In linguistics, a sprachraum (/ˈsprɑːkrm/; German: [ˈʃpʁaːxˌʁaʊm], "language space", 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 four major Western sprachräume are those of English, Spanish, Portuguese and French (according to the number of speakers).

The English sprachraum (Anglosphere) spans the globe, from the United Kingdom, Ireland, United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to the many former British colonies where English has official language status alongside local languages, such as India and South Africa.

The Spanish sprachraum, known as the Hispanosphere, originated in the Iberian Peninsula and today has over 483 million native speakers. 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. In the United States of America, according to 2006 census data, 38.3 million people or 13 percent of the population over five years old spoke Spanish at home. In the Philippines, Philippine Spanish was an official language from the beginning of Spanish administration in 1565 to a constitutional change in 1973.

The Portuguese sprachraum or Lusosphere or Lusophony (Portuguese: Lusofonia) is a cultural entity that includes the countries where Portuguese is the official language, as well as the Portuguese diaspora. It also includes people who may not have any Portuguese ancestry but are culturally and linguistically linked to Portugal. The Community of Portuguese Language Countries or Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (Portuguese: Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa, abbreviated to CPLP) is the intergovernmental organisation for friendship among Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) nations where Portuguese is an official language.

The French sprachraum, which also has area on several continents, is known as the Francophonie (French: La francophonie). The Francophonie is also the short name of an international organisation composed of countries with French as 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).


Germanic languages

Romance languages

Other Indo-European languages

Other languages

See also

Further reading

  • Joachim Born, Sylvia Dickgießer: Deutschsprachige Minderheiten. Ein Überblick über den Stand der Forschung für 27 Länder. Institut für deutsche Sprache, Mannheim 1989, ISBN 3-922641-39-3.
  • dtv-Atlas Deutsche Sprache. 15., durchgesehene und aktualisierte Auflage. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, München 2005, ISBN 3-423-03025-9.
  • Alfred Lameli: Strukturen im Sprachraum. Analysen zur arealtypologischen Komplexität der Dialekte in Deutschland. Berlin, Boston 2013, ISBN 3-110331-23-3.
  • Wolfgang Viereck, Karin Viereck, Heinrich Ramisch: dtv-Atlas Englische Sprache. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, München 2002, ISBN 3-423-03239-1, pp. 95–99.

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