Frequently Asked Questions
q. Why is the supporting text in English? Can't you write Scots?
a. I can write Scots! but I also accept that many visitors to the site happen on it by chance and have never seen Scots before. I feel it better serves the cause of Scots literature if people stay and discover it, rather than leave immediately because they don't know what they're looking at.
q. I can see that the texts on Scotstext, while quite traditional-looking in their spellings, are heavily edited. Is it right to change the original authors' spellings in this way?
a. Firstly, we have to point out that these authors were taught to write English at school and can sometimes be seen to be all at sea when trying to write Scots, from their own inconsistencies. These authors also didn't have the advantage of an editor with a specific house-style in mind, as most writers in English have.
Even so, our corrections can be as much author-driven as editor (Scotstext) driven. As part of the editing process we create an alphabetically-ordered wordlist, which often enables us to see the authors' variants on a spelling. For example, the following cluster of 'advert-related' words arose in the Catherine P Slater wordist:
There seems little doubt that the last three words aren't what the author would have written if she had been able to compare her spellings in the way we do. Therefore we correct them on her behalf to make them compatible with the first three spellings. We hope that this sort of procedure improves the quality of the texts not only in terms of consistency but also by bringing out more of the authors' own knowledge and understanding of the Scots language.
This process doesn't stop with merely correcting accidental anglicisations. Nor does it necessarily mean cloning the author's "most Scots-looking" spelling. We may introduce a compromise spelling that the author doesn't use. For example, again from the Slater wordlist, we have the following variants on 'Africa':
It's clear enough that Slater imagined her narrator pronouncing this word as 'Africky' and that 'Africa' is an accidental anglicisation. However, this a -> y process in unstressed final syllables is a well-known variant in Scots and we choose the more general spelling 'Africae', which will be a recognisable compromise for speakers who say 'Africa' as well as those which say 'Africae'.
Another spelling we could have chosen is 'Aifricae', recognising the common phonological process in Scots where a stressed 'a' in the first syllable of a word is pronounced 'ai'. This process isn't so much used in the north of the country, however, and in the central part of the country tends to be used consistently with some words and variously with others, whereas to the south it's used more consistently, and as far south as Berwickshire is even applied to such secure Scots words as 'watter', which becomes 'waiter'. Since we can't indicate every possible nuance of dialect with a traditional spelling system, we simply chose the author's written preference for this vowel, and wrote 'Africae'.
Since we might have ended up writing 'Aifricae' according to the author's preference, it's obvious that spellings on Scotstext won't be consistent between authors. For example, we may well choose to change 'water' to 'watter' most of the time, and yet still write 'waiter' in W L Ferguson's works, since being a Berwickshire man he writes it this way himself. The whole process amounts to very much what any literary editor would do: improve the quality and consistency of the text while respecting the author's informed wishes and idiosyncracies.