| Tuesday, December 20, 2005
For the furtherance of international understanding I have decided to do a bit here about Scottish language and words. When Scots go to England or America some people claim they cannot understand them and therefore Scots can become very over-conscious of the way they are speaking.
It's best summed in the lyrics I have put below. You can listen to it here
THROW THE R AWAY - The Proclaimers
I've been so sad
Since you said my accent was bad
He's worn a frown
This Caledonian clown
Some days I stand
On your green and pleasant land
How dare I show face
When my diction is such a disgrace
You say that if I want to get ahead
The language I use should be left for dead
It doesn't please your ear
And though you tell it like a leg-pull
It seems your still full of John Bull
You just REFUSE to hear
Oh what can I do
To be understood by you
Perhaps for some money
I could talk like a bee dripping honey.
I'm just going to have to learn to hesitate
To make sure my words
On your Saxon ears don't grate
But I wouldn't know a single word to say
If I flattened all the vowels
And threw the 'R' away
There are actually three languages in Scotland, English, Gaelic and Scots. Not many people speak Gaelic (more people speak it in Nova Scotia than in Scotland) and it is different from Irish Gaelic. It is mainly spoken in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, sometimes as the first language, but there is probably no one who will speak Gaelic and not know English.
The interesting part is the interplay between the English and Scots languages. Scots or Lallans, often called Lowland Scots to distinguish it from Gaelic, is a West Germanic language (like English) used in Scotland, parts of Northern Ireland, and border areas of the Republic of Ireland, where it is known as Ullans.
In Scotland all education, nearly all newspapers and magazines, most TV are done in what is erroneously termed 'Standard English' (how it can be standard when the only people that really speak that way are BBC newsreaders is odd) and yet Scots still bursts through in everyday speech. In the lift on the way up to this PC (the urge to standardise is so strong and must be fought - I nearly wrote 'elevator' instead of 'lift' there) it looked too full for me to get in but the guy said "c'moan in, dinnae worry aboot it". Bits of it are everywhere although there have been efforts to eradicate it for years.
I just find some of the stuff bizarre though. For example, there is a small Wikipedia in Scots language. This is not an attempt to further understanding or knowledge, the entries are not in depth or properly researched. It is more an attempt to rephrase familiar things back into full traditional Scots from English. In other words, it's an exercise in language and not knowledge...
For example, here is the entry on the UN Security Council
The Unitit Nations Security Cooncil (in Frainch: Conseil de securite des Nations unies, in Inglis: United Nations Security Council) is, unner the Unitit Nations Chairter, the bodie that hauds the lane richt tae, on maiters anent peace in the warld, mak resolutions that aa kintras maun tak tent tae gin they are members o the Cooncil or no, acause thay are syne thirlt tae thaim bi law. At the meenit the Cooncil conseests o fifteen members, wi five kintras (Fraunce, Roushae, the Unitit Kinrick, the Unitit States China) that haes the richt tae aye be members an that forbye haud the pouer tae nae-say onie resolution pitten forrit, alang wi ten ither members waled bi, an frae, aa the kintras that maks up the Unitit Nations as a hail.
Monie kintras nou conseeders that thare shuid be mair nor fifteen kintras on the Cooncil, an that mair nor five shuid hae the richt tae aye be on it. Houaniver, ilkane o the five kintras that wad hae maist pouer taen frae thaim bi sic a chynge yit haes the richt tae nae-say it, gin thay chuise tae uise it.
I can understand that and English speakers could probably get most of that from the context and the few English words that are in there; and a lot of the differences from English are just phonetic.
That said, people here would look it up in English and not Scots, even if they knew about the Scots one.
There is an argument that keeping up an old language is nothing but looking back longingly at a distant past and ignoring the present set of circumstances. "If language had been the creation not of poetry but of logic, we should only have one" Friedrich Hebbel
In other words what benefit would it give the Scots to make themselves harder to understand?
