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Perspectives on the Older Scottish Tongue

Edited by Christian Kay, Margaret Mackay


This book celebrates the rich diversity of the Scots language and the culture it embodies. It marks two important events in Scots language scholarship: the completion of the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue (DOST) in 2001 and the publication of its final volumes in 2002. The thirteen chapters which comprise the volume cover many aspects of Scottish life as illuminated by the words used to describe them. The writers, experts in their own fields, are linked by the fact that they have all made use of the wealth of information in DOST to advance their research. Their topics include the use of DOST in reading literature, in tracing the consumption of cereals and wine in early Scotland, in elucidating place names and terms used in shipping, building and measurement, and in defining such complex concepts as homicide and the role of the 'gossip'. Nor is the history and structure of the dictionary itself forgotten. There is a study of its development from its beginnings in the 1920s, together with biographical notes on its editors over the years. There are also chapters drawing comparisons with the Middle English Dictionary, the Linguistic Atlas of Older Scots and the proposed historical dictionary of Scottish Gaelic. The book will thus appeal to those interested in the history of Scots and Scotland, and to those with a more general interest in the history of languages and development of dictionaries.


Preface (Alasdair MacDonald)
1. DOST and the Literary Scholar (Priscilla Bawcutt)
2. The History and Development of DOST (Marace Dareau)
3. 'There is Nothing like a Good Gossip': Baptism, Kinship and Alliance in Early Modern Scotland (Jane Dawson)
4. 'Wyne Confortative': Wine in Scotland from the Thirteenth to the Eighteenth Centuries (Alexander Fenton)
5. Law and Lexicography: The Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue and Late Medieval and Early Modern Scottish Shipping Law (A.D.M. Forte)
6. Cereal Terms in the DOST Record (Iseabail Macleod)
7. The Spread of a Word: Scail in Scots, and Sgaoil in Gaelic (Donald Meek)
8. Place Names as Evidence in the History of Scots (Bill Nicolaisen)
9. DOST and MED and the Virtues of Sibling Rivalry (Paul Schaffner)
10. Was It Murder? John Comyn of Badenoch and William, Earl of Douglas (W.H.D. Sellar)
11. Interpreting Scots Measurement Terms: A Cautionary Tale (A.D.C. Simpson)
12. The Use of the Scottish National Dictionaries in the Study of Traditional Building Construction (Bruce Walker)
13. DOST and LAOS - A Caledonian Symbiosis? (Keith Williamson)
Overview (William Gillies).

About the Author

Christian Kay is Professor Emeritus and Honorary Professorial Research Fellow in English Language at the University of Glasgow. She was an editor of the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary, and A Thesaurus of Old English, and founded the Scottish Corpus of Texts and Speech. She has written on historical semantics and lexicography and contributed to projects on metaphor and semantic annotation based on the Historical Thesaurus of English dataset.

Margaret A. Mackay is Professor of English Language, University of Glasgow


This collection of essays invites us to share in the vivid and lively culture of which Older Scots was once the living language.
This fine collection of essays celebrating the completion of the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue is testimony to the value of the historical dictionary as a cultural, as well as a lexical, document. The essays are wide-ranging: some concentrate on the data in DOST (on wines, cereal crops and products, legal language, literary vocabulary, etc.); others use the definitions in DOST as a jumping-off point for further analysis (of the function of a 'gossip', timber construction, weights and measures); and still others connect DOST with related dictionaries and linguistic atlases. These essays are essential reading for anyone interested in the language and culture of early Scotland.
- Robert E. Lewis, Editor-in-Chief, Middle English Dictionary
'This collection of essays invites us to share in the vivid and lively culture of which Older Scots was once the living language.' - Scots Language, 25