Thursday, 29 December 2011

Nice stanes

It’s been suggestit that Modren humans had the edge ower the Neanderthals in social organisation. Yin aspeck o this is trade, sae it’s interestin tae see fae this article Multiple origins of Bondi Cave and Ortvale Klde (NW Georgia) obsidians and human mobility in Transcaucasia during the Middle and Upper Palaeolithic be François-Xavier Le Bourdonnec et al., that baith Neanderthals an Modrens in whit is noo Georgia (Transcaucasia) had access tae obsidian. Obsidian tuils wis fund in twa caves occupied be Neanderthals an later be Modrens. The authors haes identified yin o the places that the obsidian cam fae. It’s no a prohibitive distance (a maitter o 170 km), bit ither sources are twice that.

They cite seemilar recent results fae Hungary for obsidian and the Czech Republic for rock crystal, an note that “even greater distances are attested for flint in areas where artefact quality raw materials are absent or rare”.

There’s ay some doot whan tryin tae link objecks tae the fowk that made thaim, bit it daes leuk like the Neanderthals wis ontae the obsidian first an the Modrens learnt tae wirk it fae thaim: “Neanderthals and later Modern Humans apparently employed the same behaviour with regard to how they worked their obsidian, which raises the question of an eventual transmission of this tradition.”

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Lalueza-Fox an Gilbert, “Paleogenomics of Archaic Hominins” (2011)

This article, Paleogenomics of Archaic Hominins, is a maist yuisefu an timeous summary o whit we’ve learned fae “palaeogenomics, a discipline that has begun to revolutionise the study of human evolution” by twa prominent researchers in the field, Carles Lalueza-Fox an M. Thomas P. Gilbert.

There a time line o recent findins, includin:

1997 first Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA sequence;
2006  Neanderthal nuclear DNA sequenced;
2007 Neanderthal FOXP2 gene (crucial tae langage) fund tae be identical tae that o modren humans; Neanderthals fund tae hae reid hair an fair skin;
2008 Neanderthals fund tae be O bluid group;
2010 draft o hale Neanderthal nuclear genome;
2011 detection o ancient hominin gene flow intae modren human genomes warldwide (i.e. Neanderthal in aabody ootside Africa, Denisovan in Australasians an Asians, unidentified ancients in Bushmen an Pygmies).

The authors spick aboot methods, includin the byordnar problems o retrievin relevant data fae the backgrun noise o bacterial DNA, an the risk o modren contamination. They summarise whit we ken fae paleontology o the Neanderthal phenotype, includin the wey the shape o the brain developed fae birth tae adult. (They touch briefly forbye on diet an tools.) They discuss whit we can deduce fae genetics aboot the Neanderthal phenotype, population dispersal an nummers, gene flow atween ancients an modrens, an Neanderthal group structure (a faimly group has been typed, an the males are closely relatit, suggestin a patrilocal social structure; on the ither haun, anither study fund continuity in mitochrondrial DNA ower thoosans o years in yae place). 

Researchers are ay siftin through the Neanderthal genome. “Ultimately, our knowledge of the differences between Neanderthals and us will depend on how well we understand the phenotypic effects of these genetic changes in living organisms.” Yaisin the chimpanzee as a reference pynt, researchers hiv leuked for genes whaur Neanderthals seem tae hae kept an aulder primate form an modrens hae diverged. “The list comprises genes associated with various functions, including metabolism, cranial development, pigmentation, skin physiology, cognition and even sperm movement.” Chynges speceefic tae Neanderthals are faur harder tae pin doon, especially wi a totty sample, sin they could ay be mirages caused be damage or error.

We can leuk forrat tae excitin findins as researchers in this field set aboot the “sequencing of genomes from anatomically modern human samples that date to the Upper Palaeolithic, although this approach will face substantial contamination issues.”

Monday, 19 December 2011

Ancient dalliances

Dienekes screives aboot the divergence o African populations an the lave, an whether it can be pit doon tae Neanderthal admixture. This is a yuisefu post wi links back tae his earlier screivins on the subjeck.

It was kinna surprisin, richt eneuch, whan the Neanderthal element turnt oot tae be richt through aa populations ootside Africa. Dienekes ootlines his ain theory - that (whether or no there's ony Neanderthal admixture as weill), the same data cud be pyntin tae somethin deifferent - somethin aboot Africans raither nor non-Africans - namely admixture wi yin or mair ancient human lineages in Africa.
Dienekes' reference for this is Hammer et al's paper Genetic evidence for archaic admixture in Africa.

