03 May 2010

Scottish Accents

Due to its highly regional history and multitude of foreign linguistic influences, the UK has a mindboggling density of accents. When you think "Scottish accent," you probably think of Sir Sean Connery. But Connery's accent is only one of many Scottish accents - in the UK, accents are so regional that even regions like Scotland have their own regional accents.

Connery's accent (voted favorite UK accent in a 2005 BBC survey) is an Edinburgh accent. He grew up working-class, but his voice has posh-ified over the years. For a more current example of the Edinburgh accent Justin and I hear daily, try Jenny (at about 1 minute), who right now is on the BBC reality show Over the Rainbow competing to play Dorothy in the West End. The Edinburgh accent has a lot in common with the northern English accent, especially the letter "O," which sounds a lot like Yorkshire. My favorite thing about it is the way they say Edinburgh: "Eh-din-barrah."

Glasgow, however, has a different accent from Edinburgh. You might recognize it as the accent of Billy Boyd playing Pippin in Lord of the Rings. I have no technical linguistics-y terms for the difference, but it's rounder, less nasal, and the Os and Rs are different.

But even these are only two major regional variations. The Highlands and Islands (Western Scotland, including the Isle of Skye,) have an accent of their own (number 13), which to me sounds quite like an Irish accent. Maybe it's because both of those areas have a much longer history of Celtic languages. One of my coursemates has my favorite Scottish accent, the Shetland accent, which retains not only sounds but also some slangy vocabulary expressions from Norwegian. The BBC accent archive is being snippy with me because I don't have RealPlayer installed, but it's one of the few places I've found a Shetland accent.

And if you're really geeky, check out the George Mason speech accent archive: they've recorded hundreds of native and non-native speakers of English from all over the world. They only have two Scottish accents - Glasgow is here, Edinburgh is here - but the worldwide ones are a hoot. Check out a Yinzer here. You can also check out this Norwegian and learn why Justin and I are constantly mistaking English-fluent Scandinavians for people from some part of Britain we haven't been to yet.


  1. scotland isnae a region! 'S a kuntry ae its ain!!!!

  2. I am a total Yinzer who came here because I am curious about Scottish accents. Ha.