National Language

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

National Language


the language of a nation (natsiia, nation in the historical sense) that has evolved from the language of a nationality (narodnost’) during the process of that nationality’s development into a nation. The intensiveness of this process depends on the rate and special conditions of the development of a nationality into a nation among various peoples.

A national language is a system of several forms of a language: the literary language (oral and written), popular conversational varieties of the language, and dialects. In the course of the formation of a national language, the relationship between literary language and dialect undergoes a substantial change. The national literary language is the most important developing form of a language; it gradually supplants the dialects that dominated the earlier stages of language development, especially in oral communication. Under the influence of a literary language, the formation of new dialectal features comes to an end and a leveling of clear-cut dialectal differences occurs. At the same time, the literary language gains wider acceptance and application and its functions become more complex. The literary form of a language becomes dominant as a result of the increasing complexity and development of the national culture of a people. The literary language, basing itself on the language of the people, supplants written languages that are alien to the people, such as Latin in Western Europe and Church Slavonic in Russia. The national literary language also becomes the standard for oral communication, where previously dialect was dominant.

An extremely important characteristic of a national literary language is its normalizing tendency. In order to satisfy the increasingly complex and diverse needs of society that arise from the development of literature, journalism, and science and technology, as well as from the emergence of various forms of oral speech, the syntactic system and vocabulary of a national literary language develop intensively and become enriched.

In bourgeois society, the national literary language serves primarily the dominant stratum of society, that is, its educated classes. As a rule, the rural population continues to use dialects, while in cities, urban dialects compete with the literary language. In socialist nations, as a result of the democratization of society and the widespread dissemination of education, a uniform, normalized, universally accepted national literary language becomes the property of every member of the nation.


Voprosy formirovaniia i razvitiia natsional’nykh iazykov. Moscow, 1960.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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