Tuesday, 10 November 2009

"Time to 'efficiency save' Ulster Scots," says Parsley

Ian James Parsley has posted on his exasperation at the direction taken by Scots in Northern Ireland.


Faced with the eye-watering £12 million bill for the planned Ulster-Scots Academy, continuing waste on translations without communicative rationale or linguistic merit, and increasingly brazen attempts at a legislative and Executive level to use Scots as a (rather fragile) stick to beat Irish, it is unsurprising if people who have successfully studied the tongue in their own time and at their own expense may feel that time should be called on Government subsidy.

While agreeing wholeheartedly on the issue of an academy — "the blatant attempt to separate 'Ulster Scots' from Scots on purely funding grounds" — I can still think of many initiatives deserving of modest help from the taxpayer. Chief among them would be a project to digitise the relatively slender library of traditional literature from Ulster and make it freely available on the Internet. As well as helping settle fights about status and orthography, such a project could spark something of a literary and academic renaissance. Digital data are what corpora are built from, after all.

More generally, writing in or about Scots could be made easily accessible by subsidising membership of the Linen Hall Library for students certified by their lecturers as taking relevant courses at the two universities. Come to think of it, what about a mobile library travelling between areas where Ulster Scots is still used? What about writers in residence?

There is no reason either why postgraduate students could not be given grants to write theses on Scots; nor why a taught MA could not be assembled using modules already offered.

Broadcasting is an expensive business, but given that so little Ulster Scots is heard in the media, even a relatively small increase in recurrent funding could make a big difference. Only a minor reorientation of the Ulster-Scots Agency’s spending priorities towards language would be required to achieve it.

Parsley states that no one is interested in Ulster Scots because no such language exists. What does exist is a rich folk tradition of which, I believe, more and more people would take ownership if efforts were focused on it rather than on doomed attempts to change status.

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