The vowel system of Modern Scots:
Vowel length is usually conditioned by the Scottish vowel length rule.
The orthography of Early Scots had become more or less standardised by the middle to late sixteenth century. After the Union of the Crowns in 1603, the Standard English of England came to have an increasing influence on the spelling of Scots through the increasing influence and availability of books printed in England. After the Acts of Union in 1707 the emerging Scottish form of Standard English replaced Scots for most formal writing in Scotland. The eighteenth-century Scots revival saw the introduction of a new literary language descended from the old court Scots, but with an orthography that had abandoned some of the more distinctive old Scots spellings and adopted many standard English spellings. Despite the updated spelling, however, the rhymes make it clear that a Scots pronunciation was intended. These writings also introduced what came to be known as the apologetic apostrophe, generally occurring where a consonant exists in the Standard English cognate. This Written Scots drew not only on the vernacular, but also on the King James Bible, and was heavily influenced by the norms and conventions of Augustan English poetry. Consequently, this written Scots looked very similar to contemporary Standard English, suggesting a somewhat modified version of that, rather than a distinct speech form with a phonological system which had been developing independently for many centuries. This modern literary dialect, 'Scots of the book' or Standard Scots, once again gave Scots an orthography of its own, lacking neither "authority nor author". This literary language used throughout Lowland Scotland and Ulster, embodied by writers such as Allan Ramsay, Robert Fergusson, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Charles Murray, David Herbison, James Orr, James Hogg and William Laidlaw among others, is well described in the 1921 Manual of Modern Scots.
Other authors developed dialect writing, preferring to represent their own speech in a more phonological manner rather than following the pan-dialect conventions of modern literary Scots, especially for the northern and insular dialects of Scots.
During the twentieth century, a number of proposals for spelling reform were presented. Commenting on this, John Corbett (2003: 260) writes that "devising a normative orthography for Scots has been one of the greatest linguistic hobbies of the past century". Most proposals entailed regularising the use of established eighteenth- and nineteenth-century conventions, in particular the avoidance of the apologetic apostrophe, which represented letters that were perceived to be missing when compared to the corresponding English cognates but were never actually present in the Scots word. For example, in the fourteenth century, Barbour spelt the Scots cognate of 'taken' as tane. It is argued that, because there has been no k in the word for over 700 years, representing its omission with an apostrophe is of little value. The current spelling is usually taen.
Through the twentieth century, with the decline of spoken Scots and knowledge of the literary tradition, phonetic (often humorous) representations became more common.
Modern Scots follows the subject–verb–object sentence structure like Standard English. However, the word order Gie's it (Give us it) vs. 'Give it to me' may be preferred. The indefinite article a may be used before both consonants and vowels. The definite article the is used before the names of seasons, days of the week, many nouns, diseases, trades and occupations, sciences and academic subjects. It is also often used in place of the indefinite article and instead of a possessive pronoun. Scots includes some strong plurals such as ee/een ('eye/eyes'), cauf/caur ('calf/calves'), horse/horse ('horse/horses'), cou/kye ('cow/cows') and shae/shuin ('shoe/shoes') that survived from Old English into Modern Scots, but have become weak plurals in Standard Modern English – ox/oxen and child/children being exceptions. Nouns of measure and quantity remain unchanged in the plural. The relative pronoun is that for all persons and numbers, but may be elided. Modern Scots also has a third adjective/adverb this-that-yon/yonder (thon/thonder) indicating something at some distance. Thir and thae are the plurals of this and that respectively. The present tense of verbs adheres to the Northern subject rule whereby verbs end in -s in all persons and numbers except when a single personal pronoun is next to the verb. Certain verbs are often used progressively and verbs of motion may be dropped before an adverb or adverbial phrase of motion. Many verbs have strong or irregular forms which are distinctive from Standard English. The regular past form of the weak or regular verbs is -it, -t or -ed, according to the preceding consonant or vowel. The present participle and gerund in are now usually /ən/ but may still be differentiated /ən/ and /in/ in Southern Scots, and /ən/ and /ɪn/ Northern Scots. The negative particle is na, sometimes spelled nae, e.g. canna ('can't'), daurna ('daren't'), michtna ('mightn't').
Adverbs usually take the same form as the verb root or adjective, especially after verbs. Examples include Haein a real guid day ('Having a really good day') and She's awfu fauchelt ('She's awfully tired').
From The Four Gospels in Braid Scots (William Wye Smith):
From The New Testament in Scots (William Laughton Lorimer, 1885–1967)
Media related to Scots language at Wikimedia Commons Lowland Scots at Wikibooks