Languages of the United States

Languages of the United States
Official languages None at federal level
Main languages English 80%, Spanish 12.4%, other Indo-European 3.7%, Asian and Pacific island languages 3%, other languages 0.9% (2009 survey by the Census Bureau)
Indigenous languages

Navajo, Central Alaskan Yup'ik, Dakota, Western Apache, Keres, Cherokee, Zuni, Ojibwe, O'odham,[1][2]

Main immigrant languages Hakka, Cantonese, Mandarin, Tagalog, French, Vietnamese, German, Chinese[3]
Sign languages American Sign Language (BASL),
Hawai'i Sign Language,
Keresan Sign Language,
Navajo Family Sign Language,
Plains Indian Sign Language,
Puerto Rican Sign Language,
Samoan Sign Language
Common keyboard layouts

Many languages are used, or historically have been used in the United States. The most commonly used language is English. There are also many languages indigenous to North America or to U.S. states or holdings in the Pacific region. Languages brought to the country by colonists or immigrants from Europe, Asia, or other parts of the world make up a large portion of the languages currently used; several languages, including creoles and sign languages, have also developed in the United States. Approximately 430 languages are spoken or signed by the population, of which 176 are indigenous to the area. Fifty-two languages formerly spoken in the country's territory are now extinct.[4]

The most common language in the United States is known as American English. However, no official language exists at the federal level. There have been several proposals to make English the national language. Proposed constitutional amendments have been attached to immigration reform bills,[5][6] and one came from the Polish American Congress,[7] but none of these bills have become law with the amendment intact. The situation is quite varied at the state and territorial levels, with some states mirroring the federal policy of adopting no official language in a de jure capacity, others adopting English alone, others officially adopting English as well as local languages, and still others adopting a policy of de facto bilingualism.

Since the 1965 Immigration Act, Spanish is the second most common language in the country, and is spoken by approximately 35 million people.[8] The United States holds the world's fifth largest Spanish-speaking population, outnumbered only by Mexico, Spain, Colombia, and Argentina; other estimates put the United States at over 50 million, second only to Mexico. Throughout the Southwestern United States, long-established Spanish-speaking communities coexist with large numbers of more recent Hispanophone immigrants. Although many new Latin American immigrants are less than fluent in English, nearly all second-generation Hispanic Americans speak English fluently, while only about half still speak Spanish.[9]

According to the 2000 US census, people of German ancestry make up the largest single ethnic group in the United States, and the German language ranks fifth.[10][11] Italian, Polish, and French are still widely spoken among populations descending from immigrants from those countries in the early 20th century, but the use of these languages is dwindling as the older generations die. Russian is also spoken by immigrant populations.

Tagalog and Vietnamese have over one million speakers each in the United States, almost entirely within recent immigrant populations. Both languages, along with the varieties of Chinese (mostly Cantonese, Taishanese, and Standard Mandarin), Japanese, and Korean, are now used in elections in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Illinois, New York, Texas, and Washington.[12]

Native American languages are spoken in smaller pockets of the country, but these populations are decreasing, and the languages are almost never widely used outside of reservations. Hawaiian, although having few native speakers, is an official language along with English at the state level in Hawaii. The state government of Louisiana offers services and documents in French, as does New Mexico in Spanish. Besides English, Spanish, French, German, Navajo and other Native American languages, all other languages are usually learned from immigrant ancestors that came after the time of independence or learned through some form of education.

American Sign Language is the most common sign language in the United States although there are unrelated sign languages which have been developed in the States and its territories—mostly in the Pacific. No concrete numbers exist for signers but something upwards of 250,000 is common.

Census statistics

Language Spoken at Home
(U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2011)

According to the American Community Survey 2011, endorsed by the United States Census Bureau, the languages spoken at home with over 100,000 speakers older than five are:

  1. English – 230 million
  2. Spanish – 37.58 million
  3. Chinese – 2.88 million (mainly Yue dialects such as Cantonese and Taishanese, Standard Mandarin Chinese, also Hokkien, Hakka)
  4. French – 1.30 million + 750,000 French Creole
  5. Tagalog – 1.59 million + (Most Filipinos also know other Philippine languages, e.g. Ilokano, Pangasinan, Bikol languages, and Visayan languages.)
  6. Vietnamese – 1.41 million
  7. Korean – 1.14 million
  8. German – 1.08 million (High/Standard German) + (May include German dialects like Pennsylvania German, Hutterite German, Plautdietsch, Texas German)
  9. Arabic – 951,700
  10. Russian – 905,800
  11. Other Indic languages – 815,345 (Includes Punjabi,Marathi)
  12. Bengali- 800,000 [14][15][16]
  13. Italian – 723,600
  14. Portuguese – 673,500
  15. Hindi – 648,900
  16. Polish – 607,500
  17. Japanese – 436,100
  18. Persian – 407,600
  19. Urdu – 373,800
  20. Gujarati – 358,400
  21. Greek – 304,900
  22. Serbo-Croatian – 269,600
  23. Armenian – 246,900
  24. Hebrew – 216,300
  25. Khmer – 212,500
  26. Hmong - 211,200
  27. Navajo  169,300
  28. Thai - 163,200
  29. Yiddish - 160,900
  30. Laotian - 140,900
  31. Tamil - 132,573
  32. Nepali language - 185,145
  33. American Sign Language – ~100,000
Spanish speakers in the United States
Year Number of Spanish speakers Percent of
US population
1980 11 million 5%
1990 17.3 million 7%
2000 28.1 million 10%
2010 37 million 13%
2012 38.3 million 13%
2015 41 million 14%

While modern estimates indicate that American Sign Language was signed by as many as 500,000 Americans, as of 1972—the last official survey, closer estimates range around 100,000 as of 2011. (Although various cultural factors, such as passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, have resulted in far greater educational opportunities for deaf children, which could double or triple the number of current ASL users.).[20]

Official language status

The United States does not have a national official language; nevertheless, English (specifically American English) is the primary language used for legislation, regulations, executive orders, treaties, federal court rulings, and all other official pronouncements; although there are laws requiring documents such as ballots to be printed in multiple languages when there are large numbers of non-English speakers in an area.

As part of what has been called the English-only movement, some states have adopted legislation granting official status to English. Out of 50 states, 32 have established English as the official language, and Hawaii had established both English and Hawaiian as official.[21]

Twenty-six amendments to the United States Constitution have been proposed in Congress to make English the official language. The first of these was proposed in 1981 by Senator Samuel Ichiye "S. I." Hayakawa (R-CA).[22]

Status of other languages

Percentage of people 5 years and over who speak Spanish at home: 2008.
Second most prevalent language in each US state.

The state of Alaska provides voting information in Iñupiaq, Central Yup'ik, Gwich'in, Siberian Yupik, Koyukon, and Tagalog, as well as English. Alaska recognizes many Native languages as official.[23]

California has agreed to allow the publication of state documents in other languages to represent minority groups and immigrant communities. Languages such as Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, Persian, Russian, Vietnamese, and Thai appear in official state documents, and the Department of Motor Vehicles publishes in nine languages.[24]

In New Mexico, although the state constitution does not specify an official language, laws are published in English and Spanish, and government materials and services are legally required (by Act) to be made accessible to speakers of both languages as well as Navajo and various Pueblo languages.

Native American languages are official or co-official on many of the U.S. Indian reservations and pueblos. In Oklahoma before statehood in 1907, territory officials debated whether or not to have Cherokee, Choctaw and Muscogee languages as co-official, but the idea never gained ground.

After New Amsterdam (formerly a Dutch colony) was transferred to English administration (becoming the Province of New York) in the late 17th century, English supplanted Dutch as the official language. However, "Dutch remained the primary language for many civil and ecclesiastical functions and most private affairs for the next century."[25]

The issue of bilingualism also applies in the states of Arizona and Texas. While the constitution of Texas has no official language policy, Arizona passed a proposition in 2006 declaring English as the official language.[26] Nonetheless, Arizona law requires the distribution of voting ballots in Spanish, as well as indigenous languages such as Navajo, O'odham, Hopi, etc., in counties where they are spoken.[27]

In 2000, the Census Bureau printed the standard census questionnaires in six languages: English, Spanish, Korean, Chinese (in traditional characters), Vietnamese, and Tagalog.

