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Coexistence of two varieties of the same language in a speech community, with each variety being more or less standardized and occupying a distinct sociolinguistic niche. Typically, one variety is more formal or prestigious while the other is more suited to informal conversation or is taken as a mark of lower social status or less education. Classic diglossic situations can be found in Arabic-speaking communities, where Modern Standard Arabic coexists with dozens of regional Arabic dialects, and among speakers of Dravidian languages such as Tamil, where different words for basic concepts such as house or water are chosen depending on the speaker's caste or religion.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on diglossia, visit Britannica.com.