Explaining the examples

The examples in the atlas are grouped into a number of sub-types to make browsing easier. In this document we provide some more information about the groups and the examples within them.


Adjectives is a small category which contains one example of a ‘nonstandard intensifier’, where over (pronounced something akin to o’er) is used as an intensifier (Q37: That’s over big a bit for me), and two examples of ‘adjective shift’, where a predicative adjective shows up in a non-canonical position (e.g. E4: He’s really big getting). ‘Adjective shift’ is attested in the corpus, and it typically involves a predicate-embedding verb like getting or becoming and an adjective which is modified by a degree modifier. Canonical examples of adjective shift often involve the use of the Scots-specific degree modifier awful (awfully but with unmarked adverbial -ly).


Agreement is a large category of examples where we see nonstandard agreement. The subcategory ‘measures’ involves cases where a measure noun shows up without plural number marking (e.g. Q12: It’s ten mile away), tested with a few different measure nouns. ‘Much/many’ tests nonstandard uses of much for many (e.g. Q5: There’s too much people here), where the singular/mass form is used instead of the plural-agreeing form. See also the category `Nominals’ for cases of non-agreeing demonstratives. The ‘Northern Subject Rule’ (a term from the literature) tests a historical Scots/Northern Englishes-specific agreement pattern where the finite verb shows plural agreement with third person pronominal subjects (they go) but may show singular agreement with non-pronominals (my neighbours goes). The examples A12 and A13 test this pattern.   ‘Was/were’ tests use of was with you and we (e.g. A2: We was waiting for ages), a variant found throughout dialects of English.


Auxiliaries tests a number of dialectal variations in the use of auxiliary verbs that have been attested in Scots and beyond. ‘After perfect’ is a case where after occurs with an inflected form of be with a perfect tense-like reading, such as D3: I’m just after speaking to him (“I have just spoken to him”). This also includes the example D4: He’s just after one, an attested example which seems to involve an extension to main verb have; it means he has just had one and the preceding context to make this meaning clear (taken directly from the attested case) was “I ask if your friend wants a cup of tea and you say:”. ‘Auxiliary doubling’ tests a number of attested cases where an auxiliary verb seems to be repeated; this includes D7: What should’ve he have bought instead, as well as a surface-similar example D8: What should’ve we said to him, where there is no doubling as such but rather shifting of the non-finite auxiliary have along with should to the second position (as also seen in D7). These were kept together for ease of comparison. ‘Be perfect’ tests cases of the use of be for have in clauses with a perfect tense interpretation, such as D1: I’m no been there in a while, which means I haven’t been there in a while. ‘Double modals’ tests cases where a finite modal is immediately followed by another, such as J2: He might can help you tomorrow, which means “he might be able to help you tomorrow”. Only a handful of the double modal examples were tested throughout Scotland. ‘Zero auxiliaries’ tests examples based on attested data where a normally-present auxiliary is not pronounced, such as D11: I would rather made dinner myself, which means “I would rather have made dinner myself”.


Comp brings together examples involving complementizers and elements in the left-peripheral domain of the clause. This includes ‘nonstandard comparative structures’ such as O36: He was smaller nor I expected, where nor is used like the comparison marker than, and P1: he’s a nice guy but, where “but” is used sentence-finally like “though.” ‘For to infinitives’ tests a range of cases of infinitival clauses with for to, such as J21: I’ll put the heater in for to dry your jaiket (“I’ll put the heater on to dry your jacket”). ‘Other’ contains a single example – T1: See him, I can’t stand him, where the initial see behaves like some sort of topic marker.


Have-raising collects examples of sentences where ‘main verb’ uses of have show auxiliary-like behaviour by occurring to the left of negation, subjects or adverbs (aie means “always”, jist is a variant of “just”), or by contracting onto the subject (e.g. C10: I’ve a copy of that at home). Examples like these are not specific to Scots, but are known to be well-attested in the varieties here. The ‘have-raising’ phenomenon is the subject of an ongoing study by the project team.


Imperatives collects examples of nonstandard imperatives; these primarily involve imperative-specific forms in the initial position of the clause with fairly transparent command interpretations; some co-occur with overt subjects. H1 and H2 involve gonnae, which is related to the contraction of going to (cf. gonna in other varieties), and H4 involves wantae, which is related to the contraction of want to (cf. wanna). These all have command interpretations, e.g. H1: Gonnae turn the volume down means “please turn the volume down”. H9 and H10 involve initial particles mon and mere which are related to reductions of come on and come here, and so H9: Mon you over here for a photo means “come on over here for a photo”. H8: Away you over there and behave! is interpreted roughly as “go away over there and behave”, and it involves the use of a verb-like away which is also seen in G1: I’ll away up the road, in the ‘Verbs & arguments’ subsection ‘Ø verbs.’ H11: get that watched, it’s brilliant, is an imperative use of get which means “watch that, it’s brilliant” (i.e. the watching is not to be done by someone else).


