Projekt:European Sociolinguistics/Language Status

What are official languages and how are regional and minority languages protected by the EU Charter for Regional or Minority Languages?


Official Language: Catalan

Secondary / Minority Languages (no official status): Spanish (population: 34%), French (6,3%), Portugese (15,7%)[1]

Sources: wikipedia,, Auswärtiges Amt

ECRML: Andorra did not sign the EU-Charta[2] (only the European Cultural Convention). Andorra has been a member of the European Council since 1994 - two years after the ratification of the Charta (comp. overview of signed protocols / chartas).

Interpretation: After Andorra became a member state of the European Council, several important Chartas and protocols were signed - but not the ECRML. This could be due to the fact that the 'minority languages' of Andorra - mainly Spanish, French and Portuguese - are both official languages in other (bigger) European countries and thus far more widespread (on an international level) than catalan. Those minority languages are not generally be seen as 'endangered' in one way or another - there is no official backup needed to keep them alive. On the other hand, Andorra's only official language Catalan in other European regions is protected by the ECRML (for instance in Catalonia, Spain). Nevertheless, due to it's official status in Andorra and its employment as the sole administration and main education language perhaps the need for a more explicit protection as offered by the ECRML was not regarded as to be necessary.

-Philipp 17:02, 24. Jun. 2007 (CEST)

Official Language: In Austria the official language is Austrian German. In addition, there are the following official minority languages:

- Hungarian

- Slovenian

- Croatian (Burgenland)

- Czech

- Slovakian

- Romani

- Windisch

(- Austrian sign language)

Secondary / Minority Languages (no official status):

- Turkish

- Serbian

- Croatian

- English

- Bosnian

- Polish

- Albanian

- Italian

- French

- Macedonian

- Kurdish

European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML):

Austria signed the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML. There exists even a special version of the charter for Austria, Germany, and Swiss.


European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (Wikipedia)

European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (official homepage)

KatiK 11:24, 16. Jul. 2007 (CEST)

Official and regional languages in Belgium

In Belgium, there are three official languages today: Dutch, French and German (1) and several regional and minority languages. But the Belgian government has not yet signed the European Charta for Regional and Minority Languages, because this would imply French primary and secundary education in the Brussels area, for which the Flemish community would be responsible, which they strongly oppose.

33% of the population speak Walloon (French) and the local variant of Dutch -Flemish- is spoken by more than 60% of the population mostly in the northern part of Belgium. 1% of the population speak German (mainly in eastern Belgium). In Brussels mostly French and a little Flemish are spoken. Therefore Brussels might be considered a bilingual city. Luxembourgish is spoken by around 0.5% of the population, but the language has no official status. About 10% of the Belgian population are immigrants and speak Turkish, Italian, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish and Greek.

Since 1990, the French dialects Lorrain, Champagnois, Francique, Picard and Wallon are regional languages as well as the Dutch dialects “Brabantisch” and “Limburgs”. (1)

In 1873 bilingualism (French and Flemish) was accepted by law. After World War I German was also accepted official language for the new eastern territory. Flemish population demanded for acceptance of their mother tongue as education and administration language. In 1921, the Belgian government accepted monolingualism in the three territories: Flemish in Flanders, French (Walloon) in Wallonia and German in eastern Belgium.

As background for the federal constitution can be seen the Flemish-Francophone controversy, that means the dispute on the equality of the Flemish language and culture and the -until after World War II- dominating French. This led to a declaration of language territories, in which Flemish and French respectively is lingua franca. The constitution of 1994 tried to balance the different positions of the Flemish and French speaking population. The language controversy is still alive.

