Speak Ulster Scots! Whit?

Frank Mitchell Frank Mitchell a presenter on the Belfast radio station U105, asked a caller who is fluent in Ulster Scots to speak for 30 seconds in the hamely tongue, much to the amusement of some.

People got excited on Reddit and Facebook…

Whatttt!! Is that really what Ulster Scots is? English with a few har ni ach no nae’s threw in?

It’s English, spoken with a strong accent, mispronouncing some words and throwing a bit of slang in for good measure.

It’s just culchy talk.

I could understand perfectly what he was saying, or as they say in Ulster Scots I could understand perfectly what he was saying

Ulster Scots is just English spoken in a Ballymoney accent.

It’s important we keep refusing to give ulster Scots equality with Gaeilge. I mean we need to save these people from themselves

Others were more thoughtful….

As far as I am aware, the man in this clip was not actually speaking Ulster-Scots. His dialect of English is very heavily influenced by Ulster-Scots, but he doesn’t appear to be speaking a traditional form of Ulster-Scots.

The idea that anyone can just ‘do’ something in Ulster Scots halfway through a radio interview in English is a bit unrealistic for a range of reasons. But maybe there are real issues in terms of the number of speakers, the degree of fluency they have and the extent to which they are equipped to have this kind of discourse. The notion that it tells you anything much is misplaced but it may point to underlying issues that could be explored further. Sorry to be nuanced but it’s more complex than some folk would like to believe. (Michael Hance, SCC)

I’ve been in this situation plenty times – since I’m often asked to go on the radio and talk about Scots language issues. The best thing to do is agree in advance how the discussion will be structured and what you are prepared and not prepared to do…But you learn as you go along and it’s easy to be intimidated and nervous, of course…. explaining complex linguistic issues on radio, especially when the people interviewing you are often (wilfully) ignorant about very basic concepts like ‘accent’, ‘dialect’ and so on is not easy to do. (Michael Hance, SLC)

Exactly. One of the things about true code-switching is that it depends on context — you speak one way with someone because that’s the way you speak with them. It is very, very difficult for someone to speak a code* that you don’t associate with the context….The guy was talking on the telephone, to a radio station, and that means his unconscious mind was forcing everything through the formal filter. This is why he was talking about qualifying rather than getting in/through to the knock-out stages — posh situation, posh words; and Scots in modern use has no high-register vocabulary of its own.

Basically asking the guy to be a performing monkey. Scots is used between Scots speakers. Its not a 30 second party trick.

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