- Regional language
A regional language is a
languagespoken in an area of a nation state, whether it be a small area, a federal stateor province, or some wider area.
Definition in international law
For the purposes of the
European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages:
:"regional or minority languages" means languages that are: "
#"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 "
#"different from the official language(s) of that State"
Influence of number of speakers
There are many cases when a regional language can claim greater numbers of speakers than certain languages which happen to be
official languages of sovereign states. For example, Catalan (a regional language of Spainand France, albeit official in Andorra) has more speakers than Finnish or Danish. In China, Wu, spoken in southern Jiangsuand northern Zhejiangby more than 90 million speakers, can claim more native speakers than French, and Cantonese, a regional language of Guangdongand nearby areas in Chinawith more than 60 million local and overseas speakers (North America, parts of Malaysia), outnumbers Italian in number of speakers. Subgroups and dialects of the Min group have over 70 million speakers, mainly in Fujianand in nearby Taiwan, but also in the Southeast Asiancountries of Malaysiaand Singapore.
Relationship with official languages
In some cases, a regional language may be closely related to the state's main language or
official language. For example:
*Walloon, a regional language of France and
Belgium, belongs to the same family of Oïl languagesas French.
Limburgish, a regional language in Germany, The Netherlandsand Belgiumhas over 250,000 speakers and is closely related to Luxembourgish, Rhinelandicand Ripuarian, a member of the West Germanic languagessubgroup.
Low Saxon(also referred to as Low German), an officially recognized regional language in Germanyand The Netherlands, the direct descendant of Old Saxon, in some people’s opinion two languages divided by today’s Netherlands-German border on account of Dutch influences in the west and German influences in the east; most closely related to Dutch and Frisian, more distantly to German.
*Scots, a regional language of
Scotlandand Ireland, belongs to the same family of West Germanic languagesas English.
* Regional languages of
Spain: Aranese, Aragonese, Anadalusian, Leonese, Catalan, Valencian and Galicianall have co-official status.
*Leonese, a regional language of Leonese Kingdom, recognized in Castile and León (
Spain), and in Miranda (Portugal) as Mirandese, close to Spanish and Portuguese.
Frisian languages, regional languages of The Netherlandsand Germany, belong to the same language family as Dutch and German, but some linguists found a link with Frisian to the English language.
*Romansch, a regional
Romance languagewith a different set of vocabulary, but related to Italian spoken in the Swiss canton of Graubünden.
*Võro, a regional language of
Estonia, belongs to the same family of Finno-Ugric languagesas Estonian.
*Liv or Livonian is a regional language of the Balto-Slavic language family spoken in the Livonian islands of
Chinese languagesbelong to the same family as Standard Mandarin(Putonghua), the national standard of the PRC. Mandarin is not mutually intelligible with them. Speakers of all of them, nevertheless, use the same standard written language (although this written language is largely based on the Mandarin dialects group)
**Wu, a regional language of
Shanghai, southern Jiangsuand northern Zhejiang
**Cantonese, a regional language of
**Hakka, a regional language in southern
China, including Guangdong, Fujian, and Taiwan
**Min, a regional language in southeastern
China, including Fujianand Taiwan
**Xiang, a regional language
China’s Hunanprovince and some surrounding areas
**Gan, a regional language in non-coastal central
China, in and around JiangxiProvince
In other cases, a regional language may be very different from the state’s main language or official language. For example:
*Breton, a Celtic language surrounded by
Romance languagesin France.
*Basque, a regional language in
Spainand France, is non-Indo-European, and therefore unrelated to Spanish or French, both Romance languages.
*Sorbian, a regional language of
Germany, is a Slavic language, and therefore only distantly (as an Indo-European language) related to German, a Germanic language.
*Gagauz, a Turkic and thus Altaic language used in the
Moldovawhere Moldovan predominates, a Romance and thus Indo-European language.
Official languages as regional languages
An official language of a country may also be spoken as a regional language in a region of a neighbouring country. For example:
*Russian, the official language of the
Russian Federation, is a regional language of Ukraine(such as the autonomous republic of the Crimea), Abkhazia, South Ossetiaand other entities.
*Catalan, the official language of
Andorra, is a regional language in Spainand France.
*German, an official language of
Austria, Belgium, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourgand Switzerland, is a regional language of Italyand Denmark.
*Hungarian, a Finno-Ugric language and official in
Hungary, is a regional language of Romaniawhose official language, Romanian is a Romance language.
*Cantonese, one of the official languages in
Hong Kongand Macau(both special administrative regions of the People's Republic of China), is used as a regional language of the province of Guangdong, People's Republic of China.
Afrikaans, an official language of South Africa, is a regional language of Namibia.
Languages of France
Languages of the European Union
Languages in the United Kingdom
List of languages of Italy
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