Heriot Watt University

Politics of Language in Scotland

Tales of the standard and non-standard in Scotland

Dr James Costa
Department of Linguistics and Scandinavian Studies
University of Oslo

Wednesday, 11 November, 3pm [room tba]

This presentation will question whether analyzing social issues in terms of regimes of language can refine how we problematize and understand language in society. It will draw on ongoing fieldwork on minority language standardization in Scotland to ask how the study of language regimentation is a way to productively link language ideologies, practices and political economy and to understand how ideologies are organized and by whom in order to shape moral orders, i.e. mutual rights and obligations. Focusing on standardization as a sociolinguistic regime premised on the idea that everyone potentially has equal access to a linguistic standard, the speaker will analyze how specific social actors mobilize categories of ‘language’, ‘dialect’ and ‘accent’ under the present ideological conditions in post-independence referendum Scotland to understand what it entails for whom: in other words, how do people do dialect or language? How are people’s actions constrained and regimented within the social space that the existence of such ideologically bound categories permits, and how are boundaries moved to implement or impede social changes? Based on the analysis of language debates over the desirability of (not) standardizing Scots, it will be argued that the regimentation of language is fundamentally about defining and managing the public space and who has access to it, and under which conditions.

Dr Costa's current research builds on his work as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oslo working as part of the STANDARDS-Standardising languages in Europe research project, led by Dr Pia Lane. He is currently trying to understand the politics of standard/non-standard language in Scotland, focusing more specifically on the registers that can be termed Scots, non-standard English etc. Broadly speaking, he is interested in contrasting the politics of standard/non-standard language in Scotland with access to the public sphere: who get's to talk, to say what, under what conditions and circumstances? Central to this work is the question of the legitimate speaker, and research in this area is also his main contribution to COST Action IS1306 "New Speakers in a Multilingual Europe" (led by Professor Bernadette O'Rourke, Heriot-Watt University, and Joan Pujolar, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya). Dr Costa has been associated with the COST network since the onset in 2011, and is currently co-coordinator of WG10 ("Legitimacy and Power") with Dr Alfonso Del Percio (University of Oslo).

For further details, please contact Prof. Bernadette O'Rourke.