Introduction - Guid Wittins frae Doctèr Luik

Source: Guid Wittins frae Doctèr Luik (The Gospel of Luke in Ulster-Scots)

Publisher: Ullans Press

Date: 2009

1 Aim

The objective of the translators of this version of the Gospel of St. Luke into Ulster-Scots has been to produce a clear, natural and accurate translation that would unambiguously reflect the meaning of the original Greek, in language which would be recognisable to native speakers in Ulster as the medium in use today.

2 Target Audience

Who is this translation for? The audience any translator has in mind when translating the Bible will affect the register of the language chosen — though the underlying message remains the same. In this case, if it had been solely an academic audience thoroughly familiar with obscure Scots words, then more of these could have been included. It is vital not to lose such words, but the most appropriate place for them, we believe, is in the dictionary, rather than in a translated Bible text, where they might interrupt the flow of meaning for the reader.

While the translators, naturally enough, would sometimes look back and remember fondly how a previous generation might have expressed an idea, and would sometimes have chosen this expression, a balance had to be maintained with how Ulster-Scots is spoken today. The target reader, to secure the future of a translation, surely has to be nearer to thirty than ninety years of age! The problem is that English is being increasingly intermingled with Scots in the language of those who call themselves Ulster-Scots, and in such a context, a translation would always be open to the accusation that it diluted the “pure“ language, as it should be — but perhaps isn't — currently spoken. On the other hand, with careful handling, a Bible translation can be a means of promoting certain vocabulary and structures which are valuable, and worth keeping alive in future generations: it can have a safeguarding function.

3 Process

Bible Translation is a continual process of drafting, revising, testing, assessing, and reassessing. The mot juste may elude a translation team until the very last minute before a computer file is sent to the publishers. This is why it is of great value to publish a single Gospel such as this: feedback is welcomed, and will affect future translation efforts. The aim is to publish the four Gospels in a single volume as the next stage in the process. Thus, the eventual New Testament or Bible publication will be the product of the combined wisdom of many who have given their input. The editors' e-mail addresses are given below for the purpose of receiving comments and suggestions, which will be shared with future teams of native speakers.

4 Questions and challenges — Orthography

For orthography, we have followed in the main the recommendations of the Spelling Standardisation Committee of the Ulster-Scots Academy Implementation Group, agreed in 2007 after much hard work and debate, under the chairmanship of Dr Ivan Herbison of Queen's University, Belfast.

Given the long history of attempting to spell different varieties of Scots, traditional ways of writing certain words have inevitably become almost sacrosanct and beyond questioning, even though they may pose difficulties for the alphabet maker when other words containing similar sounds are written differently. The alphabet maker wants to facilitate the task of the new reader, including children and non-native speakers, by standardising where possible the way particular sounds are spelt.

Then what about the many words in common between Ulster-Scots and English? Should these be written in the same way, in spite of being pronounced differently? If they are, non-native speakers will risk reading them as in English and thus fail to pronounce them correctly. Of course, every nuance of pronunciation or dialectal difference cannot be represented in spelling — chaos would ensue — but where sound shift patterns exist, the spelling should mark these. There is the danger of overdifferentiation, but there is, equally, the danger of under-representing differences. We have endeavoured to achieve a balance here: the reader can judge whether we have been successful.

Mostly, standard Roman alphabet symbols were adequate to represent regular correspondences in sounds. However, a few additional diacritics were used:

a) Acute accent: used above the vowel /o/ - ó. In sequences of vowels, the acute accent indicates two separate vowel sounds. So the words ‘road’ and ‘boat’ will sound like ‘ro-udd’ and ‘bo-utt’. Thus, Ulster-Scots ‘bóat’ is pronounced [boət], not [bəʊt] as in Standard British English, or [bot] as commonly found in Ulster English for

b) Grave accent: used above the vowel /e/ - è. The grave accent indicates that the preceding consonant is pronounced with the tongue touching both upper and lower teeth. English ‘after’ will sound like ‘efther’ in Ulster-Scots. Thus: eftèr [eft̪əɹ] —

c) Umlaut/diaeresis. A diaeresis above the vowels /i/ and /u/ indicates a short vowel which is more open than in British English. Thus, Ulster-Scots ‘püt’ is pronounced similarly to Standard English ‘putt’ [pɜt], and Ulster-Scots ‘mïx’ [mʌks] is pronounced something like English ‘max’, but has a vowel not found in English.

However, inconsistencies remain. In Ulster-Scots pronunciation, words like and ‘when’ begin with an ‘h’  sound followed by a ‘w’, whereas in British English only ‘w’ is heard. Historically, Scots spelled ‘what’ as ‘quhat’ or ‘quat’, but these representations are unlikely to prove helpful for new readers and a more logical option for the distinctive Ulster-Scots [ʍ] sound might be /hw/.

The spelling of Ulster-Scots words is evolving and constantly under review. For this reason, a few variant spellings were deliberately included in different parts of the text (like/lake - like for instance), in order to gauge community reaction. It is hoped that the present work will contribute towards the eventual establishment of an acceptable and user-friendly system.

5 Why include the Authorised Version in parallel columns?

It was felt that there were advantages to having the Authorised Version of the gospel of Luke alongside the Ulster-Scots. For many, given the widespread recognition of and familiarity with the AV, it would be an aid to understanding the Ulster-Scots: this would be especially helpful for those outside of Ulster. For some readers, having a more familiar or vernacular version like one in Ulster-Scots alongside might help them better understand the AV. One of the main benefits of a Bible Translation in any language is the opportunity it gives to compare like with like. So linguists and translators outside of Ireland may now compare an Ulster-Scots version of Luke with versions of it in other languages and varieties they know.

6 Contributors

Those interested in producing an Ulster-Scots Bible translation began meeting in 2003, but regular work began in April 2006. Since then, ongoing guidance in translation principles and exegesis has been given by consultants from Wycliffe Bible Translators. Three small teams of native-speakers drafted Gospel passages, and after checking by the consultants, these drafts were critiqued by the larger group in plenary sessions to which all involved were invited. The feedback resulted in many changes, revisions, and improvements to the text.

Some of those listed below have been heavily involved throughout the translation period, others less so. But we wish to thank each one for the contributions they have made:

Sally Young, Samuel Young, William Curry, Wilbert Magill, Elizabeth McLeister, James McLeister, May Kirkpatrick, William Davison, Sheena McCullough, Fiona McDonald, Sylvia Shaw, Robert Carson, John Erskine, Ellie McKee, John McIntyre, Anne Smyth, Philip Robinson, Willie Drennan, Alec Mills, George Wright, Ann Wright.

In bringing this book to press, special thanks are due to Nathan Conkey for his help with desktop publishing, to Mark Thompson for designing the cover, and to Derek Rowlinson for his efficient handling of the publication process. We are very much indebted also to Professor Michael Montgomery for writing the Preface.

Philip & Heather Saunders

Translation Consultants and Editors

Wycliffe Bible Translators


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A new edition of Michael Montgomery’s From Ulster to America: The Scotch-Irish Heritage of American English recounts the lasting impact that at least 150,000 settlers from Ulster in the 18th century made on the development of the English language of the United States. This new edition published by the Ulster-Scots Language Society documents over 500 ‘shared’ vocabulary items which are authenticated by quotations from both sides of the Atlantic. A searchable online version of this dictionary is now also available here.


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