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I'm working on a project trying to define the relation between languages and countries. A detail on that is specifying the status of a language in a particular country. I defined four-level classification and named three of them. Probably due to being the most "neutral" of statuses, I'm having a hard time naming the third one. They are:

  • Official: The language is formally accepted and used for the functioning of the national state/government organs.
  • Recognized: Formal education and services are available in the language. Local/regional governments use it as an additional official language.
  • [Something]: The language is used in daily life and private education & services are provided in it. The state/government is mostly uninvolved.
  • Suppressed: The state or general public covertly or overtly adopts a negative stance against use of the language. Users may be derided, harassed or prosecuted.

I need a single-word name for the third status in there, in line with the others. Terms like "Neutral" seemed weak among the other three, as well as negated terms (non-x, un-x).

Another criterion is that this term should not imply the size of population using the language, so terms like minority and common don't work well either.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – tchrist May 31 at 18:48
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Colloquial

From M-W:

1: Used in or characteristic of conversation, especially familiar and informal conversation

Quite simply, it refers to the language people actually use, regardless of whether it is officially sanctioned or not in any way.

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    Colloquial is normally used in contrast with formal, and the distinction between colloquial and formal use of a language is independent of the distinctions that the OP is trying to draw. – jsw29 May 31 at 15:38
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How about accepted? From M-W:

accepted: generally approved or used. e.g., an accepted convention/practice

This seems to fit the bill nicely. It's clearly below official and recognized and above suppressed. It pretty much calls your third category what it is.

Addendum: Another possibility is permitted. From M-W:

permit: to consent to expressly or formally

As per the comments below, I would say permitted is less positive than accepted but more positive than tolerated. Ditto re allowed, which in the context of your question means the same thing as permitted.

Of the choices I've suggested, I think permitted works the best:

Official: The language is formally accepted and used for the functioning of the national state/government organs.

Recognized: Formal education and services are available in the language. Local/regional governments use it as an additional official language.

Permitted: The language is used in daily life and private education & services are provided in it. The state/government is mostly uninvolved.

Suppressed: The state or general public covertly or overtly adopts a negative stance against use of the language. Users may be derided, harassed or prosecuted.

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  • That was one of the first options I considered, along with "tolerated", I guess I'm looking for something between those two. "Accepted" seems too close to "Recognized" while "tolerated" is definitely negative. – edgerunner May 29 at 18:02
  • @edgerunner How about allowed? Less positive than accepted but more positive than tolerated. I could add it to my answer, if you'd like. – Richard Kayser May 29 at 18:48
  • @edgerunner Another possibility is permitted. What do you think? – Richard Kayser May 29 at 19:12
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    In the societies that respect certain basic freedoms, the use of any language is permitted. For example, the use of Klingon is permitted in the United Kingdom, but that's not what the OP has in mind. – jsw29 May 30 at 16:37
  • @jsw29 I couldn't agree more. – Richard Kayser May 30 at 23:49
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Wikipedia has an article titled List of largest languages without official status. The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) glossary of statistical terms defines Non-official language, or Unofficial language.

A language that, though relatively widely used, lacks officially sanctioned status in a particular legally constituted political entity. Example: French in Lebanon; English in Israel.

So it sounds like non-official language is an acceptable phrase.

OECD itself references a broken link from Statistics Canada, but we can see that they use the phrase non-official language in the following example: Statistics Canada 2016 census data on knowledge of languages

I would be careful how you define suppressed languages, because there is some overlap between your definition of a non-official language and a suppressed language, for instance a language that is shunned by the general public while the state has no policy toward it.

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    This sounds like the correct definition although I'd rather avoid the antonyms of my three other terms. Maybe a synonym of unofficial would do the trick. – edgerunner May 29 at 20:43
  • The phrases such as unofficial language and non-official language can serve the OP's purpose only if the context makes it clear that they refer to a language that is not official but still widely used in a particular country. A typical sentence in which they will be understood in the way that is intended here is something like 'X is the unofficial language of Y': note that 'of Y' is needed to convey the idea that the language has some special connection with Y. Apart from such a context, an unofficial language is any language that is not official. – jsw29 May 31 at 15:31
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Take a look at Ethnologue

(You might take a look at https://www.ethnologue.com/ (currently behind a paywall) and use their terminology. They classify languages for a living. The OP's grouping may be somewhat limited to political classifications.)

Heart language

Wycliffe Bible Translators calls the language that you grow up speaking and understand best a Heart Language.

Minority language speakers in Kenya experience the truth of God's Word when they stop trying to understand Scripture in other languages and start studying it in the language they understand best.

From Kenyans Understand the Gospel in Their Heart Language

(I have worked in Burkina Faso. The children in the capital city, Ouagadougou, would speak Mòoré every day. Since the official language was French, they would learn French as a foreign language from age five or six, upon entering school. Their birth certificate and other official documents were in French. But in all other realms of daily life, it was Mòoré.)

Native / mother tongue

These terms are perhaps more neutral than heart language. A mother tongue is what you learn at your mother's knee. Merriam-Webster defines it as:

one's native language

Quotidian

This is just putting a fancy word on your everyday language.

Unsuppressed

Since the OP seems to be searching for political terms to classify languages, this is opposite of one of the terms.

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  • Quotidian seems interesting, but when I think of the Armenian minority here in Turkey, it fails the spec. They learn the Armenian language in minority schools, yet use it only rarely in their daily lives (except special occasions and religious services), which goes mostly in a somewhat flavored but common and official Turkish. – edgerunner May 29 at 12:54
  • …or some villages in the eastern Black Sea coast still keep their endemic dialects of Greek, Laz etc. and only speak it when they explicitly want to exclude someone from a conversation :D (like my grandparents-in-law who spoke Greek only when they wanted to hide something from their children) – edgerunner May 29 at 13:07
  • I'm sure you can find exceptions to any word proposed. I recommend you go to Ethnologue (you may be able to find a hardcopy at the reference section of a larger library). When you see how it classifies languages, you might find that there are several dimensions that your four-categories have not captured. I think your answer lies in these hidden dimensions. – rajah9 May 29 at 13:13
  • I'm not trying to capture every dimension. This is a small personal project :) Thanks anyway, Ethnologue seems like a fantastic resource. – edgerunner May 29 at 17:58

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