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Should Norn be revived?


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Should Norn Be Revived?  

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  1. 1. Should Norn Be Revived?

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To return to the original topic, then, there's an illogicality I'd like to point out.

 

Kavi Ugl justified the revival (although it would actually be reinvention, as we don't know all that much about what Norn was like) of Norn by comparing it to Gaelic. This doesn't follow, because Gaelic is a living language, whereas Norn isn't.

 

 

I would agree with you, but I would also point out that dead languages have in fact been revived before, the most prominent examples being Hebrew and Sanskrit. However, both were high-prestige languages with extensive literary documentation. Furthermore, Hebrew revitalization was a necessity because the Israeli population was, in the late 40s, linguistically diverse.

 

Norn, obviously, is not high-prestige, and has no literature besides a few songs, prayers, and a court document.

 

However, I also believe it is everyone has the right to learn and use their ancestral language, or whichever language they please for that matter. I therefore posit that Norn should be reconstructed and made available, but not necessarily mandatory, in schools. It satisfies everyone--no one's forced to learn it, but Kavi Ugl gets to use as much Norn as he pleases.

 

The real reason seems to be the phrase, 'language is about efficient communication.' Once we accept this premise, all differences in language are bad, because by definition they inhibit efficient communication. We should all start promoting World Standard English - not that we need to, of course, because it is doing a very efficient job of promoting itself. In which case, the best thing we can do is leave it to its own devices - in other words, do nothing.

 

This seems to be a growing mentality in people, and it really worries me. First of all, there is no unified variety of English used throughout the world. An argument could be made for written Academic English, but even this has regional variants (color/colour, etc).

 

Second of all, there is no such thing as a "bad" language. I agree with you as to language's fundamental purpose (efficient communication), but it's also important to remember that language is a key factor in diversity.

 

Frankly, I would hate to live in a world where everyone spoke the same language. Not only would I be out of a job, but each language is a unique lens through which the world is viewed--every time a language dies, one of those lenses is smashed.

 

The first step toward marginalizing a group is to take away their language. Australians did it to the Aborigines, and my country did it to the Native Americans. There's an incredibly slippery slope here; marginalizing a language marginalizes its people, which implies they're inferior, which leads to persecution, or even genocide.

 

Linguistic diversity is a treasure, my friend, and a fundamental human right.

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The first step toward marginalizing a group is to take away their language. Australians did it to the Aborigines, and my country did it to the Native Americans. There's an incredibly slippery slope here; marginalizing a language marginalizes its people, which implies they're inferior, which leads to persecution, or even genocide.

 

Linguistic diversity is a treasure, my friend, and a fundamental human right.

 

Does this not tally with the treatment of Norn and Shaetlan? The Scots certainly marginised the Shetland people,and are still so doing.

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It is practically impossible to imagine anyone singing rock or pop in Scots.

 

I rekon da Proclaimers wid düh im owerweel, dey wid juist soond twice is ill is dey düh onywye tho. :wink:

 

^^

 

Whesht man, I laek Da Proclaimers.

Dey remind me o a Fleck barn dance eftir da eela. Drunk men faain atil runnicks. Me witterin a car atil da towin hitch o a auld trailer, an annider boady dat a'll no mention at posts upö dis site, tryin ta wap a leg ower i da stripe o da midden.

Loard bliss dat days o youth. Dir lang geeng noo, bit weel minded.

:wink:

 

Noo, is dat no juist whit I wis spaekin aboot! I mind eence itae da Press and Journal da Proclaimers wis tuin tae for singin ithin 'Broad Accents.' Dey sood laekly a sung ithin American accents laek nearly every idder Scottish singer, an dan dae wid a been naethin sed. Muckle da sam wye, some reviewer o a album bi Shoormal sed at he didna laek 'dialect songs', bit American accents wid nedder a been spocken aboot or even notticed. In Scotland, singin ithin a Scottish accent lat alane Scots is juist up for bein med a fuil o.

