Thursday, October 21, 2010

Back online

The week of Canadian Thanksgiving, Nipissing University has  no classes. I was off-line for most of the time, and I've been pretty busy since the normal schedule resumed. As a reward for those of you who came back to see how I was, I am going to be posting some material that came in recently.

Of particular interest to me were Phil Paine's reports on his trip to Orkney. He was thinking that his life had become too ordinary recently, so he went someplace interesting and eccentric. here is a sample of why you should read his trip journal (starting here):

I had been warned that the Orkney dialect was “dif­fi­cult,” but it is per­fectly com­pre­hen­si­ble to any Cana­dian, and extremely pleas­ing to the ear. The into­na­tion pat­tern, in par­tic­u­lar, reminds me of Cana­dian speech in the Atlantic Provinces. Though the con­so­nants are dif­fer­ent, its vowel and diph­thong s only a short shift away. The “Cana­dian ris­ing” that Amer­i­cans find so amus­ing is taken a step fur­ther. Sim­i­larly, the Orca­dian pitch pat­tern is only slightly dif­fer­ent from what you would hear in Canada’s north­ern­most regions. Except for some pecu­liar­i­ties of vocab­u­lary, I never had any dif­fi­culty under­stand­ing Orca­di­ans, while I often had to work a bit to under­stand peo­ple in Glas­gow, and many of the dialects of Eng­land are prac­ti­cally Mar­t­ian to me. Some­times, the announce­ments in the Lon­don Under­ground were com­plete gib­ber­ish. But when I eaves­dropped on the con­ver­sa­tion of two elderly Orkney farm­ers, whose speech was obvi­ously unvar­nished Orca­dian, it was no chal­lenge. Orca­di­ans are soft-spoken, spar­ing in their words, and not rapid speak­ers. They are not arm wavers or fin­ger point­ers. Even teenagers stag­ger­ing out of the pubs are not keen on shouting.

The old Orca­dian dialect is not, of course, the only form of Eng­lish spo­ken here. There is much pres­sure from schools and media to replace it with Stan­dard Scots. The pres­ence of sev­eral thou­sand new­com­ers from all over the British Isles also influ­ences speech, as does Orca­di­ans trav­el­ling to other places and return­ing home. Many of the new­com­ers believe the dialect rep­re­sents back­ward­ness and stu­pid­ity. Some native Orca­di­ans have absorbed this atti­tude, and either tone it down for out­siders, or aban­don it all­to­gether in favour of what they feel is more pres­ti­geous speech.
Lots more where that came from, including some very good pictures.

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