Joshua A. Fishman

“It is with deep regret that I inform you of the passing of our beloved Joshua A. Fishman”.

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Read a lot of his stuff e.g. Reversing Language Shift (1991) and Can Threatened Languages be Saved? (2001). Inspirational. Like this story about how he got started, “Yiddish was the language of his childhood home, and his father regularly asked his sister, Rukhl, and him: “What did you do for Yiddish today?” The struggle for Yiddish in Jewish life was the impetus for his scholarly work”.


Anent “Robertsonianism”

John M. Tait’s site Scots  Scots Threip is an entertaining and provocative collection of well-agued articles about the cultural and linguistic context of Scots. He discusses a range of very pertinent ideas about the nature of Scots, attitudes to the language and the evergreen issue of standardisation. Many of these notions are barely touched in the general discourse on Scottish culture and whether you agree with the author or not, they are an education in themselves.

tongueinyerheidThere was an interesting discussion recently on FB about one of his articles “Robersonianism’. The “Roberson” in question is James Robertson, a kenspeckle Scottish author of And the Land Lay Still, The Testament of Gideon Mack. He co-founded Itchy Coo, the largest publisher of books in Scots for bairns.

Roberson edited and wrote an introduction for a collection of Scottish writing: A Tongue in yer Heid (1994). John sees this short article as a seminal conceptualisation of Scots from a prominent figure. He confronts what he sees as Roberson’s representation of Scots firstly as a “less than respectable register in tension with standard English” which should be maintained in that role and “Scots” as almost anything spoken and written north of the Border – a “non-definition of Scots”. Although perhaps little read, the text is claimed to be the articulation of a view of Scots “already – albeit tacitly – accepted in Scottish literary and academic circles”.

All this may be true, but it is worth looking at Roberson’s text as a text

Robertson, J. Introduction, A Tongue in yer heid, (1994)

By ma wey o’t, Robertson jist writes frae a scrievers staunpint. It’s no a manifesto an sicker no onie kind o langage policie. In the buik Robertson wrote the intro tae ‘A tongue in yer heid’, 75% o the text wis in whit A’d cry standart Scots! Ainlie aboout 15% wis in Glesca/Embro urban (tho e’n there wi muckle Scots embeddit). The lave in Scots Doric or a English/Scots mixter. In maugre o Robertson’s apenin pluralistic haun-wringin, maist o his ain scrievers were sel-selectin a standart.

Robertson’s case wis ower-statit frae the ootset. He jist wantit tae elk twa-three stories, ane that stairit in English an ended up in Scots, and twa mair in ‘Glesca’ an ane in the Doric. Aw thon rigmarole wis just tae lat thae anes in frae a ‘artistic’ perspective. Pruives the pynt a aften mak that fowk write in a 80-90% standart awreddies.

Mairower here a academic (Silke Stroh) pittin the bit intae faux-pluralism. No anent Scots, but cuid be.

She [Stefanie Lehner in the 2012 buik “Subaltern Ethics in Contemporary Scottish and Irish Literature”) also criticises postmodern and post-national approaches that celebrate pluralism and inclusiveness while neglecting continuing conflicts and power imbalances, prematurely deconstruct subject positions before these are even possessed by the margins (where strategic essentialism may be required), and appropriate all difference for their own totalising theoretical purposes.

Ahint the academic jargon abune is the idea that ‘pluralism’ soons liberatin but isna. Gin Scots canna big (or by ma wey o’t recognise) a aesome stannart and status it canna win the maucht tae tak on thaim wi pooer (an siller). An ower-focus on dialects an enless orthographic haiverin keeps Scots waik, pooerless an thraitent.

Sae A doot A’m wi John M Tait on this ane!

Gaelic vs Fife

Fife councillors want to keep close eye on Gaelic spendingCouncillors have called for regular monitoring of any costs associated with the promotion of the Gaelic language in Fife. While members of Fife Council’s environment, finance and corporate services scrutiny committee were assured by council officials that there would be no costs in excess of a recently received £12,000 grant, a consensus was reached that monitoring should still take place.

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£12,000 budget isna muckle. Aboot £9.43 a heid fur ilkane o the 1272 Fife Gaelic speakers. Sae whit’s aw the stushie aboot? Weel there 122,894 Scots speakers in Fife. A parity o traitment wid need a budget o, weel, £1,159,377…noo *thon*’s a problem!

