"Official English" in the UK?

Don Osborn dzo at bisharat.net
Sun Apr 1 19:49:50 UTC 2007

Dear Hal,  Thank you for this background. It seems that more than a few
countries define the language(s) of governance, legislature, or courts in
more or less similar ways (without an "official language" law or article in
their constitution). Actually it all begs the question of when and where the
notion of "official language" originated.


By the way, Wikipedia offers the statement that "The United Kingdom does not
have a constitutionally defined official language."






From: owner-lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
[mailto:owner-lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu] On Behalf Of Harold
Sent: Sunday, April 01, 2007 3:04 PM
To: lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Subject: Re: "Official English" in the UK?


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 It was not officially withdrawn as the court language until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 

TIA for any info...  Don


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