February 25, 2017


Lingua Franca is an auxiliary language, generally of a hybrid and partially developed nature, which is employed over an extensive area by people speaking different and mutually unintelligible tongues in order to communicate with one another. Holmes (1997:86) writes that ‘the term lingua franca describes a language serving as a regular means of communication between different linguistic groups in a multilingual speech community’.

Features of Lingua Franca

  • A lingua franca is a used for communication between two or more groups that have different native languages.
  • Any given language normally becomes a lingua franca primarily by being used for international commerce, but can be accepted in other cultural exchanges, especially diplomacy.
  • Any language could conceivably serve as a lingua franca between two groups, no matter what sort of language it is.
  • Lingua Franca is a purely functionally-defined term, that is, linguistic structure of the language involved plays no role.
  • A lingua franca may also be a pidgin, like Melanesian Pidgin, widely used in the southern Pacific.
  • It may be used either intranationally (within one nation), e.g. English in India or Nigeria; or internationally, e.g. English between Germans and Japanese.

Examples of Lingua Franca

Examples are the several varieties of the hybrid pidgin English; Swahili, a native language of Eastern Africa; Chinook jargon, a lingua franca formerly used in the American Northwest that was a mixture of Chinook, other Native American languages, English, and French; and a variety of Malay (called bazaar Malay), which served as a compromise language in the area of British Malaya, the Dutch East Indies, and neighboring regions. Some people say that English is the lingua franca of the Information Age.

The original lingua franca was a tongue actually called Lingua Franca (or Sabir) that was employed for commerce in the Mediterranean area during the Middle Ages. Now extinct, it had Italian as its base with an admixture of words from Spanish, French, Greek, and Arabic. The designation “Lingua Franca” (language of the Franks) came about because the Arabs in the medieval period used to refer to Western Europeans in general as “Franks.” Occasionally the term lingua franca is applied to a fully established formal language; thus formerly it was said that French was the lingua franca of diplomacy.

Lingua Franca


“Lingua franca.” Wikipedia. 2008. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 12 August 2008
< https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lingua_franca >.
Tanvir Shameem Tanvir Shameem is not the biggest fan of teaching, but he is doing his best to write on various topics of language and literature just to guide thousands of students and researchers across the globe. You can always find him experimenting with presentation, style and diction. He will contribute as long as time permits. You can find him on:


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