On (Scots) Language

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  1. Darby O'Gill says:

    The first published edition of Burns in 1786 is titled ‘Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect’. Why does it not say ‘in Scots’ or ‘in Scottish’ or ‘the Scottish Language’.

    1. Marco says:

      I think Scots as around way before Burns was.

      That aside, I think it’s likely because Scots started off as a dialect, like most if not all languages in this world. It’s recognised as a language by both Westminster (My MP (Glesgae North East) said they had the pledge available in Scots as well as Gaelic and English) and the EU as a language, so I really don’t think you can argue that it isn’t, if the body that originally told us it wasn’t a language now says it is…

      1. James_Macintyre says:

        Nice video. I hope people lose this whole Scots cringe.

  2. David I says:

    Robert Burns and the Scots Tongue on the robertburns.org.uk site
    I quote “When one considers that the Scots tongue was arrested in its development in the sixteenth century, lost caste in the seventeenth, and was relegated to the position of a despised and exhausted patois by the self-appointed intellegentsia of Scotland in the eighteenth, one can appreciate more fully the achievement of Burns in bringing out to the full its half-hidden strength and resources and in restoring it to an honoured place among the poetic languages of the world. Would that our generation could do half as well, or even thought that it was worth doing. ”
    To me suggest that the person who titled the book , titled it deliberately in that form

    1. Bryan Weir says:

      Good website that! ;o)

  3. Malcolm Kerr says:

    Thanks, Katie. Spot on. Darby, in the eighteenth century many Scots were hopeful about and committed to the Union. Call it fashion. Describing Scots as a dialect may seem a cringe now, but we have the advantage of two centuries of perspective.

    1. Brian Fleming says:

      I once read that a language is a dialect with an army and a navy. But then, Scots is a language with many dialects. How about we get that army and navy?

  4. Nick Durie says:

    Pittin this ower fae Scots Language Forum (https://www.facebook.com/groups/126242628908/permalink/10153909749973909/)

    Canna agree wi her anent authenticity – it’s an undeemous-lik bruckle a threip. ‘Reflect the way people speak now’ is a stamp. Gin ye’re claucht in that the’r nae wey oot, acause whit ae body hears becomes whit a body hears.

    Ay they uise a puckle Scots in Coatbrig or whitever amang aw the anes that’s ages wi her, but the aulder anes uises mair; forby and ye tak a taik alang the gait twa-three shires awa and they uise a hale wheen mair.

    “I certainly never called my language a leid” – ay and some fowk on this forum has uised that word fae bairnheid. We had that deponed in a threid here a while back. A never cried ma speak a “speech form” or a “sociolect” or a “basolect” or a “post creole continuum” or onie ither kin kind o English words that fowk doesna uise in ilkaeday patter neither, nor did nae ane that’s threipin and phrasin that Scots is the Scots that they ken theirsel, just, ever mint that English maun be hauden tae the same hypocrite standart. Weel mintit, ay, but gin ye tak yon line it’s a manifesto and a prattick for kistin aw the language that the anes that kens the least Scots doesna ken.

    1. Maisie says:

      This daft lassie said that most children between the ages of five and eight where she grew up took elocution lessons. Well, her mammy wasted money on her as she has forgotten how to pronoun the letter t in the middle and end of words.

      It’s all very well to hang on to one’s Scottish dialect, but which one is the most acceptable? According to the university instructor I took a class from everyone, to repeat, everyone has his/her own dialect. One daughter in the family pronounces doll as dull and Mom (American) as Mam. One son who spent 22 years in the U.S Navy has a hybridised dialect no doubt picked up from the many dialects of sailors from all over the U.S. The third child speaks like a mid-Californian, whereas in the northern part of the state some would tend to pronouce fish and dish as feesh and deesh.

      Some dialects are much stronger than others. It is suggested that we should be bilingual therefore, communicating to others not of our ilk in Standard English, retaining the dialect for those who can understand it.

