Scots `leid` debate on both sides of the `sheugh`

In this week of Burns, the debate over whether Scots is a language or a dialect continues both in Ulster and in Scotland. A recent study by The Scottish Government shows that whilst 85% of Scots admit to using `Scots`, two thirds do not think of it as a language. Whilst a majority want to see it taught is schools.

Update: Belfast Tele piece by Laurence White says `Pretend language is a waste of time and public money`
The minority Scottish Nationalist Party Government in its pre-election manifesto made a commitment to “promote awareness and use of the Scots language in a variety of settings.” And according to the Public attitude towards the Scots language document: “More recently, at the Scots Language Conference, held at the University of Stirling in February 2009, the Minister for Culture and External Affairs asserted that Scots is a national language of Scotland, and that it is definitely ‘good for the nation’. It was also indicated that the Scottish Government was ready to do what it could to encourage, enable and endorse the use of the language.”

In contrast the Scottish Tories culture spokesman Ted Brocklebank said: “It is no surprise that 64 per cent of the Scottish public do not believe that Scots is a language. This is because we already have a Scots language – it is called Gaelic.

“The Scots language that the SNP government continues to try to promote is not a separate language, but a collection of regional dialects of the English language. The SNP must stop wasting taxpayers’ money trying to invent something that doesn’t exist, in a futile attempt to promote the narrow Nationalist agenda.”

Culture minister Fiona Hyslop responded with: “This research shows clearly that Scots is a living language, playing an important role in the majority of Scots’ daily lives, as well as being a vital tool in connecting with and understanding Scotland’s history.”

The Scots Language Working Group will make recommendations to ministers in the summer regarding Scots Language provision.

…..Rabbie Burns in Scotland and in Ulster.

To A Mouse (explanation and audio here)
By Robert Burns

Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie,
O, what panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave ‘S a sma’ request:
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t!

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ wast,
An’ weary Winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.

That wee-bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald.
To thole the Winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou are no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

  • Scots language is not Gaelic as the source of each is quite different. I have heard it said in Scotland that Ulster Scots is a dialect of Scots, Scots with an Ulster accent? Could make an argument that Scots/Ulster Scots is a vernacular, a spoken language: bit like high German (written) and the spoken word or what we would know as Queen’s English (formal) and english as spoken in all its ways. A vernacular is no less a language for being spoken only.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Surely Scots “Gallic” is just a dialect of Irish Gaelic? đŸ™‚ which is a branch of the Celtic Language along with Welsh etc. and has a relationship with European Romance languages.
    And English, Scots, and Ulster Scots are dialects of Anglo Saxon, the Scots being closer to the original than Englih btw. which are Germanic, but all ultimately are Indo-European, so all are essentially the same language, right?
    dotn think so, so the question is where you draw that line, I think historically Scots has been distinct enough from English to be called a language, even if it had become mongrelised to an extent in recent years.
    As for Ulster Scots and Scots Gaelic, both could easily be called Scots and Gaelic but the geographical divide allows them to use the local prefixes just like you have American English, its obiviously English but obiviously a wee bit different.

  • Before the Protestant Reformation, Scots Gaelic was called ‘Scottis’. What is being referred to as ‘Scots’ was then called ‘Inglis’. ‘Scottis’ became ‘Erse’ or ‘Irish’ to innovatively disassociate Scottish nationality with those ‘savage’ ‘popish’ Highlanders.

  • Nordie Northsider

    So could an improvers course in Gaidhlig be called ‘Brush Up Your Erse’?

  • Drumlins Rock

    Bit ironic then Shane that Gaelic is strongest in the strict Covenanting Presbyterian traditions.
    what do you call that group trying to promote ties between scottish and Irish Gaelic?

  • Colmcille, I think it is you are referring to:

    Scottish Gaeldom encompasses significant numbers from both the Catholic and Protestant communities. There is none of the same animosity between Highland Catholics and Protestants as there is in Glasgow (largely because there is no difference in ethnic origin); for example, the staunchly Presbyterian and Calvinist majority of the Western Isles returned a Catholic MP, Angus Brendan MacNeil from the island of Barra [Barra, South Uist and Moidart are Catholic].

    Protestantism made inroads since the 16th century. The vast majority of those targeted during the Highland Clearances were Catholic.

    The Catholic Encyclopedia states:

    “It is singular that the state Church of Scotland, whose own religious spirit was at so generally low an ebb during the greater part of the eighteenth century, should nevertheless have during that period made more or less persistent efforts to uproot the last vestiges of the ancient Faith in the northern parts of the kingdom, many of which had remained absolutely unaffected by the Reformation. It was in 1725 that the yearly gift called the Royal Bounty, still bestowed annually by the Sovereign, was first forthcoming, with the express object of Protestantizing the still Catholic districts of the Highlands. Schools were set up, Gaelic teachers and catechists instituted, copies of the Protestant Bible, translated into Gaelic, widely disseminated, and every effort made to win over to the Presbyterian tenets the poor people who still clung to the immemorial faith and practices of their fathers. Want of means prevented as much being done in this direction as was desired and intended; and for that reason, as well as owing to the unexpected reluctance of the Catholic Highlanders to exchange their ancient beliefs for the new evangel of the Kirk, the efforts of the proselytizers were only very partially successful, the inhabitants of several of the western islands, and of many isolated glens andstraths in the western portion of the Highland mainland still persisting in their firm attachment to the old religion.”