Friday, September 25, 2009

Scots: Language or Dialect?

I'm just putting this article from Wikiedia here to open the discussion. I haven't made up my mind yet. 
Scots or Lowland Scots refers to the Germanic varieties spoken in Scotland and parts of Ulster. It is not to be confused with Scottish Gaelic, the Celtic language of Scotland.
Since there are no universally accepted criteria for distinguishing languages from dialects, scholars and other interested parties often disagree about the linguistic, historical and social status of Scots.[1] Although a number of paradigms for distinguishing between languages and dialects do exist, these often render contradictory results. Focused broad Scots is at one end of a bipolar linguistic continuum, with Scottish Standard English at the other[2], consequently, Scots is often regarded as one of the ancient varieties of English, but with its own distinct dialects[3] or Scots is sometimes treated as a distinct Germanic language, in the way Norwegian is closely linked to yet distinct from Danish.[4]
Native speakers sometimes refer to their vernacular as braid Scots (or "broad Scots" in English) or use a dialect name such as "the Doric", "the Teri" or "the Buchan Claik". The old-fashioned Scotch occurs occasionally, especially in Ireland. The term Lallans is used, too (though this is more often taken to mean the specific Lallans literary form).
The word Scot was borrowed from Latin to refer to Scotland and dates from at least the first half of the 10th century. Up to the 15th century Scottis (modern form: Scots) referred to Gaelic (a Celtic language and tongue of the ancient Scots, introduced from Ireland perhaps from the 4th century onwards). Since the late 15th century,[5] Germanic speakers in Scotland also started occasionally referring to their vernacular as Scottis and increasingly called Gaelic Erse (from Erisch, or "Irish"), now often considered pejorative.
Northumbrian Old English had been established in southeastern Scotland as far as the River Forth by the 7th century. It remained largely confined to this area until the 13th century, continuing in common use while Gaelic was the court language. Early northern Middle English, also known as Early Scots, then spread further into Scotland via the burghs, proto-urban institutions which were first established by King David I. The growth in prestige of Early Scots in the 14th century, and the complementary decline of French in Scotland, made Scots the prestige language of most of eastern Scotland. By the 16th century Middle Scots had established orthographic and literary norms largely independent of those developing in England.
Modern Scots thus grew out of the early northern form of Middle English spoken by the people of southeastern Scotland and northern England. Northern Middle English, or Early Scots as it is also known, made its first literary appearance in Scotland in the mid-14th century, when its form differed little from northern English dialects, and so Scots shared many Northumbrian borrowings from Old Norse and Anglo-Norman French. Later influences include Dutch and Middle Low German through trade with and immigration from the low countries, as well as Romance via ecclesiastical and legal Latin and French owing to the Auld Alliance. Scots has loan words resulting from contact with Gaelic. Early medieval legal documents show a language peppered with Gaelic legal and administrative loans. Today Gaelic loans are mainly for geographical and cultural features, such as ceilidh, loch and clan.
Language shift
On one hand, well-off Scots took to learning English through such activities as those of the Thomas Sheridan who in 1761 gave a series of lectures on English elocution. Charging a guinea at a time (about £65 in today's money), they were attended by over 300 men, and he was made a freeman of the City of Edinburgh. Following this, some of the city's intellectuals formed the Select Society for Promoting the Reading and Speaking of the English Language in Scotland. Other people who scorned Scotticisms included intellectuals from the Scottish Enlightenment like David Hume and Adam Smith who went to great lengths to get rid of every Scotticism from their writings.[6] This was not universally welcomed, as was illustrated by the summary by F. Pottle, James Boswell's 20th century biographer, concerning James' view of speech habits of his father Alexander Boswell, a judge of the supreme courts of Scotland :
He scorned modern literature, spoke broad Scots from the bench, and even in writing took no pains to avoid the Scotticisms which most of his colleagues were coming to regard as vulgar.
