Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Ulster-Scots research in 1959

I came across the following article in the Belfast Telegraph (21 May 1959).  It is about academic research on the speech of the Ulster-Scots and J Y Mather was one of the editors of The Linguistic Atlas of Scotland.  This was published in three volumes in 1975, 1977 and 1985 respectivley but is now back in print.  The three volumes were republished by Routledge on 27 April 2010 and they offer a thorough and comprehensive dialectological study of Lowland Scotland, Orkney and Shetland, Northern Ireland, Northumberland etc.

Braid and Ards talk the 'purest Scottish'
Expert's dialect comparisons

Speech is one of the most evident of Ulster's many links with Scotland.  But which Ulster dialect has the closest connection with Scottish speech?  In the opinion of Mr J Y Mather it is in the Braid area, near Ballymena, with the Ards peninsula a close second. 

Mr Mather, a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, is in County Antrim on a survey of the phonetical construction of dialect words.

He will take his findings back to Edinburgh and record them for further research.

'We deal mainly with the Scottish dialects but we are also interested in the Ulster dialects,' he said at Ballymena.

Armed with a tape recorder, he is travelling round the Glens of Antrim asking people to read a prepared list of words to find out how the phonetical construction differs from district to district.

'It is amazing how the pronunication of a word differs from area to area,' he said.

Mr Mather was over in Ulster two years in the Co Down area and helped to start the Ulster Dialect Dictionary.

In 1952 the University of Edinburgh prepared a questionnaire which they sent to Belfast Field Naturalists' Club.

It gave lists of common objects and the club had to find the dialect name for them.  From the lists returned Ulster was split upinto dialect zones, and this helped in the completion of the dictionary.

Mr Mather is recording all his findings for research purposes.

'We will have all the information in Edinburgh for anyone who wants to go into it in further detail,' he says.

'The next stage after this phonetical survey will be into 'intonation' - the ups and downs the voice makes.

Mr Mather's survey will finish in about three weeks time.


  1. Very interesting to read.
    How is the promised 'Strategy for Indigenous or Regional Minority Languages' coming along? Any indication as to when it will be finished and ready for consultation??

  2. I am waiting to get a resolution in relation to the provision for Ulster-Scots language and culture within the education system. That has delayed the strategy going forward to the Executive. After that it will go out to consultation.

  3. Many thanks. Is it a timescale strategy (10 year, 20 year strategy)? Very interested also to read this (you might want to post it on here too maybe) http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/northern-ireland/survey-highlights-ulsterscots-14925786.html
    I would love to study Ulster Scots literature at Queen's as part of my English course.

    Will there be a separate strategy for Ulster Scots and a separate strategy for Irish?

    There is still a certain amount of hostility towards Irish Gaelic which is a great shame. Is there an aim to depoliticise the Irish language- if so could you outline how the DCAL might depoliticise, enhance and promote it in all sides of society, especially to those in our Protestant community ?

    Thank you!


    Anton T


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