNDA), of which he later became a very effective Board member.

Sandy was always available to answer queries or offer advice on all aspects of SLD's work. He took a very active part in the compilation of the Concise English-Scots Dictionary, and was especially helpful with questions relating to the National Word Collection, to which he contributed widely.

He will be greatly missed by his friends and colleagues at SLD.

March 2012

Birthday Card for SLD

As part of our 10th anniversary celebrations we have invited schools and communities to make a birthday card and send it to us. It would be good if the cards included some local Scots words or phrases. If you know of any children (of any age!) who may want to take part, please tell them about it - we'd like the cards by the end of April. Full details are given in the Scuilwab. We'll put the cards on display at our events.

March 2012

SLD is 10 years old

April sees the tenth anniversary of the formation of SLD. We plan to take advantage of this occasion to raise the profile of the dictionaries by celebrating our anniversary in various ways throughout the year. Meantime we have launched an appeal for a seed-corn fund to help with expenses of promotional activities – details are on the 10th Anniversary page, which will be updated as events are arranged.

November 2011

Latest Newsletter

Issue 10 of our International Newsletter is now available from this website. You'll find articles on various aspects of the Scots language including place-names, as well as general articles and a summary of our latest activities. If you would like to make a suggestion for a future article about a particular event or location, in Scotland or abroad, please email us: mail@scotsdictionaries.org.uk.

August 2011

ASLS conferences

There are two forthcoming conferences organised by the ASLS – the Association for Scottish Literary Studies. The ASLS Language Conference is on Saturday 24th September in Edinburgh University’s School of Celtic & Scottish Studies, and will look at the report of the Ministerial Working Group on Scots: its genesis, content, reception and future.

The ASLS Schools Conference is on Saturday 1st October in the University of Strathclyde. This annual conference is a vital resource for teachers wishing to explore Scottish language and literature in the classroom.

SLD will be represented at both of these conferences. Details of the programmes and booking forms are available on the ASLS website.

June 2011

Latest Newsletter

Issue 9 of our International Newsletter is now available from this website. You'll find articles on Scots words, traditions and places, and a summary of our latest activities. If you would like to make a suggestion for a future article about a particular event or location in Scotland, or abroad, please email us: mail@scotsdictionaries.org.uk.

In the Beginning was the Name

This is the title of a new collection of essays by Professor Bill Nicolaisen, published by the Scottish Place-Name Society. For over 50 years, Professor Nicolaisen has been a hugely influential figure in name research, and this collection unites in one volume essays and articles from diverse sources spanning a range of onomastic topics. For more information click here.

May 2011

Boswell's Scottish Dictionary

Scholar Susan Rennie, while carrying out research in the Bodleian, recently discovered the draft materials for a Scots dictionary by James Boswell. It was known from his journals that Boswell planned such a work, but it was thought that any preparatory work towards had been lost. Read about this exciting discovery and the project arising from it here.

March 2011

New Scuilwab launched

Wednesday 23rd March saw the official launch of SLD’s Scuilwab, at Carrick Knowe Primary school in Edinburgh. Hosted by the children of primary 6 and their teachers, the event featured a brief demonstration of the site before everyone had a chance to explore it, listening to (and singing!) the songs and trying out the quizzes. The children enjoyed sharing their work in Scots and showed off their ‘Mr Men’-style books that they had written themselves in Scots, as well as performing Scots poems.

The event was well attended. As well as school staff and SLD’s Elaine Webster and Chris Robinson, there were representatives from the SLD Board, our funders the Scottish Government, the school’s Parent Teacher Association, the City of Edinburgh Council, and some of the contributing writers – not to mention a team from the BBC.

Written in Scots, the Scuilwab has been designed for pupils to develop their knowledge through games, puzzles, stories and poems, and there are also articles for more advanced learners. In addition, the Scuilwab provides teaching materials to help teachers and parents support children in advancing their language skills.

You can have a look at the new Scuilwab on www.scuilwab.org.uk.

Can you speak/write/understand Scots?

This week saw the launch of the aptly named website www.ayecan.com, to raise awareness of the fact that the forthcoming census will ask about Scots. You can listen to recordings of Scots speakers from different regions of the country and read guidance to help you decide whether or not you’re a Scots speaker.

February 2011

Recognition for SLD member of staff

Recipients of GTC Certificate of Professional Recognition in the Scots Language
Elaine Webster, our Outreach and Education Officer, has been awarded a Certificate of Professional Recognition from the GTC (General Teaching Council for Scotland) for her work with pupils and teachers in the Scots language. Elaine is among the first group of teaching professionals to receive the Certificate, which was presented at a celebration event held in the Garden Lobby of the Scottish Parliament building on 22nd February.

