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A lingua franca (from Latin, literally meaning Frankish language, see etymology under Sabir and Italian below) is a language systematically used to communicate between persons not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both persons' mother tongues.

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

Lingua franca may also refer to the de facto language within a more or less specialized field.

A synonym for lingua franca is “vehicular language.” Whereas a vernacular language is used as a native language in a single speaker community, a vehicular language goes beyond the boundaries of its original community, and is used as a second language for communication between communities. For example, English is a vernacular in the UKmarker, but is used as a vehicular language (that is, a lingua franca) in the Philippines.

International auxiliary languages such as Esperanto are generally intended by their designers to function as linguas franca, but have historically had a relatively low level of adoption and use (e.g., for Esperanto, an estimated 100,000 to 2 million fluent speakers worldwide).

Asian languages


Arabic, the native language of the Arabs, who originally came from the Arabian Peninsula, became the "lingua franca" of the Islamic Empire (Arab Empire) (from AD 733 - AD 1492), which at a certain point spread from the borders of Chinamarker and Northern India through Central Asia, Persia, Asia Minormarker, Middle East, North Africa all the way to Spainmarker and Portugalmarker in the west.

Arabic was also used by people neighboring the Islamic Empire. During the Islamic Golden Age, Arabic was the language of science and diplomacy (around AD 1200), when more books were written in Arabic than in any other language in the world at that time period. It influenced African sub-Saharan languages, east African languages, such as Swahili and loaned many words to Persian, Turkish, Urdu, Spanish and Portuguese, countries it ruled for 700 years (see Al-Andalusmarker). It also had some influence over the English language.

Arabic script was adopted by many other languages such as Urdu, Persian, Swahili (changed to Latin in the late 19th century) and Turkish which switched to Latin script in 1928. Arabic became the lingua franca of these regions not simply because of commerce or diplomacy, but also on religious grounds since Arabic is the language of the Qur’an, Islam's holy book and these populations became heavily Muslim. Arabic remains as the lingua franca for 22 countries (24 if one was to include the Palestinian territories and Western Sahara), in the Middle East and North Africa in addition to Chadmarker. Despite a few language script conversions from Arabic to Latin as just described, Arabic still is the second most widely used alphabetic system in the world after Latin. Arabic script is/has been used in languages including Bosnian, Hausa, Kashmiri, Kazak, Kurdish, Kyrghyz, Malay, Morisco, Pashto, Persian, Punjabi, Sindhi, Tatar, Turkish, Urdu, Uyghur.

According to Encarta, which classified Chinese as a single language, Arabic is perceived to be the second largest language among first-time speakers. Used by more than a billion Muslims around the world, it is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations.


Aramaic, the native language of the Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriacs, became the lingua franca of the Assyrian Empire and the western provinces of the Persian Empire.


Azeri served as a lingua franca in Transcaucasia (except the Black Seamarker coast), Southern Daghestanmarker, Turkish Armenia , and Iranian Azerbaijan from the sixteenth century to the early twentieth century.


Bengali, or Bangla, is commonly spoken in Bangladesh and India (especially in the states of West Bengal and Tripura). It is the official language and lingua franca of Bangladeshmarker. In India, Bengali is the official language of West Bengal state; an official language of Tripura (along with Khokborok) and Assammarker (along with Assamese) states. The language is also one of several official languages of the Republic of India, being the second most spoken language (as mother tongue) among Indians, after Hindi.It has been derived from Sanskrit.


In the Philippinesmarker, Cebuano is spoken natively by the inhabitants of Cebumarker, Boholmarker, Negros Orientalmarker and some parts of Leyte and the Samarmarker islands and throughout Mindanaomarker . It is also spoken in a few towns and islands in Samar. Until 1975, Cebuano surpassed Tagalog in terms of number of native speakers .


Classical Chinese previously served as both a written lingua franca and diplomatic language in Far East Asia, used by mainland China, Mongoliamarker, Taiwanmarker, Koreamarker, Japanmarker, the Ryukyusmarker, and Vietnammarker in interstate communications. In the early 20th century Classical Chinese in China was replaced by modern written Standard Chinese. Currently, among most Chinese-speaking communities, Standard Mandarin serves the function of providing a common spoken language between speakers of different and mutually unintelligible Chinese spoken languages—not to mention between the Han Chinese and other ethnic groups in Chinamarker. Written Chinese has also been used as a way of communication through these character-using countries. However, specific regions in China also possess their individual lingua franca, such as Standard Cantonese in Guangdong province, Hong Kongmarker, Macaumarker, as well as traditionally the ethnic Chinese populations residing in Singaporemarker and Malaysiamarker.


