Panel: ‘Diglossic’ situations and their transformation in the modern era: East Asia and beyond


Raum: Kath Theol V, Hochparterre, Johannisstraße 8-10
Tag Zeit    
Di 13:30-14:00 King Diglossia, hyperglossia, hieroglossia, superposition or none of the above? From intra- to interlingual translation, and the overlooked question of vernacularized hanmun
Di 14:00-14:30
Di 14:30-15:00 Eggert Interfaces of linguistic codes in Korean poetry of Late Chosŏn times
Di 15:00-15:30 Traulsen Symbolic Power as Function – Global English as diglossia in modern South Korea
Di 15:30-16:00 Pause
Di 16:00-16:30 Osterkamp Aspects of polyglossia & polygraphia in pre-modern Japan
Di 16:30-17:00 Vetrov Diglossia vs. bilingualism: some comparative remarks on the language situation in Kievan/Moscow Rus and China (11th – 17th centuries)
Di 17:00-17:30 Abuhakema Literary and spoken Arabic: The question of prestige and standardization
Di 17:30-18:00 Reinhold Attributes of Language Transformation through Literality in the translocal Wakhi Communities of Pakistan


Marion Eggert


Sven Osterkamp (Di 13:30-15:30)

Marion Eggert (Di 16:00-18:00)

Beschreibung des Panels:

Thinking about the wide-spread phenomenon of co-existence, in one sociolinguistic or sociotextual community, of functionally differentiated linguistic codes along the lines of the concept ‘diglossia’ has worked towards obfuscating the enormous variations within these language situations, and perhaps towards over-estimating the importance of power and prestige for the choice of codes. This panel assembles studies of the complexity of such language situations in Asian cultures ranging from Pakistan to Japan.


Koreanistik, interdisziplinär

Abstracts der Vorträge:

Abuhakema, Ghazi: Literary and spoken Arabic: The question of prestige and standardization

While Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is still regarded the dominant and prestigious high literary language, urban vernaculars are increasingly competing for a higher status, since “it [MSA] cannot fill the role of [spoken] variety in the social stratification (Chambers, 2003, p. 160).” This study investigates written commercials in Jordan and Palestine where code mixing (and to some extent code switching) is becoming a norm rather than an exception. The study reveals that there are identifiable patterns of code mixing, and that written advertisements are impacting the evolution of Arabic as a diglossic language. The study also identifies instances of mixing of other vernaculars and Educated Spoken Arabic (ESA). The study exhibits lexical and morpho-syntactical patters of vernacular use such as in the area of verbs, prepositions and idiomatic expressions. The study concludes that equating standard with prestigious is increasingly becoming a questionable assumption, and that the use of the vernacular is not arbitrary, and serves linguistic and sociocultural objectives. Vernaculars are penetrating ads as a literary genre where they function as forceful communicative and persuasive devices. The study also concludes that the use of the vernacular in writing aligns with certain age groups, and certain business. Pedagogical and socio-cultural implications are drawn.

Chambers, J. K. (2003). Sociolinguistic Theory. Oxford: Blackwell.

Eggert, Marion: Interfaces of linguistic codes in Korean poetry of Late Chosŏn times

In an approach serving as mirror image to the one chosen by Ross King, this presentation will look at the degree to which ‘vernacular’ Korean literature of Late Chosŏn times can be  ‘cosmopolitanized’. Korean literary ideology of the 20th century used to posit the poetic form known as sijo as the literary genre most representative of the literary tradition in vernacular Korean, juxtaposing it with poetry in Literary Chinese along a clear functional divide: sijo poetry for ‘expression of feelings’, Chinese poetry for ‘gaining prestige’ (Kim Hŭnggyu). Actual literary practice, however, went back and forth between the two linguistic codes, often blurring them to a degree that makes it difficult to speak of sijo as a vernacular genre: Translations and transformations of sijo into Chinese verse and vice versa were common practice; a large percentage of extant sijo poetry is more or less based on hanmun phraseology; and some sijo poems are clearly nothing else than hanmun verse adapted to sijo tunes. The dividing line between the two kinds of poetry seems to have been the musical setting, rather than prestige or expressivity (Yi Hwang, ‘Tosan sibi kok pal’). A closer look at the interfaces between ‘cosmopolitan’ and ‘vernacular’ literary spheres in sijo poetry may thus contribute to the ongoing effort to problematize and differentiate the long prevalent simplistic schemes of pre-modern Korean diglossia.