Inversion is a set of examples of nonstandard subject-verb inversion. ‘Embedded inversion’ tests examples of embedded questions (yes-no questions and wh-questions) with subject-verb inversion (e.g. O42: I asked is he here for long). ‘Verb raising’ is a set of examples which were largely only tested in the Shetland Islands, and they involve subject-verb inversion with lexical verbs in questions and imperatives (e.g. H7: Go you over there!), which are attested to different degrees in the area (but barely elsewhere). These include some nonstandard lexical forms such as giens (“goes”), whaar (“where”), bides (“lives”) and peerie (“little”). Note that there are other examples of nonstandard subject-verb order in ‘have-raising,’ ‘imperatives’ and ‘auxiliaries.’


Locative discovery expressions is the term used in a paper by the atlas team (Thoms et al 2019) to describe constructions such as here it is, which are used in discovery-type contexts. This section tests a number of nonstandard variations on these which typically have the same meaning as their regular counterparts like here it is. This includes cases of nonstandard auxiliary contraction, such as D19: Here it’s!, which are described as ‘minimal’ locative discovery expressions, and D22: there it’s there, which are called ‘doubled’ locative discovery expressions.


Nominals is a diverse group of cases which test different nonstandard nominal expressions. ‘Demonstratives’ tests non-agreeing demonstratives, such as Q38: Take a look at this photos…, cases where they and them are used as plural demonstratives (Q40 and Q41 respectively; the latter is widely attested outside Scots), and cases testing yon/thon as distal demonstratives (which can be used in both singular and plural contexts, so translating as “that/those” or “yonder”). ‘Determiners’ tests cases where the or my occur in nominals which would typically feature an indefinite determiner (e.g. Q46: I’ve got the cold again) or where the determiner would typically be absent (e.g. Q8: I’m going to my bed, where my is typically inferred, but it is not focussed here). ‘Irregular plurals’ tests a handful of irregular plural nouns which have been retained by some conservative varieties, namely sheen for shoes (M2: You have to take off your sheen at the door) and een for eyes (M1: He got something in his een). ‘One’ gathers two examples where the proform one is realized as a dialect-specific form, which was ane in the Northeast but yin elsewhere, as in Q18: I got a big yin so we can share. ‘Pronouns’ test  various nonstandard pronoun forms, such as reflexives being used in contexts where they lack an antecedent (e.g. Q16: I’m off to meet himself later), the relic form wir used meaning our (e.g. Q28: We’ll take wir brollies just in case) and ee meaning you (e.g. Q32: Did ee like it at all?).


Participles brings together examples of three types of nonstandard verb forms, many of which are attested outside of Scots as well. ‘Irregular perfect’ gathers cases involving nonstandard irregular perfect participles, including Scots-specific ones like putten (put, B14), as well as cases where the preterit is used as the perfect participle (e.g. B6: They’ve went home already). ‘Irregular preterit’ gathers simple past tense sentences with nonstandard preterit verb forms, such as seen for saw (B1), jamp for jumped (B10), selt for sold (B16), and gied for went (B17). ‘Progressive statives’ tests progressive forms of a number of stative verbs, all of which have the same meaning as the related simple present, such as A39: I’m wanting to be at the station for one (“I want to be at the station for one”). A46: are you minding that we’re goin oot the night involves a verbal use of mind which translates as “remember,” and “the night” translates as “tonight.”