A popular urban legend called the Muhlenberg legend claims that German was almost made an official language of the United States but lost by one vote. In reality, it was a request by a group of German immigrants to have an official translation of laws into German was defeated by one vote. House speaker Frederick Muhlenberg abstained from the vote but has since become associated with the legend.[28][29]

Indigenous languages

Native American languages

Native American languages predate European settlement of the New World. In a few parts of the U.S. (mostly on Indian reservations), they continue to be spoken fluently. Most of these languages are endangered, although there are efforts to revive them. Normally the fewer the speakers of a language the greater the degree of endangerment, but there are many small Native American language communities in the Southwest (Arizona and New Mexico) which continue to thrive despite their small size. In 1929, speaking of indigenous Native American languages, linguist Edward Sapir observed:

Few people realize that within the confines of the United States there is spoken today a far greater variety of languages ... than in the whole of Europe. We may go further. We may say, quite literally and safely, that in the state of California alone there are greater and more numerous linguistic extremes than can be illustrated in all the length and breadth of Europe.[30]

According to the 2000 Census and other language surveys, the largest Native American language-speaking community by far is the Navajo. Navajo is an Athabascan language of the Na-Dené family, with 178,000 speakers, primarily in the states of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Altogether, Navajo speakers make up more than 50% of all Native American language speakers in the United States. Western Apache, with 12,500 speakers, also mostly in Arizona, is closely related to Navajo but not mutually intelligible with it. Navajo and other Athabascan languages in the Southwest are relative outliers; most other Athabascan languages are spoken in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

Dakota is a Siouan language with 18,000 speakers in the US alone (22,000 including speakers in Canada), not counting 6,000 speakers of the closely related Lakota. Most speakers live in the states of North Dakota and South Dakota. Other Siouan languages include the closely related Winnebago, and the more distant Crow, among others.

Central Alaskan Yup'ik is an Eskimo-Aleut language with 16,000 speakers, most of whom live in Alaska. The term "Yupik" is applied to its relatives, which are not necessarily mutually intelligible with Central Alaskan, including Naukan and Central Siberian, among others.

Cherokee belongs to the Iroquoian family, and has about 22,000 speakers as of 2005.[31] The Cherokee have the largest tribal affiliation in the U.S., but most are of mixed ancestry and do not speak the language. Recent efforts to preserve and increase the Cherokee language in the Cherokee Nation and the United Keetoowah Band in Oklahoma, and among the Eastern Band in North Carolina, have been productive. More than 1,000 people each also speak the related languages of Mohawk and Seneca.

The O'odham language, spoken by the Pima and the Tohono O'odham, is a Uto-Aztecan language with more than 12,000 speakers, most of whom live in central and southern Arizona and northern Sonora. Other Uto-Aztecan languages include Hopi, Shoshone, and the Pai-Ute languages.

Choctaw has 11,000 speakers. Choctaw is part of the Muskogean family, like Seminole and Alabama.

The Algonquian language family includes languages like Chippewa/Ojibwe, Cheyenne, and Cree.

Keres has 11,000 speakers. A language isolate, the Keres are the largest of the Pueblo nations. The Keres pueblo of Acoma is the oldest continually inhabited community in the United States. Zuni, another isolate, has around 10,000 speakers, most of whom reside within the Zuni pueblo.

Although the languages of the Americas have a history stretching back about 17,000 to 12,000 years, current knowledge of them is limited. There are doubtless a number of undocumented languages that were once spoken in the United States that are missing from historical record.

List of Native American languages

Below is an estimate of Native American languages "spoken at home" in the United States (American Community Survey 2006–2008).[32] This is not an exhaustive list of Native American languages in the US. Because the distinction between dialect and language isn't always clear, multiple dialects of varying mutual intelligibility may be classified as a single language, while a group of effectively identical dialects may be classified separately for historical or cultural reasons. Languages included here may be classified as "extinct" (having no living native speakers), but many extinct or moribund Native American languages are the subjects of ongoing language revitalization efforts; other extinct languages undergoing revitalization might not be listed here.

