When linguists say grammar, we don’t take a prescriptive approach – what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’. Instead, we take a ‘descriptive’ approach – simply describing what forms are used in a particular dialect. It’s also important to point out that just like standard English, dialects have rules of grammar that a speaker needs to follow, as you’ll see below.

Relic forms

Verb tenses

The verb go in standard English has the past tense form went. It is an irregular verb. In Buckie and in other varieties of Scots, we use gied, which is go + ed – it’s a regular verb:

     We gied across atween Christmas and New Year

The same is true of sell and tell. Instead of sold and told, in Buckie speakers use selt and telt.

     Doctor Paterson telt him right up, right oot.

     I selt it a few year ago to the rowp man.

It’s interesting to note that one of these uses – gied – may be disappearing in the dialect, whereas selt and telt are used as much as ever.

Independent innovations

Negative sentences

A stereotype of Scots is the use of dinna in negatives, as the examples below show:

     I dinna ken fit you’re sayin’.

     He doesna mind him at a’.

However, in Buckie you can also hear this:

     You na ken athin aboot me!

     I na mind fa come in.

     They na seem to bide in the Beacons lang.

This form has no do in the sentence, and it’s a very strange use that’s only heard in north east Scotland. Note however, that it’s impossible to say:

     She na kens that.

This shows that dialects have rules of use, just like standard English does. This is an important point, as people often think that dialects are ‘English gone wrong’ or ‘Aren’t systematic’. They do have rules – it’s just that the rules are different from standard English.

Speakers from Buckie might be amused to here that the use of negatives with no do is of great interest to linguists worldwide.