from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The diglossia ( Greek διγλωσσία Diglossia , German , bilingualism ' ) is a special form of bilingualism .


Diglossia describes the bilingualism of an entire society in which there is a clear functional differentiation between two socially differently valued language varieties . Mostly there are varieties of the same language. In particular, the coexistence of dialect and standard language or of spoken vernacular to written high-level language is referred to.

Each speaker in such a community has the same two (rarely more) varieties (or languages ), but only uses one or the other in a certain situation, for example the one variety (usually referred to as L for English low 'low' ) in everyday family conversations and talk shows , the other ( H for English high , high) in training or at work, in relation to government offices and in newspapers . There is a functional specialization of the language ability.

In German-speaking Switzerland, for example, the respective local dialects and the German standard language (which is formed by " High German ") are not used as a dialect-standard continuum , but the two language varieties are separated and depending on the situation, one switches from one to the other . For example, dialect is spoken almost continuously on the local television and radio stations for the everyday accompanying and entertainment program (it may happen that individual speakers do not speak Swiss German but understand it and the program is still broadcast in Swiss German), while the news programs ( like the culture broadcaster SRF2) as well as print media and (school) books use standard German. The language of instruction at middle and high schools is high German (at universities also English); However, school-administrative issues are often discussed in Swiss German. In the kindergartens Swiss German is spoken normally, in some cantons do so by law.

A similar situation also exists in Luxembourg with the national language Lëtzebuergesch in relation to an official language, the standard German language . The other official language is French . Internationally, the Luxembourgish national language is usually assigned the status of an extension dialect . Most Luxembourgers speak Luxembourgish as their mother tongue. It is used, for example, on national television and radio. In contrast, the majority of the writing language used is German , with French to a lesser extent, but to a significant extent. Most and the largest print media, but also (school) books and some of the electronic media in the Grand Duchy, use standard German.

Entdiglossierung describes the disappearance of diglossia, as it happens, for example, in northern Germany . From the 16th to the 20th century there was a diglossia with Standard German as the written language and the language of official use and Low German as the general colloquial language. Since the 20th century, however, Standard German has been the language of choice in all social areas. For the younger generations, this process has largely been completed; in some of the older generations, diglossic conditions still exist.

Concept history

The term ( French: diglossie ) was coined by Ioannis Psycharis (French: Jean Psichari ) in 1885 for the language situation in Greece at the time , where until the 1970s two varieties of Greek, the (more learned and mostly written) Katharevousa and the (native speaker) ) Dimotiki were used side by side.

William Marçais referred the term to the Arabic-speaking countries in which the respective national varieties of Arabic stand next to Standard Arabic .

Finally, in his famous essay Diglossia from 1959, Charles A. Ferguson noted the Greek and Arabic language areas as well as the German- Swiss ( standard German and Swiss German ) and Haitian ( standard French and Creole ).

Joshua Fishman extended the concept in 1967 ( extended diglossia ): in his opinion, diglossic situations in which the languages ​​are not related (e.g. Hindi and Tamil in Tamil Nadu , India ) should also be considered true diglossia. There is disagreement among ( socio ) linguists on this issue .

In 1981, Gottfried Kolde recommended the use of the term medial diglossia for German-speaking Switzerland , as the division of functions between dialect and standard language had changed over time and in most cases the medium determined the choice of variety.

In a more general version of the term, all communicative situations are sometimes referred to as diglossic in which two or more language varieties take the different functional language context into account; in this sense, diglossia also includes the use of different language registers and sociolects in a language community.

Diglossia versus standard dialect continuum

At first glance, diglossia resembles the situation for dialect speakers: the dialect is often used exclusively orally, locally and functionally limited (especially in informal contexts). For formal communication situations outside of the family and the (local) circle of friends, a standard language is used or a variety of the standard language that comes very close to this but is regionally colored ( regional language or regiolect ). However, since there are fewer and fewer dialect speakers in the German-speaking area of ​​the Federal Republic of Germany and many people no longer speak any dialect, the standard language can also be used in all those situations in which the dialect otherwise predominates - in contrast to a real diglossia like in German-speaking Switzerland , in most regions of Austria or in Luxembourg , where the locals speak (almost) exclusively their dialects in everyday situations and the oral use of the standard language is uncommon.

In addition, in many places language mixtures have arisen from local dialect (= L), regional language or regional language and standard language (= H). In a truly diglossic situation, the boundaries are never fluid. In contrast to this, the dialect standard continuum always has “shades of gray” that are perceived as “correct” by the speakers, even where they are rarely used.

