The European Sun: Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on Medieval and Renaissance Scottish Language and Literature, University of Strathclyde, 1993

By Graham Caie; Roderick J. Lyall et al. | Go to book overview

M. NIEVES RODRIGUEZ LEDESMA


31. Scots/English Interaction in The Complaynt
of Scotland?

1. Introduction

The sixteenth century can be considered a key period for the Scots language. While in the first half Scots is a national language with distinctive features, used for all kinds of purposes – literature (poetry as well as prose), public records, official documents, diaries, letters, etc.-, in the second, it begins to decline, mainly because of the growing prestige of English. 1549, the year when The Complaynt of Scotland was written, is particularly interesting in that it lies at the turning-point between these two opposite trends.

This paper analyses some aspects of the degree of anglicisation which exists in that work in order to establish whether Scots or English is the dominant variety. For this purpose, the three pairs of linguistic features studied by A.J. Devitt (1982 and 1989) which show the greatest degree of anglicisation have been chosen, that is, the spelling of the indefinite article, the spelling of the negative particles no and not, and the present participle inflection.

The Complaynt is a literary work in prose, written, according to A.M. Stewart (1979), by Robert Wedderburn and apparently printed in France, probably Paris, so that any anglicisation present in the text is not likely to be due to the printer but rather to the author. Modelled on Chartier’s Quadrilogue Invectif, The Complaynt is full of axioms, exampla, sententiae, and proverbs taken from the Bible and from classical sources (Aristotle, Cicero, Pliny, among others), and it makes use of a lofty and rhetorical style, a prose parallel of the ‘courtly verse in the grand manner’ established by Aitken (1983) for the poetry of the period.

The analysis of the three linguistic features has not been carried out using the whole text. Instead, eleven out of the twenty chapters have been chosen, four from the beginning (epistle, prologue, chapters 1 and 2), three from the middle (chapters 6, 7 and 8), and four from the end (chapters 15, 16, 17 and 19), representing different subject matters (history, religion, science, pastoral), different types of discourse (epistle, prologue, description, narrative, monologue), and, although to a lesser extent, different styles, in order to establish whether these variables are significant in reflecting the degree of the process of anglicisation.1 The

1 The following are the titles of the chapters chosen to carry out this analysis: ‘epistil to the qvenis grace’; ‘prolog to the redar’; ‘the fyrst cheptour declaris the cause of the mutations of monarchis’; ‘the sycond cheptor declaris the thretnyng of god contrar obstinat vicius pepil’; ‘the sext cheptor rehersis ane monolog recreatyue of the actor’; ‘the 7 cheptor is of the visione that aperit to the actor in his sleip’; ‘the 8 cheptor declaris quhou the affligit lady dame Scotia reprochit hyr thre sounis callit the thre estatis of Scotland’; ‘quhou the thrid soune callit lauberaris ansuert vitht ane lamentabil complaynt’ (ch. 15); ‘quhou the affligit lady ansuert tyl hyr 30ngest soune’ (ch. 16); ‘quhou the affligit lady accusit hyr eldest soune callit nobilis and gentil men’ (ch. 17); ‘quhou the affligit lady accusit hyr sycond soune callit sperutualite’ (ch. 19).

-347-

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