August 11, 2012, by Nicola Royan
I’ve just returned from the launch of Older Scots: A Linguistic Reader, edited by Jeremy Smith, at the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh. This work has loomed large in my life over the last few years because it is published by the Scottish Text Society, of which I am now president. In all honesty, however, the key content of this volume has been with me for nearly quarter of a century, as Jeremy was the first person to teach me Middle English and Older Scots. Indeed, as was rather unkindly pointed out during the preparation of the volume, some parts of it have a sort of Proustian effect on me, evoking memories of being an undergraduate rather than provoking a properly scholarly response.
Putting that to one side, however, this volume brings together Older Scots writings from all over the literary continuum, epic poetry and curses, diplomatic missives and other letters, legal statements and religious expression. It demonstrates the richness of this variety of English and identifies its significant linguistic features, to help all those new to the language to get their bearings, whether their interest is primarily historical, genealogical, legal, literary or linguistic. For me, as well as stripping away twenty-five years of my academic development, it also reinforces the interdependence of medieval studies, whereby the work of a linguist is read, enjoyed and put to work by medievalists of many different disciplines.
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