This recognition of Scots language and culture in our schools is a great boost to the confidence of both pupils and teachers in using Scots, and will encourage more teachers to apply for Professional Recognition in this subject area.

January 2011

Liz Lochhead is the new Scots Makar

Congratulations to poet and playwright Liz Lochhead, who has been named as the new Scots Makar - our national poet. Ms Lochhead described her appointment as an enormous honour, and she’ll be a worthy successor to Edwin Morgan, who died in August. Her first engagement as Makar will be the official opening of the new Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, which was featured in our last Newsletter.


A Guid New Year to you all! Thanks to everyone who sent us festive greetings over the holiday period - it's always good to hear from our supporters.

Latest newsletter

Issue 8 of our International Newsletter is now available from this website. You'll find articles on Scots words and Scottish traditions, an introduction to the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum which opened in December, and a summary of our latest activities. If you would like to make a suggestion for a future article about a particular event or location in Scotland, or abroad, please email us: mail@scotsdictionaries.org.uk.

October 2010

The Scots Æneid

On Thursday 21st October, a new version of Gavin Douglas’s Eneados (1513) was made available online via the Scots Language Centre website. This project was begun by the late John Law and was completed by Caroline Macafee. This version regularises many of the Older Scots spellings that can confuse the modern reader. A story that has stood the test of time, this account of the travels and tribulations of Æneas is still a very good read. Douglas’s own comments are often both enlightening and entertaining. It is well worth a look.

September 2010


We conducted a targeted soft launch of our Scuilwab website this month to get feedback on the new look. The website contains a range of activities, for the youngest learners right up to university level. We have new contributions from poets and from school children. We are keen to engage with Scots learners, young or old. If you have contact with people involved in education, please let them know about the site.

Meetings & Visits

Elaine Webster attended the Scottish Learning Festival at the SECC on behalf of Scottish Language Dictionaries, meeting teachers and educationalists to pass on information about our work. She helped on the Arts and Culture stall as part of the Literature and Education subgroup of the Literature Forum.

Elaine Webster and Chris Robinson enjoyed talking to the over 50s group in Murieston about the work of SLD and the history of the Scots language. There was an enthusiastic response and animated discussion about Scots words. The group are now keen to dedicate one of their regular meetings to discussing Scots.

Chris Robinson and Michael Hance from the Scots Language Centre gave a presentation to BBC staff about the Scots language. There seems to be an increasingly positive attitude to the use of Scots in broadcasting.

August 2010

Chris Robinson and Pauline Cairns Speitel hosted an evening at the Pittenween Arts Festival. They shared the stage with Fife poet Willie Hershaw, who read his own and other local poetry. The evening was a collaboration between Scottish Language Dictionaries and the Scots Language Society with whom we also shared a display table at the Glenrothes Bookfest.

June 2010

International Newsletter

Issue 7 of our International Newsletter is now available from this website. In this issue you'll find our regular articles, including profiles of Scottish traditions and a Scots word, an examination of a Scottish place-name, an update on our activities, and more. If you would like to make a suggestion for a future article about a particular event or location in Scotland, or abroad, please email us: mail@scotsdictionaries.org.uk.

May 2010

Visit to the Scottish Parliament

Parliament Visit Group
Scottish Language Dictionaries' Education and Outreach Officer, Elaine Webster took part in a Continuing Professional Development course entitled Inside Parliament. She joined teachers and educationalists from a range of sectors as they learned about all aspects of the Scottish Parliament and met MSPs. They gained valuable insights into the work of the Chamber and the procedures in committees.

The Education and Outreach team at the Scottish Parliament shared information about their resources and exhibitions, including the Moving Stories travelling exhibition. The Westminster Education and Outreach Team gave a talk to the group and demonstrated the approaches they use with students to raise awareness of the work of Westminster.

There was an art tour, with opportunities to learn more about the contemporary sculpture, photographs and paintings which are on display throughout the building. Some of the art work incorporates quotations in Scots and the names of famous Scots. Tours included information about the architecture of the building, design principles and the sourcing of materials. The history of the Scottish Parliament and its rich collection of artifacts gave a focus on heritage. The Scottish Parliament's research department (SPICe) outlined how they can support students' course work on research methods.

