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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.

Internationally, 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 Spain and France, albeit the national language of Andorra) has more speakers than Finnish or Danish. In China, Wu, spoken in southern Jiangsu, northern, and the general area of Shanghai Zhejiang by more than 90 million speakers, can claim more native speakers than French, and Cantonese, a regional language of Guangdong, Hong Kong and nearby areas in China with 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 Fujian and in nearby Taiwan, but also in the Southeast Asian countries of Malaysia and 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:

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


bg:Регионален език ca:Llengua regional de:Regionalsprache et:Regionaalkeel el:Περιφερειακή γλώσσα eu:Hizkuntza gutxitu fr:Langue régionale fy:Streektaal id:Bahasa daerah csb:Òbéndowi jãzëk kw:Yeth ranndiryel lv:Reģionālā valoda nl:Streektaal nds-nl:Streektaol ja:地方言語 nds:Regionaalspraak pl:Język regionalny ro:Limbă regională ru:Региональный язык zh:方言