King, Ross: Diglossia, hyperglossia, hieroglossia, superposition or none of the above? From intra- to interlingual translation, and the overlooked question of vernacularized hanmun

In his recent book, Pŏnyŏk kwa han’guk ŭi kŭndae [Translation and Korean modernity, 2010], Kim Uk-tong proposes that one of the features of Korean literary modernity was a reconceptualization of translation from premodern intra-lingual translation (translation between what were perceived as different registers or inscriptional styles along a single spectrum) to modern inter-lingual translation, whereby Literary Sinitic was otherized and ethnicized and recast as a foreign language. In my paper I discuss some of the issues raised by this proposal from the perspective of Sheldon Pollock’s influential work on ‘cosmopolitan and vernacular’, the ‘cosmopolitan vernacular’, ‚hyperglossia‘and ‘linguistic superposition’. The existence in Korea of a spectrum of inscriptional styles ranging from vernacular Korean language and script to sinographically encoded texts in Korean and/or Literary Sinitic of different types suggests that the term ‘diglossia’ is too crude a tool to be useful (among other reasons), but Pollock’s and others‘ terms are only a minor improvement. Moreover, neither Kim’s perspective nor Pollock’s work leave any theoretical space for the possibility of a ‘vernacular[ized] cosmopolitan’ register, yet (especially late) Chosŏn literary practice offers up abundant examples of precisely this sort of inside-out vernacularization—the use of Literary Sinitic and/or sinographs to encode vernacular Korean elements in ostensibly Literary Sinitic texts destined for local Korean readers and Korean readers alone. This latter strand of vernacularization in Korea ultimately lost out, but needs to be accommodated theoretically in comparative attempts at understanding premodern cosmopolitan-vs.-vernacular inscriptional ecologies.

Osterkamp, Sven: Aspects of polyglossia & polygraphia in pre-modern Japan

Pre-modern Japan is replete with examples of what may be termed di- or rather polyglossia as well as -graphia. Any account of the situation will posit Classical Chinese as opposed to Japanese, with a further distinction into a vernacular and a classical variety for the latter. While all three will have their respective domains, they are not necessarily mutually exclusive but could also be combined, even within a single literary work: In a piece of late 18th century popular fiction for instance, we may encounter a main text consisting mostly of dialogue in the spoken colloquial, interspersed with brief narrative passages in a “classical” form of the language – only to be preceded by a preface in Classical Chinese. Apart from the possible combinatorics of the different languages and varieties thereof, what are, typically, their respective domains within texts?

Together with such questions the paper would like to address the fact that language choices such as the above were paralleled by at least as many script choices. Virtually from the earliest texts up until the 19th century, a wide spectrum of possibilities was available to writers (phonographic or logographic writing, or mixtures of both? using which syllabary for the former? writing in which calligraphic style for the latter? &c.). These often overtly correspond to specific language choices, which however commonly go well beyond the tripartite model mentioned above, therefore also requiring more fine-grained distinctions on the linguistic side – and the abandoning of all-encompassing, overly simplistic categories such as “literary style Japanese”.

Reinhold, Beate: Attributes of Language Transformation through Literality in the translocal Wakhi Communities of Pakistan

The paper discusses manifestations of language transformation involved with aspects of standardisation through the transmission to literality in a small language group in Pakistan.