Linguistic communities with diglossia

In addition to the four diglossia cases mentioned by Ferguson (formerly Greece, German-speaking Switzerland, Arab countries, Haiti), a number of other language communities were postulated to have diglossia.

Similar to Switzerland, there is a diglossia case in South Tyrol . The dialect is used in dealing with all South Tyrolean dialect speakers, be it at work or in private life. Standard German is only spoken at school and on television. South Tyroleans usually switch to High German when speaking to a person for whom the South Tyrolean dialect is difficult or impossible to understand.

Among them is the language situation of the Kievan Rus , to which Boris Andrejewitsch Uspenski applied the diglossia concept in 1983: According to this, Church Slavonic was used as an H next to Old East Slavonic as an L.

In East Asian societies, too, the phenomenon of diglossia could be observed for a long time in the educated classes, but this probably not at the level of spoken language. In addition to China, classical Chinese also served as a universal written language in Korea, Japan and Vietnam, as these societies did not initially have their own writing systems. In addition, the Chinese served as the bearer of the common Buddhist and Confucian tradition.

The language situation in the Czech Republic is at the limit of this phenomenon . The spoken Czech language differs significantly from the written language used mainly in the media. The written Czech language is based on the Kralitz Bible from the 16th century ( Central Czech ), while the colloquial language developed from the Central Bohemian dialect. This discontinuity was caused by the Germanization after the Battle of the White Mountain (1620), as a result of which the Bohemian lands belonged permanently to Habsburg rule until 1918 and Czechs and Germans had their common home here. During this time, Czech was spoken almost exclusively by farmers in the proverbial “ Bohemian villages ”, while the language of the educated and townspeople was German. At the end of the 18th to the beginning of the 19th century, the Czech rebirth movement emerged under the leadership of Josef Dobrovský and Josef Jungmann .

Many immigrants, especially of the second generation, also live in a Diglossian situation in Western Europe. In France, if they are of Maghrebian (and therefore mostly Arabic-speaking ) origin, they are called Beurs (a Verlan expression for Arabs). In Switzerland, regardless of their origin, they are called Secondos - named after the first ones who were of Italian origin. Because the generation of parents has poor or no command of the national language, adolescents and children separate their communication behavior between the external national language and the family-internal area, whereby linguistic mixes often occur in communication among the young people themselves.

The Romance languages only developed into independent languages ​​after the diglossia of Latin could no longer be maintained due to the collapse of the Roman Empire .

German-speaking Switzerland - Diglossia or bilingualism?

Linguistics has been discussing the question of whether or not Standard German is a foreign language for the German-speaking Swiss for many decades. To put it simply, the experts dealing with this topic are divided into two camps: those who consider the Swiss-German dialects to be a variety of a common German language, i.e. not an independent language, and those who consider the Swiss-German dialects so much linguistic peculiarity and / or that it is fully developed that, in return, standard German should be viewed as a foreign language. While the former usually choose to describe the Swiss language situation using the diglossia model, the latter usually consider the description of the German-Swiss language status using the bilingualism model to be more appropriate.

Arguments in the trend for diglossia

For Beat Siebenhaar and Alfred Wyler it seems very clear that German-speaking Switzerland is considered a digloss: “The language situation in German-speaking Switzerland thus corresponds to the pattern of diglossia: In a language community, two forms of the same language are used, a high-level and a vernacular, and each form of language has different scope. The linguistic forms are always clearly differentiated from one another, there are hardly any mixed or transitional forms. "They clearly reject the standard German foreign language character:" The differences between the Swiss German dialects and the standard language are primarily in the sound, but also in the grammatical forms so big that it is said again and again that the standard language is a foreign language for the Swiss that they have to learn with great difficulty in school, while the Germans mastered it from the very beginning. However, this opinion is wrong. In Germany, too, children have to practice using the written high-level language at school, even where the colloquial language is only a short distance from the high-level language. In addition, the close relationship between the two forms of language hardly makes it possible to designate Swiss German as an independent language, despite phonetic differences that definitely call communication into question. The similarities in vocabulary and syntax are also much greater than between German and closely related foreign languages ​​such as Dutch or English. ”Siebenhaar adds that although there is a tendency towards media diglossia, this only applies to the area of ​​proximity (see Siebenhaar 03).

