Page:The dialect of the southern counties of Scotland - Murray - 1873.djvu/43

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and written in this country, may be conveniently divided into three periods. The first, or early period, during which the literary use of this dialect was common to Scotland, with England north of the Humber, extends from the date of the earliest specimens to the middle or last quarter of the fifteenth century. The second, or middle period, during which the literary use of the northern dialect was confined to Scotland (the midland dialect having supplanted it in England), extends from the close of the fifteenth century to the time of the Union. The third, or modern period, during which the northern dialect has ceased to be the language of general literature in Scotland also, though surviving as the speech of the people and the language of popular poetry, extends from the union of the kingdoms to the present day.

§ 12. The language of the early period may be called Early Lowland Scotch, at least that of the early Scottish writers. In point of fact it is simply the northern English, which was spoken from the Trent and Humber to the Moray Forth, and which differed characteristically from the Midland English, which adjoined it on the South, and still more from the Southern English which prevailed beyond the Thames.[1] The final division of the Northan-hymbrian territory—over which the King of Scots had at times held dominion as far south as the Tees, and the King of England claimed supremacy as far north as the Forth—between the two kingdoms, produced no sudden break in the common language. Previous to the War of Independence, the relations of the owners of the soil in this territory were such that the division was more nominal than real; and even after that struggle, which made every one either an Englishman or a Scotchman, and made English and Scotch names of division and bitter enmity, Barbour at Aberdeen, and Richard Rolle de Hampole near Doncaster, wrote for their several countrymen in the same identical dialect. It is not, of course, implied that in the matter of orthography, in which every man did that which was right in his own eyes—and ears—and in which every copying clerk altered the spelling or his original to suit his own taste or convenience, there was absolute uniformity, although, even in this matter, the older our examples are, the closer is the agreement. The following spe-

    It is to be regretted that Macpherson, in his printed edition of Wyntown—implicitly copied, apparently, by all subsequent writers—instead of following the contemporary Royal MS., altered the last line after this garbled copy, reading:—

    Succour Scotland, and remede,
    That stad is in perplexyte,

    which is simply nonsense, although Dr. Jamieson makes stad a past participle, meaning placed. The meaning of the two lines is evidently "Succour Scotland, and remedy that state (or stead?) in its perplexity."

  1. For the distinguishing characteristics of the three great English dialects of the 13th and 14th centuries, the reader is referred to Mr. R. Morris's "Specimens of Early English," and his numerous contributions to English philology in the proceedings of the Philological, and publications of the Early English Text Society.