The Scots leid in Australian líteratur

Onybody that kens anent the Scots leid kens that Scots is spoken in Scotland, whaur the leid first upbiggit. Fowk will like eneuch ken that Scots exists in anither pairt: thare the Ulster Scots, the Scots spik o Northren Ireland. But whit isnae sae weel kent is the Scots uised in Australie.

It’s kenable that the main leids o Australie for hunneryears wis the aborigine leids, Dyirbal an Warlpiri amang ithers. An thae leids is gey an interestin thairsels. R.M.W. Dixon an Kenneth L. Hale amang ither linguists haes written beuks anent thae leids that is orra unalike fae ither leids in the warld. Amang thair partícularities is coverbs, whaur the verb is for common formed fae a coverb an the main verb, coverb specifeein the main verb. Thare is forby the mony places o articulation o consonants (distinction acqueish sounds produced at different pairts o the gab). An thay aften uise the selsame wird for an object an anither object that could potentially become it, for ensaumple ‘ainimal’ an ‘meat’.1

For thair nummers, it is upcast thare wis thareabout 250 aboriginal leids in 1788. The feck o thaim is misfortunately endangert or weedit awa, wi anerly 130 bein uised in ilkaday life, an nae mair nor twinty bein leart by bairns.2

Thir days the leid that’s the maist spoken in the southren continent is the Southspik. But thare is forby ither leids that haes come tae Australie by recent immigrants, the main anes thir days bein Mandarin, Italians an Arabic. But Scots wis amang thaim, inspecially in the nineteent hunneryear.

The Scots population o Australie is the island-continent’s thrid-lairgest ethnic population.3 It is upcast that thay account for thareabout 13 per cent o the population.4 In the nineteent hunneryear, Scots that gaed tae Australie maistly cam wi thair faimilies an cam fae the Lallans.5 An it wisnae juist the nuclear faimilies, aither: the grunnies an the gutchers cam wi thaim whiles.6

Haein arrived in Australie several groups wis foundit by the Scots incomers, like the Caledonian Society of Southern Australia. Amang thair ettles wis for thaim tae forder Scots an Gaelic language an líteratur. An thay cam tae produce Scots líteratur thairsels.

Ensaumples o Scots líteratur produced in Australie includes first- an seicont-generation incomers as weel as non-native spikkers. The Scots writin o Australie spangs the domains o poetry, sang, novels an mair. The novels could be aither novels actually in the Scots itsel, or in the Southspik, wi dialogue in Scots.

John Service, an Ayrshireman steyin in Sydney, even wrate hale novels in Scots, includin The Life and Recollections of Doctor Duguid of Kilwinning (1887), a endeavour whilk is seen as new-fangelt.7 This beuk, like ither beuks in Scots, can be fund on archive.org.

It wisnae juist fiction. Relígious líteratur wis written in Scots an aw: in 1921, a Scots mínister, bidin in Sydney syne the 1890s, haed his owersettin o Genesis in Scots publisht.8 His owersettin wis praised as writin in a Scots that wis formal eneuch like the English owersettin, an vibrant like the Laitin version; he wis sonsie-like in this ettle.9

The writin in Scots forby includit writin tae editors in newspapers, like tae the South Australian Advertiser, whaur Scots-spikkers wis acceppit in the letters page.10

This unnerlines the fact that it wis assumed that líteratur in, or featurin, Scots wad be read by non-Scots11. An the Scots líteratur o Australie wisnae juist written by fowk born in Scotland, or o Scots origin, aither. This is pairtly acause Scots líteratur fae Scotland itsel (like Burns, Scott an Hogg) wis popular in Australie at that stound.12 13

The Poor Parson by Steele Rudd is a ensaumple o a Australian that isnae even o Scots origin (he’s hauf Erse, hauf Welsh) writin a novel in English wi Scots dialogue. An a sonsie, weel-lued novel at that.14 An The Poor Parson wis publisht in 1907, sae juist a hunneryear syne.

The new contex an environs in Australie affectit the wey Scots líteratur wis produced in mony weys.

The uiss o Scots in Australie is whiles a mixtur-maxtur wi the English, inspecially the maist recent writin, as in My Puir Wee Sister by D. B. Tait (1865). The Scots (or Scots/English) poetry o Australie gangs aw the wey intae the 20t hunneryear. An ensaumple o late-20t hunneryear writin wi a mixtur-maxtur o English an Scots is Couper’s Drunk wi the Sight of life.

Fowk’s identity wis affectit an aw: Catherine Helen Spence haed baith Australian colonist identity an Scots identity. She wrate novels whaur the main chairacter spak the English, but mony minor chairacters spak in the Scots.

The theme that wis aften predominant wis description o the ordinar lifes o Scotsmen bidin in the outback. Aft-times, the Scots writin in Australie wis in a kailyaird style.15 The themes o nostalgia come up again an again, as weel as the ímage o a pre-industrial Scotland.16 This can be seen as twa kinds o the same nostalgia: ae nostalgia for anither time; anither nostaliga for anither place.

Sae, in conclusion, we can see that the Scots líteratur o Australie wis a flourishin enterpríse. This wis due tae the mony líterate Scots comin tae Australie wi thair strang identity that guidit thairsels around that identity. It is forby due tae fowk readin Scots líteratur weel-lued at that stound. The upbiggin o this líteratur wis in a society whilk misfortunately saw the fleggin o a fair feck o the sindry Aboriginal leids, an ither cultural aspects, at the same time. The Scots cam tae be temporar-like a signíficant pairt o the new Australian state wi wastren cultur.


James McDonaldJames McDonald is a Scots polyglot steyin in Réunion. He is keen on different leids, inspecially local leids, an thair forderin, whether it’s Scots, Gaelic, Réunion Creole or ither leids. He wirks in schuils, helpin bairns wi thair hamewirk an giein chess lessons. Ye can contact him on jmcd89 [AT] googlemail [DOT] com.

Glossar

For tips on readin Scots, alang wi a glossar o common wirds, see our cutty guide (written in English).

Scots English
acqueish between
anent about
environs the environment
ettles aims, ambitions
gab mouth
hunneryear century
Italians the Italian language
owersettin translation
selsame very same
sindry several, many
sonsie-like successful
stound a period of time
temporar-like temporarily
upbiggit built up
upcast calculate, reckon, estimate
  1. R. M. W. Dixon, Australian Languages (Cambridge University Press, 2002)
  2. Dixon, Australian Languages
  3. Malcolm David Prentis, The Scots in Australia (UNSW Press, 2008), 58
  4. Jim Hewitson, Far Off in Sunlit Places: Stories of the Scots in Australia and New Zealand (OTCEditions, 2010)
  5. Prentis, The Scots in Australia, 58
  6. Prentis, The Scots in Australia, 58
  7. Graham Tulloch, ‘Scots as a literary language in Australia’ in Englishes Around the World: Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Australasia (John Benjamins Publishing, 1997), 323
  8. The Edinburgh History of the Scots Language, 630
  9. Englishes Around the World: Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Australasia, 333
  10. Philip Butterss, Adelaide: a literary city (University of Adelaide Press, 2013), 69-70
  11. Manfred Görlach, Still More Englishes (John Benjamins, 2002), 73
  12. John M. Kirk, Iseabail Macleod, Scots: Studies in its literature and Language (Rodopi, 2013)
  13. Englishes Around the World: Caribbean, Africa, Asia, Australasia, 319
  14. Charles Jones, The Edinburgh History of the Scots Language (Edinburgh University Press, 1997)
  15. Görlach, Still More Englishes, 96
  16. Görlach, Still More Englishes, 87

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