Peter Sieber and Horst Sitta (1986: 33 f) are also against categorization as a foreign language. Although they are of the opinion that the question of whether standard German should be called a foreign language is ultimately a political and not a linguistic question, they advocate not calling the standard language a foreign language, mainly because the standard language in the written field unites clearly has a fixed place. In addition, from the point of view of applied linguistics, it is very advisable to categorically oppose this thought structure, according to which Standard German is a foreign language, in order not to further reduce the willingness of the German-speaking Swiss to learn and use Standard German. In contrast to Arthur Baur and Iwar Werlen, Ulrich Ammon (1995) takes the view that the extent to which the Swiss-German dialects are per se is not a criterion enough to designate the Swiss-German dialects as independent languages. The lack of standardization, the insufficient linguistic systematic distance to the other German varieties and the use of the Alemannic dialects also in West German and Austrian territory do not allow Standard German to be viewed as a foreign language from the perspective of German-speaking Swiss. Even Walter Haas (2004) is convinced of the diglossischen situation and notes that it is in the dialect and the standard language to an extreme case of the registers Variation: Both versions serve two different stylistic basic functions, closeness and distance. In addition, the situation cannot be compared with the bilingualism situation with two dissimilar languages.

Arguments in the tendency for bilingualism

Arthur Baur (1983: 37–41, 64f.) Takes the view that the standard language in Switzerland should be classified as a foreign language on the grounds that the Swiss-German dialects are fully developed. This means that the dialects are so well developed that they can be used in every communication situation, e.g. B. in professional or official contexts, can be used without any problems. The fact that the dialects were able to expand in this way is also due to the fact that Swiss German has a linguistic prestige and can functionally differentiate stylistically, as is the case with other national languages. In addition, Baur notes that there is a notable linguistic systematic gap between dialect and standard language in terms of sound, grammar and lexicons. All these characteristics of the dialects lead him to the conclusion that the Swiss-German dialects are to be regarded as an independent, fully developed language. Even Roland Ris (1990) considers that the conditions for a diglossic to the classical model of Ferguson with high and low variant no longer exist: "With the removal of the layer-specific marker in the use of the vernacular at all and the substantial neutralization Due to their previously strongly perceived varieties on the one hand and the permeability of the originally situational division between Standard German and dialect on the other, it no longer makes sense to use the traditional diglossia model. Rather, it can be assumed that the German-speaking Swiss speaks dialect about every topic in almost every situation. [...] If we consider this fact as sine ira et studio as possible [without anger and zeal], we have to realize that the spoken dialect performs almost all the functions that a spoken standard language has elsewhere, and that in turn implies that the spoken standard German in Switzerland in internal use no longer functions as a complementary form of language in the sense of the diglossy model, but as a second language in the sense of the bilingualism model, which in certain communication situations can still be used more than has to be used. ”Regardless, he states that it is not for everyone Swiss-German gives a binding sense of language and that it can also be assumed that the diglossia model still applies, especially for educated older people or for those who have close contact with Germans (cf. Ris 1990: 43–44). Like Baur, Iwar Werlen (1998) also comes to the conclusion that both varieties are fully developed, even if differences in literacy and orality, reception and production, mass media and personal usage situations and their use in in and outgroup communication can be determined. He believes that the concept of diglossia is (no longer) appropriate and prefers to describe the state of the Swiss German language as asymmetrical bilingualism (cf. Hägi / Scharloth 2005). Like Werlen, Raphael Berthele (2004) also believes that Ferguson's diglossia model does not adequately describe German-speaking Switzerland. He also points out that the majority of German-speaking Swiss perceive Standard German as a foreign language themselves. For this reason, it seems more sensible to him to describe German-speaking Switzerland using the bilingualism model (cf. Hägi / Scharloth 2005).

The results of a questionnaire survey by Scharloth from 2003, according to which the German-speaking Swiss were asked about their personal relationship and that of the German-speaking Swiss in general to the standard language, allow, despite the random sample nature of this study, to identify some tendencies in self-assessment and that of the collective. These tendencies could also be interpreted as an argument for the foreign language character of standard German. 79 percent of those questioned answered yes to the question that standard German is the first foreign language for the German-speaking Swiss. Only 6 percent of those surveyed said that good standard German was spoken in Switzerland. 76 percent attributed only moderate oral high-level language skills to the speakers. As many as 18 percent chose the rating bad. One could deduce from this that the numbers tend to support the bilingualism model. But when asked whether Standard German was a foreign language for them personally, only 30 percent answered in the affirmative. In the case of the question, which on the one hand should provide information about the self-assessment of the individual oral competence in the standard language and on the other hand assess the competence of the collective, the results were similarly contradicting. As a result, one can say that the average German-speaking Swiss rates their own German skills higher than that of their fellow citizens. In this respect, it ultimately turns out to be questionable whether the self-assessment of the German-speaking Swiss can be made valid as an argument for the foreign language character. (see Scharloth 2003)

