"Official English" in the UK?

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Sun Apr 1 19:04:13 UTC 2007

Don (et al.):

I did some googling and came up with a kind of "checkered" history on this.

In an article entitled "Oyez, Oyez, "O yes" American Legal Language and the
Influence of the French" by L. Susan Carter, she says:

"Though Law French as a language of the court ceased to be used officially
in the first third of the 18th century (370 years after Parliament barred
the use of French in that body in *1362*) many of the words that were a part
of the language remain in current Anglo-American law."


"Indeed, so successful was the domination of the law courts by French that
it remained in use until after Charles II in the middle of the 17th century
(Baker 9). It was not officially withdrawn as the court language until
1731." (Kibbee [1991]).

Kibbee, Douglas A. (1991). For to Speke Frenche Trewely.
Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing.

So English became sort of gradually officialized in these two domains, but
as for officializing in other domains, such as schooling, etc. it's maybe
not technically there. Note also the switchover to English in the religious
domain, ie. in its use in the Book of Common Prayer, the King James Bible,


On 4/1/07, Don Osborn <dzo at bisharat.net> wrote:
> Quick question: Is the English language "official" by any statute in
> England
> or the UK, or does it have this role by tradition and common law? In a
> quick
> search of Jacques Leclerc's pages on the UK (and especially England) at
> http://www.tlfq.ulaval.ca/axl/europe/royaumeuni.htm I didn't find anything
> definitive.
> TIA for any info...  Don
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