types of diglossia/bilingualism/multilingualism

Joseph Lo Bianco joe.lobianco at languageaustralia.com.au
Thu Apr 17 00:26:46 UTC 2003

I'd like to inject some points into this interesting discussion.  As far as
many Australian languages are concerned,  diglossia would be a very good
thing.  We need to be careful if we are working from the Fergusonian notion
to keep in mind that he saw diglossia as "relatively stable" and not mostly
involving the "primay dialects" of the language.

If we count "primary dialects"  then we could say that this kind of
bi-dialectal diglossia is extremely stable over very long periods of time in
many parts of the world.    In his 1959 rendering of diglossia Ferguson
described the superposed variety as a "highly divergent" form, one
intimately connected with literature (or more generally writing) and formal
education.   High and Low functionality is central in this.   Australian
languages might evolve diglossic patterns with English in which the wider
society would never regard the domains, using Fishman's concept, as being H
but in fact the community would always regard them as H.  There are
emic/etic dilemmas involved in the H and L categories that for some
communities are very pronounced.

For Ferguson, the "resolution" of the coexistence of H and L varieties was:
1) H prevails (if it is the standard language of another community that
merges with the target community);
2) L prevails (as source of a new standard form)
3) stable, long term maintenance of diglossia.

Fishman's writings elaborated the Fergusonian pattern to include multiple
codes, rather than single H and L varieties; and admitted other kinds of
linguistic difference to the overall schema; making possible the famous
formulation of "bilingualism with and w/out diglossa and diglossia with and
w/out bilingualism".

Fasold in 1984 reworked things further into what he called "broad diglossia"
involving something like style and register differences which are stable
over long periods of time, obviously carrying the Ferguson ideas a fair
distance from his 1959 formulation.

I looked at Vietnam from the Ferguson/Fishman/Fasold prism (2001) and
believe we can identify a tri-graphic pattern there, which adds another
dimension to do with notions of modernisation, revolution, etc in which
three script forms, variously representing three languages (French, Chinese
and Vietnamese) co-existed in deep struggle, in one case for 1 000 years, in
another for 150 years,   eventually "resolved" for romanisation, though w.
still limited use of other scripts.

The point is to ask, or pose the issue, about H and L again, these need to
be problematised more than perhaps we have done, meaning WHAT counts as H
and L, and for whom, (we shouldn't just assume a universality of desire or
ambition), , and also can H and L 'bleed' into each other.  I say this last
point because modern informatics is starting to have an impact on our
traditional notions of the strict separation of speech and writing.

 Joe Lo Bianco

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
[mailto:owner-lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu]On Behalf Of Survey
Coordinator Brazil
Sent: Thursday, 17 April 2003 3:56
To: lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Subject: Re: types of diglossia/bilingualism/multilingualism

Hi Christina,

Good points, again.  I guess we're talking about language ecology?  In my
job in Brazil, I just want to be able to predict how long these Indian
languages are going to last in the face of Portuguese.  From what I've seen
so far, the rate of shift in Brazil is very rapid.  You've said that I
basically have only one variable here - isolation.  Mostly that's true.
However, the internal dynamics of each tribe is different, and that's where
the bilingualism/diglossia comes in.

I'm relieved you believe Quebec laws et. al. are strong enough to conteract
any threat of bilingualism without diglossia for the next 500 years.  One
less thing to worry about.


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