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Introduction The sociolinguistic condition known as diglossia has attracted wide attention since the publication of Fergusons seminal article 1959 Despite its occurrence in many non-western contexts it is not simply a phenomenon of exotic third-world cultures but characterizes a number of languages found in various parts of the world including western Europe Power and Prestige Diglossic languages and diglossic language situations are usually described as consisting of two or more varieties that coexist in a speech community the domains of linguistic behavior are parceled out in a kind of complementary distribution These domains are usually ranked in a kind of hierarchy from highly valued H to less valued L when the two varieties are recognized or tacitly accepted as genetically related the H domains are usually the reserve of the more conservative form of the language which is usually the literary dialect if there is a written form Formal domains such as public speaking religious texts and practice education and other prestigious kinds of usage are dominated by the H norm the L norm is used for informal conversation jokes street and market the telephone and any other domains eg letter writing cinema television not reserved for the H norm For diglossic situations involving two different genetically unrelated linguistic codes sometimes referred to as extended diglossia the one dominating the H domains has the greater international prestige or is the language of the local power elite or the dominant religious community andor its priesthood In such cases the H-variety language is clearly the language of the more powerful section of the society however power is defined Thus in French Canada English occupies the H-variety niche because it has the greatest prestige in North America and perhaps internationally as well its population even within Canada is numerically greater than the community of French speakers and its speech community is economically dominant both in English Canada and in French Canada Conversely in France
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