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Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

The Big Wiki Rewrite

27th August 2020

If you’ve ever done a Scots language search online then you have almost certainly found yourself on a Wikipedia page. And as we all know, Wikipedia entries are generally available in many different language versions. For some years now a large number of articles have appeared in versions purporting to be in Scots, and yet, as some members of the Scots community have long been pointing out, something wasn’t right with the picture. In fact, a recent posting by Ultach on Reddit brought to a head the concerns of many in the Scots community about the entries on Wikipedia.

Unknown to the world at large, a teenager in the USA, who could not speak Scots, began posting articles around 2008 when they were 12 years old and continued doing so until 2018 until they had written some 20,000 articles in ‘Scots’. Their enthusiasm for the language, and their genuine desire to promote Scots were clearly evident, but now older and wiser, has recognised that their well meaning intentions went awry because of basic mistakes and misconceptions that arose in those early years. As a result of those misconceptions they began producing texts on Wikipedia summarised by Ultach, after citing a sample text, in the following terms: “It uses almost no Scots vocabulary, what little it does use is usually incorrect, and the grammar always conforms to standard English, not Scots.”  Ultach went on to comment that much damage has been done as a result of these entries because readers were “…exposed to a mangled rendering of English being called Scots…” which had rendered Wikipedia an invalid source for the language. Since then the editor, now 19, has come to recognise the misconceptions that led them to write the entries which Ultach recently dubbed ‘pretend Scots’.

However, help is now at hand. As a result of the recent discussions around this issue, the Scots Language Centre was approached for advice and director Dr Michael Dempster offered to mediate, co-ordinate and bring interested parties together. It was soon discovered that there is a strong desire by many in the Scots-speaking community to come forward and help in a constructive way. In fact, over 100 individuals, many of them Scots speakers, have now offered to rewrite the Wikipedia entries in actual Scots while others have also offered to advise with non-linguistic aspects. Michael Dempster also recently contacted Wikipedia and has now helped to create a community support group for editing and rewriting the Wikipedia entries in Scots. If you would like to learn more about the project, or would like to help in some way, please drop the SLC a line and we can put you in contact with the support group.