types of diglossia/bilingualism/multilingualism

Survey Coordinator Brazil survey_coord_brazil at sil.org
Wed Apr 16 13:04:38 UTC 2003

Dear lg. policy list members,

After looking at Fishman's list of long-lasting societal bilingualism, I
a response similar to Paul Lewis', but his is more eloquent and pithy.  Just
that of the listed
languages, it looked like all of them were pretty clear examples of
diglossia.  Are the Spanish ones exceptions to this?  I guess I should have
framed my question more carefully.  I should've asked for examples of
bilingualism without diglossia.

What rang my alarm bells regarding Quebec was hearing what sounded like
bilingualism without diglossia.  Frenchmen writing love letters in English
sounded to me like old domains of use were changing.  It's pretty clear
there are social, economic, and political changes in Quebec which are
altering the old French/English language use configuration.  To me, this is
fraught with peril.  In talking to French Canadians, its still clear that in
Quebec, like the rest of the world, the overwhelming rewards and benefits
still acrue to people who speak English.  Monolingual French speakers don't
the best possibilities of advancement.  In the past, language use patterns
(probably as a result of discrimination on the part of English speakers)
kept the majority of Quebecois monolingual (two solitudes).  If that is
changing, and there is leaking between domains formerly reserved for English
or French, isn't that cause for concern, not just rejoicing?  The new
attitudes, the lack of divisiveness in Quebec can lead to widespread group
bilingualism.  This can have the effect of opening up the English speaking
world, one that was formerly closed to Frenchmen because they were
monolingual.  That sounds like a more unstable linguistic situation to me.
As long as the French Canadians were discriminated against, their language
survived because you had diglossia.  The happy news is that discrimination
is mostly a thing of the older generation now.  The unhappy news is what
looks like bilingualism without diglossia - an unstable situation.  So is
French really stronger in Quebec now?

On another topic, in talking about Canada outside of Quebec, Churchill says
that Landy and Allard have demonstrated that French schooling almost
eliminated the loss to assimilation.  I might be confusing Reversing
Language Shift (RLS) here with Language Maintenance (LM), but I thought that
schooling had little long lasting impact on RLS, if the language wasn't
spoken by the wider society.

Stan Anonby

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