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Virginia State Language


Virginia State Language: English

Adopted in 1996.

Virginia designated English as the official state language of the Commonwealth in 1996.


Virginia State Language: English

English settlers encountered members of the Powhatan Indian confederacy, speakers of an Algonkian language, whose legacy includes such place-names as Roanoke and Rappahannock.

Although the expanding suburban area south of the District of Columbia has become dialectically heterogeneous, the rest of the state has retained its essentially Southern speech features. Many dialect markers occur statewide, but subregional contrasts distinguish the South Midland of the Appalachians from the Southern of the piedmont and Tidewater. General are batter bread (a soft corn cake), batter cake (pancake), comfort (tied and filled bed cover), and polecat (skunk). Widespread pronunciation features include greasy with a /z/ sound; yeast and east as sound-alikes, creek rhyming with peek, and can't with paint; coop and bulge with the vowel of book; and forest with an /ah/ sound.

The Tidewater is set off by creek meaning a saltwater inlet, fishing worm for earthworm, and fog as /fahg/. Appalachian South Midland has redworm for earthworm, fog as /fawg/, wash as /wawsh/, Mary and merry as sound-alikes, and poor with the vowel of book. The Richmond area is noted also for having two variants of the long /i/ and /ow/ diphthongs as they occur before voiceless and voiced consonants, so that the vowel in the noun house is quite different from the vowel in the verb house, and the vowel in advice differs from that in advise. The Tidewater exhibits similar features.

In 2000, Virginia residents five years of age and over who spoke only English at home numbered 5,884,075, or 88.9% of the total population, down from 92.7% in 1990.


 Virginia Law

CHAPTER 829 (1996)


§7.1-42. English designated the official language of the Commonwealth.

English shall be designated as the official language of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Except as provided by law, no state agency or local government shall be required to provide and no state agency or local government shall be prohibited from providing any documents, information, literature or other written materials in any language other than English.

§22.1-212.1. Obligations of school boards.

Pursuant to §7.1-42, school boards shall have no obligation to teach the standard curriculum, except courses in foreign languages, in a language other than English. School boards shall endeavor to provide instruction in the English language which shall be designed to promote the education of students for whom English is a second language.

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