Throughout the centuries of Jewish exile, Hebrew has served the Jewish people as a lingua franca; allowing Jews from different areas of the world to communicate effectively with one another. This was particularly valuable for cross-culture mercantile trading that became one of the default occupations held by Jews in exilic times. Without the need for translators, documents could easily be written up to convey significant legal trade information. Among early Zionists, a newly reconstructed Hebrew served as a common language between Jews from nations as diverse as Poland and Yemen. In modern Israel, Hebrew is the commonly accepted language of administration and trade, even among Israeli-Arabs whose mother-tongue remains Arabic.


Hindustani, or Hindi-Urdu, is commonly spoken in India and Pakistan. It encompasses two standardized register in the form of the official languages of Hindi and Urdu, as well as several nonstandard dialects. Hindi is one of the official languages of Indiamarker, and Urdu is the official language and lingua franca of Pakistanmarker. Urdu is also an official language in Indiamarker.However, whilst the words and much of the speaking may sound similar, small differences are present, and Urdu is written in Urdu script—a derivative of Persian-Arabic script, while Hindi is written in the Devanagari script.


In the 14th century, during the Malacca Sultanate, Malay was used as a lingua franca in the Malay archipelago, by the locals as much as by the traders and artisans that stopped at Malaccamarker via the Straits of Malaccamarker.

Nowadays, Malay is used mostly in Malaysiamarker (officially called Bahasa Malaysia) and Bruneimarker, and to a lesser extent in Singaporemarker. One of Singapore's four official languages and is now Singapore's national language due to historical reasons, the Malay language or 'Bahasa Melayu' was the lingua franca for Malays in Singapore prior to the introduction of English as a working and instructional language, and remains so for the elder generation.

However, Indonesian, a standardized variety of Malay, serves as a lingua franca throughout Indonesiamarker and East Timormarker. While Indonesia counts several hundred different languages, Indonesian, the official language of Indonesia, is their vehicular language.


Nepali is the lingua-franca of the many ethnic, religious and cultural communities of Nepalmarker, and is also spoken in Bhutanmarker, parts of Indiamarker and parts of Myanmarmarker (Burma). It is one of 23 official languages of India incorporated in 8th annex of the Indian Constitution. It has official language status in the formerly independent state of Sikkimmarker and in West Bengalmarker's Darjeeling districtmarker. Similarly, it is widely spoken in the state of Uttaranchalmarker, as well as in the state of Assammarker. While Nepali is closely related to the Hindi-Urdu complex and is mutually intelligible to a degree, it has more Sanskritic derivations and fewer Persian or English loan words. Nepali is commonly written in the Devanagari script, as are Hindi and Sanskrit.


Persian became the second lingua franca of the Islamic world, in particular of the eastern regions. Besides serving as the state and administrative language in many Islamic dynasties, some of which included Samanids, Ghurids, Ghaznavids, Ilkhanids, Seljuqids, Moguls and early Ottomans, Persian cultural and political forms, and often the Persian language, were used by the cultural elites from the Balkans to India. For example, Persian was the only oriental language known and used by Marco Polo at the Court of Kubla Khan and in his journeys through China. Arnold Joseph Toynbee's assessment of the role of the Persian language is worth quoting in more detail:
In the Iranic world, before it began to succumb to the process of Westernization, the New Persian language, which had been fashioned into literary form in mighty works of art ... gained a currency as a lingua franca; and at its widest, about the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries of the Christian Era, its range in this role extended, without a break, across the face of South-Eastern Europe and South-Western Asia.
Persian remains the lingua franca in its native homelands of Iranmarker, Afghanistanmarker and Tajikistanmarker and was the lingua franca of India before the British conquest. It is still understood by many intellectuals of Indiamarker, Pakistanmarker and even Azerbaijanmarker and Turkeymarker.

Persian has also exerted some influence on the English language.


Sanskrit was widely used across South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia and Central Asia at various times in ancient and medieval history; it has religious significance for all those religious traditions that arose from the Vedic religion.