Essential tae Dienekes' interpretation is his ither norie: that modren humans originatit in an dispersed fae the Arabian Peninsula - in ither wirds INTAE Africa.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Mair reader feedback

Bethia Rayne reviewed the English version on Amazon:
"Broken Fences reminds me a lot of the writing of Margaret Atwood. When you pick it up you think science fiction, when you put it down you realise what a lot it tells us about the past and a possible future, which may happen quite easily, there is nothing too far fetched here. Well researched with a good knowledge of science and current politics; it paints a world you are quite sure you would rather not live in given a choice but with still an opportunity to escape to a time before belief systems be they science based or spiritual took over the knowledge contained in human beings from our beginnings on earth, our emotions and our instincts. I would recommend this to the reader who likes an intelligent read, different from the norm but which also has romance, adventure and a very considered and realistic answer to an age old mystery."

Seumas Simpson writes, I had been meaning to email you to say how fascinating I find Braken Fences. It is interesting on various levels: the language, of course; the concept of the fundamentalists and the rationalists dividing the earth; the Neanderthals; the picture of the roof of the world; and the story itself. I am enjoying it hugely ... I congratulate Mr Kurtoğlu.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Novel on Amazon

The Inglis version o ma novel, Broken Fences, is available on Amazon, bit the Scots version, Braken Fences, is gaunnae be a coupla wicks yit, because o "technical issues" - maybes they cannae mak oot whitna leid it is. Ah'm pittin thegither Kindle versions, an Ah howp tae hae baith available richt suin.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Neanderthal biggin

Mair evidence o Neanderthals yaisin mammoth bones tae bigg shelters. This paper describes a site in the Ukraine, the earliest fun up tae noo. 

Mammoth banes seems tae be a subsitute for wuid in steppe environments. We ken Neanderthals yaised wuid – hafts for stane tuils, obviously – bit it’s no a material ye’d expeck tae survive. Sae it’s fascinatin tae see this find fae a Barcelona site, a cast o a wuiden spatula, reconstructit by the archaeologists fae the Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social. Julien Riel-Salvatore pits it in context here.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Neanderthal hybrids

Ah believe this is the paper reportit in the press this week (e.g. in the Telegraph), though in a gey distortit wey. It’s ‘Modeling Human Ecodynamics and Biocultural Interactions in the Late Pleistocene of Western Eurasia’ by C. Michael Barton, Julian Riel-Salvatore et al, in the journal Human Ecology (online preview).

The take-away message for the journos seems tae be that the Neanderthals were awfa clever, an therefore parteecularly desirable as mates. Oor Neanderthal correspondent wadna dispute that, naiterally, bit whit the authors are sayin in fact, is juist that there nae need tae assume that the Neanderthals was in ony wey inferior tae the Modrens.

The study is in twa pairts. The first establishes (yaisin the evidence o stane tuils – it’s ingenious, bit Ah’ll no gang intae the details) that baith Neanderthals an Modrens chynged the wey they muved aboot “over the course of the Late Pleistocene”. Ower time, baith lots got less inclined tae flit their hale camp, an mair inclined tae sattle in yin place, sendin oot huntin baunds. Thir mobile pairties wis able tae cover a muckler area, drawin on wider resources, as the climate got harsher. The pynt is that this made it likelier that the twa lots wad rin intae ilk ither.

The saicont pairt o the study rins computer simulations tae see whit wad happen tae the smaaer population o Neanderthals as they interactit wi the muckler population o Modrens. Nae prizes for guessin. It’s extinction by hybridisation.

The authors daes briefly discuss the verra smaa proportion o Neanderthal genes in the Modren population. This cud come aboot simply by hybrids breedin back intae the larger Modren population. Bit they mention forbye that wi ither mammal species there aften a situation whaur hybrids is mair viable breedin back in yin direction nor in the ither. This is pretty much the scenario that Braken Fences envisages.

Friday, 11 November 2011

New beuk: Scotland as Science Fiction

Juist readin John Corbett’s chaipter ‘Past and Future Language: Matthew Fitt and Iain M. Banks’ in Caroline McCracken-Flesher’s new beuk Scotland as Science Fiction

Verra insightfu treatment o Matthew Fitt’s But n Ben A-Go-Go an Iain M. Banks’ Feersum Endjinn in the contexts baith o science fiction’s play wi langage, an o modrenism. In the case o But n Ben A-Go-Go this relates tae attempts be writers sic as MacDiarmid tae separate the Scots leid fae its nostalgic and backart-leukin associations.

