A national language
is a language
(or language variant
, e.g. dialect
) that has some connection—de facto
or de jure
—with a nation
. There is little consistency in the use of this term. One or more languages spoken as first languages
in the territory of a country may be referred to informally or designated in legislation as national languages of the country. National languages are mentioned in over 150 world constitutions.
, with particular reference to India, suggests that there are "four quite distinctive meanings" for national language in a polity:
- "Territorial language" (chthonolect, sometimes known as chtonolect) of a particular people
- "Regional language" (choralect)
- "Language-in-common or community language" (demolect) used throughout a country
- "Central language" (politolect) used by government and perhaps having a symbolic value.
The last is usually given the title of official language
. In some cases (e.g., the Philippines
), several languages are designated as official
and a national language is separately designated.
Official versus national languages
"National language" and "official language
" are best understood as two concepts or legal categories with ranges of meaning that may coincide, or may be intentionally separate. Stateless nations
are not in the position to legislate an official language
, but their languages may be sufficiently distinct and well-preserved to be national languages. Some languages may be recognized popularly as "national languages," while others may enjoy official recognition in use or promotion.
In many African countries, some or all indigenousAfrican languages
are officially used, promoted, or expressly allowed to be promoted (usually taught in schools and written in important publications) as semi-official languages whether by long-term legislation or short-term, case-by-case executive (government) measures. To be official, spoken and written languages may enjoy government or federalised use, major tax-funded promotion or at least full tolerance as to their teaching and employers' recognition in public education
, standing on equal footing with the official language(s). Further, they may enjoy recognition as a language used in compulsory schooling and treasury money may be spent to teach or encourage adults in learning a language which is a minority language in a particular area to restore its understanding and spread its moral stories, rhymes, poems, phrases, songs, and other literary heritage which will promote social cohesion
(where other languages remain) or will promote nationalist differentiation
where another, non-indigenous language is deprecated.
is the national language in Algeria
is also an official language. French
has no official status but is widely used in education, business and the media.
is a separate branch in the linguistic family of Indo-European languages. Armenian is widely spoken in Armenia
as well as in its diaspora.
Australia has no official language
, but is largely monolingual
with English being the de facto
national language. A considerable proportion of first and second generation migrants are bilingual. According to Ethnologue, 81% of people spoke English at home, including L2
speakers. Other languages spoken at home included Chinese 2.9%, Italian 1.2%, Arabic 1.1%, Greek 1%, Vietnamese 0.9% and Spanish 0.4%.
There were almost 400 languages spoken by Indigenous Australians
prior to the arrival of Europeans. Only about 70 of these languages have survived and all but 30 of these are now endangered.
, the sole official language of Bangladesh
, is also the de jure
and de facto
national language of the country. Establishing Bengali as a national language was one of the key reason for the independence of Bangladesh.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
There are many languages spoken across China
, with most people speaking one of several varieties of Chinese
. During successive imperial dynasties, the spoken language of the capital city served as the official spoken language and was used across the country by government officials who traveled to communicate with one another. Dialects used for this purpose in different eras included those of Xi'an
, and other historical capital cities
After the Xinhai Revolution
in 1911, the Kuomintang
(Chinese nationalists) founded the Republic of China
. In order to promote a sense of national unity and enhance the efficiency of communications within the nation, the government decided to designate a national language. The Beijing dialect
and Guangzhou dialect
were each proposed as the basis for a national language for China.
In the beginning, there were attempts to introduce elements from other Chinese varieties into the national language in addition to those from the Beijing dialect; this was reflected in the first official dictionary of the national language, given the name 國語 (Pinyin
, literally "national language"). But this artificial language had no native speakers and was difficult to learn, so it was abandoned in 1924. Ultimately, the Beijing dialect was chosen as the national language and it continued to be referred to as 國語 in Chinese in the Republic of China. Since then, the Beijing dialect has become the main standard for pronunciation, due to its prestigious status during the preceding Qing Dynasty
Still, elements from other dialects do exist in the standard language, which is now defined as reflecting the pronunciation of Beijing, the grammatical patterns of Mandarin
dialects spoken in the northern parts of China, and the vocabulary of modern vernacular Chinese literature. The People's Republic of China renamed the national language 普通话 (Pinyin: Pǔtōnghuà, literally "common speech"), without otherwise changing the definition of the standard national language.
(a variety of Serbo-Croatian) language is the national language of Croatia.
language is the national language of the Czech Republic.
Ethiopia is a country where more than 80 nations, nationalities and peoples live together. Its people altogether speak over 80 different languages. Afar
are the official working language of Ethiopia.
Nevertheless, the working languages of regional states differ, and include Oromo, Tigrinya, Amharic, Afar, Sidama and Somali. English is the most widely spoken foreign language and is the medium of instruction in secondary schools and universities. The language of instruction in primary schools is the respective local language of the regional states.
has two national languages: namely the Finnish language
and the Swedish language
. The Constitution of Finland
guarantees the right to use Finnish and Swedish in courts and other state institutions.
