The Info List - Official Language

An official language, also called state language, is a language given a special legal status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically a country's official language refers to the language used in government (judiciary, legislature, administration).[1] The term "official language" does not typically refer to the language used by a people or country, but by its government,[2] as "the means of expression of a people cannot be changed by any law".[3] About half the countries of the world have declared one or more official languages. The government of Italy officialised Italian only in 1999,[4] and some nations (such as the United States) have never declared official languages at the national level.[5] Other nations have declared non-indigenous official languages. "The Philippines
and parts of Africa live with a peculiar cultural paradox. Although the official languages [in Africa] may be French or English, these are not the languages most widely spoken by [the country's] residents."[5] Worldwide, 178 countries have at least one official language, and 101 of these countries recognise more than one language. Many of the world's constitutions mention one or more official or national languages.[6][7] Some countries use the official language designation to empower indigenous groups by giving them access to the government in their native languages. In countries that do not formally designate an official language, a de facto national language usually evolves. English is the most common official language, with recognized status in 51 countries. Arabic, French, and Spanish are also widely recognized. An official language that is also an indigenous language is called endoglossic, one that is not indigenous is exoglossic.[8] An instance is Nigeria
which has three endoglossic official languages. By this the country aims to protect the indigenous languages although at the same time recognising the English language
English language
as its lingua franca.


1 History 2 Statistics 3 Political alternatives 4 In specific countries/territories

4.1 Afghanistan 4.2 Bangladesh 4.3 Bulgaria 4.4 Belarus 4.5 Canada 4.6 Finland 4.7 Germany 4.8 Hong Kong 4.9 India 4.10 Israel 4.11 Latvia 4.12 New Zealand 4.13 Norway 4.14 Pakistan 4.15 Russia 4.16 South Africa 4.17 Switzerland 4.18 Taiwan 4.19 Ukraine 4.20 United Kingdom 4.21 United States 4.22 Yugoslavia

5 See also 6 References 7 Further reading 8 External links

History[edit] Around 500 BC, when Darius the Great
Darius the Great
annexed Mesopotamia to the Persian Empire, he chose a form of the Aramaic language
Aramaic language
(the so-called Official Aramaic
Official Aramaic
or Imperial Aramaic) as the vehicle for written communication between the different regions of the vast empire with its different peoples and languages.[citation needed] Aramaic script was widely employed from Egypt in the southwest to Bactria
and Sogdiana
in the northeast. Texts were dictated in the native dialects and written down in Aramaic, and then read out again in the native language at the places they were received.[9] The First Emperor of Qin
First Emperor of Qin
standardized the written language of China after unifying the country in 221 BC.[10] Classical Chinese would remain the standard written language for the next 2000 years. Standardization of the spoken language received less political attention, and Mandarin developed on an ad hoc basis from the dialects of the various imperial capitals until being officially standardized in the early twentieth century.

Statistics[edit] According to an undated chart by the American pro-English-only organization known as U.S. English, 178 countries have an official language at the national level. Among those, English is the most common with 67 nations giving it official status. French is second with 29 countries, Arabic
is third with 26 countries and Spanish is fourth with 19 countries, Portuguese is the official language of 9 countries and German is official in 6. Some countries—like Australia, United Kingdom
United Kingdom
and the United States—have no official language recognized as such at national level. On the other extreme, Bolivia
officially recognizes 37 languages, the most by any country in the world. Second to Bolivia
is India
with 23 official languages. South Africa
South Africa
is the country with the most official languages, all at equal status to one another,[11] in the world as Bolivia
gives primacy to Spanish and India
gives primacy to Hindi.[12]

Political alternatives[edit] See also: List of multilingual countries and regions The selection of an official language (or no official language) is often contentious.[13] An alternative to having a single official language is "official multilingualism", where a government recognizes multiple official languages. Under this system, all government services are available in all official languages. Each citizen may choose their preferred language when conducting business. Most countries are multilingual[14] and many are officially multilingual. Taiwan, Canada, Philippines, Belgium, Switzerland, and the European Union
European Union
are examples of official multilingualism. This has been described as controversial and, in some other areas where it has been proposed, the idea has been rejected.[13] It has also been described as necessary for the recognition of different groups[15] or as an advantage for the country in presenting itself to outsiders.[16]

In specific countries/territories[edit] Afghanistan[edit] Main article: Languages of Afghanistan In accordance with Chapter 1, Article 16 of the Constitution of Afghanistan, the Afghan government gives equal status to Pashto and Dari as official languages.

