Is Scots Haunted?

Comments in Bella Caledonia on a new translation of Chinese poetry into ‘synthetic’ Scots.

I’d propose that we might see this dense synthetic Scots as engaging a type of reverse hauntology. That is to say that this language is constructed and projected now as some hypothetical future standard of an historical ground of an assortment of different dialects and words ‘of some antiquity’(Holton), just as Dante’s ‘lingua italiana in bocca toscana’, drawing on many dialects, ultimately and actually became the standard Italian language. But unlike the Italian case, for various political and historical reasons, this potential future synthetic standard Scots never actually came into being as a universal vernacular. It remains as a hypothesis -that is to say that the words are like pieces in a jigsaw of some sort of idealised language, objects moved about and fitted into place around one another, in calculation, and with the absence of any vernacular spirit. Thus, the reverse hauntology: it is the past which is haunted with the spirit of this what-might-have-been, this potential. The present of this language consists in a materialist positioning of words as things, of its use in a spatialised art. 

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