Semiotics 1980 pp 205-215 | Cite as


  • Michael Herzfeld


The central argument of this paper is that the linguistic formulation of “diglossia,”whereby a single language may have both literary (“H”) and vernacular (“L”) “registers,”is part of a larger semiotic phenomenon in which individuals are able to negotiate social, national, ethnic, or political boundaries through a potentially inexhaustable range of co-domains. Language, though important, is not necessarily primary in this wider phenomenon, which I propose to call disemia. Disemia is thus a higher-order concept, not only than diglossia, but also than all such models as political polarization, class-based differentiation of behavior (including kinesics and proxemics), “folk”versus “urban”culture, and the like. In Ardener ‘s (1971) sense, it is a paradigmatic structure, a category of formal social principle rather than of behavioral type.1


Behavioral Type External Consumption Political Polarization Paradigmatic Structure Wide Phenomenon 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Herzfeld
    • 1
  1. 1.Research Center for Language and Semiotic Studies Department of AnthropologyIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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