Tamil is the lingua franca not just in the Indian state of Tamil Nadumarker, but also a much larger swathe of South India, with many second language speakers in the neighbouring states of Andhra Pradeshmarker, Keralamarker, Kannada, and the territory of Puducherrymarker. It is one of the official languages of Indiamarker, as well as one of the official languages of Sri Lankamarker and Singaporemarker. There are significant numbers of Tamil speakers in Malaysia, South Africa, Burma, the United Kingdom, and Canada (GTA). Tamil is a classical language, with a long and rich history.


Telugu is the lingua franca in the Indian state of Andhra Pradeshmarker and Yanam district of Pondicherry as well as in the neighboring states of Tamil Nadumarker, Puducherrymarker, Karnatakamarker, Maharashtramarker, Orissamarker, Chhattisgarhmarker, some parts of Jharkhandmarker and the Kharagpurmarker region of West Bengalmarker in India. It is also spoken by migrant communities in Australia, New Zealandmarker, Bahrainmarker, Canadamarker, Fijimarker, Malaysiamarker, Singaporemarker, Mauritiusmarker, Irelandmarker, South Africa, the United Arab Emiratesmarker, the United Kingdommarker and the United Statesmarker. As a language native to the Indian subcontinent, Telugu has the third largest number of speakers after Hindi and Bengali.

European languages


English is the current lingua franca of international business, science, technology and aviation. It has replaced French as the lingua franca of diplomacy since World War II. The rise of English in diplomacy began in 1919, in the aftermath of World War I, when the Treaty of Versailles was written in English as well as in French, the dominant language used in diplomacy at that time. The widespread use ofEnglish was further advanced by the prominent international role played by English-speaking nations (i.e., the United Statesmarker and the Commonwealth of Nations) in the aftermath of World War II, particularly in the establishment and organization of the United Nations and the development of the Internet. English is one of the six official languages of the UN and, along with French, one of the two working languages[10284]; the other official ones are Arabic, Chinese, Russian and Spanish.

English is the dominant language of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and from 1801 to 1922 the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and therefore, as the UK became a colonial power, English served as the lingua franca of former colonies of the British Empire (including Australia, The Bahamasmarker, Barbadosmarker, Belizemarker, Canadamarker, Indiamarker, Malaysiamarker, New Zealandmarker, Nigeriamarker, Pakistanmarker, Singaporemarker, South Africa, Sri Lankamarker, the United Statesmarker, and Vanuatumarker), present British territories (like Bermudamarker, Falkland Islandsmarker, and Saint Helena), former British territories (such as Hong Kongmarker), U.S. territories (like Guammarker, Northern Marianasmarker, Puerto Rico), Virgin Islands (both Britishmarker and Americanmarker), and the Philippinesmarker. In many of these nations the use of English is seen as a means of avoiding the political difficulties inherent in promoting any individual indigenous language as the lingua franca.

The modern trend to use English outside of English-speaking countries has a number of sources. In the latter half of the 20th century, its widespread use was mostly due to the military, economic, and cultural dominance of the United States of America. Ultimately, the use of English in a variety of locations across the globe is a consequence of the reach of the British Empire. But the establishment of English as an international lingua franca after World War II was mostly a result of the spread of English via cultural and technological exports from the United States as well as its embedding in international institutions; for instance, the seating and roll-call order in sessions of the United Nations and its organs is determined by English alphabetical order, and, while there are six official languages of the United Nations, only two (English and French) are working languages.

English is also regarded by some as an unofficial global lingua franca owing to the economic, cultural, and geopolitical power of most of the developed Western nations in world financial and business institutions. The de facto status of English as the lingua franca in these countries has carried over globally as a result. English is also overwhelmingly dominant in scientific and technological communications, and all of the world's major scientific journals are published in English. English is also the lingua franca of international Air Traffic Control communications.

A landmark recognition of the dominance of English in Europe came in 1995 when, on the accession of Austria, Finland and Sweden, English joined French and German as one of the working languages of the European Commissionmarker. Many Europeans outside the EU have also adopted English as their current lingua franca. A long tradition of learning English as a second language, as well as its genetic proximity to the national language, has resulted in its wide use as a lingua franca in the Netherlandsmarker, Denmarkmarker, Swedenmarker and Norwaymarker. For example, if a Danish person visiting the Netherlands converses with a Dutch person (or conversely a Dutch person visiting Denmark), the lingua franca almost invariably used is English. However, since the Scandinavian languages are mutually intelligible, Swedes, Norwegians and Danes normally communicate in their mother tongue. However, Danes often switch to English when faced by Swedes and Norwegians even if the Swedes and Norwegian usually understand Danish since the vocabulary is extremely similar, because of the difference in pronunciation. This tendency is even stronger in Copenhagen than the rest of Denmark, since Copenhagen people are not usually that familiar with different dialectal pronunciation variations as are Danes that themselves speak a dialect or Norwegians and Swedes, that have greater dialectal variation within their language.


