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Research Seminar : "What really is “diglossia”? Insights from the East Asian Experience "
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Topic:  Research Seminar : "What really is “diglossia”? Insights from the East Asian Experience "
posted itemPosted - 23/01/2009 :  14:29:42
City University of Hong Kong Dep

Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics
Research Seminar

What really is “diglossia”? Insights from the East Asian experience

Presented by

Dr. Donald Snow

English Department, Nanjing University

Date: 11 February 2007, Wednesday
Time: 4:00pm - 6:00pm
B7603 (Lift 3, 7/F, Blue Zone),Academic Building,CityU


Over the last half century sociolinguists have written extensively about “diglossia,” a phenomenon in one society uses two different language varieties for distinctly different social purposes: a “high language for formal purposes, including most or all writing, and a “low language” for daily conversation. However, even after fifty years of discussion, scholars still disagree about what precisely diglossia is and how it is distinguished from other kinds of societal multilingualism. This presentation will begin by looking at the story of diglossia in East Asia, a region in which diglossia (with Classical Chinese as the high language) was once common, but in which diglossia has now almost entirely disappeared – except in Hong Kong. The East Asian story will then serve as a platform from which to consider the question of what really defines diglossia as a distinct sociolinguistic pattern.


Donald Snow ,has an MA in English from Michigan State University, and a PhD in East Asian Language and Culture from Indiana University. He has taught language, culture, and linguistics for over two decades in various parts of China, as well as in the United States, and currently teaches linguistics in the English Department of Nanjing University. He is the author of several articles and books, including Cantonese as Written Language: The Growth of a Written Chinese Vernacular (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2004).

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