On the other hand, the education system also became increasingly geared to teaching English, though this was initially impaired by the teachers' and students' lack of knowledge of English pronunciation through lack of contact with English speakers. Aspects of English grammar and lexis could be accessed through printed texts. By the 1840s the Scottish Education Department's language policy was that Scots had no value " is not the language of 'educated' people anywhere, and could not be described as a suitable medium of education or culture". Students, of course, reverted to Scots outside the classroom, but the reversion was not complete. What occurred, and has been occurring ever since, is a process of language attrition, whereby successive generations have adopted more and more features from English. This process has accelerated rapidly since widespread access to mass media in English, and increased population mobility, became available after the Second World War. It has recently taken on the nature of wholesale language shift, sometimes also termed language change, convergence or merger. Residual features of Scots are often regarded as slang.
Lufe God abufe al and yi nychtbour as yi self (Love God above all and your neighbour as yourself) an example of Early Scots on John Knox House, Edinburgh
Before the Treaty of Union 1707, when Scotland and England joined to form the Kingdom of Great Britain, there is ample evidence that Scots was widely held to be an independent language[7] as part of a pluricentric diasystem.
The linguist Heinz Kloss considered Modern Scots a Halbsprache (half language) in terms of a Ausbausprache - Abstandsprache - Dachsprache framework[8] although today, in Scotland, most people's speech is somewhere on a continuum ranging from traditional broad Scots to Scottish Standard English. Many speakers are either diglossic and/or able to code-switch along the continuum depending on the situation in which they find themselves. Where on this continuum English-influenced Scots becomes Scots-influenced English is difficult to determine. Since standard English now generally has the role of a Dachsprache, disputes often arise as to whether or not the varieties of Scots are dialects of Scottish English or constitute a separate language in their own right.
The UK government now accepts Scots as a regional language and has recognised it as such under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
“ Notwithstanding the UK government’s and the Scottish Executive’s obligations under part II of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, the Scottish Executive recognises and respects Scots (in all its forms) as a distinct language, and does not consider the use of Scots to be an indication of poor competence in English.[9] ”
Evidence for its existence as a separate language lies in the extensive body of Scots literature, its independent — if somewhat fluid — orthographic conventions and in its former use as the language of the original Parliament of Scotland.[10] Since Scotland retained distinct political, legal and religious systems after the Union, many Scots terms passed into Scottish English. For instance, libel and slander, separate in English law, are bundled together as defamation in Scots law.
After the Union and the shift of political power to England, the use of Scots was discouraged by many in authority and education, as was the notion of Scottishness itself.[11] Many leading Scots of the period, such as David Hume, considered themselves Northern British rather than Scottish.[12] They attempted to rid themselves of their Scots in a bid to establish standard English as the official language of the newly formed Union. Enthusiasm for this new Britishness waned over time, and the use of Scots as a literary language was revived by several prominent Scotsmen such as Robert Burns. Such 18th and 19th century writers were well aware of cross-dialect standard literary norms, but during the first half of the 20th century, knowledge of such norms waned and currently there is no institutionalised standard literary form.[13] During the second half of the 20th century, enthusiasts developed regularised cross-dialect forms following historical orthographic conventions, but these have had a limited impact. In much contemporary written Scots language, local loyalties usually prevail, and the written form usually adopts standard English sound-to-letter correspondences to represent the local pronunciation.
No education takes place through the medium of Scots, though English lessons may cover it superficially, which usually entails reading some Scots literature and observing local dialect. Much of the material used is often Standard English disguised as Scots, which has upset both proponents of Standard English and proponents of Scots alike.[14] One example of the educational establishment's approach to Scots is "Write a poem in Scots. (It is important not to be worried about spelling in this – write as you hear the sounds in your head.)",[15] whereas guidelines for English require teaching pupils to be "writing fluently and legibly with accurate spelling and punctuation."[16] Scots can also be studied at university level.
The use of Scots in the media is scant and is usually reserved for niches where local dialect is deemed acceptable, e.g., comedy, Burns Night, or representations of traditions and times gone by. Serious use for news, encyclopaedias, documentaries, etc. rarely occurs in Scots, although the Scottish Parliament website offers some information on it.
