Legal Status of the Cornish Language

The Cornish language does not have an official status in the United Kingdom. There are no laws referring to the position
of the Cornish language. Statements by both National and County Government are really politic waffle and holding statements until the situation with the language on the ground is clearer.

The local authority, the Cornwall County Council, has a policy statement on the Cornish language which states that the Council sees the Cornish language as a vital part of Cornish heritage and that it welcomes the work that has been done towards promoting its revival. Bit of rhubarb really as it does not actually mean anything at all.

Again not really very much in schools for the Cornish language. There are no legal provisions either for or against Cornish as a subject in schools. Where Cornish is taught at school, it is often as an extracurricular activity during lunch clubs or after regular school hours. Cornish prayers are used in some schools and songs are sometimes also sung in Cornish.

UNESCO document from 1993 considers Cornish to be extinct and calls the Cornish language artificial. Cornish is considered an artificial language as defined in the UNESCO Redbook of Endangered Languages.

On November 5, 2002 in answer to a Parliamentary Question, Local Government and Regions Minister Nick Raynsford said:

"After careful consideration and with the help of the results of an independent academic study on the language commissioned by the government, we have decided to recognise Cornish as falling under Part II of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. The government will be registering this decision with the Council of Europe.

"The purpose of the Charter is to protect and promote the historical regional or minority languages of Europe. It recognises that some of these languages are in danger of extinction and that protection and encouragement of them contributes to Europe's cultural diversity and historical traditions....

"Cornish will join Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Irish, Scots and Ulster Scots as protected and promoted languages under the Charter, which commits the government to recognise and respect those languages."


May 12, 2005 the BBC reports an MP from Cornwall has used the Cornish language during the swearing of allegiance to the Queen in Parliament. All MPs are obliged to first swear the oath - or affirm their allegiance - in English but some choose to repeat it in Welsh or Gaelic as well. In 1997 Mr. George became the first MP to use the Cornish language in the Commons as part of his maiden speech.


Cornish Language The Cornish Language information