August 29, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Scotland’s Ties to Appalachia? Students Find Out

Photo by Natalie Miller

Photo by Natalie Miller

This summer, eight students from Ohio University completed the first ever Linguists Study Abroad program in Edinburgh, Scotland. Dr. Michelle O’Malley, Assistant Professor in the Linguistics Department, developed the program, which focuses on the linguistic and cultural history of Scotland and its ties to Appalachia.

“This program was developed as a way for me to educate myself in the content areas that I have recently begun teaching more regularly (due to full retirements of emeriti faculty) and to take students along for the adventure. So much of language is culture, and so much of the culture that surrounds our campus is tied to the Scots and the Scots-Irish who settled this region. I saw this as a way to expand our understanding of Appalachian cultural history as well as a way to study historical linguistics and dialect varieties, too,” O’Malley says.

Photo by Erin Kuester

Photo by Erin Kuester

Students earned 7 undergraduate or 9 graduate credit hours and gained invaluable experience traveling abroad. Mornings were filled with academic work at the University of Edinburgh, where experts in Scottish Linguistic and Cultural History instructed students, and the afternoons were devoted to walking and trekking tours of the city and its environs. The afternoons allowed students to discover—as participants in the process—the orientation of Medieval Edinburgh, the developments over the centuries that created a modern European capitol, and the locations of import to a student of cultural and linguistic history, such as grave sites, homesteads, monuments, museums, libraries and archives. Oftentimes, morning classes actually took place in the libraries and galleries.

The culmination of the students’ work in Edinburgh included the project presentations that they shared in class during the final week of study.

“In theory, throughout the first four weeks of the program, the students were identifying content focus areas of particular interest and then refining that study to a discrete point or two that could be developed into a deeper area of research. The group did a fabulous job of accessing the resources made available to them (the National Library of Scotland, the Sound Archives in the Department of Celtic and Scottish Studies, to name a few) and then working in their free time to develop quality lectures they presented to the group! We had talks on Clan Histories Textiles and Material Culture in the Highlands, Whiskey Taxes and the Highland Clearances and their ties to Appalachian moonshiners/whiskey runners, local accents in Edinburgh/Appalachia, Symbols of the Scots and the Celts and so much more…. I was really proud of the work these students put into their final projects,” said O’Malley. “In fact, we’ll be hosting a number of colloquia this fall where students will reprise their presentations; they’ll be advertised soon and should be a great recruitment tool!”

See Natalie Miller’s photos.


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