Source 6 : ‘Three Scottish poems with a previous dissertation on the Scoto-Saxon dialect’ by Alexander Geddes, 1792
(NLS shelfmark: AB.8.207.03)
Alexander Geddes was a Roman Catholic priest and biblical scholar. He was also interested in the study of language, based on ancient and historical texts. He was an outspoken supporter of the ‘Scoto-Saxon dialect’, or Scots language.
This extract is taken from a long essay by Geddes which was published in the ‘Transactions of the Scottish Society of Antiquaries’ in 1792.
Perhaps this inveterate error is, at this day, scarcely worth the pains of correcting. Few persons of genius and learning will be inclined to write in the Scottish dialect; and if any were inclined, they could not look for encouragement or imitators. Men will ever follow those pursuits that lead to riches or fame; and Scottish composition, either in prose or poetry, will neither fill the writer’s purse nor emblazon his reputation.
Yet I cannot help sometimes thinking, that the neglect of cultivating the Scoto-Saxon tongue has been attended with some detriment to the English language; that many words and phrases of great energy and beauty are still preserved in the former which the latter wants, and which all its borrowed treasure but imperfectly supplies; and that, if the Scots, remaining a separate nation, with a King and court residing among them, had continued to improve and embellish their own dialect, instead of servilely aping the English, they would at present be possessed of a language in many points superior to the English.
- Why does Geddes suggest that men of ‘genius and learning’ no longer want to write in Scots?
- According to Geddes, what events have prevented the ‘Scoto-Saxon tongue’ being held in higher regard?
- Despite Geddes’ assertion that Scots is not held in the same regard as English, his personal opinion of the language seems conflicted. What evidence is there in this extract to suggest that he admires Scots, and what evidence is there to suggest he thinks of it as inferior to English?