Language Endonym[33] Family Speakers
(% of total)
Speaks English
<"Very Well"[34]
Total 373 949 19.22%
Total (excl. Navajo) 203 127 (54.32) 15.82%
Navajo Diné bizaad Na-Dené 170 822 (45.68) 23.25%
Dakota Dakȟótiyapi Siouan 18 804 (5.03) 9.86%
Yupik Eskimo-Aleut 18 626 (4.98) 37.02%
Apache Ndee biyati' Na-Dené 14 012 (3.75) 3.53%
Keres Isolate 13 073 (3.50) 6.20%
Cherokee Tsalagi (ᏣᎳᎩ) Iroquoian 12 320 (3.29) 16.33%
Choctaw Chahta' Muskogean 10 368 (2.77) 23.44%
Zuni Shiwi'ma Isolate 9 432 (2.52) 14.22%
American Indian (Other) 8 888 (2.38) 16.73%
O'odham (Pima) Oʼodham ñiʼokĭ Uto-Aztecan 8 190 (2.19) 14.70%
Ojibwe (Chippewa) Anishinaabemowin Algic 6 986 (1.87) 11.28%
Hopi Hopilàvayi Uto-Aztecan 6 776 (1.81) 18.80%
Inupiat (Inupik) Iñupiatun Eskimo-Aleut 5 580 (1.49) 26.04%
Tewa Tanoan 5 123 (1.37) 13.80%
Muskogee (Creek) Mvskoke Muskogean 5 072 (1.36) 19.62%
Crow Apsáalooke Siouan 3 962 (1.06) 6.59%
Shoshoni Sosoni' da̲i̲gwape Uto-Aztecan 2 512 (0.67) 7.25%
Cheyenne Tsėhésenėstsestȯtse Algic 2 399 (0.64) 3.21%
Tiwa Tanoan 2 269 (0.61) 3.22%
Towa (Jemez) Tanoan 2 192 (0.59) 27.65%
Inuit (Eskimo) Eskimo-Aleut 2 168 (0.58) 25.46%
Blackfoot Siksiká (ᓱᖽᐧᖿ) Algic 1 970 (0.53) 11.02%
Sahaptin Ichishkíin sɨ́nwit Plateau Penutian 1 654 (0.44) 6.17%
Paiute Uto-Aztecan 1 638 (0.44) 11.78%
Athapascan Na-Dené 1 627 (0.44) 19.55%
Ute Núu-'apaghapi Uto-Aztecan 1 625 (0.43) 5.23%
Mohawk Kanien’kéha' Iroquoian 1 423 (0.38) 11.67%
Seneca Onödowága Iroquoian 1 353 (0.36) 11.23%
Winnebago Hocąk Siouan 1 340 (0.36) 6.27%
Kiowa Cáuijògà Tanoan 1 274 (0.34) 9.58%
Aleut Unangam tunuu Eskimo-Aleut 1 236 (0.33) 19.01%
Salish Salishan 1 233 (0.33) 22.87%
Gwich’in (Kuchin) Gwich’in Na-Dené 1 217 (0.33) 25.82%
Kickapoo Kiwikapawa Algic 1 141 (0.31) 41.72%
Arapaho Hinónoʼeitíít Algic 1 087 (0.29) 1.20%
Tlingit Lingít Na-Dené 1 026 (0.27) 8.19%
Siberian Yupik (SLI Yupik) Sivuqaghmiistun Eskimo-Aleut 993 (0.27) 39.48%
Passamaquoddy Peskotomuhkat Algic 982 (0.26) 6.11%
Comanche Nʉmʉ tekwapʉ Uto-Aztecan 963 (0.26) 10.59%
Cree Nēhiyawēwin Algic 951 (0.25) 8.73%
Menominee Omāēqnomenew Algic 946 (0.25) 39.64%
Nez Perce Niimiipuutímt Plateau Penutian 942 (0.25) 12.10%
Potawatomi Bodéwadmi Algic 824 (0.22) 9.95%
Hidatsa Hidatsa Siouan 806 (0.22) 4.47%
Mesquakie (Fox) Meshkwahkihaki Algic 727 (0.19) 22.15%
Karok Káruk Isolate 700 (0.19) 5.43%
Pomo Pomoan 648 (0.17) 14.81%
Chinook Jargon Chinuk wawa Creole 644 (0.17) 17.70%
Oneida Oneyota'aaka Iroquoian 527 (0.14) 58.63%
Yurok Puliklah Algic 491 (0.13) 1.63%
Cocopah Kwikapa Yuman 483 (0.13) 22.77%
Hualapai Hwalbáy Yuman 458 (0.12) 4.80%
Omaha Umoⁿhoⁿ Siouan 457 (0.12) 1.97%
Chiricahua Ndee bizaa Na-Dené 457 (0.12)
Jicarilla Abáachi mizaa Na-Dené 455 (0.12) 14.51%
Yaqui Yoem noki Uto-Aztecan 425 (0.11) 10.12%
Yokuts Yokutsan 407 (0.11) 27.27%
Mono Mono Uto-Aztecan 349 (0.09)
Mohave Hamakhav Yuman 330 (0.09) 6.36%
Luiseño Cham'teela Uto-Aztecan 327 (0.09) 4.28%
Shawnee Sawanwa Algic 321 (0.09) 6.23%
Maidu (NE Maidu) Májdy Maiduan 319 (0.09) 6.90%
Ottawa Nishnaabemwin Algic 312 (0.08) 10.90%
Algonquin Anicinâbemowin Algic 288 (0.08) 19.79%
Okanogan Nsəlxcin Salishan 284 (0.08) 10.92%
Osage Wazhazhe ie Siouan 260 (0.07) 20.38%
Wichita Kirikirʔi:s Caddoan 242 (0.06) 16.12%
Onondaga Onǫda’gegá Iroquoian 239 (0.06) 2.93%
Mi'kmaq (Micmac) Míkmawísimk Algic 230 (0.06) 10.87%
Digueño (Ipai-Kumiai-Tipai) Yuman 228 (0.06) 60.96%
Washo Wá:šiw ʔítlu Isolate 227 (0.06) 9.69%
Miwok Miwok Utian 216 (0.06)
Lushootseed (Puget Salish) Xʷəlšucid Salishan 207 (0.06) 47.83%
Kutenai Ktunaxa Isolate 200 (0.05) 32.50%
Miccosukee Mikisúkî Muskogean 188 (0.05) 22.87%
Tuscarora Ska:rù:rę' Iroquoian 179 (0.05) 10.06%
Makah Qʷi·qʷi·diččaq Wakashan 176 (0.05) 30.11%
Coeur d'Alene Snchitsuʼumshtsn Salishan 174 (0.05)
Hupa Na:tinixwe Na-Dené 174 (0.05)
Quechan (Yuma) Kwtsaan Yuman 172 (0.05) 31.98%
Miami Myaamia Algic 168 (0.04) 50.60%
Alabama Albaamo innaaɬiilka Muskogean 165 (0.04) 20.00%
Delaware Lënape / Lunaapeew Algic 146 (0.04) 25.34%
Clallam Nəxʷsƛ̕ay̕əmúcən Salishan 146 (0.04) 1.37%
Penobscot (E Abenaki) Panawahpskek Algic 144 (0.04) 5.56%
Yavapai Yuman 139 (0.04)
Cahuilla Ivia Uto-Aztecan 139 (0.04)
Ponca Paⁿka Siouan 131 (0.04) 6.87%
Quinault Kʷínaył Salishan 128 (0.03)
Deg Xinag (Ingalit) Degexit’an Na-Dené 127 (0.03)
Pawnee Paári Caddoan 122 (0.03) 16.39%
Haida X̱aat Kíl Isolate 118 (0.03) 19.49%
Cowlitz Stl'pulimuhkl Salishan 110 (0.03) 82.73%
Mandan Nų́ʔetaːre Siouan 104 (0.03) 38.46%
Arikara Sáhniš Caddoan 103 (0.03)
Klamath Maqlaqs Plateau Penutian 95 (0.03) 27.37%
Havasupai Havasu’baaja Yuman 90 (0.02) 52.22%
Chitimacha Sitimaxa Isolate 89 (0.02) 21.35%
Abenaki (W Abenaki) Wôbanakiôdwawôgan Algic 86 (0.02)
Kwak'wala (Kwakiutl) Kwak'wala Wakashan 85 (0.02) 24.71%
Tututni (Rogue River) Dotodəni Na-Dené 84 (0.02)
Iroquois Iroquoian 76 (0.02)
Michif (French Cree) Michif Creole 75 (0.02) 70.67%
Tsimshian Sm'algyax Tsimshianic 68 (0.02)
Achumawi Palaihnihan 68 (0.02)
Chiwere Jíwere Siouan 60 (0.02)
Koasati Kowassá:ti Muskogean 59 (0.02) 6.78%
Koyukon Denaakkʼe Na-Dené 58 (0.02) 12.07%
Upper Chinook Kiksht Chinookan 58 (0.02) 10.34%
Caddo Hasí:nay Caddoan 51 (0.01) 23.53%
Kalapuya (Santiam) Kalapuyan 50 (0.01)
Gros Ventre (Atsina) Ahahnelin Algic 45 (0.01)
Tachi Yokutsan 45 (0.01) 57.78%
Maricopa Piipaash chuukwer Yuman 44 (0.01) 22.73%
Chumash S.hamala Chumashan 39 (0.01) 100.00%
Nomlaki Nomlāqa Wintuan 38 (0.01)
Konkow (NW Maidu) Koyoom k'awi Maiduan 32 100.00%
Tonkawa Tickanwa•tic Isolate 29
Wintu Wintʰu:h Wintuan 24
Spokane Npoqínišcn Salishan 20 40.00%
Ahtna Atnakenaege’ Na-Dené 18
Columbia (Sinkiuse) Nxaảmxcín Salishan 17
Atsugewi Atsugé Palaihnihan 15
Chemehuevi Nüwüvi Uto-Aztecan 15
Northern Paiute Numu Uto-Aztecan 12
Dena'ina (Tanaina) Dena’ina qenaga Na-Dené 11
Cupeño Kupangaxwicham Uto-Aztecan 11
Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka) Nuučaan̓uł Wakashan 10
Alutiiq (Gulf Yupik) Sugpiaq Eskimo-Aleut 8
Kansa Káⁿza Siouan 7
Siuslaw Šáayušła Isolate 6
Cayuga Gayogo̱hó:nǫ’ Iroquoian 6
Serrano Taaqtam Uto-Aztecan 5
Yuchi Tsoyaha Isolate 4

Native American sign languages

A sign-language trade pidgin, known as Plains Indian Sign Language, Plains Standard or Plains Sign Talk, arose among the Native Americans of the plains. Each signing nation had a separate signed version of their oral language, that was used by the hearing, and these were not mutually intelligible. Plains Standard was used to communicate between these nations. It seems to have started in Texas and then spread north, through the Great Plains, as far as British Columbia. There are still a few users today, especially among the Crow, Cheyenne, and Arapaho. Unlike other sign languages developed by hearing people, it shares the spatial grammar of deaf sign languages. Through intergenerational transmission, Plains Sign Talk became a working language still in use today in some Deaf First Nations or Native American communities.

As Plains Sign Talk was so widespread and was a spectrum of dialects and accents, it probably hosted several languages under its umbrella. One is potentially Navajo Sign Language which is in use by a sole Navajo clan.

Additionally, Plateau Sign Language existed alongside Plains Sign Talk as either a trade pidgin or another language around the Columbia Plateau and surrounding regions.

Austronesian languages


Hawaiian is an official state language of Hawaii as prescribed in the Constitution of Hawaii. Hawaiian has 1,000 native speakers. Formerly considered critically endangered, Hawaiian is showing signs of language renaissance. The recent trend is based on new Hawaiian language immersion programs of the Hawaii State Department of Education and the University of Hawaii, as well as efforts by the Hawaii State Legislature and county governments to preserve Hawaiian place names. In 1993, about 8,000 could speak and understand it; today estimates range up to 27,000. Hawaiian is related to the Māori language spoken by around 150,000 New Zealanders and Cook Islanders as well as the Tahitian language which is spoken by another 120,000 people of Tahiti.


