Academic journal article Scottish Cultural Review of Language and Literature


Academic journal article Scottish Cultural Review of Language and Literature


Article excerpt

This volume comes at a time when new corpus resources for the languages of Scotland are making it possible to ask new research questions of these languages and to answer established questions in new ways. Its role might be seen as that of a staging post, as it both reflects on research to this point, taking stock of the progress made, and looks ahead to future possibilities. The contributions here take as their focus aspects of three of the languages of Scotland: Scots, Scottish English, and Scottish Gaelic. They present linguistic research which has been made possible by new and developing corpora of these languages: this encompasses work on lexis and lexicogrammar, semantics, pragmatics, orthography, and punctuation. Throughout the volume, the findings of analysis are accompanied by detailed discussion of the methodologies adopted, including issues of corpus design and representativeness, search possibilities, and the complementarity and interoperability of linguistic resources. Together, the chapters present the forefront of the research effort which is currently being directed towards the linguistics of the languages of Scotland, and point to an exciting future for research driven by ever more refined corpora and related language resources.

Language in Scotland

There is no need here to go into detail on the history of the languages of Scotland, as recent overviews are readily accessible elsewhere.1 Scots in particular has been well documented in recent years, since Charles Jones edited the Edinburgh History of the Scots Language, the 'first full-scale, detailed and comprehensive attempt to provide a history of the Scots language from the time of its earliest records to the modem period'.2 Most of the chapters in the present volume concentrate on the language varieties which lie on the continuum between Scots (sometimes known as 'broad Scots') and Scottish English. Others extend their focus across the full range of varieties on this continuum, while a handful explore the nature of the continuum itself. As Marina Dossena has pointed out, 'the connection between Scots and Scottish English still appears to be as fruitful as ever. Speakers do not just seem to code-switch between one and the other; their stylistic adjustments to context, topic and interlocutor encompass different aspects of both codes at the same time.'3 The complexity of the interrelationships between language varieties on the Scots-Scottish English continuum, and the fluidity with which speakers - and indeed writers - move back and forth along it, are conspicuous in several of the chapters included here.

As is perhaps to be expected, given both the close relationship between the languages and much of the focus of corpus linguistics so far, several chapters here investigate the linguistic features of Scots against a backdrop of Standard English, which has traditionally been, and continues to be, particularly well catered for by large general corpora. Similarly, while the volume sadly cannot boast full representation of the languages of Scotland, I am delighted that it does at least branch out, albeit briefly, from the Germanic to the Celtic languages, with an investigation of the linguistic features of Scottish Gaelic by Roibeard O Maolalaigh. Of course, in a much larger volume - and with suitable corpus resources for these other languages - it would be interesting also to include research on community languages in Scotland such as Punjabi, Urdu, Mandarin, and Polish, not to mention Scottish varieties of British Sign Language, among the other languages which contribute to Scotland's rich linguistic profile.4 I hope that future research and publications will redress the shortcomings of the present volume.

Corpora and resources

While there is a long-standing tradition of the study of the languages of Scotland, and although corpora containing texts in these languages have existed for some time, it is certainly true to say that linguistic research in this area has recently been afforded a fresh impetus by both new corpora and the rapidly increasing availability (often through online interfaces) of such resources. …

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