November 3, 2014


Chaucer has been lavishly eulogized to be the greatest social chronicler of the 14th century England. His acknowledged magnum opus The Canterbury Tales mirrored an all-embracing portrait of the social, economic, cultural, and religious milieu of his age. In many respects, Chaucer’s representation of his age was more faithful and realistic than any other contemporaries. He primarily achieved this goal through portrayal of a wide variety of characters chosen carefully from every facets of society with their real follies and virtues. By portraying each character realistically, he in turn satirized the manners and affectations of the whole medieval society as well. The following discussion revolves round the various social issues captured in the writing of Chaucer:

Socio-political Condition

Initially, the medieval English society was divided into three groups, namely the church, the nobility, and the peasantry. The Church was a visibly potent force throughout England. The chief business of this sector was to pray. They did not need to work as they were supported by the nobles and the peasants. The nobility was represented by the Knight, whose job was to fight. The other characters in this group are the Yeoman, the Franklin, the Miller, and the Reeve. The peasantry consisted of the working class, represented by the Plowman.

So far, the lifestyle in the medieval society was free from the complexities of modern life. But by the late 14th century the English society encountered a huge shift and changes. During this phase the established social structure began to disintegrate due to the devastation of the grievous plague or the Black Death, which was subsequently much deteriorated by the peasant revolts such as Jack Straw rebellion of 1381. The shock of the Black Death loosened peoples’ trust on the authority of the Church, whereas the turbulence of the Jack Straw rebellion eventually paved the way for the emergence of a new middle class. This new middle class mostly consisted of the educated workers such as the merchants, the lawyers, and the clerks. Gradually, this new class gained more power and attention than ever before. And Chaucer, being a member of this new middle class endeavoured to depict and satirise the conventions of these turbulent times. In Chaucer’s description this group was represented by the Pilgrims, the Doctor, the Lawyer, the Maniciple, the Merchant, and the Wife of Bath. The Haberdasher, the Carpenter, the Weaver, and the Dyer collectively presented as the members of one of the great parish guilds and the new urban artisans achieved the power through these guild associations.

The Corruption of the Church

Geoffrey Chaucer was brave enough to unveil the decadence of the medieval Catholic Church. Chaucer’s description confirms about the moral and spiritual bankruptcy within some of its officials. Since the Church officials were not allowed to work for a living, they disregarded the vocational rules or values and resorted to various unfair means for personal gain. For example, the Monk prefers hunting and horse riding than worshiping at his monastery. Although he is aware that the monastery rules discourages monks from hunting, the Monk deliberately breaches them by stating them outmoded:
“But this same text he held not worth an oyster;
And I said his opinion was good.”
But Chaucer satirically remarked that the Monk ignores the rules lest he should give up hunting, owing possessions, and eating fine foods. The handsome and well-dressed Monk resembles more like a wealthy lord than a religious figure.

The Friars were also corrupt and hypocritical. They lived entirely by begging. They used to hear confessions and assigned relatively easy penance to those who donated money. They held that donating the friars is a good sign of true repentance.  Although they vowed to eradicate poverty, they paid no attention to the poor and used the donations to live a lavish life. Chaucer ridicules the Friars as under:
“He was the finest beggar of his house;”
In addition, the Friars also maintained a good relationship with the innkeepers and the barmaids, who can provide them food and drink.

The Summoner and the Pardoner belongs to the most corrupt Church officials. Both the characters turn to dishonesty for personal gain. The Summoner is a lecher and a drunk, always looking for a bribe. The Pardoner has a mesmeric voice to convince his audience to purchase indulges to get forgiveness for their sins.

The superficiality within the religious figures is portrayed with the character of the Prioress. Even though she is not a member of the court she is striving too hard to be courtly. In the words of Chaucer:
“She was at pains to counterfeit the look
Of courtliness, and stately manners took,
And would be held worthy of reverence.”
The Prioress is not corrupt like the other characters but Chaucer satirizes her for her affectations, the habits which do not necessarily suit a religious figure. She is so obsessed with courtly mannerism that she always dresses elegantly, speaks incorrect French and eats so carefully that she never spills a drop. Like courtly damsels she weeps when she sees a trapped mouse. But ironically, she feels no discomfort while feeding her hounds flesh, which is suggestive of her feigned courtliness. Even her devotion to the Christ is also showy since instead of carrying a rosary beads with a crucifix she wears a pendant which seems much more like a shiny piece of jewelry than a sacred religious object. More importantly, the pendant has an inscription that reads "Amor Vincit Omnia," or "Love Conquers All." Although most appropriately it could refer to God’s love but in her case more probably refers to the courtly love between a damsel and hero in one of the romances that were popular reading material for women of this time:
“Of coral small about her arm she'd bear
A string of beads and gauded all with green;
And there from hung a brooch of golden sheen
Whereon there was first written a crowned "A,"
And under, Amor vincit omnia.”
The Parson is the only honest man amongst all religious figures. He is temperate, learned, virtuous and deeply respectful towards the teachings of Christ. The Parson is dedicated to his parish and does not seek a better appointment. He visits all his parishioners of no matter how far away. He is also compassionate to the sinners and instead of rebuking he tries to teach them to lead an honest life.

Vanishing Chivalric Spirit

Chaucer’s Prologue to The Canterbury Tales remarks on the diminishment of the true chivalric spirit in medieval England. Through the character of the Knight Chaucer visualized the true spirit of chivalry. The aged Knight was a brave warrior and fought fourteen mortal battles for the sake of preserving religion. In the contrary, the young Squire, his son represents the rising conception of chivalry. Unlike his father he fights for pleasure and to receive attention from the ladies. The Squire lacks the intelligence and seriousness of his father and is much interested to lead a carefree life:
“Well could be sit on horse, and fairly ride.
He could make songs and words thereto indite,
Joust, and dance too, as well as sketch and write.
So hot he loved that, while night told her tale,
He slept no more than does a nightingale.
Courteous he, and humble, willing and able,
And carved before his father at the table.”

Courtly Love

In The Knight's Tale Chaucer gives us a description of courtly love, a recurring subject in the Middle Ages. Such a relationship is usually constituted between knights, squires and women from noble background. The knights exhibit great courage to earn their ladies’ respect, while the ladies exhibit grace, modesty, and loyalty for the knights.  Although the lover and the beloved are not married to each other, they fall deeply in love but strictly avoid immorality. Courtly love was deemed to be the true form of love and was valued over the marital relationship. Marriage was treated as social formality and a wife was treated as another property owned by the husband. More obviously, marriage was nothing but an arrangement for procreation and to avoid fornication with the partner of courtly relationship.


A great deal has been written about the position of women in the middle ages. Chaucer’s description confirms that some part of the womankind sought to liberate themselves from the clutches of the patriarchal society. The Wife of Bath, for example is an epitome of the emancipated women since she reacted against the accepted norms of sex and marriage. She wanted to release women from the male-domination by stressing on women’s freedom in marriage. With reference to the Bible she argues that there is nothing wrong to marry several times. The wife has extensive knowledge about love and sex as she was married for five times. Multiple marriages helped her to understand the ruse to gain independence in an essentially male-dominated society. She did that by depriving her husbands from using her body until they agreed to meet certain demands:
“The remedies of love she knew, perchance,
For of that art she'd learned the old, old dance.”