Samoan is an official territorial language of American Samoa. Samoans make up 90% of the population, and most people are bilingual.


Chamorro is co-official in the Mariana Islands, both in the territory of Guam and in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. In Guam, the indigenous Chamorro people make up about 60% of the population.


Carolinian is also co-official in the Northern Marianas, where only 14% of people speak English at home.

Main languages

Main Languages in the United States[35]
Language percent
Other Indo-European
Asian and Pacific island
Cherokee language road signs.
A trash can in Seattle labeled in four languages: English, Chinese (), Vietnamese, and Spanish. Tagalog also uses the Spanish word.

Some of the first European languages to be spoken in the U.S. are English, Dutch, French, and Spanish.

From the mid-19th century on, the nation had large numbers of immigrants who spoke little or no English, and throughout the country state laws, constitutions, and legislative proceedings appeared in the languages of politically important immigrant groups. There have been bilingual schools and local newspapers in such languages as German, Ukrainian, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Norwegian, Greek, Polish, Swedish, Romanian, Cherokee, Czech, Japanese, Yiddish, Hebrew, Lithuanian, Welsh, Cantonese, Bulgarian, Dutch, Portuguese and others, despite opposing English-only laws that, for example, illegalized church services, telephone conversations, and even conversations in the street or on railway platforms in any language other than English, until the first of these laws was ruled unconstitutional in 1923 (Meyer v. Nebraska).

Currently, Asian languages account for the majority of languages spoken in immigrant communities: Korean, the varieties of Chinese, and various Indian or South Asian languages like Punjabi, Hindi/Urdu, Kannada, Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam, as well as Arabic, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Persian, and others.

Typically, immigrant languages tend to be lost through assimilation within two or three generations, though there are some groups such as the Cajuns (French), Pennsylvania Dutch (German) in a state where large numbers of people were heard to speak it before the 1950s, and the original settlers of the Southwest (Spanish) who have maintained their languages for centuries.


Main article: American English
English language distribution in the United States.

English was inherited from British colonization, and it is spoken by the majority of the population. It serves as the de facto official language, the language in which government business is carried out. According to the U.S. Census Bureau 80% spoke only English at home and all but approximately 13,600,000 U.S. residents age 5 and over speak English "well" or "very well".[36]

American English is different from British English in terms of spelling (one example being the dropped "u" in words such as color/colour), grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and slang usage. The differences are not usually a barrier to effective communication between an American English and a British English speaker, but there are certainly enough differences to cause occasional misunderstandings, usually surrounding slang or region dialect differences.

Some states, like California, have amended their constitutions to make English the only official language, but in practice, this only means that official government documents must at least be in English, and does not mean that they should be exclusively available only in English. For example, the standard California Class C driver's license examination is available in 32 different languages.[37]


Spanish language distribution in the United States.

Spanish was also inherited from colonization and is sanctioned as official in the commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Spanish is also taught in various regions as a second language, especially in areas with large Hispanic populations such as the Southwestern United States along the border with Mexico, as well as Florida, parts of California, the District of Columbia, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York. In Hispanic communities across the country, bilingual signs in both Spanish and English may be quite common. Furthermore, numerous neighborhoods exist (such as Washington Heights in New York City or Little Havana in Miami) in which entire city blocks will have only Spanish language signs and Spanish-speaking people.

In addition to Spanish-speaking Hispanic populations, younger generations of non-Hispanics in the United States seem to be learning Spanish in larger numbers due to the growing Hispanic population and increasing popularity of Latin American movies and music performed in the Spanish language. A 2009 American Community Survey conducted by the United States Census Bureau, showed that Spanish is the primary language spoken at home by over 35 million people aged 5 or older,[38] making the United States the world's fifth-largest Spanish-speaking community, outnumbered only by Mexico, Colombia, Spain, and Argentina.[39][40]

Spanglish is a code-switching variant of Spanish and English and is spoken in areas with large bilingual populations of Spanish and English speakers, such as along the Mexico – United States border (California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas), Florida, and New York City.


French language distribution in the United States. Counties and parishes marked in yellow are those where 6% to 12% of the population speak French at home; brown, 12% to 18%; red, over 18%. Cajun French and French-based creole languages are not included even though the Creole dialects are spoken throughout the U.S. and taught in many U.S. schools.

French, the fourth most-common language (when all varieties of Chinese are combined and separate yet related languages such as Haitian Creole are counted as French), is spoken mainly by the Louisiana Creole, native French, Cajun, Haitian, and French-Canadian populations. It is widely spoken in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and in Louisiana, with notable Francophone enclaves in St. Clair County, Michigan, many rural areas of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the northern San Francisco Bay area.

Three varieties of French developed within what is now the United States in colonial times: Louisiana French, Missouri French, and New England French (essentially a variant of Canadian French).[41] French is the second language in the states of Louisiana (where the French dialect of Cajun predominates) and Maine. The largest French-speaking communities in the United States reside in Northeast Maine; Hollywood and Miami, Florida; New York City; certain areas of rural Louisiana; and small minorities in Vermont and New Hampshire. Many of the New England communities are connected to the dialect found across the border in Quebec or New Brunswick. More than 13 million Americans possess primary French heritage, but only 2 million speak French or a French Creole language at home.


German language distribution in the United States.

German was a widely spoken language in some of the colonies, especially Pennsylvania, where a number of German-speaking religious minorities settled to escape persecution in Europe. Another wave of settlement occurred when Germans fleeing the failure of 19th Century German revolutions emigrated to the United States. A large number of these German immigrants settled in the urban areas, with neighborhoods in many cities being German-speaking and numerous local German language newspapers and periodicals established. German farmers also took up farming around the country, including the Texas Hill Country, at this time. The language was widely spoken until the United States entered World War I.

In the early twentieth century, German was the most widely studied foreign language in the United States, and prior to World War I, more than 6% of American school-children received their primary education exclusively in German, though some of these Germans came from areas outside of Germany proper. Currently, more than 49 million Americans claim German ancestry, the largest self-described ethnic group in the U.S., but less than 4% of them speak a language other than English at home, according to the 2005 American Community Survey.[42] The Amish speak a dialect of German known as Pennsylvania German. One reason for this decline of German language was the perception during both World Wars that speaking the language of the enemy was unpatriotic; foreign language instruction was banned in places during the First World War. Unlike earlier waves, they were more concentrated in cities, and integrated quickly. Another reason for the decline in German was the lack of first-generation immigrants, as immigration to the United States from Western Europe slowed following the World Wars.

There is a myth (known as the Muhlenberg Vote) that German was to be the official language of the U.S., but this is inaccurate and based on a failed early attempt to have government documents translated into German.[43] The myth also extends to German being the second official language of Pennsylvania; however, Pennsylvania has no official language. Although more than 49 million Americans claim they have German ancestors, only 1.24 million Americans speak German at home. Many of these people are either Amish and Mennonites or Germans having newly immigrated (e.g. for professional reasons).


The population of Chinese speakers was increasing rapidly in the 20th century because the number of Chinese immigrants increased at a rate more than 50% since 1940.[44] 2.8 million Americans speak some variety of Chinese, which combined are counted by the federal census as the third most-spoken language in the country. Until the late 20th century, Yue dialects including Taishanese and Cantonese were the most common among immigrants or the descendants of immigrants, especially in California. Since the opening of the People's Republic of China, Mandarin, the official language in PRC and Republic of China (Taiwan) has become increasingly prevalent.[45] Many Americans of all ethnic backgrounds are also learning Mandarin and to a far lesser extent Cantonese.[45]

In New York City, although Mandarin is spoken as a native language among only 10% of Chinese speakers, it may in the future replace Cantonese as their lingua franca.[46]


Tagalog language distribution in the United States.

Tagalog speakers were already present in the United States as early as the late sixteenth century as sailors contracted by the Spanish colonial government. In the eighteenth century, they established settlements in Louisiana, such as Saint Malo. After the American annexation of the Philippines, the number of Tagalog speakers steadily increased, as Filipinos began to migrate to the U.S. as students or contract laborers. Their numbers, however, decreased upon Philippine independence, as many Filipinos were repatriated.