 

Da Proclaimers wid a sung Scots ower weel, bit hit wid never a entered dir haeds, caase he haes nae status or written form an is juist tocht ta be doon-toon an tae-tuin (noo at dae'r nae hoop for da Shaetlan tongue I micht as weel mak up mi ain wirds - hit'll mak nae odds if da experts maks a fuil o it.) Da fact at even da Proclaimers accent lats Rasmie tink o drink drivin, faain ithin runnicks an laegs ower in stripes juist shaas da kind o level at he (da Scots accent, no Rasmie!) is at. Noo if dat's da level o a Scots accent, foo muckle farder doon tink you da Scots language, or a dialect o da Scots language (Shetland Dialect) will be? Sneckibacks nooadays duisna need onything idder as American slang ta dui yun kind o things, if you maybe alter stripes an runnicks for toon stanks.

 

(In kaese onybody duisna kaen whit a 'sneckiback' is, I'll pit him ithin yun 'wird o da day' treed.)

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To return to the original topic, then, there's an illogicality I'd like to point out.

 

Kavi Ugl justified the revival (although it would actually be reinvention, as we don't know all that much about what Norn was like) of Norn by comparing it to Gaelic. This doesn't follow, because Gaelic is a living language, whereas Norn isn't.

 

 

I would agree with you, but I would also point out that dead languages have in fact been revived before, the most prominent examples being Hebrew and Sanskrit. However, both were high-prestige languages with extensive literary documentation. Furthermore, Hebrew revitalization was a necessity because the Israeli population was, in the late 40s, linguistically diverse.

 

Norn, obviously, is not high-prestige, and has no literature besides a few songs, prayers, and a court document.

 

However, I also believe it is everyone has the right to learn and use their ancestral language, or whichever language they please for that matter. I therefore posit that Norn should be reconstructed and made available, but not necessarily mandatory, in schools. It satisfies everyone--no one's forced to learn it, but Kavi Ugl gets to use as much Norn as he pleases.

 

 

But nobody is stopping Kavi Ugl from learning Norn if he wants to.

 

The real reason seems to be the phrase, 'language is about efficient communication.' Once we accept this premise, all differences in language are bad, because by definition they inhibit efficient communication. We should all start promoting World Standard English - not that we need to, of course, because it is doing a very efficient job of promoting itself. In which case, the best thing we can do is leave it to its own devices - in other words, do nothing.

 

This seems to be a growing mentality in people, and it really worries me. First of all, there is no unified variety of English used throughout the world. An argument could be made for written Academic English, but even this has regional variants (color/colour, etc).

 

 

I don't think it's a growing mentality. People have always denigrated the speech of people different from themselves, on the basis of class, nation, region or race. The education acts that set out to eradicate all forms of speech other than standard English from the British Isles were written in the 1840s. And of course you're aware of the process of eradicating native languages from the speech of American Indian children. I think the difference nowadays is that, in a more mobile society with mass media and blanket American influence, the isolated situations which allowed minority languages and dialects to survive by default are rapidly shrinking. Only those which mount a robust resistance with a strong cultural identity behind them have any hope of survival.

 

 

Second of all, there is no such thing as a "bad" language. I agree with you as to language's fundamental purpose (efficient communication), but it's also important to remember that language is a key factor in diversity.

 

 

Unfortunately the idea that there is no such thing as a bad language has been taken up as a sort of mantra by those few in Scotland who promote the Scots language (or even know that it exists.) The result is that people from Edinburgh, who often speak no Scots themselves, present the speech of the most socially deprived areas in Central Belt cities as Scots, while deriding concentration on the most traditional country varieties as 'purism'. This is the school of thought which has gained influence in Shetland.

 

 

Frankly, I would hate to live in a world where everyone spoke the same language. Not only would I be out of a job, but each language is a unique lens through which the world is viewed--every time a language dies, one of those lenses is smashed.

 

The first step toward marginalizing a group is to take away their language. Australians did it to the Aborigines, and my country did it to the Native Americans. There's an incredibly slippery slope here; marginalizing a language marginalizes its people, which implies they're inferior, which leads to persecution, or even genocide.

 

Linguistic diversity is a treasure, my friend, and a fundamental human right.

 

I don't agree that taking away their language is the first step in marginalising a group. In America and Australia this was only a part, and probably a late one, of an entire policy of cultural assasination, and its purpose was almost certainly to absorb them into mainstream culture rather than marginalise them.

 

As regards linguistic diversity being a fundamental human right, it's only that if enough humans want it. Another point of view might be that international communication without the baggage of linguistic barriers should be seen as a necessary step in human advancement.

