Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 10 : 11 November 2010
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.
         S. M. Ravichandran, Ph.D.
         G. Baskaran, Ph.D.



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A Case Review of Tamil Diglossia

Alfred J. Matiki, Ph.D.


Since Ferguson published his famous paper on diglossia in 1959, a lot of scholars have tried to follow this scholarship by matching a lot of language situations against the principles of diglossia that he laid out. While such scholarship has uncovered numerous other cases of diglossia (dead or alive) in the world, in some cases the principles have been applied to situations and in ways that the original theory did not intend.

Hudson (1994) rightly notes that the term diglossia has acquired a certain degree of ambiguity because of the way it has been used (and misused) by various scholars.

Ferguson (1991) also admits that his theory has probably been misunderstood and, in some cases, the terminology that guided the theory has been extended to cover areas that were not and probably are not in cognizance with the original theory. Ferguson also admits certain weaknesses in his theory.

In the original article, Ferguson (1959:336) defined diglossia as

a relatively stable language situation in which, in addition to the primary dialects of the language (which may include a standard or regional standards), there is a very divergent, highly codified (often grammatically more complex) superposed variety, the vehicle of a large and respected body of written literature, either of an earlier period or in another speech community, which is learned largely by formal education and is used for most written and formal spoken purposes but is not used by any sector of the community for ordinary conversation.

It is clear that this definition is a little too inclusive and no hierarchy of the defining principles of diglossia is evident. It is not clear also as to how many of the nine features should apply for a language situation to qualify as diglossic. As a result of these shortcomings, some scholars have zealously applied these principles and diglossified situations that could appropriately be analyzed within the framework of colonial language situations or bilingualism. For instance, Fishman (1977) looks at the relationship between English (or French) and various vernaculars in post colonial areas as constituting diglossic situations.

Recent Work on Diglossia

Recent work on diglossia (see Hudson 1991, Hudson-Edwards 1984, Schiffman 1991, Britto 1991, Ferguson 1991, Walters 1996) has, however, shed more light on the major principles of diglossia.

The two most important defining principles of diglossia are function and acquisition. The other principles - prestige, standardization, stability, grammar, lexicon, and phonology - are only significant to the extent that they help in describing and comparing diglossias (Britto 1991).

In a true diglossic situation, therefore, the two codes will be complementary in their functions with the superposed code (H) being utilized in situations that can easily be characterized as formal while the underposed code (L) is used in non formal contexts. In terms of acquisition, the H code is learned through formal means of instruction while the L code is acquired naturally as an L1; the H code does not have native speakers while the L has.

This paper will attempt, therefore, to apply the principles of diglossia outlined above to the case of Tamil. It is important, however, to ground Tamil diglossia within the linguistic culture of South Asia since this geographical area appears to be very rich in diglossias (see Hudson 1994).

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

Implementing Explicit Grammatical Instruction in Thailand Schools | Nature of Sentence Intonation in Kannada, Tulu and Konkani | Language and Gender - Linguistic Analysis of Intermediate English Textbooks in Pakistan | Development of Punjabi-Hindi Aligned Parallel Corpus from Web Using Machine Translation | Paralinguistic and Non-Verbal Props in Second-Language Use: A Study of Icheoku and Masquerade in Nigeria | Economic Perspectives and Life-style Characteristics of the Aged Population in Tamil Nadu, India | Redefining Secularism - An Analysis of John Updike's Terrorist and Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist as Post-9/11 Novels | Reduplication in Bengali Language | Development of Time-Compressed Speech Test for Children between 8 - 12 Years of Age in Telugu | Bridging the Gap - The Potential of Contrastive Rhetoric in Teaching L2 Writing | ELT in Yemen and India - The Need for Remedial Measures | Relationship between Multiple Intelligence Categories and Learning Styles of Students in Pakistan | Internet as an Educational Resource in Vocabulary Instruction | The Effectiveness of Technology in Teaching Study Skills | A Study of the Comparative Elements in the Poetry of Keats and Ghani Khan | Sentence Pattern Method - A New Approach for Teaching Spoken English for Tamil/Indian/EFL Learners | Enhancing Language Skills Using Learn to Speak English Software in Engineering Students of Andhra Pradesh | Problems in Teaching of English Language at the Primary Level in District Kohat, NWFP, Pakistan | An Appraisal of the Practicum - Finding the Gaps between Theory and Practice in Teacher Training Institutions in Pakistan | A Study of B.Ed. Students' Attitude Towards Using Internet in Vellore District, Tamilnadu, India, Masters Dissertation | Politics of Sambalpuri or Kosali as a Dialect of Oriya in Orissa | A Six-Step Approach to Teaching Poetry Incorporating the Four Skills | Lexis of a Suicidal | A Case Review of Tamil Diglossia | Comparison of Markedness of Lexical Semantic Abilities in Normal Children and Children with Hearing Impairment | Social Effects and Other Impediments in Teaching Literature | Aligning the Connotations of Love and Freedom in the Novels of Iris Murdoch | Spiritual Communication and Managerial Effectiveness | A PRINT VERSION OF ALL THE PAPERS OF NOVEMBER, 2010 ISSUE IN BOOK FORMAT. | HOME PAGE of November 2010 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

Alfred J. Matiki, Ph.D.
Department of English
University of Botswana
Private Bag 00703UB

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