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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, 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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