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  • Scots: The Mither Tongue

  • By: Billy Kay
  • Narrated by: Billy Kay
  • Length: 8 hrs and 15 mins
  • 4.9 out of 5 stars (43 ratings)

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Scots: The Mither Tongue

By: Billy Kay
Narrated by: Billy Kay
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Summary

Scots: The Mither Tongue is a classic of contemporary Scottish culture and essential listening for those who care about their country's identity in the 21st century. It is a passionately written history of how the Scots have come to speak the way they do and has acted as a catalyst for radical changes in attitude towards the language.

In this revised edition, Kay vigorously renews the social, cultural, and political debate on Scotland's linguistic future, and argues convincingly for the necessity to retain and extend Scots if the nation is to hold on to its intrinsic values. Kay places Scots in an international context, comparing and contrasting it with other lesser-used European languages, while at home questioning the cultural authorities' desire to pay anything more than lip service to this crucial part of our national identity.

Language is central to people's existence, and this vivid account celebrates the survival of Scots in its various dialects, literature, and song. The mither tongue is a national treasure that thrives across the country and underpins the speech of everyone who calls themselves a Scot. The newspaper Scotland on Sunday chose Scots: The Mither Tongue as one of the best 100 Scottish books ever written. 

Billy narrates the book himself. This is Rachel McCormack's description of Billy Kay's voice from her book Chasing the Dram: "Billy is also a voice. It's a deep, low, warm, authoritative voice, like an old sherried single cask malt. It's a voice that when broadcast over the airwaves on Radio Scotland, the fish in the deepest waters near Ullapool recognise as Billy Kay. If God ever chose to reveal himself to mortals at the top of a Scottish mountain his best chance of convincing atheists of his existence would be to use Billy Kay's voice."

©1986, 2006 Billy Kay (P)2021 Billy Kay
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

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Brilliant audiobook and one worth buying!

I cannot rate this audiobook highly enough. Billy Kay’s narration is as amazing as his writing.

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The key text on the Scots language

Because of how it has helped to transform the negative psychology of a generation of Scots speakers regarding their own language (a huge achievement), 'The Mither Tongue' must be considered one of the most culturally important books of the last 50 years. Although by no means the only important book on Scots, or the first, it remains a foundational text and it's absolutely wonderful that we can finally hear the man himself read the whole thing. Whether the potential listener has previously opposed the recognition of Scots, or championed it, just wants to discover their linguistic past and present, or to see what all the fuss is about, this audiobook is essential listening.

Coming from a working-class family that spoke a rich dialect, alongside the local English, it took serious book time to realise that what most of us had been calling broad or slang was actually Scots and not an inferior form of modern English. What I lacked back in the mid-80s was a detailed historical overview that would help me argue with anyone who would give me the time and it was exactly at that moment that 'Mither Tongue' appeared. It had an electrifying effect on me and turned me into a campaigner. Revisiting it 35 years later as an audiobook has reminded me that I hadn't exaggerated its influence.

A new generation of campaigners has grown up into a world much more accepting of arguments in favour of Scots. But, as the range of opponents diminishes, and with contact between the two sides more likely because of social media, the opposition is often more vicious. Those in search of irresistible arguments for the promotion of Scots will find all they need in 'Mither Tongue', if they haven't already been inspired by it. This new crop of promoters blooter the counter-arguments so firmly out of the park that I wouldn't believe it if they said hadn't already read it.

The author's voice makes listening a pleasure. Its exactness is crucial when dealing with the pronunciation of so many unfamiliar words, especially true in the sections dealing with the medieval history of Scots. The accusation suffered by Kay and other promoters of Scots that "no-one speaks like that" is down to nothing more than unfamiliarity with spoken Scots in different registers, due to the extremely limited contexts within which we can hear serious spoken Scots.

This is another reason why the audiobook is so welcome, explaining as it does, with copious readings, our rich, highly-regarded and versatile Scots literature, stretching back over 700 years. The author goes on to show how Scots was once the official state language, spoken by all the heich-heidit yins - monarchs, politicians, judges and the like. To continue to think, instead, that Scots is only fit for the hard man or the comedian is a terrible species of ignorance, a kind of inverted linguistic snobbery aimed at reducing Scots and keeping it in its place. My English wife, by contrast, resident over 30 years in Scotland, understands spoken Scots almost perfectly and supports any moves to raise its status. She has had lots of questions about just those things described and the book has been really useful in answering many of them for her.

