Tuesday, 27 October 2009

An Identity of Bluster

The DCAL Minister Nelson McCausland has made an interesting post on the question of whether Ulster Scots can be termed a language, the gist being that, since the Moldovans have declared their dialect to be such, so can anyone.


The key phrase here is "while the country was and is independent, its 'language' is what its officials say it is". Moldova is not the same state as Romania, and so it has an absolute right to exercise "national preference" in favour of its citizens in a way that would not be acceptable within a single pan-Romanian state.

Northern Ireland and Scotland, on the other hand, are currently in the same state, and regardless of what the coming years may bring, will probably both remain in the European Union in some form. Overwhelming linguistic consensus agrees that Ulster Scots is a dialect of Scots, just as Moldovan is a dialect of Romanian. Indeed, the editor of the Concise Ulster Dictionary has gone as far as to say that Ulster Scots is a subdialect of Central Scots rather than a main dialect in its own right.

Advertising jobs and services as being relevant to speakers of "Ulster Scots" is indirectly discriminatory and therefore, in my view, illegal, since it discourages Scots-born Scots-speakers in the same way as it would if one advertised jobs and services for speakers of "Ulster English" or "Austrian German", which differ to a similar extent from neighbouring varieties.

The UK Government, and the EU, have accepted that they have a duty not to discriminate on ethnic grounds. No bureaucratic declaration that Ulster Scots is not Scots would withstand a challenge on the grounds of indirect discrimination; it would simply be found illegal.

The Minister's arguments are political rather than linguistic, display a relativism that in other contexts would be considered risible or dubious, and, in the final analysis, are grossly sophistical.

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