As Corbett says o But n Ben,

To project a vibrant Scots-speaking community into a fictional future is … an act of will that is both political and counter-intuitive.

He comes tae the conclusion that
If Scots as a literary medium is to survive then it must be as something other than the unique expression of the psychology of one people.

Ah howp Braken Fences can contribute tae that.

Ah howp tae that there’s some depth tae the multiculturalism o ma characters – whan yin o ma characters is supposed tae come fae a certain culture, Ah’ve ettlet tae shaw foo that culture informs their warld view - includin the inventit mind style o the Neanderthals.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Neanderthal Mind

Verra interestin an convincin airticle by Julia A. Sherman, Evolutionary origin of bipolar disorder-revised:EOBD-R’ in the journal ‘Medical Hypotheses’ (2011). It turns oot that there a connection atween bipolar disorder (whit yist tae be cried manic depression), seasonal affective disorder, an a cauld-adaptit body shape. Aa thir is peened doon tae a certain gene (EOBD-R).

Circadian rhythms in folk wi bipolar disorder is seemilar tae rhythms in beasts that hibernate. Maist intriguin tae me is the norie that the relevant gene cud hae come fae the Neanderthals. It wad been an adaptation tae life in a cauld climate.
… the question is asked, “How could Neandertals survive the winters if they were all depressed? How could they go out to hunt if they were depressed?” … … bipolar individuals have the capacity to switch out of depression during emergencies. … … during the Pleistocene hunting during the winter was often a fruitless, life-threatening activity. Hunters were well advised to save their energy for a better day. Neandertals were known to store dried meat, but as anthropologists have described, during the winters Neandertals did often verge on starvation … The argument of the … hypothesis is that Neandertals would have been even worse off without the bipolar adaptations. Imagine the winter scenario for a group of people, not depressed, living in close quarters for several months. People would become bored and likely to fight over sex partners and food. Some would impulsively venture to the outside never to return. The increased energy expenditures, social conflict, and loss of life seem less adaptive than the scenario of winter depression.
In the mean time the search aye continues for somethin  special aboot the modren mind, somethin exceptional tae explain oor predominance an render it inevitable afore the event. At the Gene Expression blog on Discover Magazine, Razib Khan haes been chowin this ower, ever an anon. He questions whether there haes tae be a single 'point mutation' that made wis modren. An e'en gin there is somethin in oor genes that gied us the edge ower the Neanderthals, it michtna come oot in aabody, bit juist in the antrin charismatic leader or aff-the-wa genius. There's interestin discussion in the comments tae his posts an aa, wi a hantle fowk inclinet hae pit it doon tae demography - a creetical mass that allooed the transmeesion o knawledge, specialisation, an organisation.

In contrast tae Khan's thochtfu haunlin o the subjeck, there a gey dire airticle in the New Scientist (staundards haes been faain there for a whilie), 'Different minds' by Kate Ravilious. For maist fowk the story is that Neanderthals had forms o the ilk genes that causes autism an schizophrenia in modrens, genes that's aften associatit wi creativity an lateral thinkin. Some fowk, leukin tae heeze up the Neanderthals, has suggestit that we got thir genes fae the Neanderthals, an sae the Neolithic Revolution is doon tae hybrid vigour efter we mellit wi thaim. For Ravilious on the ither haun - yeukie tae haud doon the Neanderthals - the pynt is that
Neanderthals carried subtly different forms of the AUTS2, CADPS2 and NRG3 genes compared with modern humans
Whaur her airticle really faas doon, though, is the suggestion that modren humans war uniquely 'tolerant' o fowk tinged wi mad genius, an sae we cam tae dominate. There isnae a scart o evidence for this, an it sticks in ma thrapple as a blaud o preachy political correctness, shamelessly smearin an opponent as intolerant on the basis o naethin but self-congratulatory sanctimoniousness. Flame aff.

