Monday Books: Wee Buik Is a Quaer Guid Raid; Ulster-Scots: A Grammar of the Traditional Written and Spoken Language by Dr Philip Robinson. Published Ullans Press. Price: Pounds 10.50

By Malcolm, Ian | The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), December 15, 1997 | Go to article overview

Monday Books: Wee Buik Is a Quaer Guid Raid; Ulster-Scots: A Grammar of the Traditional Written and Spoken Language by Dr Philip Robinson. Published Ullans Press. Price: Pounds 10.50


Malcolm, Ian, The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland)


IF ever a language has had to prove itself, it is Ulster-Scots.

Sometimes known as Lallans or Ullans, the Ulster-Scots tongue has frequently found itself at the centre of controversy: recently, indeed, it was described by one of its opponents as ''a do-it-yourself language for Orangemen''.

There are those who claim that Lallans, far from being a language in its own right, is simply a dialect of English; others allege that Ulster-Scots is part of a campaign to create a ''definitive Ulster-Protestant culture''.

Sadly, when the dead hand of politics becomes involved in anything in Northern Ireland, people feel they must take to their tired old trenches with the result that, if something is perceived as belonging ''to the other side'', it has to be, at best,igno red or, at worst, attacked.

It's alleged that Ulster-Scots cannot be a language ''because it has no proper grammatical structure'', involving isolated words or phrases set into regular English sentences.

Now, however, Philip Robinson has come forward with what many will see as the definitive introduction to Lallans, Ulster-Scots, a grammar of the traditional written and spoken language.

By producing a grammar he has gone a long way to disproving at least one of the arguments against the validity of Ulster-Scots - that it is without structure and, therefore, cannot be a language. Philip Robinson, in his introduction, acknowledges the dif ficulties: ''Despite the existence of a long literary tradition extending back for centuries, Ulster-Scots is today a highly stigmatised language which many speakers are reluctant to use in public situations or in 'educated' company.''

The language, he says, survives today largely as a spoken tongue and this means that many speakers would be unable to read much of the old Ulster-Scots literature, which includes a considerable body of poetry.

Whatever your views on Lallans, there's no doubt that it figures prominently in our everyday speech in Northern Ireland as part of a rich linguistic tapestry in which Ulster-Scots, Irish and English blend seamlessly - and beautifully - together.

Philip Robinson demonstrates, however, that Scots-Irish in its purest form can stand alone and - as dialect or language - is certaily highly demonstrative and expressive, if undeniably blunt.

From a purely grammatical point of view, the book is very comprehensive, dealing thoroughly with the nuts and bolts of Ulster-Scots as thoroughly as any grammar I've seen in any language. …

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Monday Books: Wee Buik Is a Quaer Guid Raid; Ulster-Scots: A Grammar of the Traditional Written and Spoken Language by Dr Philip Robinson. Published Ullans Press. Price: Pounds 10.50
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