From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 Definition in international law
For the purposes of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages:
- "regional or minority languages" means languages that are:
- traditionally used within a given territory of a State by nationals of that State who form a group numerically smaller than the rest of the State's population; and
- different from the official language(s) of that State
 Influence of number of speakers
There are many cases when a regional language can claim greater numbers of speakers than certain languages which happen to be official languages of sovereign states. For example, Catalan (a regional language of Spain and France, albeit official in Andorra) has more speakers than Finnish or Danish. In China, Wu, spoken in southern Jiangsu and northern Zhejiang by more than 90 million speakers, can claim more native speakers than French, and Cantonese, a regional language of Guangdong and nearby areas in China with more than 60 million local and overseas speakers (North America, parts of Malaysia), outnumbers Italian in number of speakers. Subgroups and dialects of the Min group have over 70 million speakers, mainly in Fujian and in nearby Taiwan, but also in the Southeast Asian countries of Malaysia and Singapore.
 Relationship with official languages
In some cases, a regional language may be closely related to the state's main language or official language. For example:
- Walloon, a regional language of France and Belgium, belongs to the same family of Oïl languages as French.
- Limburgs, a regional language in Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium has over 2,5 million speakers and is closely related to Luxembourgisch, Rhinelandic and Ripuaric.
- Scots, a regional language of Scotland and Ireland, belongs to the same family of West Germanic languages as English.
- Frisian, a regional language of The Netherlands and Germany, belongs to the same language family as Dutch and German
- Võro, a regional language of Estonia, belongs to the same family of Finno-Ugric languages as Estonian.
- All Chinese languages belong to the same family as Mandarin (Putonghua) - the national standard of the PRC. Mandarin is not mutually intelligible with them. Speakers of all of them, nevertheless, use the same standard written language (although this written language is largely based on the Mandarin dialects group).
- Aranese in Spain.
In other cases, a regional language may be very different from the state's main language or official language. For example:
- Basque, a regional language in Spain and France, is non-Indo-European, and therefore unrelated to Spanish or French, both Romance languages;
- Sorbian, a regional language of Germany, is a Slavic language, and therefore only distantly (as an Indo-European language) related to German, a Germanic language.
 Official languages as regional languages
An official language of a country may also be spoken as a regional language in a region of a neighbouring country. For example:
- Catalan, the official language of Andorra, is a regional language in Spain, France and Italy.
- German, the official language of Austria, Belgium, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Switzerland, is a regional language of Italy and Denmark.
- Hungarian, a Finno-Ugric language and official in Hungary, is a regional language of Romania whose official language, Romanian is a Romance language.
- Cantonese, one of the official languages in Hong Kong and Macao (both special administrative regions of the People's Republic of China), is used as a regional language of the province of Guangdong, People's Republic of China.