I had better begin with a definition of "diglossia," or at least with a description of how I propose to use the term. In 1959 Charles Ferguson, an American sociolinguist now at Stanford, published an important article (Word. vol. 15, pp. 325-40) applying the term "diglossia" to the peculiar linguistic situation that he found in modern Greece, in the Arabic world, in German Switzerland and in Haiti. In all of these linguistic communities, two clearly differentiated languages are used: one for what we may call "high" puristic culture, and another for "low" familiar culture. In these communities, the child learns a vernacular language at home, and then learns a quite different written language at school. The two languages. in Ferguson's examples, are not mutually intelligible. The literate person normally reads and writes only the school language, but speaks both languages, one on formal occasions (new broadcasts, lectures, political speeches) and the other on informal occasions (family conversation, marketplace discussion, popular songs). Thus, for example, all Haitians speak Creole, but only the literate minority speaks (reads and writes) a more or less standard metropolitan French. Ferguson's diglossia is most familiar to us in the early European Middle Ages, when many dialects (Romance, Germanic, Celtic) were spoken at home and in the streets, but only Latin was taught at school, for reading and writing in church, university and chancery. This written language was obviously the language of authority.



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