Introduction to Part One

LI WEI

The articles reprinted in Part One of this Reader serve to illustrate what may be called the sociolinguistic approach to bilingualism. There are seven articles altogether; three are grouped under 'Language choice' and four under 'Bilingual interaction'.


Language choice

Researchers of bilingualism generally agree that language choice is an 'orderly' social behaviour, rather than a random matter of momentary inclination. Where perspectives differ is in the conceptualisation of the nature of achievement and management of that orderliness. Charles A. Ferguson's article on diglossia (Chapter 2) is a true classic in that it not only defines a concept but also develops an approach to bilingualism which has been extremely influential. It originates from the fact that the co-existing languages of a community are likely to have different functions and to be used in different contexts. The notion of diglossia describes the functional differentiation of languages in bilingual and multilingual communities. A distinction is made between High (H) and Low (L) language varieties and Ferguson noted nine areas in which H and L could differ. One important implication of Ferguson's conception of diglossia is that bilingual speakers' language choice is seen to reflect a set of society-wide norms.

The concept of diglossia can be usefully examined alongside the notion of bilingualism, as Joshua A. Fishman does in Chapter 3. Bilingualism, argues Fishman, is the subject matter for linguists and psychologists and refers to an

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