German as the official language of state

Authored by: Ulrich Ammon , David Charlston

The Position of the German Language in the World

Print publication date:  September  2019
Online publication date:  August  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138717657
eBook ISBN: 9781315157870
Adobe ISBN:


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As with speaker numbers and economic strength (Ch. C), the number and size of countries in which a language is the official language of state can also be used for characterisation or as an indicator of global position (e.g. Conrad/ Fishman 1977: 7–13; Haut Conseil 1986: 14f.; Jernudd 1987). In the case of several countries with the same official language, this will be preferred for “international communication in the wider sense” (internationally, but not interlingually; Ch. A.3). With otherwise identical conditions, this also increases the probability that others will have contact with this language and experience its communication potential, which can therefore motivate learning of the language (Ch. A.7). Anchorage within several states is thus a potentially position-strengthening factor. It can play a part in guaranteeing a privileged position in international organisations or conferences (Ch. H.3). It can also influence curriculum decisions on foreign languages to be learnt. Every state also grants protection and promotion to its official languages, not least through the associated preferential position within the school system (Kloss 1969b: 549). These factors can all strengthen the global position of the language and also its survival chances in each country. Only languages which are not official languages of state anywhere are seriously threatened with “extinction” by falling completely out of use (Ch. E).

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