  5. Ramstam says:

    Katie maks some guid pynts.
    Aw the bairns in oor faimly hae mithers/faithers grannies an grandas wha aw speik Scots amang oorsels yit nane o thir bairns speik it e’n whan they’re
    no at the schuil.
    Juist last week yin cam hame wi a prize for recitin Burns.
    Whit’s needit is for the schuils tae lat the bairns ken that it’s guid tae hae baith Inglish an Scots an that thair hame language haes it’s ain value.
    It’s weel-seen that a standart written form wad permit Scots tae be lairnt tae the bairns.
    Above aw, Scots shuidna be held back bi pedants wha dinna speik
    It thairsels.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      “Above aw, Scots shuidna be held back bi pedants wha dinna speik
      It thairsels.”

      Nivver mair truith. Scots is haud bak bi such fowk, intentionally sae. Aw thon heid yins in quangos ootthrou Scotland intentionally haud back the Scots tongue. Maist o thum irnae Scots onywiy, or are ‘Scots-apologists’, hence the reason they dinnae want tae promote Scots language. The Scots language simply needs the same treatment as Gaelic has received, i.e.:

      – Scots Language (Scotland) Act, which creates the following:
      – a Scots Language TV Station
      – a Scots Language ‘National Certificate’ (in aw wir schuils whaur bairns spik Scots)
      – a Scots Language budget (Gaelic has abt. £50m+/year, yet fer mair Scots spikkers)
      – a Scots Language National Body (tae mak sure aw the above happens!)

      No tae huv the same treatment as Gaelic is discrimination. Mak nae mistake, the Scots language is held doon, an maestly bi wir heid fowk that cannae spik it, an huv nae interest init.

      1. Bryan Weir says:

        Speik, spik or spikkers may be a problem.

        1. Alf Baird says:

          The only ‘problem’ aside from a lack of political will at Holyrood, is the Anglo-overlords who control institutional Scotland, not least the ‘home’ civil service.

      2. Finlay Macleoid says:

        I find your thinking on Gaelic and Scots rather Bizarre. Gaelic speakers and supporters have been fighting for Gaelic for at least 150 years and for the last 35 years in particular. Even though many of us tried to encourage the Scots Language Lobby to do the same, they said it was neither the time or place to do it. So I think you really have a brass neck to compare the two. The people I spoke to didn’t want to know about pre-school groups in Scots or Scots medium education or very much on any front so we stopped trying to encourage any action from them about 10 years ago. So please leave Gaelic out of your equation from now on.

        1. Alf Baird says:

          “many of us tried to encourage the Scots Language “. Who are “us”? What was “tried”?

          “they said it was neither the time or place to do it”. Who are “they”?

          “The people I spoke to didn’t want to know about pre-school groups in Scots or Scots medium education ” What “people” are they then?

          “so we stopped trying to encourage any action from them about 10 years ago”. Who are “we”?

          “So I think you really have a brass neck to compare the two”. On the contrary, all I ask for is equal treatment/strategy for Scots as with Gaelic (i.e. Act, TV, Body, NatCert, and £cash).

          1. Finlay Macleoid says:

            I was the part of the organisation who set up both the Gaelic medium nurseries CNSA and then went on to open Gaelic medium units and then Gaelic medium schools. During that period many involved with Gaelic education and broadcasting reached out to those involved in the organisations connected with Lallans and then the Scots Language organisations regarding setting up Nurseries or playgroups but they didn’t want to know many times. This included people from Aberdeen, Perth, Stirling, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Some who were involved in the fields of education and the arts. Often long discussions took place but the same answers were forthcoming. Indeed many were only interested in the various written forms of Lallans/Scots rarely the spoken language which always surprised us.

            Always the answer came back that they were not ready. So we simply had to progress or Gaelic would lose out. The two situations were like chalk and cheese and numbers never came into it.

