Talk:National language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
          This article is of interest to the following WikiProjects:
WikiProject Languages (Rated Start-class)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Languages, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of standardized, informative and easy-to-use resources about languages on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's importance scale.
WikiProject Politics (Rated Start-class, Mid-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Politics, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of politics on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Mid  This article has been rated as Mid-importance on the project's importance scale.
WikiProject Linguistics / Applied Linguistics  (Rated Start-class)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Linguistics, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of linguistics on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
 ???  This article has not yet received a rating on the project's importance scale.
Taskforce icon
This article is supported by the Applied Linguistics Task Force.
Note icon
This article has been automatically rated by a bot or other tool because one or more other projects use this class. Please ensure the assessment is correct before removing the |auto= parameter.


This article needs to include some counterexamples. It's also unclear whether the term "nation" is intended in a political sense, or one which is closer to "ethnic group". --Tbv 10:17, 1 March 2006 (UTC)

Tangential to Tbv's suggestion, the intro to the article could use a rewrite to accommodate wider geographical scope. In particular, "national language" in a number of African countries refers to an indigenous language with some legal status (as opposed to official language). Even in this context, "national language" may cover a few more widely spoken languages, or all indigenous tongues. And then there are some instances where "national language" is used in a sense like "official language" - I agree that the article needs attention from an expert. --A12n 00:45, 26 October 2006 (UTC)

I added a "globalize" tag. --A12n 20:05, 3 December 2006 (UTC)

National Languages of India - info here differs from another wiki page![edit]

Out of the 28 states and 7 union territories, only 10 states and 3 union territories have Hindi as the principal official language.

This does not fit in with Official languages of India which has Hindi against 12 states and 2 Union Territories. -- Q Chris 13:39, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

The National Language Of India Is Hindi. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Kumarp8390 (talkcontribs) 00:20, 24 September 2014 (UTC)

The remark above does not seem to describe the current content of the Official languages of India article. I suggest (1) that India-specific information be moved to a section headed ==India== introduced with a {{See also|Official languages of India}}, (2) that the ==Official versus national languages== section be reworked to more clearly describe differences/relationships between official languages versus national languages. Cites of sources defining the terms Official Language and National Language would be helpful.-- Boracay Bill 00:07, 7 March 2007 (UTC)
The current page 06:26, 8 March 2007 [1] has Hindi the 12 states
  1. Arunachal Pradesh
  2. Bihar
  3. Chhattisgarh
  4. Gujarat
  5. Haryana
  6. Himachal Pradesh
  7. Jharkhand
  8. Madhya Pradesh
  9. Rajasthan
  10. Uttarakhand
  11. Uttar Pradesh
  12. Delhi
It is also given for the two Union terratories
  1. Andaman and Nicobar Islands
  2. Chandigarh
As I said before this seems to differ from the information on this page. -- Q Chris 08:38, 8 March 2007 (UTC)
Ah. I think I see now. You are working from a list which you put together from the table in the ==Official languages - State Governments== section of the Official languages of India article. The list names the 12 states which that table describes as having Hindi as a state language. I, OTOH, was working from the statement in the Intro of that article which currently reads: "Out of the 28 states and 7 union territories, only 10 states and 3 union territories have Hindi as the principal official language." I think this would be better addressed if discussed in the talk page of that article than in the talk page of this one.
Regarding this National Language article
  • I still think this article would be improved if its India-specific portions were moved into a section headed ==India==, introduced with {{See also|Official languages of India}}, and with that new ==India== section of this article containing a small bit of info based on info in that other article, per the relevant section of the Wikipedia guide to layout.
  • I still think that the ====Official versus national languages== section of this article does not do a good job of explaining that topic.
I propose that the India-specific remarks be moved as described above and that the ==Official versus national languages== section be removed. Comments? Objections? -- Boracay Bill 22:30, 8 March 2007 (UTC)

Redundancy and wikidef--Peter Isotalo 07:48, 16 November 2007 (UTC)initions[edit]

I believe that this article to a great extent is largely redundant with standard language. As far as I know the concept of a "national language" isn't something that lends itself to encyclopedic definition very easily. The most urgent task that needs to be addressed is a serious, preferably academic source, that attempts to pin down a meaning. I don't know what linguists feel about the term, but when I searched for it at I got a definition that was extremely vague. Merger and a redirect to official language might be much wiser.

