Wednesday, 11 December 2013

A Slow-motion Car Crash













The Alliance Party's Trevor Lunn has asked two Questions on the subject of Ulster Scots. One of them, AQW 28585/11-15, deals with the controversial theme of the North/South Language Body's accounts, which have never been delivered on time owing to a "backlog" built up during the chaotic early days of the Ulster-Scots Agency — a time when it was chaired by the now disgraced Lord Laird and the gormless paedophile Stan Mallon was its administrative chief.

The other Question, AQW 28584/11-15, addresses an even more vexed issue, that of the three orthographic advisers to the Ministerial Advisory Group on the Ulster-Scots Academy (MAGUS). Two of those advisers, Michael Montgomery and Alison Henry, are reputable linguists. The third, Anne Smyth, is not. In all likelihood hers was a political appointment to represent the Ulster-Scots Language Society and thus the British-Israelite cabal centred around the self-promoting Cross of Saint Patrick LOL 688, the influential Orange lodge of former Heritage Council supremo Nelson McCausland. True, Mrs. Smyth is employed as a dialect archivist at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, but a dialect archivist need not be a theoretical linguist. The fact that a previous incumbent of the post, Brendan Adams, actually was a good theoretical linguist only renders Mrs. Smyth's deficiencies in that regard all the more stark.

Indeed, she is a surprising choice as spelling adviser on at least three counts: her lack of formal qualifications and the poor quality of all her published solo forays into matters linguistic; her vested interest, having co-produced the laughable Ulster-Scots Spelling and Pronunciation Guide (she is now being asked to adjudicate on consultation responses on just that subject); and her involvement with the odious British-Israel World Federation, which one would have thought would make anyone unfit for public office.

Although one of the orthographic advisers hails from as far afield as Tennessee, there is no one to represent the aspirations or acumen of the more than 95% of Scots-speakers who come from Scotland, and no one to represent the Catholic third of speakers in Ulster, people for whom the rationale of pretending Ulster Scots is a language so that the dialect can compete with, and stymie, Irish presumably holds few attractions.

The Blether Region confidently predicts that: a) the process of attempting to standardise Ulster Scots separately from Scots in Scotland will be an expensive one; b) anything produced will be rejected by the community, and conceivably by every academic linguist in the world with one exception; and c) the process will either have to be started afresh after a suitably Kissinger-esque interval or what is ostensibly a work of finalisation will be relegated to the status of a mere stage in a larger process.

That is a tragedy, since Northern Ireland, perhaps the territory where Scots sees most use for transactional purposes, might otherwise have provided an impetus to the sensible codification of the entire language.

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