Clonin Neanderthals

Fact is catchin up fast on fiction - airticle here aboot the ethics o clonin Neanderthals - reckont tae be aboot ten year fae bein feasible. Bad, bad, idea. It wad be the Truman Show wi addit mental health probs.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Hello, Hye-jin Yu

Somebody visitit this blog fae South Korea! Hello, Hye-jin Yu, Ah wint ye for a Neanderthal! Ah loved your high-pitched rant in The Warrior.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Gruntin Neanderthals

A frein draws ma attention tae this story fae 2008 aboot Neanderthal speech. Robert McCarthy haes biggit a model o the Neanderthal vocal tract and synthesised the vowel ‘ee’. The New Scientist coverage o McCarthy’s conference paper quotes him as saying “They would have spoken a bit differently. They wouldn't have been able to produce these quantal vowels that form the basis of spoken language.” Later in the airticle this has become, “Though subtle, the linguistic difference would have limited Neanderthal speech.” The Telegraph picked up the story but drapt the New Scientist’s coverage o the discussion, in parteecular Erik Trinkaus’s view: "Ultimately what is important is not the anatomy of the mouth but the neuronal control of it."

Ah had tae gang an leuk up 'quantal vowels' (the abstract o this airticle be K. N. Stevens did the job) - apparently there aboot hauf a dizzen vowel souns that dinnae shaw muckle variation fae ane speaker tae anither (despite big differs in the vocal tract atween the sexes and accordin tae age). The idea is that thir are kinna calibration pyints for unnerstaunin speech.

Oor Neanderthal correspondent comments:

The idea that we have a prob with this is so much mammoth poo.

a) the scientists have synthesised one vowel so far - the rush to relegate us to football fan status on the basis of such fragmentary evidence is wholly typical of the prejudice against us, but we say, "Nya nya, sticks and stones," because we don't do victimhood;
b) there are modern languages that get by with two vowels, and some linguists argue there are languages with one (highly variable - uncalibrated!) vowel. Who needs vowels? We have more consonants than anybody!
c) we calibrate on a sliding scale - easy peasy - we have bigger brains than anybody!
d) and we wrestle woolly rhinos!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

First reader reviews

It's been a busy wee while, sendin oot review copies an copies tae freins. Feedback is comin in, an Ah'm chuffed tae bits.

Chris Robinson on Lulu says, “Whitna braw read! A richt page-turner but thochtie tae. Guid tae hae anither heich-quality novel in sic fine Scots.”

Sheena Blackhall (personal communication) says, “The linguistics are very skilfully handled. This book has been published in both English and Scots. I read it in Scots and found the Scots easy to ready with no need for a glossary. ... It makes use of  myths and archetytpes and is a stunning insight into the human condition, and the interwoven lives of the protagonists, leading to a very surprising conclusion. Altogether, it makes compulsive reading.”

Stephen Hamilton on Facebook says, “Thank you for writing a book that is original, engrossing and lyrical. Folks, get it in Scots or in English, but get it if you have any interest in future fiction!”

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Virtually launched

Braken Fences an Broken Fences are baith available noo fae
If ye enjoy the beuk, ony halp wi publeecity wad be really valuable an gritly appreciatit.

Whit ye can dae:

Rate the beuk at lulu
(search be title).
In a couple months it'll be on Amazon an aa (rate/review).

Screive a review. 
Some o ye will can review for leeterary or linguistic magazines or journals. Forbye, onybody can post their ain reviews at thir reader review sites:

Some sites (includin lulu) mak ye register tae yaise thaim, but it juist taks a meenit.

Facebook likes, Google pluses, links tae the blog – mony a pickle maks a muckle.
Nou hark, sirris, there is nae mair adae,
wha list attend, gies audience, and draw near. (Gavin Douglas)

Sunday, 9 October 2011


This is hoo Ah imagine Beatrice - Nutan is ane o the bonniest actresses ever.

A reader's impression o Raggle

William Twycross sens me his impression o Raggle. Raggle's got his hair cut short here (bein a practical Auld bastart). Ah imagine Raggle smilin an lauchin a lot, bit William has noticed that he has a gey serious side an aa, an is a dangerous man whan riled.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Braken Fences proof copy preview

This is the hale novel Braken Fences in yin .pdf file for onybody that wad like tae read it. Facebook likes, comments, an links fae ither blogs maist walcome.

Bit o a re-think on price (an mony thanks tae freins that've advised me on this). Leuks like Ah need tae alloo a trade merk-up tae get the beuk on Details later.

Mair details, an info aboot e-book version, whan Ah've seen the final proofs an released the novel intae the wild.