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Any version of 'reconstructed' Norn would only ever be of academic value, interesting though that would be, and utterly irrelevant to the day-to-day lives of modern Shetlanders. Of course, that's not a reason not to do it, but how many 'ordinary' islanders would choose to learn and use it. Would the 'reconstructed' language bear any similarity to what would have been spoken in the various districts of Shetland, being mindful of how little of it is left? Probably not. A good project for somebody doing a PhD in sociolinguistics, perhaps, but not an exercise that would have any daily relevance to Shetlanders. Remember, we've shown a lack of drive to sustain the tongue some of us still speak today in daily life, which in itself is a distinctive and traditional speech form and can be labelled as a marker of cultural identity.

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Can you imagine the confidence it would bring to young Shetlnders if they could speak a pure "second language" that was relative and related to Shetland instead of French or German?.

 

I actually remember asking a group of young folk several years ago what languages they would like to learn if the choice was theirs. To my pleasant surprise many of them replied Norwegian or Faroese.

 

To be honest I can't see any valid reason or argument why Shetland norn shouldn't be restored/revived/re-instated and I'm almost certain it could be done.

 

And to the people who have a problem with creating new names, that's exactly what the Faroese do and infact about 4 years ago I spoke to a man on the Faroese Language Committe(sic) who told me they were in the process of creating new names for the incoming oil industry.

 

:)

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How do you define 'pure' in linguistic terms? As languages evolve to mirror the cultures they belong to, they'll always mutate to incorporate elements of other tongues, especially in a globally-connected society such as ours- that's why our dialect is disappearing. Shetland is no longer an island in virtual terms. 'Pure' and 'language', in our Western global culture, go together only in creating an oxymoron, not a concept.

 

To be sure, it would be greatly interesting to look at Norn. However, how many younger Shetlanders would describe themselves nowadays as Scots, and not Shetlanders. Many have no sense of cultural ownership of the speech form of their grandparents, never mind 'Norn'.

 

A revival of a native language for Shetland would need to go together with a revival of cultural identity, or it would remain the preserve of academics. The opposite is happening here. Awareness of cultural identity is vanishing faster than ever before.

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Joenorth makes an important point when he points out that no language is 'pure.' All languages change over time, and the idea of a 'pure' language that existed in Shetland's past, as opposed to the 'corrupt dialect' (as I have heard it called, I think on a sign at Jarlshof) that is now spoken (by those of us of a certain age) again smacks of mythology. As I've pointed out before, Norn wasn't regarded as pure, or indeed worth anything at all, by commentators at the time. And you can be certain that speakers of other related languages wouldn't have thought it was pure. I have on various occasions shown Faroese to an Icelander and Scottish Gaelic to an Irishman. The Irishman described the Gaelic as 'bad Irish' and the Icelander found the Faroese so offensive she couldn't bear to read it. In both cases, any variation from the familiar language was seen, not as diversity, but as corruption. The languages in Britain which are not related to English, like Welsh, are not 'pure' because of that. Welsh has a lot of loan words from Latin, French, English and even Irish. And it has dialect and slang forms as well as the official written form. Indeed, one of the arguments against resurrecting a dead language - even if it could be done - is that it would lack the rich texture of idiom and nuance of the actual language that I am not allowed to name, far less describe as a language. Hit wid be as tin an fuishonless as doon-watered bleddick.

 

However, among the various Edinburgh-based writers and linguists who seem to be the main influence on dialect promotion in Shetland, the opposite view has been taken to an extreme. They pour not so much cold water as warm urine on any suggestion that a language which recognises and codifies the existing linguistic texture of traditional Scots, far less a mere dialect of it such as Shaetlan, should be promoted. Instead, their favoured urban varieties are almost as thin as a resurrected one would be, relying mostly on the word 'f*ck' (which all British swearing seems to have been reduced to under American influence) to express the levels of disreputability which standard English - the language they actually use - is not quite degraded enough to reach.

 

The desire of youngsters to learn Norwegian and Faroese would probably also prove to be mythological if it was actually put to the test - as, I suspect, would the idea of learning Norn.