          2. Alf Baird says:

            Tell the truth, Finlay, ye’ve nae interest in Scots at a’. But well done for getting all the public cash and muckle ither benefits for Gaelic.

          3. finlay Macleoid says:

            Alfi Baby My mother was from Peterhead who spoke Doric till the day she died a year ago and I have two brothers who live in Peterhead and speak Doric everyday of life so it is rather odd you say such things. But you obviously know best.

            I have every wish to see Doric and Lallans and Scots flourish and so I have tried to help in any way I could in the areas which I thought (obviously wrongly) which would have long term benefit.

            So many though obviously not all seem only interested in the written word but not actually speaking it as I found among university educated people and seemed to leave the spoken word behind, not only for themselves but especially for their families. This is not a new situation for any Gaelic speaker either and unfortunately it still happens within the Gaelic community but thankfully not as much.

            Say what you wish about my like or dislike of Doric, Lallans or Scots as I know where I stand in all this and it is certainly not in opposition or anti in any way. But please yourself.

        2. Just to intervene – the editors of our Gaelic and Scots language streams are very clear that we see this is as an opportunity to promote both languages equally and that Scotland is richer with our mix of language and culture, as Sorley Maclean and Hugh Macdiarmid knew fine well. We should be celebrating our shared culture and this opportunity for new a new platform.

          1. Alf Baird says:

            Equality is the thing, ed, as I noted above the Scots language simply needs the same treatment as Gaelic has received, i.e.:

            – Scots Language (Scotland) Act, which creates the following:
            – a Scots Language TV Station
            – a Scots Language ‘National Certificate’ (in aw wir schuils whaur bairns spik Scots)
            – a Scots Language budget (Gaelic has abt. £50m+/year, yet fer mair Scots spikkers)
            – a Scots Language National Body (tae mak sure aw the above happens!)

            As an aside, I’m unconvinced at having Gaelic nurseries in major Scottish central belt cities given that Gaelic is far less (if at all) ‘indigenous’ there than is the prevailing Scots language, which most of us can speak but cannae write, for weel kent oppressive/colonial reasons. Might there no be a middle class/intellectual agenda at work here? I’d be interested in Billy Kay’s ‘take’ on Finlay’s contention that, more or less, nuthin wis dun (for Scots) becaus naebody wis interested enough in the Scots language.

          2. Divide and conquer. We need unity in diversity. It’s not a zero sum game. Whats the phrase? “a rising tide lifts all boats”

          3. Finlay Macleoid says:

            I have never understood how anyone could say that Gaelic wasn’t spoken throughout Scotland other than in Orkney and Shetland, Just look at all the Gaelic place-names like Loch, Glen, Strath, Kil, Bal, Dun/Dum Creag or Craig but don’t go on what I say as there is so much evidence around if one were to open their eyes.

            Gaelic in Carrick in Ayrshire

            The text below contributed by Raymond Bell, Edinburgh, Scotland.

            In the ‘Scotsman’ of 18th November 1951 appeared the following letter, which had originally been printed in the ‘Daily Review’ in 1876:-

            “Sir-I send this in corroboration of the fact that Gaelic was to some extent spoken in Ayrshire in the early part of last century [1700s].
            My grand-aunt, Jean McMurray, who died in 1836 at the age of 87, informed me that Margaret McMurray, the representative of the elder branch of the McMurrays of Cultezron,* near Maybole, and who died at a very advanced age about the year 1760, was long talked about as having been the last Gaelic-speaking native of Carrick. “Cultezron is situated about 30 miles north of Glenapp, and seven or eight miles south of Ayr. Cultezron was possessed by several generations of McMurrays, and its name is purely Celtic ‘Cul Tigh Eobhain’, [sic]** signifying the ‘back of Ewan’s house’-I am etc.

            D. Murray-Lyon+ “Ayr,

            October 31, 1876”

            ******Comment by Ray Bell
            The farm of Cultezron still exists. I suspect parts of the Ayrshire/Galloway border spoke Gaelic later than this. Upland Galloway suffered clearances too probably about a century ahead of most of the Highlands but less well remembered. This probably mopped up a lot of Gaelic culture in those parts.