It is often held that, had Scotland remained independent, Scots would have remained and been regarded as a separate language from English.[citation needed] On the other hand, a situation similar to that of Swiss German and standard German might have occurred. Equally, the present situation might have occurred, where the social elites and the upwardly mobile adopted Standard English, causing institutional language shift. A model of language revival to which many enthusiasts aspire is that of the Catalan language in areas spanning parts of Spain, France, Andorra and Italy, particularly as regards the situation of Catalan in Catalonia.
Number of speakers
Areas where the Scots language was spoken in the 20th century.[17][18]
It has been difficult to determine the number of speakers of Scots via census, because many respondents might interpret the question "Do you speak Scots?" in different ways. Campaigners for Scots pressed for this question to be included in the 2001 U.K. National Census. The results from a 1996 trial before the Census, by the General Register Office for Scotland[citation needed], suggested that there were around 1.5 million speakers of Scots, with 30% of Scots responding "Yes" to the question "Can you speak the Scots language?", but only 17% responding "Aye." to the question "Can you speak Scots?". (It was also found that older, working-class people were more likely to answer in the affirmative.) The University of Aberdeen Scots Leid Quorum performed its own research in 1995, suggesting that there were 2.7 million speakers.[citation needed] The GRO questions, as freely acknowledged by those who set them, were not as detailed and as systematic as the Aberdeen University ones, and only included reared speakers, not those who had learned the language. Part of the difference resulted from the central question posed by surveys: "Do you speak Scots?". In the Aberdeen University study, the question was augmented with the further clause "… or a dialect of Scots such as Border &c.?", which resulted in greater recognition from respondents. The GRO concluded that there simply wasn't enough linguistic self-awareness amongst the Scottish populace, with people still thinking of themselves as speaking badly pronounced, grammatically inferior English rather than Scots, for an accurate census to be taken. The GRO research concluded that "[a] more precise estimate of genuine Scots language ability would require a more in-depth interview survey and may involve asking various questions about the language used in different situations. Such an approach would be inappropriate for a Census." Thus, although it was acknowledged that the "inclusion of such a Census question would undoubtedly raise the profile of Scots", no question about Scots was, in the end, included in the 2001 Census.[19][20][21]
An apparent practical snag[citation needed] with the attempts to institutionalise a single variety of Scots for official use is, as in Standard English, the incorporation of vocabulary from literary registers often absent in colloquial registers (e.g. the use of "ken", meaning "know", which still occurs in many Eastern dialects but is entirely absent in others such as Glaswegian). An example is the Scots-language home page of the Scottish Parliament.[22]
There are at least five Scots dialects:
Insular Scots – spoken in Orkney and Shetland.
Northern Scots – spoken in Caithness, Easter Ross, Moray, Aberdeenshire and Angus. Often split into North Northern / Mid Northern (also called North East[23] and popularly known as the Doric) / South Northern.
Central Scots – spoken in the Central Lowlands and South west Scotland. Often split into North East Central / South East Central / West Central / South West Central.
Southern Scots – spoken in the Scottish Borders and Dumfriesshire. Also known as the "border tongue" or "border Scots".
Ulster Scots – spoken primarily by the descendants of Scottish settlers in Ulster, particularly counties Antrim, Down and Donegal. Also known as "Ullans".
The southern extent of Scots may be identified by the range of a number of pronunciation features which set Scots apart from neighbouring English dialects. The Scots pronunciation of come [kʌm] becomes [kʊm] in Northern English. The Scots realisation [kʌm] reaches as far south as the mouth of the north Esk in north Cumbria, crossing Cumbria and skirting the foot of the Cheviots before reaching the east coast at Bamburgh some 12 miles north of Alnwick. The Scots[x]-English[∅]/[f] cognate group (micht-might, eneuch-enough, etc) can be found in a small portion of north Cumbria with the southern limit stretching from Bewcastle to Longtown and Gretna. The Scots pronunciation of wh as /ʍ/ becomes English /w/ south of Carlisle but remains in Northumberland, but Northumberland realises “r” as /ʁ/, often called the burr, which is not a Scots realisation. Thus the greater part of the valley of the Esk and the whole of Liddesdale can be considered to be northern English dialects rather than Scots ones. From the 19th century onwards influence from the South through education and increased mobility have caused Scots features to retreat northwards so that for all practical purposes the political and linguistic boundaries may be considered to coincide.[24]
