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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume II. The End of the Middle Ages.

IV. The Scottish Language

§ 2. Early Scots

The name “Early Scots,” for the period ending c. 1450, is even less satisfactory than “Middle Scots” for the next (from 1450 to 1620); but it will do no harm if it be understood to be the literary language of Teutonic Scotland during the century and a half before 1450, when such differentiation from early northern English as may be assumed, but cannot readily be proved, was established. The names “Northumbrian” and “Early Northern English” may be applied to the still earlier stages. Of “Early Scots” the typical examples are Barbour’s Bruce and Wyntoun’s Chronicle: of Middle Scots the writings of Henryson, Dunbar, Douglas and Lyndsay. In a more exhaustive scheme it is convenient to have an intervening “Early Transition Period”—say from 1420 to 1460—represented by such important works as The Kingis Quair, Lancelot of the Laik, and The Quare of Ielusy. The linguistic basis of these poems is Early Scots; but they show an artificial mixture with southern and pseudo-southern forms derived from Chaucer. Their language represents no type, literary or spoken; it is a bookish fabrication; but, though exceptional and individual, it has the historical interest of being the first expression of a habit which, in Middle Scots, was neither exceptional nor individual. In this transition period the foreign elements are exclusively Chaucerian: in Middle Scots, Chaucerian influence, though great and all pervading, is not the sole cause of the differences.