The Germanic Mosaic: Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in Society

By Carol Aisha Blackshire-Belay | Go to book overview

We agree with Woolard's argumentation and propose that WY constitutes further evidence for such a universal in language shift processes. When language choice depends on the ethnic group of the addressee, we are more likely to discover in-group identification with the L variety. The L variety is functionally intact and can fulfill all communicative needs. In moving away from an interlocutor-based language allocation, Western Yiddish subjected itself to the effects of structural interference from German, which led to WY obsolescence as the final outcome of dialectalization.


CONCLUSION

If redistribution of linguistic material over functions in a diglossic situation is interpreted as involving not just the physical or topical context, but also the interlocutor principle, the concept of diglossia with its principle of role compartmentalization remains useful in explaining and predicting patterns of language maintenance and shift. As noted by Woolard ( 1989: 366), in Fishman's initial formulation of his framework, "interlocutor was an integral component of the domain concept" and only later has his concept of domain been interpreted as physical or topical context. Maybe it is time to "rediscover" the interlocutor principle and to focus more on the individual speakers in linguistic theory in general, since after all a theory of language cannot ignore its primary agents. We hope to have convinced the reader that Western Yiddish is another case of language death which was characterized by the move from an interlocutor-bound language allocation to a context-bound language allocation and is thus interesting not only in its own right but also from a more general linguistic and theoretical viewpoint.


NOTES
1
The terms "diglossia" and "bilingualism" are commonly used in situations where more than two languages are present, including triglossic situations such as WY where three languages are distributed over high (H) and low (L) functions. Note that there can either be two H varieties and one L code or vice versa. In a triglossic situation, we consequently prefer to speak of multilingualism rather than bilingualism. However, in the literature, bilingualism is often used to cover both -- strictly bilingual and multilingual situations ( Hock, 1986). Similarly, the term "diglossia" can be extended to include triglossic situations. In this paper, diglossia and bilingualism are used in this general sense whereas triglossia specifically refers to the WY situation with three languages involved.

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