Friday, 18 May 2012

Scotching the Myths

The Londonderry Sentinel and Belfast Telegraph have two articles based on the results of an Internet survey of second-level pupils in Derry. The big news, it seems, is that Ulster Scots is not being transmitted intergenerationally. That may hardly be surprising, since Derry City, despite its dialect being noticeably more Scottish (and Irish!) than that of Belfast, is not in a Scots-speaking area as defined by the pioneering Robert Gregg. Indeed, only a small corner of even the county of the same name — in the extreme north-east — can be classed as Ulster-Scots linguistically. What the survey does confirm, however, albeit by implication, is that Scots is a community vernacular that fares badly away from its native soil, while Irish, a very different speech variety with a different relationship to English, fares rather better.

The conclusion to be drawn from such structural and deep-seated sociolinguistic differences is of course that Scots and Irish have different needs and should be promoted on the basis of what is likely to work rather than what appears even-handed financially. Hearteningly, the survey confirms that most ordinary pupils understand that rather better than the policy-makers, since "Only 45 per cent per cent of the people who took the survey thought the two languages should be treated the same." The Sentinel regards this as controversial, implying that the pupils are in need of (re-) education, yet it is simple common sense.

The article also scotches the very myth of linguistic property or special communal interest on which the equality nonsense is based, since "no-one from a Protestant background said they could read or speak Ulster-Scots".

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