Sunday, September 15, 2013


We are Born Inside a Language

Iain Crichton Smith (1928-1998), "Real People in a Real Place," Towards the Human: Selected Essays (Edinburgh: Macdonald Publishers, 1986), pp. 13-70 (at 20):
For if there is no Gaelic left, will not the islander live in a disappearing landscape, as an Englishman would if his language were slowly to die?....If the islander were to speak English and still inhabit the island which he does in fact inhabit, what would he be then but an unreal person in an unreal place? If he were to wake one morning and look around him and see "hill" and not "cnoc", would he not be an expatriate of his own land? What if an Englishman were to waken one morning and see that "tree" had been transformed to "arbre"? He would have the psychology of the exile who on landing in Nova Scotia were to see a Red Indian and hear his strange language which he would be unable to understand. For we are born inside a language and see everything from within its parameters: it is not we who make language, it is language that makes us.

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