A strategic plan to promote Ulster-Scots has been prepared for the Ulster-Scots Language Society. This is an important development for Ulster-Scots, because the report was funded and supported by Government, and will form the basis of government policy on Ulster-Scots language development in the years to come. Remember, all this is in the context of the Government’s commitments under the European Charter on Regional and Minority Languages. The Linguistic Diversity Branch (LDB) of the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure commissioned the plan with the Ulster-Scots Language Society taking the client role and consultant’s fees being paid by LDB.

In brief the plan proposed:

  • a dictionary programme
  • a tape recorded survey of native Ulster-Scots speakers
  • the electronic capture of the existing text base of Ulster-Scots
  • developing programmes for use in schools
  • developing language learning materials for use by adults and children outside the curriculum
  • an Institute of Ulster-Scots Studies at a university in Northern Ireland (this has already been delivered by the Ulster-Scots Agency at the Magee Campus of the University of Ulster)
  • an Ulster-Scots Academy
  • a publishing and writing programme
  • a branch structure for the Language Society
  • a major festival to showcase Ulster-Scots culture
  • status building measures for Ulster-Scots
  • access to both the printed and broadcast media for Ulster-Scots
  • an Ulster-Scots website
  • developing links and relationships with Scotland
  • developing links and relationships with cultural minorities in Europe

1. Dictionary Programme

The plan recognises the need for a comprehensive Ulster-Scots - English - Ulster-Scots dictionary. Existing dictionaries do not provide a full word search/translation capability. It is proposed that a partnership is established between the organisations and the individuals with the copyright to the current source materials and have the Ulster-Scots words extracted from these sources. Using this as a base vocabulary English words shared with Ulster-Scots and up-to-date Ulster-Scots words would be added. The preparation of the dictionary could also be used as a process to standardise spelling.

2. Tape Recorded Survey

The plan suggests there is a real need to go out into the community and carry out an organised “tape recorded survey” to established current extent of the use of Ulster-Scots. The survey could also map the geographic boundaries of the Ulster-Scots speaking areas today, assess the depth of use and the way and circumstances in which Ulster-Scots is used. Comparisons with the Gregg survey of 1963 would allow a new base line to be established for the size of the language community and the ‘depth’ of usage of Ulster-Scots. The survey would establish vocabulary in current use and seek out words that have dropped out of use. It is thought that members of the Language Society may be the people best suited to carry out the interviews.

3. Text Base

There is a need to establish the extent of written Ulster-Scots resources available and to make this accessible to researchers and the general public. There are two elements to this: the preparation of a list of Ulster-Scots texts and the saving of material onto a computer database so that it is easily available. The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum has a list of publications from which Ulster-Scots items can be extracted. The creation of the text database would be helpful to the dictionary compilers and also help in the compilation of a dictionary of historical or older Ulster-Scots words.

4. Programmes for use in schools

The education system is notorious for its efforts in replacing Ulster-Scots with English and through this stigmatising the use of Ulster-Scots. To help teachers recognise that the Ulster-Scots community has its own cultural background and traditional form of speech the strategy proposes:

  • the introduction in primary schools of the use of Ulster-Scots in choral singing and drawing on Ulster-Scots tradition for musical instrument tuition and dance;
  • the introduction of an Ulster-Scots history project;
  • the development of an Ulster-Scots module within Education for Mutual Understanding and the Cultural Diversity programme starting from an Ulster-Scots perspective;
  • the use of Ulster-Scots dance traditions in the PE curriculum;
  • the development of Ulster-Scots as a ‘cross-curricular’ theme for Key Stage Three;
  • the study of Ulster-Scots literature and poetry on the English curriculum for Key Stage Four.

An Ulster-Scots study programme at ‘Key Stage Four’ is proposed which would include aspects of language, history, geography, economics, etc. In the medium term it is proposed that an Ulster-Scots language option is provided within the modern language syllabus. This will allow time to address standardisation and the current lack of educational resources.

5. Materials to support language learning

To help an active learning scene develop, the plan proposes adult education learning packs that are likely to include tapes, videos, workbooks, basic and advanced readers in Ulster-Scots, and a teachers guide. Similar provision is proposed for children learning outside schools and in addition proposing a basic vocabulary programme, ‘Ulster-Scots in Everyday Life’ and a basic ‘cultural’ fun pack for primary and pre-primary age groups that includes ‘Ulster-Scots Rhymes, Songs and Games’.

6. Institute of Ulster-Scots Studies

The plan, drafted in 2000, proposed a school of Ulster-Scots Studies at one of the local universities. This was quickly achieved when the Ulster-Scots Agency and the University of Ulster announced the establishment of an Institute of Ulster-Scots Studies in January 2001. This was further enhanced on 5 April when the World Wide Academic Network for Ulster-Scots studies was launched at a reception on Capitol Hill in Washington. The network brings together six universities in the US, the University of Toronto, the University of New South Wales, the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde and the University of Ulster.