The teachers made the most of the opportunity to exchange ideas and discuss how the education and outreach resources at the Scottish Parliament were relevant to their own work. The visit will inform work with schools and new cross-curricular content on the Scottish Language Dictionaries' website for schools www.scuilwab.org.uk.

Scots language question to be included in 2011 census

For the first time, the Scots language is to feature in the census. In 2011, people will be asked if they can if they can understand, speak, read or write Scots - questions that are already asked for English and Scottish Gaelic. This follows many years' work by the Cross Party Group for Scots. The convener of the Group, Rob Gibson MSP, welcomed the move and commented 'Many Scots don't realise that's what they speak'.

The census will reveal just how many people do regard themselves as Scots speakers - maybe including some of those who hadn't realised it before. This recognition of Scots can only help to raise awareness of the language and engender confidence in using it. And of course, no Scot need ever be lost for words with SLD's Scots dictionaries!

Membership review

In March, we sent a membership review questionnaire to over 100 SLD members, including members of the Board, and we have now analysed the responses we received.

Members were keen to keep in touch with the work of SLD by newsletter, and to show support for our work by being a member, but did not expect a lot of personal benefits in return. Many were willing to offer a range of expertise to support SLD. Our core work, including lexicography and word collection, interested members most but there was also interest in work with schools and communities. Most respondents felt that there was little difference between the name 'member' and 'friend', which had been suggested as a possible change. Those who preferred 'friend' felt it more accurately reflected their level of involvement, but on the other hand there were some who were strongly against.

In general, members were happy with the current service, and there were a few ideas for improvement, including improvements to the websites. Most respondents felt that the current level of membership fee is right. Those with internet access found that the Dictionary of the Scots Language was most useful to them.

Outreach and Education

Elaine Webster, our Outreach and Education Officer, discussed SLD's schools outreach at a meeting of Headteachers in West Lothian, and engaged with two classes at Meldrum Primary School with a programme of discussion, activities and games. Their teacher was particularly interested in different dialects. A probationary teacher at Head of Muir Primary School in Denny requested help with planning a Scots week and was especially interested in place-names.

Learning and Teaching Scotland has developed a Scots language module in conjunction with Matthew Fitt. You can visit this at their website.

Our Scuilwab website is being updated, and students at Edinburgh's Napier University's multimedia courses are working on games and activities for the new site as part of their coursework.

Elaine Webster and Pauline Cairns Speitel were invited to the Livingston Ladies Probus to talk about dialect. In this lively session the group enjoyed listening to samples of different dialects and hearing about the National Word Collection.

Our new postcards have been placed at a range of festivals including the Aye Write Festival, the StAnza festival and the Edinburgh Harp Festival. They have been positively received.

February 2010

John Law

15/2/10: Everyone at SLD is deeply saddened to hear of the sudden death at the weekend of John Law, who worked tirelessly in support of the Scots language. An accomplished writer himself, he was always ready to encourage new talent. We extend our sympathy to his family.

Why not carry a poem?

February sees the launch of the Carry a Poem campaign in Edinburgh, run by the City of Literature Trust in conjunction with the Scottish Poetry Library. Find out about the campaign at the Carry a Poem website.


A new PowerPoint presentation about Scots is now available on the Scuilwab, our website for teachers, young people and Scots language learners. The presentation has been prepared by the writer Liz Niven in association with the Scots Language Centre and Scottish Language Dictionaries.

January 2010

Scottish Language Dictionaries is delighted to have recruited an additional member of staff. We welcome Ann Ferguson, who has a background in Linguistics and English Language, as an Assistant Editor.

January gives us the opportunity to celebrate the work of Robert Burns. Members of SLD staff have attended a range of Burns Night celebrations.


Our Outreach and Education work covers all educational sectors. Sharing the Scots language with nursery children and their parents is always a delight. Elaine Webster and Dr Chris Robinson were invited to Eastertoun Nursery by Head Teacher Susan Cowan. They were made very welcome by staff and pupils. Seventy youngsters took part in the sessions, and they particularly enjoyed stories with props. The children sang and played hand games in Scots. The songs and games chosen for the session are currently on the Scuilwab. The Eastertoun staff valued learning about the work of SLD.


There has been recent media attention and interest in attitudes to Scots, following the dissemination of the results of a survey Research on Public Attitudes to the Scots Language, commissioned by the Scottish Government. You can read a summary of the findings here. The survey covered a range of areas. According to its findings, Scots is widely spoken at home, but is less commonly read or written. It is most likely to be spoken with friends, and whilst there are mixed perceptions about Scots as a language, these perceptions are generally positive. The research also found that there is widespread recognition of the role of Scots in history, culture and identity. The views expressed relating to learning Scots were positive in general but there was less of a concensus on its role in education. Around two thirds of those surveyed were in favour of encouraging children to speak Scots.