Wakhi, one of the Pamirian languages of Central Asia, is today spoken in Pakistan by an estimated number of 20.000 people. Until the 1980ies, most of the Wakhi speakers were living in the high mountainous rural areas of Gilgit Baltistan (Northern Pakistan), a majority of them being monolinguals. Today, due to notably high educational standards and an increasing mobility in the national and transnational context, most of them have shifted to multilingualism with Pakistan’s national language Urdu, and English. Spaces of life have been extended by migration and translocality.  While Wakhi and Urdu seem to be blending more and more into a new standard continuum in the young generation, growing worry about probable language loss can be observed in the socio-cultural debates among the speakers, where self-construction of the group takes place in constant discourses. Here, emphasis is placed on the development of normative literality for the previously orally transmitted language. A growing number of writers participating in this process of shift are influencing the concept and features of the language in this context.

Traulsen, Thorsten: Symbolic Power as Function – Global English as diglossia in modern South Korea

While the pre-modern diglossic situatuation in Korea with Written Classical Chinese and the linguistically unrelated vernacular Korean as well as the early modern setting with written and spoken Japanese as a superimposed colonial language have been overcome after the liberation in 1945 the seemingly monoglossic situation today is challenged by the great prestige and symbolic power English has gained in the last two decades of ‘Globalization’. Although having no colonial background in Korea and little dialectal variation need to be compensated for as e.g. in India, English has become an important element in symbolic power with far-reaching effects in everyday life. A self-imposed urgency in improving fluency in English among South Koreans has even led to fierce discussions on the usage of ‘English as a second official language’ (Yŏngŏ kongyong non 英語共用論) in the late 1990s/early 2000s.

Questioning common concepts and applications of ‘diglossia’ the case of Global English in South Korea (and possibly in other areas of the World) is interesting in so far as the actually performed function of English is rather – but highly – symbolic and shows itself in university and company entrance exams, political debates and agendas, public representation as well as in the high efforts and expenses spent by individuals to cope with these demands.

This paper is trying to show that the South Korean situation although having no function for ‘English in practice’ (e.g. administration, literature, formal speech, etc.) should nevertheless be treated as diglossia (i.e. power/prestige) rather than aimed bilingualism (i.e. proficiency).

Vetrov, Viatcheslav: Diglossia vs. bilingualism: some comparative remarks on the language situation in Kievan/Moscow Rus and China (11th – 17th centuries)

Ever since Ferguson presented his definition of diglossia, the term has been readily applied in studies on the history of Chinese and Russian literary traditions. In both cases, the relationship between high and low language varieties has been largely interpreted in terms of social respect associated with the high varieties. The present paper will focus on this category suggested by Ferguson for defining a language situation as a diglossic one. On the basis of various source materials from Chinese and Russian literatures (11th-17th centuries), it will be shown that in China perceptions of high and low were much less constant than in Russia, that in both cases the respect manifested itself in terms of religious and philosophical ideas, rather than as a social marker and that for this reason, at least as far as literary and philosophical texts are being discussed as possible illustrations of diglossia, positioning of language varieties in a scale of high and low should not necessarily be understood as a reliable means of socio-linguistic modeling of language situations.

Approaching the issue of continuity and change in perceiving of language varieties in terms of high and low in different cultures, one is imminently confronted with a still larger typological problem, i.e. with elaborating a set of criteria for defining language situations as diglossic or bilingual and examining cases of their possible transformations, when diglossic situations become bilingual and vice versa. The paper will tentatively interpret the Chinese and Russian cases as exemplifying two different types: shifts in the perceptions of language varieties as high and low in Chinese culture will be compared with analogous situations in Italy (since the 14th c.) and Germany (since the 16th c.), which are seen as cases of bilingualism; on the other hand, the situation in Kievan/Moscow Rus’ is reminiscent of that in the Islamic world in which the continuity in attributing the high status to a certain variety is motivated by a stable orientation upon the language of religious canonical texts (a diglossic situation.)