Storm Jameson, an English writer, Socialist and Anti-Fascist expressed it perfectly when she said "Language is memory and metaphor." Each area has its own metaphors and memories and they are expressed best in the language that has grown and developed in that area.
More languages and more forms of human expression are always preferable to fewer - even if it makes things trickier sometimes. Imagine if just one instrument e.g. saxophone (sorry Keir!) had never been invented or had died out. People would still make music, maybe even would still have wrote the same notes in the same order for a different instrument and yet it would not sound the same nor give us the same expression. Something would have been lost.
There are a few people working very hard to keep Scots Gaelic and Scots alive while many people just use words from those languages as a matter of course without any consciousness of their origins. I am not interested in nations with any of this - just cultures. Of the estimated 6800 (at least) languages in the world about half are thought to be under threat of extinction. The UN declared 1993 the year to save endangered languages but little or nothing was done. It has been predicted that in the 21st century 70% of the world's languages will die out. We are all going to lose a lot if that happens.
This is a little song to finish. I would be interested to know if any non-scots can get all of it. There is a dictionary of Scots to help if you need it.
Listen Tae The Teacher
He's 5 year auld, he's aff tae school
Fairmer's bairn wi a pencil and a rule
His teacher scoffs when he says "hoose"
"The word is house, you silly little goose"
He tells his ma when he gets back
He saa a mouse in an auld cairt track
His faither laughs fae the stackyard dyke
"Yon's a MOOSE ye daft wee tyke"
Listen tae the teacher, dinna say dinna
Listen tae the teacher, dinna say hoose
Listen tae the teacher, ye canna say maunna
Listen tae the teacher, ye maunna say moose
He bit his lip an shut his mooth
Which one could he trust for truth
He took his burden o'er the hill
Tae auld grey Geordie o' the mill
"An did they mock thee for thy tongue
Wi them sae auld and you sae young?
They werena makin a fool o' ye
They were makin a fool o' themsels ye see"
Say hoose tae the faither, house tae the teacher
Moose tae the fairmer, mouse tae the preacher
When yer young it's weel for you
Tae dae in Rome as Romans do
But when ye grow an ye are auld
Ye needna dae as ye are tauld
Don't trim yer tongue tae suit yon dame
That scorns the language o' her hame
Then teacher thocht that he was fine
He kept in step, he stayed in line
Faither says that he was gran'
He spoke his ain tongue like a man
An when he grew and made his choice
He chose his Scots, his native voice
And I charge ye tae dae likewise
Spurn yon pair misguided cries
|posted by michael the tubthumper @ 2:34 pm
As for understanding, understanding is the responsibility the listener.
forgot yo uwere a language person. How did you get on with the bit in scots then?
well... it aint easy.
uhzhgag - It's not Scots
|What is Tubthumping and who is doing it?
Name: michael the tubthumper
Home: Glasgow, Scotland
About Me: Tub-Thumper - 1. A speaker or preacher who for emphasis thumps the pulpit; a violent or declamatory preacher or orator; a ranter. This blog will be a combination of reasoned posting somedays and an occasional rant.
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I have made a few short movies. Here are links to free downloads for them all in the order that I made them (as far as I can remember). Please feel free to use, distribute, disagree with, shout at etc etc
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art not oil>
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mixed up records
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snow shoe films
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U.S. MONETARY Cost of the War in Iraq - other people are spending too, and the human cost is much higher
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|It's All Gone Scottish
A list of some other Scottish sites and blogs most of which, if not all, are pro-independence. I don't agree with content on all of them obviously. Some are Scots at home, others abroad.
The Scottish Patient>
big stick small carrot>
J. Arthur MacNumpty>
World of Jack McConnell>
The Firefox Chronicles>
Radio Free Scotland>
Scots and independent>
Scottish Independence Guide>
Inveresk Street Ingrate>
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the modern era of law>
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the four ages of sand>
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