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A regional language is a language spoken in an area of a nation state, whether it be a small area, a federal state or 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:
  1. 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
  2. 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 Spainmarker and Francemarker, albeit official in Andorramarker) has more speakers than Finnish or Danish. In China, Wu, spoken in southern Jiangsumarker and northern Zhejiangmarker by more than 90 million speakers, can claim more native speakers than French, and Cantonese, a regional language of Guangdongmarker,Hong Kongmarker and nearby areas in Chinamarker with more than 60 million local and overseas speakers (North America, parts of Malaysiamarker), outnumbers Italian in number of speakers. Subgroups and dialects of the Min group have over 70 million speakers, mainly in Fujianmarker and in nearby Taiwanmarker, but also in the Southeast Asian countries of Malaysiamarker and Singaporemarker.

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:





In other cases, a regional language may be very different from the state’s main language or official language. For example:

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:

See also




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