Onybody willin tae screive an online review? Hae that in mind while ye're readin - Ah'll pit up a list o some reader review sites later on.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Chaipter 2

By owerwhelmin public demand (thanks Chris, Stephen, Margaret an William), here's Chaipter 2. Doonload fae the 'File' menu as afore. Howp yese enjoy it.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Whit for daes adults read bairns’ fiction?

I saw a newspaper airticle the ither day that raised an interestin question: whit wey daes adults like readin bairns’ fiction? I felt that it didna really win tae an answer, an it’s been botherin me. Nae doot the airticle’s a gey ower-simplified accoont o Louise Joy’s thinkin, bit the tak-hame answer for the journalist wis that “such books represent a ‘symbolic retreat from the disappointment of reality’”, an there wis mention o some of the hamely attractions o the warld o The Wind in the Willows, amangst ithers.

Ah wad hae been leukin in a deiferent place masel. A lot o modren fiction for adults is gey repellent, sae Ah’m no surprised gin some fowk is repelled. There a norie aboot that proper fiction for grown-up fowk haes tae be edgy and push agin the boondaries. An as the boondaries has gien wey, bit the pushin haes aye continued, we’ve gotten ontae some gey roch grun. It seems naitral tae readers noo tae be invitit tae spen thair leesure oors inside the heid o a psychopath, or lattin a braken, self-obsessed character greet aa ower the reader’s shoother.

Ah cannae think whaur, but Ah’m shair Ah’ve read an interview wi Alexander McCall Smith whaur he was bein made tae defen hissel for bein sae oot o touch wi the Zeitgeist – because he daured screive aboot daicent, weill-faured fowk gaun aboot thair ilka day lifes in a douce, neebourlike wey. An it’s no as gin he avoids the daurk side o life - in his ‘No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency' novels there’s AIDS, an there’s the stealin o bairns tae be killt or mutilatit for tradeetional medicine (muti). Bit the pynt o view is that o the fowk warslin agin sic things; there nae rowin in the glaur for the thrawart satisfaction o’t.

Maybes it’s a sign o a ceevilisation in decline – the circenses o ancient Rome. Maybes it’s a thrawn rebellion agin the feminisation o modren life, the enforced ‘niceness’, the saft totalitarianism that will fling ye in the jyle for insultin (selectit) neebours, bit ignore a neebourhood campaign o terror be teenage gangs. The time is oot o jynt, an gin the prevailin tid is anger, maybes anger fins it sootherin tae imagine tortures an nightmares.

Bit spickin for masel, Ah’m no surprised gin mony fowk wad raither spen thair time wi fictive characters that are maybes imperfeck human beins, bit are daein thair best tae uphaud thair humanity agin aa adversity. Ah suspeck that’s the attraction o bairns’ fiction whan ye get richt doon til’t – basic human daicency.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Invitation - Preview o Chaipter 1

Ye're waarmly invitit tae doonload a preview o the novel - Chaipter 1 Lost on the wrang side o the Border. (Gang tae the 'File' menu on the tap left o the Google Docs page.)

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Cover comin alang.

Thon's the artwork for the cover digitised. (Copyright Shona Grant.) Nearly ready tae roll.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Playin tae the strinths o the leid

Ah was interestit tae read Bruce Eunson’s thochts on yaisin Inglis alangside Shetlandic in his translation o a Chekhov story (the story itsel is comin oot in pairts on his blog, an a braw piece it is). He whammles the tradeetion o yaisin Inglis for narration an Scots for dialogue, pyntin oot that: “In modern day Shetland the majority of people speak a mixture of dialect and English, switching between the two over and over again throughout the day. A proper illustration of this is yet to be portrayed by a Shetland dialect writer.” 

Sae his narration is in Shetlandic, bit the characters spicks maistly Inglis, faain intae Shetlandic whiles. Ye get yaised wi the switchin, an it seems naitral eneuch. Some o the switches glegly merks a subtle chynge, e.g. in attention (awa fae the lassie an towart her dug), or in her view o hersel:
“… I don’t know myself what I am doing,” shö said, “Shetland fokk spaek aboot gittin tangled up wi an evil spirit. …”
Bruce says tae, in his spick on owersettin Rimbaud, that he enjoys the saur o a challenge that “pushes dialect down a road it hasn’t been down before, but certainly has the capacity for”.

His thochts, an whit he’s duin wi the twa leids in his owersettin o the Chekhov, certes rung a bell wi me, because Ah’ve duin somethin the likes o that in ma ain suin-tae-kythe novel, Braken Fences.

