Tag Archives: Urdu

Our constitution, July 2012: Cultural Rights

The British are second only to Americans in being the kind of foreigner who is an international stereotype for never understanding any language but English. (An English secretary, who understood French pretty well, travelling with her boss, who spoke only English, took advantage of the situation to eavesdrop on the English company’s competitors discussing the terms of the deal in French, sure that neither boss nor secretary could understand them. True story.) Still, the stereotype holds up alarmingly well: over two-thirds of the UK population are English-speaking monoglots: and thanks to Doctor Who and Star Trek, this is practically an interstellar stereotype.

“To create a constitutional order that reflects a broad public commitment to a more inclusive, egalitarian, and communitarian way, and to mark Scotland out as a ‘progressive beacon’, the following additional provisions might be considered:”
1. Enhanced constitutional rights (c) Cultural rights (ie for Gaelic, Scots)

Cultural rights isn’t just language, of course, but language is likely to be the most contentious of the cultural rights issue, both by those who take for granted it should be English and those arguing for Gaelic and/or Scots.

More and more the international festivals in Edinburgh in August seem primarily for tourists – the days are long past when you could get home from work, decide you felt like going out to a show, and pick something from the Fringe programme that was handy to get to and would cost a fiver or less for an hour or two – and when concessions for students, under-16s, unemployed, and pensioners meant half-price, not “so we’ll knock a quid off the £12 or more we’ll be charging you”. But once upon a time that was do-able: when I was reading Hamlet for Higher English I could and did go to all the perfomances one year on the Fringe, and it didn’t cost my parents their life savings the way it would if an enthusiastic schoolkid got the idea of doing that this year. We should keep the Scottish BBC funded by licence fee. We should be investing in written and spoken Scottish culture.

I also liked Kenneth Roy’s trenchant finish to his three-part dissection of the current state of Scottish newspapers in the Review, earlier this year:

The Scotsman needs to win back all the broadsheet people – the ones who take those decisions, the others who influence them – and move out from there to the idealists and teachers and artists, the many thousands of us who are alienated by the state of our mainstream media. We are there for the taking. We wait for something better. We long for it every day.
Can this be done by the Johnston Press? Clearly not. They talk not of newspapers, but of products. They have failed journalism and they have failed journalists. Their grave is fit only to be danced on. I suggest the Eightsome Reel. I issue this challenge to the wealthy patriots of Scotland, of whom there are many. Get out there, form your consortium, convince us of your honourable motives, and make a reasonable offer to this lot’s bankers to take a great newspaper out of their hands. Better still, let’s have a trust along the lines of the Guardian’s, safeguarding the paper’s interests and supported by all who care about Scotland.

But what language is our culture? Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Childhood, Education, Elections, Human Rights, Scottish Constitution, Scottish Culture, Scottish Politics, William Shakespeare

Scotland’s languages, Scotland’s people

At the People’s Gathering, in passing, someone said that all official documents in Scotland should be in “all three languages” – English, Scots, and Gaelic.

A sprakh is a dialekt mit en army un flot. – Max Weinreich

These days, it might be said that a language is a dialect with TV programmes and schools. I don’t know how you’d say that in Yiddish. Back when Scotland had an army and a navy, the language spoken through most of Scotland was referred to by its speakers as Inglis – it acquired the name of Scots only when Scotland had ceased to have either. (R.L.G. discusses the Scandinavian languages, which are similiar-but-politically-distinct.)

Lallans exists as a written language: spoken Scots has four main geographic “families”: Insular Scots of Orkney and Shetland; Northern Scots of Caithness, Easter Ross, Moray, Aberdeenshire and Angus; Central Scots of Central Lowlands and South west Scotland; and Southern Scots of the Scottish Borders and Dumfriesshire. (Plus, Scots-Yiddish and Scottish BSL.)
Continue reading

11 Comments

Filed under Education, Racism, Scottish Culture