Chaucer’s poetry came under fierce attack for his apathy towards social reformation. He opted to depict life as he saw it and humbly refrained from suggesting any moral improvement over the blemishes of humankind. Moreover, his poetry encompasses a partial picture of the then society and is devoid of many other significant issues of the day. His description chiefly hinges round the tumultuous moments in England during the second half of the 14th century.

Chaucer as a Social Chronicler of His Age


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14 September 2014 <>.

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“TheBestNotes on The Canterbury Tales.” 2014.
14 September 2014 <>.

September 3, 2014


Metaphor is a figure of speech consisting of two essentially different objects, ideas, actions, or feelings with an implication that the objects are similar or identical on some point of comparison.


The English word metaphor is derived from the French word métaphore, which is derived from the Latin word metaphora, meaning “carrying over”, from Greek metaphérein, meaning “to transfer”, from meta-, meaning "over, across" + pherein, meaning "to carry, to bear”. The earliest known usage of metaphor in English dates from the 15th century.


Metaphors are often considered as a compressed form of similes. In metaphors an object of one class is equated with an object of another class based on a single or common point of resemblance. In other words, metaphors chiefly suggest that 'A is B'. This comparison is implicit or implied, rather than being specifically stated. Metaphor has two parts: the tenor and the vehicle. The tenor is the subject or topic to which attributes are ascribed. The vehicle is the object whose attributes are borrowed to transform the subject into something else. We can explain this by considering an example: “Jonathan is a tiger”

Structure of Metaphor © Tanvir Shameem

In the above sentence Jonathan and tiger are from two different classes, that is, the former being a human and the latter being a feline. Here Jonathan the tenor and tiger is the vehicle. In this sentence the implicit point of comparison is “braveness” and “courage”.

Determinants of Metaphors

Lay readers often confuse metaphors with similes. Although there are no definite rules, one can follow the under- mentioned steps to determine whether a metaphor is present in a text or sentence:
  1. See whether two things are compared.
  2. Find whether the two things are dissimilar/unlike.
  3. Figure out whether the objects are implicitly compared.
  4. Notice whether the comparison is made without “like”, “as”, “than” or “as if”.

 Techniques for Determining a Metaphor (adapted from: )

Functions of Metaphors

Metaphors are abundantly used in all types of literature, whether it is poetry or prose. But its use is not merely restricted to literature only; rather it is extensively used in everyday conversations. The function of metaphor is as under:
  • Metaphors create a text more interesting as the readers get much opportunity to use their creativity to grasp the writer’s intent.
  • Metaphors can make the relatively plain characters and events of a literary work more lively and realistic.

Differences between Metaphors and Similes

Metaphor and simile should not be considered equivalent since they are different in certain respects:
  1. A metaphor makes a hidden or implicit comparison by stating two different objects as same or equal. A simile on the other hand, explicitly asserts that one thing is like another.
  2. A Metaphor makes the comparison between the two things figuratively so the reader is not able to understand the meaning by dictionary meaning. Contrariwise, in a simile the comparison between two objects are made literally as the reader can interpret the writer’s intension by dictionary meaning.

Types of Metaphors

Despite a dearth of specific yardstick a number theorists endeavoured to classify metaphors from their personal point of view. Consequently, the classification of metaphors may include but not limited to the following:
  1. Absolute Metaphor: also called paralogical metaphor or antimetaphor, a type of metaphor in which there is absolutely no connection/relation between the subject and the vehicle. Such a metaphor is often used to mislead the audience. For example: We are the eyelids of defeated caves.
  2. Conventional Metaphor: a type of metaphor which is used in everyday language and it is so common that the majority of readers are able to comprehend it.
  3. Extended Metaphor: also called conceit or sustained metaphor, where a single metaphor is used and the comparison is continued throughout several sentences in a poem.
  4. Root Metaphor: a root metaphor is rooted or embedded within a language to such an extent that the native speakers often fail to distinguish it as a metaphor. Nonetheless, root metaphors are important since different metaphors stem from them. Root metaphors basically encapsulate an individual’s perception of a particular situation.
  5. Mixed Metaphor: when two or more contrary metaphors occur in a same sentence to develop a single idea is called a mixed metaphor. A mixed metaphor is not well structured and the comparison is often confusing and comical.
  6. Simple Metaphor: also called tight metaphor, a type of metaphor which suggests a single point of resemblance between the tenor and the vehicle. For example: Alice is an angel.
  7. Compound Metaphor: also called loose metaphor, which suggests several points of similarity. In such metaphor, each part signifies an additional point of meaning in order to surprise the reader again and again. The parts often comprise adverbs and adjectives.
  8. Complex Metaphor: a complex metaphor is one in which a secondary metaphor is layered over a simple metaphor.
  9. Active Metaphor: also known as live metaphor, which is relatively new and has not yet been established as a linguistic component in everyday speech. Such a metaphor is not obvious to all listeners and remains in obscurity unless used in appropriate context.
  10. Dead Metaphor: also known as frozen metaphor, extinct metaphor is one which has lost its power to startle the listener due to overuse. Nowadays these types of metaphors exist in the vocabulary as ordinary words since their original meaning has been lost. Some theorists suggest two other states of dead metaphor:
a. Dormant Metaphor: this is a temporarily inactive metaphor since we use it without being conscious of its metaphorical significance.
b. Dying Metaphor: A dying metaphor is one which is in the process of becoming a cliché owing to extensive usage. In time its original meaning will be extinct.

Drawbacks of Metaphor

Although metaphors play a vital role to make a text interesting, sometimes it may do quite the opposite. Firstly, the reader may find a metaphor uninteresting if the analogy is too vague to comprehend. Lastly, the analogy made by metaphors is never precise; rather it is merely an approximation of the point of similarity.




“How Metaphors Work.” Changing Minds. 2014. Changing Minds. 4 August 2014

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“Metaphor.” Literary Devices. 2014. Literary Devices. 4 August 2014

“Metaphor.” Urban Dictionary. 2014. Urban Dictionary. 4 August 2014

“Metaphor.” Shmoop University. 2014. Shmoop University. 4 August 2014

“Metaphor.” EnglishClub. 2014. EnglishClub. 4 August 2014

 “The Fifteen Types of Metaphors.” 2014. 4 August 2014

“What Are the Different Types of Metaphors?.” Wise Geek. 2014. Conjecture Corporation. 4 August 2014

August 3, 2014


Simile is a figure of speech which seeks to find some point or points of resemblance between two essentially different objects, actions, or feelings.


The term simile is from Middle English, which thought to be first used in the 14th century. It was derived from the Late Latin word similis, meaning like, similar or resembling.


