Scotland — and the world — lost a whole language last week.
Retired engineer Bobby Hogg, the last native speaker of a dialect originating from a remote coastal village in northern Scotland, died aged 92 — and so did the dialect he spoke, Cromarty Fisherfolk, a mixture of old Scottish and military English from the soldiers that used to be stationed nearby.
It also appears to be the only Germanic language in which no “wh” pronunciation existed — so ‘what’ would become ‘at’ and ‘where’ would just be ‘ere’ — and the only Scots dialect that dropped the “H” aspiration, “heavy” became ‘evvy’.
Linguistics is important for SEO –- queries are what it’s all about — and while one may not want a website that caters exclusively for Cromarty Fisherfolk, there is scope in using language which may only make sense within a distinct region. Wikipedia details at least 40 different types of English, and that doesn’t include the variations in dialect between counties and states.
One bugbear of many British English speakers is “Americanisms” — language deemed to have come about from the power of American (mainly US) culture on the wider world.
There are even words about feelings about Americanisms: Amerilexicophobia means “fear of American words” while worse still is Amerlixicomania, craziness about American words to the point where you lose all rationality.
Some Brits go around changing every “ize” they see at the end of a word to “ise” — like “standardise” instead of “standardize” — but it turns out that it was actually the English who changed the spelling, stealing the “s” from the French, while Americans kept to the standardized form. It’s a similar story with “autumn” and “fall”. I recommend Bill Bryson’s “Made in America” for lots of revelations about how US English is sometimes more traditional than Amerlixicomaniacs give it credit for.
The problem with running a global website is that you have visitors using all types of English — from Maltese to Mancunian, and Harvard to Harare.
One solution is to use an “international” English, using words which are generally understood wherever the reader is from. There is a similar dilemma when it comes to variations between German spoken in Germany, Austria or Switzerland, or Spanish in Medellin or Madrid.
The problem for users of that approach is that Google and the other search providers are going the other way, taking account of all the regional and local variations in speech to offer a search result which they feel meets the needs of local end users.
And as search becomes increasingly targeted and localized — especially with mobile searches — the pressure for us to similarly localize our pages can only increase too.