Official language

Official language

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Official language'
Start a new discussion about 'Official language'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
An official language is a language
Language
Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication...

 that is given a special legal status in a particular country, state, or other jurisdiction. Typically a nation's official language will be the one used in that nation's courts, parliament and administration. However, official status can also be used to give a language (often indigenous
Indigenous language
An indigenous language or autochthonous language is a language that is native to a region and spoken by indigenous peoples but has been reduced to the status of a minority language. This language would be from a linguistically distinct community that has been settled in the area for many generations...

) a legal status, even if that language is not widely spoken. For example, in New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 the Māori language
Maori language
Māori or te reo Māori , commonly te reo , is the language of the indigenous population of New Zealand, the Māori. It has the status of an official language in New Zealand...

 has official status under the Māori Language Act 1987 even though it is spoken by less than five percent of the New Zealand population. Non-national or supra-national organizations such as the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 and the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 may also have official languages.

Politics


Official language status is often connected with wider political issues of sovereignty
Sovereignty
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...

, cultural nationalism
Cultural nationalism
Cultural nationalism is a form of nationalism in which the nation is defined by a shared culture. It is an intermediate position between ethnic nationalism on one hand and liberal nationalism on the other....

, and the rights of indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples are ethnic groups that are defined as indigenous according to one of the various definitions of the term, there is no universally accepted definition but most of which carry connotations of being the "original inhabitants" of a territory....

 and ethnic minorities, including immigrant communities.

For example, the campaign
English-only movement
English-only movement, also known as Official English movement, refers to a political movement for the use only of the English language in official government operations through the establishing of English as the only official language in the United States...

 to make English the de jure
De jure
De jure is an expression that means "concerning law", as contrasted with de facto, which means "concerning fact".De jure = 'Legally', De facto = 'In fact'....

 official language of various states in the United States of America is often seen as a way of marginalizing non English-speaking minorities, particularly Hispanic and Latino Americans
Hispanic and Latino Americans
Hispanic or Latino Americans are Americans with origins in the Hispanic countries of Latin America or in Spain, and in general all persons in the United States who self-identify as Hispanic or Latino.1990 Census of Population and Housing: A self-designated classification for people whose origins...

, while others see it as a unifying force among numerous immigrant groups. In the Republic of Ireland the decision to make the Irish language
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

 an official language was part of a wider program of cultural revitalization, de-anglicisation and Gaelic nationalism
Irish nationalism
Irish nationalism manifests itself in political and social movements and in sentiment inspired by a love for Irish culture, language and history, and as a sense of pride in Ireland and in the Irish people...

 following centuries of English rule in Ireland. Despite its status as an official language, Irish has been reduced to a minority language
Minority language
A minority language is a language spoken by a minority of the population of a territory. Such people are termed linguistic minorities or language minorities.-International politics:...

 in Ireland as a result of English rule, as is the case in North and South America where various indigenous languages have been replaced by that of the colonists. Various indigenous rights movements have sought greater recognition of their languages, often through official language status.

See also