The Widmann Blog: linguistics

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He’sn’t

In English, the words "he is not" can be contracted to either "he isn't" or "he's not", but not to *"he'sn't". (The same applies of course to "I am not", "you are not", "she is not", and so on, but for simplicity's sake I'll concentrate on "he is not" here.) Any speaker of English thus needs to choose one of...

Dialects of Scots

The fact that the 2011 Census provides figures for the number of Scots speakers in each council area makes it possible to estimate speaker numbers for each dialect (if we assume that people speak their local dialect, which of course won't always be the case). In some cases there's a perfect overlap (e.g., between Orkney and Shetland and the Insular...

Lingua dorica in bocca glasgoviana

The most prestigious variety of Italian has been described as lingua toscana in bocca romana, or the Tuscan language in a Roman mouth.

I wonder whether a similar formula would become appropriate for unified Scots (if somebody tries to create a prestige variety after independence), given that Doric (Aberdeenshire Scots) in general has preserved more words and grammatical structures than the Central Belt dialects that have been heavily influenced by English, but where Doric pronunciation has some features that are quite divergent from other dialects, e.g. /f/ for <wh> instead of /ʍ/, or pronouncing <ui> as /(w)i/ (for instance, guid “good” is /gɪd/ in the Central Belt but /gwid/ in Doric).

To be concrete, I wonder whether the best model for Scots would be lingua dorica in bocca glasgoviana, or Doric pronounced by Glaswegians.

Of course there are words that are restricted to Doric and wouldn’t be appropriate in a unified language, just as Glaswegian isn’t perhaps the most euphonious variety of Scots, but I think it would make sense, especially given that there are many more speakers of Scots in the Central Belt than anywhere else, but most of these are mixing it up with English.

Or would la lingua di Burns in bocca dorica provide a better model?

Language icons

The existence of national flags makes it easy to create country icons (e.g., in a menu where you can select your country of residence). However, at least in a web context it's relatively rare to provide country menus. On the other hand, language menus are common, allowing the user the view the page in another language. Wikipedia is a good example of this. Unfortunately, there is no accepted way to symbolise languages. Wikipedia writes the language names out in full,...

Multilingual Scotland

One of the things I like about Scotland is that it has never been a monocultural place -- it has always been a melting pot. Let's look at the languages of Scotland as an example (I am a linguist after all!). Today the main language of Scotland clearly is English (or rather Scottish Standard English) -- everybody knows it, and...
1.5m Scots speakers
Today saw the release of more results from Scotland's 2011 census, in particular about languages. The decline of Gaelic seems to have stopped -- the number of speakers dropped very slightly, but it rose amongst young people, so that's excellent...
A Man’s A Man For Aw That
When Rabbie Burns wrote his poetry, the radio hadn't been invented yet, so it's unlikely most folk had ever heard English spoken by an Englishman. Presumably everybody used Scots pronunciations for English words, blissfully unaware that they were pronunced differently...

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