When Rabbie Burns wrote his poetry, the radio hadn’t been invented yet, so it’s unlikely most folk had ever heard English spoken by an Englishman. Presumably everybody used Scots pronunciations for English words, blissfully unaware that they were pronunced differently south of the border.
Of course, many words are spelt in a way that makes the difference obvious, but I reckon the Bard’s poems would have been read by himself with many more Scots features than most people do today.
If he had written his poems today, I believe he would have used many more Scots spellings to prevent the readers from substituting English pronunciations.
To illustrate this, I’ve tried to respell one of his most famous songs, A Man’s A Man For A’ That, and I’ve also added the West Central Scots pronuncation in IPA:
Is there for honest Poverty Is thare for honest povertie ɪz ðer fər ˈhonəst ˈpovərtɪ That hings his head, an’ a’ that; That hings his heid, and aw that; ðat hɪŋz hɪz hid ən ɑ ðat The coward slave — we pass him by, The couart sclave — we pass him by, ðə ˈkuərt sklev wi pas hɪm bae We dare be poor for a’ that! We daur be puir for aw that! wi dɑr bi per fər ɑ ðat For a’ that, an’ a’ that. For aw that, and aw that. fər ɑ ðat ən ɑ ðat Our toils obscure an’ a’ that, Our tyles obscure and aw that, ur təilz əbˈskjur ən ɑ ðat The rank is but the guinea’s stamp, The rank is but the guinie’s stamp, ðə raŋk ɪz bʌt ðə ˈɡinɪz stamp The Man’s the gowd for a’ that. The man’s the gowd for aw that. ðə manz ðə ɡʌud fər ɑ ðat
What though on hamely fare we dine, Whit tho on hamelie fare we dine, ʍɪt ðo on ˈhemli fer wi dəin Wear hoddin grey, an’ a’ that; Weir hoddin gray, and aw that; wir hodən ɡre ən ɑ ðat Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine; Gie fuils thair silks, and knaves thair wine; gi fɪlz ðer sɪlks an nevz ðer wəin A Man’s a Man for a’ that: A man’s a man for aw that: ə manz ə man fər ɑ ðat For a’ that, and a’ that, For aw that, and aw that, fər ɑ ðat ən ɑ ðat Their tinsel show, an’ a’ that; Thair tinsel shaw, and aw that; ðer ˈtɪnsəl ʃɑ an ɑ ðat The honest man, tho’ e’er sae poor, The honest man, tho e’er sae puir, ðə ˈhonəst man ðo er se per Is king o’ men for a’ that. Is king o men for aw that. ɪz kɪŋ o mɛn fər ɑ ðat
Ye see yon birkie, ca’d a lord, Ye see yon birkie, cawed a lord,* ji si jon ˈbɪrkɪ kɑd ə lɔrd Wha struts, an’ stares, an’ a’ that; Wha struts, and stares, and aw that; ʍɑ strʌts ən sterz ən ɑ ðat Tho’ hundreds worship at his word, Tho hunders wurships at his word,* ðo ˈhʌnərz ˈwʌrʃɪps at hɪz wʌrd He’s but a coof for a’ that: He’s but a cuif for a’ that: hiz bʌt ə kɪf fər ɑ ðat For a’ that, an’ a’ that, For aw that, and aw that, fər ɑ ðat ən ɑ ðat His ribband, star, an’ a’ that: His ribband, star, and aw that: hɪz ˈrɪbən star ən ɑ ðat The man o’ independent mind The man o independent mynd ðə man o ɪndəˈpɛndənt məin He looks an’ laughs at a’ that. He leuks and lauchs at aw that. hi lʌks ən lɑxs at ɑ ðat
A prince can mak a belted knight, A prince can mak a beltit knicht, ə prɪns kan mak ə ˈbɛltɪt nɪçt A marquis, duke, an’ a’ that; A marques, deuk, and aw that; ə ˈmarkwɪs djuk ən ɑ ðat But an honest man’s abon his might, But an honest man’s abuin his micht, bʌt ə ˈhonəst manz əˈbɪn hɪz mɪxt Gude faith, he maunna fa’ that! Guid faith, he maunna faw that! gɪd feð hi ˈmɑne fɑ ðat For a’ that, an’ a’ that, For a’ that, an’ a’ that, fər ɑ ðat ən ɑ ðat Their dignities an’ a’ that; Thair dignities and aw that; ðer ˈdɪɡnɪtɪz ən ɑ ðat The pith o’ sense, an’ pride o’ worth, The pith o sense, and pride o wirth, ðə pɪθ o sɛns ən prəid o wɪrθ Are higher rank than a’ that. Are heicher rank than aw that. ar ˈhiçər raŋk ðən ɑ ðat
Then let us pray that come it may, Than lat us pray that come it mey, ðən lat ʌs pre ðat kʌm ɪt məi (As come it will for a’ that,) (As come it will for a’ that,) əz kʌm ɪt wɪl fər ɑ ðat That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth, That sense and wirth, ower aw the yird, ðat sɛns ən wɪrθ ʌur ɑ ðə jɪrd Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that. Sall beir the grie, and aw that. sal bir ðə ɡri ən ɑ ðat For a’ that, an’ a’ that, For a’ that, an’ a’ that, fər ɑ ðat ən ɑ ðat It’s coming yet for a’ that, It’s comin yet for aw that, ɪts ˈkʌmən jɛt fər ɑ ðat That Man to Man, the world o’er, That man tae man, the warld ower, ðat man te man ðə ˈwarəld ʌur Shall brothers be for a’ that. Sall brithers be for aw that. sal ˈbrɪðərz bi fər ɑ ðat
I’m not entirely sure how deuk should be pronounced, so I have given the English pronunciation above.
Update (5 July): I had originally changed lord and word to laird /lerd/ and wurd /wʌrd/, but several people in the Scots Language Centre’s Facebook group pointed out that Burns had probably intended these words to rhyme, even though they don’t rhyme either in Scots or English.