French was the language of diplomacy in Europe from the 17th century until its recent replacement by English, and as a result is still a working language of international institutions and is seen on documents ranging from passports to airmail letters. For many years, until the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Denmark joined in 1973, French and German were the only official working languages of the European Economic Community. French was also the lingua franca of European literature in the 18th century.

French was also the language used among the educated in many cosmopolitan cities across the Middle East and North Africa. This was true in cities such as Cairo, around the turn of the 20th century until World War II. This is still true in the former French colonies of the Maghreb, where French is particularly important in the economic capitals like Algiersmarker, Casablancamarker and Tunismarker. Until the outbreak of the civil war in Lebanon, French was the language that the Christian members of the upper class of Lebanese society used. Moreover, French is still a lingua franca in most Western and Central African countries (where it often enjoys official status), a remnant of the colonial rule of France and Belgiummarker. These African countries, together with several other countries throughout the world, are members of the Francophonie. French is the sole official language of the Universal Postal Unionmarker, and English was only added as a working language in 1994.


German served as a lingua franca in large portions of Europe for centuries, mainly the Holy Roman Empire. From about 1200 to 1600, Middle Low German was the language of the Hanseatic League which was present in most Northern European seaports, even London.

As one of the official languages of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, German remained an important second language in much of Eastern Europe long after the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I.

During the construction of the Snowy Mountains Scheme in Australia, German was the lingua franca for workers from central and east Europe.

German was in the late 19th and early 20th centuries a prerequisite language in the scientific community. Despite the anti-German sentiment after World War II it remains a widespread language among members of the scientific community.

After the popularization of the works of Immanuel Kant, German also became the primary language of the field of philosophy, which was previously Latin and French.

Greek and Latin

During the time of the Hellenistic civilization and Roman Empire, the lingue franche were Koine Greek and Latin. During the Middle Ages, the lingua franca was Greek in the parts of Europe, Middle East and Northern Africa where the Byzantine Empire held hegemony, and Latin was primarily used in the rest of Europe. Latin, for a significant portion of the expansion of the Roman Catholic Church, was used as the basis of the Church. During the Second Vatican Council, Catholic liturgy changed to local languages, although Latin remains the official language of the Vaticanmarker. Latin was used at the language of scholars in Europe until the early 19th century in most subjects. For instance, Christopher Simpson's "Chelys or The Division viol" on how to improvise on the viol (viola da gamba) was published in 1665 in a multilingual edition in Latin and English, to make the material accessible for the wider European music community. Another example is the Norwegian (and Danish, since Norway was then in union with Denmark) writer Ludvig Holberg, who published his book "Nicolai Klimii iter subterraneum" in 1741 about an ideal society "Potu" ("Utop" backwards) with equality between the genders and an egalitarian structure, in Latin in Germany to avoid Danish censorship and to reach a greater audience. In subjects like medicine and theology Latin has been a subject of study until the present day in most European universities, although in recent years, it's role have been diminished and in some cases it has even been abolished.


Polish was a lingua franca in large areas of Central and Eastern Europe, especially regions that belonged to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth; this influence extend beyond the borders of the Commonwealth because of the state's considerable political and military power in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. Polish was for several centuries the main language spoken by the ruling classes in Lithuaniamarker and Ukrainemarker, and the modern state of Belarusmarker, but was also understood further south-east, for example in the Tatar Khanate, the Romanian lands and the Slav parts of Hungary. After the partitioning of Poland in the 1790s, the Russian language almost completely substituted Polish by the 20th century. Even so, Polish is today still sometimes spoken or at least understood in the western border areas of Ukrainemarker, Belarusmarker, Lithuaniamarker and parts of northern Slovakia.


