Although bidialectalism can occur anywhere, it may be particularly evident in Scotland, where the dialects spoken in many communities sound very different to standard English, or even to what is known as Scottish Standard English.  In this project, we investigate one such community, Buckie, a small fishing town in north east Scotland. The context in which this community has evolved makes it an excellent test site for investigating bidialectalism.

Buckie is situated about 60 miles north west of Aberdeen, as the map below shows and has a population of about 8000.


Buckie is a fairly typical Scottish fishing town, as the pictures show. However, one of the most striking aspects of this community is the dialect. Take a listen to Jennifer’s Auntie Ruth, 85 years old at the time of recording, talking about strawberries:

As you can hear, the variety of Scots spoken in Buckie is indeed very different from Standard Scottish English. Jennifer’s Auntie Ruth has a wealth of dialect forms which may in fact make it very difficult for an outsider to understand what she’s saying.

There are many reasons why the Buckie dialect sounds so different (you can read more on this HERE) but one of the reasons is that Buckie in the past was a very close-knit community, and continues to be so to a certain extent today. Linguists know that in such close-knit communities, the dialect is more immune to change. So this means that many words and sounds that have disappeared from other varieties of Scots are still in use in this community. These are called relic forms. At the same time, Buckie uses forms which are unique to the surrounding area. These have come about as Buckie has tread its own path in language use over the centuries. These are called independent innovations. We discuss these more fully HERE.

Dialects of course are always changing, and so too is Buckie. This might lead you to think that the younger speakers would sound much more standard. Take a listen to Scott (30 at the time of recording), talking about his time in London:

Scott, too, has a very distinctive dialect, despite being 50 years younger than Auntie Ruth. However, what we’ve noticed over the past few years is that younger speakers may be developing an enhanced ability to switch between Buckie and Standard Scottish English. In other words, they may be becoming bidialectal. Now, it’s true that the ability to switch between styles has probably been around a long time – Jennifer’s Auntie Ruth would’ve probably been told off for saying aye and hoose in the classroom way back in 1920! But this ability might have been much more limited in the past – Auntie Ruth used Jennifer as ‘translator’ when someone from outside the community would visit her. It was difficult for her to talk in anything other than her local dialect. Now younger speakers seem to be able to have a much broader repertoire of speech styles at their disposal.

So for example, when speaking to another community member, Scott uses the following:

     I came hame and as I said I went awa’ doon to Dover and tried to get a job and that doon there.
    We wasna spending money to bide there and to travel back and fore to the Docklands every day.
    I na even ken far that is, ken.

However, when he is speaking to someone from outside the community, he might say the following:

     I came home and as I said I went away down to Dover and tried to get a job and that down there.
     We weren’t spending money to stay there and to travel back and forth to the Docklands every day.
    I don’t even know where that is, you know. 

Even a quick comparison of these utterances shows how very different the standard and dialect forms are, so Buckie really does provide an excellent research site for testing the limits of bidialectalism. But currently we don’t know if indeed this is what Scott and other speakers actually do. One Speaker, Two Dialects will attempt to answer that question.