Language death in Scotland : a linguistic analysis of the process of language death and linguistic interference in Scottish Gaelic and Scots language
Within contemporary Scotland there are two distinct language systems which may be considered to be threatened with extinction. These are the Germanic system of Scots, decended from the Northumbrian dialect of Old English, and the Celtic system of Gaelic, one of the languages of the Goidelic branch of Celtic. Both systems are dominated by English, in the written form and through the spoken forms of Received Pronunciation and Standard Scottish English. The common ancestry of Scots and English, both being derived from dialects of Old English, suggests that the form of domination in this relationship could be distinguised from the influence of English on Gaelic. This is paralleled in the distinction made between the processes of 'language suicide' (ie the gradual assimilation towards a similar system) and 'language murder' (ie the displacement of one language by another). This is considered in terms of register and domain. Interference is analysed within various registers and domains in terms of phonology, morphology, syntax, lexis and orthography. Further studies assess the extent of usage for Gaelic in the Isle of Lewis and Scots in Banffshire. The main conclusion that is drawn from the study is that the broad distinction between language suicide and language murder has some validity, but the process of language death, as evidenced by Scots and Gaelic, is more complex than that. In both languages there is evidence of assimilation towards English through interference in the system, and of displacement in terms of the number of speakers and the domains in which the languages are used. Assessment of the state of Gaelic reveals that, despite an apparent increase in the number of speakers, there is evidence of greater English dominance amongst present day speakers, who use English in more situations and include more English features in their Gaelic. A similar picture is found for Scots.