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In linguistics, a sprachraum (//; German: [ˈʃpʁaːxʁaʊm], "language area") is a geographical region where a common first language (mother tongue), with dialect varieties, or group of languages is spoken.
Most sprachraums do not follow national borders. For example, half of South America is part of the Spanish sprachraum, while a single, small country like Switzerland is at the intersection of four such language spheres. A sprachraum can also be separated by oceans.
The four major Western sprachraums are those of English, Spanish, Portuguese and French (according to the number of speakers). The English sprachraum spans the globe, from the United Kingdom, Ireland, United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to the many former British colonies where English has official language status alongside local languages, such as India and South Africa. The French sprachraum, which also spans several continents, is known as the Francophonie (French: La francophonie). La Francophonie is also the name of an international organisation composed of countries with French as an official language.
The Portuguese sprachraum, for example, includes non-adjacent countries. The Lusosphere or Lusophony (Portuguese: Lusofonia), is a cultural entity that includes the countries where Portuguese is the official language, as well as the Portuguese diaspora. It also includes people who may not have any Portuguese ancestry but are culturally and linguistically linked to Portugal. The Community of Portuguese Language Countries or Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (Portuguese: Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa, abbreviated to CPLP) is the intergovernmental organisation for friendship among Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) nations where Portuguese is an official language.
By extension, a sprachraum can also include a group of related languages. Thus the Scandinavian sprachraum includes Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands, while the Finnic sprachraum is Finland, Estonia and adjacent areas of Scandinavia and Russia.
Even within a single sprachraum, there can be different, but closely related, languages, otherwise known as dialect continua. A classic example is the varieties of Chinese, which can be mutually unintelligible in spoken form, but are typically considered the same language (or, at least, closely related) and have a unified non-phonetic writing system. Arabic has a similar situation, but its writing system (an abjad) reflects the pronunciation of a common literary language (Modern Standard Arabic).
- Anglosphere (the English-speaking world)
- Dutch Language Union
- List of territorial entities where German is an official language
- Germanic Europe cluster (continental West Germanic and North Germanic)
- Catalan Countries (the Catalan-speaking world)
- List of territorial entities where French is an official language
- Hispanophone world (where Spanish is spoken)
- Latin Europe
- Lusofonia (the Lusophone world)
Other Indo-European languages