Shift happens – what can you do, eh?

Saw an interesting label for this “shit happens” school of sociolinguistics – “historical inevitability” (May, 2005). Essentially this presents linguistic change as a fait accompli, decontextualised from cultural and historic processes, issues of social justice, equity and unequal power relationships. Hard not to see this as a status quo or conservative position, but it is not usually recognised as such.

I learned Catalan in Barcelona many years ago, and what struck me was the nit-picking emphasis of the teachers on the *exact* vowel and consonant sounds. I thought it was weel-ower-the-tap at the time but they of course face incredible linguistic pressure from Castilian/Spanish media. Basically any distinct linguistic features can be retained and reinforced if we want them to be. But to do this we have to reject the “historical inevitability” line and treat Scots properly as the irreplacable linguistic treasure it undoubtedly is.

May, S. (2005) Language rights: Moving the debate forward, Journal of Sociolinguistics 9/3,19-347

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