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Internationally, the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, "regional or minority languages" means languages that are:
- 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
- different from the official language(s) of that State
A regional language is, in terms of political status, different from the official language of the country where it is spoken. The regional languages are sometimes recognized and protected by the regional government or the state: many states across the world recognize regional languages, and give them a status, as is the case, for example, of Wallonia, Spain, Italy or Switzerland. In other cases the state does not grant official status as an official language of the country; it is the case with the regional languages of France, which can be studied but cannot be used in the government or any public service, where only French is official.
Status and trends
Status changes may take place either by laws within a state or is by political and territorial changes.
An example of the first case is Belgium, where only the French was the official language since the independence in 1831. In 1878, it was allowed that the provinces and districts where Flemish was spoken to use either French or Flemish; then, in 1938, Flemish became the official language of the northern part of Belgium.
For the second case, an example is the fragmentation of the Soviet Union where some regional languages, such as Latvian, Romanian or Georgian, became official languages in the new states formed after the fragmentation: Latvia, Moldova and Georgia.
In a federal state, an official language in a province, region or state, can be a regional language in other parts. That is the case, for example, in Canada, where the French is the official language in the province of Quebec but is a regional one in other provinces.
- "European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages". Council of Europe. 5 November 1992. http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/en/Treaties/Html/148.htm. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
- Dubois, Jean; Giacomo, Mathée; Guespin, Louis; Marcellesi, Christiane; Marcellesi, Jean-Baptiste; Mével, Jean-Pierre (1994) (in French). Le dictionnaire de linguistique et des sciences du langage. Paris: Larousse. .
- "Dutch language". Encyclopedia Britannica Online. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/409930/Dutch-language. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
- Sellier, André; Sellier, Jean (1991) (in French). Atlas des peuples d'Europe central. Paris: La Découverte. .