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Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. A national language is a language (or language variant, i.e. dialect) which has some connection—de facto or de jure—with a people and perhaps by extension the territory they occupy. The term is used variously. A national language may for instance represent the national identity of a nation or country. National language may alternatively be a designation given to one or more languages spoken as first languages in the territory of a country.

C.M.B. Brann, with particular reference to Africa, suggests that there are "four quite distinctive meanings" for national language in a polity:[1]

  • "Territorial language" (chthonolect, sometimes known as chtonolect[2]) 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 seems often to be given the title "official language."

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. Obviously a stateless nation is not in the position to legislate an official language, but their language may be considered a national language.

Some languages may be recognized popularly as "national languages," while others may enjoy a high degree of official recognition. Some examples of national languages that are not official languages include Cherokee, and Navajo (and other living Native American languages).

Certain languages may enjoy government recognition or even status as official languages in some countries while not in others.



Andorra's national language is Catalan, however the Catalan language is a regional language in Spain (Catalonia, Valencian Community, Balearic Islands, the Catalan-Aragonese borderlands known as La Franja and the Murcian municipality of El Carche), France (Pyrénées Orientales) and in Italy (Alghero).

Greater China

See also: Standard Chinese and History of Mandarin.

In China, plenty of spoken variants exist in different parts of the country. In ancient times, several local dialects were chosen as the official spoken language, such as the dialects from Hangzhou, Nanjing, etc.

After the Xinhai Revolution in 1911, the Kuomintang (Chinese nationalists) founded the Republic of China (ROC). In order to promote a sense of national unity and enhance the efficiency of communications within the nation, the ROC decided to designate a national language. The Beijing dialect of Mandarin and Guangzhou dialect of Cantonese were the most popular options. Ultimately the Beijing dialect was chosen as the national language and given the name 國語 in Chinese (Pinyin: Guóyǔ, lit. national language, commonly known as "Standard Chinese" in English). In the beginning, there were attempts to introduce elements from other Chinese spoken variants into the national language, in addition to those existing in the Beijing dialect, but this was deemed too difficult and was abandoned in 1924. Since then, the Beijing dialect became the major source of standard national pronunciation, due to its prestigious status in the preceding Qing Dynasty. Elements from other dialects exist in the standard language.

After the Chinese Civil War in 1949, the Chinese Communist Party established the People's Republic of China (PRC) in mainland China. The Kuomintang regime of the Republic of China retreated to the island of Taiwan and maintained the same policy. Similarly, the People's Republic of China, which administers mainland China, continued the effort and renamed the national language, largely based on the Beijing dialect, as 普通話 (Pinyin: pǔtōnghuà, lit. common speech).[3]

European Union

Sign in the entrance of the European Parliament building in Brussels written in the 23 official languages used in the European Union as of 2007.

The European Union has a list of 23 official languages: Bulgarian, Czech, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish and Swedish.


Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. Finland has two national languages: namely the Finnish language and the Swedish language according to the Constitution of Finland.[4][5] The Language Act details the use of them by public authorities.[6] However, there is an aboriginal nation Sami and another group Romani that have their languages mentioned as legal to be maintained and developed by such groups. The Sami have partial right to use Sami languages in official situations according to other laws.

The Swedish language (6% of the people) is a valid language everywhere in Finland, whereas the Finnish language (92% of the people) is most widely used, but the latter is not legally valid everywhere.[5] Despite the large difference in the numbers of users, Swedish is not officially classified as a minority language but equal to Finnish. Finnish is legally in many cases banned in Åland Islands[citation needed]. In specific cases, Finnish in particular may be forbidden in other regions not only in Finland, but in Sweden and Norway too[citation needed].

Most often, bilingual Finns are counted as Swedes[citation needed]. Leading politicians have during the 2000s begun to proclaim that in order to have the identity of a Finn, one must possess Swedish skills.[citation needed] 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.