Bangladesh[edit] After the independence of Bangladesh
in 1971, the then Head of the State Sheikh Mujibur Rahman adopted the policy of ‘one state one language’[17] The de facto national language, Bengali, is the sole official language of Bangladesh
according to the third article of the Constitution of Bangladesh.[18] The government of Bangladesh
introduced the Bengali Language
Implementation Act, 1987 to ensure the mandatory use of Bengali in all government affairs.[19]

Bulgaria[edit] Bulgarian is the sole official language in Bulgaria.[20]

Belarus[edit] Main article: Belarusian since 1991 Belarusian and Russian have official status in the Republic of Belarus.

Canada[edit] Main article: Official bilingualism in Canada In accordance with the Constitution Act, 1982 the (federal) Government of Canada
gives equal status to English and French as official languages. The Province of New Brunswick
New Brunswick
is also officially bilingual, as is the Yukon. Nunavut
has four official languages. The Northwest Territories has eleven official languages. All provinces, however, offer some necessary services in both English and French. Canadian advocates[which?] of a single official language say it promotes national identity.[21] In Canada, debate has focused on whether the local majority language should be made the exclusive language of public business. In the Canadian province of Quebec, for example, laws restrict the use of the minority English in education, on signs, and in the workplace.[13]

Finland[edit] According to the Finnish constitution, Finnish and Swedish are the official languages of the republic. Citizens have the right to communicate in either language with government agencies.

Germany[edit] Main article: Languages of Germany German is the official language of Germany. However, its minority languages include Sorbian ( Upper Sorbian
Upper Sorbian
and Lower Sorbian), Romani, Danish and North Frisian, which are officially recognised. Migrant languages like Turkish, Russian and Spanish are widespread, but are not officially recognised languages.

Hong Kong[edit] Main article: Languages of Hong Kong According to the Basic Law of Hong Kong and the Official Languages Ordinance, both Chinese and English are the official languages of Hong Kong with equal status. The variety of Chinese is not stipulated, however Cantonese, being the language most commonly used by the majority of Hongkongers forms the de facto standard. Similarly Traditional Chinese characters
Traditional Chinese characters
are most commonly used in Hong Kong
Hong Kong
and form the de facto standard for written Chinese, however there is an increasing presence of Simplified Chinese characters
Simplified Chinese characters
particularly in areas related to tourism.[22] In government use, documents written using Traditional Chinese characters
Traditional Chinese characters
are authoritative over ones written with Simplified Chinese characters.[23]

India[edit] Further information: Languages of India
and Languages with official status in India The Constitution of India
(part 17) designates the official language of the Government of India
as English as well as Standard Hindi written in the Devanagari script.[24][need quotation to verify] The Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution lists 22 languages,[25] which have been referred to as scheduled languages and given recognition, status and official encouragement. In addition, the Government of India
has awarded the distinction of classical language to Tamil, Sanskrit, Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam
and Odia.

