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Ulster Scots language
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Ulster Scots language

Ulster Scots (and Ullans, an alternative name by which it is known) are recent names for the varieties of the Scots language spoken in parts of Ulster. Native speakers traditionally called the language (Braid) Scots or Scotch. Ullans is a neologism merging Ulster and Lallans - the Scots for Lowlands.

Table of contents
1 Status
2 Literature
3 External links


Although usually treated as a variety of Scots some consider it to be a language in its own right, while others regard it as a dialect of English. Today Ulster Scots is estimated to be spoken by about 100,000 people from both nationalist and unionist communities and in counties on both sides of the border.

(Ulster) Scots is closely related to the Germanic language English; Scots in Ulster has been influenced through contact with Mid Ulster English dialects and Irish. It should not be confused with Scottish Gaelic or Irish, which are Celtic languages.

Ulster Scots is defined in legislation (The North/South Co-operation (Implementation Bodies) Northern Ireland Order 1999) as

the variety of the Scots language which has traditionally been used in parts of Northern Ireland and in Donegal in Ireland [1]. Furthermore The United Kingdom declares, in accordance with Article 2, paragraph 1 of the Charter that it recognises that Scots and Ulster Scots meet the Charter's definition of a regional or minority language for the purposes of Part II of the Charter [1].

The Good Friday Agreement also recognises Ulster Scots as "part of the cultural wealth of the island of Ireland", and established the cross-border Ulster-Scots Agency (Tha Boord o Ulstèr-Scotch) whose remit is to promote the study, conservation, development and use of Ulster Scots as a living language; to encourage and develop the full range of its attendant culture; and to promote an understanding of the history of the Ulster-Scots people.

In recent years a movement has been under way to change the perception of Ulster Scots. At one time it was derided as "poor English", but many of its speakers now take pride in the way they speak and in the wider Ulster-Scots heritage of which it forms part.

Many nationalists and republicans in Northern Ireland have derided Ulster Scots as a 'DIY language for Orangemen', arguing that it is a reaction by unionists and loyalists to the promotion of the Irish language in Northern Ireland, although the Belfast-based Irish language newspaper , does run a column in Ulster Scots.


In the Scots speaking areas of Ulster there was traditionally a considerable demand for the work of Scottish poets, often in locally printed editions. Alexander Montgommerie's the The Cherrie and the Slae in 1700, shortly over a decade later an edition of poems by Sir David Lindsay, nine printings of Allan Ramsay's The Gentle shepherd between 1743 and 1793, and an edition of Robert Burns' poetry in 1787, the same year as the Edinburgh edition, followed by reprints in 1789, 1793 and 1800. Among other Scottish poets published in Ulster were James Hogg and Robert Tannahill.

This was complemented by Ulster rhyming weaver poetry, of which, some 60 to 70 volumes were published between 1750 and 1850, the peak being in the decades 1810 to 1840. These weaver poets looked to Scotland for their cultural and literary models and were not simple imitators but clearly inheritors of the same literary tradition following the same poetic and orthographic practices. Among the rhyming weavers were James Cambell (1758-1818), James Orr (1770-1816), Thomas Beggs (1749-1847), David Herbison (1800-1880), Hugh Porter (1780-1839) and Andrew McKenzie (1780-1839). Scots was also used in the narrative by Ulster Novelists such as W.G. Lyttle (1844-1896). Scots also regulary appeared in Ulster newspaper columns.

By the early part of the 20th century this tradition was almost extinct. The Ulster Scots revival from the 1980s onwards has moved away from the previous tradition and Scots orthographic practice, preferring instead to develop the language as an autonomous written variety compared to Scots, incidentally reducing the language's written comprehensibility to Scots speakers. Current trends include: adapting the writing system to one based more on the sound values of standard English; often mixing Ulster English and Scots forms; creating independent neologisms; misusing words, or using them in new ways, depending on point of view; and adopting non-standard features of English. Whether this is a sign of vitality or of decay is a matter of sometimes heated debate.

The introduction of standard educational materials in schools for the teaching of the language is likely to formalise ongoing discussions about the future direction of language planning.


External links