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Diglossia and Its Advantages, Disadvantages

Benazir Marjan has completed her second Masters in English Language and Linguistics from University of Liberal Arts, Bangladesh.


Diglossia and Its Advantages, Disadvantages

When a particular speech community’s people use two versions of the same language, then it is called Diglossia. If Diglossia exists in a society then that society is called Diglossic society.

There are two related terms in the concept. These are high variety and low variety. High variety (H) used in formal situations like in literature and mass media and low variety (L) used in ordinary conversations. High variety is a reflection of prestige and status; whereas low variety is a reflection of common ranking.

Children learn low variety as a native language. It is the language of home, the family, the streets and marketplaces, friendship and solidarity. By contrast, the high variety is spoken by few people. It must be taught in school. High variety is used for public speaking, formal lectures and higher education, television broadcasts, sermons, liturgies, and writing.

Advantages of Diglossia: There could be five advantages of using diglossia in a society.

1. Introducing a social dialect: Sometimes, the lower variety can be turned into a social dialect with time.

2. Borrow words from other language: When people use lower variety, they use words from different other languages they know or they learn from watching TV and using social media. Using randomly other words may enter into a particular language. In this way, a language borrows words from different other languages. This is how diglossia can benefit a particular language.

3. Prestige issue: People, those who can use the high variety, it gives them a feeling of self esteem. They feel proud to have the ability to use the high variety in the society. Here, diglossia introduces a matter of social dignity among the people. People tend to learn the high variety due to earn a good reputation in a certain community.

4. Correct use of the language in high variety: As people use exact rule of grammar in high variety of diglossia, it continues to use the language according to the rule among them. It focuses on accurate learning of the language in high variety. This is how diglossia enhances the opportunity to retain a language as claimed by the required rules of it. Maintaining proper acts in a language helps it to exist for a long time. It makes the probability less for a language from being extinguished very easily.

5. Enhance good quality in writing: High variety follows accuracy in sentence construction rules regarding grammar and punctuation. It is also strict in maintaining five major components of language; phonemes, morphemes, lexemes, syntax and context. Following all rules strengthen the quality of writing in a language automatically.

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Disadvantages of Diglossia: There could be five disadvantages of using diglossia in a community.

1. Using low variety breaks the rules of a language: People don’t use any grammatical rules while using the low variety in diglossia. Therefore, using low variety puts less importance on the grammatical issue. It slowdowns the language acquisition process as rules are not being applied properly.

2. Change the habit: In low variety, people use slangs. As they use low variety among friend and family. It may become their habit to bring those slangs always. Therefore, they may forget the origin of their language and its real sentence construction rules as well. This may be a threat for the language to exist in a long run before the world.

3. Introduce discrimination: Some people in a society have no idea about the high variety of diglossia. Therefore, using high variety people may underestimate the people using low variety of diglossia as there is a status issue for the people using high variety.

4. Threaten the existence of a language: Using low variety diglossia creates vulnerability in a language. Uncertainty arises concerning the existence of the language.

5. Its impact on teaching and learning: Usually, students are habituated to use low variety in family and friends. When teachers use high variety during delivering their lectures, students get that difficult to understand. That is why sometimes they understand the class content less due to low variety diglossia.

Diglossic conditions, situations and its impacts may vary from country to country over different languages for different contexts. It has both advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, it is a controversial issue in socio-linguistics.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Benazir Marjan


Benazir Marjan (author) from Dhaka on August 26, 2020:

Thank you very much Lorna Lamon.

Lorna Lamon on August 25, 2020:

This is such an interesting article Benazir and in my own culture we have different versions of the same language. I lived in Germany as a child and in the area where I lived they spoke High German as opposed to German. I enjoyed this article which was well-written.

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