Israel[edit] Main article: Languages of Israel On 19 July 2018, the Knesset
passed a basic law under the title Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People, which defines Hebrew
as "the State's language" and Arabic
as a language with "a special status in the State" (article 4). The law further says that it should not be interpreted as compromising the status of the Arabic
language in practice prior to the enactment of the basic law, namely, it preserves the status quo and changes the status of Hebrew
and Arabic
only nominally.[26] Before the enactment of the aforementioned basic law, the status of official language in Israel was determined by the 82nd paragraph of the "Palestine Order in Council" issued on 14 August 1922, for the British Mandate of Palestine, as amended in 1939:[27] All Ordinances, official notices and official forms of the Government and all official notices of local authorities and municipalities in areas to be prescribed by order of the High Commissioner, shall be published in English, Arabic, and Hebrew." This law, like most other laws of the British Mandate, was adopted in the State of Israel, subject to certain amendments published by the provisional legislative branch on 19 May 1948. The amendment states that:

"Any provision in the law requiring the use of the English language
English language
is repealed."[28] In most public schools, the main teaching language is Hebrew, English is taught as a second language, and most students learn a third language, usually Arabic
but not necessarily. Other public schools have Arabic
as their main teaching language, and they teach Hebrew
as a second language and English as a third one. There are also bilingual schools which aim to teach in both Hebrew
and Arabic
equally. Some languages other than Hebrew
and Arabic, such as English, Russian, Amharic, Yiddish
and Ladino enjoy a somewhat special status, but are not considered[by whom?] to be official languages. For instance, at least 5% of the broadcasting time of privately owned TV-channels must be translated into Russian (a similar privilege is granted to Arabic), warnings must be translated to several languages, signs are mostly trilingual (Hebrew, Arabic
and English), and the government supports Yiddish
and Ladino culture (alongside Hebrew culture and Arabic

Latvia[edit] The Constitution of Latvia
Constitution of Latvia
(or Satversme) designated Latvian as the state language. In 2012 there was initiative to hold a referendum on constitutional amendments, elevating Russian as a state language. Kristīne Jarinovska in her analysis describes the proposal in the following way:

It proposed several constitutional amendments for introducing Russian as Latvia's second official language—i.e., amendments to the Satversme’s Articles 4 (on Latvian as the state language), 18 (on the solemn promise of a member of Parliament to strengthen the Latvian language), 21 (on Latvian as the working language of the Parliament), 101 (on Latvian as the working language of local governments), and 104 (on the right to receive a reply to a petition in Latvian). Obviously, the proposed amendments would have influenced other constitutional norms as well. Moreover, since Article 4 of the Satversme alike norms of independence, democracy, sovereignty, territorial wholeness, and basic principles of elections that form the core of the Satversme (according to Article 77 of the Satversme), the initiative, in fact, proposed discontinuing an existing state and establishing a new one that is no longer a nation-state wherein Latvians exercise their rights to self-determination, enjoying and maintaining their cultural uniqueness[29] New Zealand[edit] New Zealand
New Zealand
has three official languages. English is the de facto and principal official language, accepted in all situations. The Māori language and New Zealand
New Zealand
Sign Language
both have limited de jure official status under the Māori Language
Act 1987 and New Zealand Sign Language
Act 2006[30][31]

Norway[edit] Main articles: Languages of Norway
Languages of Norway
and Norwegian language conflict Pakistan[edit] Main article: Languages of Pakistan Urdu
is the national language of Pakistan. Urdu
and English both are official languages in Pakistan. Pakistan has more than 60 other languages.

Russia[edit] Main article: Languages of Russia Russian is the official language of the Russian Federation
Russian Federation
and in all federal subjects, however many minority languages have official status in the areas where they are indigenous. One type of federal subject in Russia, republics, are allowed to adopt additional official languages alongside Russian in their own constitutions. Republics are often based around particular native ethnic groups, and are often areas where ethnic Russians and native Russian-language speakers are a minority.

South Africa[edit] Main article: Languages of South Africa South Africa
South Africa
has eleven official languages[11] that are mostly indigenous. Due to limited funding, however, the government rarely produces documents in most of the languages. Accusations of mismanagement and corruption have been leveled[32] against the Pan South African Language
Board, which is in charge of maintaining the system.[12]

Switzerland[edit] Main article: Languages of Switzerland The four national languages of Switzerland
are German, French, Italian and Romansh. At the federal level German, French and Italian are official languages, the official languages of individual cantons depend on the languages spoken in them.