Script error: No such module "main". Neither the Constitution of India nor Indian law specifies a National language. India specifies Hindi and English as official languages of the India de jure. Article 343 of the constitution specifies that the official language of the India is Hindi in Devanagari script. Article 354 states that a state of India may officially adopt one or more languages in use in the state or Hindi/English as the language or languages to be used for all or any of the official purposes of that state.[7] Section 8 of The Official Languages Act of 1963 (as amended in 1967) empowers the Union Government to make rules regarding the languages which may be used for the Official purposes of the Union, for transaction of business in Parliament, and for communication between the Union Government and the states.[8] Section 3 of G.S.R. 1053, titled "Rules, 1976 (As Amended, 1987)" specifies that communications from a Central (Union) Government office to a State or a Union Territory in shall, save in exceptional cases (Region "A") or shall ordinarily (Region "B"), be in Hindi, and if any communication is issued to any of them in English it shall be accompanied by a Hindi translation thereof.[9] Section 3 of G.S.R. 1053, titled "Rules, 1976 states Communications from a Central Government office to State or Union Territory in Region "C" or to any office (not being a Central Government office) or person in such State shall be in English. Region C (South India) covers Tamil Nadu, Kerala , Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh [10]


Irish (Gaeilge), a Celtic language, is recognized as the primary constitutional language of the Republic of Ireland; notwithstanding that English is the de facto language of the State. Irish (also known in English as Gaelic) is the main community and household language of 3% of the population.[11] However, 42% of the population of the Republic of Ireland claimed to have the ability to speak Irish in the 2006 national census.[12] Of these, 538,283 (32.5%) speak Irish on a daily basis (taking into account both native speakers and those inside the education system), 97,089 (5.9%) weekly, 581,574 (35.1%) less often, and 412,846 (24.9%) never. 26,998 (1.6%) respondents did not state how often they spoke Irish. These findings have been met with some scepticism.[13] The Irish Government is officially committed to the development of a bilingual society, where as many people as possible can use Irish and English with equal ease and facility.[14]

In Northern Ireland, the Irish language has little legal standing. However, many people can speak the language in certain areas of Northern Ireland, especially in the 'Gaeltacht Quarter' of West Belfast. The dialect of the language usually used in Northern Ireland is Ulster Irish, also known as Donegal Irish. In addition, many Irish-medium primary schools (Gaelscoileanna) have been established over the last twenty years or so across the region.


In Lebanon, the Arabic language is the "official national" language.[15]


The Maltese language is recognised as official as well together with English. Maltese 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, Oshiwambo, Otjiherero, Portuguese, as well as the languages of the Himba, Nama, San, Kavango and Damara.


Besides official English, Nigeria recognizes three 'majority', or national, languages. These are the big three, Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba, each with some 20 million speakers or more.[16]


Article 251(1) of the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan, titled National language, specifies: "The National language of Pakistan is Urdu, and arrangements shall be made for its being used for official and other purposes within fifteen years from the commencing day."[17]National Language Authority is an organization established to make these arrangements since 1979.


The 1973 Philippine constitution designated Pilipino (a Tagalog-based language) and English as official languages, "until otherwise provided by law" and mandated development and formal adoption of a common national language to be known as Filipino.

The 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 Borneo–Philippines languages group of the Austronesian language family. As of 2008, leaders from the Ilocos region and other Ilocano-dominated provinces are considering the possible declaration of Ilocano language as an official language in their provinces along with the national language to foster the continuity of their language and heritage.


In Singapore, the Malay language is the national and official language since it is the native language of Malay Singaporeans, who were the original inhabitants of the land but are now a minority due to mass ethnic Chinese immigration. As of the 2000 census, they make up only about 14% of the total population of 4.55 million.[18] Three other languages enjoy official language status, including English, which is the language of business and governance and the medium of instruction in public schools; Mandarin Chinese, and Tamil.[19]


In Syria, the Arabic language is the official language.[20]

United Kingdom

The English language is the de facto official language of the United Kingdom and is spoken monolingually by an estimated 95% of the British population.[21]

United States

In the United States, English is the national language only in an informal sense, by numbers and by historical and contemporary association. The United States Constitution does not explicitly declare any official language, although the constitution is written in English, as is all federal legislation.