Today, Tagalog, together with its standardized form Filipino, is spoken by over a million and a half Filipino Americans, and is promoted by Filipino American civic organizations and Philippine consulates. As Filipinos are the second largest Asian ethnic group in the United States, Tagalog is the second most spoken Asian language in the country. Taglish, a form of code-switching between Tagalog and English, is also spoken by a number of Filipino Americans.

Tagalog is also taught at some universities where a significant number of Filipinos exist. As it is the national and most spoken language of the Philippines, most Filipinos in the United States are proficient in Tagalog in addition to their local regional language.


Spread of the Vietnamese language in the United States

According to the 2010 Census, there are over 1.5 million Americans who identify themselves as Vietnamese in origin, ranking fourth among the Asian American groups and forming the largest Overseas Vietnamese population.

Orange County, California, is home to the largest concentration of ethnic Vietnamese outside Vietnam, especially in its Little Saigon area. Other significant Vietnamese communities are found in the metropolitan areas of San Jose, Houston, Seattle, Northern Virginia, and New Orleans. Similarly to other overseas Vietnamese communities in Western countries (except France), the Vietnamese population in the United States was established following the Fall of Saigon in 1975 and communist takeover of South Vietnam following the Vietnam War.


Current distribution of the Italian language in the United States.

The Italian language and its various dialects has been widely spoken in the United States for more than one hundred years, primarily due to large-scale immigration from the late 19th century to the mid 20th century.

In addition to Standard Italian learned by most people today, there has been a strong representation of the dialects and languages of Southern Italy amongst the immigrant population (Sicilian and Neapolitan in particular). As of 2009, though 15,638,348 American citizens report themselves as Italian Americans, only 753,992 of these report speaking the Italian language at home (0.3264% of the US population).


Varieties of Arabic are spoken by immigrants from the Middle East as well as many Muslim Americans. The highest concentrations of native Arabic speakers reside in heavily urban areas like Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles. Detroit and the surrounding areas of Michigan boast a significant Arabic-speaking population including many Arab Christians of Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian descent.

Arabic is used for religious purposes by Muslim Americans and by some Arab Christians (notably Catholics of the Melkite and Maronite Churches as well as Rum Orthodox, i.e. Antiochian Orthodox Christians). A significant number of educated Arab professionals who immigrate often already know English quite well, as it is widely used in the Middle East. Lebanese immigrants also have a broader understanding of French as do many Arabic-speaking immigrants from North Africa.


Main article: Cherokee language
Distribution of the Cherokee language

Cherokee is the Iroquoian language spoken by the Cherokee people, and the official language of the Cherokee Nation.[47] Significant numbers of Cherokee speakers of all ages[48] still populate the Qualla Boundary in Cherokee, North Carolina and several counties within the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, significantly Cherokee, Sequoyah, Mayes, Adair, and Delaware. Increasing numbers of Cherokee youth are renewing interest in the traditions, history, and language of their ancestors.[48] Cherokee-speaking communities stand at the forefront of language preservation, and at local schools all lessons are taught in Cherokee and thus it serves as the medium of instruction from pre-school on up.[47] Also, church services and traditional ceremonial "stomp" dances are held in the language in Oklahoma and on the Qualla Boundary in North Carolina.[47]

Cherokee is one of the few, or perhaps the only, Native American language with an increasing population of speakers,[49] and along with Navajo it is the only indigenous language with more than 50,000 speakers,[50] a figure most likely achieved through the tribe's 10-year long language preservation plan involving growing new speakers through immersion schools for children,[51][52] developing new words for modern phrases, teaching the language to non-Indians in schools and universities,[53] fostering the language among young adults so their children can use that language at home, developing iPhone and iPad apps for language education, the development of language radio stations including Cherokee Voices, Cherokee Sounds,[54] and promoting the writing system through public signage, products like Apple Inc., internet use through Google including Gmail, and others so the language remains relevant in the 21st century.


Dutch language distribution in the United States.

There has been a Dutch presence in America since 1602, when the government of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands chartered the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, or VOC) with the mission of exploring for a passage to the Indies and claiming any uncharted territories for the Dutch republic. In 1664, English troops under the command of the Duke of York (later James II of England) attacked the New Netherland colony. Being greatly outnumbered, director general Peter Stuyvesant surrendered New Amsterdam, with Fort Orange following soon. New Amsterdam was renamed New York, Fort Orange was renamed Fort Albany. Dutch city names can still be found in New York's neighbourhoods. Harlem is Haarlem, Staten Island is Staten Eiland and Brooklyn refers to Breukelen.

Dutch was still spoken in many parts of New York at the time of the Revolution. For example, Alexander Hamilton's wife Eliza Hamilton attended a Dutch-language church during their marriage.

African-American abolitionist and women's rights activist Sojourner Truth (born 'Isabella Baumfree') was a native speaker of Dutch.

Martin Van Buren, the first President born in the United States following its independence, spoke Dutch as his native language, making him the only President whose first language was not English.

In a 1990 demographic consensus, 3% of surveyed citizens claimed descent from Dutch settlers. Modern estimates place the Dutch American population at 5 million, lagging just a bit behind Scottish Americans and Swedish Americans.

Notable Dutch Americans include the Roosevelts (Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Eleanor Roosevelt), Marlon Brando, Thomas Alva Edison, Martin Van Buren and the Vanderbilts. The Roosevelts are direct descendants of Dutch settlers of the New Netherland colony in the 17th century.

Around 136,000 people in the United States still speak the Dutch language at home today. They are concentrated mainly in California (23,500), Florida (10,900), Pennsylvania (9,900), Ohio (9,600), New York (8,700) and Michigan (6,600) (i.e. the city of Holland).[55]

A vernacular dialect of Dutch, known as Jersey Dutch was spoken by a significant number of people in the New Jersey area between the start of the 17th century to the mid-20th century. With the beginning of the 20th century, usage of the language became restricted to internal family circles, with an ever-growing number of people abandoning the language in favor of English. It suffered gradual decline throughout the 20th century, and it ultimately dissipated from casual usage.


Finnish language distribution in the United States.

The first Finnish settlers in America were amongst the settlers who came from Sweden and Finland to the New Sweden colony. Most colonists were Finnish. However, the Finnish language was not preserved as well among subsequent generations as Swedish.

Between the 1890s and the outbreak of the first World War, an estimated quarter million Finnish citizens immigrated to the United States, mainly in rural areas of the Midwest and more specifically in the mining regions of Northeastern Minnesota, Northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Hancock, Michigan, as of 2005, still incorporates bi-lingual street signs written in both English and Finnish.[56] Americans of Finnish origin yield at 800,000 individuals, though only 26,000 speak the language at home. There is a distinctive dialect of English to be found in the Upper Peninsula, known as Yooper. Yooper often has a Finnish cadence and uses Finnish sentence structure with modified English, German, Swedish, Norwegian, and Finnish vocabulary. Notable Finnish Americans include U.S. Communist Party leader Gus Hall, film director Renny Harlin, and the Canadian-born actress Pamela Anderson. Another Finnish community in the United States is found in Lake Worth, Florida, north of Miami.


Russian language distribution in the United States.

The Russian language is frequently spoken in areas of Alaska, Los Angeles, Seattle, Spokane, Miami, San Francisco, New York City, Philadelphia, Woodburn, Oregon, and Chicago. The Russian-American Company used to own Alaska Territory until selling it after the Crimean War. Russian had always been limited, especially after the assassination of the Romanov dynasty of tsars. Starting in the 1970s and continuing until the mid-1990s, many people from the Soviet Union and later its constituent republics such as Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Uzbekistan have immigrated to the United States, increasing the language's usage in America.

The largest Russian-speaking neighborhoods in the United States are found in Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island in New York City (specifically the Brighton Beach area of Brooklyn); parts of Los Angeles, particularly West Los Angeles and West Hollywood; parts of Philadelphia, particularly the Far Northeast; and parts of Miami like Sunny Isles Beach.

Slavic Voice of America media group serves Russian-speaking Americans out of Dallas.


Modern Hebrew is used by some immigrants from Israel and Eastern Europe. Liturgical Hebrew is used as a religious or liturgical language[57] by many of the United States' approximately 7 million[58] Jews.