  6. FatCandy says:

    I wonder if Burns used the high rising terminal?

  7. Ron says:

    In the ’50s when I lived in Devon Street, Glesga, the wurd ‘rammy’ meant ; ; ; .
    Example: “Hey Ma, Da, next doors havin a rammy.”
    “Aye weel, jist you keep oot ay it or ye’ll get a skelped lug!”
    “Ah wuz jist tellin ye…”
    “Ach weel jist you mind…”

    Ah canny imagin that Burns wid use rammy. Ma thoucht is rammy is a Glesga dialect (one of ) – try Kelvinside for anither.

    Oney wey, goan yersel Katie.

    1. Ron says:

      Fur ;;;;; read argument; row, barney; shouting match, so
      “rammy” equals argument; row, barney; shouting match.

      Tried to be too smart by using angle brackets on the definition options.
      Jist get oot o’ here!

  8. Steven Ritchie says:

    rammie: n. col. A free-for-all, a violent disturbance. It’s a free for all. Sarah Palin’s at it an aw’, crying Ingles “American”.

    The reason I made my comment is because she didn’t speak a word of Scots in that video. I couldnae speir aboun a’ that in Scots aither. Eh hiv tae seek ivry second word in the online Scots dictionar afore eh can scrieve a thing in it an aw.

    I can speak and write in the only Scottish language that has a continuous history in this land from the beginning of the kingdom of Alba to the present anglicised and colonised constituent country of the UK. Unfortunately, very few of you would be able to understand what I write. ‘eil fhios agaibh? Chan eil math dhomh a sgrìobhadh. See? We’ve got two languages rooted in our country, and all people do is go on and on in English about them. Well that’s not going to save them.

  9. Douglas Robertson says:

    A great insight into how the ordinary and mundane is at the same time powerful and political.

  10. Andrew Watson says:

    Oh my. Klaxons going off with that video title Best be careful when talking about “The” Scottish Language. I can’t see a scenario in which Scots can be considered a Scottish Language and Gaelic not. *Wags finger*

  11. Crubag says:

    I think Scots probably needs the same treatment as Scottish Gaelic, a standard orthography and a standard pronounciation.

    There are still complaints about “BBC Gaelic” and “mid-Minch” Gaelic but if we want official institutions like the BBC or Historic Scotland to engage then they need a standard form.

    The ironing out of regional difference has inspired some to rediscover their own local dialects of Gaelic, but I think even they would agree with having a standard, nationally comprehensible form too. The alternative is to end up like Cornish.

    I don’t know who would attempt it though.

    1. Crubag says:

      Actually I’m wrong on Cornish, though it proves my point.

      Accordimg to Wikipedia, in 2005 it was recognised that factionalism wasn’t working and a partnership went on to agree a standard written form in 2008.

  12. Bryan Weir says:

    “I think Scots probably needs the same treatment as Scottish Gaelic, a standard orthography and a standard pronounciation.”

    And this is where the problem lies. If you look at some of the attempts at writing in “Scots” even in this thread you will see many stabs at spelling words in Scots (some excruciatingly bad). The problem (in most cases) is that it’s just pronouncing English words in a different way with an odd Scots word thrown in.

