Please define, explain, and give examples of diglossia. 

Diglossia refers to when a community speaks one language in two different ways and in different situations. For example, some communities of color in the United States use both "standard" American English and African American Vernacular English (AAVE), depending on the context and situation.

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Diglossia generally refers to the way in which certain communities can speak the same language in two different ways. In the United States, Black communities often use African American Vernacular English (AAVE) within their own communities. This language reflects their own identity, history, lived experiences, and culture. At the same...

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Diglossia generally refers to the way in which certain communities can speak the same language in two different ways. In the United States, Black communities often use African American Vernacular English (AAVE) within their own communities. This language reflects their own identity, history, lived experiences, and culture. At the same time, people of color can also communicate in "standard" American English. This example of diglossia is fraught with racial implications and nefarious stereotypes. The intricate relationship between AAVE and standard English has produced concepts like Black voice and code switching.

Another way to think about diglossia is in the context of young people. Think about the way in which a teen could speak one type of English around their parents and teachers and then switch to another kind of English around their friends. Among their friends, they could use words, sentences, and sayings that they would not feel comfortable articulating around their parents.

For an example of diglossia that ties into religion, consider Jewish people. Among other Jews, Jewish people might adopt a type of English that integrates Yiddish and/or Hebrew words and phrases. In less religio-specific environments, Jews might stick to standard English. Interestingly, some Yiddish terms have apparently entered the mainstream language, words like chutzpah.

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Diglossia is a linguistic term that is also used in sociology. Diglossia is the coexistence of language codes that are either (1) two varieties of one language or (2) two distinct languages. Diglossic speakers use both codes in culturally defined situations in which the situation excludes the use of one diglossic code while requiring the use of the other. Marie-Christine Hazaël-Massieux gives a precisely detailed definition of diglossia in the excerpt from "Diglossia" quoted above.

What this means is that there are cultures, from England to Switzerland to South Africa to the United States, in which two competing language systems (i.e. codes) govern competing cultural situations with one code governing particular situations at the exclusion of the other. In Switzerland, for example, university professors may discuss academic issues amongst themselves in their own regional dialect or in Low French or Low German, yet give course lectures in High French or High German. Each of these would be a case of two varieties of the same language in competition: the formality of lectures excludes the option of a dialectical variety or a Low variety of the language, while a casual situation amongst peers excludes the necessity of a High variety.

In South Africa, domestic servants will speak their own language, perhaps Xhosa, at home or when conducting commerce amongst themselves while changing to English or Afrikaans for communication on their jobs. More interestingly, Afrikaners and English speakers may often be heard conducting a single conversation in both Afrikaans and English: the English speaker speaks in English while the Afrikaans speaker responds in Afrikaans to which the English speaker responds in English, and on and on throughout the whole conversation. Both these examples represent diglossic situations between two languages: each language has a culturally defined realm of required or appropriate use, and sometimes even these defined situations contain diglossic competition within.

Other examples of two varieties in competition in diglossic situations are:

  • Canadian French and High French.
  • United States African American Vernacular English and Standard American English.
  • Haitian French creole and French.

Another example of two languages in diglossic competition is in India where Hindi may be used at home as the heritage language and Indian English (a variety of British English) is used daily for communication, business, commerce, entertainment, and education.

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