The National Language


This recorded interview between Mark McNaught and Professor Alfred Baird discusses the crucial importance of language to a civilised nation, the core of its existence, in particular how its demotion and ultimate erosion is a key priority for the invading country to achieve. It’s worth an hour of your time.

National language is the driving force behind unity of the nation’s people, and makes them distinct from other nations – provided you give your language respect. Giving respect to your national language means that it should be one’s primary language, as well as the preferred source of communication at every level. To my mind we have two national languages, Gaelic and Old Scots, the kind used by Robert Burns and resurrected by Hugh MacDiarmid. The latter gives us thousands of words common only to Scotland. Our native language is part of our culture. Losing language is the path to losing identity.

Language is the most important aspects for a national identity, being the second, but not less important, culture, which includes different aspects like history, literature, arts, crafts, science and many other. Language creates a mindset, a shared identity, a way to communicate with your national peers in a way that no other people usually understand, no so much for the grammar or the meaning of the words, but for the feeling each sentence creates. It also allows expressing concepts that no other language can, which stem from history and the type of relationships that the physical environment creates. Language is so rich that the loss of it destroys a huge part of the heritage our ancestors have given us. This is why some big countries have worked so hard to destroy the language of smaller nationalities within, with or without success. 

National language drives national unity in any country, even if there are hundreds of other languages and dialects present in the state. Apart from a name, a boundary, a currency, or a flag, a national language makes a county respectable.

National language indicates the national character of a country. If you want to penetrate and understand profoundly a society, you must know how to speak and write their language. If you are fluent in someone else’s native language, their people will readily accept you and you can better understand the cultural aspects and nuances of that society.

National language has a connection with the people of the country and their territory. One or the other languages are spoken in a country are sometimes referred as national languages, but one must steer clear from such confusion. For Scotland, English is an imposed language.

The National language of a country makes the people of a country unique from others, if you respect and speak their language, it can be a favoured source of interaction at the level of entry for businesses.

A national language colours everything we say and do, including our art, our paintings, murals, and prints. The loss of Scotland’s singular art colleges to universities, fire, and the fashion of ‘installation’ work removes from Scotland a unique way of seeing, and the representation of a unique topography, people traditions and light.

Language is a vital part of human connection. Although all species have their ways of communicating, humans are the only ones that have mastered cognitive language communication. Language allows us to share our ideas, thoughts, and feelings with others. It has the power to build societies, but given an alien language to speak, also tear them down. A native language is like the non-passport identity to identify somebody with some nations or some tribes. And it is really relevant for your struggle to be respected as a nation state.

Language is everything.


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7 Responses to The National Language

  1. Alastair Bryan says:

    2.5 million people in Scotland speak Scots it is a language that is very much alive. The Ulster Scots speaking community in Northern Ireland are pressing for it to be recognised there and taught ironically they represent the Unionist community. So why is it not recognised here the language of Burns, Tannahill and the Scottish Enlightenment. More Philosophers came out of Scotland than ancient Greece believe me that was not by accident. Why do the SNP support Gaelic but not Scots.

    Perhaps they see it as more of a threat to the Union than Gaelic minority language.

    Your language is suppressed along with your life chances your culture and music and this is done by design to create a mindset of inferiority what is called the cringe effect. If you speak Scots you are excluded in a Anglophone run society for Anglophones. Scottish University’s are full of foreign students and students from south of the border, the indigenous population is excluded from academic pursuit and this is the biggest reason for that exclusion is language cultural cringe. Only 10% of University’s lecturers in Scotland are Scottish which highlights this issue.

    We have all been brainwashed by a British state who are stealing our identity to make us talk and sound like our colonial masters. The aim of this is to turn Scotland eventually into a part of a greater England. Tell me who has sat through history lessons at School on 1066 or the Tudors , English history, when you got Scottish history it was always through the eyes of a Unionist propagandist.

    Worryingly some people just don’t get it, usually middle class Scots, Anglophones.

    One thing that woke me up was at 63 and having played guitar since I was 15, I never knew that there is more lute music written in Scotland that any other European country .As a keen reader of history I found out battles that have been erased from the Scottish psyche like the Battle of Wemyss where a invading English army intent on rape murder and pillage was annihilated on the beach. The point is our identity and history’s are stolen purposely to make you feel inferior.