Mibbie this isna aboot the Gaelic at aw…

Appropriating our language

The word-hoard: Robert Macfarlane on rewilding our language of landscapeEight years ago, in the coastal township of Shawbost on the Outer Hebridean island of Lewis, I was given an extraordinary document. It was entitled “Some Lewis Moorland Terms: A Peat Glossary”, and it listed Gaelic words and phrases for aspects of the tawny moorland that fills Lewis’s interior.

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Nice idea but also a lexicon of cultural appropriation, as Scots and Gaelic words are reframed as ‘British’. And Scots as a language is, as is usual in British colonial dialectology, effectively cleansed “…Orcadian, Shetlandic and Doric, and numerous regional versions of English...”.

Dialeck loss

There aye a risk whan biggin up a stannart that there is a loss o dialeck variants. This is aften gien as a rizzon tae baud back onie stannartisation in the Scots.

Sae whit happens in the Gaelic, oor other tung? Weel the same thing o course, sauf naebodie haivers aboot shuttin doon BBC Alba tae sauf the Lewis tung…

Is there a future for regional dialects in Scottish Gaelic?The strength of the Gaelic dialects is an index – to a great extent – of how strong the language is in its native communities. In the 1950s, the Survey of the Gaelic Dialects of Scotland (SGDS) recorded language data from 207 points, extending from

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Glaesga Gaelic

Fowk blether aboot biggin Gaelic in the Lawlans, but this cud be ae ootcome – awbodie speakin Gaelic wi Scots accents (an wirds), Gaelic wid be a chynged langage!

People starting to speak Gaelic with a Weegie accentGLASGOW’S famously strong accent has worked its way into a surprising new place – Gaelic. A new generation of lowland youngsters are being taught the language previously restricted to small areas of the highlands and islands. Native gaelic speakers say Glasgow-born students are now introducing the city’s distinctive speech into the language.

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Usefu resources

Afore ye len a lug tae the haiverers deivin on Scots disna exist or is a dialeck or whittever, ae-twa things tae hae a keek at 

  1. – jist aboot awthing aboot Scots there.
  2. – a Czech academic linguist in 2013 gies an owerview o Modren Scots an English in Scotland.
  3. – aw aboot Scots grammar, Scots dialects, an a braw online dictionar
  4. – a 2005 gremmar o Modern Scots by a Gairman linguist Alexander Berg Jist ootstaunin, incluidin aw the modren linguistic studies in it – A doot naebodie’ll blether on aboot Scots bein a ‘dialect’ aifter readin this
  5. This will apen yer een an aw – a literary Scots gremmar, the Manual of Modern Scots frae 1921 – ay, near a hunnert year syne.
  6. – ye can buy a hard copie fae Amazon an aw. This is the foondation stane o aw Scots grammars.

Read these an mak up yer ain minds…

Anti-Gaelic Bingo


Researcher  has created the excellent  Anti-Gaelic Bingo.Is there a topic that you know a lot about, but that most people can only seem to grasp through stereotypes and misconceptions? A situation where no matter how hard you try, you cannot debunk people’s wrong-headed ideas? Scottish Gaelic language and culture is like that. Even in Scotland. In fact, the Scottish media are a good place to find stereotypes, misconceptions, lies, and crazy ideas about Gaelic that just. Won’t. Die….Here are two bingo cards to use when you read newspaper articles about Gaelic. Playing a round of “anti-Gaelic bingo” will help you to spot the stereotypes, lies, and crazy ideas that are continually circulating, and recognize them for what they are. Consider it a form of cheap therapy to help you deal with the prejudice and misunderstanding. ‘Se ur beatha.


Braw idea. Mibbies they’ll bring oot a “Anti-Scots Bingo” vairsion forbye. Whit wid be on it, though? Hoo aboot…dead or dying, has no grammar, has no standards, just a dialect of English like Brummie, old-fashioned, economically useless, Chewin the Fat, would stop children learning good English, working-class, can’t be taught, language of The Scheme, uneducated, reduced to a few dialects like Doric, rural, waste of money, artificial, an SNP plot, only spoken by pensioners, rough and unpleasant, Oor Wullie, Glaswegian/Doric/Shetland isn’t Scots, slang, Lallans, bad English, has no word for___, will have to wait till independence anyway…whit hae A missed?

Scots in Glesca

banterWell, imagine my disappointment. I bought this book yesterday expecting a definitive compilation the “everyday lingo unique to Glasgow”.

But what did I find?

Over 70% of the 539 words are actually just everyday Scots terms common throughout the country.

This must be contrary to the Trade Descriptions Act.

I demand my £2.50 back. 😉