(1) or their dialects Flemish, Walloon. (2) I was not able to find the English translations

Marion Abel

Czech Republic


Official language: Czech

Slovak language is offically accepted as an alternative to Czech without the need of translation

Minority languages in the Czech Republic not protected by the Charter: Croatian

European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML):

The Czech Republic ratified the Charter on 15th Novemer 2006 for the following languages:

Slovak, Polish, German and Romani


KristinaKrakowitzer 13:19, 8. Jul. 2007 (CEST)

Official Languages:The official language in Denmark is Danish.Moreover, the official languages of Greenland are Danish and Greenlandic (Kalaallisut).Greenlandic is spoken by about 50.000 people but most of the population speak both languages.In addition to that, the official language of the Faroe Island is Faroese, which is spoken by 48.000 people at the Faroese Island and by 12.000 people in Denmark.

European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML):Denmark ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages on 8.9.2000 in order to protect German in Southern Jutland.


Official Language: Estonian language(eesti keel ['eːs.ti 'keːl]) It is a Finno-Ugric language and is closely related to Finnish. Estonian language is spoken by about 1.1 million people in Estonia (population of Estonia 2007: 1,315,912. Source:CIA World Factbook) and by some ten thousand in various émigré communities.[3]

Secondary / Minority Languages (no official status): Besides the Estonian language, there are 108 languages spoken in Estonia as mother tongues. The majority languages among them are Russian, Ukrainian, Belarussian, Finnish, Latvian, and Lithuanian.[4]

European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML): Estonia has not signed the EU-Charta.[5]

→ Read more about Linguistic Minorities in Estonia: Amnesty International[6]

Marina K 21:17, 14. Jul. 2007 (CEST)



Official Language:

In France the only official language is French.

Secondary / Minority Languages (no official status):

- Arpitanian

- Basque

- Bretonian

- German

- Jenish

- Italian

- Catalanian

- Corsican

- Dutch

- Occitan

European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML):

Even though France signed the Charter, a realization is consitutionally blocked.


European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (Wikipedia)

European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (official homepage)

StefanB 11:32, 16. Jul. 2007 (CEST)

Official Language:



European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML):

Hungary ratified the ECRML on 26th April 1995 for Croatian, German, Romanian, Serbian, Slovak and Slovene


Ursula F. 13:26, 6. Jul. 2007 (CEST)


Article 8 of the Irish Constitution says that Irish (spoken by the minoriy of people, mostly in the western areas of Ireland, socalled Gaeltacht areas)is the first official language and that English (spoken by the majority) is the second official language.


EU Charter for Regional or Minority Languages:

As Irish already is the first official language Ireland could not sign the Charter. But the Irish language is however supported by the government through the institution "Foras na Gaeilge"


Official language:

(Standard) Italian

Officially recognized minority languages:

Friulian, Ladin, German, Slovene, Occitan, French, Franco-Provençal, Albanian, Greek, Sardinian, Catalan, Croatian.

Sources: (27-06-2007); (28-08-2007)

(Standard) Italian is the official language of the Republic of Italy. However, (according to art. 6 of the Italian Constitution) linguistic minorities are to be safeguarded “by means of special provisions”.[7] Thus several (national and regional) laws were passed in the past decades to protect minority languages. The most comprehensive law among these is Law 482/1999, which recognises the twelve above mentioned languages as official minority languages and aims at their protection. Among other things, it declares that in addition to Italian in the specific regions also the minority languages should be taught at schools and that official documents should be written in Italian and the respective minority language.[8]

European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML):

Italy has not ratified the ECRML.

Source: (27-06-2007)



Official national language: Lithuanian

Art. 14 of the Constitution of Lithuania declares Lithuanian to be the only official national language. The status of Lithuanian is secured by the Law on the State Language [Valstybinės kalbos įstatymas] (1995) which specifies its conditions of use in public life (in state institution, in court, in official events, in education and culture, on signs and information).[9]

Minority languages (no official status): Russian, Polish, Belarusian[10]

Protection of minority languages

Lithuania has not signed the European Charta for Regional or Minority Languages.[11]
However, minority languages in Lithuania are protected by national law:

Constitution [Lietuvos Respublikos Konstitucija] (1988, ratified in 1992)
Art. 45 of the Constitution emphasizes that national communities of citizens shall be independent in managing affairs related to their culture, education, charity and mutual assistance. This also refers to the use of language.[12]