  13. Paul Codd says:

    Found myself nodding along in appreciation right until the end when she seems to propose that the solution is just to speak however you want and expect everyone to fit in with you. The Catalans are fiercely proud of their language, but their Spanish is almost identical to the rest of Spain. A slight accent and a few idioms here and there, but basically its the King’s Spanish so to speak. Their spoken Catalan (language) is equally pure. Many older people can’t write it very well due to the prohibition under Franco, but their current education system is excellent at teaching the waens how to write their grammatically complex tongue. Playground speak is predominantly Catalan but varies from school to school with some schools being predominantly Spanish speaking after the bell rings. TV, newspapers and other media has a mix of languages with a strong local funding bias for Catalan to counter the torrent of Spanish speaking media coming from outside.
    My point is we should do Scots properly, starting at school. Every child should learn to read, write, speak and pronounce English, and they should also be able to read, write and speak Scots, unadulterated, and unbastardised as it usually is now. I wish I’d been given that gift as a kid and not unhelpfully told I was speaking bad English (which I was). The irony is that only by putting more effort into Scots can we also teach people to speak a kind of English which is easily intelligible to people outside of Scotland. This in an of itself is likely to open up new opportunities to overcome the social exclusion of Scotland’s poorest.

    1. C Rober says:

      Explains the “burn in hell” looks ah git when I try ma Spanish on them , well mair chicano really than spanish per se.

  14. Gordon says:

    Don’t mind proper Scots/Scottish dialect/ language. It’s the slovenly speech that passes for dialect/language that I can’t stand. It’s the Glottal stops and the unmoving lips and tongue, mainly in Glasgow that gets me. Listen to an Aberdonian speaking the Doric, and you get every syllable, every consonant even if you don’t understand what he’s saying. Don’t mumble in a Scots accent and call it ‘Scots’. If you’re speaking English, try to make it universally comprehensible and use your normal speech for family and friends. I used to work for farmers and was able to pick up their vocabulary, only because they didn’t race over barely pronounced consonants and vowels.

    1. Bryan Weir says:

      The glottal stop is an essential part of the Scots tongue in the West of Scotland. Isn’t what you are doing (preferring one accent of Scots to another) essentially the same as forcing people to speak “proper” English?

      1. Malcolm Kerr says:

        Yes, couldn’t agree more. What’s wrong with a glottal stop? Nothing. No one seems to complain about the Inverness glottal-stopped P (as in piper and paper, etc). Just outraged if it occurs in Glasgow and involves a T. There’s no sense in that approach. Glasgow Scots has more than one type of T in widespread use, anyway. In general glottal Ts occur in the middle of a word, while dental Ts are commonly used at the start. Disregard for the Glasgow dialect of the Scots language is only about keeping people down. There’s no logic.

        1. Bernard Thompson says:

          Except that is neither speaking Scots in this video nor using Glasgow dialect. The glottal stop is fine for people who understand it but it makes English incomprehensible to non-native speakers and many others from Englsih-native-speaking countries.

          1. Malcolm Kerr says:

            Bernard. Any language is ‘incomprehensible to non-native speakers who don’t understand it’. Doh! Specific and isolated disdain for the glottal stop is about class and subjugation. We have learned over centuries that to ‘get on’ we have to choose to ape English ways.

          2. Bryan Weir says:

            Actually the glottal stop is one of the most common features in world languages.


        2. Bernard Thompson says:

          Except that Katie Gallogy-Swan is neither speaking Scots in this video nor using Glasgow dialect. The glottal stop is fine for people who understand it but it makes English incomprehensible to non-native speakers and many others from Englsih-native-speaking countries.

  15. C Rober says:

    I will still retain ma cringe when its a nasal ned , sayin “ur ye lookin at ma burd” , when a huv tae asnwer “jist wundering if her blood group is sunny d or hus liver failure” , cos that shade of spray tan kist disnay exist in nature.

  16. Bernard Thompson says:

    I have to take exception to Katie Gallogly-Swan’s apparent satisfaction at being considered “incomprehensible”. (I also note that she delivered this monologue in English, not Scots.)

    There is a difference between being proud of your cultural heritage and finding others’ inability to understand you as somehow self-validating.

    Is language a tool for communicating or a secret code, shutting others out because they’re not part of the clique?

    Yes, it’s interesting that a “rammy” in Coatbridge is an Irn Bru bottle. In Glasgow, it’s a fight or an argument “stairheid rammy”. They are examples of dialect and how language is often dependent on a cultural setting.

