Nick Durie started a public thread on the discussion from Why no Minister for the Languages of Scotland?
This is what I wrote in response:
Although Scots is now generally termed a ‘language’ by the SG it is not generally treated in policy as a ‘minority language’ with the legal rights and obligations that label nowadays implies. All sorts of reasons for that, but one is that the policy-makers themselves are not Scots speakers. For practical purposes for them it is a heritage (dead) language like Manx or Cornish, worthy of kind words but not serious funding.
Moreover the policy-makers are over-influenced by middle-class artists, rather than speaker groups, linguists, teachers, minority rights activists and so on. These artists see Scots as mainly a cultural resource for linguistic art – experimental writing or poetry or as a necessary tool to access previous generations’ writing or poetry.
What’s far worse, for middle-class anglophones Scots is associated with rural nostalgia of their grandparents or the gritty urban underclass of today. Writing in Scots therefore represents for them a kind of ‘outsider art’ i.e. art created outside the boundaries of official culture. Such ’peasant art’ demands that its exponents are untrained, to keep their outputs sufficiently ’authentic’. Allied to this is the postmodern obsession with ‘the voice’ of the marginalised. ‘Outsider art’ thus demands mock-illiteracy, unconventional representation, distain for the rules and constraints of ’authority’, linguistic or otherwise. Tom Leonard is the patron saint of Scots as outsider art.
In this artistic re-imagining of Scots there is of course no room for standards, grammars or dictionaries. ‘Richt’ and ‘wrang’ spelling, pronunciation cannot be taught, *should not* be taught. For artists Scots must never be brought inside official culture otherwise it would lose for them its magic ‘outsider art’ power.
This is why Scots speakers themselves are still classed as ’outsiders’, marginalised and excluded. This is why Scots is treated as a heritage and not a minority language. Why do Scots language speakers have no rights? For art.
Braid-like the blether wis fair interestin. This was an open discussion so names have been retained.
Michael Hance Well, is that all really provable?
Stuart Paterson I see it often Michael Hance. James Robertson, Rab Wilson, others. What’s the point in pretending you work within a language that you then deny the required or accepted standards of every other language? Nick Durie see my recent sharing of Kevin McKenna’s Observer article, on the Federation of Writers (Scotland) page. The couple of responses there encapsulate typical elitist & polar views of how Scots should be today.
Alexander Prior I’m personally in favor of a standardized form – whilst still encouraging variation and dialect – being created and made an official language. That means it would appear on ALL signage, all government correspondence, be used in parliament, required in schools etc.
David Hynds The point of any language is to communicate, and to communicate to the largest audience. I get really annoyed at stupid people who correct spelling here, as one in 10 of the population are in some way dyslexic, and accompanying the little grammar or spelling corrections is normally an insulating comment on intelegance.
[some discussion of ‘ableism’ followed]
Nick Durie This discussion is a little off topic. Of course we shouldn’t be spelling Nazis or infer from someone confusing some spelling anything about their education or so on. I hate that stuff. This tho is about whether you spell guid as gweed or gid, or gaid, or geed, about whether it’s Scots wha, or Scots that, and about whether you spell something guid in one line and gid the next. There is a school of thought among those who use Scots purely for the purposes of tone or register, and do not speak it, who feel it is their prerogative to do whatever they like with it, and also speak for it, generalising their aesthetic concerns as if they were civil rights demands. There are not many Scots speakers out there demanding that Scots is completely unstandardised, or speaking out against traditional spellings. There are many who’d like to be more literate however. At present we have a problem where people refuse to learn the grammar, enthusiastically take up “saving” a language that needs no saving but is in dire need of status and recognition, who then write in English with funny words, with no thought to the grammar or spelling conventions, and then do so almost as a demand of their personal expression, presenting themselves as voices for Scots, while simultaneously demanding that it be used as dialect writing as a register to indicate scurrilousness.To be clear, I’m certainly not presenting myself as some kind of doyen of Scots, but it’s a conversation about cultural appropriation that needs having.
