Scots is the collective name for Scottish dialects known as ‘Doric’, ‘Lallans’ and ‘Scotch’ or by more local names such as ‘Buchan’, ‘Dundonian’, ‘Glesca’ or ‘Shetland’. Taken altogether, Scottish dialects are called the Scots language. It is estimated more than 1.5 million people in Scotland still speak Scots, often without being aware of it. Scottish Standard English (SSE) is described as a linguistic continuum, which balances broad Scots and Scottish English. Some speakers code switch clearly from one to the other while others style shift in a less predictable and more fluctuating manner. Generally, there is a shift to Scottish English in formal situations or with individuals of a higher social status.
English was forced upon Scots during the 16th-century Reformation. Printing was introduced to Scotland in 1506 and to encourage the Protestant doctrine texts such as the Geneva Bible (1560) were printed in English.
By the time of the English translation of the King James Bible (1611), the Scottish faithful had to read and understand English.
When King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England in 1603, he moved his court to London. The literary men of the Scottish Court moved south and adopted the English language and style of prose and verse to suit the tastes of England. In quick order the Scots literary language was overtaken by English. The influence of Gaelic speakers meant Highland English was slightly different from Lowland English phonologically, grammatically, and lexically. Similarly, the English spoken in the North-East of Scotland followed the phonology and grammar of Doric.
Scotticisms i.e. idioms or expressions are peculiar to Scots and generally can divided into two types:
Covert Scotticisms are generally unnoticed as being particularly Scottish by those using them. For example, ‘That picture still looks squint, meaning "The frame of the picture remains offset.", and
Overt Scotticisms, usually are used for stylistic effect, with those using them aware of their Scottish nature. ‘It's a sair fecht,’ meaning "It's a real struggle/It's hard going."
Over the centuries Scots words have been adopted into everyday English. Words like ‘wee,’ meaning small, and ‘bonnie,’ for pretty or attractive are two examples. The Scots linguistic habit of adding "ie" to nouns meaning smallness such as laddie and lassie for a young boy and young girl. The use of "How?" meaning "Why?" is distinctive of Scottish, Northern English and Northern Irish English. "Why not?" is often rendered as "How no?".
The four main dialects of Scots language were defined and mapped in the 1870's. These were: (1) Insular, (2) Northern, (3) Central, and (4) Southern. Each of the mon dialects contains sub dialects (i.e. words, phrases, or pronunciations, which are only found in a smaller area within a main dialect). Within sub dialects there is also forms of speech used in very local areas, such as particular cities. Central Scots is one of the main dialects of the Scots language as a whole, but also has a sub dialect called West Central Scots, and within that there is the city of Glasgow which has its own distinct city dialect.