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← WIKITONGUES: Christine speaking Shetlandic

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Showing Revision 5 created 03/20/2019 by connormb.

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    My name is Christine De Luca,
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    but that's my married name,
    and my real name
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    is Christine Pearson. I was born in
    Bressay in Shetland,
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    and then most of my life, my childhood,
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    was spent in Waas
    on the west side of Shetland,
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    a group of islands at the
    very north end of Scotland.
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    Quite isolated from the mainland, really.
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    Waas is called Walls.
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    But it really means
    'inlets of the sea' and it's one of these
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    things that the army making the maps
    got confused with,
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    and they put down the word 'Walls'.
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    So when you say "I come
    from Walls," you feel as if it's
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    sticking in your mouth,
    because you come from Waas.
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    Anyway, that had a fundamental
    effect on me, being brought up in a
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    peerie (tiny) crofting fishing community
    all my childhood.
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    When I came away to Edinburgh,
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    where I live now and I've lived
    for 50 years,
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    I found Edinburgh really
    quite awe-inspiring and quite scary.
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    And of course I had to be careful how I
    spoke, because I had to speak English.
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    We learned to speak English at school,
    of course. We had to be bilingual.
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    And not be rude. But I did miss not being
    able to speak in my own way.
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    I think when I realised later on that the
    chances of me going home was likely
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    very slim, I thought... I found release
    in writing, in Shetland dialect.
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    It was a peerie (tiny) bit difficult
    to write in the dialect,
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    because we never learned
    to read or write it.
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    It was kind of mainly spoken.
    There was a dictionary,
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    there was ways of writing it, but we
    never learned it formally, so we had to
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    kind of... just manage ourselves.
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    But anyway, I started writing subversively
    in Shetland, in Shetland dialect. And then
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    as I wrote more and was moving
    among folk interested in poetry
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    then they became aware of that
    and I found they quite liked it
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    and that was really quite strange.
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    I thought they would
    find it awful queer.
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    So I wrote more and enjoyed doing that.
    And as time is going on
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    and I'm writing more and more,
    I would say now about half and half
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    maybe more than half in Shetland dialect,
    or Shetlandic,
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    and the rest in English.
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    And it's been translated
    into all kinds of languages.
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    Which to me seems
    bizarre and strange.
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    I thought I might read this poem.
    It's mostly in English,
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    because it's about the relationship
    between language and dialect.
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    I had been working away with
    a Nordic poet, an Icelandic poet,
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    and his poem was
    all about a bird, the snipe,
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    and the Icelandic word for the Snipe
    is "hrossagaukur"
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    and the Shetland word for it
    is "hrossgauk".
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    And I had been working away
    with a Norwegian poet,
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    and his poem was called
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    which is about the bird
    called the "heron".
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    And the Shetland word for,
    for the heron is a "hegrie",
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    and I thought that was
    quite interesting.
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    Anyways, it starts off in English.
    It's a kind of a manifesto.
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    Spelling it out
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    It’s the way a cat fawns, a bird flaunts,
    a dog recoils and whimpers;
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    it’s the way a cricket
    chooses from his bag of chirpings
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    or a whale sends a long distance message.
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    It’s the way our fore-fathers moved
    to the forest floor, and in the tonality
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    of their vocal chords said ‘I’ and ‘you’
    in a thousand different ways;
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    picked up the grammar of polemic
    and persuasion,
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    the lexicon of lewd and lovely,
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    the tenses that made sense
    of time past and time to come.
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    It’s the borders, armies and classes
    that cornered the limits of Language:
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    Patois or Pidgin; Colloquial or Kailyard;
    Vernacular or Slang.
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    It’s the famous thesaurus that suggests
    three meanings for dialect –
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    other than
    dialect and language –
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    speciality, unintelligibility,
    and speech defect.
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    It’s the funding that flows
    from decisions;
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    it’s the boundaries and commissions
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    that decide that pub
    is kosher in Norwegian,
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    but only if pronounced püb;
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    dat Heron Heights an Hegrehøyden
    is baith languages
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    but Hegri-heichts is dialect,
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    that "Hrossagaukur" an "Snipe"
    is language
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    but "Hrossgauk" is dialect.
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    Hit’s da passion we hadd
    whin we nön ta wirsels,
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    whin we bal soond fae
    wir bosie inta da heevens
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    whin we lay a wird o love apön een anidder
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    whin we dunna budder
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    wi nairrow definition.
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    A little bit of anger comes out there
    an the end of that poem, I suppose.
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    But that's true, I mean,
    the politics of language and dialect
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    is something I'm interested in,
    and the status.
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    And I think it's important that
    we don't let bearers think
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    that their mother tongue
    is somehow debased language,
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    that we lift them up
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    and encourage them into bilingualism
    where they're comfortable
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    and they can when to expect when,
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    why, and then a tither why
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    and that's something
    I'm very interested in.
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    It's funny that I've just been made
    Edinburgh's "Makar", or Poet Laureate,
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    which I think is really,
    quite astounding, really,
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    given that I'm "kent owre" (known over)
    as a Shetland writer.
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    And that I am quite passionate about it.
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    I suppose "I am bidden" (have dwelled)
    here for fifty year,
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    and I do write in English. But
    I feel it gives me a bit of space
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    to write and to help other folk
    that's come into this city with
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    minority cultures, and thought that,
    maybe feel their language is
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    subservient and not, say, good as.
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    I hope I can maybe help them
    feel good about their mother tongue.
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    Maybe I should just read
    another pretty poem,
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    this one totally in dialect.
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    It's called "Discontinuity"
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    And it's just I suppose,
    a kind of seize the day poem
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    it's just about relationships.