    It’s our Colonial masters who set the narrative.

  2. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

    I greatly appreciate Alf Baird’s informed and lively contributions to the current Scottish independence debate generally, and not least his emphasis on the role of language. My own strong bias is of course towards our historic ‘Lingua Scottorum’ (ie Gaelic). In which context I was surprised to hear Alf in this interview favouring the (surely obsolete) notion that Pictish was a prototype of Germanic Inglis/Scottis. It is well worth checking current research regarding ‘Pictish Language’ online. The Wikipedia page itself is in fact extensive, authoritative and about up to date. Pictish was almost certainly P-Celtic and closely related to Q-Celtic Goidelic. And quite apart from Pictish there is also a broad substratum of Scottish placenames in related P-Celtic early “Welsh” (eg Carmunnock in Strathclyde and Penicuik un Midlothian) this being the language of apparently our earliest extant Scottish poem, ‘Y Gododdin’.

    Anyway, on the broader issue of language as a/the key determinant of thought, I am very much in agreement with Alf, as evidenced for example (rather randomly) in a book review I did for the CENCRASTUS literary magazine back in 1983:


  3. Grouse Beater says:

    As is your practise, Fearghas, you comments include more excellent information to follow.

  4. alfbaird says:

    Thanks Fearghas. As you know I am not a historian, though it is evident that the Scots language has been developing for some 1000 years and more, influenced as all languages are by interaction with other tongues – Latin, Celtic, French, Englis, German, Norse, Low Kintras an mair tae. The key issue here is that a people have a right to their language, a right which both UK and Scottish Governments have denied us Scots, and of course the fact that our language and culture is what gives us our national consciousness and hence national identity

  5. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

    THE BRUCE (lines 219-239)
    by John Barbour (c 1320-1395)

    “Alas, that folk, that evir wes fre,
    And in fredome wount for to be,
    Throw thar gret myschance and foly,
    War tretyt than sa wykkytly,
    That thar fays thar jugis war:
    Quhat wrechitnes may man have mar?
    A! fredome is a noble thing!
    Fredome mays man to haiff liking;
    Fredome all solace to man giffis:
    He levys at es that frely levys.
    A noble hart may haiff nane es,
    Na ellys nocht that may him ples,
    Gyff fredome failyhe: for fre liking
    Is yarnyt our all othir thing.
    Na he, that ay has levyt fre,
    May nocht knaw weill the propyrte,
    The angyr, na the wrechyt dome,
    That is cowplyt to foule thyrldome.
    Bot gyff he had assayit it,
    Than all perquer he suld it wyt;
    And suld think fredome mar to prys,
    Than all the gold in warld that is!”

  6. arayner1936 says:

    Very interesting discussion touching on so many aspects of life in Scotland as it is at present, a people ‘hauden doun’ and as it could be.

    I like the fact that Alf thinks there will be a movement to reclaim Scots as a marker of our culture when we become independent. I certainly hope so, though I might not be there to see it! I think there might be lessons from Norway on how to revive an indigenous language, though as far as I understand it, the situation there is complicated.

    There will certainly be a problem recruiting teachers who can teach Scots and/or teach in a Scottish medium, but a TV Channel broadcasting in Scots would help a great deal. We need to see both our indigenous languages used in all contexts and thus validated. I would hope that recruitment in an independent country would see us ask candidates for at least a working knowledge of one of our indigenous languages in order to qualify.

    I am glad things have moved on from when pupils were belted for speaking Scots or Gaelic in school, which I have witnessed. When I did teacher training in Glasgow in the early ’60s, it was tolerated as I found when given a class of pupils who could leave if they were 15 and had a job to go to.

    As they were marking time and not that interested in the traditional English curriculum, we spent a fair bit of time talking about language register (not that we used the term) and what kind of language was appropriate for different situations, eg at home, at work, talking to the boss, talking to an official etc. They all liked the idea that they were effectively bilingual, as no-one before had suggested that or even presented that as an advantage. I possibly got away with it because they were reasonably quiet and interested!

    Unfortunately I moved to England after marriage but did the same thing later with Liverpool pupils when it was more acceptable to ‘respect the language the pupils brought to school’.

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