Taiwan[edit] Standard Chinese
Standard Chinese
is the most common language used in government. Under the National languages development act, political participation can be conducted in any national language, which is defined as a "natural language used by an original people group of Taiwan",[33] which also includes Formosan languages, Hakka and Taiwanese Hokkien.

Ukraine[edit] The neutrality of this article is disputed. Relevant discussion may be found on the talk page. Please do not remove this message until conditions to do so are met. (December 2018) (Learn how and when to remove this template message) In 2012 debate over adopting Russian as a regional language in Ukraine caused "an all-out brawl in Parliament", protests, and the resignation of a lawmaker in attempt to block the bill.[34]

United Kingdom[edit] See also: Languages of the United Kingdom The de facto official language of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
is English. In Wales, the Welsh language, spoken by approximately 20% of the population, has limited de jure official status.[35][36]

United States[edit] See also: Languages of the United States English is the de facto national language of the United States. While there is no official language at the federal level, 32 of the 50 U.S. states[37] and all six inhabited U.S. territories have designated English as one, or the only, official language, while courts have found that residents in the 50 states do not have a right to government services in their preferred language.[38] Public debate in the last few decades has focused on whether Spanish should be recognized by the government, or whether all business should be done in English.[13] California
allows people to take their driving test in the following 32 languages: Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Croatian, English, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hmong, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Laotian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Samoan, Spanish, Tagalog/Filipino, Thai, Tongan, Turkish, and Vietnamese.[39] New York state provides voter-registration forms in the following five languages: Bengali, Chinese, English, Korean and Spanish. The same languages are also on ballot papers in certain parts of the state (namely, New York City). [40]

See also: English-only movement The pro-English-only website U.S. English sees a multilingual government as one in which its "services actually encourage the growth of linguistic enclaves...[and] contributes to racial and ethnic conflicts".[41] Opponents of an official language policy in the United States
United States
argue that it would hamper "the government's ability to reach out, communicate, and warn people in the event of a natural or man-made disaster such as a hurricane, pandemic, or...another terrorist attack".[38] Professor of politics Alan Patten argues that disengagement (officially ignoring the issue) works well in religious issues but that it is not possible with language issues because it must offer public services in some language. Even if it makes a conscious effort not to establish an official language, a de facto official language, or the "national language", will nevertheless emerge.[13] Indeed, two-thirds of Americans believe that English is the United States' official language.[42]

Yugoslavia[edit] Sometimes an official language definition can be motivated more by national identity than by linguistic concerns. When Yugoslavia dissolved in 1991, the country had four official languages—Serbo-Croatian, Slovene, Albanian and Macedonian. Serbo-Croatian
was used as a lingua franca for mutual understanding and was also the language of the military. When Croatia
declared independence (1991) it defined its official language as Croatian, and Serbia
likewise defined[when?] its official language as Serbian. Bosnia-Herzegovina
defined three official languages: Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian. From the linguistic point of view, the different names refer to national varieties of the same language, which is known under the appellation of Serbo-Croatian.[43][44][45] It is said by some[by whom?] that the Bosnian government chose to define three languages to reinforce ethnic differences and keep the country divided.[46] The language used in Montenegro, traditionally considered a dialect of Serbian, became standardized as the Montenegrin language
Montenegrin language
upon Montenegro's declaration (2006) of independence.

See also[edit] List of official languages by state List of official languages by institution List of languages without official status Language
policy Medium of instruction Minority language National language Official script Working language References[edit]

^ "Official Language", Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language, Ed. Tom McArthur, Oxford University Press, 1998.

^ Pueblo v. Tribunal Superior, 92 D.P.R. 596 (1965). Translation taken from the English text, 92 P.R.R. 580 (1965), p. 588-589. See also LOPEZ-BARALT NEGRON, "Pueblo v. Tribunal Superior: Español: Idioma del proceso judicial", 36 Revista Juridica de la Universidad de Puerto Rico. 396 (1967), and VIENTOS-GASTON, "Informe del Procurador General sobre el idioma", 36 Rev. Col. Ab. (P.R.) 843 (1975).

