Soillse conference 2016 Small Language Planning: Communities in Crisis

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Paper title: Scots and Nynorsk: The story of two small languages with big neighbours Abstract: Scotland is currently going through some exciting sociolinguistic transformations, involving not only Gaelic, but also Scots. This paper will focus on Scots as an emerging modern language, and compare it to the story of the Nynorsk language, which was in a very similar situation 150 years ago. Both are vernacular languages drawn from a range related of local dialects, which have made or are in the process of making the leap to becoming a fully elaborated language suitable for all social functions. A particular challenge for lies in overcoming perceptions of relative prestige in relation to a larger neighbour: English and Danish. New initiatives in Scots language planning are currently emerging both from above and from the grassroots: Education Scotland is bringing Scots to schools through 4 Scots Language Co-ordinators. A Scots 'Scriever' has been appointed to produce texts in Scots. In newspapers and online fora, Scots is becoming popular. Politically and in terms of language planning, this situation resembles that of Norway in the 19th century, where the Nynorsk movement emerged as a break away from the political and linguistic dominance of Denmark. Current developments in Scotland can thus be compared to those of Norway 150 years ago, and the story of Nynorsk language planning and Nynorsk activism from the 19th century until today may hold valuable lessons for the future of Scots in Scotland.
Period6 Jun 20168 Jun 2016
Event typeConference
LocationGlasgow, United KingdomShow on map


  • Scots language
  • Norwegian language
  • Language planning
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Minority languages