 

Having said that, however, if Norwegian, say, had been introduced into Shetland schools in the same way that French is, and had been taught 'peeriwyes' from primary school up, the cultural perception of Shetland youth as a whole might have been different. Similarly, if something called 'Shaetlan', with a recognised written form, had been presented as a part of the overall curriculum, there might have been a different perception of it, and indeed of Shetland identity, altogether. As it is, Shetland For Wirds are busy promoting the Gaer Box - in imitation of various 'boxed' - and failed - Scots materials from years ago. To me, the symbolism of a dialect that you can shut up in a box, when you want to get on with the real curriculum, speaks for itself.

 

In other words, the mainstream Scottish perception of Shetland youth is arguably created by mainstream education, as well, of course, as other mainstream influences such as the media. This is why I objected to Malachy's point in another thread, that use of the word 'Shetlandic' was obviously political. It seems to me that the mainstream Scottish education which moulds opinion is equally political. The fact that this isn't obvious just shows how thoroughly we are all taken in by it.

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It seems to me that the mainstream Scottish education which moulds opinion is equally political. The fact that this isn't obvious just shows how thoroughly we are all taken in by it.

 

Of course it is, whoever controls education controls the "truth", what the vast majority believe, and how they thought about it.

 

I believed it somewhat before, but Shetlink has gone quite some way in convincing me of it.

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Can you imagine the confidence it would bring to young Shetlnders if they could speak a pure ;second language that was relative and related to Shetland instead of French or German?.

:)

 

I've always thought of the speech of older Shetlanders as a second language (or more correctly, their first). Regardless of semantic considerations, what defines a language in purely practical terms? I'd say a form of speech that is consistently unintelligible to those unfamiliar with it (at least partly because of the use of different words), and a need to switch speech forms to be understood. We've all seen newly-arrived 'sooth eens' who don't have a clue what's being said to them. All dialect speakers have the ability to 'knapp', i.e. switch to another language. People settling in the isles learn to understand our speech, just as they would if going to live in France or Germany. Treating a distinctive language like ours only as a variant of Scots is ethnocentric, in that the very cultural markers that have resulted in that distinctiveness are also ignored.

 

I'm a bit bemused by statements linking 'Shetland pride' to a revival of Norn. Personally, I'm always wary of any assertions of national pride anywhere in the world, but it would be far more appropriate and relevant to link these sentiments to our existing, but dwindling, tongue. The language of Shetlanders of a certain age still sums up our composite, yet distinctive culture. Norn has been and gone, and is only relevant in providing a (shrinking) substratum of words in our language.

 

Be interesting to follow any efforts to recreate it, though.

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Pure was maybe the wrong word to use, what I meant was an established and accepted language.

 

For example, an accepted/standardised spelling for the words and an accepted grammer. So what you would have is a established language committee releasing an accepted and recognised norn language. For me, the people for the job would be Dagfinn and the others who are already working on it(I can't remember the website!).

 

They already speak the brother languages of norn(Faroese and Icelandic etc) and would be more than capable of forming/reviving the language based on, for example, historic documents. But they also understand our limitations and so would build the language according to our abilities.

 

That might not be considered much to go on but what they might be able to do is form the skeleton and we'd build on it from there using the likes of Jakob Jakobsen's dictionaries.

 

But any norn language must use the old norse letters too if it is to be authentic. There would be absolutely no point in a phonetically spelled language.

 

E.g á, æ, é, í, ð, ø

 

What we might end up with is a "basic" norn language which is learnable but which is still authentic.

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Pure was maybe the wrong word to use, what I meant was an established and accepted language.

 

For example, an accepted/standardised spelling for the words and an accepted grammer. So what you would have is a established language committee releasing an accepted and recognised norn language. For me, the people for the job would be Dagfinn and the others who are already working on it(I can't remember the website!).

 

They already speak the brother languages of norn(Faroese and Icelandic etc) and would be more than capable of forming/reviving the language based on, for example, historic documents. But they also understand our limitations and so would build the language according to our abilities.

 

 

I think one flaw in this argument is already obvious in what you say about it. This would be a language that would have to be reconstructed by people outside of Shetland, because nobody in Shetland would know enough about it to do so. A language that has to be put together by outsiders can't possibly be considered to be a language of our own.

