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Ahlice’s Adveenturs in Wunderlaant
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in Border Scots

Ahlice’s Adveenturs in Wunderlaant

By Lewis Carroll, translated into Border Scots by Cameron Halfpenny

First edition, 2014. Illustrations by John Tenniel. Portlaoise: Evertype. ISBN 978-1-78201-087-6 (paperback), price: €12.95, £10.95, $15.95.

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“In that direction,” th Cat said, wavin eet’s richt paw roond, “lives a Hatter: an in that direction,” waving th ither paw, “lives a Mairch Hare. Visit either ee lik: they’re baith mad.”   “In that direction,” the Cat said, waving its right paw around, “lives a Hatter: and in that direction,” waving the other paw, “lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they’re both mad.”
“But Ah dinnae want tae gaun among mad fowk,” Ahlice remarked.   “But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Och, ee cannae help that,” said th Cat: “oo’re aw mad here. Ah’m mad. Ee’re mad.”   “Oh, you ca’n’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How div ee ken Ah’m mad?” said Ahlice.   “How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“Ee must b’,” said th Cat, “or ee wouldnae hae come here.”   “You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn't have come here.”
Cat Clárach
This is the first translation into the Border Scots dialect of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It has been commissioned by the Lewis Carroll Society of North America, and published in Ireland by Michael Everson of Evertype. The LCSNA 2015 conference exhibition in New York City celebrates 150 years since the first publication of Carroll’s classic fantasy story. The Society is the spark for a project to translate the tale into all the major Scots dialects, creating a valuable national resource for the study and promotion of Scottish language and culture.    
Scots was at its peak as a European language of scholars in the 16th century, but its scope and influence has declined since English became Scotland’s formal written language in the 17th century. Border Scots has subsequently become primarily an oral dialect, spoken by more than 100,000 people at home, work and play, but not regularly committed to paper for use in a formal context. Recognizing the oral nature of the dialect was an important step in deciding how this first translation of Alice was to be carried out.    
A key test in this process was discovering whether the oral dialect was dynamic enough to transfer to the written page and still be able to express Lewis Carroll’s themes, situations and wordplay in credible and meaningful ways. To be making this test on such an iconic and popular text was both a responsibility and a challenge, and one that I was delighted to accept.    
Border Scots differs from other Scots dialects in terms of its anglicized and unusual flat vowel pronunciations, earning it the moniker of the “yow an mei” dialect. There was an opportunity to echo this sound in the very name of “Ahlice”, where the drawn out and flattened first syllable acts as an aural clue to the deep timbre this dialect emits in its spoken form. To further achieve this aural effect the common Scots custom of dropping consonants at the end of words and syllables has also been deployed. In particular, applying it to the progressive participle ending -ing to make it -in flattens the sound to a more authentic Borders’ pitch.
Very short versions of regular words have been chosen to emphasize the brevity of the spoken dialect, such as th (the), an (and) and o (of). This minimal style takes advantage of the flexibility in Scots regarding the apostrophe and its representation of a missing consonant, and follows the Middle English roots of the dialect, where there is precedent for omitting the apostrophe altogether.    
The choice of vocabulary for Ahlice required both broad and narrow strategies. The inclusion of widely used terms such as wee for ‘small’ and lassie for ‘girl’ follows Sir James Wilson’s mission in the 1920s to make the lowland Scots language accessible and engaging for as many readers as possible. But when a narrow choice of word was required to keep the language local and distinctive, some inclusions may have resonance only within the Border towns, such as gliff, puggled, teesh and muitteet-oot. As a nod to Bill McLaren CBE, probably the finest Borders voice e’er to circle the globe, there is also a stramash.    
The test of the dialect during the translation process revealed a vocabulary and grammar which adds vigour and vitality to the telling of Lewis Carroll’s story. With the availability of a strong canon of local vernacular, and a distinct grammatical framework to work within, future translators of this text will have the opportunity to showcase the dialect to even greater effect.    
More detailed discussion of this translation is made in an accompanying essay, published in Jon Lindseth’s Alice in a World of Wonderlands: the Translations of Lewis Carroll’s Masterpiece, part of the LCSNA Alice 150: Celebrating Wonderland conference exhibition.    
Getting the translation process started was made possible with the vision and expertise of Malcolm Clark, a Borderer with superb knowledge and understanding of the dialect and its role in time and place. He brought overarching guidance on the scope and direction of the project, and crucial feedback on its initial development.    
The foundation for selecting authentic terms and language conventions was set by reviewing historical local language compilers such as Murray and Watson, and Elliot Cowan Smith for Hawick in particular. Selecting words when presented with credible choices in Borders, Scots and English was guided by the recent work of Robinson and Kay, the Scots Language Centre and the Dictionary of the Scots Language, among others. The use of Borders dialect on social media was looked at, and valuable discussion on the text’s language and content was contributed by Leadhills Reading Society, trustees of the UK’s oldest subscription library. Thanks for helping this translation to start and finish also go to Sally Ferguson, Rab Wilson, Jon Lindseth, and Jan Halfpenny.    
Elliot Cowan Smith observed nearly a century ago that the Borders dialect will “pass gradually into oblivion” if its spirit is allowed to be lost. It is hoped that the publication of Ahlice’s Adveenturs in Wunderlaant will kindle the spirit and confidence to record the dialect in print more widely, and establish a future role for it in the development of Borders life.    
—Cameron Halfpenny
Leadhills, 2015

HTML Michael Everson, Evertype, 73 Woodgrove, Portlaoise, R32 ENP6, Ireland, 2015-05-01

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