Moo, moo, two by two

The good news for mourners of dead tongues is that in Northern Ireland they’re inventing new languages, dialects and other officially authenticated and subsidised cultural goods at such a rate that the province will soon be exporting the surplus to the Amazon delta. As Jason Walsh points out:

In Northern Ireland during the 1980s the paramilitaries engaged in tit-for-tat shootings, these days the guns are largely silent but these self-imposed community representatives are engaged in tit-for-tat culture-making, and culture is all the worse for it. “The taigs get a couple of grand for basket-weaving in Irish? We want cash for women’s mural-painting in Ulster Scots.”

Although Ethnologue hasn’t yet got round to recognising Ullans‘s separate identity, it’s good to know in retrospect that one was born into a trendy hotbed of cultural diversity rather than a tepid swamp dominated by men united in a stolid determination to deconstruct one another’s anatomy in a strategic sense. I think, however, that Mr Walsh may be being slightly over-optimistic in assuming that Ciarín Ó Duibhín and other Ulster Irish enthusiasts will be content in having it declared an official dialect for the purposes of cultural subsidy when Maltese, with only 300,000 speakers, is already an official EU language.

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  1. I do doubt that the Ulster dialect of Irish (Gaelic) will be declared a language in its own right for the simple reason that it would work against the nationalist cause by introducing the concept of ‘difference’ into the relatively homogenous conception of Irishness favoured by republicans.

    This is where I believe that the Ulster-Scots movement has hit upon a problem – as unionism is effectively a form of British nationalism, introducing the idea that the ‘Ulster-Scots’ are somehow different from the ‘British-Irish’ undermines their very claim to the Union except as a loose confederation, or indeed – inhale deeply – British republic.

    In promoting Ulster-Scots as a discrete language and culture, the simple argument of British national identity is turned on its head.

    Nevertheless, my argument with Ulster-Scots is lexical – it is clearly a dialect, not a language. Common sense is required, but sadly, le sens commun n’est pas si commun….

    Still, it’s so gratifying to be quoted. I trust you’ll buy the print edition when we come out later in the year?


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