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Marais (1930) - This writer described the situation in the Arabic

world in the thirties, when the gulf between spoken Arabic dialects
and the classical standard was particularly large. Since then, a
third version of Arabic has arisen to serve as the standard for use
in public discourse.
Ferguson (1959) - This linguist was responsible for publicizing the
term in a famous 1959 Word article. Swiss German, Haitian
Fishman (1967) - The widespread nature of Paraguayan
bilingualism caused Fishman to hypothesize that diglossia could
occur in any situation where two language varieties, even
unrelated ones, are used in functionally distinct ways.
Ferguson's definition - the side-by-side existence of two
structurally and historically related language varieties (a High
variety and a Low variety, referred to as H and L) throughout a
community, each of which has a distinct role to play (examples
found in Greece, Egypt, Haiti, and Switzerland)

Defining Criteria of Diglossia

Function - H is the more elegant, formal variety. L is used for less
politically important functions.
Prestige - Attitudes toward H are more positive than towards L. H
is the prestigious variety and L is the stigmatized variety.
Literary Heritage - H is associated with a long literary tradition. H
is always used in writing. L fulfills few written functions. It may be
found in cartoons or in the speech of characters in novels.
Acquisition - L is always acquired as a first language. H is always
learned in a formal, educational setting.
Standardization - Dictionaries and grammars document the form
of H. L usually has no such support.
Stability - Diglossia is a long-lived phenomenon. Latin-Spanish
diglossia survived from approximately 700 to the end of the first

millenium. H and L borrow from one another, although L forms are

shunned when using H.
Grammar - The morphology of L is often simpler than that of H.
Cases and verb inflections are reduced; from African-American
vernacular, fifty centinstead of fifty cents
Lexicon - A striking feature of diglossia is the existence of paired
lexical items, where L and H have different terms for the same
object; from Paraguayan Guaran, silla instead of apyka (chair)
Phonology - H preserves the underlying phonological system, and
L diverges from it, typically having evolved away from the
classical form over many hundreds of years; from Vulgar
Latin, specla instead of specula (mirror)
Fishmans reformulation




Everyone in a community knows both H An unstable, transitional situation in which

and L, which are functionally
everyone in a community knows both H and
differentiated. (Haiti)
L, but are shifting to H. (German-speaking

Speakers of H rule over speakers of L

(colonial Paraguay

A completely egalitarian speech community,

where there is no language variation.
(Humanity before the Tower of Babel)

Language evolution

Hudson (1990) has pointed out that Fishmans reformulation of

the concept of diglossia is problematic, because the direction of
language evolution in a classic diglossic situation is opposite to
that in the case of widespread bilingualism
Fergusons diglossia: L/H L
The Low variety takes over the outdated High variety; in Greece
for example, Katharvusa has been modified over the years to

reflect much more closely the vernacular currently in use. The

same phenomenon has occurred in the Arabic world.
Fishmans diglossia: L/H H
The Low variety loses ground to the superposed High variety; in
almost all situations of societal bilingualism, the L language loses
ground to the H language. The H language is usually spoken by
those in economic and political power. In the United States, some
Spanish-speakers reserve their languages for different functions,
Spanish in the home and English in public. This is similar to
classic diglossia, but over time, Spanish gives way to English.
Children end up learning the H variety and leaving the L variety
behind. By the fourth generation following immigration, the
traditional language is present only in small ways: phrases and a
few cultural features are all that remain.


Individual Bilingualism - The existence in the mind of an individual

of two (native) languages; as Fishman conceives of it, a
psycholinguistic phenomenon
Societal Bilingualism - The use in a society of two languages;
conceivably, there could be a society in which two languages are
used but where relatively few individuals are actually bilingual; as
Fishman conceives of it, a sociolinguistic phenomenon
Stable Bilingualism - The persistence of bilingualism in a society
over a period of several generations. Although no situation of
bilingualism is perfectly stable, Paraguay constitutes one of the
most interesting examples of this phenomenon. Over the last
nearly 50 years, the relative proportions of monolingualism in
Spanish and Guaran and of Spanish-Guaran bilingualism have
remained essentially unchanged; however, the census figures
mask a highly dynamic situation.

Intergenerational Language Shift - The successive loss of the

traditional language by younger generations. Typical Pattern of
Intergenerational Language Shift in Immigrant Communities:

first generation - Immigrants dominant in home language and

know host language of host country to varying degrees
second generation - Children of immigrants born in or who move
to host country before age 16 often fluent bilinguals
third generation - Children of bilinguals may learn traditional
language, as"passive bilinguals," understanding only and
dominant in the host language
fourth generation - Children of passive bilinguals have no
competence in traditional language, except phrases and isolated