|June 24, 1999|
the radio documentary
about Scottish Languages here
First broadcast Oct 19, 1999
Back to Scotland
Gaelic is a very endangered language. But during the last 20 years it has experienced a revival which is part of the rising awareness - or creation of - a separate Scottish identity. Pop and rock stars sing in Gaelic, all the political parties want to protect Gaelic. There is a growing movement for Scottish Kindergartens/Pre-schools. Many schools now teach what was once a proscribed language and TV and radio broadcast in Gaelic. Together with tartan and whisky and bagpipes Gaelic is part of the romantic Scottish myth, and most Scots believe it is Scotland's aboriginal language. They also believe it is impossibly difficult.
Gaelic thus enjoys a high cultural status. But it is of limited practical value. The largest problem for Gaelic is the emigration from the Highlands and Islands where the language still survives. Young people move from central Gaelic speaking areas for education and work. And they don't return. Therefore the Gaelic organisations try to develop opportunities for work and education, where command of Gaelic is an asset, and not - as it is now - a trifle or even a disadvantage.
LINKS about Languages in Scotland
LITERATURE about Languages in Scotland
Scotland - a Linguistic Double Helix (European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages, 1995)
For several centuries - until the beginning of the 1980s - Scottish children were under threat of corporal punishment for talking Scots in school. From having been an independent language used by people on all social levels Scots had descended to the status of being considered a dialect of English, a dialect used by ignorant peasants, fishing folk and laborers, not by genteel people. As recently as in 1993 a man was arrested for having spoken Scots in court proceedings, for contempt of court.
Furthermore, Scots has far more speakers than has Gaelic -- in excess of 20 times more -- but in a funny way be much harder to recognize, indeed even among Scottish people themselves, who tend to confuse it with English with a Scottish accent.
Scots has virtually none of the resources that are now channeled in the direction of Gaelic. There is no radio or TV broadcasting in Scots, it is, generally speaking, not taught in school, and it is not at all used as an educational medium. There is a Scots renaissance underway too, led by singers, poets, movie and theater people. But Scots, the language with many speakers and low status, enjoys nowhere near the public support and awareness that is afforded Gaelic, which has far fewer speakers but at the same time carries far greater symbolic weight.
|Danish||Jeg kender ham ikke|
|Scots||A dinna ken him|
|English|| I don't know him|
|Gaelic||Chan eil iólas agam air|
The RadioDocumentary relates how Scots and Gaelic have been suppressed by the British authorities and the Scottish elite, about the loss of functional domains they have suffered from the pressure of English and about the flowering they both live through these years.
Ole Stig Andersen
EMIL, Weekend-Avisen, June 24, 1999
Thank you to Reinhard Hahn for most of the translation.
(EMIL is Danish Radio's Programme 1's monthly magazine, issued as a supplement to the newspaper Weekend-Avisen.)
|© Ole Stig Andersen, 2000 (rev Aug 5, 2002)|