Language Shift

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Michael Hance writes: “Aye weel, this is somethin tae get yer teeth intae. A discussion aboot language planning, orthography, language ideology an ‘revitalisation’. Look oot for the pairt o the discussion that’s tae dae wi dialect an orthographic diversity – whit the speakers caa ‘messy diversity’ but whit I doot we cuid cry ‘clarty diversity’. Oniewey, listen in an enjoy“.

A got roon tae haein a swatch at this. Sue Wright richtlie sets oot the twa scuils o thocht anent linguistics the day. Ae is aboot langage as a seestem, a set o rules gin ye like, language as a ‘thing’ ye can write doon an pass on via eddication. This ideologie, she seys, is whit’s ahint language plannin, standart-settin, a ’naitionalist’ projeck o naition-biggin. (‘Naitionalist’ is here o coorse a pit-doon ). 🙂

On the other haun is the notion o language as ‘practice’, ‘jist whit fowk sey’ in aw its mixter-maxter glorie. Here langage is kythin (emergent), rael (authentic) an e’er chyngin in yiss. Rule-makkers need tae keep their fat nebs oot o’t! It’s a kinna post-modren, post-naitionalist poseetion that lats on it’s neutral, pluralistic, democratic but o coorse isna. A focus on ‘practice’/dialecks/authenticitie is stappit-fu wi ideologie. Sue Wright wis pittin ower this neo-liberal, mairket-cawed, de’il tak the hinmaist kin o linguistics, thrawin a deefie at issues o pooer, status an economics.

Ahint thon, by ma wey o’t, is a high-heidyin (elitist) position whaur wee tungs is deconstructit intae dialecks *afore* they git intae a position o strenth tae tak on the elites. Ach, it *luiks* mair ‘democratic’ tae blether on aboot Shetland or the Doric but in fack the ootcome is tae keep Scots sindert an waik. Whit’s mair, Scots isna at aw like Galician, Scots awreddies haes a (“90%”) standart, an the dialects isna at aw faur apart like Sami. Ye aye read oot standart Scots in yer ain dialeck, nae bather. We aw love the dialects an naebodie’s seyin awbodie shud speak the same. But we dae need the status o a mair-or-less unitit written form…

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