Vic Wellock I understand that, but I assert that’s not a problem with the language, that’s a problem with the people who use/misuse it. To me, you are focusing on the wrong problem. People are going to appropriate culture whether it’s formalised or not. Isn’t that a bigger issue than standardisation?
Nick Durie Spelling is quite important in Scots because spelling conventions are *non-dialectical*. They allow the read to read in their own dialect, with their own pronunciation, whereas sound to letter correspondence purely on a personal dialect basis create the false impression – particularly for policy makers who neither speak it nor care – that Scots is a variety of different dialects which prima facie are quite different. This is totally untrue, and that is why it has long had a pan dialectical tradition, which modern writers abhor in order to present their own egos. Vic Wellock How do you teach a speaker to be literate and also how to read the huge literary canon pre-1940s if they don’t know the conventions? How do you convince policy makers that it is possible to create academic courses in the language for speakers and learners?
Vic Wellock You do what you are agitating for and you go for independence and then decolonisation.
Nick Durie Vic Wellock That’s the plan. I’m just putting this thread up to test the waters on broader discussions.
David Hynds Lets hold spelling loosely and not give the Nazi Zealots too much O2 to be silly bastards?
Nick Durie Convincing sceptical and conservative politicians of a post modern anything goes spelling and grammatical system simply does not work. Moreover it then becomes about “authenticity”. “Authenticity” is a curse for a language which has little power, because what is “authentic” in 1976 becomes “nobody speaks like that” in 2017, and it’s a test we would never in a million years apply to Gaelic, despite suffering similar linguistic pressures. BTW, re Stuart’s comment above, this was the chat on that Federation of Writers (Scotland) page where he posted an article in praise of Stuart’s recent broadcast on the BBC and the wider concern…
- This sort of artificial support of a long dead speech pattern does no one any favours.It is not a written language as such, the artificial promotion of such is tantamount to necrophilia.
- The danger is that written Scots will itself become a modern bureaucratic “approved” version. Maybe it would be better to keep it underground, creative and subversive.
- Stuart Paterson You mean ‘standardised’? Gawd forbid guv, we should be the only country on the planet with a language anyone can spell any way they like, just to keep it ‘subversive’ 😉
Vic Wellock Take it from people that know, it is a hiding to nothing to try and put the horse before the cart. Those that are intent on misconstruing meaning will put obstacles in your way. The best way to conserve energy for long term goals are to not be waylaid by what anyone else thinks, even if they appear to be ‘on your side’. I’m heading to dyslexic torpor now. That’s too much straight line thinking after the day I’ve had. For what it’s worth, I’m all for you, Nick. if you get yours there’s a chance I might get mine. No Pasaran.
Andy Eagle I assume the main reason for some kind of written standardisation is so that it can be systematically taught (in schools) over a wide geographical area with broadly similar results. What people then do with it afterwards is their business.
Brian Kelly It should be properly taught alongside Gaelic and English. All schoolchildren should have a grounding in all 3 from an early age. Schooling should include all three languages in teaching of other subjects.
John Foster I don’t really care what language is being written in, experimentation and bending the rules is artistic license.
Nick Durie When you have two related languages but only one of them is taught in schools and has a near hegemonic status then that is a recipe for what is called “dialect levelling” by linguists. See my comments above about “authenticity” and post modern spelling systems.
Steve Byrne I’ve nae a detailed answer tae yer query Nick, but consider masel pairt o the arts community, a wee bit in on the policy side, tae an extent, and a native speaker o Scots and fluent in ither leids. Frankly a standart – wi space fir local variation – canna come quick eneuch for me. It wid ding doon a few tods.
Stuart Paterson Nick Durie Ah dinnae think the maist pairt o the airts makars ettle at dingin doon staunnertisation ava, jist a yirkin wheen whae mak eneuch clatter for tae cam owre as maist. Scrievin an spellin whitwey they want suits them jist braw in no haein their feet pit owre the lowe acause o their ain lazy staunnerts.