Dr Michael Dempster is the Director of the Scots Language Centre and is Creative Scotland’s Scots Scriever.
While we’re celebrating the legacy of world-famous Scots language speaker Rabbie Burns tomorrow, it’s also a time to celebrate the many firsts that have taken place for the Scots language recently, and to celebrate its bright future...
[This article was originally published in Standard English in The Scotsman. Below is a translation in the Scots language.]
Twinty nineteen wis a year o firsts fir the Scots language...There wis the first Doric Film Festival, the first Scots Gaitherin conference, the first Scots Language Awards, an, o coorse, the first free tae aa, forty oor introductory coorse on the Scots language an culture wis launchit bi The Open University (OU).
The first digital map o Scots placenemms wis launched bi the Deputy First Minister and the first Scottish Government Scots Publication Grant seen support gaun tae a wheen o publishers tae pit oot new warks in Scots.
Whit's gaun on here? Bein wan o the wans thit's pitten ma haun tae a wheen o thae firsts A cin gie ye wird fae amang the mell. It's maistly first language Scots spikkers, fae aa dialects, uisin an celebratin their ain language. That disnae soond aw that big o a dale, an it shuidnae. But we ken thit the simplest o hings cin hiv the maist radically different meanin tae somebody than it dis tae anither body. An fir masel the maist interestin question is - whit dis this mean tae a Scots spikker?
Fir a load o us oor experience o hivin wir language in the spotlicht is fir it tae be scrutinised, tae be ridiculed, an fir it tae be prohibitit. Aften the first hing thit cin come tae mind is - “Ur they takkin a rise oot o me?”
Gledly A cin say - “they're no”. Wi the free Open University coorse in particular, there's noo mair opportunity fir spikkers an lairners alike, o aa ages, tae mak space fir tae consider this hing we dae wi wir mooths, this wey we talk, oor language. Houaniver, it serves us aa weel athin Scotland's language environment tae be aware o the milieu Scots fins itself in.
Til dawin o digital communication Scots wis maistly absent fae the main threid o wir culture, it bein conductit in Staanart English. Aften the ainly time ye'd encoonter Scots wis in the trope o ‘the incomprehensable Scot’, this e'en extends ayont Scots itsel intae English spoke wi a Scots accent. We still tae this day hae 'accent reduction specialists' thit lairn ye staannart English an encourage drappin the 'r' an certain vooels.
Mair ablow the radar cin be whan Scots is pitten intae the mooths o a dramatic chairecter fir tae indicate the type o person bein portrayed. This cin be duin athoot intent tae herm bi a creative scriever seirchin oot fir authenticity, or wantin tae portray a marginalised person. This rins the risk o biggin up stereotypes, whaur as a Scots spikker ye ainly hear yersel representit in a disempoorert licht.
Spikkin Scots disnae imply onie personality type, onie political position, or is it onie indication o intelligence or education level. Efter aa, whit kin o chairecter dis bein a French or a German or a Staannart English spikker imply? It's magic fir tae hear Scots noo appearin in the mooths o aa.
Bi takkin oor Scots serious we cin expand oor horizons no ainly in terms o self knawledge, but wi self devolpment. Juist as we develop oor vocabulary an unnerstaunin o the English we cin dae the same wi the Scots. Language is imminently lairnable, sae we cin bring new spikkers intae wir speech community, as fowk ower the centuries hiv aye fun theirsels daein aff their ain backs oniewey.
Wi this new, mair healthy, tak on Scots, an no bad-English, we cin stert tae uise oor expertise lairnt fae behavin multilingually tae access ither languages. We ken, fir example, fae 'arm-pit' / 'airm-pit' / 'oxter', it's faur easier conceptually tae lairn anither wird sic as 'achlais' than if ye dinnae ainly hae the wan wird.
Tae hae Scots as ane o the languages o the Scottish Government’s ‘1+2’ language policy is increadible. Baith spikkers an lairners o Scots are in better nick noo adays fir a jumpin-on pynt tae lairn aboot Scots than iver afore. Fae the ivergrowin resoorces o the Scots Language Centre wabsteid tae the split new free Scots language and culture coorse fae The Open University, an mair confident uise o Scots in creative wirk, advertisin, an wir braidcast media the 2020s is luikin braw fir Scots.
There aye mair fir tae be duin but, jyne in!
The Open University’s free Scots language and culture course is available on the OpenLearn Create site.
Dr Michael Dempster is a first language Scots speaker. He is the Director of the Scots Language Centre and is Creative Scotland’s Scots Scriever; a residency at the National Library of Scotland to produce original work and raise the profile and understanding of creative work in the Scots language. He wrote one of the units of the OU’s Scots language and culture course.
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