Despite the large difference in the numbers of users, Swedish is not officially classified as a minority language but equal to Finnish. Both national languages are compulsory subjects in school (except for children with a third language as mother tongue) and a language test is a prerequisite for governmental offices where a university degree is required. The constitution also grants the Sami and the Roma peoples the right to maintain and develop their languages: The Sami have partial right to use Sami languages
in official situations according to other laws.
is the sole official language of France
, according to Article 2 of the French Republic's constitution.
language of Germany
, with over 95% of the country's population speaking it as their first language.
Haiti's official languages are Haitian Creole
. While French is the language used in the media, government and education, 90–95% of the country speak Haitian Creole as the home language while French is learned in school.
is the official language of Iceland
. Icelandic is the language used in the media, government and education, 98% of the country speak Icelandic at home.
India has no national language.
However, there are 22 official languages in India.Assamese
are majorly spoken by the native people. Government has declared Kannada, Malayalam, Odia, Sanskrit, Tamil and Telugu, as the Classical Languages
of India. English is used for official purposes, such as for parliamentary proceedings, judiciary, and communications between the Central Government and the various State Governments. The state governments use their own languages as well as English for the purpose of communication. States of India
are free to adopt one or more scheduled languages
for official purposes of that state. Additionally, 22 official languages are accorded official status as mentioned in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution of India
. All of these languages carry equal official status and Government documents can be written in any one of these languages. Hence India has 22 major official languages.
The official language of Indonesia is Indonesian
. Indonesia has more than 700 living languages, making it the second most linguistically diverse country after Papua New Guinea.
These 700+ languages, however, are without official status
, and some are in danger of extinction
. The largest local language is Javanese
Persian (or Farsi) is recognised as the national language of Iran.
is recognised by the Constitution of Ireland
as the national language and first official language of Ireland, and the English language is recognised as a second official language.
became the national language and the sole official language of Israel with the adoption of the Nation-State Bill
in 2018, and Arabic
was abolished as a co-official language and became recognized as a language with "special status" used in state institutions.
The Italian language
is the de jure
and de facto
official language of Italy
is also referred to as national language for historical and cultural reasons, because since the 15th century, Italian
became the language used in the courts
of nearly every state in Italy
and in general among educated Italians
(scholars, writers, poets, philosophers, scientists, composers and artists) who contributed to what is nowadays the culture of Italy
Furthermore, Italian was often an official language of the various Italian states before unification
, slowly replacing Latin, even when ruled by foreign powers (such as the Spaniards in the Kingdom of Naples
, or the Austrians in the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia
While English and Swahili
are official languages, Swahili also has a special status as national language. None of the country's biggest languages (Gikuyu
, etc.) have any explicit legal status on the national level, however the 2010 constitution enjoins the state to "promote and protect the diversity of language of the people of Kenya."
Luxembourg uses three official languages: Luxembourgish
, French, and German. Previously Luxembourgish had no official status, but following a constitutional revision a law was passed on 24 February 1984 making Luxembourgish the national language. Furthermore, this law recognised the three languages of Luxembourg (Luxembourgish, French and German) as administrative languages.
The Maltese language
is the national language of Malta. It is also the official language of the island, together with English
. Maltese only is recognised as "national" in Chapter 1 of the Laws of Malta.
Although English is the only nationwide official language in Namibia
, there are also 20 National languages
, which are each spoken by more or less sizeable portions of the population and are considered Namibia's cultural heritage. All national languages have the rights of a minority language and may even serve as a lingua franca in certain regions. Among Namibia's national languages are German, Afrikaans
, as well as the languages of the Himba
is the official language of Nepal. Over 123 languages are spoken in Nepal. Some of the language spoken in Nepal
Article 251(1) of the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan
, titled National language
, specifies: "The National language of Pakistan
, and arrangements shall be made for its being used for official and other purposes within fifteen years from the commencing day." Although Urdu has been declared an official language, so far all government documents, legislation, legal orders, and other official records are written in Pakistani English
. Most higher education instruction is in English.
The National Language Authority
is an organization established to make arrangements to promote Urdu since 1979.
, also known as Filipino
is the national language of the Philippines
. The current 1987 constitution designated the Filipino language
, which is based on Tagalog with the inclusion of terms from all recognized languages of the Philippines
, as the national language. It also designated both Filipino and English as the official languages for purposes of communication and instruction, and designated the regional languages as auxiliary official languages in the regions to serve as auxiliary media of instruction therein.
More than 170 languages
are spoken in the Philippines
and almost all of them belong to the Philippine subgroup
of the Austronesian
language family. In September 2012, La Union
became the first province in Philippine history to pass an ordinance proclaiming a local language. It declared Ilocano
as an official language
. This move aims to protect and revitalize the use of Ilocano in various government and civil affairs within the province.
