Dr Fraser Dallachy

Project Title: The Skeleton Thesaurus of the Scots Language Project

Languages reveal a lot about the way in which their speakers understand the world and what they find important enough to name and discuss. By grouping together words with similar meanings, a thesaurus shows which ideas are paid most (or least) attention in the language, making thesauri excellent resources for cultural research as well as fascinating browsing. At present, no thesaurus covers the entire Scots language across its millennium-long history. The Skeleton Thesaurus of the Scots Language (STSL) project is a step towards creating a full ‘historical’ thesaurus of Scots so that researchers and the interested public can explore the ideas represented in one of Scotland’s major languages.

The STSL project is led by researchers at the University of Glasgow and Scottish Language Dictionaries (SLD). Glasgow’s English Language & Linguistics department is home to the Historical Thesaurus of English, the world’s first historical thesaurus of any language. Scottish Language Dictionaries maintain the Dictionary of the Scots Language (DSL), an unparalleled resource for Scots. Together, the SLD’s data and the Historical Thesaurus of English structure are ideal for creating a complete thesaurus of Scots.

The project is using semi-automated ‘matching’ methods to place data from the DSL into a framework of semantic categories (such as ‘Emotion’ or ‘Farming’) based on those of the Historical Thesaurus of English. In this way, we will produce a skeleton thesaurus of Scots, i.e. a foundational structure, which we intend to develop further in subsequent phases of the project. In this current phase we are trialling increasingly complex computer scripts to identify correspondences between data in DSL entries and data in the Historical Thesaurus of English in order to maximise auto-placement and thereby save years of manual work. In doing so we aim to make a very significant beginning towards a comprehensive semantic categorisation of all DSL data as an invaluable cultural resource for the people of Scotland.

Awarded: Research Incentive Grant

Field: Language & Linguistics

University: University of Glasgow

Latest News