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Review of  Doric

Reviewer: Charley Rowe
Book Title: Doric
Book Author: J. Derrick McClure
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Language Documentation
Subject Language(s): Scots
Language Family(ies): New English
Issue Number: 13.3360

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Date: Wed, 18 Dec 2002 17:22:18 -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.

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

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.

ABOUT THE REVIEWER 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.