What Is a Minority Language?

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  • Written By: Esther Ejim
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 27 February 2020
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A minority language is a language that is spoken by the minority population in a geographic area or location. An area may have several minority languages, depending on the constitution or makeup of the population. For instance, the dominant language in a country like the United States is English. This is because the majority of the population is English-speaking. Since the United States is made up of many minority immigrant populations, it does not have just one minority language.

The United States is composed of a wide variety of immigrants from different countries located in different corners of the globe. Each of these immigrant populations have their own dialects and languages. This means there are many minority languages in that geographical area. Even though there are many minority languages, some of them are more dominant than the others simply due to size of the minority population who speak the language in the host country.

Still using the example of the United States, even though it has Asian, African, Indian, Spanish and other minority populations with different minority languages, the most dominant minority language is Spanish. This is due to the size of the Spanish-speaking population in the U.S. as well as other factors. Such factors include the fact that the United States has a long history with Spanish-speaking countries and even shares a border with Mexico, a Spanish-speaking country with a large number of immigrants in the U.S.


Other components also affect the emergence of a major or dominant minority language among other minority languages in geographical locations located around the world. In India, Hindi is the official majority language. This is a result of a constitutional decree because India has a large variety of other languages. Different states in India also have their own official languages, some of which are not accorded any recognition by the central government. Some states even have three or four official languages. For instance, Bihar, which is located in east India has three official languages, while Sikkim has four official languages.

In such a situation, the emergence of a minority language will not be determined based on the country as a whole; rather, the minority language will be based on a smaller-scale. People who speak minority languages often have to learn the majority language in order to function in their society. This is due to the fact that most minority languages are not officially recognized; as such, they cannot be used to communicate with the larger population.


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Post 1

One minority language that is not suffering from lack of official recognition is Canadian French.

Quebec, of course, was a French colony, while Canada as a whole was an English colony. And French-speaking Canadians are evidently very active politically such that there are a lot of laws to protect the French language. Public schools are offered in both English and French; only children who are already fluent in English may attend English public school. Children who have a home language that is neither English nor French must attend French schools.

An interesting twist is that businesses in Quebec must have French signs which means, among other things, that they may not use apostrophes. You will sometimes see little maple leaves, stars, etc. used instead of apostrophes all across Canada (so that the business does not have to have two different signs/logos).

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