Like the Tagalogs, the Ilocanos are an Austronesian stock which came from the Philippines. They were the first Filipinos to migrate en masse to the United States. They first entered the State of Hawaii and worked there in the vast plantations.

As they did in the Philippine provinces of Northern Luzon and Mindanao, they quickly gained importance in the areas where they settled. Thus, the state of Hawaii became no less different from the Philippines in terms of percentage of Ilocano speakers.

Like Tagalog, Ilocano is also being taught in universities where most of the Filipinos reside.

South Asian languages

There are many South Asians in the United States. These include Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis, who speak various South Asian languages. Major South Asian languages spoken in the US include Malayalam, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Punjabi and Marathi.


About 40 million Americans have Irish ancestry, many of whose ancestors would have spoken Irish. According to the 2007 American Community Survey, 22,279 people speak Irish at home. As of 2008 it was the 76th most spoken language in the USA.[59]

Khmer (Cambodian)

Between 1981 and 1985 about 150,000 Cambodians resettled in the United States.[60] Before 1975 very few Cambodians came to the United States. Those who did were children of upper-class families sent abroad to attend school. After the fall of Phnom Penh to the communist Khmer Rouge in 1975, some Cambodians managed to escape. In 2007 the American Community Survey reported that there were approximately 200,000 Cambodians living in the United States, making up about 2% percent of the Asian population.


The Polish language is very common in the Chicago metropolitan area. Chicago's third largest white ethnic groups are those of Polish descent after German, and Irish.[61] The Polish people and the Polish language in Chicago have been very prevalent in the early years of the city, as well as the progression and economical and social development of Chicago. Poles in Chicago make up one of the largest ethnically Polish population (650,000 people) in the world comparable to the city of Wrocław, the fourth largest city in Poland. That makes it one of the most important centres of Polonia and the Polish language in the United States, a fact that the city celebrates every Labor Day weekend at the Taste of Polonia Festival in Jefferson Park.[62]


The first Portuguese speakers in America were Portuguese Jews who had fled the Portuguese Inquisition. They spoke Judeo-Portuguese and founded the earliest Jewish communities in the Thirteen Colonies, two of which still exist: Congregation Shearith Israel in New York and Congregation Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia. However, by the end of the 18th century their use of Portuguese had been replaced by English.

In the late 19th century, many Portuguese, mainly Azoreans, Madeirans and Cape Verdeans (who prior to independence in 1975 were Portuguese citizens), immigrated to the United States, settling in cities like Providence, Rhode Island, New Bedford, Massachusetts, and Santa Cruz, California. There was also a substantial Portuguese immigration to Hawaii, which at the time was not yet part of the United States.

In the mid-late 20th century there was another wave of Portuguese immigration to the US, mainly the Northeast (New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts), and for a time Portuguese became a major language in Newark, New Jersey. Many Portuguese Americans may include descendants of Portuguese settlers born in Portuguese Africa (known as Portuguese Africans, or, in Portugal, as retornados) and Asia (mostly Macau). There were around 1 million Portuguese Americans in the United States by the year 2000. Portuguese (European Portuguese) has been spoken in the United States by small communities of immigrants, mainly in the metropolitan New York City area, like Newark, New Jersey.

The Portuguese language is also spoken widely by Brazilian Americans, concentrated in Miami, New York City and Boston.


Swedish language distribution in the United States.

There has been a Swedish presence in America since the New Sweden colony came into existence in March 1638.

Widespread diaspora of Swedish immigration did not occur until the latter half of the 19th century, bringing in a total of a million Swedes. No other country had a higher percentage of its people leave for the United States except Ireland and Norway. At the beginning of the 20th century, Minnesota had the highest ethnic Swedish population in the world after the city of Stockholm.

3.7% of US residents claim descent from Scandinavian ancestors, amounting to roughly 11–12 million people. According to SIL's Ethnologue, over half a million ethnic Swedes still speak the language, though according to the 2007 American Community Survey only 56,715 speak it at home. Cultural assimilation has contributed to the gradual and steady decline of the language in the US. After the independence of the US from the Kingdom of Great Britain, the government encouraged colonists to adopt the English language as a common medium of communication, and in some cases, imposed it upon them. Subsequent generations of Swedish Americans received education in English and spoke it as their first language. Lutheran churches scattered across the Midwest started abandoning Swedish in favor of English as their language of worship. Swedish newspapers and publications alike slowly faded away.

There are sizable Swedish communities in Minnesota, Ohio, Maryland, Philadelphia and Delaware, along with small isolated pockets in Pennsylvania, San Francisco, Fort Lauderdale, and New York. Chicago once contained a large Swedish enclave called Andersonville on the city's north side.

John Morton, the person who cast the decisive vote leading to Pennsylvania's support for the United States Declaration of Independence, was of Finnish descent. Finland was part of the Kingdom of Sweden in the 18th century.


Welsh language distribution in the United States.

Up to two million Americans are thought to have Welsh ancestry. However, there is very little Welsh being used commonly in the USA. According to the 2007 American Comminty Survey, 2,285 people speak Welsh at home; primarily spoken in California (415), Florida (225), New York (204), Ohio (135), and New Jersey (130).[63] Some place names, such as Bryn Mawr in Chicago and Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania (English: Big Hill) are Welsh. Several towns in Pennsylvania, mostly in the Welsh Tract, have Welsh namesakes, including Uwchlan, Bala Cynwyd, Gwynedd, and Tredyffrin.


Yiddish has a much longer history in the United States than Hebrew.[64] It has been present since at least the late 19th century and continues to have roughly 148,000 speakers as of the 2009 American Community Survey. Though they came from varying geographic backgrounds and nuanced approaches to worship, immigrant Jews of Eastern Europe and Russia were often united under a common understanding of the Yiddish language once they settled in America, and at one point dozens of publications were available in most East Coast cities. Though it has declined by quite a bit since the end of WWII, it has by no means disappeared. Many Israeli immigrants and expatriates have at least some understanding of the language in addition to Hebrew, and many of the descendants of the great migration of Ashkenazi Jews of the past century pepper their mostly English vocabulary with some loan words. Furthermore, it is definitely a lingua franca alive and well among Orthodox Jewry (particularly Hasidic Jewery), particularly in Los Angeles, Miami and New York.[65][66]


In the second half of the 20th century, Tamils from India migrated as skilled professionals to the United States, Canada, Europe, and Southeast Asia. The Tamil American population enumerates over 130,000 individuals,[67] and the Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America functions as an umbrella organization for the growing community as such.[68]

Central New Jersey is home to the largest population concentration of Tamils. New Jersey houses its own Tamil Sangam.[69] Sizeable populations of Indian American Tamils have also settled in New York City and the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area, as well as on the West Coast in Silicon Valley, where there are Tamil associations such as the Bay Area Tamil Mandram.[70] The New York City and Los Angeles metropolitan areas are home to the largest concentrations of Tamil-speaking Sri Lankan Americans,[71][72][73] with New York City's Staten Island alone estimated to be home to more than 5,000 Sri Lankan Americans,[74] one of the largest Sri Lankan populations outside Sri Lanka itself,[75] and a significant proportion of whom speak Tamil.


The first Nepalese to enter the United States were classified as "other Asian". Immigration records show that between 1881 and 1890 1,910 "other Asians" were admitted to the United States. However, Nepal did not open its borders until 1950, and most Nepalis who left the country during that time primarily went to India to study. Nepalese Americans were first classified as a separate ethnic group in 1974, when 56 Nepalese had immigrated to the United States. Mostly, New York City, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Gainesville, Florida, Portland, Oregon, and Saint Paul, Minnesota has largest number of Nepalese population. There are some Nepalese community cultural and event occurs in every stats in United States and it spreading rapidly just like other foreign languages. The celebration of Nepali culture as moment as Dasain, Tihar,Losar,Holi, Teej Special and Nepali New Year also there are other culture Nepalese people practice. Nepalese practices multi religion but mainly they practice Hinduism.

New American languages, dialects, and creoles

Several languages have developed on American soil, including creoles and sign languages.

