Friday, March 16, 2007

Official language

An official language is a language that is given a unique legal status in the countries, states, and other territories. It is typically the language used in a nation's legislative bodies, though the law in many nations requires that government documents be produced in other languages as well.

A few states have no official language, although in most such cases there is a single de facto main language. The acceptance of de facto national languages is sometimes used as a means of remaining unprejudiced or unbiased. In the United States, the federal government has not declared a national language. English is accepted as the de facto national language. To partially cope with this situation, the federal government has given states the right to declare their official language. This right is exercised, with New Mexico having recognized both English and Spanish for official purposes ever since gaining statehood. Also, Louisiana uses French and English as official languages, and Hawaii uses Hawaiian and English as official languages.
Similarly, in the former Soviet Union, Russian was not legally the official language, but de facto. Likewise in the UK, English is the dominant language but no official language has ever been declared. Sweden is another case of a country with no de jure language.

A national language is a language (or language variant, i.e. dialect) which represents the national identity of a nation or country. A national language is used for political and legal discourse and so designated by a country's government. Some countries have more than one national language, such as Canada which uses both French and English. A national language is not to be confused with the predominant language, which is spoken by the majority of people from within a country's borders.

A regional language is a language spoken in a part of a country. It may be a small area, a federal state or province, or a wider area. It is often mistaken for a dialect.
For the purposes of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages:
"regional or minority languages" means languages that are:
  1. traditionally used within a given territory of a State by nationals of that State who form a group numerically smaller than the rest of the State's population; and
  2. different from the official language(s) of that State

Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway have signed a resolution to recognise sign languages as official languages. And New Zealand schools will offer it.

Will Irish be an official language in Northern Ireland? We are waiting for the 12-week consultation period to end.

How to forget your mother tongue and remember your national language?

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