In similes an object in one class is said to be like an object in another class. This juxtaposed comparison is explicitly indicated by the conjunctions such as “like” or “as”, which establishes the direct relation between the objects. The literal object which evokes the comparison is called the tenor and the object which describes it is called the vehicle.  To explain this we can consider the sentence: “Jonathan is as strong as a tiger”

Structure of Simile

In the above sentence Jonathan and tiger is from two different classes, that is, the former being a human and the latter being a feline. Here Jonathan is the tenor, while tiger is the vehicle. In this construct Jonathan’s physical strength is being compared to the strength of a tiger, but not that he is a real tiger. Therefore, here we have basically drawn the point of similarity on the point of strength.
Exception in Similes
The majority of English teachers maintain that a simile is always formed by either “like” or “as”. But it should be noted that although very common, similes are not always formed by “like” or “as”. This is because, there are some similes which are made with “than” and “as if”. For instance:
  • In the eyes of his fans he is larger than life.
  • He was crying as if he were mad.
Besides, still there are some instances where a simile is made without “like”, “as”, “than” or “as if”.  For example:
“Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:”
(William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18)

Determinants of Similes

Similes pose greater problems for lay readers. Most often they confuse similes with metaphors. Although there are no definite rules, one can follow the under- mentioned steps to determine whether a simile is present in a text or sentence:
  1. See whether two things are compared.
  2. Find whether the two things are dissimilar/unlike.
  3. Figure out whether the objects are explicitly compared.
  4. Notice whether conjunctions such as “like”, “as”, “than” or “as if” is used.

Techniques for Determining a Simile

Function of Similes

The use of similes is not merely restricted to literary works; rather its presence is very common in our everyday life as well. Generally, similes are employed in order to achieve the following plus points:
  1. Similes make a text more enjoyable  and creative since the reader gets immense opportunity to use his imaginative power to comprehend what is being conveyed by the poet.
  2. Similes make the poet’s language more vivid or descriptive.
  3. Similes restrict the poet from using illogical comparison.
  4. Through the use of similes the poet can change his tone of voice in a wide variety of ways, ranging from humorous, grave, spiteful, etc.
  5. Similes inspire life-like quality in our daily talks and in the characters of fiction or poetry.

Differences between Similes and Metaphors

Although many people argue that there is little difference between similes and metaphors, in reality these two are dissimilar in a number of respect:
  1. A simile is where two objects are explicitly compared by using “as”, “like”, “than” or “as if”. A metaphor, on the other hand, also compares two things but without using “as”, “like”, “than” or “as if” and the comparison between the two things is implicit or implied, rather than being specifically stated.
  2. Similes state that the two objects share a common feature, whereas metaphors state that the two objects are the same or equal.
  3. In a simile the comparison between two objects are made literally as the reader can interpret the writer’s intension by dictionary meaning. Contrariwise, a Metaphor makes the comparison between the two entities figuratively, that is the reader is not able to understand the meaning by dictionary meaning.
  4. Although similes and metaphors are generally seen as interchangeable, similes are more tentative and decorative than metaphor.

Types of Similes

1. Everyday Speech Similes
A Simile in everyday speech is different than that of a simile used in literature. In daily communication similes are structured based on common domestic objects, for example:
  • He is sharp like a knife
  • She cries like a baby
  • His brain works like a computer
  • She is as tall as a palm tree
  • He is as brave as a tiger
  • He is as chubby as a pumpkin
2. Literary Similes
A simile in literature, on the other hand, is not as simple as the one used in everyday speech. In literature similes could be specific and direct or more lengthy and complex, for example:
"Her face was shining like the seat of a bus driver's trousers."
(P.G. Wodehouse, “Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit”, 1954)
"A sickly light, like yellow tinfoil, was slanting over the high walls into the jail yard."
(George Orwell, "A Hanging", 1931)
"She dealt with moral problems as a cleaver deals with meat."
(James Joyce, "The Boarding House", 1914)
3. Negative Similes
Although the majority of similes are structured with positive comparison, a negative comparison is also possible, for instance:
'My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;'
(William Shakespeare, “Sonnet 130”, 1609)
4. Overlapped Similes
A simile may incorporate other figures of speech such as hyperbole, understatement, imagery, or irony. For example, the following simile consists of a hyperbole:
  • My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
5. Homeric or Epic Similes
Epic similes are a type of extended comparisons, usually comparing a character or action to a natural event, running to several lines. Such similes are typically used in epic poems. Epic simile is also called Homeric simile as the Attic author used it in his famous epics Iliad and the Odyssey. The employment of epic simile not only intensifies the heroic stature of the subject matter but also serves as decoration. Typical Homeric simile makes a comparison to some kind of event, in the form "like” or “as”. The object of the comparison is usually something strange or unfamiliar to something ordinary and familiar.
“I drove my weight on it from above and bored it home
like a shipwright bores his beam with a shipwright's drill
that men below, whipping the strap back and forth, whirl
and the drill keeps twisting, never stopping –
So we seized our stake with it fiery tip
and bored it round and round in the giant's eye...”
(Homer, “The Odyssey” , 700 b.c.e.)
Epic similes sometimes involve multiple points of correspondence between the tenor and the vehicle. For example:
“Incenst with indignation Satan stood
Unterrifi'd, and like a Comet burn'd,
That fires the length of Ophiucus huge
In th' Artick Sky, and from his horrid hair
Shakes Pestilence and Warr. Each at the Head
Level'd his deadly aime; thir fatall hands
No second stroke intend, and such a frown
Each cast at th' other, as when two black Clouds
With Heav'ns Artillery fraught, come rattling on
Over the Caspian, then stand front to front
Hov'ring a space, till Winds the signal blow
To joyn thir dark Encounter in mid air:
So frownd the mighty Combatants, that Hell
Grew darker at thir frown, so matcht they stood...”
(John Milton, “Paradise Lost”, 1667)



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“Simile.” Faculty of English. 2011. Faculty of English, University of Cambridge. 14 July 2014

June 1, 2014

Toni Morrison, an American novelist, editor, and professor.
Toni Morrison

  • Full Name: Toni Morrison
  • Birth Name: Chloe Anthony Wofford
  • Alias: Toni
  • Born: February 18th 1931
  • Astrological Sign: Aquarius
  • Place of Birth:Lorain, Ohio, United States of America
  • Father: George Wofford (?1908-1975)
  • Mother: Ella Ramah Wofford (née Willis) (?1906-1994)
  • Siblings: an elder sister: Lois (b. 1929) and two younger brothers, George Carl Wofford (b. 1935) and Raymond Allen Wofford (b. 1943)
  • Marriage: 1958
  • Spouse: Harold Morrison (b. 1932)
  • Number of Children: 2 sons: Harold Ford Morrison (b. 1961); Kevin Slade Morrison (1964-2010)
  • Education:  Cornell University, Howard University
  • Known for:her compassionate observation of the black community, revealing its struggle, its suffering
  • Criticised for: NA
  • Influences: William Faulkner, Herman Melville, James Baldwin, Doris Lessing, Octavia E. Butler, Bell hooks, Christopher Barzak
  • Influenced: Junot Díaz, Homi K. Bhabha, Tracy Chevalier, Mohsin Hamid, Octavia E. Butler, Bell hooks, David Anthony Durham, Christopher Barzak


“It's a marvelous beginning. It's a real renaissance. You know, we have spoken of renaissances before. But this one is ours, not somebody else's.” Essence, Interview

Major Themes:

  • Cultural heritage of African Americans
  • Slavery
  • African American women
  • Relationship between the individual and society

Memorable Characters:

The Bluest Eye
  • Pecola Breedlove
  • Cholly Breedlove
  • Soaphead Church (alias Elihue Micah Whitcomb)
  • Sula Peace
  • Chicken Little
  • Shadrack
Song of Solomon
  • Macon “Milkman”
  • Pilate Dead
  • Guitar Bains
  • Baby Suggs
  • Sethe
  • Beloved