Law on the State Language [Valstybinės kalbos įstatymas] (1995)
Apart from specifying the use of Lithuanian in official contexts (s.a.), the Law on the State Language guarantees ethnic monitories the right to use their own language in education, cultural events and on radio and television.(Art. 13).[13]

Law on National (Ethnic) Minorities [Tautinių mažumų įstatymas] (1989, amended in 1991)
Art. 1 states that the national minorities in Lithuania have a right to foster their language and are guaranteed that their language shall be respected. According to Art. 4 the language of a national minority shall be used in local bodies alongside the official language in administrative-territorial units with a concentrated national minority. Art. 5 states that information signs in such administrative-territorial units can also use the language of the national minority in addition to the Lithuanian language.[14]

Susi 18:19, 27. Jun. 2007 (CEST)



Official Languages: Luxembourgish, German, French

The language situation in Luxemburg is complex and although each of the three official languages is dominating certain domains, there is, in most cases, no strict separation or distinction.

Luxembourgish is the National Language according to the law form February 2nd 1984, it is the language of instruction in pre-schools, thus in most cases the first language leant by the people of Luxemburg. Therefore this language is spoken by many Luxemburgers, but not much written.

German is the language of instruction used in elementary and vocational schools and the language of most of the media and of the church. There are, nevertheless, also newspapers and TV shows in Luxemburgish or French.

Most official (written) business is carried out in French. Since 1944, all national laws, the wording of the law and any form of legal regulation are written and published in this language. It is furthermore the language of instruction of higher education.

European Charta of Regional and Minority Languages (ECRML): Luxemburg has signed the ECRML in 1992 and it was ratified on June, 22nd 2005. The Language that is protected under the ECRML is Luxembourgish, because it is a national language at state level, but a non-official working language of the EU.


--Miriam B. 13:40, 30. Aug. 2007 (CEST)

Official Languages: Maltese, English

Italian also was an official language of Malta, but lost its position in the 1930s. However, it is still widely used today.


European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages: Malta did not ratify the ECRML.


This might be due to the lack of regional and minority languages other than Italian, which is not an endangered language and therefore does not necessarily need to be protected by the charter.



Official language: Dutch (spoken by a large majority of the inhabitants)

Another official language is Frisian, which is spoken in the northern province of Fryslân. Frisian is co-official only in the province of Fryslân, although with a few restrictions. Several dialects of Low Saxon (Nedersaksisch in Dutch) are spoken in much of the north and east and are recognised by the Netherlands as regional languages according to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

Minority languages according to the European Charter for regional or Minority Languages:

Frisian (in Friesland)
Limburgish (across the Netherlands)
Low Saxon (across the Netherlands)
Romani (across the Netherlands)
Yiddish (across the Netherlands)


--Marina Liebel 20:36, 9. Sep. 2007 (CEST)

Official Language(s):

  • Bokmål ("Book Language"): spoken by 85-90% of the population
  • Nynorsk ("New Norwegian"): spoken by 10-15% of the population (mainly in Western regions around Telemark)
  • Sami (in six communes: Karasjok, Kautokeino, Nesseby, Porsanger, Tana, Kåfjord): The constitution of 1988 guarantees the protection of the Sami language
  • Finnish (in one commune: Porsanger, Finnmark county): People living in that region are also called "Kven" – thus the language is sometimes referred to as Kven language

Secondary / Minority Languages (no official status):
Sami and Finnish are minority languages which do not have official status throughout the whole country

European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages (ECRML):
In 1993 Norway ratified this treaty, although they are no member of the European Union, in order to protect the Sami language in six of its 431 communes as an official language.


--FlorianLang 11:51, 30. Aug. 2007 (CEST)

Official Language: Polish

Minority Languages (no official status) : German, Ukrainian, Belo-Russian, Slovak, Romany, Kashubian, Tatar, Czech, Lithuanian

Source: Harmann, Harald. Die Sprachenwelt Europas: Geschichte und Zukunft der Sprachnationen zwischen Atlantik und Ural; Campus Verlag, Frankfurt a. M. 1993, S. 58,62,65,67,68,69,98.

