Charles A. Ferguson

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Charles Albert Ferguson (born July 6, 1921 in Philadelphia , † September 2, 1998 in Palo Alto ) was a linguist who last taught at Stanford University . He is considered to be one of the founders of sociolinguistics and is best known for his essay on diglossia (1959).


Charles Albert Ferguson was born in Philadelphia. He studied Oriental Studies at the University of Pennsylvania . He wrote his doctoral thesis, which he finished in 1945, on colloquial Bengali. After graduation, he worked at the Foreign Service Institute in Beirut from 1946 to 1955 . In the 1950s he taught at Harvard University and other colleges. He left Harvard in 1959 and founded the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington, DC. After leaving the center in 1967, he founded what would later become the Department of Linguistics at Stanford University. In 1974 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences .


Nation profiles

In Ferguson's sociolinguistics, a nation profile describes the various sociolects in a country. Languages ​​can generally be described according to their function in the communication process. The languages ​​are described in terms of expansion, status and function in the various companies.


Charles Ferguson (1968) divided languages in their development ( language development ) in 4 (successive) stages:

  1. No Graphization - A language that is not written.
  2. Graphization - A language with an orthography that is used regularly.
  3. Standardization - A language with an orthography that is accepted by (almost) all speakers. Here, a certain variety of a language becomes the norm.
  4. Modernization - A language with an orthography that is accepted by (almost) all speakers and whose translatability is guaranteed. This is primarily about expanding the lexicon of a language in order to be able to express modern concepts.


Furthermore, Charles Ferguson (1966) divided the languages ​​of a nation into 3 categories:

  1. Major language (abbreviated Lmaj ) - A language spoken by at least 25% of the population of a nation or by at least 1 million speakers, or used as the language of instruction in cities.
  2. Minor language ( Lmin for short ) - A language spoken by at least 100,000 speakers or by at least 5% of the population of a nation.
  3. Language of special status (abbreviated Lspec ) - a language that does not meet any of the above qualifications and that is only used in a very specific context ( e.g. church languages).


  • Charles Ferguson, 1959: "Diglossia". Word 15, 325-340, ISSN  0043-7956 .
  • Charles Ferguson, 1966: “National sociolinguistic profile formulas”. In W. Bright: Sociolinguistics . 309-324.
  • Charles Ferguson, 1968: "Language development". In Fishman, Joshua A. & Charles A. Ferguson & Jyotirindra Das Gupta (eds.): Language Problems of Developing Nations . New York, London et al .: John Wiley & Sons. 27-36.

Individual evidence

  1. Thom Huebner: "Obituary Charles Albert Ferguson". Language in Society 28, 1999, 431-437.

Web links