    (And it’s worth noting that Scots has no stronger a claim to these than Scottish English.)

    So, by all means, use the Coatbridge “rammy” in Glasgow. Just don’t blame Glaswegians if it starts a fight.

    Of course, whether or not to make yourself understood is a choice between including people and excluding them. The latter results in ever-decreasing circles.

    1. Redgauntlet says:

      Funny, Bernard…

      …George Steiner thought that language was indeed, in its origins, a secret code, devised to shut out and confuse others and create a strongly bonded inward looking community, which was vital to group survival….

  17. Bernard Thompson says:

    “Specific and isolated disdain for the glottal stop is about class and subjugation.”

    You got, me Malcolm! There could be no other legitimate point of view.

  18. Bryan Weir says:

    Aren’t we being a wee bit petty and parochial about this? Is the Scots “language” a language at all as opposed to English pronounced a wee bit differently with a few local words thrown in?

    Isn’t it the case that the only Scots language that is any more than a very close dialect to English is the Gaelic?

    Is the Scots language any different to local dialects and pronunciation in other parts of the UK? Or, as they say in Newcastle, “Ye knaa what ah mean leik.”


    1. Alf Baird says:

      Geography and sea transport explains a great deal. Much of what is today northern England was once part of Scotland, and Northumberland and Cumbria are a lot closer to Scotland than to London, so many words are inevitably going to be rather similar. This matters when land transport was problematic if not almost impossible (e.g. over the 1,000 years prior to railways and M-ways). The east coast of Scotland enjoyed over 1,000 years of regular by-sea trade and travel with the Continent, Baltic and Scandinavia areas, with rather less trade over much of this time to/from a mostly hostile and foreign England. Hence the differences between Scotland’s laws, religion and education relative to England, and the different language too. And this trade in goods and people and culture explains in large part the development of the Scots language throughout the highly populated east coast of Scotland with its dense network of port cities and towns all the way from Berwick to Lerwick. By contrast, the lesser populated west coast and Hebrides was mostly Gaelic speaking, reflecting the Celtic geographic area, and the mountainous barriers between it and the east coast of Scotland which blocked easy movement. Early medieval Scots traders have left us a lot of evidence in the port/shipping record.

      1. Finlay Macleoid says:

        Actually it was the East Coast that was less populated with over 50% of the population being in the Highlands and Islands until the Highland Clearances (much of it occurred through Clearance by Scottish Landlords) Alf you really do need to get more information on these issues. Population and language spread in Scotland and not look at it from the 2016 perspective only.

        Hopefully you won’t be telling us that Gaelic wasn’t spoken in Caithness, Nairnshire, Morayshire, Banffshire, Aberdeenshire or in the Glens of Angus or East Perthshire Stirlingshire or The Lennox or Dunbartonshire or even Galloway or Ayrshire as so many involved in promoting Scots tell us all the time.

        As I am also involved in taking back the Gaelic of Moray, Aberdeenshire, Banffshire and the Glens of Angus with a group of people that is presently being formed of whom many of their grandparents and great-grandparents, especially from Aberdeenshire and Morayshire spoke Gaelic from these very areas. Having Native Aberdeenshire Gaelic speakers into the late 1980’s and in Morayshire into the late 1970’s was a revelation for many people and still is today.

        1. Alf Baird says:

          Roughly 50% of the population lived north of the Tay (15c), of which many would still be ‘east’ of Scotland between Perth and Lerwick, so I would question your assumption.The numerous ancient towns and burghs along the east coast reflect this reality.