On February 11, 2009, Representative Steve King (R-IA.) introduced House Bill H.R.997, to declare English as the official language of the United States. On May 5, 2009, Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) introduced Senate Bill S.991 as a companion bill.

On February 26, 2009, Representative Steve King (R-IA.) introduced House Bill H.R.1229, a bill to amend title 4, United States Code, to declare English as the official language of the Government of the United States, and for other purposes. On May 6, 2009, Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) introduced Bill S.992 as a companion bill.

On March 10, 2011, Representative Steve King (R-IA.) introduced House Bill H.R.997, a bill to amend title 4, United States Code, to declare English as the official language of the Government of the United States, and for other purposes. On March 8, 2011, Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) introduced Bill S.503 as a companion bill.

On March 17, 2011, Representative Peter T. King (R-NY.) introduced House Bill H.R.1164, a bill to amend title 4, United States Code, to declare English as the official language of the Government of the United States.

As of August 2011, the last major actions on these bills were:[22]

Bill Last Major Action Date
H.R.997 Referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties July 23, 2009
S.991 Referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs May 6, 2009
H.R.1229 Referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties August 19, 2009
S.992 Referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs May 6, 2009
H.R.997 Referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution. March 21, 2011
H.R.1164 Referred to the Subcommittee on the Constitution. June 1, 2011

Previous incarnations of these bills were co-written and supported by California millionaire Ron Unz.[citation needed]


In Vietnam, the Vietnamese language is the national language.

See also


  1. Brann, C.M.B. 1994. "The National Language Question: Concepts and Terminology." Logos [University of Namibia, Windhoek] Vol 14: 125-134
  2. Wolff, H. Ekkehard "African Languages: An Introduction Ch./Art: Language and Society p. 321 pub. Cambride University Press 2000
  3. General Information of the People's Republic of China (PRC): Languages,, retrieved 2008-04-17
  4. Finland - Constitution, Section 17. International Constitutional Law website.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Lua error in ...ribunto/includes/engines/LuaCommon/lualib/mwInit.lua at line 17: bad argument #1 to 'old_pairs' (table expected, got nil).[dead link]
  6. Language Act : Unofficial Translation. Ministry of Justice. (PDF) Retrieved 2009-11-06.
  7. Official Language related—Part 17 of the Constitution of India, Government of India, retrieved 2007-11-15
  8. Official Languages Act of 1963, as amended 1967, Government of India, 1963, retrieved 2007-11-15
  9. "Hindi is not a National Language related", The Times Of India
  10. Rules, 1976 (As Amended, 1987), Government of India, retrieved 2007-11-15
  11. Government of Ireland, Statement on the Irish Language 2006 PDF (919 KB). Retrieved on 21 January 2008
  12. "Census 2006 – Principal Demographic Results" (PDF). Central Statistics Office. Retrieved 2007-06-19.
  13. Irish Independent, 23.02.2011. [1]
  14. |url=,7802,en.pdf%7Cformat=PDF%7Ctitle=Statement on the Irish Language 2006|publisher=Government of Ireland |accessdate=2007-06-19}}
  15. Constitution of Lebanon {Adopted on: 21 September 1990}. Constitutional Documents
  16. Article 55, Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria : 1999.
  17. "PART XII (contd); Miscellaneous; Chapter 4. General", The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, August 14, 1973, retrieved 2008-04-22
  18. "World Factbook — Singapore". CIA. Retrieved 2007-09-10.
  19. "Languages of singapore". Ethonologue. Retrieved 2007-09-10.
  20. Syria - Constitution {Adopted on: 13 March 1973}. Constitutional Documents
  21. In the United Kingdom, English is established by de facto usage. In Wales, the 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". Welsh Language Act 1993, Office of Public Sector Information, retrieved 3 September 2007 Bòrd na Gàidhlig is tasked with "securing the status of the Gaelic language as an official language of Scotland commanding equal respect to the English language" Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, Office of Public Sector Information, retrieved 9 March 2007
  22. The library of Congress : Thomas.

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