2. Diglossia | Language Varieties And Styles | Dialectology


Definition The term Diglossia came into existence as an important matter in the late 50s of the nineteenth century. It was Charles A. Ferguson who was the first to put forward the idea of Diglossia in his article Diglossia in the journal Word in 1959. He summarized Diglossia as follows: Diglossia is a relatively stable language situation in which, in addition to the primary dialects of the language (which may include a standard or regional standards), there is a very divergent, highly codified (often grammatically more complex) superposed variety, the vehicle of a large and respected body of written literature, either of an earlier period or in another speech community, which is learned largely by formal education and is used for most written and formal spoken purposes but is not used by any section of the community for ordinary conversation. (Ferguson 1959: 336) In his unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Sayeedur Rahman (2006:134) defines Diglossia as a situation where different varieties of language(s) co-exist for different social functions within a speech community. To Fishman (1980:3), Diglossia is an enduring societal arrangement, extending at least beyond a three generation period, such that two languages each have their secure, phenomenologically legitimate, and widely implemented functions. From the above mentioned definitions we can conclude that the term Diglossia refers to y A sociolinguistic situation y The situation is relatively stable (Ferguson: 1959) y Co-existence of two (rarely more) varieties of a language (rarely more) (Rahman:2006) y Both of the varieties are standardized (Crystal:2003) y One variety enjoys more prestige than the other y Each variety has is own function which is different from the other y The two varieties are mutually exclusive (one is not expected to be used as the replacement of the other) Ferguson (1959) maintains that Diglossia is a stable sociolinguistic situation. Sometimes this stability of Diglossia may be even over several centuries. But it is virtually impossible to determine the minimum time span that is needed for the emergence of a new form of Diglossia, though Fishman (1980) maintains that it should be at least three generation. The (H)igh and (L)ow variety Sociolinguists define the two varieties that are used in a diglossic situation as High variety or Hvariety (henceforth H) and Low variety or L-variety (henceforth L) according to their functions and status. A key defining feature of Diglossia is that the two varieties are kept quite apart in their functions. One is used in one set of circumstances and the other in an entirely different set (Wardhaugh: 1992:91).

Diglossia 1 of 3

In fact. or the Bible into Haitian Creole or Demotic Greek. 1966: 138). one of the languages (e. On the other hand. religious texts and practice.g. primarily spoken domains. Diglossia 2 of 3 . There may also be considerable and widespread resistance to translating certain books into L variety. According to Scotton. while another language (in the case of medieval Europe. The H is the prestige variety. For what here is referred to as classical (Ferguson 1959) and extended (Fishman 1967) Diglossia. Therefore. and broad (or diglossia extended ) to refer to Fishman s expansion of the discussion. dictionaries and standard texts  learnt at educational institutions  used in formal domains such as public speaking. and other such prestigious domains. the vernacular languages of that era) is rarely used for such purposes. educational. Classical and Extended Diglossia. like the Qur an into one or other colloquial varieties of Arabic. dictionaries and standard texts  learnt by all children spontaneously Extended Diglossia (Fishman 1967) Fishman (1967) introduced the notion that Diglossia could be extended to situations found in many societies where forms of two genetically unrelated or at least historically distant languages occupy the H and L functions. the L variety lacks prestige. there may be so little prestige attached to the L variety that people may even deny that they know it although they may be observed to use it far more frequently than the H variety. Various scholars have proposed terminologies for a taxonomy of diglossias.Ferguson spoke of H to be superposed because it is normally learned later in a more formal setting than L and is thereby super-imposed upon L. A classicist might prefer something like endo-diglossia and exo-diglossia . Scotton (1986) proposes the terms narrow for Ferguson s 1959 version of Diglossia. few truly diglossic (in the 1959 sense) communities actually exist. education  used in lectures. Kloss has proposed the terms in-diglossia (for the kind where the two varieties are closely related) and out-diglossia (for situations where the two languages are unrelated or at best distantly related) (Kloss. the H variety is  the variety with high prestige and status  the variety with grammars. at a glance. literacy. in political speeches. the L variety is  considered as the variety with less prestige and status  used in everyday pursuits of hearth and home  may be used in folk literature  the variety with no grammars. is used for religious. in parliament or legislative body. Latin in medieval Europe). being only employed for more informal. in conferences etc. For example.

Swiss German (L) in Switzerland  Standard French (H) vs. as a lingua franca. Demotic (L) in Greece Diglossia in Bangladeshi Context The debate of Shadhu and Chalit: A nearly diglossic situation prevails in Bangladesh. cited in Rahman 2006 Conclusion Diglossia 3 of 3 . colloquial Arabic (L)  Standard German (H) vs. we must determine whether the L norm is in fact one variety or more than one.e. English High BanglaBangla Local Low dialects Standard Colloquial vernacular(s)/Local Low Banu 2002. since the use of H Schriftdeutsch is not considered appropriate between Swiss citizens (Schiffman 1991). many Diglossic situations in the world. She says that Bangla is both de facto and de jure. whether there is an L variety that can be used for communication throughout the linguistic culture and with all segments of the speech community. cited in Rahman 2006 unpublished PhD thesis). homogeneous or heterogeneous. Shadhu emerged almost 200 years ago and Chalit is there for the last eight decades (Rahman 2006). Haitian Creole (L) in Haiti  Katharevousa (H) vs. such that no one is forced to resort to the H variety or some other language. i. In Switzerland. That is. Diglossic Communities There are. She provides a modified model of Fasold (1984). Ferguson (1959) identifies four Diglossic situations:  Classical (H) vs. Even if Diglossia is total and universal. in fact. Double diglossia prevails in Bangladesh (Banu 2002.Homogeneous and Heterogeneous Diglossia. speakers must learn to accommodate their variety to those of others. no one L-variety is recognized as standard.

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