Bad Language?

The usual weekly guest post from Wendy’s husband Jack Beck –

I’m sure I’ve covered this before, but it’s worth repeating.

I am Scottish and my natural language is Scots-English. By that I mean standard British English, but with a lot of Scots mixed in. But what is ‘Scots’? It’s a language that developed in parallel with English, but headed off on its own, rather in the same way that Scandinavian languages did, as well as Spanish versus Portuguese.

An example: ‘Ah widnae hae screivit that hid a kent ye’d hae bin affrontit.’ In English that would be ‘I wouldn’t have written that if I’d known that you’d have been offended’.

Because English and Scots have shared words pronounced differently it’s very common to see what’s often termed an ‘apologetic apostrophe’ – a’ for all or ca’ for call. It took me a while to realize just how insulting that term was and I never do that anymore. Never apologize for your indigenous speech.

Following the publication of the King James Bible and its adoption by the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, the language became spoken rather than written and different versions evolved in different areas. At the same time children were ‘encouraged’ to speak ‘proper’ English and often punished for speaking Scots.

However, all is not lost. Scotland’s National poet Robert Burns wrote in Scots and his popularity kept the language going and then the publication of Lorimer’s New Testament in Scots kept the flame alive. More recently Matthew Fitt and others began writing and publishing children’s’ books in the language.

Finally, like many others, my language has been nurtured by my involvement in traditional Scots songs and the current champions of the leid are also from the same background. They are pushing the Scottish Government to recognize and support Scots to the same extent as they do the other indigenous language – Gaelic.

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