Here are some tips for books and online resources that I found really useful in the making of the show, many of which turn up on stage. Enjoy!


Language Death by David Crystal (Canto Classics)

An investigation into why and how languages decline – a paean to linguistic diversity. Also, written by David Crystal who might be the kindest and smartest man in Anglesey/the world, and a truly democratic educator.

English as a Global Language by David Crystal (Canto Classics)

Looking into the rise of English as a lingua franca, and the different global Englishes that that rise creates. Anything David Crystal writes is worth a read anyway. I gotta stop bashing that drum.

Luath Scots Language Learner: An Introduction to Contemporary Spoken Scots by L. Colin Wilson (Luath)

A great lesson-by-lesson way to learn Scots, and to learn about Scots, for speakers and non-speakers. A trail-blazing resource which embraces the fact that Scots is valuable even to people who are not native speakers. You know, like all the other languages.

Key Concepts in Language and Linguistics by Geoffrey Finch (Palgrave)

A brilliant overview of terminology used in linguistics writing, handy to have when you are not a professional linguist trying to read some of the less ‘pop linguistics’ side of things. It was also just a good introduction to linguistics in bite size form. It’s not a narrative account, obviously, but that actually suited me quite well.

The Discursive Construction of the Scots Language by Johann Wolfgang Unger (Benjamin Publishing)

This book is excellent, and had a huge influence on the show. It is, however, Unger’s PhD and it costs over £70 because all books that are mostly published for academic and university libraries are incredibly expensive. It introduces Scots language really well, and also Unger’s approach to looking at how the language is discursively constructed. It has a political aim, but it is not written as a ‘pop linguistics’. I got it from the Glasgow University Library to start with and then bought a copy to use on stage. The National Library of Scotland has it. You could get it on interlibrary loan. You can also look at this short article by Unger which covers many of the same points. Go forth!

The Hoose at Pooh’s Neuk by A.A. Milne, Translated by James Robertson (Itchy Coo)

The Itchy Coo translations of children’s books like the Winnie the Pooh or the Gruffalo, manage to maintain all the lightness, humour and cleverness of the originals. Also, Hoose at Pooh’s Neuk contains my favourite character, Hoolet. Books like these not only introduce children to Scots, but they mean there doesn’t have to be that dissonance when they see one thing on the page, and hear another. It’s a good way into reading Scots for a learner, or someone who isn’t too confident. Matthew Fitt and James Robertson do a good thing here.

The Colour of Black and White by Liz Lochhead (Birlinn)

This is an excellent collection of poems by an excellent writer. I use it on stage to read Kidspoem/Bairnsang. I have just realised that Lochhead poems have been central two my two main, one-woman shows. The other one is Poem on a Day Trip.

Concise Scots Dictionary (Scottish National Dictionary Association)

Every hoose should hae yin. Fun to look up words you thought were just in your family, or just your school, and find that they are nationwide, or across a whole region. You can also use their website.


Scots Language Centre/Centre for the Scots Leid (Website)

A great starting point for places across the web with Scots language connections. Also the fantastic ability to view the site in English or Scots at the click of a mouse. Easy peasy.

Scots Language Radio (Podcast)

Presented by Frieda Morrison who for many years presented on the BBC, having had to take elocution lessons to be allowed to work. She is now speaking her native Scots/Doric, playing lovely music and reporting on Scots language news from across the country.

Kay’s Originals (YouTube) (Videos)

Not the eighteenth century illustrator (beware mis-googling), but Billy Kay interviewing various Scots in various kinds of Scots for STV. They’re pretty old now but it’s still so odd/wonderful to see not only an interviewee speaking Scots, but also an interviewer. Some stonkin pairs of glasses too.

Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707 (Online archive)

Seeing proceedings of the parliaments in Scots makes people (me and my dad) cry. Fun to dip into.

UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger (Interactive Map)

Both horribly heartbreaking to see languages which have 4 or 5 speakers, and also touching to see the way people are working to record them. Also, shows that Scots is fairly healthy on a global scale when you’re not comparing it to the monolith that is Standard English.

Oxford English Dictionary (Online Wordhoard)

I use this all the time when I am answering the questions on this website. It is so great. It has taken pretty much all of Scots language as part of English, so you can usually find words you are looking for in there. The online edition also has just so many more words than any usefully-sized printed copy.  I also make a fair amount of use of… (Online Wordhoard without so much Academic backing)

One of my favourite places on the internet.


3 thoughts on “Bibliography

  1. Ishbel, Many thanks for last night’s show at the Drouthy Cobbler.

    I have looked down your bibliography, but not all the books you used in the show are listed. I ken you are busy quine, but could you up-date your list when you have time, please?

    Yours aye,



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