Scots Syntax Atlas: mapping oot the dialect

The Scots Syntax Atlas (SCOSYA) is a fantastic, newly launched website that will appeal to anyone interested in language and dialect, especially regional varieties and their idiosyncratic grammar. Its home page says:

Would you say I like they trainers? What about She’s no caring? Have you ever heard anyone say I div like a good story? And might you say You’re after locking us out? All of these utterances come from dialects of Scots spoken across Scotland, but where exactly can you hear them?

To answer this question, we travelled the length and breadth of Scotland, visiting 145 communities, from Shetland in the north to Stranraer in the south. We were particularly interested in the different ways that sentences are built up in these different areas. This part of a language is called its syntax, and it’s one of the most creative aspects of how people use language.

The resulting interactive Atlas has four main sections: How do people speak in…?, Stories behind the examples, Who says what where?, and Community voices. The two questions are self-explanatory. Community voices is a collection of extracts (audio and transcripts) from the conversations recorded – a trove of accent and dialect diversity.

Stories behind the examples and Who says what where? open up lists of dialect usages: didnae, We was, jamp, She seen, Gonnae you, I’ll away, needs washed, etc. Click on one for audio clips, demographic data, ‘a wee bit of linguistics’, and links to relevant resources – including, happily, posts I’ve written about related usages in Irish English.

This video shows how to access and use the Stories:

It’s all fairly intuitive, but if you want a walk-through, there’s a helpful Video Tour with more clips. FAQs explain briefly what Scots is, how it relates to Standard Scottish English and Gaelic, whether it’s a dialect or a language, and so on.

In the ‘For linguists’ section you can access the full spoken corpus (275 hours, 3m+ words), dig deeper into the data (‘100,000+ acceptability judgments from over 500 speakers on over 250 morphosyntactic phenomena’), and more.

The Scots Syntax Atlas was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and created by researchers from the University of Glasgow, University of Edinburgh, and Queen Mary University London. It’s fully and freely available and is a joy to explore. Someone please tell me they’re working on an Irish English version.

4 Responses to Scots Syntax Atlas: mapping oot the dialect

  1. maceochi says:

    A great resource. I do find it concerning that the FAQs imply that “dialect” is a derogoratory term because “people sometimes think” so. That should surely be a case for reclaiming the word “dialect” instead of avoiding it. I shudder to think of a future in which “dialect” is a non-PC word.

    • Stan Carey says:

      Agreed. Variety is a useful word in linguistic discussion, but I’d hate to think anyone is avoiding the word dialect because of perceptions of regional or nonstandard dialects.

  2. […] people, and books by the likes of James Kelman and Irvine Welsh gave me a proper flavour of the richness of Scots vocabulary and grammar. […]

  3. […] books by the likes of James Kelman and Irvine Welsh gave me a proper flavour of the richness of Scots vocabulary and grammar. […]

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