[DrupalCon London icon] Help Sharon win a trip to attend DrupalCon London!

Scottish Medieval Bibliography


Last updated 29 Nov 2006  

Below are published resources for the different languages that were spoken at one time or another during the Middle Ages in the area that is now Scotland. (More resources will be added as time permits.) Sections marked www in the index to this page include links to texts available online. See also the Literature and Published Primary Sources sections of this bibliography.

Index to this page:


Cumbric (a Brythonic Language)


Below is a rough timeline of the Gaelic language in Scotland:

Where Spoken and by Whom
400-600 Archaic Gaelic aka Archaic Irish  

Early Gaelic aka Old Irish

900-1200 Middle Gaelic aka Middle Irish  
1200-1700 Common Classical Gaelic aka Common Literary Gaelic aka Common Gaelic aka Early Modern Gaelic aka Early Modern Irish aka ...  
1700 onwards Scottish Gaelic  

General Resources for Gaelic

Resources for Early and Middle Gaelic

Resources for Scottish Gaelic


Scots developed out of the northern dialects of Old English as spoken in Scotland, while what became the standard language in England developed out of the southern dialects of Old English. Although modernly both Scots and English are spoken in Scotland, this was not true in the later Middle Ages.

Below is a rough timeline of the Scots language in Scotland (CSD, ix-xiii):

Where Spoken and by Whom
Early 7th century -1100 Old English South-eastern Scotland, and to a lesser extent along the Solway.
1100-1700 Older Scots Older Scots is further divided into Early Scots and Middle Scots.
1100-1375 Pre-literary Scots

Spreading "beyond the south-east, first to other parts of southern Scotland, then in the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries to eastern Scotland north of the Forth." Scots was also the language of the burghs (towns), which began to be founded in the 12th century.

"By the fourteenth century ... [Scots] had become the dominant spoken tongue of all ranks of Scots east and south of the Highland Line, except in Galloway". It also had become the language of the royal court. "From about this time, too, the same ... tongue was beginning to be used in Caithness, Orkney, and Shetland".


Early Scots

(In this period, Scots-speakers themselves refer to their language as Inglis.)


Early Middle Scots

(From the end of the 15th century [1494] Scots-speakers begin to refer to their language as Scottis, although Inglis is still used as well.)

Scots continued to spread further towards the Highland Line in the eastern Lowlands north of the Forth, and also spread into parts of Galloway in the southwest and along the eastern coast north of Inverness. Some upperclass and educated Highlanders spoke Scots as well as Gaelic
1550-1700 Late Middle Scots Scots continued to spread further towards, and in some areas across, the Highland Line, and also further into Galloway.
1700 onwards Modern Scots At the start of the 18th century, Scots was spoken in all of the Lowlands and Northern Isles, except by many of the upper and educated classes (see below). Over the course of the 18th-20th centuries, the number of Scots speakers declined in favor of English, although still today some Lowland Scots speak both Scots and Scottish English.

Below is a rough timeline of the modern English language in Scotland (CSD, ix-xiii):

Where Spoken and by Whom
1600 onwards Scottish English

In the 17th century, upperclass and educated Lowlanders increasingly spoke English rather than Scots. Upperclass and educated Highlanders increasingly spoke English in addition to or instead of Gaelic.

In the 18th century, the trend to speak Scottish English rather than Scots spread further into the middle classes. Increasing numbers of Highlanders also spoke English instead of Gaelic. These trends continued over the following centuries, with English displacing both Scots and Gaelic. Modernly nearly all Scots speak Scottish English, either as their only language or in addition to Scots or Gaelic.

Resources for Older Scots:


Anglo-Norman French


General Linguistics

A knowledge of basic linguistic concepts and principles can be very helpful for learning about historical Scottish languages, but unfortunately formal linguistics is rarely taught outside of university linguistics departments. Below are some good web articles about basic linguistics aimed at a general audience -- they assume no prior study or knowledge of linguistic concepts or terminology.


Highland Line

The Highland Line is essentially a geographic division between the main mountainous region (Highlands) and the non-mountainous region (Lowlands) of Scotland. Very roughly, it runs northeast from Dumbarton to Ballater and then northwest from Ballater to Nairn or Inverness. But the best way to get an appreciation of the geographic division into Highlands and Lowlands is to look at a map that clearly indicates higher elevations, such as the Coloured and Hillshaded LANDMAP DEM - Scotland at The Landmap Project. (To compare to the locations of named places, see Historical and Modern Maps.)


Scots is a language closely related to English. There are many terms, some more respected than others, used for the modern Scots language and/or specific dialects of Modern Scots, including "Broad Scots", "Lallans", "Lowland Scots", "Aberdonian", "Doric", "Glaswegian", and many others. In the 14th and 15th centuries, Scots speakers themselves called their language "Inglis", while in the 16th century they took to calling it "Scottis".

Some linguists consider Scots to be a separate language from English, others consider it a dialect of English. Since the categorization of independent language vs. dialect is a subjective one, there is no "one true answer". I choose to refer to Scots as a language for several reasons, including that I find it makes it easier to talk about and explain the linguistic situation in both modern and medieval Scotland.

Note that "Scots" has several other, more common, meanings in addition to referring to the Scots language, including, as an adjective, the meaning "Scottish" and, as a noun, the meaning "more than one Scottish person".

In association with Amazon.com. In association with Amazon.co.uk.
If there is no link to Amazon.com and/or Amazon.co.uk for a book, it may be out of print in that country. Note that when you put a book in your Amazon shopping cart immediately after clicking on the direct link to it, MedievalScotland.org earns a higher referral fee than if you click around Amazon before putting it in your cart. Income earned through these associations will help defray the expenses of the MedievalScotland.org web site. (A financial statement is available.)

[DrupalCon London icon] Help Sharon win a trip to attend DrupalCon London!
[DrupalCon London icon] Help Sharon win a trip to attend DrupalCon London!
  Web MedievalScotland.org   
Scottish Historical
Drupal Training
& Consulting
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]