Primary school teachers' attitudes towards the Scots language in education in the North East of Scotland
This study represents a unique exploration of language attitudes towards Scots among one hundred and fifty primary school teachers in the Deeside area in the North-East of Scotland. Within the sociolinguistic literature positive language attitudes, especially amongst teachers, are often considered to contribute significantly to minority language maintenance (Giles, Bourhis and Taylor 1977). This study employs a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods which allows me to evaluate such assertions of the Scottish context. In particular, teachers' language attitudes and knowledge base are first ascertained by using a questionnaire survey. This is followed by semi-structured interviews with individual teachers to analyse qualitatively their approaches and orientation towards the teaching of Scots in school. The intention is to examine the implications of teachers' language attitudes for language maintenance. The findings indicate that teachers' language attitudes are surprisingly positive and this holds for both locals and incomers. However, these apparently positive attitudes are not necessarily translated into actual teaching practice. A key question is why this should be the case. The incongruence between attitudes and practice may in part stem from an observable lack of competence in Scots. However, the explanation here is more socio-cultural in character and I consider the whole issue of what overtly positive teachers consider Scots to be in terms of forms and value. What emerges most strongly from the interviews is the conception of Scots as invaluable heritage, or as a 'museum piece', to be preserved and cherished, and this formulation of Scots as history seems to inform much of teachers' positive feelings. However, historicity, which is seen as a key determinant of positive language attitudes and the maintenance of minority language varieties (Stewart 1968; Ryan, Giles and Sebastian 1982), contains the basic contradiction that this may preclude local dialects, by appropriating and redefining Scots as a historical artefact or a symbolic token. In short, apparently positive language attitudes may in fact accelerate language death.