Here’s a definition of how cultural identity is viewed in psychological terms:
“Your cultural identity is your family history, your relationships, and how you interconnect with others. It is the combination of the genetic framework that you were given and the environmental factors that have shaped who you are. It relates to your preference of with whom you like to spend your time and the types of cultural characteristics to which you best relate. Cultural Identity also relates to how you maintain personal relationships. In essence, the people with whom you most strongly connect, whether that be from a familial, ethnic, and racial consideration or whether that means the “type” of person. Your cultural identity includes how you compare yourself to the rest of the world, your nationality, your socio-economic class, and even who you love and why.”
Burgess, T., Pugh, K., & Sevigny, L. (2006) The Personal Vision Workbook, New York: Thomson Delmar Learning
Under that definition, I guess, I could say I was somewhat Celtic, or a Gael. My great grandfather grew up in a Gaelic-speaking household (the family lived in Glasgow, but was from Tarbert, Loch Fyne) ; but he never taught his daughter, my grandmother, anything but English. They did, however, own a wee pekinese by the name of Caraid – Gàidhlig for ‘friend’.
Interestingly enough, psychological definitions don’t mention the language you speak as being a cultural determiner. However, I think it permeates everything – language both shapes beliefs and transmits them. It’s almost like the water a fish swims in – is the Fish aware of the water? He certainly is when you take the water away. That is how I feel, personally, and this has been echoed many times when I’ve been ‘across the Pond’ – I get asked, “Why are Americans so interested in their ancestry?” This is expressed in a totally bewildered way, most of the time. My response is the variation on the ‘fish out of water’ theme – I’m gasping for my culture, because I’m not surrounded by it.