Scots finds home on gey muckle website

AN ENCYCLOPAEDIA in the language of Rabbie Burns is now available at the click o' a moose.

A Scots-language version of Wikipedia has already attracted more than 2,200 entries on subjects as diverse as "airchaeology" and "sodgerin".

The English-language edition of the free online encyclopaedia has become one of the great success stories of the internet age with more than two million contributions.

Scots enthusiasts, already buoyed by the SNP's decision to add the "mither tongue" to the school curriculum, have hailed the site as another shot in the arm for the long-neglected language.

But the Scots Wikipedia has also been ridiculed as an embarrassing parody of the language used by Sir Walter Scott and Hugh MacDiarmid.

The site – which claims to be the first encyclopaedia in the Scots leid, or language – has already attracted more articles than longer-established sites in the Maori and Kashmiri languages.

But the site's "leet o' weel kent Scots fowk" features just 13 individuals and there is no room yet for icons such as Robert the Bruce, John Logie Baird, Alexander Graham Bell, Alexander Fleming, Robert Louis Stevenson, David Hume and Adam Smith. Modern-day names such as Sir Sean Connery, Alex Salmond, Gordon Brown and Ewan McGregor are also absent.

Instead, alongside Burns and William Wallace, there are entries for GMTV presenter Jenni Falconer: "She haes forbye presentit the ITV traivel shaw How to Holiday"; Gail Porter, who shot to fame because of a "gey muckle FHM photie on the Hooses o Pairlament wi aa her claes aff"; and Oor Wullie, "a loun that sits on a bucket wi a moose cried Jeemy".

One of biggest entries is for Glasgow Airport attack hero John Smeaton who gets more than 200 words compared with just 70 for Wallace. Smeaton's entry states: "He became inrowed in coonterin a failt terrorist bellum on the airport."

Other subjects covered in the Scots Wikipedia include "airchitectur". "the airts", "eddication", "releegion", "ingineerin" and "pheesics".

Dr Chris Robinson, director of the Dictionary of the Scots Language, was delighted by the increasing numbers of people visiting the site. "What is particularly encouraging is that it gets people accustomed to reading a huge range of different things in Scots and not just literature," she said.

"The fact it is doing well gives a lie to all those people who decry Scots and try to do it down."

But Robinson conceded that attempting to create universal spellings for Scots words could be a "minefield". "It is a very difficult job to come up with one spelling that doesn't alienate half of the country," she said.

Stuart Kelly, Scotland on Sunday's literary editor, felt the site failed to do justice to the rich heritage of Scots.

He said: "I don't think anyone nowadays considers Scots as slang or 'incorrect English'. However, this seems convoluted at best, and an absolute parody at worst.

"The great tradition of Douglas, Burns, Scott and MacDiarmid means more than just altering the vowels and dropping the g from present participles."

Ted Brocklebank, culture spokesman for the Scottish Tories, felt attempts to create a universal Scots language were contrived and doomed to failure.

He said: "There are a number of rich variations of the English language spoken in Scotland, from Doric in the north-east, to Lallans in the Borders and the Nordic Scots of Orkney and Shetland. But none of them qualify as languages in their own right.

"This website appears to be a cheap attempt at creating a language. Simply taking an English word and giving it a Scots phonetic does not make it into a Scots word."

Language or dialect?

The use and status of Scots has caused numerous stooshies – or rows – over the centuries.

Originating in Denmark, Scots is related to the language of the Angles who invaded the north of England in the fifth century and used words like hoose, coo and stane.

Scots is also influenced by the culture of the Vikings, whose language, Norse, contained words like greet, muckle and midden.

Scots was brought to Scotland in the 12th century by the English servants of Norman lords. In 1603, the accession of James VI of Scotland to the throne of England signalled the end of Scots' official status in favour of its southern sister language, English.

Critics have long argued that Scots is at best a dialect and at worst a poor version of English.

Ted Brocklebank, of the Scottish Conservatives, said: "We have dialects of English such as Doric and Lallans, which are very rich, but they are not separate languages."

But Rob Gibson, an SNP MSP, disagreed, saying: "It produces internationally recognised literature and inspires our understanding of past literature."