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Ulster-Scots (Ulster-Scots: Ulstèr-Scotch, Irish: Albainis Ulaidh) is the local version of the Scots language that is spoken in Northern Ireland and in the Irish county of Donegal, predominantly by descendants of Scottish settlers of the Ulster Plantations. It is recognised as an official minority language of Northern Ireland, as stipulated under the Good Friday Agreement and recognised as "part of the cultural wealth of Northern Ireland". In the past, it was known as Scotch-Irish. It is promoted by the Ulster-Scots Agency, which is a cultural institution that exists to promote Ulster-Scottish culture, known in Ulster-Scots as "Tha Boord o Ulstèr-Scotch".
There have been debates as to whether Ulster-Scots is a language in it is own right like Irish. If it is, it should receive support and funding like all indigenous minority languages in Great Britain and Ireland, such as Welsh, Gaelic and Jèrrais (Jersey French). On the other hand, it is seen by Irish nationalists and other folks elsewhere as just a ploy by unionists to degrade the Irish language and diminish cultural funding for minority languages by using a made-up version of the standard English dialect in Northern Ireland, Ulster English.
The main language in Northern Ireland is English, which according to the last census around 99.2% of the population speak. The main dialect of English spoken is called either Ulster English or Northern Irish English, which is basically British English influenced by the English of Northern England, Scotland and Ireland. Northern Ireland is also noted for having a large number of accents, with over 200 throughout the six counties and even thirteen within the city of Belfast due to complex backgrounds and origins of the people.
The main minority language in Northern Ireland is Irish. 11% of people say they know the language, although the number of those who can actually fluently speak it is small. Only 0.2% say they use it at home. Since the 19th century with the establishment of the Gaelic League in Ireland, the Irish language has been seen much a part of Irish nationalism alongside other parts of Irish culture including GAA sports and Irish dancing. This has continued with the use of Irish language by Irish nationalists/republicans in Northern Ireland, especially including those in Sinn Féin. This later led to the creation of Irish language-medium schools called gaelscoilanna and various other Irish language services.
At the beginning of the 1970s and more so since the Good Friday Agreement, there has been a growth in creating a distinctive Ulster-Scots identity which includes Scottish dancing, Orange marches, celebrating the Battle of the Boyne etc, and thus also includes the Ulster-Scots language. According to the 2011 census, 2% of people in Northern Ireland say they can speak Ulster-Scots, while 8% say they can understand some of it.
A leid or a dialect?
Currently, as of 2020, there is no proper official monolingual or bilingual dictionary for Ulster-Scots and there is only one official grammar guide for the language. Although there are a number of books written about Ulster-Scots in English. There is a minimal amount of literature that is actually written in the tongue apart from a number of books of poetry, children's books and books of quotations. Much of the recent development of the language has been through usage of the language in an official context, such as brochures and signage.
- The Ulster-Scots Agency
- NI Direct - Irish | TÉ Díreach - Gaeilge
- Amazon.co.uk - Ulster-Scots: A grammar of the traditional written and spoken language
- The Ulster-Scots Language Society - The Hamely Tongue: A Personal Record of Ulster-Scots in County Antrim
- The Ulster-Scots Language Society - Ulster-Scots poetry books
- The Ulster-Scots Language Society - Ulster-Scots books for children
- Amazon.co.uk - A Furst Readin Book in Ulster Scots