Notable Works:

  • The Bluest Eye (1970)
  • Sula (1973)
  • Song of Solomon (1977)
  • Tar Baby (1981)
  • Beloved (1987)
  • Jazz (1992)
  • Paradise (1999)
  • The Big Box (1999)
  • The Book of Mean People (2002)
  • Love (2003)
  • A Mercy (2008)
  • Home (2012)


  • National Book Critics Circle Award (1977)
  • American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award (1977)
  • Honorary degree, Barnard College (1979)
  • Pulitzer Prize (1988)
  • American Book Award (1988)
  • Robert F. Kennedy Book Award (1987-88)
  • Anisfield Wolf Book Award in Race Relations (1988)
  • Modern Language Association of American Commonwealth Award in Literature (1989)
  • Nobel Prize in Literature (1993)
  • Commander of the Arts and Letters, Paris (1993)
  • Rhegium Julii Prize for Literature (1994)
  • Condorcet Medal, Paris (1994)
  • The Pearl Buck Award (1994)
  • Jefferson Lecture (1996)
  • National Book Foundation's Medal of Distinguished Contribution to American Letters (1996)
  • National Humanities Medal (2000)
  • Honorary degree, Oxford University (2005)

Media Gallery:

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison

Did you Know?

  • Morrison’s father, George Wofford, worked primarily as a shipyard welder, but he held several jobs at once to support the family.
  • Her mother, Ramah, was a domestic worker.
  • She was the second child and the second girl to Wofford family.
  • Her parents moved to Ohio in order to keep their children aloof from the racist environment of the South. In Ohio Morrison grew up playing with a racially diverse group of friends. However, she began to experience racial discrimination during her teenage.
  • She changed her name to Toni because people at Howard had trouble pronouncing the name Chloe.
  • These days she is known as Toni Morrison, which is a mix of the college nickname and her married name.
  • Even after her divorce she continued to use her former husband’s last name.
  • In 1964 Morrison married the Jamaican architect Harold Morrison; the couple got divorced in 1964.
  • Morrison’s younger son Slade died on December 22, 2010 at the age of 45.
  • Morrison attended Hawthorne Elementary School, where she was the only African American in her 1st grade classroom.
  • Morrison learned to read at an early age and she was the only student at Hawthorne Elementary School to begin school with the ability to read. Morrison was so competent that she was often asked to help other students learn to read. She frequently worked with the children of new immigrants to America.
  • Morrison’s works were largely influenced by music and folktales of the black community, which she was introduced by her parents, specially her father.
  • Tony Morrison is the first black woman to receive the Nobel Prize.
  • Her first novel The Bluest Eye (1970) was an expansion of an earlier short story.
  • In 1975 her novel Sula (1973) was nominated for the National Book Award.
  • Her most successful novel is Beloved (1987). When the novel failed to win the National Book Award as well as the National Book Critics Circle Award, 48 black critics and writers protested the omission. Shortly afterward, it won the Pulitzer Prize (1988) for fiction and the American Book Award.
  • 1998 Beloved was adapted into a film starring Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover.
  • Although Morrison’s novels chiefly centre around black women, she disinclined to label her works as feminist.
  • Morrison also co-authored several books for children with her son Slade, which include Big Box (1999), and Little Cloud and Lady Wind (2010).
  • Since childhood Morrison was an avid reader and the circle of her favorite authors includes Jane Austen and Leo Tolstoy.
  • At present Morrison stands amongst the most critically acclaimed living writers.
  • Even though Morrison infuses her work with African-American elements, she was able to attract a reading audience from across racial boundaries.



 “Biography of Toni Morrison.” GradeSaver. 2014. GradeSaver LLC. 27 May 2014

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 “Toni Morrison.” Microsoft Encarta. DVD-ROM. Redmond: Microsoft,2005.

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“Toni Morrison.” Evi. 2014. Evi Technologies Ltd. 27 May 2014

 “Toni Morrison Biography.” Biography. 2014. A&E Television Networks, LLC. 27 May 2014

Visionaryproject. "Nobel Prize Winner Saul Bellow Reads His Fiction." Online video clip.
YouTube, 16 March 2012. Web. 27 May 2014.

May 4, 2014


The subcategories of sounds, such as frictionless continuants, semi vowels/ glides are grouped together in the larger category named approximants. The term ‘approximant’ was first used by the English-American linguist and phonetician Peter Ladefoged in 1964 in his Phonetic Study of West African Languages. The phoneticians are still divided in their opinion whether to classify the approximant sounds as vowels or consonants. Generally, approximants are produced  by bringing the articulators into closer contact or approximation but not quite close enough to create air turbulence and audible friction. Therefore, approximants fall between fricatives, which do produce a turbulent airstream, and vowels, which produce no turbulence.


There are three approximants in English: /w/, /j/, /r/. They are generally described on three bases:
(1) Place/Point of Articulation
The place of articulator refers to the place or point where the speech organs create a closure by either coming close or near contact. This is the place where the sound is produced. There are three types of closure producing the approximant sounds:

i. Labio-velar
ii. Palatal
iii. Post-alveolar
(2) Manner of Articulation
The manner of articulation refers to how the articulators approach to each other to create a closure. It also determines the type and degree of hindrance the airflow meets on its way out affected by the closure. The closure adopts different manners for different sounds. For instance, during the articulation of the approximant sounds the following sequence of events occurs:

i. The active articulator moves towards its target/passive articulator and narrows the vocal tract slightly.
ii. The soft palate is raised to shut off the nasal passage of air.
iii. The air from the lungs comes out through the gap between the active and the passive articulators without friction.
 (3) Voicing/Phonation
Voicing refers to whether or not the vocal folds are vibrating. If the vocal folds vibrate during the articulation then a voiced sound is produced. Contrariwise, if the vocal folds do not vibrate then a voiceless sound is produced. Some phoneticians use the terms Lenis and Fortis to describe the voiced and voiceless sounds respectively. Generally, all approximants are voiced sounds.

Approximants at a Glance

The approximant sounds can be summarized in the following table:

Place/Point of Articulation
Manner of Articulation

Detailed Description of Approximants

/w/- Labio-velar Semi Vowel
Place of Articulation: The soft palate and the back of the tongue. The position of the articulators for this sound is shown in the following illustration:

 Labio-velar Semi Vowel

Manner of Articulation: During the articulation of /w/ the soft palate is raised to completely shut off the nasal passage of air. The back of the tongue is raised in the direction of the soft palate to the position for a vowel between close and half close and the lips are rounded. Then the tongue quickly glides towards the position of the following vowel. The position of the lips also changes depending upon the immediately following vowel. It is thus a voiced rounded labio-velar semi vowel. It is called labio-velar semi vowel since it always has lip-rounding.

Voicing: During the articulation of /w/ the vocal folds vibrate, hence it is a voiced labio-velar semi vowel.

