It is widely accepted norm that most of western people are able to use a single language in their communication at home, school, or in other public places. Such ability is termed as monolingualism and the person who acquires this ability is called monolingual.
However, it is also possible to find out that a single language has two or more varieties or dialects associated with the region where the people live; that is what is named as regional variation. In many countries, regional variation is not simply a matter of two dialects of a single language, but a matter of two or more quite distinct and different languages. For example, Indonesia as archipelagoes countries with different tribes has hundreds of regional languages (vernacular) as their first languages used in every day communication. Therefore, Indonesian people are not monolingual but bilingual who are capable of using their first language and the national language Bahasa Indonesia as their second language. Some of them are multilingual who are proficient to use three or even more languages: their first language, national language and other regional language or international language. The ability to use two languages distinctively is termed as bilingualism; while the ability to use three or more languages refers to multilingualism. In multilingual countries, like Indonesia, it is very possible to appear a situation in which two languages are spoken distinctively. This situation is named as diglossia or diglossic situation. According to Wardhaugh, a diglossic situation exists in a society when it has two codes which show clear functional separation; that is one is employed in one set of circumstances and the other in an entirely different set (1986: 87). Ferguson (Word 15: 336) defines diglossia as follows:
Diglossia is a relatively stable
language situation in which, in
addition to the primary dialects of
the language (which may include a
standard or regional standards),
there is a very divergent, highly
codified (often grammatically more
complex) superposed variety, the
vehicle of a large and respected
body of written literature, either of
an earlier period or in another
speech community, which is
learned largely by formal education
and is used for most written and
formal spoken purposes but is not
used by any sector of the
community for ordinary
Diglossia as explained above can be understood in terms of narrow and broad sense. In the narrow sense, diglossia means situation that exists in a society when it has two varieties: high variety and low variety which show clear functional separation. Such a diglossia has three crucial features:
Two distinct varieties of the same language are used in the community, with one regarded as a high (H) variety and the other a low (L) variety;
Each variety is used for quite distinct functions: H and L complement each other.
No one uses the H variety in everyday conversation (Holmes, 2001: 27).
In more detailed explanation, Wardhaugh (1986: 88-9) proposes six features to define diglossia:
Two varieties are kept quite apart functionally. One is used in one set of circumstances and the other in entirely different set.
One does not use an H variety in circumstances calling for an L variety, e.g., for addressing a servant; nor does one usually use an L variety when an H is called for, e.g., for writing a serious work.
The H variety is the prestige variety; the L variety lacks prestige.
A considerable body of literature is found to exist in H variety and almost none in the other.
The L variety often shows a tendency to borrow learned words from H variety, particularly when speakers try to use the L variety in more formal ways.
All children learn the L variety. Based on the features above, diglossia exists in the Central and East Java as there are at least two varieties of Javanese language. Its high variety called Krama Inggil is mostly used by the people with higher social status; while its low variety called Ngoko is mostly used by the people with lower social status. Krama Inggil is also in very formal situation, such as religion ceremonial and literature; while Ngoko is used in everyday communication.
In the broad sense, diglossia means situation that exists in a society when it has two languages: national and regional language which show clear functional separation. There are features to define that diglossia:
Two distinct languages are used in the community, with one regarded as a national (NL) and regional language (RL).
Each variety is used for quite distinct functions: NL and RL complement each other.
One does not use the NL in circumstances calling for the RL, e.g., for addressing a servant; nor does one usually use the RL variety when an H is called for, e.g., for writing research.
The NL is the prestige language; the RL v lacks prestige.
Literary works are mostly found to exist in the NL and almost none in the other.
The RL often shows a tendency to borrow learned words from the NL, particularly when speakers try to use the RL variety in more formal ways.
All children learn the RL