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Pragmatic, Patriotic or Politic?: Use of Scots vs English during the Union of 1707 and 2012 Independence Referendum Compared

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  • Ringvorlesungen und Kolloquien


Sarah von Eyndhoven, der Universität Edinburgh hält im KURS Kolloquium einen Vortrag zum Thema 

"Pragmatic, Patriotic or Politic?: Use of Scots vs English during the Union of 1707 and 2012 Independence Referendum Compared".

Der Vortrag ist in englisch. Alle Interessierten sind herzlich willkommen.


The year 1707 in Scotland marked the unification of two nations into a single political unit through the Union of the Parliaments, but it also cemented the ongoing anglicisation of the Scots language. As a result, English rather than Scots became firmly established as the medium of choice for most forms of serious prose. Yet this period saw a developing linguistic awareness (Jones, 1995) and heightened religious and political concerns. There was increasing recognition of the patriotic value of Scots (Dossena, 2002), at the very time that questions of independence and national identity were at the forefront of political debate. Despite this, economic and pragmatic restraints favouring the use of English over Scots remained pertinent to the choices facing Scottish authors.

Fast-forward to the Scottish Independence Referendum of 2014, and some of the same national and political concerns can be observed, along with an increased association between Scots and Scottish identity. English is of course the written language of Scotland today, but Scots and speech-like language can be observed in one particular medium; Twitter. The use of this social media platform during the Independence Referendum has been analysed by Shoemark et al (2017), who uncovered ideological and pragmatic constraints operating on the Twitter users that were similar to those affecting eighteenth-century Scotsmen.

I explore the stylistic and ideological differences conditioning the use of Scots in early eighteenth-century written work, and compare this with Shoemark et al’s (2017) twitter data from 2014. Through this cross-comparison, I explore to what extent recognition and awareness of Scots as a patriotic medium has changed during the 300 year time gap, and the level of continuity across literary, pragmatic and ideological constraints on authors, both past and present. Through this I suggest that both ideological and communicative goals played and still play an important role in the use of written Scots for Scottish authors.


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