The Orkney Dialect

(Orkney Library and Archive)

When you heard somebody speakin, you kent what island they were fae. You kent fine if they were Westray or Papay, or Sanday or Stronsay or Eday.  You could just tell no bother at all. The minute they opened their mooth you kent exactly whar they came fae.  You couldna do that noo.” 

Graham Sinclair, Stronsay

The Orkney dialect derives from a version of Old Norse language – known as Norn – and Scots.

Over the past few decades, the dialect has changed, with the impact of education, media, increased connectivity and population change.

The Oral History project sought to explore the use of dialect in the North Isles over the generations. The interviews highlighted the continuing use and importance of dialect in the North Isles, how its use has changed over the years, the distinctive dialects of each of the isles, the use of dialect in schools and the importance of the its continuation and preservation for the future.

Folk also talked about “chanting” or “speakin proper”, depending on who you’re speaking to!​

(Sanday Heritage Centre)
(Sanday Heritage Centre)

A peedie bit yeah. If I’m speaking to, like, wer family down south. I kinda, I kinda speak a peedie bit more English because it’s harder to understand, you know, a lot of English don’t understand the Orcadian accent, you know, it’s, but if I’m, eh, If I’m just home aboot – you know, I am kind of Orcadiany-fied – is what I call it.

Jack Holland, Stronsay