The Filipino Sign Language
is designated as the "national sign language of the Filipino deaf" as well as the official sign language for transactions of the Philippine government.
Article 27 of the Constitution states: "Polish shall be the official language in the Republic of Poland".
Portuguese is the sole official language of Portugal. Brazil
national language is Portuguese 
has four official languages: English
. Although English is the primary language of business, government, and education, Malay is designated as the national language. This is due to the geographical and historical ties to Malaysia
as well as the recognition of ethnic Malays
(about 14% of the population) as the indigenous people of Singapore.
Traditionally, the lingua franca
among the different ethnic groups in Singapore was Bazaar Malay
, a Malay-based creole
. Since independence, the government has been promoting English as the main language of Singapore. The bilingual education policy requires students to study two languages: English and a "mother tongue" corresponding to the student's ethnicity. Malay is only offered to non-Malay students as an optional third language in secondary schools. As a result, English has displaced Bazaar Malay as the common language among Singaporeans. Therefore, despite the status of Malay as the national language, the majority doesn't speak it.
has 11 official languages
, namely Afrikaans
The South African constitution further explicitly supports the promotion of the indigenous Khoi
, and San
languages; Sign language
; community languages such as German
; and languages used for religious purposes such as Arabic
A majority (74%) of the population speaks German, while most of the remainder (21%) speak French, and minorities speak Italian (4%) and Romansh (1%, not monolingually). German speakers are predominant in most of the country, while French speakers occupy the western parts near the border with France, and the Italian speakers are situated to the south near the border with Italy, mostly within the Canton of Ticino
. The Romansh speakers are concentrated in the Canton of Grisons
in the south-east.
During Japanese rule
(1895 to 1945), the "national language movement" (國語運動, kokugo undō
) promoted the Japanese language
. After their defeat in the Chinese Civil War
in 1949, the Kuomintang
regime of the Republic of China
retreated to the island of Taiwan
, where they introduced Standard Chinese
, which was spoken by few of the island population at the time, to be the "national language". Today however, the National languages development act
recognises languages of all people groups of Taiwan to be national languages.
The official language of the Tunisian
state is Arabic
However, that language is not the mother tongue of the population or used to communicate between Tunisian people, instead Tunisian Arabic
plays these roles and is the national language of Tunisia.
Also, even without an official status, French
is also used extensively in its written and spoken form in the administration, education and business environment and known by 63.6% of the population.
Also Berber minorities in the south-west and on Djerba Island
use the Tunisian Chelha language to communicate between themselves.
is the national language of Turkey
per the Turkish constitution.
The national language of Uganda
Ukrainian is the only official language of Ukraine
, but Russian
is also widely spoken all over the country especially in the regions to the east of Dnieper
The Welsh language
has official status within Wales
, and as of the 2011 census
, is spoken by 562,000 people, or 19% of the population.
The Welsh Language Board (Bwrdd yr Iaith Gymraeg
) is legally tasked with ensuring that, "in the conduct of public business and the administration of justice, the English and Welsh languages should be treated on a basis of equality".
Crown dependencies: Isle of Man
English is de facto the only official language. However a few words of Manx Gaelic (the historical national language) are sometimes encountered in government institutions, largely for symbolic and ceremonial purposes, and it is the main medium of instruction in one primary school.
English is the main language spoken in the county of Cumbria
was the historical language of Cumbria. Cumbric is very similar to Welsh. It also used to be spoken in parts of Lancashire and southern Scotland. Most say that Cumbric became extinct in the 12th or 13th centuries. The Cumbric numerical system
is still used by many shepherds in the Lake District.
English is the de facto
main language spoken in the county of Cornwall
. Historically, the main language of Cornwall was Cornish
. By 1800, Cornish was extinct. Recently, there has been an attempted revival of the Cornish language.
On 13 February 2015, Representative Peter T. King
introduced H.R.997, the English Language Unity Act of 2015
, in the United States House of Representatives
. This bill would establish English as the official language of the United States. A companion bill, S.678, was introduced by Senator Jim Inhofe
in the United States Senate
on 9 March 2015. Both bills were referred to committee. Similar legislation has been introduced every year since 1973.
Notes and references
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- ^ Brann, C.M.B. 1994. "The National Language Question: Concepts and Terminology." Logos [University of Namibia, Windhoek] Vol 14: 125–134
- ^ Wolff, H. Ekkehard "African Languages: An Introduction Ch./Art: Language and Society p. 321 pub. Cambridge University Press 2000
- ^ 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Languagehttp://www.plean2028.ie/en/node/14[permanent dead link]
- ^ Williams, Colin H. (1990), "The Anglicisation of Wales", in Coupland, Nikolas (ed.), English in Wales: Diversity, Conflict, and Change, Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Matters, pp. 38–41, ISBN 9781853590313
- ^ The Report: Algeria 2008. Oxford Business Group. 2008. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-902339-09-2.