Peter Isotalo 00:51, 16 November 2007 (UTC)

This article doesn't seem to have a consistent definition of what a national language is or of how (or whether) a national language differs from an official language. According to, Webster says: "the language spoken and written by the majority of people in a country; also, the official language of a country, recognized and adopted by its government". (Webster's New Millennium™ Dictionary of English, Preview Edition (v 0.9.7). Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. (accessed: November 15, 2007).) I don't think that quite captures it, though -- Singapore is a refuting example, as is Afghanistan (according to List of official languages by state).
The lead section of this article has problems. The first sentence looks OK, but the rest of the section has problems as follows (I've commented on each):
  • A national language is used for political and legal discourse. [citation needed]
    Comment: In the section on Singapore, this article states that the Malay language is the national and official language, but that English is the language of business and governance and the medium of instruction in public schools. Other refuting examples probably exist.
  • Some countries have more than one national language, such as Canada which uses both French and English.
    Comment: The Constitution of Canada does not designate a national language. Section 16 designates French and English as official languages.
  • A national language declared as such by legislation is the same as an Official language.
    Comment: see the Philippines section of this article for a refuting example.
  • It is different for that reason from the national predominant language, which is a national language only through de facto use or by historical association with a particular nation. [citation needed]
    Comment: I don't follow this.
Also, the "Official versus national languages" section doesn't seem to address that topic.
How about removing that section header and replacing the current lead section with something like the following:
-- Boracay Bill 05:45, 16 November 2007 (UTC)
The concept of an official language isn't as strictly defined as you're trying to make it, Bill. For example, there are plenty of de facto official languages around the world. Swedish in Sweden (but not in Finland) is one good example. Citing official legislation and constitutions of states around the world as isn't the way to go, since that would basically become an interpretation of a type of primary sources and a highly legalistic one. What the article needs is the opinions of linguists or other scholars. If they can't provide a clearly independent deifinion, the article should be merged with official language.
Peter Isotalo 07:48, 16 November 2007 (UTC)
Peter is right about de facto official languages. The US is a prime example, but there are many. There are also "middle cases," if you will, where there is no broad "official language" legislation, but the language of the legislature is specified etc. On the question of "national language," there are cases notably in Africa where this is a specific legal category, different from official language. It is tricky to define "national language" generically, but it deserves a separate article (or perhaps articles?) to define it. The current article tries, but needs a broader international and expert input. --A12n (talk) 23:40, 16 November 2007 (UTC)

Some changes & some more thoughts[edit]

Pursuant to the above discussion I made a few changes in the opening. These are but first stabs - please feel free to do more.

I think the earlier comment that the definition is vague is at least partly correct. There are several concepts - national language, official language, regional language, standard language, and perhaps some others - that overlap somewhat yet are sometimes appropriated for specific use in different contexts. On the lgpolicy-list someone not too long ago asked "what the h... is an 'official language' anyway?" It can mean a number of things, and indeed it can be something to talk about (as a legislative goal to somehow address this or that), as well as something that functionally exists without anyone talking about or legislating it. As it turns out, one of the scholars on that list came up with a more or less established definition.

It may be that there is such a definition for national language (I should ask there). But in any event, I would not agree at this time merging this article with official language or any other. For one thing there is also the "regional language" category, which the Democratic Republic of the Congo uses. How is this different than "national language" in African contexts where one national language happens to be dominant in one region and another in another, but no one wants to call them regional languages (probably this is the case in Niger)? --A12n (talk) 00:49, 27 November 2007 (UTC)

Quick follow-up. Another way of looking at "national language" is that it has at least a couple of different senses:
  • "The national language of a nation." (where nation may or may not be a nation-state and the status of the "national language" may be such by custom or legislation)
  • "A national language of the nation." (where nation is a country [state but not necessarily with the sense of nation above] and "national language" is a legislated category) --A12n (talk) 13:46, 27 November 2007 (UTC)

CMB Brann reference[edit]

I added a paragraph about C.M.B. Brann's typology of "national language." I think it is a useful perspective. National language is a term variously used and it may take a while to reshape this article to more fully and consistently reflect that. The Brann reference might be better in another part of the article, especially if others find some other ways of categorizing the range of uses of this term. --A12n (talk) 23:33, 8 April 2008 (UTC)

4 Definitions[edit]

Could we get an expansion on the C. M. B. Brann definitions, as there doesn't seem to be anything distinguishing most of them. --Khajidha (talk) 20:30, 1 May 2014 (UTC)