Situation in the Arab States

In Arabic there is also a clear distinction between high-level and colloquial language. Written texts, both religious and profane , are largely in Standard Arabic. In contrast, native Arabic speakers mostly use their dialect when speaking orally; Movies and songs are also mostly in colloquial language. This separation (standard Arabic as written, dialect as spoken language) is canceled in certain situations, for example when a written text is to be recited or a linguistically demanding speech is to be given. Conversely, the dialect is written down in folk poetry or when rendering dialogues in novels in order to express greater proximity to the people or authenticity.

High-level language and local dialects differ in both grammar and lexicon, despite their common roots. There are also differences between the individual Arabic dialects, so that Standard Arabic continues to be taught as the language of the Koran and as the common language of all Arabs. The split between the synthetically constructed classical written language and the Arabic dialects , which have an analytical language structure, goes back to the spread of Islam in the 7th and 8th centuries and is primarily based on contact with Greek and Persian- speaking peoples. To this day, every new generation of Arabic speakers is born into this diglossia.

Aramaic diglossia

In Aramaic there is also a separation between high and colloquial language. In the area of Tur 'Abdin before the massive emigration of the resident was Arameans the classical- Syrian high-level language (Kthobonoyo) primarily as a church language used and not in everyday life, the real mother tongue of the population whereas the only spoken and generally not written, neuostaramäische Turoyo was . With the outside world, the Arameans spoke the state language, Turkish, whose knowledge was essential in everyday life, as well as Kurdish with the majority of the population in the Turkish south-east. Kthobonoyo is no longer learned as a mother tongue and is therefore to be regarded as a dead language, but lives on in science as one of the “great cultural languages ​​of mankind”, as it is studied and researched at universities around the world and an extensive body of text exists in this language, and is still used as the language of the Syrian Orthodox Church in worship. Ṭuroyo, on the other hand, is considered an endangered language, since modern Aramaic has a very low status in the countries of the Aramaic diaspora , not all descendants of the emigrants teach the language to their children and Ṭuroyo, in contrast to the sacred language, is a written language and can therefore hardly be taught in schools.

Diglossia in literature and film

In his novel Buddenbrooks, the writer and Nobel Prize winner for literature, Thomas Mann shows the diglossia of the men of the Lübeck merchant family Buddenbrook in the 19th century, who speak High German among themselves, in the family and in business dealings, but (have to) speak to their workers in Low German . The film version from 2008 shows this quite impressively.

Rhenish diglossias can be heard again and again in the works of the Nobel Prize winner Heinrich Böll , for example at the end of a business trip . Outwardly, this novella is written in the driest protocol style , almost legal German . Böll's constant, often hardly translatable sprinkles of lively local language give the work a further, often cabaret-like level. It is said about a witness, after a complicated introduction, in a subordinate clause: “Only called 'the Kroserin' by relatives and in the village”. Due to the contrast between the precise words of the Ripuarian dialect and their recognizable laborious approximation through explanations and paraphrases in the still very Prussian authoritarian language of the late 1950s and early 1960s, the diglossy situation of the Cologne area of ​​this time opens up without the one Narration like that would have been impossible.