- ^ Oldenburg, Philip (August 1985). ""A Place Insufficiently Imagined": Language, Belief, and the Pakistan Crisis of 1971". The Journal of Asian Studies. 44 (4): 711–733. doi:10.2307/2056443. ISSN 0021-9118.
- ^ "Amendments XXVII-LIV to the Constitution of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina"(PDF). High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
- ^ "Amendments LXXI-XCII to the Constitution of Republika Srpska" (PDF). High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
- ^ Constitution of the Republic Bulgaria, article 3
- ^ General Information of the People's Republic of China (PRC): Languages, chinatoday.com, retrieved 17 April 2008
- ^ Shaban, Abdurahman. "One to five: Ethiopia gets four new federal working languages". Africa News.
- ^ Finland – Constitution, Section 17. International Constitutional Law website.
- ^ "FINLEX ® – Ajantasainen lainsäädäntö: 11.6.1999/731".
- ^ Decree on the Sami Parliament FINLEX. Access date: 3 July.
- ^ "Legifrance - Le service public de l'accés au droit". 4 June 2011. Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
- ^ "BBC Education".
- ^ "Hindi, not a national language: Court". The Hindu. PTI. 25 January 2010. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
- ^ "Why Hindi isn't the national language".
- ^ "CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS | Department of Official Language | Ministry of Home Affairs | GoI". rajbhasha.nic.in. Retrieved 8 February 2019.
- ^ "There's no national language in India: Gujarat High Court". The Times of India. 25 January 2010. and English and Hindi are used for official purposes by the union government and in the parliament
- ^ "The Constitution of India" (PDF). National Portal. 26 November 1949.
- ^ "What countries have the most languages?". SIL International. Archived from the original on 20 August 2020. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
- ^ "Persian". UCLA Language Materials Project. Archived from the original on 23 September 2017. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
- ^ Article 8, Bunreacht na hÉireann.
- ^ Law 482, December 15, 1999. camera.it
- ^ Italian language. ethnologue.com
- ^ Lingua nazionale: le ragioni del fiorentino. accademiadellacrusca.it
- ^ Bruno Migliorini, (1960). Storia della lingua italiana. 1st ed. Italy: Sansoni.
- ^ Constitution of Kenya Accessed 2010-10-28.
- ^ "ICL - Lebanon - Constitution". 21 September 1990.
- ^ Article 55, Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria : 1999.
- ^ "PART XII (contd); Miscellaneous; Chapter 4. General", The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 14 August 1973, retrieved 22 April 2008
- ^ Elias, Jun (19 September 2012). "Iloko La Union's official language". The Philippine Star. Archived from the original on 12 October 2013. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
- ^ Constitution of the Republic of Poland, 2 April 1997, retrieved 16 July 2016
- ^ SPECIAL EUROBAROMETER 386 Europeans and their Languages (PDF). ec.europa.eu.
- ^ "Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 - Chapter 1: Founding Provisions". www.gov.za. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
- ^ "The Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation, article 4". Retrieved 30 April 2009.
- ^ "Diversité des langues et compétences linguistiques en Suisse". Retrieved 30 April 2009.
- ^ Jud, Markus G. "Switzerland's Four National Languages". All-About-Switzerland.info. Retrieved 3 March 2018.
- ^ 國家語言發展法. law.moj.gov.tw (in Chinese). Retrieved 22 May 2019.
- ^ "Tunisia Constitution, Article 1" (PDF). 26 January 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 February 2014. Retrieved 10 February 2014. Translation by the University of Bern: "Tunisia is a free State, independent and sovereign; its religion is the Islam, its language is Arabic, and its form is the Republic."
- ^ "Arabic, Tunisian Spoken". Ethnologue.
- ^ "Christian Valantin (sous la dir. de), La Francophonie dans le monde. 2006-2007, éd. Nathan, Paris, 2007, p. 16" (PDF) (in French). Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 September 2017. Retrieved 13 August 2015. (5.58 MB)
- ^ 2011 Census of Scotland, Table QS211SC. Viewed 30 May 2014.
- ^ Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, Office of Public Sector Information, archived from the original on 7 September 2010, retrieved 9 March 2007
- ^ "2011 Census: Key Statistics for Wales, March 2011". ONS. Retrieved 12 December 2012.
- ^ Welsh Language Act 1993, Office of Public Sector Information, retrieved 3 September 2007
- ^ "All legislation matching 'H.R.997'". United States Congress. Retrieved 21 December 2015.
- ^ "Toàn văn Hiến pháp sửa đổi". Tin nhanh VnExpress.
Last edited on 8 May 2021, at 16:37
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