Be the time o the novel, China an India cairries the wecht o ceevilisation at least as muckle as the Anglosphere. The ongauns taks place in Central Asia, wi a clanjamfrie o characters wi wull deiferent backgruns, spickin deiferent leids. The narrative is in Scots, bit whan fowk is spickin Inglis (or Hindi) Ah gie thair wirds in Inglis. Thir fowk comes fae urban backgruns an haes a modren sensibeelity – they’re yaised wi objecks an ideas that wisna yit inventit or named whan Scots wis a fu-haundit leid boun for aa purposes. Thair wirds wad come oot wersh or thrapplet in Scots.

Bit yince the main characters is plankit doon ahint a Parteetiont Border on the wrang side o modernity, they faa amang fowk that leeves simpler lives, maistly concernt wi meetin thair immediate needcessities, in a mair haun-made warld, wi a short supply line fae the fiel or the hunt tae the buird. Thon is a settin that Scots can cantily express. Ah’m ettlin tae publish the beuk in Inglis as weill, bit Ah div think the Scots wirks better – because Ah’ve got that contrast atween the hi-tech, bureaucratic, corporate warld o Inglis an the haurder, tyaavin, organic warld o Scots. Sin that’s the emotional hert o the story, the narrative gings wi Scots an aa.

Forbye there are Neanderthals, an Ah’ve got the maist byordinar cheek – Ah’ve made thaim spick a kin o Shetlandic.

Thursday, 15 September 2011


As somebody sayed earlier this year, “The right has won the economic battle, the left has won the cultural battle and the centre has won the political battle.” An the left (Marxism, existentialism) rejecks the norie of identity cleekit tae place. The indwaller o twinty generations’ staunin haes nae mair claim on the hainit walth o a place nor the new-come ferrylouper, an nae mair richt tae decide whit bude tae be hained an haundit doon in the future. The left sees national, regional an ethnic tradeetions as reactionary. It haes an insteenctive mislippenin o sicna ongauns whan it funs thaim hingin on in wastern society (though it cuiters e’en the maist barbaric aspecks o fremit cultures, bit lat that flee stick tae the waa).

Sicna wey o thinkin pits local dialecks an e’en a national leid lik Scots in the caufie’s stall. A EU report twa-three year syne concludit that there wis nae guid reason for the dwinin o leids sic as Breton an Sardinian – naither in-migration nor inter-mairriage:
the decline derives from a rejection of the language associated with a negative identity that links with the relegation of the language and the language group into a world which is conceived of as ‘traditional’(‘Euromosaic: The production and reproduction of the minority language groups in the European Union’, ISBN 92-827-5512-6).
Modernity haes a horror o bein auld-farrant, mired in the glaur, afflicktit wi nostalgie de la boue. Economically tae – aathing that is free or hame-made, aareadies staunin an no needin for to be dung doon an biggit up again, is nae wey profitable.

There a German wird Heimat, meanin ‘hame, yer native place’, wi un-set-owerable connotations o the kintraside, village life, bairntime an community. The norie is fylit for us acause it was haused be the Nazis (Blut und Boden, bluid an muild). Nanetheless the romantic norie o Heimat spicks tae a profund feeling o the human hert – the tendency tae grund emotions an powerfu memories in a place. Paul Devereux screives, in The Sacred Place:
place becomes an agent that provokes our sensibilities, that can stir the seeds of spirituality within us. … Despite its widespread occurrence, it is a sense for which there is little cultural currency in our modern world … and such experiences tend to remain private (p.20).
Or as a poet pits it:
An is this chaumer really a chaumer, or a bosie,
An fit is aneth the windae: a street or years?
(Sheena Blackhall, ‘An Owresett in Scots o a poem by Ivan V Lalie, frae an Inglis translation by Charles Simic: Places We Love’, The Barley Queen)

We spick aboot ‘ruits’ acause oor childhood memories is that strangly yokit tae places, the places whaur we first entert intae consciousness o wirsels. The soon o local vyces is pairt o the sense o place. Nae wunner that Scots is that evocative for fowk that grew up wi’t.

