Calls for Doric to have same status as English and Gaelic

Doric is to be promoted and protected on a new scale in Scotland with a body now set up in Aberdeen to secure the same status for North-East Scots as English and Gaelic.

The North-East Scots Language Board is being led by academics, key figures and institutions in the region to normalise the use of the language in civic life, media, business and education.

North-East Scots is spoken between Montrose and Nairn with Doric, a dialect of the language, found in roughly half that area from Aberdeen northwards. Doric itself has several different dialects as it moves between fishing and farming communities.

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Do you know these 25 Doric words and phrases?

Now, road signs, public information and media broadcasts could be delivered in North-East Scots in the future given the creation of the board which aims to enhance the area’s distinctive culture.

Around 1.5m people speak Scots with the highest proportions found in Aberdeenshire and Shetland (49 per cent) and Moray (45 per cent), according to latest census figures.

While the Scottish Government has set out a Scots language policy, the board hopes to forge ahead in making Doric and North-East Scots more visible in everyday life with hopes its work could lead to the development of a national Scots language body.


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Dr Thomas McKean, director of Aberdeen University’s Elphinstone Institute and vice-chair of NESLB, said:

“North-East Scots and Doric are mostly thought of as being a language for home and family, but its use is far more widespread than that.

“Large numbers use it in their everyday lives, but one of our aims is to promote and celebrate its use in areas where it isn’t often visible, such as in our civic life, in the media, and education.

“It’s important that young people see themselves – and the language they speak – reflected back at them in public life. Just as children need to see diverse gender and race role models, they need to know that someone who speaks their native language can be a success in any walk of life.”

The board will include representatives from Aberdeen University, Robert Gordon University as well as Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Moray and Angus councils.

It will build on the work of Aberdeenshire Council, which last year passed a Doric Language Policy which promotes its use in schools across the region.


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Dr McKean said studies have shown that children taught in their native language attain better academically in other fields with a Pathway for Scots in schools now being developed by the Elphinstone Institute in support of the Board’s work.

He added: “We want to raise the status of North-East Scots and Doric. We know it is used in business life in the North-East but simply we would like to hear more North-East voices.

“The number of Scots speakers here is probably denser than anywhere apart from perhaps urban Glasgow.

“You here a vast number of different voices in the media - Shetland, Highland, Central Belt, but not a lot of North-East voices.

“Doric and North-East Scots was always seen as the vernacular, as in you wouldn’t speak it to your minister or doctor that way. We are really trying to normalise the use of the language, to overcome that sort of attitude.”

Dr McKean said promoting North-East Scots should not be at the expense of the work done on raising awareness of Gaelic.


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Only 0.6 per cent of the population in Aberdeenshire and 0.8 per cent of Aberdeen residents speak Gaelic, although recent rises have been recorded.

Dr McKean said: “Gaelic has had a hard time since the 1609 Statues of Iona. There is certainly grumbling here in the North-East, where some complain about the money Gaelic’s had.

“That is a very sad attitude, I think. Scots absolutely deserves social, political, and financial support, but there’s no need to decry what Gaelic has gotten and what its campaigners have achieved. There is a great deal to be learned from their progress over the last few decades and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do. One nation, three leids.”

North-East Scots/Doric words and phrases

Foos yer doos? - How are your pigeons/how are you?

Far div ye bide? - Where do you stay?


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loon - boy/son

quine - girl/daughter

muckle - big

bosie - hug

affa fine - really good

myaggart - filthy


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foggie bummer - bumble bee

sna - snow

sklyter - a portion of something, like land

hamedrachtit - selfish, or drawn to home

fooshin - gumption

foosics - little bits of fluff)


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foonert - scunnert, given up