In linguistics, a sprachraum (//; German: [ˈʃpʁaːxˌʁaʊm], "language area", plural sprachräume) is a geographical region where a common first language (mother tongue), with dialect varieties, or group of languages is spoken.
Many sprachräume are separated by national borders, whilst others are separated by oceans or ethnolinguistic boundaries.
The English sprachraum (Anglosphere) spans the globe, from the United Kingdom, Ireland, United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to the many former British and American colonies where English has official language status alongside local languages, such as India, South Africa, and the Philippines.
The Spanish sprachraum, known as the Hispanosphere, originated in the Iberian Peninsula but today most Spanish speakers are in Hispanic America; of all countries with a majority of Spanish speakers, only Spain and Equatorial Guinea are outside the Americas. The United States, especially its Southwest region, is also considered to be part of the Hispanosphere. The majority of the country's over 40 million native Spanish speakers resided in the region as of 2016, and nearly 60 million Americans (~20% of the population) profess fluency in the language.
The French sprachraum, which also spans the globe, is known as La francophonie. It includes French-speaking Europe (France, southern Belgium, western Switzerland, Monaco, and Luxembourg) along with Francophone Africa, Quebec in Canada, parts of the United States (Louisiana and northern New England), French Caribbean, and some other previous French colonies such as former Indochina and Vanuatu. La Francophonie is also the short name of an international organisation composed of countries with French as either an official or cultural language.
The German sprachraum (German: Deutscher Sprachraum) is mostly concentrated in Central Europe, specifically Germany, central and eastern Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, and the German-speaking Community of Belgium. A significant concentration of native German speakers is also found in Namibia, where German is a national language.
The Portuguese sprachraum is referred to as the Lusophony (Portuguese: Lusofonia). It is a cultural entity that includes the countries where Portuguese is the official language, and are culturally and linguistically linked to Portugal. The Lusophony spans Portugal, Brazil, Lusophone Africa, East Timor, and Macau. The Community of Portuguese Language Countries (Portuguese: Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa, abbreviated to CPLP) is the intergovernmental organisation among nations where Portuguese is an official language.
By extension, a sprachraum can also include a group of related languages. Thus the Scandinavian sprachraum includes Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands, while the Finnic sprachraum is Finland, Estonia and adjacent areas of Scandinavia and Russia.
Even within a single sprachraum, there can be different, but closely related, languages, otherwise known as dialect continua. A classic example is the varieties of Chinese, which can be mutually unintelligible in spoken form, but are typically considered the same language (or, at least, closely related) and have a unified non-phonetic writing system. Arabic has a similar situation, but its writing system (an abjad) reflects the pronunciation and grammar of a common literary language (Modern Standard Arabic).
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