Polarity is a large class of sentences which test negation and related polarity phenomena. Many of the examples involve testing forms of affixal negation which translate fairly directly as -n’t. These are realised as –na [nʌ] (Brian isna like that) in more northern areas of Scotland, and –nae [ne] elsewhere (Brian isnae like that). This includes some forms which are spelled to reflect pronunciation, such as umnae (“am not”), huvnae (“haven’t”), willnae (“won’t”), urnae (“aren’t”), I’dna (“I would not”), I’vena (“I’ve not”), we’rena (“we’re not”) and dinnae (“don’t”). A few examples also test a –noo variant of the negation which is found primarily in the Shetland Isles (e.g. N58: isnoo for isn’t). Some examples tested –n’t forms specifically, such as the amn’t examples (e.g. N30: I amn’t ready, which means “I’m not ready”). The examples in the ‘-int’ section test cases where a form of –n’t and the auxiliary verb are reduced substantially; for example wint translates as wasn’t (e.g. N22: She was there early, wint she? means “she was there early, wasn’t she?”), dint translates as doesn’t (N21), hint translates as hasn’t (e.g. N23). ‘Negative concord’, found in Englishes worldwide, tests these forms in Scots, with some Scots-specific negative forms such as the negative determiners nane (“none” as in “none of them”) and nae (“no” as in “no books”) . ‘Never’ contains examples where never is used for standard didn’t (N1) and in a context where standard varieties would use not, such as N2: He’s never out his bed yet (“he’s not out his bed yet”). ‘Other’ includes N37: I cannae no see them, which involves two verbal negations with a single negative meaning (“I can’t see them”), and S8: We were stuck in traffic for ages, were we?, which features a polarity-matching tag question. ‘Ø elements’ tests clauses with negative meanings where either the negative or the auxiliary is not pronounced, such as D9: I na want to be late (“I don’t want to be late”), D10: I na been there before (“I haven’t been there before”), D18: I daa ken (“I don’t know”), and D38 I caa mind his name (“I can’t remember his name”). ‘Ellipsis’ tests uses of so and neither as ellipsis polarity particles, such as S1: so he is, which is used in response to “we’re talking about our pal Jim and I say he’s originally from Fife”; the response translates as “ ah yes, you’re right that he is” with the implication that the speaker ought to have realised that he was from Fife. S2: neither he is (used in response to “I say our friend Jim is from Dundee but you say he isn’t even from the east coast”) has a similar but negative meaning, translating as “you’re right that he isn’t from Fife and I should have realised that”. S3: it’s a lovely day, so it is and S4: it’s no a very nice day neither it is test attested cases where these forms are used in a way akin to tag questions, where they only serve to weakly emphasise polarity. ‘Emphatic polarity’ tests emphatic polarity constructions such as D16: I div like a scone (“I do like a scone”), N11: Naw I’m urnae (“No I’m not”), as well as two examples where that is used in VP-ellipsis contexts, such as U1: aye he can that (which is used in response to some saying “he can really dance”, and translates as “yes he sure can dance” or “that he can”).


Prepositions contains a number of examples of nonstandard uses or forms of prepositions. Some of the nonstandard forms are til meaning to and so that (G9 and G10 respectively) and or meaning by (G8). Some nonstandard uses include fae meaning from used with petrified (G6), and with (pronounced with a deleted coda – wi’) meaning by (G5). There are also a few zero prepositions as well, such as Q10: I’ll have a wee drop soup (“I’ll have a little drop of soup”) and G12: his dad was Govan as well (“his dad was from Govan as well”).


Questions collects a few examples which involve nonstandard interrogative forms. ‘Eh tags’ tests a number of tag questions and related forms involving the particle eh; this includes some with the more elaborate eh no form, such as O15: You’ve no seen the new Star Wars film, eh no? (“you haven’t seen the new Star Wars film, have you?”), and some questions which put the tag in an initial position as an initial question particle, such as O17: Eh you’re leaving? (“are you leaving?”). O41 tests a use of sure as a question particle of sorts in: Sure Jim’s fae Inverness, which means roughly “are you sure Jim’s from Inverness?”. ‘Wh-questions’ tests some nonstandard wh-pronouns, such as how used with the meaning of why (O7, O10, O11), what like fronted as a unit (O19: What like was the weather?, meaning “what was the weather like?”) and whatna meaning what kind of (O31). It also includes some nonstandard uses of wh-pronouns, such as O24: She told me what fine these pies were. (“she told me how lovely these pies were”). More nonstandard question forms are found in the ‘inversion’ section.


Verbs & Arguments collects together a diverse range of examples of nonstandard argument structures or verb forms, most of which are familiar from other varieties. ‘Light verbs’ includes a number of light verb-like constructions, such as F4: I’ll give him a look-in (“I’ll look in on him”), F5: The kettle’s no through the boil yet (“the kettle has not boiled yet”), and F6: give it a skelp!” (“hit it!”). ‘That’s NP been’ tests constructions with a recent past meaning such as I1: That’s him been sacked again (“he’s just been sacked again”) and I2: That’s there been rain every day this week (“there’s been rain every day this week”).