The faimily’s sleepin sae Ah winna gang rakin amo ma beuks. Ah tak doon whit comes nearest tae haun tae mak ma pynt better nor Ah can screive, an shair eneuch fun this:
Ower the slow blak watter o the sheugh, an awa
Ower the sookin fog an gruppin ling,
The boag streetchin oot aheid, far
An far
(from James Fenton, ‘Dinnis’, On Slaimish)
an this:
Ma kin around me, leevin yet, or ghaists,
ma mither’s roses, yella, rid an cream;
a thousand simmer waddins in their scent.
(Rab Wilson, ‘A Sonnet Oan Ma Birthday’, A Map for the Blind)
Bairntime, cauf grun, hame, poetry, dialeck – thon’s Heimat.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Style tips for screivin in Scots: avoidin latinity

Aabody that ettles tae screive in Scots kens foo important it is tae wyle disteinctive Scots wirds (an no juist wird forms that haes near Inglis cognates). Naebody wints tae draw doon Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s creiticism o a Scots that is nocht but a “spray o apostrophes” (an leain oot the actual apostrophes daesnae mak nae differ).

Here are twa-three thochts on avoidin the peat hag o Latinate wirds shared wi Inglis.

We canna expeck tae redd mair nor a proportion o latinate wirds fae oor texts. Bit unless we’re thirled tae technical terminology be the natur o the subjeck in haun, we can aften fin an alternative, mair hamelt, wirdin. There micht no be yae single hamely wird tae replace a latinate yin – that’s whit wey the latinate wirds wis borraed in the first place – bit gaun back a step in the writin process tae the pynt whaur we’re ettlin tae turn conceps intae wirdins, we whiles fin that, if there nae single hamely wird, there micht juist the same be an eidiomatic, proverbial or metaphorical wey o expressin the idea.

Whitever oor lealty tae Scots, intelligibeility cannae be aathegither pit tae the horn. Vocabular that’s like tae be deificult for the reader bude tae be introduced intae transparent contexts. In ither wirds, the surroondin text sud mak the deificult wird guessable. Gin it’s drappit in for its ain sake an no made clear, for the reader’s sake naethin that follaes had better depend on kennin whit it meant. Yin wey o winnin the necessar transparency is tae gie the problem wird a marra as yin o a pair o synonyms (a favourite ploy o Sir Walter Scott), the ither bein a mair fameiliar – e’en an Inglis – wird. Similes are anither wey o slippin in Scots wirds, e.g. there mony variations on “no worth a X”, whaur it haurdly maitters whether X is a weill-kent wird lik docken or an obsolete yin lik doit.

The tradeitional walth o the leid offers  mony weys tae embellish Scots writin, sae that it can be heezit abuin the everyday athoot needin tae be latinate. Hale blauds o the vocabular haes been owercome be chynges in oor wey o life, an the wirds are kistit in the dictionars, bit they keep on desertin the kirkyaird. Whiles they bide on in eidioms an feigurative senses that can aye be drawn on. Fowk aften haes a passive knawledge o vocabular weill ayont their ain usage – fae the likes o bairn-rhymes an sangs, includin, o coorse, the muckle sangs an the wark o Burns. Likewise dounricht allusion an quotation can be yaised. Thon alloos moribund wirds tae be brocht intae the text alang wi a bittie helpfu context.

Scots wirds maitter: they gie us disteinctive weys o peenin doon oor thochts. The affcome micht be profun, or it micht juist saut the text i a wey at maks it mair tuithsome tae the reader, bit as Hugh MacDiarmid famously pit it, Scots offers “a vast unutilised mass of lapsed observation made by minds whose attitude to experience and whose speculative and imaginative tendencies were quite different from any possible to ... anglicised Scots today.”

Style tips for scrievin in Scots: checklist for Search an Replace

This links tae a workbook wi ma personal checklist for translatin fae Inglis intae Scots yaisin 'Search an Replace' tae get the usual stuff oot the wey. Ye're walcome tae yaise it (at yer ain risk!). The text in the boxes haes got kinna sned aff - click in the box tae read the text in the formula bar across the tap.

Ye can download a copy in Excel format here, an o coorse ye can chynge it aboot tae suit yer ain preferences.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Style tips for scrievin in Scots: translatin fae Inglis yaisin ‘Search an replace’

Gin we’re honest, mony o’s likely funs it easier whiles tae marshall wir thochts an get thaim doon on paper in Inglis, than translate thaim intae Scots efter. Ah confess Ah dae, whan the subjeck is yin that streetches the leid. Easier tae concentrate on clauchtin haud o the sense, an get that sortit, an than Ah can think on sayin whit Ah wintit tae say in guid Scots. Ah’ll come back anither time tae the question o guid Scots. In this note, Ah’m gaun tae knap aboot a cheat that’ll turn yer Inglis intae gey wersh Scots, juist as a first go aff.

