Professor Robert McColl Millar

Professor Robert McColl Millar
MA (Glasg.), PhD (Lond)

Personal Chair


Contact Details

work +44 (0)1224 273909
The University of Aberdeen C05, Taylor Building


Robert McColl Millar is Professor in Linguistics and Scottish Language.  He has published widely on the interface between Gaelic and Scots in Northern Scots, lexical attrition in Modern Scots, rapid language change and its connection with attitudes in modern Scotland, language policy towards Scots, the connection between language standardisation and the development of the nation state and the sociology of language. His first book, System Collapse, System Rebirth: The Demonstrative Systems of English 900-1350 and the Birth of the Definite Article, was published by Peter Lang in 2000; his second, Language, Nation and Power, by Palgrave Macmillan in 2005; and his third, Northern and Insular Scots, by Edinburgh University Press in March 2007. His fourth, Trask's Historical Linguistics, was published in May 2007. In the late 2000s he edited Why Do Languages Change?, a book R.L. Trask had nearly completed at the time of his death in 2004. It was published by Cambridge University Press at the beginning of 2010. His Authority and Identity: a Sociolinguistic History of Europe before the Modern Age was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2010; English Historical Sociolinguistics was published by Edinburgh University Press in May 2012. Variation and Attrition in the Scottish Fishing Communities, which he wrote with William Barras and Lisa Marie Bonnici, was published by Edinburgh University Press in June 2014. The third edition of Trask's Historical Linguistics was published by Routledge in February 2015. His eighth book, Contact: The Interaction of Closely Related Linguistic Varieties and the History of English, was published in October 2016 by Edinburgh University Press. His ninth book, Modern Scots: an analytical survey, was published by Edinburgh University Press in March 2018. His tenth book, A Sociolinguistic History of Scotland was published by Edinburgh University Press in May 2020. He has been commissioned by Oxford University Press to write The Oxford History of the Scots languge. It should be published in 2022.

He is Editor of Scottish Language, a member of the editorial board of English World-Wide, of the Steering Committee of the Angus McIntosh Centre for Historical Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh and a trustee of Scots Language Dictionaries. He is also series editor for a refereed online series, Publications of the Forum for Research on the Languages of Scotland and Ulster. If you would like to propose a volume, please get in touch with him at the e-mail address above. He was Chair of the Forum for Research on the Languages of Scotland and Ulster from 2009 to 2017.

Professor Millar would be very interested in hearing proposals for research dealing with the history and present use of the Northern and Insular Scots dialects, the early dialects of English and the continental Germanic languages, language change due to contact, language planning and policy and the linguistic ecologies of medieval Europe.


Memberships and Affiliations


Robert McColl Millar coordinates research in Language and Linguistics.


Robert McColl Millar is the Editor of the Chair of the Forum for Research on the Languages of Scotland and Ulster's innovative on-line Publications series. He is also Editor of Scottish Language. He was Chair of the Forum for Research on the Languages of Scotland and Ulster from 2009 to 2017.

He is a member of the editorial board of English World-Wide, a trustee of Scottish Language Dictionaries and a member of the board of the Angus McIntosh Centre for Historical Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh.


Research Overview

A complete record of Millar's publications can be found here.

Current Research

Professor Millar  has a long-standing interest in the ways in which the languages of Europe have gained full literate expression. He is also continuing work on close-relative contact, reassessing his discussion of the development of Shetland Scots.

From 2008-11 he was principal investigator for a major grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council for aproject to investigate lexical change in the dialects of the Scottish fishing communities. The first book related to this project, Variation and Attrition in the Scottish Fishing Communities, was published in May 2014.

He has also been working on the language of letters to and from convicts transported to New South Wales in the first half of the nineteenth century. The corpus is comprised of letters to and from Thomas Holden and from Richard Taylor.

In 2007 he was asked to write an introduction to a new printing of Hugh Marwick's Orkney Norn. This publication now appears to have been abandoned, so the introduction is available here.

In late May 2018 he gave a lecture entitled Scots as a Sociolinguistic Entity at the University of Giessen. The attached represents some suggested references and readings.

In this document can be found a full transcription and translation of 'Donald's letter', as discussed in A Sociolinguistic History of Scotland.



Teaching Responsibilities

Robert McColl Millar will teach on the following courses in Half Session 1 of 2020-2021:

LN2008 Language in Society

LN3013 Language Change: Linguistic and Sociolinguistic Approaches

LN4004 Language Contact and Change in Language

LN4012 Dissertation in Language and Linguistics. 

During the teaching term (beginning 28 September), he will be available on Mondays and Thursdays between 0900 and 1600

To find out his availability at a particular time, please consult

If you sign up for a time there, he will then respond with an invitation to a virtual meeting.






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  • Northern and Insular Scots

    Millar, R. M.

    Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, UK. 178 pages

    Books and Reports: Books

  • Trask's Historical Linguistics

    Millar, R. M.

    Hodder Arnold, London, UK. 514 pages

    Books and Reports: Books

  • “Burying alive”: unfocussed governmental language policy and Scots

    Millar, R. M.

    Language Policy, vol. 5, pp. 63-86

    Contributions to Journals: Articles

  • Language, Nation and Power

    Millar, R. M.

    Palgrave Macmillan. 232 pages

    Books and Reports: Books

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