Dictionary of the Scots Language

The aim of this project was to create the Dictionary of the Scots Language, an electronic scholarly dictionary covering the Scots language from 1200 to the present. This was successfully completed and published on-line, and serves students of Scottish language, literature and culture around the world. With limited resources and in the short time-scale of three years, the project undertook to digitise and publish in searchable form on the Internet all 11 volumes of the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue and the 10 volumes of the Scottish National Dictionary. These historical dictionaries are mainly available only in specialised research libraries and are prohibitively expensive to buy. They are also in different typographical formats and were created using different editorial principles. The task in hand was to convert these texts from a variety of paper and electronic formats, and create a Data Type Definition that would allow the entire text to share the same mark-up specification and use the same software. This was implemented with an enormous effort in editorial planning, proof-reading and keying. The text is queried and viewed on-line either in its entirety or in its constituent parts. On 25 March 2004, the project achieved its goal of providing the DSL free to all on-line, courtesy of IT-Services, University of Dundee. It has also achieved its secondary purpose of serving as the locus for advancement of Scots language lexicographical resources, evidenced by Scottish Langage Dictionaries Limited adding its post-1976 Supplement to the site during 2005.


Principal investigator
Chris Robinson; Ann Ferguson
Principal project staff
Dr Victor Skretkowicz
Start date
Thursday, February 1, 2001
Completion date
Thursday, January 1, 2004
Source material
The project digitised the 12 volumes of the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue, covering roughly 1200 to 1700, and the ten volumes of the Scottish National Dictionary, covering 1700 to 1976. These are mainly held in large public and research libraries. The underlying textual relationship between the sources and the digital resource is virtually identical. The searchable on-screen version includes the original lay-out, adding related areas of text from the constituent parts, including supplements. The bibliographies are integrated and searchable, and the preliminaries and prefaces added. All dictionary searches result in two output frames. Searches of the full text of the DSL display the first full entry containing the search term in the right frame and a linked list of all entries containing the term in the left frame. This is a useful tool, given the numerous spelling variations allowed in Scots. Searches are further facilitated by allowing right truncation. As the full text is searchable, English words and words from other languages among the definitions and linguistic information can also be located. Browsing headwords displays all entries with the search term in a headword form in the right frame. The left frame contains a scrolling word wheel of surrounding entries to encourage browsing.

The principal publication is the Dictionary of the Scots Language at http://www.dsl.ac.uk/.