^ The Status of Languages in Puerto Rico. Luis Muñiz-Arguelles. University of Puerto Rico. 1986. Page 466. Retrieved 23 November 2012.

^ "Legge 15 Dicembre 1999, n. 482 "Norme in materia di tutela delle minoranze linguistiche storiche" pubblicata nella Gazzetta Ufficiale n. 297 del 20 dicembre 1999". Italian Parliament. Archived from the original on 12 May 2015. Retrieved 2 December 2014..mw-parser-output cite.citation font-style:inherit .mw-parser-output .citation q quotes:"""""""'""'" .mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-free a background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/65/Lock-green.svg/9px-Lock-green.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center .mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-registration a background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d6/Lock-gray-alt-2.svg/9px-Lock-gray-alt-2.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center .mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-subscription a background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/aa/Lock-red-alt-2.svg/9px-Lock-red-alt-2.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center .mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration color:#555 .mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help .mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/4c/Wikisource-logo.svg/12px-Wikisource-logo.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center .mw-parser-output code.cs1-code color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit .mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error display:none;font-size:100% .mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error font-size:100% .mw-parser-output .cs1-maint display:none;color:#33aa33;margin-left:0.3em .mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format font-size:95% .mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left padding-left:0.2em .mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right padding-right:0.2em

^ a b "Official American". PBS.org. MACNEIL/LEHRER PRODUCTIONS. Retrieved 25 April 2018.

^ "Read about "Official or national languages" on Constitute". Retrieved 2016-03-28.

^ "L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde: page d'accueil". www.axl.cefan.ulaval.ca. Retrieved 2016-03-28.

^ endoglossic and exoglossic on OxfordDictionaries.com.

^ electricpulp.com. "ARAMAIC – Encyclopaedia Iranica". www.iranicaonline.org. Retrieved 14 April 2018.

^ Records of the Grand Historian, 6

^ a b "Chapter 1, Article 6 of the South African Constitution". constitutionalcourt.org.za. Retrieved 18 February 2018.

^ a b " Language
in South Africa: An official mess". The Economist. July 5, 2013. Retrieved August 25, 2013.

^ a b c d e Alan Patten (October 2011). "Political Theory and Language Policy" (pdf). Political Theory. 29 (5): 691–715. doi:10.1177/0090591701029005005. Retrieved August 25, 2013.

^ Follen, Charles; Mehring, Frank (2007-01-01). Between Natives and Foreigners: Selected Writings of Karl/Charles Follen (1796-1840). Peter Lang. ISBN 9780820497327.

^ Laycock, David (2011-11-01). Representation and Democratic Theory. UBC Press. ISBN 9780774841009.

^ Martin-Jones, Marilyn; Blackledge, Adrian; Creese, Angela (2012-01-01). The Routledge Handbook of Multilingualism. Routledge. ISBN 9780415496476.

^ https://rdcu.be/bFJXM

^ "Article 3. The state language". The Constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh. bdlaws.minlaw.gov.bd. Ministry of Law, The People's Republic of Bangladesh. Retrieved 2019-05-15.

^ "Bangla Bhasha Procholon Ain, 1987" বাংলা ভাষা প্রচলন আইন, ১৯৮৭ [Bengali Language Implementation Act, 1987]. Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs. Government of Bangladesh. Retrieved 2019-05-15.

^ Constitution of the Republic Bulgaria, article 3

^ Official Languages at the Heart of Our Identity: An overview of the Official Languages Act. Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages. Ottawa, Canada. Retrieved 26 August 2013.

^ "War between Traditional and Simplified". anthony8988. 7 May 2014.

^ "Disclaimer and Copyright Notice". Legislative Council. Retrieved 25 May 2019.

^ "Constitutional Provisions: Official Language
Related Part-17 of The Constitution Of India". Department of Official Language, Government of India. Archived from the original on 1 February 2016. Retrieved 1 July 2015.

