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,


Add Your Comment

Add Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

200 words left

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.