Kay rightly bemoans the lack of progress in raising the official status of Scots still further (the preface covers this but needs further updating). A standard spelling is long overdue with little hope of movement any time soon. There is a need for legislation now and there are campaigns to push for this. For those in a position to make law, this audiobook should be required listening. The lack of action from those politicians able to effect change (from whichever party) is a continuing disgrace. The rest is ignorance, self-hatred or cultural imperialism. The new, highly motivated generation of campaigners has shown its commitment. They are only going to grow in number and strength and they are not going to go away. A George Bernard Shaw quote aimed at nationality could equally apply to language - "A healthy nation is as unconscious of its [language] as a healthy man of his bones. But if you break a nation's [language] it will think of nothing else but getting it set again." 'The Mither Tongue' is the place to begin doing that.

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O-Kay!

loved listening to Billy Kay narrating his own book. delving into the rich history of a fine language that I'm loving learning more about.

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A great History of the Scots language

A great History of the Scots language, Billy Kay has done thorough research and made the Scots language more accessible through this history.

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The best sort of popular history book.

Kay's history of the Scots language remains unmatched in its comprehensiveness and its readability nearly 16 years since it was first published. The book is ideally suited to the audiobook format; the listener can hear the many quirks and features of Scots spoken in an authentic accent by a masterful broadcaster, rather than needing to imagine how so many words are pronounced from the page. Fascinating and inspiring, would recommend to anyone.

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Another brilliant piece of work by Billy!

Many years ago I read, “Scots, The Mither Tongue” by Billy Kay. It left a great impression on me. One of the main reasons was I remember my teachers in the 1960’s who literally tried to knock the Scots language out of me. Physical punishment and humiliation failed to stop me speaking my native language.
Thankfully our language was kept alive by folks like Billy and many others and our Scots Traditional musicians also played a huge part.
Now we have our own Scots Parliament back here in Edinburgh again I have great hopes that our legislators will further promote Scots by introducing it into our schools. They’ve had almost 23 years but so far they’ve only paid lip service to it.
It’s time they got their act together!!
I was heartened a few years ago when my 10 year old granddaughter recited to me the rhyme, “ Head and shoulders knees and toes”, in Scots, “heid and shooders,knees and taes etc etc. It made my heart soar. That shows to me that some teachers are passionate and are prepared to put their heads above the parapet and promote our language.
Having just finished listening to Billy’s classic book narrated by him on Audible I can highly recommend it to everyone out there who has an interest in Scotland and the Scots. It’s brilliant.
Thank you Billy, you’re a National Treasure.
Jim in Edinburgh.

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Should be used in schools

I bought the print version for this about 15 years ago and thought it was great that a book validated the way I spoke everyday, after years of having parents and teachers telling me to ‘speak properly’.

This is a great insight in to the journey and history of the Scots language.

Its even better hearing Billy read the book.

All Scots speakers should be proud to use our language and this book should be required reading in schools.

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'twis braw

it's good to hear and learn about how the Scots language had its rise and fall, my it never be forgot.

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Every Scot should own a copy of this book

This is the most important Scottish book that I have ever read. We rarely come across a book that gives you so much awareness of your identity but this book enriched my own understanding of the language that I speak everyday, the Scots language. For centuries in the educational system we were largely taught to forget Scotland even existed prior to 1707 but this book counter acts such naive assumptions and highlights that Scotland has a language and culture of it's own that has left it's footprint on the world.

I believe that when the dominant group of today can turn the common breath of a nation into cultural self-hatred that's what separates the pawns from the kings. So the importance of this book to Scottish culture cannot be diluted and if it was up to me a copy of this book would be posted through every letterbox in Scotland

I'm dyslexic so I rely mostly on audiobooks. And I have to say Billy's narration was a joy to listen too and I was engaged in this book from start to finish.

But this audiobook and thank me later

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The Mither Tongue - a National Treasure

A reviewer in Scotland on Sunday once described Billy Kay’s The Mither Tongue as one of the best 100 Scottish books ever written. I would go further than that and say it is amongst the most important Scottish texts ever written and I value my first edition copy from 1986 the way I would cherish a first Kilmarnock Burns edition. In a country long conditioned by its own educational system to ridicule its native languages and remain largely ignorant about its own rich linguistic and literary traditions, The Mither Tongue should have become essential reading for every teacher, but the fact that it hasn’t still speaks volumes about our cultural cringe. While progress has been made over the past generation, something both the 93 edition and this brilliant new audio edition make clear, Scotland still suffers from an almost pathological linguistic complex, especially a widespread ignorance about our native languages. In addition we also suffer from a lack of political courage and will-power to address this, especially regarding the Scots language (spoken by around 1.5 million), as it still lacks the official status and respect it deserves, alongside English and Gaelic. Billy’s book should also be compulsory reading for Scottish Government ministers and in fact for anyone aspiring to become a politician in Scotland. This new audio edition read by Billy himsel is naethin short o a national treisur fae anither lad that was born in Kyle.

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