The Orkney & Shetland Norn Forum
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2018 9:30 pm 

Joined: Fri Jan 19, 2018 9:01 pm
Posts: 8
Hi I live in Caithness and come from a pollyglotic family (English, French, German, Indonesian, Sign language)
I have been enjoying your lessons and I think the work you guys do is wonderful. I have been thinking hard about Nynorn; its dialects, its grammer and the next stage of Nynorn (getting it out there.) and I would like to post a few suggestions for you to mull over based on what has worked in other countries.

First the dialectic nature of Norn: should it be taught as 3 separate languages or as one? Whilst the work to revive the 3 types of Norn is incredibly important for local pride and knowledge given that the Nynorn will be (eventually) disseminated to people who have no prior experience of a language without syntax I feel it could be detrimental to Nynorn to allow “the public” to learn the Orkney and Caithness dialectic versions first off. There is no greater disincentive to learn a language than finding yourself confused as to who is doing what to whom. Without cases or a strong sense of syntax to help the average learner a dialectic Nynorn would risk becoming gibberish.
However it is possible to have both a “standard” version of a language taught and still have dialectic versions flourish.
Both my husband and I have German as our second language. Across the German triangle (Austria, Germany and Switzerland) Hochdeutch is the German that is taught in schools, it is the most “grammatically perfect” of the German dialects and most importantly it unifies the three German speaking nations. Both my husband and I were taught Hochdeutch yet because of where we lived I speak Sarrdeutch and he speaks Ostdeuch, occasionally we get stuck “in translation” where the two dialects diverge, when this happens we revert to hochdeutch.
The last point about being stuck in translation is a big one. Until Nynorn is ingrained into our society the numbers of speakers are going to be small and the chance to converse with someone limited. How demoralising would it be to the learner to meet another speaker of Nynorn and be unable to converse because dialects get in the way of practice?

British Sign Language until recently suffered from dialectic isolation. Sign language can be very regional and until recently when a deaf person moved away from their local area they were unable to communicate because though key sings were recognisable day to day things like colours and food were different. It has only been with the standardisation of deaf education that taught “Standard BSL signs” throughout the UK alongside the local vocabulary that enabled deaf people to converse outside their local area.

In such a system I would envisage Shetland Nynorn being the version taught in schools and Orkney and Caithness Nynorn disseminated through local outlets such as clubs.

My Second point with regards to the future dissemination of Nynorn is that if we want it to flourish as a language then it needs to be accessible to all levels of society not just those of us who have the intelligence (and inclination) to take technical language lessons like the ones you have now.

Spreading Nynorn to future generations could be done reasonable easily if we got schools on board as all Scottish primary schools have to teach 2 additional languages. However Nynorn would remain a “foreign” language unless we could get the older generations involved. For most adults language learning is best done by immersion. Simply because statistically speaking the majority of the adult population are not interested in further education, life is busy enough, there is also the issue of perceived (and actual) intellectual barriers. A text explaining why and how endings change in nom. and ac. could be too daunting, making the average person feel incompetent and lead to Nynorn being abandoned as a “nobby squares game” however a Norn story/song that talked about the same subject in both nom. and ac. would teach the listener the same information without them realising. Jock down the pub would quite happily sing “xyz” and get the grammar right but sit him down with a table of declensions and he would look at it as if it were rocket science.

Immersion of course needs resources and the project is a long way from a full cultural roll out however a drip drip effect could be started even now. Caithness music festival has a Caithness Dialect section which could be used to show case Nynorn. Orkney has its storytelling festival where a pair of brave soals could dress up and have a go at reciting The Ballad of Hildina (a verse at a time one man in Norn and the other translating into English.) people would watch for the entertainment and leave enchanted by their language. (Just look at how popular up helle aa is.)
From such small beginnings grow bigger grass roots movements and the adoption of an idea. We do not want any tom, dick or harry involved in the reconstruction of Nynorn but it is on the same monoglots that the future of Nynorn as a living language rests. If we push Nynorn solely as a “you will sit down and learn” there is a high risk of failure but if we disguise it inside cultural pride it could be more successful than the Cornish revival.

For clarification I do not feel qualified to help in the reconstruction. I am happy to learn Nynorn and add it to the family language plate and given my experience in teaching languages to children I would be more than happy to help with future dissemination.

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