          Thus far you have still managed to avoid addressing the question of equal treatment for both Scots and Gaelic languages (aside from implying that folk in your circle were less interested in Scots language development), i.e.:

          – Scots Language (Scotland) Act, which creates the following:
          – a Scots Language TV Station
          – a Scots Language ‘National Certificate’
          – a Scots Language budget
          – a Scots Language National Body

  19. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

    We have an interesting historical marker in stanza 29 (my capitalisations) of ‘The Goldyn Targe’ by William Dunbar (c.1420-c.1513):

    O reverend CHAUCERE, rose of rethoris all
    (As in OURE TONG ane flour imperiall)
    That raise in Britane ever, quho redis rycht,
    Thou beris of makaris the tryumph riall;
    Thy fresch anamalit termes celicall
    This mater coud illumynit have full brycht.
    Was thou noucht of OURE INGLISCH all the lycht,
    Surmounting eviry tong terrestriall,
    Alls fer as Mayes morow dois mydnycht?

    1. Malcolm Kerr says:

      Surely this is written with ironic intent?

      1. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

        No irony, it seems. Far from it. And while we certainly do seek to avoid contention, a new generation in our midst surely deserves to be made aware of historical complexities which may as yet have eluded them. Let us consider the following (feather-ruffling) excerpts from the Introduction to ‘The Mercat Anthology of Early Scottish Literature 1375-1707’ (Edited by R.D.S. Jack and P.A.T. Rozendaal, Mercat Press, Edinburgh, 1997, pp xii-xiv):

        “If one assumes that ‘the pre-requisite of an autonomous literature is a homogeneous language’ (Edwin Muir, ‘Scott and Scotland’, p 19) then the creation of a national tradition and evaluation within it will reflect that tenet. Nor is it an unusual idea. Today, minority groups often rally behind a linguistic banner – French for the French-Canadians; Basque for the Basques. Whether the same may be assumed in the case of Scotland the Nation, centuries ago, is another question.
        Was ‘Scottis’ the accepted, homogeneous literary language of Scotland in earlier times? Once the historical dimension to that question is opened up and one looks at origins, it becomes clear that the answer is ‘No’. The dialect known as ‘Scottis’ has no claim to be the original national tongue. In fact, if there were any politico-linguistic ‘treachery’, it was that which resulted in ‘Scottis’ gaining dominance over the native Gaelic.
        […] Scots originated as Northumbrian English and only grew later into proud distinctiveness, because of the positive sociolinguistic forces inherent in nationhood.
        Unsurprisingly, therefore, lowland Scottish writers from the fourteenth century until the seventeenth almost always claim to be composing in ‘Inglis’ and seek their poetic origins south of the border. Dunbar eulogises his master, Chaucer, in ‘The Golden Targe’, posing the rhetorical question:

        ‘Was thou noucht of oure INGLISCH all the lycht,
        Surmounting eviry tong terrestriall,
        Alls fer as Mayes morow dois mydnycht?’ (st 29: 7-8)

        Only in two instances do the writers of the time call their language ‘Scottis’. The limitations of the nationalist claims made in this way by Gavin Douglas and James VI will be discussed later.
        The loss of the ‘nationalist’ prop to the icon of the ‘homogeneous national literary language’ inevitably makes the easy identification between anglicisation and treachery untenable. It also reminds the critic that the ideals of a past age may not coincide with those held today.
        […] Knox and James VI are on a different, theological quest directed at opening the hidden Latin Word of God to the widest possible audience. Where, if at all, does one find contemporary anger at this form of anglicisation?
        […] When the prospect of a Union centred in London beckons, therefore, anglicisation may result from the social change itself. When the distinctive tongue of the smaller nation (in this case) ‘Scots’ is itself a dialect of ‘Inglis’ and has dubious patriotic roots, anglicisation cannot simply be viewed as treachery. Yet on that premise the ‘Tradition’ is based and the excision of the Renaissance founded.
        […] James VI and the poets who went south with him after the Union of the Crowns did not betray a homogeneous nationalist language when anglicising their work. Nor did they anglicise from one linguistic exreme (‘pure’ Scots) to another (‘pure’ English). Middle Scots at the end of the fifteenth century was already closer to English than it was when the century began.”

