24th September 2018
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Angst won’t stop the rot (Alastair Christie-Johnston)

The latest discussion on Shetland dialect is largely nonsensical. Language (including dialect) is a living and changing thing and no amount of angst is going to make a blind bit of difference towards “stopping the rot” as some would have it.

When my wife and I (with considerable help from Neil Anderson) set out to collect and record all the dialect words still known and used throughout Shetland, (Shetland Words, The Shetland Times Ltd – 2010 and revised 2014) it was not with a view to trying to apply some sort of a brake to the decline of usage but rather to provide a benchmark for future generations to observe the changes that have occurred since Jakobsen’s research over a century earlier.
The commendable activities of the group Shetland Forwirds and to a lesser extent the appointment of a dialect co-ordinatot cannot of themselves bring about a reversal in what is a natural trend towards a more cosmopolitan speech form.
One only has to observe the ludicrous attempts at rendering the dialect into phonetics on social media to realise that Jakobsen was right in his aim to standardise spelling. The pity is that he did not live to complete his work.
Variations in pronunciation should not be confused with standardised spelling. Without the latter, the former is always going to be doomed in my view.

Alastair Christie-Johnston
4 Steenbrae,
Aywick,
Yell.

About Adam Civico

The Shetland Times editor since October 2012. Born and bred in South Yorkshire, before moving to Shetland I was assistant editor at the Barnsley Chronicle, where my journalism career began. When not editing The Shetland Times I can be found walking or (occasionally) running, enjoying good food, or trying to find the latest Sheffield Wednesday result. Contact me with your news and views about Shetland – a.civico@shetlandtimes.co.uk, on Twitter @adamcivico or telephone 01595 746715.

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