A new survey of local secondary students by Derry City Council has found a fair degree of both use and support amongst pupils from both communities for the Irish language while providing scant evidence for the existence of the so-called Scots-Ulster language (the dialect of English invented by certain fringe elements from the British ethnic minority in Ireland which has contributed, amongst other things, this gem as the official term for children with intellectual special needs: “wee daftie weans”).

None of the children surveyed from either community could speak Ulster-Scots and only a handful of respondents said anyone in their family could speak it either. 88% stated that they had not heard or were unaware of hearing Ulster-Scots in relation to music, 62% said they hadn’t seen Ulster-Scots on road signs, 57 % said they hadn’t seen Ulster-Scots in place names and 56% said they hadn’t seen Ulster-Scots in use by politicians or in any publications. The majority, 55%, believed that Ulster-Scots should not be treated as a language in the same way Irish or English is.

In relation to the Irish language 72% of those who spoke and read Irish came from Irish-speaking families. Meanwhile 64% of all students believed the language was relevant for Roman Catholics and Protestants, another 64% had encountered the Irish language in classes, 46% said they had heard Irish in conversational use, 50% had seen it in use in publications and 35% had seen it on the internet. 84% of all pupils were aware of the influence of the Irish language on people’s names and place names.

I’m awaiting the details of the raw data from the survey and will publish them here when I can.

In the meantime a new website, Connect 3, has been launched by the city council in Derry based on the results of the poll to provide further resources for students and teachers engaging in language learning and training in the region.

6 comments on “Minding Your Language In Derry

  1. Ulster Scots may be the dialect of English but it certianly wasn’t invented. Although what certain fringe elements from the British ethnic minority claim to be Ulster Scots may be invented. Its not surprising that a survey in Derry found scant evidence for the existence of Scots. Derry isn’t a Scots-speaking city. Learn about the real Mackay.


    • Thanks for the Comment, Alan. While I can appreciate aspects of the case put forward by those who argue that Scots or Scots English has branched off enough from its early English origins to qualify as a language in its own right rather than a simple dialect (c.f. Dutch and German or Danish and Norwegian), I can see no merits in the arguments for “Ulster-Scots” which rest on a claim that it is a distinct language such as English or Irish.

      There is simply too little evidence for it existence outside of some temporary, and entirely historical, Scots English influences, not too mention the politically motivated inventions of modern “Ulster nationalists” dating to the 1970s and ’80s, which have been latterly embraced by some British Unionist politicians in the north-east of the country to block Irish language rights or equality.

      However, in fairness, I’ll go through your site with an open mind (well, I’ll try!). As I said one can see the evolution of a distinct form of English in Scotland from the Medieval period onward but it is difficult to see that in an Irish context, and most certainly in the last two centuries.

      I saw a claim several years ago that 95% of “Ulster-Scots” words are made up of direct borrowings from contemporary Scots or are simple inventions and the remaining 5% can often be explained as simply corrupt or dialectal English terms of dubious provenance. I’ll see if I can track down the original article but I think it might have been in a printed publication.


  2. It’s a class thing! Not sure how many in NI want to identify with it. The Ulster Scots dialect/language is linked to rural? working class protestants and the Lowland Scottish dialect . It appears to have been invented to balance out funding and make working class protestants feel less marginalized culture- and society- wise. Nothing wrong with that and nothing wrong with extending links to Scotland, particularly as independence beckons .


    • Interesting, Anne. But many of those who are “experts” in the language, those driving it, are more urban than rural and middle class than working. The rest may be true but whose benefit is all this for? Working-class Protestants, Unionists, British minority, or the rather odder “Ulster nationalists”?

      Thanks for Commenting.


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