Jack makes it over the line for his Wednesday post for a change –
I’m very happy to see a revival of interest in the Scots language in Scotland.
When Wendy teaches classes in cultural geography she often notes that countries are defined by their languages and culture. Scotland is no exception. The three main languages are Gaelic, Scots and English. The traditional culture is mainly centered around Gaelic and Scots.
My natural language has always been ‘Scots-English’ – in other words standard English with a large injection of Scots words and phrases. Of course I’m really bilingual, having disciplined myself to speak ‘proper’ English in formal settings and my natural language in more social ones, very much like Gaelic speakers do.
However, for a very long time Scots language has been frowned on in schools and described as just poor English, and there are many reasons for that. I don’t really blame my teachers as they believed that to get on in life we had to speak ‘proper English’.
One thing that really irks me is the apologetic apostrophe, where a word in Scots is similar to the English equivalent and the writer adds the apostrophe as if there’s a letter missing. Examples would be o in Scots and of in English or fa and fall. It doesn’t happen where the words are completely different, so why do it when their similar?
When Wendy first came to Scotland she worked with Matthew Fitt, a writer of Scots language children’s books that really helped begin the change in attitudes. More recently my friends Steve Byrne, Fiona Fyfe and Frieda Morrison have put their shoulders to the wheel and there are moves within the Scottish parliament to get things to the same level of support enjoyed by Gaelic.
Following the forming of the United Kingdom in 1707 and despite Scotland retaining many existing powers over law, education and Church, the language and culture were seen by the authorities as too ‘different’. After an abortive attempt to rename the country as North Britain a subtler approach was adopted and that was much more successful.
But the language lived on, particularly in rural and working class areas, and I’m glad that despite my elevation to the middle classes I’ve never lost it. Perhaps singing traditional Scots songs helped!
The 2011 Scottish census returned 1.5 million speakers of Scots within Scotland making up some 30% of the Scottish population of 5.4 million.
Some examples again – ‘Haud yir wheest’ (keep your mouth closed), ‘ca cannie’ (go carefully), ‘lang may yir lum reek’ (may you always have something to burn in your fire).
As an extra –
Living here in Appalachia, where many Ulster-Scots settled I have little trouble being understood by the locals. Lots of Scots words, grammar and pronunciation came over here.
Wull ferlies neer decis is Scots for ‘will wonders never cease’.