General Guide to Scots Language


Scots pronunciation is no more difficult than that of any other language. The way to make it close to impossible is to presume that the pronunciation of a Scots word will resemble that of a similar English word.

Here are a few general principles.

There is no "oo" spelling in Scots.

An "oo" sound in Scots is invariably spelled "ou" and "ou" in Scots is almost always pronounced like a German "ü" and rarely like the English "ou".

For example, the nearest English approximation of the Scots words "toun", "doun" and "broun" would be "toon", "doon" and "broon". As said above, this sound is closer to a German "ü" than to an English "oo".

So, when you see a Scots word with an "ou", think "oo" and when you see a Scots word with "oo", be aware that this is simply someone adopting an English phonetic spelling rather than using the correct Scots spelling.

"ch" is NOT pronounced "ck".

Hearing, for example, "loch" pronounced as "lock" is something which is amusing and occasionally irritating to Scots.

The Scots "ch" is a soft sound made in the back of the throat, rather like a softer Dutch "g" and does not have a 'click' like an English "ck".

Imagine the sound of a waterfall rather than that of a brick hitting a wall.

With a few exceptions, the stress in a Scots word always comes on the first syllable.

For example, "Shetland", "Glasgow", "Barra" and "Galloway" are pronounced "SHET-land", "GLAS-gow", "BAR-ra" and "GALL-oway".

"-ing" endings are rare in Scots

Where there is a common root with an English word, the Scots will usually end with "-an" or "-en".

An "ng" in Scots is invariably pronounced the same as in the English "hang".

The type of harder "ng" found in English "anger" is exceptional. In fact, so exceptional that I can't think of a single example offhand.

In the dialect of Scots ("Doric") spoken in Aberdeenshire and the North East, a "wh" at the start of a word is usually pronounced as an "f".

"whan" becomes "fan"
"whit" becomes "fit"
"whaur" becomes "faur" etc

(It is interesting that the Maori language of New Zealand does exactly the same but there appears to be no evidence to suggest this is anything other than coincidence.)

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