Part of SLD's work involves attending and representing their work at relevant conferences. Dr Robinson attended the Scottish Medievalists' conference this month, and and in December she addressed a conference hosted by the FRLSU (Forum for Research in the Languages of Scotland and Ulster), which had as its theme "Dictionaries, Glossaries and the Languages of Scotland and Ireland". Her presentation was well received. SLD staff are also involved in delivering a range of courses relating to linguistics, lexicography and writing skills.


Elaine Webster and Dr Chris Robinson enjoyed a busy afternoon at Craigroyston Primary School with Primary 4. The children learned about the work of SLD. The pupils thoroughly enjoyed the range of activities and games organised for the session.


October has been a busy month! Our new Education and Outreach Officer, Elaine Webster was delighted to be a guest at Carrick Knowe Primary School when Laura Brandon shared the school's recent experiences of developing the use of the Scots language with several other Edinburgh schools. The new SLD Outreach Officer enjoyed helping out with some of the games and meeting teachers. The pupils are loving their school sessions in Scots.

Dr. Chris Robinson recently addressed the Stirling Literary Society and her presentation entitled Wirds in Yer Lugs was enjoyed by the large turn-out.

The Education and Outreach Officer recently attended the Creative Scotland meeting in Perth to hear about developments and current thinking in the arts. The Association for Scottish Literary Studies presented a varied programme of distinguished speakers at their annual conference for schools. Pauline Cairns Speitel attended for Scottish Language Dictionaries and enjoyed hearing the distinguished speakers address a range of topics, including Scottish film. There were lots of resources available for teachers to purchase including the excellent ASLS publication Understanding Grammar in Scotland Today by John Corbett and Christian Kay, both members of SLD's Board of Trustees.


An event was held in Glasgow today to celebrate the launch of the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, which was published on 22 October by Oxford University Press. Compiling the HTOED was a huge undertaking, announced in 1965 by Michael Samuels then Professor of English Language at the University of Glasgow. Professor Christian Kay, Convener of SLD, guided the project through the later and final stages.


Thanks to Martin Walsh, the managing editor of the magazine Pushing Out The Boat for previous issues donated to our Reading Scheme. It is a North-East publication of new writing, managed and compiled by volunteers. The writing is complemented by a range of quality artistic images.


Scottish Language Dictionaries is delighted to have new funding and new premises. We have settled in and have recruited new staff. We welcome Henry Gratwick, who has an interest in Older Scots, as assistant editor, and Elaine Webster, who has a range of teaching experience, as Education and Outreach Officer. We are delighted that Ruth Martin, a former member of the dictionaries' editorial team, has returned to take up the post of administrative assistant.


Scottish Language Dictionaries are to be directly funded by the Scottish Government. Linda Fabiani made the announcement at a conference in Stirling on Monday 9th February. This comes as a great relief to us, after a period of considerable uncertainty and we were delighted to hear Linda Fabiani say "Scots is a living language to be cherished and supported". The exact funding level has yet to be determined, but we have been assured that it will be no less than the amount already being received from the Scottish Arts Council.

This welcome announcement, and indeed the fact that a Scots Language Conference was hosted by the Scottish Government, signals a great step forward for the language. The conference was well attended and throughout the day there was a spirit of great optimism and co-operation.

One of the highlights was a presentation given by some primary 7 children from St Ninians Primary School in Stirling. These pupils are members of the editorial committee creating a national children's dictionary from the many thousands of words the school collected in a "Word fae the Weans" project on 2002. SLD's Eileen Finlayson has created a database to handle this huge volume of data and SLD are acting as advisors and facilitators to the editorial committee consisting of current P7s and secondary school pupils who were involved in the initial stages of the project. They are applying their growing expertise to a Homecoming project which will welcome Scots words home from overseas. There are many Scots words which have survived in communities where numbers of Scots emigrants have settled. If you want to send such a word home, please email homecomingwords@stirling.gov.uk.


A Word from the Weans

We were very pleased to welcome a party of eight pupils from St Ninian's Primary School, Stirling, accompanied by their head teacher Mrs Wyllie and two parents with an interest in Scots. These pupils are the new editorial committee for an ambitious project started by the school several years ago. The pupils who started the project wrote to all the primary schools in Scotland asking the pupils to look after the Scots language by gettting their family and friends to adopt a word and use it in their daily speech. They were asked to send the word and its meaning to St Ninian's.