Spellings: /w/ is represented by:
  • the letter “w” as in west
  • the letters “wh” as in why
  • the letter “q” or “gu” as in queen, language
  • the words, such as one, once, suit also have the sounds of /w/
Distribution: /w/ can occur initially and medially, for instance:

Initial Medial Final
/w/ wet queen -
/j/- Palatal Semi Vowel
Place of Articulation: The front of the tongue, the hard palate, and the soft palate. The position of the articulators for this sound is shown in the following illustration:

Palatal Semi Vowel

Manner of Articulation: During the articulation of /j/ the front of the tongue is first raised towards the hard palate and assumes a position for a vowel between close and half-close and quickly glides to the position of the following vowel. The soft palate is raised to shut off the nasal passage of the air. The air goes along the central part of the tongue. The lips are normally spread or neutral. It is thus an unrounded palatal semi vowel.

Voicing: During the articulation of /j/ the vocal folds are kept together and are vibrating, hence it is a voiced palatal semi vowel.

Spellings: /j/ is represented by the letter “y” as in yard, beyond, yellow. The letters “u”, “eau”, “ue”, “ew”, “iew” as in unit, beauty, due, dew, view.

Distribution: /w/ can occur initially and medially, for instance:

Initial Medial Final
/w/ yes beyond -
/r/- Frictionless Continuant
Place of Articulation: The tip of the tongue and the alveolar ridge. The position of the articulators for this sound is shown in the following illustration:

Frictionless Continuant

Manner of Articulation: During the articulation of /r/ the tip of the tongue is raised in a position near to but not touching the back part of the alveolar ridge. The soft palate is raised so as to shut off the nasal passage of the air. The air from the lungs comes out through the gap between the tip of the tongue and the post-alveolar region without any friction. It is thus a post-alveolar frictionless continuant. /r/ is generally referred to as alveolar sound but it is much more appropriate to call it post-alveolar, since it is slightly further back than that of the other alveolar sounds.

Voicing: During the articulation of /r/ the vocal folds vibrate, hence it is a voiced frictionless continuant.

Spellings: /r/ (written as /ɹ/ in IPA) is generally represented by the letter “r”. /r/ has different ways of being articulated in English depending on the speaker.  For instance, in R.P. it occurs only before vowel sounds, such as red, run, dry, trial. /r/ is not pronounced in other positions, such as garden, early, jerk, etc.

Distribution: In R.P. /r/ can occur initially and medially, but only before a vowel sound, for instance:

Initial Medial Final
/r/ rain bright -


Roach, Peter. English Phonetics and Phonology: A self-contained, comprehensive pronunciation course.
3rd ed. Cambridge: CUP, 2000.

Varshney, Dr. R.L.  An Introduction of Linguistics & Phonetics. Dhaka: BOC, n.d. 98-101.

Yule, George. The Study of Language. 2nd ed. Cambridge: CUP, 1996. 46-47.

“Approximant.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2013. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. 28 April 2014

“Introduction to American English Approximant Sounds.” Pronuncian. 2011. Seattle Learning Academy.
28 April 2014 <>.

“Learn Good Manners.” The Mimic Method. 2014. The Mimic Method. 28 April 2014

Mannel, Robert.“ Articulation of Approximants.” Macquarie University. 2009. Macquarie University.
28 April 2014<>.

March 1, 2014

Saul Bellow, Canadian-born American author of fiction and essays, and the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, who is widely regarded by many as one of the major representatives of the Jewish-American writers.
  • Full Name: Saul Bellow
    Saul Bellow Quick Facts
  • Birth Name: Solomon Bellows
  • Nick Name: Sollie
  • Birth: 10 June 1915
  • Place of Birth: Lachine, Quebec, Canada
  • Death: 5 April 2005
  • Place of Death: Brookline, Massachusetts, United States
  • Cause of Death: Unknown
  • Buried: Morningside Cemetery, Brattleboro, Windham County, Vermont, United States
  • Father: Abraham Bellows
  • Mother: Lescha (Liza) Bellow s (née Gordin)
  • Siblings: Jane Zelda Kauffman, Maurice Bellows, Samuel G. Bellows
  • Spouse: Anita Goshkin (1937–1956), Alexandra (Sondra) Tschacbasov (1956–1959), Susan Glassman (1961–1964), Alexandra Bagdasar Ionescu Tulcea (1974–1985), Janis Freedman (1989–2005)
  • Number of Children: 3 sons: Gregory Bellow (1944), Adam Abraham Bellow  (1957), Daniel Oscar Bellow (1964), and 1 daughter: Naomi Rose Bellow (1999)
  • Education: Northwestern University, University of Chicago, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Known for: the human understanding and subtle analysis of contemporary culture that are combined in his work
  • Criticised for: his conventional and old-fashioned works which resemble the 19th-century European novel
  • Influences: William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Anton Chekhov, Marcel Proust, Miguel de Cervantes
  • Influenced: Salman Rushdie, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Joseph Conrad, Philip Roth


“Happiness can only be found if you can free yourself of all other distractions.”  Saul Bellow

Major Themes:

  • Jewish life and identity
  • Blemishes of Modern Civilization
  • Analysis of contemporary culture
  • Oedipal conflict
  • Gender
  • Race

Famous Characters:

  • Augie March
  • Moses E. Herzog
  • Arthur Sammler
  • Charlie Citrine

Notable Works:

  • Dangling Man (1944)
  • The Victim (1947)
  • Augie March (1953)
  • Seize the Day (1956)
  • Henderson and the Rain King (1959)
  • Herzog (1964)
  • Mosby's Memoirs (1968)
  • Mr. Sammler's Planet (1970)
  • Humboldt's Gift (1975)
  • To Jerusalem and Back (1976)
  • The Dean's December (1982)
  • Him with His Foot in His Mouth (short stories, also available in Collected Stories) (1984)
  • More Die of Heartbreak (1987)
  • A Theft (1989)
  • The Bellarosa Connection (1989)
  • Something To Remember Me By (1991)
  • It All Adds Up (1994)
  • The Actual (1997)
  • Ravelstein (2000)
  • Collected Stories (2001)
  • To Jerusalem and Back (1976)
  • It All Adds Up (1994)

Media Gallery:

Saul Bellow
Saul Bellow
Saul Bellow
Saul Bellow
Saul Bellow with his Wife Janis Freedman and Daughter Naomi Rose Bellow
Saul Bellow with His Third Son Daniel Bellow
Saul Bellow with his Wife Janis Freedman
Saul Bellow with Daughter Naomi Rose Bellow

Did you Know?

His original birth certificate was lost when Lachine's city hall burned down in the 1920s, but Bellow customarily celebrated his birth date on June 10, although he may have been born in July

Bellow's father was an onion importer who also worked in a bakery, as a coal delivery man, and as a bootlegger

His mother passed away when he was only 17 years old

Bellow was raised in an impoverished, polyglot section of Montreal, full of Russians, Poles, Ukrainians, Greeks, and Italians

He was very fluent in multiple languages, such as English, French, Hebrew, and Yiddish at an early age

Bellow’s parents immigrated from Russia to Montreal, Canada in 1913

His family moved to Chicago in 1924 after his father was almost beaten to death because of his dealings with questionable people

Bellow’s mother was very pious so she wanted him to become a rabbi

After his mother’s demise Bellow moved away from religious study and began to read a wide variety of books

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Bellow tried to enlist in the Army, but was rejected because he suffered from hernia

Bellow was married five times, but except for the last one all ended in divorce

During his life Bellow allegedly had a number of mistresses

During his fifth marriage in 1989, his bride Janis Freedman was 31 and Bellow was 74 years old

