LINGUIST List 13.3360

Thu Dec 19 2002

Review: Lang Description: McClure (2002)

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  1. Charley Rowe, McClure (2002), Doric

Message 1: McClure (2002), Doric

Date: Wed, 18 Dec 2002 23:22:15 +0000
From: Charley Rowe <>
Subject: McClure (2002), Doric

McClure, J. Derrick (2002) Doric: The Dialect of North-East Scotland.
John Benjamins Publishing Company, vi+222pp, hardback ISBN
1-58811-130-X, USD 100, hardback ISBN 90-2724717-X, EUR 110, Varieties
of English Around the World.

Book Announcement on Linguist: 

Charley Rowe, post-doctoral researcher in dialectology, 
University of Newcastle upon Tyne

Chapter 1, ''Overview'', fairly leaps in *in medias res*. It serves
mainly as a micro-history of the North-east of Scotland (the area of
interest for the book) and its cultural capital Aberdeen. This
discussion is welcome, but it does not displace the need for a proper
introduction which would lay out the primary research questions for
the work, and some basic background for the literary or linguistic
scholar new to Scots. Moreover, the book would have profited from a
preface or other such section which could provide the particular
motivation for this work.

Chapter 2, ''Demographic and linguistic history'', is a particularly
interesting, useful, thorough, and well-written portion of the book.
Here the author discusses anthropological history, nomenclature,
linguistic history, and general historiography of the North-east area
of Scotland. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the current
sociolinguistic status of Scots English in the North-east; this is a
very interesting sub-portion which may have been better served by
placement at the end of the book, as a summary of the current state of
affairs. Better yet, the three and one half page summary could have
been expanded to comprise a chapter on its own, highlighting much of
the valuable sociolinguistic research currently being explored in this
geographic area.

Chapter 3, ''Previous accounts of the dialect'', provides a solid
research history of important previous and current descriptive work on
North-east Scots phonetics. Illustrative passages are conservatively
offered throughout. A summary of some of the treatment of the
ever-troublesome issue of Scots orthography would have been welcome
(citing, e.g., the Jones 1997 and the Macaffee and Macleod 1987
volumes). This would have provided the scholar new to Scots English
with the practical tools of the trade. There is some problem with the
chapter's conclusion, which provides a very cursory summary of only
the phonetic issues highlighted (though the summaries of the
individual accounts discuss morphology and syntax issues as
well). Overall, as an introduction to basic works, however, the
chapter is quite useful.

Chapter 4, ''Examples of recorded speech'', contains transcriptions of
natural speech (though not ''spontaneous'' speech, as the author terms
it). The first text (a taped monologue by writer Peter Buchan) is
first represented using dialect writing. Some notes on phonetic
transcription conventions follow; these in turn are followed by a
phonetic transcription of the same text. This layout is not as useful
as it might have been, because it requires paging back to the
orthographic transcription. Moreover, given that the first
transcription is represented with dialect orthography (itself a type
of sound representation), it is not clear what purpose the pure
phonetic transcription serves, unless it is to draw attention to the
correspondence between dialect writing and the sounds of the dialect
itself (or for the sake of thoroughness). Since the author is not
explicit on this point, the need for both sets of transcriptions
remains unclear. At any rate, if both are to be provided, it would
have been perhaps more useful to offer a line-by-line
correspondence. Truly, though, a standard orthographic transcription
is needed at any rate to tease out dialect elements which may be
difficult for the non-expert in Doric to identify. In the same
chapter, texts 2-6 only use dialect writing because, according to the
author, the sound quality of the recordings was too poor. However,
this position is somewhat confusing, given that dialect writing
conventions expressly represent speech sounds that differ from the
standard, and the phonetic transcriptions found elsewhere in the book
only represent a basic level of phonetic detail anyway.

Chapter 5, ''Examples of written texts'', comprises about 120 pages,
over half the book, and consists of excerpts from 18th to 20th century
poetry, prose, and drama. All three sections contain excerpts from
both renowned literary artists and other writers, as well as by child
and adult amateurs. The chapter begins with an exposition on the
status of dialect literature in the North-East. Each section is
introduced by an overview of the texts represented (including the
motivations for each selection). Within each section, the author
introduces each excerpt with a brief paragraph which points out some
of the artistic, cultural, literary, historical, and linguistic
highlights notable in the text. The excerpts are quite lengthy (1-2
pages) and contain explanatory notes and lexical glosses, both of
which are most helpful. This chapter is truly beautifully constructed,
and its texts remarkably well treated.

The book also contains a small glossary of North-East lexis specific
to the readings in the book, which is helpful. However, the book would
have benefited from a proper conclusion.

In general, the linguistic treatment of North-east Scots dialect in
this book is narrow in scope; the literary treatment is more
wide-ranging. The book would likely appeal more to budding Scots
literary scholars who desire the background to read the dialect
literature, than to linguists seeking to inform themselves about the
structure of Scots. Despite the structural flaws I have pointed out
here, _Doric_ does find an appropriate niche in a library of Scots
English, both as a specialist book and as an introductory reader.


Jones, Charles. 1997. The Edinburgh history of the Scots language.
Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Macaffee, Caroline, and Iseabail Macleod. 1987. The Nuttis Shell:
Essays on the Scots language. Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press.


Charley Rowe is a post-doctoral researcher in the School of English at
the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. Her research interests include
dialectology (of English and other Germanic dialects),
computer-mediated communication, and language and politics.
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