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Slovene or Slovenian is a South Slavic language spoken by approximately 2.4 million speakers worldwide, the majority of whom live in Slovenia. Slovene is one of the 23 official and working languages of the European Union. Standard Slovene is the national language that evolved from the Central Slovene dialects in the 18th century and consolidated itself through the 19th and 20th century. While distinct regional varieties descended from the older rural dialects still exist, the spoken and written language is uniform and standardized. Some dialects differ considerably from the standard language in grammar and vocabulary. Though not facing imminent extinction, such dialects have been in decline during the past century, despite the fact that they are well researched and their use is often encouraged by local authorities.