Chapter 2: Language choice in multilingual communities (Diglossia) Page…
Chapter 2: Language choice in multilingual communities (Diglossia) Page 27-34
A linguistic division of labour
Example: Arabicspeaking countries use classical Arabic as their H variety and regional colloquial varieties as L varieties.
Each variety is used for quite distinct functions; H and L complement each other
Two distinct varieties of the same language are used in the community, with one regarded as a high (or H) variety and the other a low (or L) variety.
H vocabulary includes many more formal and technical terms such as conservation and psychometric, while the L variety has words for everyday objects such as saucepan and shoe.
No one uses the H variety in everyday conversation
Attitude to H vs L in a diglossia situation
H variety has prestige in the sense of high status. These attitudes are reinforced by the fact that the H variety is the one which is described and ‘fixed’, or standardised, in grammar books and dictionaries
Attitudes to the L variety are varied and often ambivalent. In many parts of Switzerland, people are quite comfortable with their L variety and use it all the time – even to strangers
Diglossia with and without bilingualism
Diglossia is a characteristic of speech communities rather than individuals. Individuals may be bilingual. Societies or communities are diglossic.
The term diglossia describes societal or institutionalised bilingualism, where two varieties are required to cover all the community’s domains
Extending the scope of diglossia
the way H and L varieties of German function in places like Eggenwil is very similar to the ways in which distinct languages operate in other communities, such as Sauris in the Italian Alps.
‘Diglossia’ is here being used in a broader sense which gives most weight to feature or criterion
The term diglossia is generalised to cover any situation where two languages are used for different functions in a speech community, especially where one language is used for H functions and the other for L functions. There is a division of labour between the languages.
The H variety is generally the prestige variety, but people may also be attached to and admire the L variety, as in Paraguay where people are typically proud of Guaraní
Changes in a diglossia situation
Diglossia has been described as a stable situation. It is possible for two varieties to continue to exist side by side for centuries, as they have in Arabic-speaking countries and in Haiti for example.
One variety may gradually displace the other.
Diglossic situations involve two contrasting varieties, H and L. Sometimes, however, a more sophisticated concept is needed to describe the functional distribution of different varieties in a community.
The term polyglossia has been used for situations like this where a community regularly uses more than three languages.
Example: Mandarin functions as an H variety in relation to at least two L varieties, Hokkien and Cantonese
Polyglossia is thus a useful term for describing situations where a number of distinct codes or varieties are used for clearly distinct purposes or in clearly distinguishable situations