Source 4 : ‘Observations on the Scottish dialect’ by Sir John Sinclair, 1782
Printed book (NLS shelfmark: K.119.c)
Sir John Sinclair is probably best known as the compiler and editor of the First Statistical Account of Scotland, intended as a complete survey of Scotland at the end of the 18th century. He was known for his interest in agricultural reform and served as president of the Highland Society of London.
Although a patriotic ambassador for Scotland, he believed that ‘the Scotch dialect’ should be abandoned in favour of a more standard form of English.
GRAMMATICAL disquisitions are accounted, of all others, the dullest and most insipid. To many it seems of no importance, whether this or that word expresses, with the greater purity, a particular idea: and, perhaps, it is of little consequence to any individual, who lives in a retired and distant corner of the country, in what stile his sentiments are given. His highest ambition generally is to be understood, not to please his hearers. But such as wish to mix with the world, and
particularly those whose object it is to have some share in the administration of national affairs, are under the necessity of conforming to the taste, the manners, and the language of the Public. Old things must then be done away – new manners must be assumed, and a new language adopted. Nor does this observation apply to Scotchmen only: the same remark may be extended to the Irish, to the Welsh, and to the inhabitants of several districts in England; all of whom have many words and phrases peculiar to themselves, which are unintelligible in the senate-house, and in the capital.
It is not however in a private, but in a national view, and as a circumstance of importance to the Public in general, that this subject ought properly to be considered. Whilst so striking a difference as
that of language exists between England and Scotland, antient local prejudices will not be removed; nor can it be expected that two neighbouring nations, which, though now so happily united, were for many ages at variance with each other, will be able to consider themselves as the same people. A late eminent Statesman (Archibald Duke of Argyle) thought a resemblance or identity of language of such real national importance, that he is said to have furnished Mr. Hume with the materials of his printed collection [I mention this upon the authority of that eminent physician Dr. Cullen, whose connexion and intimacy with the family of Argyle are well known.]. Of late many Scotch authors have shewn an uncommon degree of attention to the purity of their stile and diction: and if they had published the discoveries which their knowledge and experience in composition taught them, it would
have rendered these observations unnecessary.
- According to Sinclair, who will most benefit from improving their command of spoken English?
- Why does Sinclair suggest that a standardised English pronunciation is important at a national level?
- Does Sinclair only object to non-standard pronunciation, or is there further prejudice?