Northeast English, spoken throughout the traditional counties of Northumberland and County Durham, shares other features with Scots which have not been described above.
As well as the main dialects, Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow (see Glasgow patter) have local variations on an Anglicised form of Central Scots. In Aberdeen, Mid Northern Scots is spoken by a minority. Due to them being roughly near the border between the two dialects, places like Dundee and Perth can contain elements and influences of both Northern and Central Scots.
Among the earliest Scots literature is John Barbour's Brus (fourteenth century), Wyntoun's Cronykil and Blind Harry's Wallace (fifteenth century). From the fifteenth century, much literature based around the Royal Court in Edinburgh and the University of St Andrews was produced by writers such as Robert Henryson, William Dunbar, Gavin Douglas and David Lyndsay. The Complaynt of Scotland was an early printed work in Scots.
After the seventeenth century, anglicisation increased. At the time, many of the oral ballads from the borders and the North East were written down. Writers of the period were Robert Sempill, Robert Sempill the younger, Francis Sempill, Lady Wardlaw and Lady Grizel Baillie.
In the eighteenth century, writers such as Allan Ramsay, Robert Burns, Robert Fergusson and Walter Scott continued to use Scots. Scott introduced vernacular dialogue to his novels. Other well-known authors like Robert Louis Stevenson, William Alexander, George MacDonald, J. M. Barrie and other members of the Kailyard school like Ian Maclaren also wrote in Scots or used it in dialogue.
In the Victorian era popular Scottish newspapers regularly included articles and commentary in the vernacular, often of unprecedented proportions.[25]
In the early twentieth century, a renaissance in the use of Scots occurred, its most vocal figure being Hugh MacDiarmid whose benchmark poem A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle (1926) did much to demonstrate the power of Scots as a modern idiom. Other contemporaries were Douglas Young, John Buchan, Sidney Goodsir Smith, Robert Garioch and Robert McLellan. However, the revival was largely limited to verse and other literature.
In 1983 William Laughton Lorimer's translation of the New Testament from the original Greek was published.
Highly anglicised Scots is sometimes used in contemporary fiction, for example, the Edinburgh dialect of Scots in Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh (later made into a motion picture of the same name).
But'n'Ben A-Go-Go by Matthew Fitt is a cyberpunk novel written entirely in what Wir Ain Leid (Our Own Language) calls "General Scots". Like all cyberpunk work, it contains imaginative neologisms.
The strip cartoons Oor Wullie and The Broons in the Sunday Post use some Scots.
By the middle of the 17th century contemporary southern English had replaced Middle Scots for normal transactional writing. The 18th century revival of written Scots was based largely on contemporary colloquial Scots generally using highly anglicised spellings although some conventions inherited from previous centuries remained in use. The orthographic conventions of this literary or ‘pan-dialectal’ Scots were diaphonemic rather than phonetic in nature, subsuming varying dialect realisations, although dialect spellings became more frequent later in the period. This tradition embodied by writers such as Allan Ramsay, Robert Fergusson, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Charles Murray, David Herbison, James Orr, James Hogg and William Laidlaw among others, is well described in Grant and Dixon’s 1921 Manual of Modern Scots.
During the 20th century a number of proposals for spelling reform were presented. Commenting on this, John Corbett (2003: 260) writes that "devising a normative orthography for Scots has been one of the greatest linguistic hobbies of the past century." Most proposals entailed regularising the use of established 18th and 19th century conventions, in particular the avoidance of apostrophes where they supposedly represent "missing" English letters. Such letters were never actually missing in Scots. For example, in the 14th century, Barbour spelt the Scots cognate of 'taken' as tane. Since there has been no k in the word for over 700 years, representing its omission with an apostrophe seems pointless. The current spelling is usually taen.
Through the 20th century, with the decline of spoken Scots and knowledge of the literary tradition, phonetic (often humorous) representations became more common.
Thats the discussion portion of the article. The rest is the nitty gritty of grammar. In all fairness to Wikipedia, I should send you there to check the grammatical portion.