Bellow became the father of his last child, Naomi when he was 84 years old

He died in his residence in Brookline, Massachusetts, United States at the age of 89

He was an avid reader and his desire to read was further developed when he faced many different illnesses that kept him indoors

At first Bellow decided to study literature but when he was warned that many universities would not hire Jewish professors to teach the subject, he opted to graduate with an honours degree in anthropology instead

Bellow’s study of anthropology deeply influenced his literary style

Bellow attained first critical success in his career with the publication of The Adventures of Augie March (1953) for which he received the National Book Award

Bellow received Pulitzer Prize (1975), the Nobel Prize (1976), and the National Medal of Arts (1988) for his unequivocal contribution in literature

Bellow is the only writer to secure the National Book Award for Fiction three times

His Humboldt's Gift (1975) earned him the Pulitzer Prize as well as Noble Prize for literature

Although he was bookish by nature, he worked hard at his physical fitness and lived for optimum health

Bellow worked as an editor for the Encyclopedia Britannica from 1943 to 1944

Even though Bellow identified deeply with the city of Chicago, he often kept his distance from the city's conventional writers

In 1995 Bellow nearly died after eating poisonous fish in the Caribbean

In the year 2000 he was recognized with a lifetime achievement award from the New Yorker


“Biography of Saul Bellow.” GradeSaver. 2014. GradeSaver LLC. 24 February 2014

HoCoPoLitSo. "Nobel Prize Winner Saul Bellow Reads His Fiction." Online video clip.
YouTube. YouTube, 16 March 2012. Web. 24 February 2014.

 “Saul Bellow”. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2014. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
24 February 2014 <>.

“Saul Bellow.” Wikipedia. 2014. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 24 February 2014

“Saul Bellow, Nobel Prize in Literature 1976.” Geni. 2014. 24 February 2014
“Saul Bellow.” Evi. 2014. Evi Technologies Ltd. 24 February 2014

“Saul Bellow.” 2014. HighBeam™ Research, Inc. 24 February 2014

“Saul Bellow Biography.” Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2014.
Advameg, Inc. 24 February 2014

February 15, 2014


Diglossia, (also called linguistic duality) is a language situation in which two different varieties of the same language are used in different social contexts or for performing different functions by the same speakers. Trudgill (1995) defined the term as under:

“Diglossia is a particular kind of language standardization where two distinct varieties of a language exist side by side throughout the speech community … and where each of the two varieties is assigned a definite social function”.

Origin of the Term

The Greek word diglossos wasfirst introduced by Emmanuel (also Emmanouil)Rhoides (also Roidis) in the prologue of his Parerga in 1885. In the following year the term was transliterated into French as diglossie by the French philologist of Greek descent Ioannis (also Jean; Yannis) Psycharis (also Psichari) in his Essais de Grammaire Historique Néo-Grecque, citing Rhoides. Subsequently, in 1959 the American sociolinguist Charles A. Ferguson coined the English counterpart diglossia on the pattern of the French term.

Historical Background

With the publication of his famous article “Diglossia” in Word journal in 1959, Charles A. Ferguson introduced a novel idea into sociolinguistic literature. It was later implicitly extended by John J. Gumperz in 1964 and explicitly in 1967 by Joshua A. Fishman. Fishman’s ideas were further extended by Ralph Fasold in 1985.

As Ferguson is the first contributor to describe this notion, his definition of diglossia is considered to be the classic or narrow version, especially in view of the later modifications to the concept proposed by Fishman (1967). The post-1959 researches on diglossia, particularly by Fishman entailed a broad or extended version of definition.
Classic Diglossia
Ferguson defined Diglossia in the following way:

 “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 section of the community for ordinary conversation.”

Pursuant to Ferguson’s apprehension, diglossia prevails in communities where two varieties of the same language are used for different functions and in different contexts. Ferguson labelled these varieties as under:
  1. High Variety (H variety), and
  2.  Low Variety (L variety).
He elaborated his theory mainly based on the following language pairs:

Situations High Variety Low Variety
Arabic Classical Arabic Colloquial Varieties of Arabic
Swiss German Standard German Swiss German
Haitian Standard French Haitian Creole
Greek Katharevousa Dhimotiki
Characteristics of Classic Diglossia
In order to fully explain the concept, Ferguson explained some typical characteristics or criteriafor determining diglossia:
  1. Function: Diglossia is not merely the alternate usage of a standard language and its variety, rather it is the use of two distinct varieties in a speech community each with a clearly defined role. In true diglossic situations H is used in for writing, formal speech and education while L is used for everyday interaction. For example, he mentioned about the Arabic speaking countries, where there is a High variety and a Low one of the same language fulfilling different functions in society.
  2. Prestige: It is concerned with the attitude of the speakers towards the varieties. Typically the H variety enjoys superiority over the L variety, as the latter is believed to be inferior in a number of respects. The speakers proficient in the H variety may tend to avoid using the L variety with foreigners and may even deny its existence, even though the latter is far more frequently used than the former. For instance, in Arabic communities, if a speaker is not fluent in H he is considered as ignorant of Arabic. This discrimination has arrived from the notion that the H variety is more prestigious since it is more grand, logical, and expressive than the L variety. For this reason, the H variety is deemed to be the appropriate variety for literary use, for religious purposes, and so on.
  3. Literary Heritage: H usually has a long literary tradition and is used in writing. In most diglossic languages, the literature is all in H variety .
  4. Acquisition: The L variety is learnt naturally at home whereas the H variety is taught via schooling.
  5. Standardization: It is predominantly associated with the H variety since it has well established norms for orthography, grammar and pronunciation. In H variety the Grammars and dictionaries are written by the native grammarians. L is rarely standardized. The Grammars of the L variety are usually written by foreigners.
  6. Stability: Diglossia is a highly stable phenomenon and can last several hundreds of years. For instance, diglossia in Arab countries has survived for centuries. H and L borrow from one another. The L varieties displace the H variety, but H only displaces L if H is the mother tongue of an elite.
  7. Grammar: H and L have two different grammatical structures. The grammars of H are more complex than the grammars of the L variety. The H variety has a complex morphology, tense systems, gender systems, agreement, and syntax than the L variety. Cases and verb inflections are reduced in L.
  8. Lexicon: Much of the vocabulary of the two varieties is shared.  However, the H variety includes in its lexicon technical terms and expressions which have no L variety equivalents. The L variety includes in its lexicon popular expressions and some nouns which are absent in the H variety.
  9. Phonology: There are two phonological systems. The phonology of H is more complex. H has usually underlying phonological system while L diverges from this system in the course of development of thousands of years.
Extended Diglossia
In 1967 the American sociolinguist Joshua A. Fishman attempted to redefine and extend Ferguson’s classical idea of diglossia in his article “Bilingualism With and Without Diglossia; Diglossia With and Without Bilingualism” in Journal of Social Issues. Fishman maintained Ferguson’s concept of H and L varieties to characterize the functional difference between them. But he slightly altered his predecessor’s definition to encompass domains more relevant to separate languages that are both used in a spoken form. According to Fishman H variety is used for most written and formal spoken purposes and it is related to and supported by educational, governmental, social and religious institutions. This variety is typically codified and standardized. On the contrary, the L variety is used in unofficial, informal, and private usage. These are generally mother tongues and learnt at home and are used in everyday conversation within the immediate community.

