Let's get lexicographical

"As the auld cock craws, the young anes learn," or so the pupils of Dunblane primary have been discovering.

The children of Primary 5 have undertaken a project which class teacher Elaine Wyllie and we at TES Scotland would like to see replicated across the country, from the Western Isles to Orkney and Shetland, Glasgow and Edinburgh to Dumfries and Galloway - every nook and cranny.

We are asking children in Scotland to create their own living record of the state of the Scots language at the end of the 20th century, which we intend to compile and publish in a single national edition in time for the millennium.

We hope that every education authority will encourage its primary schools to get their children out there, gleaning what they can from parents, grandparents and locals, and putting together a child's guide to the Scots language in their community.

Section one would be a dictionary of words (Scots-English); section two, sayings. The quirkier the better, and the more localised the better. We suggest eight categories for consideration: names (family names for relatives, pet names for children like HughShuggie); nature (animals, birds, insects, flowers); games; cooking; weather; industrial processes (from textiles, mining, distilling etc); agriculture and fishing (such as farm implements, boats); Gaelic, Asian or other words adopted into the local dialect.

The first stage would be to publish a dictionary locally, at school level,for distribution and sale within the community, perhaps for fundraising. The next crucial stage would be to put it onto a computer disc, if at all possible PC or Mac, and send it, along with a print-out and illustrated school version to TES Scotland by March 30 1999.

Will the Scots language die over the next few generations, or will it be more vibrant than ever, revived by a Scottish parliament, devolution, perhaps even independence? No one can say for sure. One thing is certain - if it is to survive, it is the children who will preserve it.

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