 

The reason many of us are concerned (or in mourning) about the existing, and not yet dead, Shetland speech is because it is our own language - the language we speak and most naturally express ourselves in. It's a visceral (dat's whit comes fae your sparles redder as your harns) reaction to the death of something that we identify with, that is part of us, that is part of the Shetland we know, or at least knew.

 

Some peoples - the Faroese, Catalans, Welsh, etc - have managed to marry this visceral reaction to the standardisation you speak about. They have managed to produce an accepted written version of their present, living language, and have it incorporated into formal education. We, however, have followed the Canny Lowland Scots model of rejecting and deriding anything that interferes with our concept of practicality - a reaction well expressed in this thread by EM.

 

In the 19th Century, the government produced a document, which attributed the (then) poverty of the Welsh nation as a whole to the fact that they spoke Welsh and went to Methodist chapels instead of the Anglican church (I think it was written mostly by English-speaking Anglican clergymen.) This is notorious in Wales as the 'treachery of the blue books.' One of the comments made was that the Welsh should be more like the Scots.

 

There are several reasons why Shetland is not willing to tackle our real, living language in the formal way you describe. Such as:

 

- 'It's too late now anyway' (a self-fulfilling prophecy.)

 

- Because Shetland, like Scotland as a whole, is basically a mainstream society which doesn't want to identify with the sort of minority concerns which might put them in the same area of ridicule as the Welsh. (The SIC is, after all, a fine example of what can be achieved by concentrating on practicalities and not being distracted by silly cultural matters.)

 

- Because, in addition, we have bought into the Scots perception of the native speech as purely oral, down-town or 'teuchter', identified with either a fading rural or deprived urban culture, and - and this is the important point - nothing to do with education or the practical process enshrined in the AHS motto of 'dui weel an persevere.'

 

This would be enough to be going on with, but to these we can add what has been called 'Nornomania' - the fact that the myth of Norn lurks in the background as a distraction from thinking or doing anything about the real living thing we actually speak. Anti-Scotticism - reaction against the fact that our real language is fundamentally a form of Scots rather than Norse - is a related factor, because something related to Scots - a language already despised by the Scots - doesn't seem to most people to be worth hanging on to. The Scots often cite Gaelic as the 'real' Scottish language, although hardly any of them actually learn it, even though it is a living language. What chance of us learning a dead one?

 

The sum of these factors can be shown in the fact that we continue to use standard English to discuss these things (I don't switch to Shetland if I'm replying to a post written in English) and that this forum is one of only two specialised areas that you have to separately subscribe to.

 

What we need (or rather, as Shetland attitude shows, don't need) is not to re-invent the Norn language (if I want to speak a Nordic language i can learn Norwegian, Icelandic or Faroese) but to take the same attitude the Faroese did to their real, living language. Instead, we fall into the trap of the Scots of despising, or at the best taking a patronising attitude towards, our real language just as they do.

 

So, in despising our real language and falling back on the myth of Norn, we are actually showing that our attitudes are fundamentally Scottish attitudes, rather than Nordic ones.

 

 

That might not be considered much to go on but what they might be able to do is form the skeleton and we'd build on it from there using the likes of Jakob Jakobsen's dictionaries.

 

But any norn language must use the old norse letters too if it is to be authentic. There would be absolutely no point in a phonetically spelled language.

 

E.g á, æ, é, í, ð, ø

 

What we might end up with is a "basic" norn language which is learnable but which is still authentic.

 

The point about old norse letters again shows the fact that this whole concept is more about iconography than anything to do with actual language. Swedish is a Norse language - ie, descended from Old Norse - and it doesn't use any of the letters you have written above.

 

I also don't understand what you mean by 'phonetically spelt.' It seems to me that the reason the Old Norse used these letters was precisely because they were phonetic - in other words, they used them to spell the sounds they made with their mouths when they were speaking their language, which is the meaning of 'phonetic'. The idea of using exotic letters just because of what they look like seems to me to be just a sort of game.

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People settling in the isles learn to understand our speech, just as they would if going to live in France or Germany.

There's a crucial difference in that an Englishman moving to Germany will not only learn to understand German, they'll learn to speak it as well. An Englishman moving to Shetland will learn to understand Shetland, but is unlikely to learn to speak it, partly because accents are very hard for adults to master, and partly because there is no pressing need, as Shetlanders understand standard English perfectly well.

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