What Is Diglossia In Linguistics

Diglossia (from the Greek διγλωσσία, transl. Diglossía , where di – means “twice” and glossa or, in Attic glotta , “language”) is a term coined by the Greek – French linguist Ioannis Psycharis , first in French ( diglossie ), to designate the linguistic situation in which, in a society, two functionally different languages or linguistic records coexist, the use of one or the other depending on the communicative situation.


  • 1Features of diglossia
  • 2Languages ​​with diglossia
    • 1Different languages ​​(bilingualism)
    • 2Different forms (diglossia)
  • 3Diglossia in Brazil
  • 4References
  • 5Bibliography

Diglossia characteristics 

There is a difference in socio-political status between these two registers: one, of greater prestige, is generally used in more formal circumstances, while the other, of lesser social prestige, is restricted to informal environments.

Diglossia is considered as a particular type of bilingualism, but related to sociolinguistics . According to Françoise Gardews , in his book Multilingualism , there is a hierarchical relationship in which a standard language is a dominant register, and another register or several others are dominated. It is therefore a conflictive situation. [ 1 ]

It is said that there is contaminated diglossia when in a situation of linguistic contact one of the languages ​​takes the place of the cult register of another / s languages. Thus, a substitution process begins that ends up predominating also in informal environments. In this situation, regional minority dialects or languages ​​end up not being spoken even in informal environments, being gradually replaced by the formal language until eventually they disappear.

On the other hand, it is also considered that there is diglossia in most of the common languages ​​due to more formal or less formal registration of the same language, either as a class mark or as a product of greater or lesser education of users. From this point of view, the standard language chosen as a formal register has a constant influence on speaking considered informal (whether speaking the same language or speaking other languages, dialects or even group slang)

Languages ​​with diglossia ]

Diglossias can occur between two different forms of the same language, or between two different languages ​​spoken in the same country. The following is a list of some of the languages ​​that present diglossia . The forms of the same language or the different languages ​​are presented there with indications of:

  • Form “A” (Alta) – Most prestigious language, of the intellectual, economic elite, literary language, generally official, written form.
  • Form “B” (Low) – Less prestigious, more popular, colloquial, spoken form, of the less educated, poorer classes.

Different languages ​​(bilingualism)

  • English – Old English was the language of Great Britain until the Norman invasion (11th century). Hence, until the 15th and 16th centuries, the people (“B”) spoke “medium” English (later modern) and the ruling class (“A”) used French and Norman .
  • Catalan – The diglossia of Catalanhas several gradations, being more noticeable in cities . In Andorra the standard Catalan (“A”) dominates and there is no diglossia. However, in the local variants, there are forms of popular use (“B”) in different forms in Alghero ( Sardinia ), in the Balearic Islands , in the Valencian forms . The elites use only standard Catalan.
  • Galician – in Galicia the Spanish language is more used by the most favored classes, while the simplest people use Galician.
  • Leonese – minority language in Portugal ( Miranda do Douro , Mogadouro , Vimioso ) and Spain ( Castile and Leon ) is the “B” form of communication. In the same places, the “A” shape is, depending on the country, Portuguese or Spanish.
  • Maltese – in Malta , the vast majority of the population uses primarily, and makes a point of demonstrating this, Maltese (“A”), while a select group of people from the upper classes give preference to English .
  • Creole – Creoleis the language of the country’s vast poor population, while the most educated and wealthy few speak French .
  • Ukrainian – Diglossia in Ukraine between Russian as “A” language and Ukrainian as popular “B” language has been extinct since the end of the Soviet Union . Now the diglossia that is taking shape is between Russian or Ukrainian, as a form of elite, and the different dialects of the country as the most popular language.
  • Polish or Polish – until the First World War , two periods characterized the languages ​​spoken in Poland . Until the 16th century, the people spoke Polish, while the nobility expressed themselves orally and in writing in Latin . After that, for about two centuries, Polish became the language of all classes. In the 17th century, when the country came to be dominated by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania , the Ruthenian languages of Belarus and Ukraine became the language “A” , with Polish becoming the language of the people. This remained until the First World War . Between this conflict and theSecond World War , the upper class liked to classify as erudite and correct form of Polish the one whose pronunciation was well (exaggeratedly) differentiated between the aspirated H used “hard” in the words started by hand the softer H of the words started for ch . These two pronunciations were little differentiated among the popular classes.

Different forms (diglossia) edit edit source code ]

  • Arabic – there are many variants of Arabic spoken in different countries, but throughout the Arab world the language “A” can be considered to be standard modern Arabic and the form “B” is colloquial, local Arabic, very varied.
  • Greek – until the 1970s, in Greece the popular form (“B”) was the Greek of the Dimotikiform , while the archaic and very formal form, Catarévussa (practically the ancient Greek language ), was the language of intellectuals and rich. Today, there is a unique standardized form, a more educated dimotiki and enriched with something from Catarévussa, the so-called modern Greek . This is, in fact, the “A” shape in Cyprus , with the “B” shape of the island being the “Greek Cypriot”.
  • Chinese – Classical Chinesedominated written language for two thousand years . Spoken colloquial Chinese, however, continued to vary away from the classical form, until the big difference led the authorities, during the great changes in Chinese society in the 19th and 20th centuries, to standardize vernacular Chinese based on standard Mandarin . The diglossia that still exists is between the official language (Mandarin) and the local forms (called “B”) of South China , Macau , Hong Kong , such as Cantonese .
  • Malay of Brunei – the standard Malay is the official language of the Sultanate , variant “A”, while the variant of the Malayown Brunei , with differences in pronunciation and the relative positions of verb – subject is the variant “B,” popular.
  • Tagalog – that language of Luzon , Philippines in its standard form is the so-called “high” variant, while people in rural areas and the poorest townspeople use several dialectal forms of Tagalog.
  • Hindi – the two forms of Hindi are derived from the Khariboli dialect . The “A” form is Hindi shuddhaand the popular “B” form is Hindustani (called by the name “Hindi”).
  • Bengali – Bengali has “A” and “B” variants in both written and spoken form. It is the most erudite and complex form, the shadhubhasha, heavily influenced by Sanskrit , and the very popular and simplified cholitbhasha mode .
  • Urdu – in Pakistan , literary, political and economic elites use Urdu in a variant very influenced by Persian and Arabic . The popular form “B” is much closer to Hindustani/ Hindi .
  • Sinhalese) – in Sri Lanka there are also two forms of the language: the “A” form, called literary , and the popular “B” form, called “spoken”.
  • Tamil – the language spoken in Sri Lanka and southern India ( Tamil Nadu ) has a classical form, used in literature and for official purposes (“A”), which varies little between areas of the country, while more colloquial , the one used by the people, presents much greater variations according to the region where it is spoken.
  • Canará – The language of southwest India , as well as Tamiland Sinhala (Sinhalese) , is recognized, even in education, as officially Diglossic, the two variants being well identified and recognized by all.
  • In Singapore , Englishhas diglossia. There is a more elaborate form (“A”), very similar to standard English, ‘SStdE (Singapore Standard English). There is also a popular form (“B”), the Singlish or SCE ( Singapore Coloquial English )


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