  20. Finlay Macleoid says:

    Alf Baird I am not the person to answer any of your questions, for that you have to go to the Scottish Government as it is they who have the power to increase and to put into train what you are looking for. Though I am interested as to why you are not seeking Scots medium pre-school nurseries as none exist at present or indeed Scots medium schools as you are seeking equality.

    Maybe you don’t need or require them.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      Thanks Finlay. I think the Scots language and the Gaelic language are both critical to the renewal and future development of the Scottish nation. It seems we are a bit like Singapore, where English is taught as an ‘administrative’ language, but people also must have the choice of taking one of two indigenous languages, in their case Mandarin or Tamil. Language is such a critical element of culture, it can never be ignored as we are nothing without it. The Scots-Unionist Establishment are evidently more opposed to making the Scots language ‘statutory’ than they are with Gaelic. They perhaps know that once several million Scots begin to realise their language has been oppressed and diminished and insulted over centuries, then the re-taking of our nation will become inevitable. Language is that important in my view.

      1. Finlay Macleoid says:

        The Gaelic dialects of North east Scotland

        Over the next few months we will be setting up a group for those who are interested in developing the Gaelic dialects of North East Scotland which includes Native Aberdeenshire, Moray, Banffshire and Glenshee Gaelic.

        If you are interested in being involved in any way could you get in contact with me at [email protected] and add your name to the list.

  21. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

    Finlay MacLeòid writes above:

    “Hopefully you won’t be telling us that Gaelic wasn’t spoken in Caithness, Nairnshire, Morayshire, Banffshire, Aberdeenshire or in the Glens of Angus or East Perthshire Stirlingshire or The Lennox or Dunbartonshire or even Galloway or Ayrshire…”
    I comment:

    My home territory was An Leamhnachd/ The Lennox (broad environs of Clydebank, Dumbarton, Vale of Leven, Loch Lomondside, the Trossachs etc). The last native Gaelic speakers apparently died in the 1950s, a few years after I was born. Though I never met them, I like to imagine that as a Gaelic learner I have (however fumblingly) caught that falling torch, and can now in some measure raise it again for the vicinity. North American academic researcher Michael Newton has a specific interest in the Gaelic heritage of the area. In his essay “‘Woe to him who has lost his voice’: re-discovering the Gaelic literature of the Lennox and Menteith”, he writes –

    “To be in control of one’s own narrative embodies self-determination and self-realisation. The contrary condition – that of having no voice – represents a lack of power. The Gaelic language has only become moribund in the Lennox and Menteith since the 1950s or later, and yet there is surprisingly little consciousness of it today. It will seem to most visitors, indeed, most Scots, to be far south of the Highlands proper. It is clear from the literary record, however, that it was a full participant in Gaelic culture, literature, and consciousness. Indeed many literary developments are visible here before or simultaneous to their appearance elsewhere in Gaeldom. For a community to lack a voice, however, suggests that it cannot represent itself, speak its own truths, or process its own issues (to use modern jargon) using the medium most powerful and meaningful to the human condition. These ideas are reflected in a Classical Gaelic poem preserved in the early 16th century manuscript ‘The Book of the Dean of Lismore’. This poem is there attributed to Donnchadh Mór ó Leamhnacht, Great Duncan of the Lennox, which Dr Steve Boardman has suggested to me could be the eighth earl of the Lennox, who was beheaded in 1425. Thee first quatrain states:

    Mairg duine do chaill a ghuth
    Agus ’gá bhfuil sruth do dhán
    Agus nach fhéad gabháil leó
    Agus nach eól bheith ’na thámh.

    [Woe to him who has lost his voice
    Who has a stream of song
    And who cannot sing it
    And does not know how to be silent.]”

    Those interested might also seek out Michael Newton’s (comletely bilingual) book “Bho Chluaidh gu Calasraid / From the Clyde to Callander: Gaelic Tales, Songs and Traditions from the Lennox and Menteith”. A free PDF seems to be available on request here:

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