A national language is a language (or language variant, e.g. dialect) that has some connection—de facto or de jure—with a nation. There is little consistency in the use of this term. One or more languages spoken as first languages in the territory of a country may be referred to informally or designated in legislation as national languages of the country. National languages are mentioned in over 150 world constitutions.
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C.M.B. Brann, with particular reference to India, suggests that there are "four quite distinctive meanings" for national language in a polity:
- "Territorial language" (chthonolect, sometimes known as chtonolect) of a particular people
- "Regional language" (choralect)
- "Language-in-common or community language" (demolect) used throughout a country
- "Central language" (politolect) used by government and perhaps having a symbolic value.