The response was overwhelming and SLD editor Eileen Finlayson is now about two-thirds of the way through and has added over 15,000 of these responses to her custom-built database. The database includes the locations of the schools and so provides much useful information about the geographical distribution of words. Some children also provided sentences to illustrate how their words are used.

Initially, the pupils intend to produce a paper dictionary and are currently giving some thought to all the decisions that editors have to make in planning such a project. Some of the pupils involved in the first stages of the project, who are now in secondary school, will continue to be involved. We look forward to working with them and giving them any advice they might need. We will let you know how the work progresses


SLD are delighted to announce that Alison Grant has joined our staff as a new Assistant Editor. Keep an eye on the Staff page where her profile will be added in due course. Welcome Alison!


Following a meeting of the Joint Board of Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen, the Scottish Arts Council has confirmed further support for Scottish Language Dictionaries, among other Scots language and traditional arts organisations. SLD will be funded for an additional 6 months, at our current grant level, from April 2009. This will allow us to continue working while the Scottish Government's Audit of Scots Language Provision is completed (due November 2008) and taken forward. We are very grateful to the Scottish Arts Council for their support and determination to help negotiate the future for Scottish Language Dictionaries.


A small exhibition celebrating the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jamieson's Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language, and featuring Scottish Language Dictionaries, is now on show at the National Library of Scotland. Well worth a visit!


Senior Editor Maggie Scott has taken a new post as lecturer with the University of Salford. We appreciate all the wonderful work she did in the five years that she was with us at SLD, and wish her all the best!


Scottish Language Dictionaries will be represented at the European Society for the Study of English conference (ESSE) later this month. ESSE takes place at the University of Aarhus in Denmark from 22-26 August. SLD is sending three dictionaries as part of the Scottish Writing Exhibition; it is our first appearance at a European conference and we look forward to meeting new colleagues as well as longtime fans. For more information on the conference visit the ESSE website; for details of the book exhibit visit the Scottish Writing Exhibition website.


Our auction raised £912.27. Many thanks to those who donated items and those who put in bids.


Scottish Language Dictionaries and the Scottish Arts Council have released a joint statement regarding SLD's current financial situation:

"The Scottish Arts Council fully recognises the potential difficulties that could be caused as a consequence of its decision not to award Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd Flexible Funding for 2009-2011. The decision was not one that was taken lightly. The assessment process was a rigorous and detailed one, in which it became clear that Scottish Language Dictionaries was a lower priority for support, not because of deficiencies in its application, but because the specialised nature of its work, as a national lexicographical body, made it an uneasy fit with the specific criteria of the Flexible fund. The assessment makes clear that the organisation had submitted a sound application, and in good faith, and the quality of the organisation's work is described throughout in very positive terms.

"Following its approval of the Flexible Funding decisions, the Joint Board has expressed a clear commitment to finding a resolution to the issue of future support for the Scots language, and intends to pursue high level discussion between Scottish Arts Council and the Scottish Government, in the context of the latter's current Audit of Scots Language provision This sits alongside a number of strategic issues that the Joint Board wish to examine in the transition to Creative Scotland.

"The Scottish Arts Council is happy to reiterate its strong support for the work of Scottish Language Dictionaries and the high calibre, hard work, and great commitment of its staff. We have enjoyed a positive and fruitful relationship with SLD over the years, and are determined to do everything possible to safeguard a stable way forward for it from 2009 onwards."


As a result of the general restructuring taking place at the Scottish Arts Council, Scottish Language Dictionaries, along with several other Scots language organisations, have been notified that our flexible funding will not be renewed after the end of the current financial year on 31 March 2009. We have enjoyed long-standing support for our work from the Literature Department at SAC and very much appreciate their continuing advice and direction at this difficult time. Needless to say, we are doing our very best to secure funding from April 2009 so that we can continue our work as lexicographers of Scots, providing a national and international resource for the Scots language.


Scottish Language Dictionaries are delighted to announce the publication of Say It In Scots, a new series of pocket books designed to inform and entertain the reader about the wonderful, rich and varied language of Scots. Four titles have been launched this month: Scottish Placenames, Scottish Weather, Wha's Like Us? and Scottish Wildlife. Find out more about each title! All four books are now available from Amazon.co.uk.