African American Vernacular English

African American Vernacular English (AAVE), also known as Ebonics, is a variety of English spoken by many African Americans, in both rural and urban areas. Not all African Americans speak AAVE and many European Americans do. Indeed, it is generally accepted that Southern American English is part of the same continuum as AAVE.

There is considerable debate among non-linguists as to whether the word "dialect" is appropriate to describe it. However, there is general agreement among linguists and many African Americans that AAVE is part of a historical continuum between creoles such as Gullah and the language brought by English colonists.

Some educators view AAVE as exerting a negative influence on the learning of Proper and Standard English, as numerous AAVE rules differ from the rules of Standard English. Other educators, however, propose that Standard English should be taught as a "second dialect" in areas where AAVE is a strong part of local tradition.

Chinuk Wawa or Chinook Jargon

Chinuk Wawa (or Chinook Jargon) is a Creole language of 700–800 words of French, English, Cree and other Native origins. It is the old trade language of the Pacific Northwest. It was used extensively among both European and Native peoples of the old Oregon Territory, even used in place of English at home for many families. It is estimated that around 250,000 people spoke it at its peak and it was last used extensively in Seattle.


Gullah, an English-African creole language spoken on the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Georgia, retains strong influences of West African languages. The language is sometimes referred to as "Geechee".

Hawai'i Creole English

Hawai'i Creole English locally known as Hawaiian Pidgin, is commonly used by locals and is considered an unofficial language of the state. This not to be confused with Hawaiian English which is standard American English with Hawaiian words.

Louisiana Creole French

Louisiana Creole French is a French Creole language spoken by the Louisiana Creole people of the state of Louisiana, close to Haitian Creole, Colonial French and Cajun French (language of Acadians deported from New France after 1755 and the Grand Dérangement). French Creole languages are spoken by millions of people worldwide, mainly in the United States, Caribbean and Indian Ocean areas.

Outer Banks languages

In the islands of the Outer Banks off North Carolina, several unique English dialects have developed. This is evident on Harkers Island and Ocracoke Island. These dialects are sometimes referred to as "high tider".

Pennsylvania German

Pennsylvania German is a language that traditionally was spoken mainly in Pennsylvania, but that since the 19th century has spread to the Midwest (Ohio, Indiana, Iowa and other states), where the majority of speakers live today. It evolved from the German dialect of the Palatinate brought over to America by the Pennsylvania Dutch people before 1800. Originally spoken by adherents of different Christian denominations (Lutherans, Mennonites, Amish, German Baptist Brethren, Catholics) today it is mainly spoken by Amish and Old Order Mennonites.

Texas Silesian

Texas Silesian (Silesian: teksasko gwara) is a language used by Texas Silesians in American settlements from 1852 to the present.

Chesapeake Bay Islander

Another dialectal isolate is that spoken on Tangier Island, Virginia and Smith Island, Maryland, both located toward the southern end of the Chesapeake Bay. The dialect is partially derived from English as spoken by English pre-Revolutionary settlers, and partially from the present-day Middle-Atlantic American dialect of English. It also contains some words from the Cornish Language, the Celtic language spoken in Cornwall in southwest England.

Chicano English

A mixture of the Spanish and American English languages spoken by many Hispanics in urban areas and predominantly Latino communities. See also Chicano English and New Mexican Spanish for Mexican-American dialects of the Southwest.

Sign languages

Alongside the numerous and varied oral languages, the United States also boasts several sign languages. Historically, the US was home to some six or more sign languages (that number rising with the probability that Plains Sign Talk is actually a language family with several languages under its umbrella) which has fallen with the death of several of these.

As with all sign languages around the world that developed organically, these are full languages distinct from any oral language. American Sign Language (unlike Signed English) is not a derivation of English.[76] Some languages present here were trade pidgins which were used first as a system of communication across national and linguistic boundaries of the Native Americans, however they have since developed into mature languages as children learned them as a first language.

American Sign Language

American Sign Language (ASL) is the native language of a number of deaf and hearing people in America (roughly 100,000 to 500,000). While some sources have stated that ASL is the third most frequently used language in the United States, after English and Spanish,[77] recent scholarship has pointed out that most of these estimates are based on numbers conflating deafness with ASL use, and that the last actual study of this (in 1972) seems to indicate an upper bound of 500,000 ASL speakers at the time.[20]

Black American Sign Language

Black American Sign Language (BASL) developed in the southeastern US, where separate residential schools were maintained for white and black deaf children. BASL shares much of the same vocabulary and grammatical structure as ASL and is generally considered one of its dialects.[76][77][78]

Hawai'i Sign Language

Hawaii Sign Language is moribund with only a handful of speakers on O'ahu, Lana'i, Kaua'i and possibly Ni'ihau. Some of these speakers may actually be speaking a creolized version of HSL and ASL, however research is slow-going. The language was once called Hawai'i Pidgin Sign Language as many people thought it was a derivation of ASL which was discovered to be false and to be a separate language altogether.[79]

Plains Sign Talk

Once a trade pidgin and the most far-reaching sign language in North America, Plains Sign Talk or Plains Sign Language is now critically endangered with an unknown number of speakers.

Navajo Sign Language

Navajo Sign Language has been found to be in use in one clan of Navajo; however, whether it is a dialect of Plains Sign Talk or a separate language remains unknown.[80]

Plateau Sign Language

Another trade pidgin that may have become a separate language, Plateau Sign Language replaced Plains Sign Talk in the Columbia Plateau and surrounding regions of British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and Idaho. It is now extinct.

Martha's Vineyard Sign Language

Martha's Vineyard Sign Language is now extinct. Along with French Sign Language, it was one of several main contributors to American Sign Language.

Henniker Sign Language

Henniker Sign Language is now extinct but was once found around the Henniker region of New Hampshire and formed a basis for American Sign Language.

Sandy River Valley Sign Language

Sandy River Valley Sign Language is now extinct but once could be found around the Sandy River Valley in Maine. It was one of several main contributors to American Sign Language.

