Shaetlan (Shetlandic)

I found an interesting article about Shetlandic (Shaetlan) today entitled Shaetlan is Daed – Lang live Dialect or Shetlandic is dead – Long live Dialect.. It’s available both in Shetlandic and English. It raises some interesting points about the current status of Shetlandic, about relationship between languages and dialects, and the difference between linguistics definitions and popular perceptions of dialects.

Shetlandic is a Germanic language/dialect spoken in Shetland, a group of islands to the northeast of Scotland and to the south of the Faroe Islands. It’s a variety of Scots with Norn influence. Norn was a language derived from Old Norse spoken on Shetland, Orkney and in parts of northern Scotland until the 19th century.

Here are a few extracts:

… when I was young we spoke Shaetlan – we needed the word ‘dialect’ only if we were speaking English, when we would usually call it ‘The Shetland Dialect.’ When we were speaking Shaetlan, the distinction between dialect and language didn’t arise – it was an artefact of translation, a distinction which appeared only when you were looking at Shetlandic from an English-language viewpoint. The word ‘dialect’ implies that one language is a left-over scrap of another language. It’s a purely relative term, which becomes relevant only when you are looking at a language from an external viewpoint.

Recently, however, I’ve noticed that an increasing number of people use the word ‘dialect’ to describe the Shetland tongue even when they’re speaking (or writing) Shetlandic.

He goes on to argue that creating a standard spelling system for Shetlandic would be a positive move and would help it to survive. He dismisses claims that such as system would kill off the forms of Shetlandic spoken in different islands; instead people would continue to pronounce words in their own way while writing them in a standard way. Moreover writers would not be forced to give up their idiosyncratic and creative spellings as they claim.

Further information, articles and texts about and/or in Shetlandic are available here.

This entry was posted in Language, Scots.

0 Responses to Shaetlan (Shetlandic)

  1. Rhodri says:

    Cofnod diddorol iawn, diolch. Erioed wedi clywed am Norn o’r blaen.

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