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For other uses, see Lingua franca (disambiguation).

A lingua franca (English pronunciation: /ˌlɪŋgwə ˈfraŋkə/[1]) also called a bridge language, or vehicular language, is a language systematically (as opposed to occasionally, or casually) used to make communication possible between persons not sharing a native language, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both native languages.[2]

Lingua francas have arisen around the globe throughout human history, sometimes for commercial reasons (so-called "trade languages") but also for diplomatic and administrative convenience, and as a means of exchanging information between scientists and other scholars of different nationalities. The term originates with one such language, Mediterranean Lingua Franca.


"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic history or structure of the language:[3] though pidgins and creoles often function as lingua francas, many such languages are neither pidgins nor creoles.

Whereas a vernacular language is used as a native language in a single speaker community, a lingua franca goes beyond the boundaries of its original community, and is used as a second language for communication between groups. For example, English is a vernacular in the United Kingdom, but is used as a vehicular language (i.e., a lingua franca) in the Philippines.

International auxiliary languages such as Esperanto have not had a high level of adoption globally, so they cannot be described as global lingua francas, although they play this role in various contexts.


The term "lingua franca", Italian for "Frankish language", is from a particular example, Mediterranean Lingua Franca. Lingua Franca was a mixed language composed mostly (80%) of Italian with a broad vocabulary drawn from Old French, Greek, Arabic, Portuguese, Occitan and Spanish. It was in use throughout the eastern Mediterranean as the language of commerce and diplomacy in and around the Renaissance era. At that time, Italian speakers dominated seaborne commerce in the port cities of the Ottoman empire. Franca was the Italian word for Frankish. Its usage in the term lingua franca originated from its meaning in Arabic and Greek, dating from before the Crusades and during the Middle Ages, whereby all Western Europeans were called "Franks" or Faranji in Arabic and Phrankoi in Greek during the late Byzantine Period.[4][5][6] The Douglas Harper Etymology Dictionary states that the term lingua franca was first recorded in English in the 1670s,[7] although an even earlier example of the use of lingua franca in English appeared in 1632, wherein it is also referred to as "Bastard Spanish."[8] As recently as the late 20th century, the use of the term was restricted by some to mean only hybrid languages that are used as bridge languages (owing to its original meaning), but today it refers to any bridge language.[9]


The use of lingua francas may be almost as old as language itself. Certainly they have existed since antiquity. Latin and Greek were the lingua francas of the Roman empire; Akkadian, and then Aramaic, remained the common languages of a large part of Western Asia through several earlier empires.[10] Examples of lingua francas remain numerous, and exist on every continent. The most obvious example as of the early 21st century is English. There are many other lingua francas centralized on particular regions, such as Arabic, Chinese, French, Hindi, Malay, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swahili.

In certain countries the lingua franca is also used as the national language; e.g., Urdu is the lingua franca of Pakistan as well as the national language.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/lingua-franca
  2. ^ Viacheslav A. Chirikba, "The problem of the Caucasian Sprachbund" in Pieter Muysken, ed., From Linguistic Areas to Areal Linguistics, 2008, p. 31. ISBN 90-272-3100-1
  3. ^ Intro Sociolinguistics - Pidgin and Creole Languages: Origins and Relationships - Notes for LG102, - University of Essex, Prof. Peter L. Patrick - Week 11, Autumn term.
  4. ^ http://www.komvos.edu.gr/dictonlineplsql/simple_search.display_full_lemma?the_lemma_id=16800&target_dict=1, Lexico Triantaphyllide online dictionary , Greek Language Center (Kentro Hellenikes Glossas), lemma Franc ( Φράγκος Phrankos) , Lexico tes Neas Hellenikes Glossas, G.Babiniotes, Kentro Lexikologias(Legicology Center) LTD Publications , ISBN 960-86190-1-7, lemma Franc and (prefix) franco- (Φράγκος Phrankos and φράγκο- phranko-).
  5. ^ Ernest Weekley Etymology Dictionary (1921)
  6. ^ Eric Partridge Etymology Dictionary (1966)
  7. ^ Douglas Harper Etymology Dictionary (2001)
  8. ^ Morgan, J. (1632). A Compleat History of the Present Seat of War in Africa, Between the Spaniards and Algerines. p. 98. Retrieved June 8, 2013. 
  9. ^ Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, Simon and Schuster, 1980
  10. ^ Ostler, 2005 pp. 38-40

Further reading[edit]

  • Hall, R.A. Jr. (1966). Pidgin and Creole Languages, Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-0173-9.
  • Heine, Bernd (1970). Status and Use of African Lingua Francas. ISBN 3-8039-0033-6
  • Kahane, Henry Romanos (1958). The Lingua Franca in the Levant.
  • Melatti, Julio Cezar (1983). Índios do Brasil. São Paulo: Hucitec Press, 48th edition
  • Ostler, Nicholas (2005). Empires of the Word. London: Harper ISBN 978-0-00-711871-7

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lingua_franca — Please support Wikipedia.
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Having failed in several attempts to master German, Mark Twain urged that it be “gently and reverently set aside among the dead languages, for only the dead have time to learn it”. The Technical University of Munich has provoked much soul-searching in ...
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Thu, 24 Jul 2014 04:02:46 -0700

The dominance of English as a European lingua franca is total nowadays, even in countries where Brits and Americans rarely tread. I doubt she'll speak English in public again, but for European public figures today, even that won't necessarily spare you.
Times of Swaziland
Sun, 27 Jul 2014 10:26:15 -0700

Speaking in forked tongues does seem to be the lingua franca of our government if anything is to be deduced from remarks made by politicians during the launch of the Braille telephone directory and Vision 2022 philatelic stamps by the Swaziland Posts ...

The Economist

The Economist
Thu, 31 Jul 2014 06:07:30 -0700

“Within 50 years, Europe's lingua franca will be Arabic, and Britain will have a Muslim majority,” Moshe Feiglin, a hardline member of Mr Netanyahu's party, Likud, tells a nodding audience in Bet Shemesh, a commuter town between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
New Delhi Times
Sat, 02 Aug 2014 00:41:15 -0700

English today is as much an Indian language as it is the lingua franca of Britain, and the language has greatly contributed in taking India towards globalization. But not to forget that it was the language of our colonial masters and is part of the ...
Seeking Alpha (registration)
Fri, 01 Aug 2014 18:52:30 -0700

So we believe that this strategic event will strengthen Reis's position worldwide as the lingua franca of the U.S. commercial real estate market. Last but not least, on the subject of Reis SE product development. During our call in May I stated that ...
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Thu, 31 Jul 2014 11:31:52 -0700

Trendy toy? Omen of a looming tech bubble? Another messaging app that will expose a cheating lover? Or could it be the app that redefines ping and ignites the imaginations of symbolic/emotive communicators; the lingua franca of those fed a steady diet ...

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