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An official language is a language that is given a special legal status in a particular country, state, or other territory. Typically a nation's official language will be the one used in that nation's courts, parliament and administration.[1] However, official status can also be used to give a language (often indigenous) a legal status, even if that language is not widely spoken. For example, in New Zealand the Māori language has official status under the Māori Language Act even though it is spoken by less than five percent of the New Zealand population.[2] Non-national or supra-national organizations such as the United Nations and the European Union may also have official languages.



True official languages are those designated as such by a regulation or law, such as the Māori Language Act or the Welsh Language Act 1967. However many languages are considered to be de facto official languages, meaning that although a language may have no official status in a particular country, it is the most commonly used language in that country and the one usually used in official settings. English is the de facto official language in The United States of America. [3], but because English is used for most official matters and the most commonly spoken language, it can be considered the official language in practice if not in law.

The practical effects of a language's 'official' designation vary, and often depend on how widely the language is spoken. In some cases only the official language(s) may be used in court, the education system or other settings, whereas in other cases official status merely allows for that language to be used. For example, the Māori Language Act allows Māori to be used in legal settings, but the vast majority of New Zealand legal proceedings are still carried out in English despite English having only de facto official status. In other countries in which the official language is more generally but not universally spoken, such as the Republic of Ireland and Wales, state publications and signage must be available in the official language as well as the dominant language. Official language status usually increases the likelihood that a language will be widely taught in schools, and in many cases (for example Ireland) the official language is a compulsory subject.


Official language status is often connected with wider political issues of sovereignty, cultural nationalism, and the rights of indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities. For example, the campaign to make English the de jure official language of the United States is often seen as a way of marginalizing non English-speaking minorities, particularly Hispanic and Latino Americans, whereas in the Republic of Ireland the decision to make the Irish language an official language was part of a wider program of cultural revitalization and Gaelic nationalism. Various indigenous rights movements have sought greater recognition of their languages, often through official language status.

See also


  1. ^ "OFFICIAL LANGUAGE", Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language, Ed. Tom McArthur, Oxford University Press, 1998.
  2. ^ New Zealand Census Statistics.
  3. ^ Mount, Steve. "Constitutional Topic: Official Language". U.S. Constitution Online. Retrieved on 2009-05-24. 
  • Akira Nakanishi (1990) "Writing Systems of the World: Alphabets, Syllabaries, Pictograms", ISBN 0804816549 — the book lists official languages of the countries of the world, among other information, although it contains errors; e.g., it names English as the official language of the United States.


Simple English

An official language is a language that has special status in a country. Usually the government does its business in the official language. They are sometimes named in a country's constitution. Some countries, like Canada, have more than one. Other countries may not have an official language. Also the languages do not have to been a written language to be an official language. They can be a pidgin language (like in Papua New Guinea). They can also be a sign language (like in New Zealand).

krc:Официал тил


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