European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (5/11/1992):

Poland signed this Charter on the 12th of May 2003, but has not ratified nor entried it into force yet.

Nevertheless language protection is part of the Polish constitution:

"Die Republik Polen gewährleistet den polnischen Staatsangehörigen, die nationalen und ethnischen Minderheiten angehören, die Freiheit der Erhaltung und der Entwicklung der eigenen Sprache, der Erhaltung von Bräuchen und Traditionen sowie der Entwicklung der eigenen Kultur." [ Artikel 35. (1) ]

"Nationale und ethnische Minderheiten haben das Recht auf Bildung eigener Ausbildungs- und Kultureinrichtungen sowie der Einrichtungen, die dem Schutz der religiösen Identität dienen. Sie haben auch das Recht an Entscheidungen in solchen Angelegenheiten beteiligt zu werden, die ihre kulturelle Identität betreffen." [ Atrikel 35. (2) ]


--AndySchelletter 17:32, 4. Jul. 2007 (CEST)



The primary language of Sweden is Swedish but it is not officially enforced by law.

Minority laguages of Sweden that are protected under the Eu Charta: Finnish Meänkieli Sami Romani Chib Yiddish

Language minorities in Sweden from the 13th to the 20th century: Hiinmaa, Vormsi, Ruhnu, Baltic



Official Languages:

German (63%), French (30,4%), Italian (6,5%), Romansh (< 0,5%)

Switzerland Constitution, article 70, "Languages": (1) The official languages of the Federation are German, French, Italian and Romansh. (2) The Cantons designate their own official languages. In order to preserve harmony between linguistic communities, they respect the traditional territorial distribution of languages, and take into account the indigenous linguistic minorities.

European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML):

Switzerland ratified the Charter for Italien and Romansh in 1997.

-- JohannaB 10:55, 10. Aug. 2007 (CEST)

United Kingdom


Official language: English (although this has never been constitutionally confirmed!)

By ratifying the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages on 27 March 2001, the UK government has committed itself to the recognition and promotion of certain regional and minority languages. Welsh, Scottish Gaelic and Irish were ranked among the regional languages deserving a higher level of protection according to Section III of the Charter. As a consequence, the UK government has to take a range of concrete measures in the fields of education, justice, public administration, broadcasting and culture to promote these three regional languages. Cornish, Scots in Scotland and Northern Ireland (in the latter territory officially known as Ulster Scots) are protected by the lower level only (Section II).

The following bodies have been established to oversee the promotion of the regional languages:

-Bòrd na Gàidhlig in Scotland for Scottish Gaelic

-Foras na Gaeilge for Irish

-Tha Boord o Ulstèr-Scotch for Ulster Scots

-Bwrdd yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Board) in Wales → statutory role in agreeing Welsh language plans with official bodies

Furthermore, the Charter was ratified for Manx on behalf of the Crown dependency of the Isle of Man.

By the way, the UK government has also recognised British Sign Language as a language in its own right of the United Kingdom.


--SaskiaS 21:42, 11. Sep. 2007 (CEST)




  1. Andorra in Zahlen 2007: Bevölkerung:, abgerufen am 24.06.07
  2. Council of Europe:, abgerufen am 24.06.07
  3. Wikipedia: w:en:Estonian_language,abgerufen am 14.07.07
  4. Estonica: [1], abgerufen am 14.07.07
  5. Council of Europe:, abgerufen am 14.07.07
  6. Amnesty International: [2], abgerufen am 09.09.07
  7. (28-08-2007)
  8. (28-08-2007
  9. Euromosaic study 2004:, abgerufen am 27.6.07
  10. Mercator Working Paper 19:, abgerufen am 27.6.07
  11. Counsel of Europe:, abgerufen am 27.6.07
  12. Mercator Working Paper 19:, abgerufen am 27.6.07
  13. Euromosaic study 2004:, abgerufen am 27.6.07
  14. Euromosaic study 2004:, abgerufen am 27.6.07