For Fishman, diglossia is: “the stable existence of two or more complementary and non-conflicting idioms used for contact within the same group. Diglossia exists, therefore, when one language is reserved for certain domains and one or more other languages are reserved for other domains...”
Difference Between Classical and Extended Diglossia
Fishman’s version of diglossia differed from Ferguson’s to the following extent:

Firstly, the degree of relationship between the languages or language varieties: Fishman’s view differed from Ferguson’s with regard to the number of languages to be considered. Ferguson’s original formulation explicitly pointed out that diglossia should be confined within two verities. But Fishman argued that diglossia could be also traced in situations with more than two linguistic varieties.

Secondly, the nature of functional differentiation: Ferguson argued that diglossia engenders in multilingual societies within two closely related verities of the same language. Contrariwise, Fishman claimed that diglossic situation may include completely separate languages along with dialects or registers that were reserved for specific social functions. In his words:

 “diglossia exists not only in multilingual societies which officially recognize several ‘languages’, or societies that utilize vernacular and classical varieties, but also in societies which employ separate dialects, registers, or functionally differentiated language varieties of whatever kind” (1972).

Kinds of Diglossia

In his revision, Fishman also attempted to categorize diglossia in number of situations. Following his steps many other linguists also endeavoured to revise and sub-categorize the concept. In his article, Fishman investigated the relationship between individual bilingualism and diglossia with the result being represented as a typology of bilingualism/diglossia combinations:

Kinds of Extended Diglossia
  1. Both diglossia and bilingualism: a situation when almost everyone in the community knows both H and L, and the two varieties are distributed in a manner typical of diglossia. Fishman recognized this as the only stable combination.
  2. Bilingualism without diglossia: refers to communities with a large number of bilingual individuals, but where there is no functional distinction between language varieties.
  3. Diglossia without bilingualism: a situation when there exist two disjunct groups within a single political, religious, and/or economic entity; one is a ruling group who speaks only the H language, the other, normally a larger group, has no power in the society and speaks exclusively the L language.
  4. Neither diglossia nor bilingualism: a hypothetical situation when a small linguistically isolated community does not have any sort of functional differentiation or societal bilingualism.
So far the name (i.e. ‘diglossia’) suggests, Ferguson’s sole motto was to restrict the distribution of diglossia to only two language varieties. Even Ferguson (1991) himself clarified that his original formulation of diglossia was not meant to encompass all instances of multilingualism or functional differentiation of languages. Therefore, the post-Fergusonian efforts to extend diglossia were futile to some extent.

Fishman’s re-conceptualization of diglossia somewhat complicated the original notion since he deviated from the binarity of diglossia. Many linguists found it illogical to ascribe the term diglossia to communities which uses more than two languages for distinct functions. Consequently, in course of time the term polyglossia (also called heteroglossia) was coined to describe complex diglossic situations prevalent in the different countries of the world. Again, various linguists have suggested different terminologies for categorization of polyglossias, including Ralph Fasold (1984). Fasold expanded Fishman’s ideas even further. First, he argued that there could exist several diglossic communities sharing the same H, thus explaining the relationship between diglossia and standard versus dialect variation.

He also resolved the problem of binarity in Fishman’s and Ferguson’s definitions by explaining multi-language differentiation with the existence of essentially binary double overlapping and double-nested diglossias. However, Fasold also identified one non-binary situation of linear polyglossia. Here follows a brief description of his observations:

1.   Double overlapping diglossia (also called triglossia): It is the intersection between two developing diglossic situations. This is a situation where three discrete languages have different roles in individual communities, and where each of the three languages has distinct but interrelated functions. Eastman (1983) defines it as under:

“Triglosssia is a situation in which three languages have some complementary functions in certain contexts”.

According to Abdulaziz Mkilifi (1978), in Tanzania there is an intersection between Swahili and some vernaculars and the other involving Swahili and English. Here, Swahili is both a L variety and H variety depending on the context. For example in rural communities Swahili is H and the Vernaculars is L, whereas in urban communities English is H and Swahili is L:

Double overlapping diglossia in Tanzania

2.   Double nested diglossia: It is the existence of sub-diglossic situations within the major diglossic situations with distinction in varieties of a language (or languages) and their functions. More specifically, double nested diglossia is a situation where within the H and L varieties a higher and lower H and a higher and lower L variety can be distinguished. In 1964, John Gumperz identified double nested diglossia, where, Hindi H is the formal national language, Khalapur L is a local dialect, each of which has a High and Low variety of its own. There are low - conversational Hindi and Moti boli Khalapur, and high - Oratorical Hindi and Saf boli Khalapur, varieties within both languages; so that the high/low within each of the languages is nested within high/low between Hindi and Khalapur:

Double Nested Diglossia in Khalapur, India

3.   Linear polyglossia: This is applicable for a community with more complex speech repertoire. Such a situation could be only represented as orderly choices amongst a list of linear possibilities. Therefore, linear polyglossia refers to the order of choice of language from a linguistic repertoire. The sequence includes one or more High varieties, one or more Medium varieties, and one or more Low varieties. According to Platt(1977) this situation is best manifested in Singapore and Malaysia. The following is an example from Malaysia:

Language Status
Formal Malaysian English H1
Bahasa Malaysian H2
Mandarin DH
Colloquial Malaysian English M1
Dominant Chinese language M2
‘Native’ Chinese language L1
Other Chinese languages L2-Ln
Bazaar Malay L- -

Broad Diglossia

Ralph Fasold’s idea of broad diglossia not only formalized Fishman’s notion of extended diglossia but also confirmed the place of Ferguson’s classic definition of diglossia. After a close analysis of various diglossic models, Fasold concluded that diglossia requires not only separate languages, rather style-shifting and other functional variations as well. In addition, his conclusion made it clear that since style-shifting involves the whole set of varying linguistic alternatives from colloquial to formal, it cannot be represented in a binary form and, consequently, binarity cannot be an absolute criteria for determining diglossia. Fasold (1984) defined broad diglossia in the following way:

Broad Diglossia “is the reservation of highly valued segments of a community’s linguistic repertoire (which are not the first to be learned, but are learned later and more consciously, usually through formal education), for situations perceived as more formal and guarded; and the reservation of less highly valued segments (which are learned first with little or no conscious effort), of any degree of linguistic relatedness to the higher valued segments, from stylistic differences to separate languages, for situations perceived as more informal and intimate”.

On the basis of this definition Fasold then distinguished three subtypes of broad diglossia, according to the degree of relatedness between the languages or language varieties involved:
  1. Classic Diglossia: a type of diglossia which exists whenever divergent dialects can befound;
  2. Superposed Bilingualism: it refers to functional differentiation ofseparate languages;
  3. Style Shifting: this takes place in the case of stylistic differencesbetween varieties.

Diglossic Stability

Although diglossia is deemed to be stable it may become unstable for a number of reasons. The stability of Diglossia could be determined by evaluating two negating criteria:
  1. Language Maintenance: it refers to the stable preference of the use of a particular language/variety as the means of communication by the speakers of a language community.
  2. Language Shift: it to refers to the adoption of a new language/variety by the collective speakers of a language community. Language shift may occur for number of reasons, such as existence of bilingualism during several generations, migration, industrialization, urbanization, modernization, educational and other government decree, decline in speaker population, and changes in language prestige.

