Definition of diglossia in English:



  • A situation in which two languages (or two varieties of the same language) are used under different conditions within a community, often by the same speakers. The term is usually applied to languages with distinct “high” and “low” (colloquial) varieties, such as Arabic.

    ‘In cases such as these of bilingualism without diglossia, the two languages compete for use in the same domains.’
    • ‘That's why it's a classic example of diglossia, a language which has two different versions, the formal one and the one you actually speak.’
    • ‘In Egypt, as elsewhere in the Arab world, the Arabic language is characterized by diglossia.’
    • ‘From a state of triglossia the linguistic and literary evolution the Italian peninsula would evolve more clearly as a case of fragmented diglossia, with numerous epicentres of dialect in tension with written and literary Italian.’
    • ‘In addition, the book is to be congratulated for directing our attention to variation that does not involve diglossia and Classical Arabic in Arabic speech communities.’



/dīˈɡlôsēə/ /daɪˈɡlɔsiə/ /dīˈɡläsēə/ /daɪˈɡlɑsiə/


1950s from Greek diglōssos ‘bilingual’, on the pattern of French diglossie.