BABEL OF TERMINOLOGY
of Babel: Socio-linguistics 18:82-1989)
My very first comment
on Conrad Brann’s welcome proposal to streamline a certain set of
terms will be that he should forthwith withdraw the copyright on the
set of terms proposed by him..While such a copyright claim is quite
in consonance with the Western passion for private property rights,
it is completely out of tune with the spirit of science and of course
with the spirit of language.
My next comment will be
that I hope that the present discussion will induce socio-linguists
in particular and linguists in general to take a close look at their
nomenclatures and terminologies.1
Now to the main business.
Brann has offered ‘multilingualism’
both as the term for the whole domain (consider his phrase ‘individual,
societal, and political multilingualism’) and as the term for the
individual languages use. It is interesting that while the second
use is what he consciously proposes his first use is probably unconscious—he
nowhere even mentions the need of an overall term, unless his light-hearted
use of the phrase’ forked tongue’ in the opening paragraph can be
counted as such. From now on I propose to use plurilingualism
for the general phenomenon (i.e. Brann’s multilingualism I its first
Given the general phenomenon
of plurilingualism, Brann proposes to make distinctions along two
Along the dimension of language use, one distinguishes between individual
multilingualism, societal/institutional multilingualism, and political/
Along the dimension of languages use, one distinguishes between individual
multilingualism, societal /institutional multilingualism. And political/
Along the dimension of the number of languages involved, one distinguishes
between one. Two, three, four, five indefinitely many.
Then under two-way plurilingualism,
Brann makes some further distinctions:
Now I am not entirely
sure that the dimension that the dimension of language use has been
correctly conceived. Plurilingualism
can be the description of either of three things:
An individual language repertoire: the various codes or sub-codes
at the disposal of an individual.
A community language network: the various codes or sub-codes at the
disposal of a community of people who are in more –than –minimal linguistic
communication with one other.
corresponds to Brann’s societal.)
A community institutional set-up: the various codes or sub-codes in
use within the institutional set-up serving a community in some given
area such as education, scholarship, mass media, government, and the
like. (This corresponds to
Brann’s institutional, political, official).
Nor am I sure that the
second dimension has been correctly conceived. It is significant that
in actual scientific use ‘bilingualism’ is often made to do duty for’
multilingualism’. The use of terms referring to 3, 4, 5l can be safely
forgotten (why stop at5?). Of
one says that Switzerland was a trilinguistic state until they recognized
Romansch when it became a quadrilinguistic state, one is not making
any significant sociolinguistic point.
One could of course add that all along Switzerland was a tetraglotticstate.
What has one said that could not have been expressed without
loss I ordinary non-technical English?
The crux of the matter is surely this: whether the language
repertoire or language network or institutional setup (as the case
may be) is linguistically homogeneous or heterogeneous, and, if it
is linguistically heterogeneous, what is the degree and modality of
this heterogeneity. The possibilities are these:
As applied to a repertoire:
The proficiency may be
The actual use on a given
occasion (such as a given monologue or dialogue) may be fairly homogeneous/
not fairly homogeneous.
As applied to a network:
The multiple proficiency
may be fairly evenly distributed in the population/ confined to certain
The actual use from one
broad occasion (such as a party, a market day) to another may be fairly
uniformly homogeneous/ not fairly uniformly homogeneous.
As applied to an institutional set-up:
The different codes accepted
are fairly identical in status/ not fairly identical in status.
The actual use on a given
institutionalized occasion (such as an academic session, a parliamentary
session) is fairly homogeneous / not fairly homogeneous.
In relation to the linguistic codes in question.
Varying sub-codes of the
same language (as in Ferguso’s original diglossia) / distinct languages.
Each code may be available
for varying registers or styles / Each code is available for fairly
specialized area or areas.
By now it should be clear
that the insistence implicit in Brann’s proposals that each technical
term be a single word has to be given up.
A given situation may have to be described by a phrase such
Uneven mixed diglottic
horizontal plurilingual repertorire.
This may actually describe the language repertoire
of some north Indians who know Hindi well and Urdu fairly and who
in actual use switch between them a lot. Given that Hindi and Urdu
are distinct codes of the same language (diglottic) and that each
has a variety of sub-codes (horizontal).
The situation with respect to Hindi and Urdu or with respect
to Serbian and Croat may be described as horizontal diglossia while
that with respect to Arabic or Greek or Telugu (granthika HL and vyavaharika
LL) may be described as vertical diglossia (diglossia in Ferguson’s
sense). I reject Fishman’s extension s ill-conceived.
So the complex technical
terms may be made out of—
unilingual / plurilingual (R/N/I) number of competitors)
even /uneven (R/N) (distribution of proficiency)
separated / mixed (R/N/I) (actual use on an occasion)
equal / unequal )I) (identity of status)
diglottic/ polyglottic (R/N?I) (same language / distinct languages)
horizontal / vertical (R/N/I) (across special regions/ across registers
Please note that the
pairs (ii)-(vi) do not apply to anilingual situations and that R,
N, I stand respectively for language repertoire, language network,
and institutional set-up The
institutional set-up may of course be further described as educational,
governmental, diplomatic etc.
Distinctions that are formaLly6 weak (-lingualism / -linguism) are,
as any language historian can tell us, unlikely to be maintained with
any consistency or likely to be maintained at great cost (as with
For the distinction between technical names (and nomenclature) and
technical terms (and terminology) and other relevant points. See my ‘The Semiotics of technical names and
terms’ (1984). May I also take this opportunity to draw the attention
of socio-linguist and linguist to my own wide-ranging terminological
proposals in ‘Correlative linguistics’ (1978)?
Kelkar, Ashok R.
(1978) Correlative linguistics. In: McCormack, William C. and
Stephen A. Wurm. Ed. Approaches to language: Anthropological
issues. The Hague: Mouton
Kelkar, Ashok R. (1984) The Semiotics of technical
names and terms. Recherches semiotique / Semiotic inquiry (Toronto)
Centre of Advanced Study in Linguistics at
This was written at the invitation to comment on
Conrad Max Benediat Brann’s The Terminology of Babel.
Brann’s note along with comment by Lachman M. Khubchandani
one Ashok R. Kelkar were published together in Socio-linguistics
18: 85-98, 1989 (Foris, Dordrecht, Netherlands ) as ‘Discussion’.
diaglossia, thus, is separated polyglottic plurilingual network. Haugen’s schizoglossia is polyglottic vertical
plurilingual repertoire. Correspondingly
Brann’s schizoglossia, is polyglottic vertical plurilingual institutional
set-up, And so on.