Scotch-Irish-L ArchivesArchiver > Scotch-Irish > 1998-02 > 0886354229
From: "Robert T. Hilliard" <>
Subject: RE: Ulster Scot-bonics (Language)
Date: Sun, 1 Feb 1998 12:30:29 -0500
For an excellent and entertaining treatment on dialects and the English language
I recommend "The Mother Tongue", published about 1990. I can't recall the
author's name...Bill B----, maybe? Anyway, good book on this topic.
From: Jean Ohai
Sent: Saturday, January 31, 1998 4:08 AM
Subject: Re: Ulster Scot-bonics (Language)
I must be feeling foolhardy this evening.
Dialects of English have a common written form. The greatest variation
in pronunciation will be in the vowels and native speakers of English
will read the same texts in their own dialects.
Of course, some people are bi-dialectal as in Hawaii where many people
speak both standard English and pidgin (technically Hawaiian Creole
English which does have slightly different syntax and verb forms).
Pidgin is used to emphasize solidarity. I would hear my husband talking
on the phone about fishing with his father--always in pidgin. But he
was a college-educated engineer and spoke standard English.
Non-standard or phonetic spellings suggest humor as well as solidarity.
When used for pointed humor, pidgin deflates pomposity on contact. Then
it is the response of the common people to the unfathomable doings of
the high muck-a-mucks.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
The greatest living authority on Ulster Scots is
Professor R. J. Gregg, of the University of British
Columbia. A native speaker himself, Professor Gregg has
written to Belfast City Council to definitively state
that Ulster-Scots is a distinct language and in no way a
garbled dialect of English.
I don't agree with Professor Gregg. While I understand spoken Ulster
Scots as well as Standard Enlish, indeed I'd consider myself a native
listener if not speaker, I find examples of "written Ulster Scots"
incomprehensible, as they always seem to be no more than an
inconsistent attempt at phonetic spelling, or if the word is still
recognisable, simply a non-standard (&therefore difficlt to recognise)
spelling. I don't understand how writing the word "of"as "av" makes it
a different language. I recognise the written form "porter" as being
what I say, in my Ulster accent. A speaker of the educated dialect of
the south of england (know as "RP", or "Received Pronunciation") will
pronounce the same word quite differently, without any trace of the two
"r"s in the written word. We're both speaking the same language, and we
both spell it the same way, but we pronounce it differently.
In fact it's striking that there are so few variations in vocabulary
between standard English and Ulster Scots. There are a number of
dialect words, but not all that many. On examination, an awful lot of
the contents of any supposed dictionary turn out to be simply
non-standard, supposedly phonetic, spellings, or colourful turns of
It's certainly not a *garbled* dialect. There's nothing inferior about
it. It's simply one dialect, different from standard american,
different from RP English but none the worse for that.
Admittedly, the point where a dialect develops into a patois and then
another language is a debatable point: it's hard to draw an exact line.
But in the case of Ulster Scots I can't see the argument. It doesn't
seem to meto be any more a "language" than is, say, Yorkshire English.
Remarkably, there are those in
Donegal who are tri-lingual in Gaelic, Ulster-Scots and