Portuguese served as lingua franca in Africa, South America and Asia in the 15th and 16th centuries. When the Portuguese started exploring the seas of Africa, America, Asia and Oceania, they tried to communicate with the natives by mixing a Portuguese-influenced version of Lingua Franca with the local languages. When English or French ships came to compete with the Portuguese, the crew tried to learn this "broken Portuguese". Through a process of change the Lingua Franca and Portuguese lexicon was replaced with the languages of the people in contact.

Portuguese remains an important lingua franca in Africa (PALOP), Brazilmarker, East Timormarker, and to a certain extent in Macaumarker as it is recognized as an official language alongside Chinese, although in practice it is not commonly spoken.


Russian is in use and widely understood in areas of Central and Eastern Europe and Northern and Central Asia formerly part of the Soviet Unionmarker, or of the former Soviet bloc or Warsaw pact countries, amd it remains the lingua franca in the Commonwealth of Independent States. Recent migrations from the former Soviet Union made Russian one of the most spoken languages in Israel and Germany. Russian is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations.

Sabir and Italian

Originally lingua Franca (or Sabir) referred to a mixed language composed mostly of Italian with a broad vocabulary drawn from Persian, French, Greek and Arabic. Lingua Franca literally means "Frankish language". This originated from the Arabic custom of referring to all Europeans as Franks. This mixed language was used for communication throughout the medieval and early modern Middle East as a diplomatic language; the generic description lingua franca has since become common for any language used by speakers of different languages to communicate with one another. Some samples of Sabir have been preserved in Molière's comedy, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme.

Italian dialects were spoken in medieval times as a lingua franca in the European commercial empires of Italian cities (Genoamarker, Venicemarker, Florencemarker, Milanmarker, Pisamarker, Sienamarker, Amalfimarker) and in their colonies located in the Middle East and in the Mediterranean sea. During the Renaissance, Italian was also spoken as language of culture in the main royal courts of Europe and among intellectuals. The Italian language is still used as a lingua franca in some environments. For example, in the Catholic ecclesiastic hierarchy, Italian is known by a large part of members and is used in substitution of Latin in some official documents as well. The presence of Italian as the second official language in Vatican Citymarker indicates its use not only in the seat in Romemarker, but also anywhere in the world where an episcopal seat is present.

Most operas were written and performed in Italian until the early 20th century (however since Gluck, there have always been operas in native languages as well), so most singers and musicians active in opera performance understand Italian fully or partially. Expressions found in musical notation as alphabetized text (as opposed to musical text in musical notation), for instance tempo indications, instruction on the use of mutes, directions on the use of the bow on string instruments, dynamic effects, use of harmonics &c, have been written in Italian in most of Europe since the early 19th century as a standard (after the french revolution ruined the French court as a model for European musical life) and most contemporary musicians and singers use musical expression in Italian as a lingua franca in rehearsals with lingually mixed ensembles, or even as part of communication in other languages, since these Italian expressions are the de facto standard expressions in most languages and their native expressions are often only used with amateurs or in pedagogical contexts. Allthoug musical expressions have usually been in Italian in Europe since the early 19th century, German and French musicians have tended to write these expression in German or French, so most musicians would also know their equalients in French and German in addition to their equalients in their mother tongue, if it is not any of these languages.


With the growth of the Spanish Empire, Spanish became established in the Americas, as well as parts of Africa and Asia. Spanish is used as lingua franca throughout the former Spanish Empire, particularly in Central and South America.


Yiddish originated in the Ashkenazi culture that developed from about the 10th century in the Rhineland and then spread to central and eastern Europe and eventually to other continents. For a significant portion of its history, Yiddish was the primary spoken language of the Ashkenazi Jews. Eastern Yiddish, three dialects of which are still spoken today, includes a significant but varying percentage of words from Slavic, Romanian and other local languages.

On the eve of World War II, there were 11 to 13 million Yiddish speakers, for many of whom Yiddish was not the primary language. The Holocaust, however, led to a dramatic, sudden decline in the use of Yiddish, as the extensive Jewish communities, both secular and religious, that used Yiddish in their day-to-day life were largely destroyed. Although millions of Yiddish speakers survived the war, further assimilation in countries such as the United Statesmarker and the Soviet Unionmarker, along with the strictly Hebrew monolingual stance of the Zionist movement, led to a decline in the use of Yiddish. However, the number of speakers within the widely dispersed Orthodox (mainly Hasidic) communities is now increasing. It is a home language in most Hasidic communities, where it is the first language learned in childhood, used in schools, and in many social settings.