Just reread the definitions, and while I agree there can be overlap, there also seem to be pretty clear distinctions. A language might be "national language" in one or more of the senses Brann outlines, but not in other senses. An expansion of discussion of his definitions would be merited, but at the same time it would be useful to have other definitions. In discussions I've had on the topic, I've referred to a simpler two category schema, but only to get away from what I see as the uncritical (and misleading, IMO) use of "national language" for the Europhone official languages of many African states: "nationwide" (in intended or actual function, on some level; French may be the national language of France, for instance, but it is not "national" in the same sense in say Mali or Senegal, and indeed "national language" may in such countries have a different use - see the following sense); and "language of the nation" (as in a first & heritage language of some part of the population of the country, but not the official language). Are there other definitions for how "national language" is used, that differ from or expand upon/refine Brann's schema?--A12n (talk) 18:26, 2 June 2014 (UTC)
Okay, here is the version in the article: "
   "Territorial language" (chthonolect, sometimes known as chtonolect[2]) of a particular people
   "Regional language" (choralect)
   "Language-in-common or community language" (demolect) used throughout a country
   "Central language" (politolect) used by government and perhaps having a symbolic value."
No definition at all is given for Regional language.
Territorial language is defined in terms of people? The name would seem to indicate to the uninformed reader that it is the language spoken in a particular territory, which is also what an uninformed reader might understand Regional language to be.
Community language, the name of which seems to indicate that it is based on which people speak it is defined as being spoken in a particular place?
Central language is the only one that seems to have a clear and separate definition. --Khajidha (talk) 18:42, 3 June 2014 (UTC)
Coming back to this belatedly. Not sure if Brann expanded on this typology elsewhere, or if anyone else did. The meanings seem clear to me, even if the English terms may be problematic (and the parenthetical terms obscure):
  • territorial/chthonolect being common in Africa where a government designates languages of certain or all ethnic groups as "national languages" within the national territory (such language may also be used as L2s on some scale); I understand this being really more related to ethnicity than geography, however (see next category), and that may be due to interspersed ethnolinguistic populations, not neatly associated with one or another particular area
  • regional/choralect being like the national languages in DRC, which are used as L1+L2 mainly in one region or another, such that they have also been referred to as regional languages - may be this is really regional languages, but the term "national language" is applied for whatever reason; here the reference is more geographic than the preceding
  • in-common/community/demolect being the common use in the West as the common language of a country (L1 of vast majority and lingua franca for others) - such that one identifies French as national language of France (but French would not be the national language of Senegal in this sense, nor in Senegalese law, but would fall under the following category)
  • central/politolect - I read this as official language (itself a problematic category, but like national language, widely used in various registers); as such it may have symbolic value on the national level, such that this is often termed "national language" (confusingly, and I'd suggest inappropriately, given the range of other meanings).
Agree that it would be useful to also have alternative ways of describing use of "national language." Haven't sourced any, but hope others can. --A12n (talk) 15:57, 10 December 2015 (UTC)

Multiple issues since 2007[edit]

Yep, it seems a mistake, looking at the thin sourcing for this article, to regard "national language" as a coherent category at all for an article in a general-purpose encyclopedia. This is not terminology preferred by actual linguistics researchers who study the use of various languages in countries around the world. Where are good sources for use of this term in language surveys or specialized studies of language use? -- WeijiBaikeBianji (talk, how I edit) 15:20, 11 December 2014 (UTC)

The lead section seems to adequately explain that language surveys or specialized studies of language use is not the only use of this term. Perhaps, if it's important and if a reliable supporting source can be cited, a mention could be added that this term is not commonly used in those regards. Wtmitchell (talk) (earlier Boracay Bill) 07:50, 26 December 2014 (UTC)
I'd offer that an encyclopedic (wikipedic) article such as this on "national language" is needed precisely due to the range and often imprecision of usage. That would include who uses it how to refer to what (and as WeijiBaikeBianji indicates, who does not use it).--A12n (talk) 16:07, 10 December 2015 (UTC)
Hi, A12n, I see you've made some commendable efforts here to identify sources for this article. I'll be examining this article for sourcing (not necessarily just the parts of the article that have been edited recently by anyone joining the talk page discussion here) with the Wikipedia reliable sources guideline in mind. Thanks for joining the discussion of article improvements here. -- WeijiBaikeBianji (Watch my talk, How I edit) 19:51, 10 March 2016 (UTC)

Ethnologue's use of "national language"[edit]

As background information of possible use/interest wrt this article, here are links to a couple of blog posts on how Ethnologue has used the term "national language," and the juxtaposition of that with a (the?) widely used sense of the term in Africa:

An African definition of "national language"[edit]

In 1979, a "Subregional Seminar on National Languages and Teacher Training" held in Dar es Salaam defined "national language" as follows:

a national language is defined strictly as either (a) an African language that is also an official language, or (b) a language that has been decreed to be a national language of a country. It must be noted that according to this definition:
- all mother tongues are not necessarily national languages
- French, English, Portuguese, and Spanish are not national languages, even though they may be official languages

This was cited in work in the mid 1980s, but I do not have references that have used it since. However, it is consistent with use of the term "national language" by many African countries. (See here for more discussion.)--A12n (talk) 16:30, 10 December 2015 (UTC)

Article not appearing in categories[edit]

Apparently something in the multiple issues template suppresses listing of the page in its categories. I added |nocat=false but that had the weird effect of moving all articles starting with "N" in each of the categories before the letter "A." So reverted pending a better solution.--A12n (talk) 00:38, 30 August 2016 (UTC)