National and Official Language

Many countries in the world have a national and an official language. The origins of these two distinctions are wrap in politics, history, and culture.

A national language is a language with a political, cultural, and social unit connected with it. An official language is a language used by the government of a country. However, both of these terms are used for politic means in many countries.

A national language is often used to unite the people. Examples of this include Japanese in Japan, French in France, and even English in Great Britain. Each country has a complex history behind its selection of a national language.

The process of developing a national language involves four steps which are…

  • Selection
  • Codification
  • Elaboration
  • Acceptance


Selecting a language to serve as the national language is a political process. Picking the wrong language could rip a nation a part. Different countries have approached this in different ways. Indonesia selected a Malay pidgin as its national language to unite its country. The Philippines choose Tagalog or Filipino as their national language, which was met with great resistance.


Codification involves standardizing the language. This involves the development of grammar rules and dictionaries. American English was heavily influenced by Noah Webster and his work in developing dictionaries. Webster specifically wanted to develop an American dialect of English in order to unify the new country.


Elaboration is the process of extending the language into new domains such as academics,  medicine, or some other field. Many languages, pidgins, and or creoles, do not have ways of communicating highly abstract terms. In order to serve as an official language, terms need to be developed to handle any form of communication.


After developing a language in order for it to become the national language, steps must be taken to convince the people to use it. This is often done through a combination of propaganda and follows the leader. When government officials use the language locals often begin to follow.


The use of a language by a nation has a complex process that involves several steps. Every country has some story behind the development of its language. This rarely does not happen by chance.

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