Scots and Nynorsk: A comparison of two language movements’ struggle for recognition in higher education

Activity: Talk / Presentation / Podcast / WebinarInvited talk


Invited presentation for Edinburgh University's School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences - Linguistics and English Language. "Language in Context" seminars. The Language in Context (LinC) seminars are fortnightly meetings at which we discuss language in its many guises and in the multifarious contexts in which it is used. We are primarily concerned with the various ways in which language influences and is influenced by the structural, discursive, socio-political, institutional or interpersonal environments in which they exist.

As demands for independence continue to be made in Scotland, a growing Scots language movement attempts to gain recognition for Scots as an independent language as opposed to a variety of English (Unger 2013). These attempts include calls for recognition in the higher education sector. Although not formally linked to the independence movement, the Scots language movement has interesting parallels in the Nynorsk movement which emerged as Norway gained independence in the years preceding and following 1905 (Almenningen et al. 2003, Linn 2014, Hyvik, Millar and Newby 2016). This paper explores the early phases of the struggle to have Scots recognised as suitable for use in schools and higher education in Scotland and draws parallels to the similar struggles faced by the Nynorsk movement c. 1884-1939. The paper will show how language rights in schools and higher education are linked and interdependent, how the early phase of bringing Scots and Nynorsk into universities in both cases was driven by pioneers, and explore the shared ideologies of the Scots and Nynorsk movements.
Period10 Dec 2021
Held atUniversity of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • Scots language
  • Nynorsk
  • Norwegian language
  • Sociolinguistics