Segments in this Video

Scottish Tongue: Oldest in Britain (02:51)


The Scottish tongue is one of the oldest in Britain. Scots, a northern variety of English, is the result of Anglo Saxon invaders and English refugees after the Norman Conquest. In Aberdeen, one can still hear speakers of Scots.

Scots Storyteller: Oral Tradition (01:43)

A Scots storyteller speaks his language with all the vocabulary and cadence of the original tongue. He tells his stories and legends in the same tongue that was handed down through generations. This segment features one of his stories in the Scots tongue.

Sir Robert Burns Saves the Scots Tongue (02:44)

In honor of Robert Burns, members of the literary and debating society recollect the nostalgia of Burns by reciting his poetry in the lowland Scots tongue. Burns shunned the fashion for English and restored his nation's voice.

Loss of Scots Tongue from 1600s Onward (03:40)

The departure of the Scottish aristocracy to London after the death of Elizabeth I dealt a blow to the Scottish tongue, already in decline because of the southern influence. To thrive in court, the Scots needed a command of British English.

Scots: Variety of English (03:05)

To strengthen the union of Scotland and England, King James 1 ordered all churches in Scotland to conduct Sunday services with his newly translated Bible. Since King James' day, there has been a decline in Scots, and today it is merely a variety of English.

Who Are the Scots-Irish? (03:25)

Lowland Scottish English, the language of Robert Burns, spread far beyond Scotland. Known as Scots-Irish, the Scots moved to Northern Ireland to establish plantations.

Scots-Irish Variety of English (04:51)

Older people in the Irish countryside best preserve the Scottishness of Ulster English. Viewers of this segment hear this particular "broad speech" at an Irish horserace and at a cattle auction.

Words of Ulster English (01:34)

A professor gathers Ulster English words for a dictionary he is developing. He shares some of the words and their definitions.

Scots-Irish: From Ulster to Colonial America (02:36)

In the 1700s, most of the Scots-Irish entered America through Philadelphia, bringing with them their distinctive lowland Scottish speech. This added a new sound to American English. These new settlers pushed south to the Appalachians.

Scots-Irish in Colonial America (02:11)

In the Appalachians, the Scots-Irish developed a reputation as "ferocious" Indian fighters--Davy Crockett among these fighters. Their proverbs and ballads survive today, as do many of their colorful words and phrases, e.g., "mad as a meat axe."

Scots-Irish Pronunciations in the Appalachians (02:29)

In the Appalachians, the Scots-Irish became famous for their moonshine stills. Their speech was the dominant linguistic influence in the mountains. Characteristics of the dialect include the Middle English "a" in front of -ing words: "a-huntin'" instead of "hunting."

Remnants of Broad Appalachian Accent (03:32)

This segment features Ray Hicks, one of the last surviving speakers of the original broad Appalachian accent of the Scots-Irish settlers. People come from great distances to hear him tell folktales and ghost stories.

Scots-Irish Accent in Middle America and Country Western Music (05:31)

In the early 1800s, the Scots-Irish began to lead the Westward expansion of the American frontier where their broad accents leveled out. It has picked up prestige since WWII and is one of the major dialects of American English, heard in country Western singing and trucker talk.

Scottish Highlanders and Scottish-Gaelic Speech (05:47)

Highlanders were Gaelic-speaking Celts scorned by the English and lowland Scots. Their language, Scottish Gaelic, is nearly extinct, and survives only in remote islands in the Outer Hebrides.

British Assault on Gaelic Culture (03:09)

Since 1745, Scots-Gaelic has been a persecuted language. Archival film footage of a documentary presents the Battle of Culloden between the Highlanders and British. The British imposed their way of life and language on the Highlanders.

Scottish Highlands in British Regiments (03:22)

Sir Walter Scott, like Robert Burns, is a champion of Scotland and its literature. Their literature plays on a sense of national pride in Scotland. Regiments of Highlanders have a history of fighting alongside the British.

Scottish Highlanders In the Service of English (00:60)

Driven from their lands by poverty and depression, Highlanders were forced to learn the language of their old enemies. Ironically, they then carried it forward to the four corners of the world.

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The Guid Scots Tongue

Part of the Series : The Story of English
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The Scottish tongue is one of the oldest in Britain, a Northern variety of English that, but for the accidents of history, might have become a separate language. This classic PBS program deals with the influence of the Scots in spreading the language of their historic enemies—the Sassenachs of the South—around the world. The program begins in the 15th century, the golden age of the Scottish tongue; it follows the linguistic path of the Scots as they settled in Ulster and then crossed the Atlantic into Appalachia and the American sunbelt. A look at the English of the Scottish Highlands is also included, studying the influence of the Gaelic languages that still survive on the Outer Hebrides. (58 minutes)

Length: 59 minutes

Item#: BVL36926

ISBN: 978-1-4213-6090-4

Copyright date: ©1986

Closed Captioned

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Only available in USA and Canada.