Wir Ain Leed — Scottish Standard English

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Wir Ain Leed — Scottish Standard English

SSE is essentially Standard English spoken with a Scottish accent. SSE as spoken by educated, middle-class urban Scots is described here. The pronunciation differs from that of most other varieties of English.

Vowels and Diphthongs

The SVLR also affects SSE.

beak, bee, peer, weak, weir
bay, day, pair, pane
bed, fern, heard, herd, merry
bid, bird, bitter, wanted
butter, fur, hurry, putt, sofa
bad, bard, calm, father, marry, palm, pam, path
boot, full, good, poor, pool, pull, put
boat, cord, hoard, soar, stole
caught, cot, cough, fork, long, paw, pot, sword
buy, rise, sly, tie, tied, why
night, rice, sight, slide, tide, while
brown, down, house, mouse, out
boy, noise, toy

SSE has less vowels than other varieties because SSE is rhotic i.e. <r> is pronounced /r/ after vowels and not vocalised to /ɪə/, /ɛə/, /ʊ ə/ and /ɜː/ as in RP (How posh folk in England Speak). Thus the pairs sawed / soared and pores / paws are distinct, and the following are only distinguished by the presence of /r/.


fern, bird and hurt may merge in some accents.

In words like serene - serenity and obscene - obscenity the second syllable of serenity and obscenity have /i/. RP has /ɛ/.


Consonants are much like those of RP but:

SSE differentiates between <wh> /ʍ/ and <w> /w/ i.e. which [ʍɪʧ] and witch [wɪʧ].
/p/, /t/ and /k/ are not aspirated in SSE.
The consonant /r/ is often /ɾ/. Some speakers have /ɹ/, these speakers usually merge /ɪ/, /ɛ/ and /ʌ/ before /r/ to /ə/.
Non-initial /t/ is often realised as a glottal stop /ʔ/.
<ch> pronounced /x/ only occurs in a few specifically Scots words like loch and dreich.


Some words have a distinctive SSE pronunciation:



Many words have different stress than in RP. Porpoise and tortoise have equal stress on each syllable. In the following the main stress in on the final syllable: advertise, baptize, realize and recognize etc. The following have the main stress on the second syllable: lamentable and preferably.

Grammar and Vocabulary

The grammar of SSE is much the same as Standard English but SSE is influenced by Scots grammar and idiom to varying degrees. SSE has a range of legal vocabulary not present in Standard English. This is often anglicized versions of Scots vocabulary.

The following are common examples of how Scots grammar influences SSE:

The Scots use of modal verbs i.e. many speakers do not use 'shall' and 'may' and use would instead of 'should'.
Might and will maybe are used for possibility and have (got) for compulsion.
Need to, use to and dare to are used as main verbs. Need may occur in the passive, and is also used non-progressively as is want.
The verb have is used more like an auxiliary.

Anglo English
Will I see you after?
Shall I see you later?
Can I come as well?
May I come as well?
He might come later.
He may come later.
He'll maybe come later.
He may come later.
I would, if I was you.
I should, if I were you.
He has got to come.
He must come.
She has to leave.
She must leave.
I don't need to do that.
I needn't do that.
He didn't need to do that.
He needn't have done that.
He doesn't dare to talk.
He didn't dare talk.
My hair needs washed.
My hair needs washing.
My hair needs to be washed.
I'm needing a cup of tea.
I need a cup of tea.
He'd a good time last night.
He had a good time last night.
Had you a good time last night?
Did you have a good time last night?

The passive is usually expressed with get i.e. I got told off.

Some verbs are used progressively:

Anglo English
He was thinking he'd get more.
He thought he would get more.
I was hoping to see him.
I hoped to see him.
They were meaning to come.
They meant to come.

A well known marker of SSE is the use of not rather than '-n't':

Anglo English
He'll not come.
He won't come.
You're not wanted.
You aren't wanted.
Is he not coming?.
Isn't he coming?
Can you not come?
Can't you come?
Do you not want it?
Don't you want it?
Did he not come?
Didn't he come?

Not also negates verbs i.e. He isn't still not working. Nobody would dream of not coming.

Verbs of motion are often elided before adverbs of motion: I'll away home then. and The cat wants out. etc.

The is used as in Scots i.e. To take the cold. To get sent to the hospital. To go to the church.

Non-reflexive use of the pronoun self i.e. How's yourself today? and Is himself in? etc.

Anybody, everybody, nobody and somebody are used in preference to anyone, everyone, no one and someone.

Yet may occur with non-perfective forms of the verb:

Anglo English
Did you buy one yet?
Have you bought one yet?
He is here yet.
He is still here.

The adverbial particle follows the verb:

Anglo English
He turned out the light
He turned the light out.
They took off their coats
They took their coats off.

Many Scots idioms and phrases have been carried over into SSE.

Anglo English
How are you keeping?
How are you?
I doubt he's not coming.
I expect he isn't coming.
Away to your bed.
Go to bed.
That's me away.
I'm going now.
I've got the cold
I've got a cold.
It's for your Christmas.
It's your Christmas present.
I gave her a row.
I scolded her.
He gave me a fright.
He frightened me.
I'm finished it.
I'm finished.
I'll get you home.
I'll take you home.
Cheerio just now!
Goodbye for now!
To go the messages.
To go shopping.
The back of nine.
Just after nine (o' clock).