Last Updated: Thursday, December 22, 2022

Engaging with spelling in Scots language - BGE@The University of Glasgow

What is this?

This resource is a series of lessons, looking at how our ideas of correct spelling in English have developed from Medieval times to today.

Who is this for?

​Practitioners wishing to explore spelling, sound systems, medieval manuscripts, e-communication and a variety of examples of Scots language texts with BGE level learners.​

​​​​​Our ideas of correct spelling were shaped, broadly speaking, during the eighteenth-century era of linguistic prescriptivism. Having a standard way of writing down every single word is certainly very helpful and efficient; it is difficult to imagine that, in the medieval period, there were about 400 different ways of spelling the word through in various locations across the British Isles. The reason why medieval scribes could come up with so many ways of spelling a single word was that they were often trying to represent their own speech and developed various alternative spelling conventions to capture the sounds. Variation, rather than standardisation, was the norm.

Today, we see spelling creativity in online communication. Much like medieval scribes, we may want to represent our accent, or we may want to abbreviate, as in the use of 'l8r' for later. Since the prescriptive approach is very much entrenched in our attitudes to language and correctness, some people don’t see spelling creativity as a legitimate use of linguistic resources. We can challenge these attitudes by drawing parallels with medieval scribes who produced important documents and literary works without standardised spelling, and whose diverse spellings give us a window to what the people of the past may have sounded like.

Explore this resource

This resource is a series of lessons, looking at how our ideas of correct spelling in English have developed from Medieval times to today. This topic offers valuable learning opportunities for literacy and social studies as well as for Scots language. The lessons provide learners with an introduction to Medieval Britain and Scots language through activities based around Listening and Talking, Reading and Writing.

Improvement questions

  • This resource contains materials which can be used directly in the classroom as well as other learning environments – to what extent are you already using Scots language in your school?
  • The materials included in this resource were written by practitioners, in collaboration with academics from the University of Glasgow. Is there someone from outside your school you could ask to come in and speak to learners about Scots language? There have been many rewarding partnership created in the past between schools and "Scots Ambassadors".


PDF file: Lesson 1 - Introduction (1.3 MB)

Word file: Lesson 2 - Reading (414 KB)

Word file: Lesson 3 - Listening (279 KB)

PDF file: Assessment options and teacher notes (651 KB)

Word file: Comic template for assessment (96 KB)

PDF file: Tweet Sheet for assessment (304 KB)