Definition of diglossia in English:



mass nounLinguistics
  • 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.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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 Egypt, as elsewhere in the Arab world, the Arabic language is characterized by diglossia.’
    • ‘In cases such as these of bilingualism without diglossia, the two languages compete for use in the same domains.’
    • ‘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.’


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