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Conference paper: CDA and Minority Language Policy: The case of Scots

Wednesday, 6 June 2007, Aston University

Abstract

Although studies employing a CDA approach have often taken minority groups as their research focus (e.g. van Dijk 1989; Van Leeuwen 1996; Reisigl and Wodak 2001), they have not generally taken minority languages themselves as their object of investigation (one exception is Wodak 2005). By contrast, critical approaches to minority languages are common within language policy studies (e.g. Skutnabb-Kangas et al. 1994; Heller 1999; Pennycook 1999; May 2001; Phillipson 2003; various chapters in Ricento 2005), but these often do not involve detailed linguistic analysis of the policy texts themselves, nor of related texts such as educational resources, and have instead focussed on the content of the policies and their material and social impacts.
In this paper, I combine these two broad approaches by applying them to the Scots language. From a linguistic and historical viewpoint, Scots can be described as a language closely related to English, which was the national language of Scotland in the 15th and 16th centuries, and is still spoken today (albeit often in a strongly ‘anglicised’ form) in many parts of Scotland. However, except for its use in a very narrow range of registers (e.g. poetry, comedy) it generally suffers from extremely low prestige and above all low recognition as a valid and viable language variety, even among many of its speakers.
Broadly following discourse-historical methodology (Wodak 2001), I investigate recent attempts by governmental bodies to raise the profile of the language, including the provision of new educational resources, and the formulation of a language policy for Scotland. My data is drawn from a range of texts about Scots: e.g. policy documents, educational resources and focus groups of ‘ordinary’ people discussing language. Through analysis of these texts and their contexts, I show that Scots has been principally constructed as a cultural and heritage resource, and its use as a functional communicative medium has been largely backgrounded. I identify this as a major barrier to the success of current language policies for Scots.

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