Issue 3 of our International Newsletter is now available from this website. In this issue you'll find our regular articles, including the profile of a Scots word and a Scottish tradition, an update on Scots lexicography, an introduction to a "Secret Destination", and more. If you would like to make a suggestion for a future article about a particular event or location in Scotland, or abroad, please email us: mail@scotsdictionaries.org.uk.


SLD would like to thank the Aurelius Charitable Trust for their generous contribution to the work of our Data Conversion Project, which will create a more robust, user-friendly and future-proofed resource for housing the materials in our ongoing Word Collection.


For our fourth Scottish Writing Exhibition, part of the Modern Language Association convention in the US, we again enjoyed an enthusiastic welcome and great support from conference delegates. We distributed our gift bags in record time, and noted a sharp increase in the number of academics working in the field of Scottish literature, specifically those seeking collaboration for development of current and new courses. We took a record 120 titles this year, from a variety of Scottish, English and American publishers.

SLD's publishers, Edinburgh University Press, sent several books to our exhibit; we were delighted to see, this year for the first time, that in addition to contributing to our exhibit they also sent an entire bookcase-display of Scottish books to the Columbia University Press booth. Columbia distribute EUP's books in North America.

Dr Robinson's Scots language session attracted a keen and dedicated audience, and Scottish authors Louise Welsh and Iain Finlay Macleod charmed and inspired literary fans with readings from their work.

We are very excited to be making plans for the MLA convention in San Francisco this December, and also for our first, exploratory venture to the European Society for the Study of English conference this year in Aarhus, Denmark! Keep an eye on the Scottish Writing Exhibition website for details.


SLD, in partnership with the Association for Scottish Literary Studies (ASLS), has taken the Scottish Writing Exhibition to the Modern Language Association convention in the US since 2004. The convention attracts over 10,000 delegates, the vast majority being university lecturers, and our aim is to encourage the inclusion of Scottish literature in the curriculum at North American universities. Our exhibit typically showcases close to 100 titles, from several publishers (primarily Scottish), including publications in Scots and Gaelic and dictionaries for both languages.

This year we are very excited to welcome Christine Robinson, SLD's Director, to the rapidly-growing Scottish contingent. Dr Robinson will be giving a paper entitled "A Moorkavie oot o the North: Old Norse Weather Words in Scotland", as a part of the session "Patterns in Time: The Scottish Nordic Synergy", chaired by Dr Donna Heddle from the UHI Millenium Institute. For more information on the influence of Scandinavian languages on Scots, please email Chris at mail@scotsdictionaries.org.uk


After over a year of design and construction involving all members of SLD staff, the National Word Collection Database is now in the final stage of testing. The Database will be a cutting-edge research tool which we will use for future editions of our dictionaries. It will include over 57,000 entries and we will continue to add new data as it comes in. We hope the National Word Collection Database will form the basis for a new lexical Linguistic Survey of Scotland. We will keep you informed of our progress! If you have any questions, please email us at mail@scotsdictionaries.org.uk


Issue 2 of our International Newsletter is now available from this website. The newsletter includes regular articles on Scots words and traditions, an update on Scots lexicography, a profile of a Scottish region, a portrait of a Scottish-American society, and more. If you would like your organisation to be profiled in a future issue, or if you would like to make a suggestion for a future article about a particular event or location in Scotland, please email us: mail@scotsdictionaries.org.uk


Scottish Language Dictionaries are pleased to announce that A History of Scots to 1700 by Caroline Macafee is now freely available on the DSL website. Undergraduate and postgraduate university students, researchers and general readers who really want to get to grips with the history of the Scots language will come to rely on A History of Scots to 1700 as a fascinating description of language change and an essential reference resource.


A report into the use of Shetland dialect in local authority and partner-provided nursery classes in Shetland is now available on the Scots Language Centre web site. This excellent report is worth reading if you are interested in education, linguistic diversity and the provision of support for young speakers of dialect. The research and report were commissioned by Shetland Islands Council.


Applications are now being accepted for the Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship 2008. Applicants must be published Scottish writers. Please see the guidelines for more details, and note that the closing date for submissions is Friday 31 August 2007. The fellowship is offered jointly by the Scottish Arts Council and the National Library of Scotland.


Scottish Language Dictionaries has submitted a response to the Stategy for Scotland's Languages, following the Scottish Executive's request for comments.


The long-awaited Strategy for Scotland's Languages can now be seen on the Scottish Executive's website and comment is invited.


James Robertson has presented a paper, The Scots Language: A Personal View, to the Cross Party Group on Scottish Writing, calling for the establishment of an adequately funded policy for the preservation, encouragement and development of the Scots Language.