Interested in learning more?
Scots Language Society
Scots Language Center
Scots Language and Dialects
Socts: The Auld an Nobill Tung

1 A.J. Aitken in The Oxford Companion to the English Language, Oxford University Press 1992. p.894
2 Stuart-Smith J. Scottish English: Phonology in Varieties of English: The British Isles, Kortman & Upton (Eds), Mouton de Gruyter, New York 2008. p.47
3 A.J. Aitken in The Oxford Companion to the English Language, Oxford University Press 1992. p.894
4 A.J. Aitken in The Oxford Companion to the English Language, Oxford University Press 1992. p.894
5 A.J. Aitken in The Oxford Companion to the English Language, Oxford University Press 1992.
6 "Scuilwab" (PDF).
7 Nostra Vulgari Lingua: Scots as a European Language 1500 - 1700 By Dr. Dauvit Horsbroch
8 Kloss, Heinz, ²1968, Die Entwicklung neuer germanischer Kultursprachen seit 1800, Düsseldorf: Bagel. pp.70, 79]
9 Second Report submitted by the United Kingdom pursuant to article 25, paragraph 1 of the framework convention for the protection of national minorities Available here [1]
10 See for example Confession of Faith Ratification Act 1560, written in Scots and still part of British Law
11 Jones, Charles (1995) A Language Suppressed: The Pronunciation of the Scots Language in the 18th Century, Edinburgh, John Donald, p.vii
12 Jones, Charles (1995) A Language Suppressed: The Pronunciation of the Scots Language in the 18th Century, Edinburgh, John Donald, p.2
13 Eagle, Andy (2006) Aw Ae Wey - Written Scots in Scotland and Ulster. Available at
14 "Exposed to ridicule". The Scotsman. 7 February 2004. Retrieved 2009-05-21.
15 "''Scots - Teaching approaches'' Learning and Teaching Scotland Online Service". 2005-11-03. Retrieved 2009-05-21.
16 "''National Guidelines 5-14: ENGLISH LANGUAGE'' Learning and Teaching Scotland Online Service". Retrieved 2009-05-21.
17 Grant, William (1931) Scottish National Dictionary
18 Gregg R.J. (1972) The Scotch-Irish Dialect Boundaries in Ulster in Wakelin M.F., Patterns in the Folk Speech of The British Isles, London
19 (PDF) The Scots Language in education in Scotland. Mercator-Education. 2002. ISSN 1570-1239.
20 T. G. K. Bryce and Walter M. Humes (2003). Scottish Education. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 263–264. ISBN 074861625X.
21 Jane Stuart-Smith (2004). "Scottish English: phonology". in Bernd Kortmann and Edgar W. Schneider. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 48–49. ISBN 3110175320.
22 "The Scottish Parliament: - Languages - Scots". Retrieved 2009-05-21.
23 Mairi Robinson (editor-in-chief), The Concise Scots Dictionary, Aberdeen University Press, 1985
24 "SND Introduction - Phonetic Description of Scottish Language and Dialects". Retrieved 2009-05-21.
25 William Donaldson, The Language of the People: Scots Prose from the Victorian Revival, Aberdeen University Press 1989.

1 comment:

billy p said...

Language - or, leid!

An English speaker without knowledge of the Scots tongue would not be able to make out a conversation in Broad Scots. They would pick out certain words, and would probably comprehend about as much as a monolingual Dane listening to a Swedish conversation - some, but not all. A lot of words would be unfamiliar, and many familiar words would have unfamiliar forms.

On top of that, Scots was once the language of law, court, and kirk in Scotland. It was - and is - a national language.

Descended from Northern Old English, Scots is very similar to English, and for that reason, it has been prey to being treated as 'just bad English'. In reality, it was a political tactic to unite the English and Scots under one (English) culture and tongue - to make them more manageable.

All of the nine or so languages indigenous to the British Isles faced long attempts at eradication for exactly the same reason. None of them besides Yola were anglic (or for that matter, Germanic) languages, so they were not subject to being labelled 'bad English.'