Language and Linguistics

Lingua franca etymology history features Characteristics examples

Lingua franca

lingua franca is the term used to describe a language systematically used to allow effective communication between people with different native languages. It has been used throughout the history of mankind and was used for commercial, religious and diplomatic purposes.


The term derives from the Mediterranean Lingua Franca (also known as Sabir ), the Pidgin language that people around the Levant and eastern Mediterranean Sea used as the main language of trade and diplomacy from late medieval times to the late Middle Ages. 18th century, most notably during the Renaissance era.  During this period, a simplified version of mostly Italian in the eastern and Spanish in the western Mediterranean that incorporated many semantic unit of a text. In other words borrowed from Greek, Slavic languages, Arabic, and Turkish came into widespread use as the “lingua franca”. from the region, although some scholars claim that the Italian Lingua Franca was just misused.

In it (the specific language), lingua comes from Italian for “a language”. Franca is related to the Greek Φρᾰ́γκοι ( Phránkoi ) and Arabic إِفْرَنْجِي ( ʾifranjiyy ), as well as the Italian equivalent – ​​in all three cases the literal sense is “Frank”, leading to the direct translation: “language of the Franks“. During the late Byzantine Empire, “Francs” was a term that applied to all Western Europeans. 

Through changes to the term in the literature, “lingua franca” came to be interpreted as a general term for pidgins, creoles, and some or all forms of vehicular languages. This transition in meaning has been attributed to the idea that pidgin languages ​​only became widely known from the 16th century onwards, due to European colonization of continents such as the Americas, Africa and Asia. During this time, the need arose for a term to refer to these pidgin languages, hence the change in the meaning of Lingua Franca from a single proper noun to a common noun spanning a large class of pidgin languages. 

As late as the 20th century, some restricted the use of the generic term to mean only mixed languages ​​that are used as vehicular languages, their original meaning. 

Douglas Harper ‘s Online Dictionary of Etymology states that the term “Lingua Franca” (as the name of the specific language) was first recorded in English during the 1670s,  although an even earlier example of its use in English be attested in 1632, where it is also known as “Spanish Bastard”. 


The origin of the term dates back to the Middle Ages when it was used to describe a language or jargon used throughout the eastern Mediterranean by merchants and crusaders. This first frank language presented the use of invariant forms of nouns, adjectives and verbs. The term was the combination of the term “Lingua” and “Franca”, where “lingua” is translated directly into “language”, while ” franco“It directly means” Franks, “a term used to describe the Europeans of Western Europe during the era of the Byzantine Empire. The lingua franca was widely used in the region during the Renaissance period and until the beginning of the 20th century. Since speakers Italian were the main actors in the maritime trade of the region in the Ottoman Empire, the Italian language was the main composition of the lingua franca with a language that included many words and phrases in Italian Other languages ​​whose words make up the lingua franca include Old French, Occitan, Arabic, Greek, Turkish and Portuguese The first record in English that demonstrated the existence of the term lingua franca was in 18, where it was known as “Bastard Spanish”.


Any language regularly used for communication between people who do not share a native language is a lingua franca. 

Lingua franca is a functional term, independent of any linguistic history or linguistic structure. 

Pidgins are therefore lingua francas; creoles and arguably mixed languages ​​can be used similarly for communication between language groups. But the lingua franca is equally applicable to a non-Creole language native to a nation (usually a colonial power) learned as a second language and used for communication between diverse linguistic communities in a colony or former colony.

Often, lingua francas are pre-existing languages ​​with native speakers, but they can also be pidgin or creole languages ​​developed for that specific region or context. Pidgin languages ​​are rapidly developed and simplified combinations of two or more languages ​​established, while creoles are generally seen as pidgins that have evolved into fully complex languages ​​in the course of adaptation by subsequent generations. Pre-existing lingua francas such as French are used to facilitate intercommunication in large-scale trade or political matters, while pidgins and creoles often arise out of colonial situations and a specific need for communication between colonists and Indian people. Preexisting lingua francas are generally widely developed and widespread languages ​​with many native speakers. On the other hand, pidgin languages ​​are very simplified means of communication, containing a loose structure, few grammatical rules and having few or no native speakers. Creole languages ​​are more developed than their ancestral pidgins, using more complex structure, grammar and vocabulary, as well as having substantial communities of native speakers. 

While a vernacular is the native language of a specific geographic communitya lingua franca is used beyond the boundaries of its original community, for commercial, religious, political, or academic reasons. For example, English is a vernacular in the United Kingdom, but is used as a lingua franca in the Philippines, alongside Filipino. Arabic, French, Mandarin Chinese and Russian serve similar purposes as industrial and educational lingua francas across regional and national borders.

Although they are used as intermediate languages, international auxiliary languages ​​such as Esperanto have not seen a large degree of adoption, so they are not described as lingua franca.

Characteristics of A lingua franca

While lingua franca exists in many forms and variants throughout the world, they all share several common characteristics. A distinctive feature of a lingua franca is that the lingua franca is defined neither by its linguistic history nor by its linguistic structure, but by its functionality. A lingua Franca is not confined within the geographical, cultural or linguistic boundaries of the communities that identify themselves as native speakers of the language, unlike a vernacular language that is limited within the linguistic boundaries of the community that uses it as a language maternal The entire lingua franca is used as a linguistic bridge that unites different cultures, civilizations and religions that otherwise would never have been linked.

Examples of lingua franca

It has been used to link cultures throughout human history since ancient times. During the time of the Roman Empire, the lingua franca used throughout the empire was Koine Greek and Latin. The use of Aramaic as a lingua franca in western Asia existed for several centuries and was used in several kingdoms and empires. In East Africa, coastal trade brought together different cultures from the mainland and Asia. Merchants used Swahili as a frank language that allowed them to understand each other. The best modern example of a lingua franca is English, which is used throughout the world and could be said to be the primary lingua franca in the modern world. Other lingua francas that are widely used include Spanish, Hindi, Portuguese, German, Arabic, Russian and French.

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