WHAT is language, and does Scots fit the definition? In the broadest sense, it may. It is a means of shared communication. But is Scots sufficiently differentiated from English to be classified as a separate language, as opposed to dialect? What is its claim to be the language of a particular group or nation? And if it has that status, does that mean those who do not speak it are not Scots?
A key component in any definition of language is that it is held by those most associated with it to be one. But according to a new study, almost two-thirds of the Scottish public do not believe Scots is a real language. The study was commissioned by the SNP and will be seen as a setback to its policy of promoting indigenous Scottish languages. The SNP supports Gaelic, so why not Scots?
Gaelic has long been recognised as an official language. Scots is not a separate language but a collection of regional dialects of the English language. Take away the words, syntax and grammatical structure of the English language, and could Scots stand on its own? Many words are commonly used by Scots. That may make it a potent dialect, but not a language. Supporters may argue that it may not yet be a fully established language in the conventional sense but would become so were it to receive official recognition. But is there in Scotland a majority in favour of such status and the financial and educational implications such status would carry? The poll would seem to indicate: no.