Diglossias at a Glance

The following table summarizes the major differences among three types of diglossias:

Classic/Narrow Diglossia (Ferguson 1959) Extended Diglossia
(Fishman 1967)
Broad Diglossia
(Fasold 1984)
Number of Languages Two varieties of the same
Several separate
Any number of
varieties /languages
Linguistic Relatedness Intermediate range
of relatedness
Any degree of
Any degree of linguistic relatedness, from
separate languages to merely stylistic
Acquisition of H vs. L The H variety is never or almost never used in informal conversation, whereas everyone or at least the majority speaks the L as mother tongue Two or more L varieties are spoken as mother tongue, each of different segments of the population H is spoken natively by some,
and L is spoken natively by
Differentiation of Function H and L have separate
Different varieties are allocated to different functions Certain degree of correspondence between
functions of H and L
Stability Usually stable Usually unstable Usually unstable

Diglossic Situation in Bangladesh

Bangla (also spelt Bengali) is the official as well as the national language of Bangladesh. Bangla has two distinct varieties, each having different functions of their own:

Forms of Bangla

Written Forms of Bangla
There are two standard written forms of Bangla:
  1. Sadhu Bhasa (elegant or chaste language): also spelt Sadhubhasa, Shadhubhasha, Shadhu Bhasa, , Shuddhobhasha, a refined literary form of Bangla, which came from the archaic forms of Medieval Bangla of the 16th century. It derived much of its lexicon from Sanskrit. Sadhu Bhasa never deemed to be appropriate for everyday conversation and its use is restricted to only literary and formal contexts. Songs like Jana Gana Mana, the Indian national anthem by Rabindranath Tagore and Vande Mataram, the national song of India by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay were originally composed in Sadhu Bhasha. Today it is an obsolete form and apart from the written constitution of Bangladesh its use is limited to some government letters and notices, legal affairs, special literature, and editorials of some newspapers only.
  2. Cholito Bhasa (current or colloquial language): also spelt Cholitobhasa, Choltibhasa, Chalit Bhasa, Calitbhasa, which came into literary use since the early 20th century, and by the early 21st century it became the dominant literary language as well as the standard colloquial form of speech among the educated people. Interestingly, Cholito Bhasa is not a vernacular of any regions of Bangladesh, it is modelled on the dialect spoken in the Shantipur region in Nadia district, West Bengal. This written standard was publicized primarily by the literary giants in Kolkata, including Peary Chand Mitra, Pramatha Chowdhury, and Rabindranath Tagore (in his later works). Nowadays, it is being used as the means for formal writing (including common literature) and conversation in Bangladesh.
Spoken Forms of Bangla
The inhabitants living in different parts of Bangladesh have separate vernaculars of their own. Therefore, the vernaculars spoken in Bangladesh exist with a number of dialectal varieties. These varieties are existing as a part of a language continuum of the Indo-Aryan languages (also known as Indic languages), such as Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Bangla, Marathi, Gujrati, Bhojpuri, Chakma, and so on.

The classification of Bangla speech varieties has always been a debatable issue amongst scholars. However, depending upon various mainstream researches, typically the varieties of Bangla are classified in two groups:
  1. Ancholic Bhasa (Regional Varieties): These are the speech varieties of Bangla spoken by the Bangladeshi people for everyday communication. At present there are at least 16 regional varieties of Bangla spoken in different districts, such as Dhaka, Barisal, Bogra, Comilla, Chittagong, Sylhet,  Rajshahi, Dinajpur, Faridpur, Jessore, Khulna, Kushtia, Noakhali, Mymensingh, Pabna , and Rangpur. The regional varieties of Bangla show variation from one another at different levels, such as phonological level, morphological level, syntactic level and semantic level of their linguistic structure. This variation occurs due to a dialect continuum spanning from the region of Meherpur (formerly a subdivision of Nadia district) to regions of Southern districts, Chittagong or Khulna. Accordingly, a particular variety of Bangla in this continuum shows a deviation from its center or Nadia district on the basis of which the standard variety of Bangla was developed. As a consequence, the more distant is a particular region from Nadia, the more deviant is a speech variety of that region from the speech variety of Nadia. For instance, the varieties from Chittagong and Sylhet regions bear only a superficial resemblance to Standard Colloquial Bangla and are therefore, least intelligible to the speakers of other regional varieties. Notwithstanding, the majority of people in Bangladesh are able to communicate in more than one dialect: often, they are familiar with or fluent in Cholito Bhasa and one or more Ancholik Bhasa.
  2. Upojatiyo Bhasa (Indigenous Varieties): Apart from these regional varieties of Bangla, there are certain languages such as Chakma, Tanchangya, Hajong, Bishnupuryia, Oraon Sadri, Rajbangshi and Mal Paharia spoken by the indigenous people of Mongoloid origin. These languages of minority speech communities evolved from the vernaculars of the Tibeto-Burman origin as a result of a long contact with Apabhramsa and later regional varieties of Bangla. These aboriginal languages were mutually unintelligible to the speakers of other communities. However, these languages gradually helped to shape the regional varieties of Bangla.
Nature of Diglossia in Bangladesh
The diglossic situation in Bangladesh is much more intricate than any other cases found across the globe. As a result, the scholars face a number of problems during defining the nature of diglossic situations in Bangladesh. Up till now two contrary diglossic types have been proposed:
  1. Sadhu Bhasa and Cholito Bhasa
  2. Cholito Bhasa and  Ancholic Bhasa
Previously, many linguists preferred to restrict the diglossic situation in Bangladesh within Shadhu and Cholito pair. But it is not credible under the current socio-political context. As we have mentioned earlier, these days Shadhu Bhasa is almost non-existent in speech and creative writing and even in informal writings. Cholito variety, on the other hand, has been adopted by the majority of Bangladeshi as the standard for spoken and written communication. Due to this shift in preference of language use, a change in the language prestige has also occurred. Cholito Bhasa is as standardized as Shadhu Bhasa and has almost replaced the latter by proving its dominance in a number of domains. In this way, at present the Bangladeshi people use two separate varieties of Bangla for two distinct purposes, that is Ancholik Bhasa in everyday conversation and Cholito Bhasa in official capacities like writing, teaching and speaking at official or formal functions. Now it is a matter of debate whether Shadhu and Cholito pair is logical enough to describe diglossic situation in Bangladesh. In view of the above statement it could be said that at the moment it is more logical to describe the diglossic situation in Bangladesh involving Cholito Bhasha and Ancholic Bhasha.
Probability of  Triglossia in Bangladesh
Although the above linguistic situations are widely accepted by different scholars, still another combination is possible. This one is triglossia or double overlapping diglossia, involving the co-existence of three different languages with distinct functions of their own. Such linguistic situation could be hypothesized since Sadhu Bhasa is basically a written language while Ancholic Bhasa is chiefly a spoken language. On the contrary, Cholito Bhasa falls in between the two since it is used both as spoken and written forms. This linguistic situation could be referred to as double overlapping diglossia:

Probable triglossic situation in Bangladesh


Apparently, all of the aforementioned situations could be deemed as plausible while discussing the nature of Diglossic situations in Bangladesh. But to opt the right situation, the current socio-political context in Bangladesh should be taken into account. Without such consideration, any findings on this subject will certainly become irrelevant.




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