Diglossia: A critical overview of the Swiss example

Agnieszka Stępkowska


The article addresses the issue of diglossia in its original and extended definition. The main point of discussion is the validity of the ‘defining cases’ of diglossia selected by Ferguson (1959) to substantiate his concept. The four well-known pairs of languages described by Ferguson in his seminal article include the ‘Swiss pair’ of Standard German and Swiss German and their functional distribution. Following a number of critical opinions, I will show that the consistency between the definition and its Swiss illustration raises a few questions and cannot be considered tenable. Lastly, I will highlight the main differences between diglossia and bilingualism as two phenomena which in certain contexts may overlap.

Słowa kluczowe: diglossia, Switzerland, bilingualism, language functions, Ferguson

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