Academic journal article Scottish Language

The Scots Language and Its Cultural and Social Capital in Scottish Schools: A Case Study of Scots in Scottish Secondary Classrooms

Academic journal article Scottish Language

The Scots Language and Its Cultural and Social Capital in Scottish Schools: A Case Study of Scots in Scottish Secondary Classrooms

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The Scots language has largely been excluded, historically, within Scottish institutional contexts (Jones 1995: 1-21). This phenomenon typically owes itself, in Bourdieuan terms, to the lack of 'social' and 'cultural capital' certain codes of the language have increasingly held since the eighteenth century onwards in much of Scottish society. The devaluation of the Scots language from this period has been exacerbated in particular by its growing marginalisation within the Scottish education system. Although learning Latin held prestige during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Scots was generally the teaching medium in most Scottish classrooms (Williamson 1982a: 54-77). However the elocution movement during the latter half of the eighteenth century and the Education (Scotland) Act of 1872, both encouraged and eventually required that every child should be educated in English (Bailey 1987: 131-42). Scots became regarded as a 'lazy', parochial dialect of English and Scottish aspirations to reproduce the linguistic norms of 'polite' London helped to suppress the language further (Jones 1995: 2).

What arose during this period in Scotland was not only a tightening of linguistic belts in the English language but also an attempt to create 'language death' in Scots. Scots is a language in its own right, having a separate linguistic history to that of English (McClure 2009: 13-14). Studies by Macaulay (1991) and Macafee (1994) suggest that Scots is also a complicated language, not easily understood; the language presents too many individual idiosyncrasies and variables to neatly align to a specific Labovian (1966) analytical approach for example (Macafee in Jones 1997: 514). The Scottish tongue however, despite being complex and distinct from English, was usurped by a process of 'Anglicisation', which also resulted in marginalising elements of Scottish identity (Jones 1995: 1-21). Eventually these events led to the Scottish education system rejecting what essentially became recognised as a working-class Scots tongue (Bailey 1987: 131-42).

The Council of Europe: European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, recognised Scots as a minority language in 2000 and the UK Government ratified Scots as such in 2001 under Part II of the Charter. As Millar (2006: 63-86) states, however, the requirements for Part II of the charter allows for much governmental interpretation of Scots language provision. As such 'the implementation of language policy on Scots at all levels of government ... has been half-hearted, ill thought-out and buried in a swathe of other 'cultural' issues' (2006: 63).

Scots remains a misunderstood and problematic language in Scotland. The Curriculum for Excellence supports the incorporation of Scots within Scottish classrooms; latterly Scots Co-ordinators were appointed through 'Education Scotland' to help implement the language in schools, although this initiative has now been scaled back. Observational data from this research revealed that some representatives in schools and governmental bodies struggled to accept Scots as a living language in its various forms. In particular, when interviewed for this paper, several ambassadors for Scots language in schools resisted the concept that Scots speakers could potentially be bilingual in Scots and English. Despite recent moves to encourage Scots in Scottish classrooms, the language does not yet appear to sit securely within the Scottish education system.

Much has been discussed in the field of Scots language regarding the exclusion of Scots in schools. Williamson (1982a + b: 54-77 + 52-87) notes that although Scots, or Inglis, in medieval Scotland was taught in a range of different Church-led schools, scholarship beyond the basic was usually taught in Latin, Latin being, 'the academic lingua franca of Europe' (1982a: 55). However, Scots was used in some sixteenth-century scholarly work designed for a more general readership and this helped to raise its status (1982a: 56). …

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