Thursday, 12 May 2011

Attic Attitudes
















The Scotsman has reported on the speech varieties chosen by the new intake of MSPs to swear allegiance to the monarch, displaying a degree of bewilderment at their departure from "the more conventional English".

With disengagement often comes ignorance, and it comes as no surprise that the newspaper appears to believe that Doric is a language separate from Scots, despite any phonological differences from the main Central variety being regular.

In academic circles, "Doric" is of course better known as "Northern Scots", while aficionados will be aware that the eighteenth-century poet and anthologist Allan Ramsay used the term to refer to the Scots of Edinburgh.

Admittedly, Northern Scots has a better claim to linguistic independence than the Southern or Ulster dialects — and less of a claim than the Insular Scots of Orkney and Shetland.

"Language", as thoughtful observers will by now have deduced, is nowadays a term applied to any minimally distinctive or geographically separate dialect. Shorn of any taxonomic significance, its debased currency is doled out as a form of casual courtesy to the marginalised or uppity, a practice in which Northern Ireland officialdom has attained a dubious pre-eminence.

Time the Scotsman was gently shepherded in the direction of linguistic common sense.

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