^ Languages Included in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constution Archived 2016-06-04 at the Wayback Machine

^ Halbfinger, David M.; Kershner, Isabel (19 July 2018). "Israeli Law Declares the Country the 'Nation-State of the Jewish People'". New York Times. Retrieved 2018-07-24.

^ The Palestine Gazette, No. 898 of 29 June 1939, Supplement 2, pp. 464–465.

^ Law and Administration Ordinance No 1 of 5708—1948, clause 15(b). Official Gazette No. 1 of 5th Iyar, 5708; as per authorised translation in Laws of the State of Israel, Vol. I (1948) p. 10.

^ Jarinovska, K. "Popular Initiatives as Means of Altering the Core of the Republic of Latvia", Juridica International. Vol. 20, 2013. p. 152 ISSN 1406-5509

^ New Zealand
New Zealand
Sign Language
Act 2006. New Zealand
New Zealand
Legislation. Retrieved 24 July 2013.

^ NZ Sign Language
to be third official language. Ruth Dyson. 2 April 2006. Retrieved 24 July 2013.

^ Xaba, Vusi (2 September 2011). " Language
board to be probed". SowetanLive.co.za. Retrieved 28 February 2018.

^ "國家語言發展法". law.moj.gov.tw (in Chinese). Retrieved 22 May 2019.

^ David M. Herszenhorn (July 4, 2012). "Ukrainian Official Quits to Protest Russian- Language
Bill". New York Times. Retrieved August 26, 2013.

^ "Welsh speakers by local authority, gender and detailed age groups, 2011 Census". statswales.gov.wales. 11 December 2012. Retrieved 22 May 2016.

^ "Welsh Language
(Wales) Measure 2011". legislation.gov.uk. The National Archives. Retrieved 30 May 2016.

^ [1] - US English: West Virginia Becomes 32nd State to Adopt English as Official Language

^ a b James M. Inhofe; Cecilia Muñoz. "Should English be declared America's national language?". The New York Times upfront. Scholastic. Retrieved August 25, 2013.

^ "Available Languages". California
DMV. Retrieved November 26, 2014.

^ "New York State Voter Registration Form" (PDF). New York State Board of Elections.

^ "Why Is Official English Necessary?". U.S. English. Archived from the original on June 7, 2013. Retrieved August 26, 2013.

^ James Crawford. " Language
Freedom and Restriction: A Historical Approach to the Official Language
Controversy". Effective Language Education Practices and Native Language
Survival. pp. 9–22. Retrieved August 26, 2013.

^ Mørk, Henning (2002). Serbokroatisk grammatik: substantivets morfologi [ Serbo-Croatian
Grammar: Noun Morphology]. Arbejdspapirer ; vol. 1 (in Danish). Århus: Slavisk Institut, Århus Universitet. p. unpaginated (Preface). OCLC 471591123.

^ Václav Blažek, "On the Internal Classification of Indo-European Languages: Survey" retrieved 20 Oct 2010, pp. 15–16.

^ Kordić, Snježana (2007). "La langue croate, serbe, bosniaque et monténégrine" [Croatian, Serbian, Bosniakian, and Montenegrin] (PDF). In Madelain, Anne (ed.). Au sud de l'Est (PDF). vol. 3 (in French). Paris: Non Lieu. pp. 71–78. ISBN 978-2-35270-036-4. OCLC 182916790. Archived (PDF) from the original on 1 June 2012.

^ Selma Boračić; Ajdin Kamber (December 5, 2011). " Language
Politics in Bosnia". Institute for War & Peace Reporting. Retrieved August 26, 2013.

Further reading[edit] Writing Systems of the World: Alphabets, Syllabaries, Pictograms (1990), ISBN 0-8048-1654-9 — lists official languages of the countries of the world, among other information. External links[edit]

has the property: official language (P37) (see uses)

Languages by country in The World Factbook

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