The Scots language and its cultural and social capital in Scottish schools: a case study of Scots in Scottish secondary classrooms

Karen Lowing

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The Scots language has largely been excluded, historically, within Scottish institutional contexts (Jones 1995: 1–21). This phenomenon typically owes itself, in Bourdieuian terms, to the lack of ‘social’ and ‘cultural capital’ certain codes of the language have increasingly held since the eighteenth century onwards in much of Scottish society. The devaluation of the Scots language from this period has been exacerbated in particular by its growing marginalisation within the Scottish education system. Although learning Latin held prestige during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Scots was generally the teaching medium in most Scottish classrooms (Williamson 1982a: 54–77). However the elocution movement during the latter half of the eighteenth century and the Education (Scotland) Act of 1872, both encouraged and eventually required that every child should be educated in English (Bailey 1987: 131–42). Scots became regarded as a ‘lazy’, parochial dialect of English and Scottish aspirations to reproduce the linguistic norms of ‘polite’ London, helped to suppress the language further (Jones 1995: 2).
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalScottish Language
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


  • Scots language
  • secondary school
  • Scottish culture

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