A richt interesting blether on FB this week anent the “uniqueness” o Scots. It isna, BTW.
Jim Scobbie Scots words are sometimes seen (proudly) as having crucial extra nuances of meaning, so that they can’t be translated directly into English, and I realise for the first time how much that idea undermines the status of Scots as an independent language. It means Scots is a jargon, or poetic resource, rather than an alternative equivalent language.
Bärney Dëllar ALL languages have words that can’t be directly translated into other languages. It shouldn’t be seen as a big deal.
Dafydd Gadwall The simple fact is that many words in different languages have multiple meanings that form overlapping Venn diagrams iwiht corresponding words in other languages.
Richard Dury It’s an interesting point: The case for Scots as a standard or national language can’t be based on the argument that it is better as a language. All languages and dialects will have some fascinatingly-nuanced vocabulary and language-use, perhaps especially in small, culturally unified communities.
John M. Tait The idea that Scots is uniquely unique – that is, unique in the extent of its uniqueness – seems to be one of the myths which has become associated with it. On the one hand it can be related to what I call the ‘availability error’ – the fact that, because Scots is not a written language available at the acrolect level, features which are actually owing to its basilect status are perceived as being intrinsic to it.
Perhaps the most obvious of these is the often repeated assertion that Scots consists of, or is ‘on’, a continuum with English, which I would argue simply reflects the fact that only the English end of the continuum is defined, and what would in other situations be seen as an ongoing blending of two entities – Scots and English – in the direction of English is seen rather as an intrinsic and essential feature of what is regarded as Scots.
This perceived – I would say, sociomythic – uniqueness of Scots is also often used as an argument against comparisons with other marginalised languages. From my website article above:
‘Another aspect of the availability error – and an indicator of its irrationality – is the fact that it brooks no comparisons. Arguments relating to other languages which seem to be doing all right in spite of having all the characteristics which are held to be fatal to Scots fall on deaf ears. The immediate availability of Scots in its present impoverished condition, and the complete clampdown of Scottish society on any holistic knowledge either of or about it, means that tiny scraps of knowledge about Scots can seem like revelations, minute token instances of it outside of its traditional domains can seem revolutionary, and elementary – even incorrect – knowledge of it can be passed off as expertise. The bigger picture is completely blanked out, and Scots perceived and treated as though it were unique in the universe, the word ‘Scots’ defined in terms of its current status and situation.’
Certainly the view of Robertson that Scots is to be valued as a language especially suited to expressing anarchism, nomadism and hedonism and of its existing in a state of perpetual register tension with standard English – an impression clearly resulting from and dependent upon its basilect status -is related to this uniqueness mythology.
The following comments by Robertson particularly illustrate this view:
‘The real reason for developing, encouraging and using Scots is not that it should articulate everything, but that it can articulate things which, for whatever reason, English cannot, or which writers and speakers feel are beyond English.’
‘Realistically, it seems to me, the future for Scots lies in exploiting its close relationship with English, in generating positive, progressive energy from that juxtaposition and the tensions it creates.’