See also



  1. Siebens, J & T Julian. Native North American Languages Spoken at Home in the United States and Puerto Rico: 2006–2010. United States Census Bureau. December 2011.
  2. "Census Data Of USA". US Census Bureau. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  4. Grimes 2000
  5. U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 109th Congress – 2nd Session, United States Senate, retrieved 2008-02-22
  6. "Senate Amendment 1151 to Senate Bill 1348, Immigration Act of 2007 ( Link Dead)". project Vote Smart. Retrieved 2008-07-04.
  7. "Letter from the Polish American Congress in Support of a Constitutional Amendment to Make English the Official Language of the United States". National Archives Catalog. February 6, 1984. Retrieved July 29, 2016.
  8. "Selected Social Characteristics in the United States: 2007". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on April 25, 2009. Retrieved 2008-10-09.
  9. "English Usage Among Hispanics in the United States". Pew Research Center's Hispanic Trends Project. 29 November 2007. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
  10. Ancestry: 2000, U.S. Census Bureau, 2000, archived from the original on August 5, 2009
  11. 1 2 "Language Use and English-Speaking Ability: 2000" (PDF). U.S. Census Brueau. October 2003. Retrieved 2008-02-22.
  12. "EAC Issues Glossaries of Election Terms in Five Asian Languages Translations to Make Voting More Accessible to a Majority of Asian American Citizens". Election Assistance Commission. June 20, 2008. Archived from the original on July 31, 2008. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
  13. "Table 53. Languages Spoken At Home by Language: 2011" (PDF), Language use in the United States, August 2013, U.S. Census Bureau, retrieved 2016-02-19
  14. "Labor Migration in the United Arab Emirates: Challenges and Responses". Migration Information Source. 18 September 2013. Retrieved 14 December 2013.
  15. "Yearbook of Immigration Statistics: 2012 Supplemental Table 2". U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 2013-04-03.
  16. "Yearbook of Immigration Statistics: 2010 Supplemental Table 2". U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 2013-04-03.
  17. "What is the future of Spanish in the United States?". Pew Research Center. 5 September 2013. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
  18. "The Future of Spanish in the United States". Retrieved 18 January 2015.
  19. Data Access and Dissemination Systems (DADS). "American FactFinder - Results". Retrieved 18 January 2015.
  20. 1 2 Mitchell, Ross E.; Young, Travas A.; Bachleda, Bellamie; Karchmer, Michael A. (2006), "How Many People Use ASL in the United States? Why Estimates Need Updating" (PDF), Sign Language Studies, 6 (3), archived from the original (PDF) on June 4, 2011
  21. "States". Retrieved 18 January 2015.
  22. "S.J.Res.72 - A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States with respect to proceedings and documents in the English language". Library of Congress. Retrieved July 29, 2016.
  23. Alaska OKs Bill Making Native Languages Official April 21, 2014; Bill Chappell;
  24. California Department of Motor Vehicles Website (actual website blocked by Wikipedia)
  25. David W. Voorhees, "Dutch Political Identity in English New York" in Four Centuries of Dutch-American Relations: 1609-2009 (eds. Hans Krabbendam, Cornelis A. van Minnen & Giles Scott-Smith: SUNY Press, 2009), pp. 132-33.
  26. America Votes 2006: Key Ballot Issues, CNN, retrieved 2008-02-22
  27. "Arizona Voter Empowerment Card, 2010 Elections" (PDF). American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  28. Heath, Shirley Brice & Frederick Mandabach. Language Status Decisions and the Law in the United States, in Cobarrubias, Juan & Joshua A. Fishman, eds., Progress in Language Planning, p. 94 (1983)
  29. Sick, Bastian (19 May 2004). German as the official language of the USA?, Spiegel Online (in English)
  30. Alice N. Nash; Christoph Strobel (2006), "Daily life of Native Americans from post-Columbian through nineteenth-century America", The Greenwood Press "Daily life through history" series, Greenwood Publishing Group, p. IX, ISBN 978-0-313-33515-0
  31. "A Look at the Cherokee Language" (PDF). North Carolina Museum of History, from Tar Heel Junior Historian 45:1 (fall 2005). Archived from the original (PDF) on January 24, 2013. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
  32. "Table 1. Detailed Languages Spoken at Home and Ability to Speak English for the Population 5 Years and Over for the United States: 2006-2008 : Release Date: April, 2010" (XLS). Retrieved 18 January 2015.
  33. A language's endonym may not be available for a variety of possible reasons: The language in question encompasses multiple dialects with unique endonyms; The language in question is actually a language family; The language or community of speakers has a prohibition against writing the language; No documentation is immediately available; etc.
  34. Respondents who reported speaking English less than "Very Well." The total margin of error for this group was 1.78%; however, margins of error for individual languages, especially those with few total speakers, may exceed 100% in some cases.
  35. "North America :: UNITED STATES". CIA The World Factbook.
  36. "Detailed Languages Spoken at Home by English-Speaking Ability for the Population 5 Years and Over: 2011" (PDF). Retrieved 20 October 2015.
  37. "Driver License and Identification Card Information". Retrieved 18 January 2015.
  38. "Table 53. Languages Spoken At Home by Language: 2009", The 2012 Statistical Abstract, U.S. Census Bureau, retrieved 2011-12-27
  39. Instituto Cervantes (Enciclopedia del español en Estados Unidos)
  40. "Más 'speak spanish' que en España". Retrieved 2007-10-06.
  41. Ammon, Ulrich; International Sociological Association (1989). Status and Function of Languages and Language Varieties. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 306–308. ISBN 0-89925-356-3. Retrieved April 23, 2012.
  42. Archived November 24, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  43. Did Hebrew almost become the official U.S. language?, January 21, 1994, retrieved 2008-02-22
  44. Dicker, Susan J. (2003-01-01). Languages in America: A Pluralist View. Multilingual Matters. ISBN 9781853596513.
  45. 1 2 Lai, H. Mark (2004), Becoming Chinese American or Taiwanese American: A History of Communities and Institutions, AltaMira Press, ISBN 0-7591-0458-1
  46. García, Ofelia; Fishman, Joshua A. (2002), The Multilingual Apple: Languages in New York City, Walter de Gruyter, ISBN 3-11-017281-X
  47. 1 2 3 "The Cherokee Nation & its Language" (PDF). University of Minnesota: Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition. 2008. Retrieved 2014-05-22.
  48. 1 2 Thompson, Irene (6 August 2013). "Cherokee". Retrieved 22 May 2014.
  49. Joyner, Michael (September 30, 2010). Cherokee Lessons - Introductory Edition. Lulu Enterprises Incorporated. pp. 16–17. Retrieved June 1, 2013.
  50. "Native American languages". Retrieved 2015-10-23.
  51. Chavez, Will (April 5, 2012). "Immersion students win trophies at language fair". Retrieved April 8, 2013.
  52. "Native Now : Language: Cherokee". We Shall Remain - American Experience - PBS. 2008. Retrieved April 9, 2014.
  53. "Cherokee Language Revitalization Project". Western Carolina University. 2014. Retrieved April 9, 2014.
  54. Hauk, Alexis. "Radio Free Cherokee: Endangered Languages Take to the Airwaves". The Atlantic. Retrieved April 9, 2014.
  55. "Dutch : Source: American Community Survey : 5-Year Estimates, Public Use Microdata Sample, 2006–2010".\accessdate=18 January 2015.
  56. Street names are in english and in finnish, The Selonen Family Network, archived from the original on September 24, 2006, retrieved 2008-02-22
  57. Eric L. Friedland. "Hebrew Liturgical Creativity in Nineteenth-Century America". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 20 December 2013.
  58. "Brandeis University Study Finds that American-Jewish Population is Significantly Larger than Previously Thought" (PDF). February 2, 2007. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  59. "Language Use in the US 2006–2008 (850k Excel file!)". US Census Bureau. Retrieved 23 June 2011.
  60. Archived March 25, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  62. America the diverse: Chicago's Polish neighborhoods,, May 15, 2005, retrieved 2008-07-04
  63. "Welsh : Source: Census 2000, Summary File 3". Retrieved 18 January 2015.
  64. Joshua A. Fishman (1991). "Appendix: The Hebrew Language in the United States". Yiddish: turning to life. John Benjamins Publishing Company. pp. 148–159. ISBN 978-90-272-2075-2.
  65. Sewell Chan (October 17, 2007), A Yiddish Revival, With New York Leading the Way, The New York Times, retrieved 2008-08-15
    + Patricia Ward Biederman (July 7, 2005), Yiddish Program Aims to Get Beyond Schmoozing, Los Angeles Times, retrieved 2008-08-15
    + Yiddishkayt Los Angeles,, archived from the original on July 24, 2008, retrieved 2008-08-15
  66. US Census 2006-2008 American Community Survey See Row# 125
  67. "ABOUT FETNA". Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America. Retrieved 2013-04-01.
  68. New Jersey Tamil Sangam
  69. Bay Area Tamil Manram Archived October 27, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  70. "Yearbook of Immigration Statistics: 2012 Supplemental Table 2". U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 2013-03-31.
  71. "Yearbook of Immigration Statistics: 2011 Supplemental Table 2". U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 2013-03-31.
  72. "Yearbook of Immigration Statistics: 2010 Supplemental Table 2". U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 2013-03-31.
  73. Kirk Semple (2013-06-08). "Sri Lankans have gathered on Staten Island,...". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-06-09.
  74. "Why Staten Island?". Little Sri Lanka. Retrieved 2015-07-25.
  75. 1 2 Lewis, M. Paul (2013). Simons, Gary F.; Fennig, Charles D., eds. "American Sign Language". Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Seventeenth edition. SIL International.
  76. 1 2 Paul Preston (1995), Mother father deaf: living between sound and silence, Harvard University Press, p. 243, ISBN 978-0-674-58748-9
  77. Clayton Valli; Ceil Lucas (2000), "Sociolinguistic Aspects of the Black deaf Community", Linguistics of American Sign Language: an introduction, Gallaudet University Press, pp. 416–428, ISBN 978-1-56368-097-7
  78. Lambrecht, Linda; Earth, Barbara; Woodward, James (March 3, 2013), History and Documentation of Hawaiʻi Sign Language: First Report, University of Hawaiʻi: 3rd International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation, archived from the original on March 22, 2013
  79. Samuel J. Supalla (1992) The Book of Name Signs, p. 22


Further reading

External links

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/29/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.