See also


  • Charles A. Ferguson : Diglossia . In: Application areas of sociolinguistics . Darmstadt 1982, p. 253-276 (Translation from: Diglossia. In: Word. Journal of the Linguistic Circle of New York. 15, 1959, pp. 325-340).
  • JA Fishman : Bilingualism with and without Diglossia; Diglossia with and without Bilingualism . In: Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (Ed.): Journal of Social Issues . Blackwell Publishers for the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, Malden, MA [etc.] 1967.
  • Nicole Eilinger-Fitze: Oh, this Swiss German! A cheerful and entertaining look at the language of our neighbors. 1st edition. Conrad Stein, Welver 2007, ISBN 978-3-86686-912-7 .
  • Csaba Földes : Contact German. On the theory of a variety type under transcultural conditions of multilingualism . Narr, Tübingen 2005, ISBN 3-8233-6160-0 ( foeldes.eu [PDF]).
  • Dörte Hansen-Jaax : Transfer at Diglossie . Synchronous language contact phenomena in Low German. Kovač, Hamburg 1995, ISBN 3-86064-292-8 (also dissertation at the University of Hamburg ).
  • Processes of cultural integration and disintegration . Germans, Czechs, Bohemians in the 19th century. In: Steffen Höhne, Andreas Ohme (Hrsg.): Publications of the Collegium Carolinum . 1st edition. tape 103 . Oldenbourg, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-486-57588-0 .
  • Georg Kremnitz: Social multilingualism . Institutional, social and individual aspects. An introductory overview. Braumüller, Vienna 1994, ISBN 3-7003-1071-4 .
  • Felicity Rash: The German Language in Switzerland . Multilingualism, diglossia and change. 1st edition. Lang, Bern 2002, ISBN 3-906768-94-5 (English edition under the title: The German Language in Switzerland ).
  • Ursula Reutner : Vers une typologie pluridimensionnelle des francophonies. In: Ursula Reutner: Manuel des francophonies. De Gruyter, Berlin / Boston 2017, ISBN 978-3-11-034670-1 , pp. 9–64.
  • Ute Schleiff: Religion in a different language . Origin, preservation and function of religious diglossia. 1st edition. Logos, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-8325-0978-X .
  • Boris Andrejewitsch Uspenski : Diglossija i dvujazyčie v istorii russkogo literaturnogo jazyka . [Diglossia and Bilingualism in the History of the Russian Literary Language]. In: Morris Halle (Ed.): International Journal of Slavic Linguistics and Poetics . No. 27 . Slavica Publ., Columbus, Ohio 1983, ISBN 0-89357-118-0 , pp. 81-126 (Russian).

Web links

Wiktionary: Diglossie  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Canton Aargau prohibits standard German in kindergarten Article on tagesanzeiger.ch from May 18, 2014
  2. Foreigners are happy about the High German ban article on blick.ch from June 2, 2014
  3. ^ A b Beat Siebenhaar, Alfred Wyler: Dialect and standard language in German-speaking Switzerland . 5th, completely revised edition. Pro Helvetia, Zurich 1997 ( uni-leipzig.de [PDF; accessed on August 1, 2014]).
  4. a b Sara Hägi, Joachim Scharloth : Is Standard German a foreign language for German-speaking Swiss? Investigations into a topos of linguistic reflective discourse. In: Helen Christen (Ed.): Linguistics online . tape 24 , no. 3 , July 1, 2005, p. 19–47 , doi : 10.13092 / lo.24.636 ( bop.unibe.ch [accessed on April 13, 2020]).
  5. Erika Werlen: Youth language in German-speaking Switzerland . Research into the language of young people in German-speaking Switzerland in the paradigm of the language portfolio - a plea for an applied dialectology. In: German Studies in Switzerland . Online journal of the Swiss Academic Society for German Studies. No. 1 . Bern November 2002, p. 77 ( germanistik.unibe.ch [PDF; accessed on August 1, 2014]). germanistik.unibe.ch ( Memento of the original from July 4, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.germanistik.unibe.ch
  6. ^ Erika Werlen: Youth language between dialect and language portfolio . In: Elvira Glaser, Peter Ott, Rudolf Schwarzenbach (eds.): Alemannisch im Sprachvergleich . Contributions to the 14th workshop for Alemannic dialectology in Männedorf (Zurich) from September 16-18, 2002. Franz Steiner Verlag, Wiesbaden 2004, ISBN 3-515-08536-X , p. 449 ( limited preview in Google Book Search [accessed August 1, 2014]).
  7. Helen Christen (eds.) And Agnès Noyer: Dialect, Regiolect and Standard Language in Social and Temporal Space. unifr.ch (PDF), March 2003.
  8. ^ Bengt Knutsson: Studies in the Text and Language of Three Syriac-Arabic Versions of the Book of Judicum, with Special Reference to the Middle Arabic Elements . Brill, 1974. Partial online view
  9. Otto Jastrow : How can the modern Aramaic language (Turoyo) survive in Europe? In: Josef Bunyemen, Michel Yüksel, Simon Marogi (eds.): Kifå . No. 5 (December 2008 / January 2009), pp. 11 .
  10. Otto Jastrow: How can the modern Aramaic language (Turoyo) survive in Europe? In: Josef Bunyemen, Michel Yüksel, Simon Marogi (eds.): Kifå . No. 5 (December 2008 / January 2009), pp. 13 .
  11. Otto Jastrow: How can the modern Aramaic language (Turoyo) survive in Europe? In: Josef Bunyemen, Michel Yüksel, Simon Marogi (eds.): Kifå . No. 5 (December 2008 / January 2009), pp. 10-15 .
  12. ^ Heinrich Böll : End of a business trip . Kiepenheuer & Witsch , Cologne, Berlin 1966, pp. 119 and 120.