Robert Burns, "Tam O Shanter"


This poem was written in and is being read in a language called Scots, which is not a dialect of English as many people think. Scots split off from English in ~1500, or 500 years ago. This is approximately what two languages sound like when they have been split apart for 500 years. I listened to this, although I can make out some words and even phrases here and there, honestly, I do not have the faintest idea what he is talking about, and I am missing most of this language. I can hear ~25% of it, if that.  However, a good friend of mine from England listened to it and she said she could make out ~70%. So there you go. See if you can make heads or tails of this stuff.

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0 thoughts on “Robert Burns, "Tam O Shanter"”

  1. I understand perhaps 30-40 per cent of it, perhaps because I spent one year in Scotland as a university student. I am not the language expert like you, but: of course I know that Scots is not the same as modern Scottish English, but does a split from English “just” 500 years ago automatically qualifies it a as a separate language? I am sure, that some (Scottish) linguists might think so, but I can imagine that most scholars see it just as a (distinct) dialect (group). Dutch split from German also about 500 years ago and is considered as a separate language: but the difference is that Dutch evolved to the official national language, whereas Scots became less and less important to Scottish people and modern (Scottish) English became the country`s lingua franca.

    1. SIL gives out the ISO codes. They are the ones who decide what is a language and what is not one. Scots has had an ISO code for some time now. Most linguists will tell you that Scots is a separate language. It’s only a controversial issue among laypeople, not among linguists.
      Nooooooooooo, Dutch split from German way more than 500 years ago. I believe between 1,000-1,500 years ago if I am not mistaken.
      Intelligibility of Scots and English has been tested at ~42%. That right there is good enough to split it off. Anything less than 90% can be seen as a separate language.
      A lot of German “dialects” have been split from German for a long time, over ~500 years.
      The difference between Scots and English is about what things look like after languages have been split for ~500 years. Look at Belorussian, Ukrainian and Russian.

      1. as a German I have to “protest” :-): perhaps Dutch split from what became modern German (which evloved in modern southern Germany and Austria) and from English this long ago, but not from lower (North) German (Niederdeutsch). In fact there is still a dialect continuum between Dutch and the dialects of northwest Germany.

        1. That isn’t really Dutch, and the continuum is not really with “German.” Dusseldorf Platt is really a form of Dutch! So is Aachen Platt, etc. There are similar “Dutch” lects on the Netherlands side. Actually Dusseldorf Platt and Aachen Platt are separate languages and both of them are neither Dutch nor German, but they are more Dutch than German. Aachen Platt, Stolberg Platt, etc. really is a separate language that is not Dutch and not German but in between the two. Dusseldorf Platt is Macro-Dutch.
          Standard Dutch in the Netherlands comes from Low Franconian. Standard German comes from Upper Saxon Middle German. Probably 1,500 years between those two.
          The truth is that “Dutch” is more of a political concept than a linguistic one.
          Low German is related not so much to Dutch as to those Dutch Low Saxon lects like Twents, Drents, Veluws, Groningen, etc. East Frisian Low Saxon is a “German” languages spoken over near the Dutch border and it is close to those Low Saxon languages in the Netherlands.
          Over in that region it gets pretty hard to tell what is “Dutch” and what is “German.”
          http://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2009/03/08/a-reworking-of-german-language-classification/
          http://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2009/04/13/a-reworking-of-german-language-classification-part-1-low-german/
          http://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2009/04/13/a-reworking-of-german-language-classification-part-2-middle-german/
          http://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2009/04/13/reworking-of-german-language-classification-part-3-high-german/
          http://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2010/01/18/a-reclassification-of-the-dutch-language/

  2. I could understand most of it. Strange you could not. You being the language expert. I, to some people ears, can barely speak English. Hmm… Maybe because I’m South Eastern American and also my relatives come originally from Scotland. Only it was around 1767? Can’t remember exactly. It just occurred to me that maybe Chomsky was in some weird way correct about genetics, language, whatever.

    1. I can’t understand languages very well. I can’t even understand some dialects spoken right here in the US! Linguists just study languages. They are not experts on speaking them or understanding them.

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