Ah’ll assume ye’re yaisin Word for Windows. Gin ye’re a Mac yaiser ye’re probably cleverer nor me onywey – wirk it oot for yersel.

Sae lat’s say ye hae a blaud in Inglis that ye’re wintin tae caa ower intae Scots, for whitever reason. Ye’re no gaunnae warstle through thon chyngin ilka ‘gh’ intae a ‘ch’, are ye? Naw, ye’re gaunnae yaise ‘Search an replace’. 

Bit div ye daur tae hit ‘Replace all’? Weill, gin ye’re canny, ye micht e’en be able for tae dae that whiles. Juist be shair yer item is unique in yer blaud – for instance, ye micht yaise ‘Replace all’ tae chynge ‘I’ tae ‘Ah’ (makin shair tae tick ‘Find whole words only’), bit gin ye’ve got ‘I’ as a Roman numeral (likes o ‘Warld War I’) ye’ll pu that in an aw.

Think inpits an ootpits – certain chynges haes tae be taen in order, sae that ye dinna, for example, mak three hunner new ‘oo’ wirds juist afore ye wis gaun tae chynge aa yer ‘oo’ wirds tae ‘ui’. An try no tae get intae the seetuation whaur ye hae tae track doon monsters o yer ain creation, e.g. gin ye chynge aa yer 'most' strings tae 'maist', ye'll mebbies create 'almaist'. Better tae chynge 'almost' tae 'aamaist' as a first step.

Mind oot for homographs likes o ‘tae’ (to) an ‘tae’ (toe). Gin ye hae tae gae back a wee for ony reason, ye can ‘Un-do’ (ctrl+Z), bit a hantle muves furder on, an ye loss that option. Gin ye ettle than tae flit ilka ‘tae’ back tae ‘to’ ye’ll get yer taes catched in yer ain trap. Ah tend tae save the document gey aften, than Ah can backtrack, if necessar, be re-openin it.

Spickin for masel, Ah haenae gotten muckle advantage fae the ‘Match case’ option. Gin ye’ve a place-name, say ‘Black Law’, an ye wint tae lea that ‘Black’ at the same time ye’re chyngin ither ‘black’ tae ‘bleck’, ye can yaise it for that. But mind if ‘black’ kythes at the stert o a sentence, ye’ll miss it (cos o the capital letter).

Wildcairds. Ah, wildcairds. They dinnae eywis dae whit ye think they’ll dae. Or at ony rate, they dinnae eywis dae whit Ah think they’ll dae. Ah cannae spick for Mac yaisers. Ah tend tae juist keep it simple:

• an asterisk * stauns for ony string o characters, sae ye can fun wirds regairdless o their endin;

ye can specify the en o wirds, e.g. (ing)> means ‘ing’ juist at the en of wirds; likewise (ed)> is ‘ed’ at the en o wirds, etc.

Gin ye’re searchin yaisin wildcairds, there a box tae tick (‘Use wildcards’) in the dialogue box. Dinnae copy the wildcairds intae the replacement text – they’ll prent!

Whiles it’s needfu tae mak exceptions tae a chynge, e.g. ye micht wint tae chynge ‘ing’ at the en of wirds tae ‘in’ except for the wird ‘thing’. There a wildcaird meanin ‘not’ but it disnae interack yuisfully wi ‘replace’. Ah fun the easiest wey is tae temporarily pit bye the exception. For instance, ye could chynge the hale word ‘thing’ tae ‘thinw’ or some ither byordnar string, mak yer ‘ing’ chynge, than chynge aw ‘thinw’ back tae ‘thing’.

Ye micht wint tae keep yer spellin technology-freinly. In parteecular, ye can replace ‘oo’ (e.g. ‘moon’) wi ‘ui’ but no wi ‘u’ + consonant + ‘e’.


• eywis save the file afore hittin ‘Replace all’, than ye can ay gang back an stert again fae a kent pynt;

be awaur o chynges that haes tae be duin in a certain order;

• mak a list o the chynges ye’re gaun tae mak i the order ye’re gaun tae mak them (or halp yersel tae mines, ye’re walcome, Ah’ll pit it up in ma neist post), an tick them aff;

• afore ilk chynge, hing on an check whether ye’re wintin ‘Find whole words only’;

• afore hittin ‘Replace all’ be shair yer item is unique in yer blaud.