Follow Along with a Conversation in Doric Scots

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The Scottish Corpus of Text and Speech (SCOTS) is a collection of over 1300 spoken and written texts covering a wide range of language use in Scotland. Since it went online in 2004, researchers have used it to study various aspects of Scottish dialects. It allows you to search for specific words, as well as the words with which they most commonly occur, and to see the places where the users of those words are from on a map. One of the most impressive features of the corpus is the automatically highlighted transcription of the audio files. While you listen, you see exactly where you are in the transcription, which makes it a lot easier to follow the conversation, especially if you're unfamiliar with the expressions.

While exploring the corpus I discovered an audio file in the collection that contains a delightful conversation between two teachers discussing their own strong dialect features and how people react to them. They both speak a Northeastern variety known as Doric Scots, but even so, there are differences between the way the two of them speak, as well as between them and their students. This excerpt is an example of the flavor of their conversation:

A: I was thinkin' aboot what we were eh gonna dae for this Doric speakin or

B: spick aboot this efternuin.

A: I'm eh sure we've been picked because we're baith fae the sticks,

B: [laugh] Fae teuchterland! [laugh]

A: fae teuchterland and ehm of-, well, I suppose there is quite a strong accent we, we've got doon here in Laurencekirk but

B: Mmhm

A: certainly some o the words and stuff I mention, some o the kids'll

B: Aye.

A: look at ye funny.

B: Aye.

A: I, I'll tell ye the, the ain that ayeways comes up is h- "haivers." Ken the kids doon here say

B: Haivers.

A: "haivers"

B: Mmhm

A: Right, wi me if ye're haiverin.

B: Aye, ye're speakin rubbish.

A: Well I always thought it was ye were hummin and haein.

B: Or speakin nonsense. Oh! Oh it's, aye.

A: Right, I'm, I'm just, you know, I'm haiverin about that.

B: I thought haiverin wis, ye're bletherin a heap o nonsense. Stop yer haivers.

They use fae for from, ain for one, and ken for know. They jokingly refer to themselves as being from Teuchterland, a somewhat insulting term for the Highlands that implies a rural lack of sophistication—a bit like Hicksville. They realize they have slightly different ideas of what haivers means.

In other parts of the conversation they discuss conflicted feelings about the use of their dialects in school, the changes from their parents' and grandparents' generations, and the situations that call for "putting on" their "phone voice," their expression for switching to a more standard dialect.

It's a fascinating discussion of the social aspects of dialect that's actually being conducted in the dialect. You can hear for yourself what it sounds like, and read along the with transcription at the same time, here. Click on "Play audio" in the box to the right.