7. Ulster-Scots Academy

The plan defined the role of the academy as being a watchdog on standards and the development of the modern register and to plan and oversee research. The academy will be made up of senior academics from relevant disciplines with direct experience of Ulster-Scots language issues and the Ulster-Scottish historical connection.

8. Publishing

This is covered in great detail in the plan and includes the reprinting of important materials from the past, translations of English work on important Ulster-Scots figures and events, the bi-lingual publishing of histories and similar fact-based materials and support for fiction and non-fiction writing on current topics and modern themes. The translation of poetry from English and the other languages into Ulster-Scots is seen as a particularly important publishing area. This programme will also help writers to simultaneously publish in English and Ulster-Scots and new writers who only want to publish in Ulster-Scots. The publication of Ullans will continue as a priority and the use of CD or tape is an important aid to support spoken Ulster-Scots.

9. Community

The plan recognises the importance of engagement with the heartland Ulster-Scots communities and building on the language they retain in everyday speech. They must inevitably represent the greater potential as the primary base for language development — they are closest to the language and have most to gain.

10. Ulster-Scots Language Society

A branch organisation for the Society throughout the core Ulster-Scots areas and in Belfast is proposed. An initial target of six branches in the first year is planned for Greyabbey, Belfast, Ballyclare, Ballymena, Coleraine and the Laggan. The tape recorded survey is seen as an activity which could kick start the development of the branches with branch members being best suited to doing the fieldwork for the survey. The branch activities would include recording local language and culture, language classes, creative writing, local history, traditional arts classes, programmes that connect with the diaspora in north America, youth arts and participation in local community festivals.

11. Festivals

Involvement in local community festivals bringing an Ulster-Scots element to them is seen as important. This would include verse speaking competitions, drama in Ulster-Scots, traditional singing and competitions and events with the language aimed at children.

12. The Ulster-Scots Gaitherin

A major event like the Eisteddfod is proposed, focused on the artistic performance of music, song, dance, storytelling, verse speaking and drama from the Ulster-Scots tradition but not limited to historical work. The plan proposes to build relationships with music, dance and drama festivals throughout the country and through the provision of prizes and judges, develop a competitive ‘circuit’ through which students would win the right to compete at the Gaitherin.

13. Ulster-Scots Website

A website with two prime elements, a community site and an education site is proposed. The community site should seek to establish a virtual community on the web ‘chatting’ about Ulster-Scots issues, creative writing together, sharing information on culture, local history, rhymes, songs, books and other written materials, and explaining their community to each other and the outside world. The education site should act as a virtual campus, providing materials for language learning which can be downloaded,

providing chat room facilities, on-line tutorials, vocabulary and grammar exercises and a ‘marking’ service on-line, short stories, rhymes, book reviews, sources of material in Ulster-Scots, etc.

14. Links with Scotland

The relationship with Scotland is central and it is important to develop the relationships with organisations in the language and cultural field. Many of the groups who are part of the Ulster-Scots Heritage Council are actively affiliated to organisation headquartered in Scotland, i.e. the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, the Burns Clubs, and the Royal Scots Pipe Band Association. Joint membership of the Ulster-Scots Language Society and the Scots Language Society is common and good contacts exist with those working for education in Scots. Much work is needed to strengthen links at all levels.

A Strategic Plan for the Promotion of Ulster-Scots Language is the official position of the Ulster-Scots Language Society on language planning and development. Professor Michael Montgomery, the Society’s President, travelled from South Carolina to attend the meeting of the Society that approved the final draft of the plan. It is now over to Government to deliver.



The Ulster-Scots Academy has been an integral part of the Ulster-Scots Language Society since 1993. The name "Ulster-Scots Academy" is registered to the USLS with the Intellectual Property Office.

Ulster Scots Academy


A new edition of Michael Montgomery’s From Ulster to America: The Scotch-Irish Heritage of American English recounts the lasting impact that at least 150,000 settlers from Ulster in the 18th century made on the development of the English language of the United States. This new edition published by the Ulster-Scots Language Society documents over 500 ‘shared’ vocabulary items which are authenticated by quotations from both sides of the Atlantic. A searchable online version of this dictionary is now also available here.


The Ulster-Scots Academy is currently working on the digitisation of Dr Philip Robinson's seminal Ulster-Scots Grammar and the English/Ulster-Scots part (with circa 10,000 entries) of a two-way historical dictionary of Ulster-Scots. These projects are planned to be completed and available on the site in 2016.



This site is being developed on a purely voluntary basis by the Ulster-Scots Language Society at no cost to the taxpayer. USLS volunteers have been involved in preserving and promoting Ulster-Scots for more than 20 years. All donations, however small, will be most gratefully received and contribute towards the expansion of the project. Thank you!

This site is being developed by the Ulster-Scots Language Society (Charity No. XN89678) without external financial assistance. USLS volunteers have been involved in preserving and promoting Ulster-Scots for more than 20 years. All donations, however small, will be most gratefully received and contribute towards the expansion of the project. Thank you!

(Friends of the Ulster-Scots Academy group)