In the United Statesmarker, as well as South America, the Yiddish language bonded Jews from many countries. Most of the Jewish immigrants to the New York metropolitan area during the years of Ellis Islandmarker considered Yiddish their native language. Later, Yiddish was no longer the primary language for the majority of the remaining speakers and often served as lingua franca for the Jewish immigrants who did not know each other's primary language, particularly following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Yiddish was also the language in which second generation immigrants often continued to communicate with their relatives who remained in Europe or moved to Israel, with English, Spanish or Portuguese being primary language of the first and Russian, Romanian, or Hebrew that of the second.

African languages


South Africa

Afrikaans is spoken as a first language by many millions of people in South Africa, both white and non-white, and as a second language by millions more. During apartheid, the government aimed to create it as the 'lingua franca' in South Africa and South African controlled South-West Africa (modern day Namibia). However, since the end of apartheid, in a nation with 11 official languages, to avoid any political or ethnical problems, English has been widely adopted as the new lingua franca, and has already replaced many Afrikaans company names, such as South African Airways. However, Afrikaans speech is still used, especially by the adult population in everyday speech, but English is becoming popular among the younger generation, and Afrikaans itself has already evolved recently by including many more Engish loan words and spelling.


Unlike South Africa, when apartheid ended, there was only a tiny English speaking minority, so Afrikaans has very much 'been choson' as the lingua franca, also due to the wide variety of languages. Despite this however, English is the only official language and the government aims at increasing its use throughout the country.


Fula, also known as Pulaar or Fulfulde depending on the region, is the language of the Fula people – who in turn are known under the various names of Fula or Fulani or Peuls or Fulbe or Fulɓe or Toucouleur. Fula is spoken in all countries directly south of the Sahara (north of Cameroonmarker, Chadmarker, Nigeriamarker, Nigermarker, Malimarker…). It is spoken mainly by Fula people, but is also used as a lingua franca by several populations of various origin, throughout Western Africa.


Hausa is widely spoken through Nigeria and Niger and recognised in neighbouring states such as Ghanamarker, Beninmarker, and Cameroonmarker. The reason for this is that Hausa people used to be traders who led caravans with goods (cotton, leather, slaves, food crops etc.) through the whole West African region, from the Niger Delta to the Atlantic shores at the very west edge of Africa. They also reached North African states through Trans-Saharan routes. Thus trade deals in Timbuktumarker in modern Mali, Agadezmarker, Ghatmarker, Fezmarker in Northern Africa, and other trade centers were often concluded in Hausa.


Krio is the most widely spoken language throughout Sierra Leonemarker even though its native speakers, the Sierra Leone Creole people or Krios, (a community of about 300,000 descendants of freed slaves from the West Indiesmarker, United Statesmarker and Britainmarker) make only about 5% of the country's population. The Krio language unites all the different ethnic groups, especially in their trade and interaction with each other. Krio is also spoken in The Gambiamarker.


The largely interintelligible Manding languages of West Africa serve as lingua francas in various places. For instance Bambara is the most widely spoken language in Malimarker, and Jula (almost the same as Bambara) is commonly used in western Burkina Fasomarker and northern Cote d'Ivoiremarker. Manding languages have long been used in regional commerce, so much so that the word for trader, jula, was applied to the language currently known by the same name. Other varieties of Manding are used in several other countries, such as Guineamarker, The Gambiamarker, and Senegalmarker.


The Sango language is a lingua franca developed for intertribal trading in the Central African Republicmarker. It is based on the Northern Ngbandi language spoken by the Sango people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo but with a large vocabulary of French loan words.


Swahili is used throughout large parts of East Africa as a lingua franca, despite being the mother tongue of a relatively small ethnic group on the East African coast and nearby islands in the Indian Oceanmarker. At least as early as the late eighteenth century, Swahili was used along trading and slave routes that extended west across Lake Tanganyika and into the present-day Democratic Republic of Congomarker. Swahili rose in prominence throughout the colonial era, and has become the predominant African language of Tanzania and Kenyamarker. Some contemporary members of non-Swahili ethnic groups speak Swahili more often than their mother tongues, and many choose to raise their children with Swahili as their first language, leading to the possibility that several smaller East African languages will fade as Swahili transitions from being a regional lingua franca to a regional first language.


The Twi language is the main language used in Ghana apart from English. It is the language of communication in many of Ghana's big cities and a majority of Ghanaians speak at least some Twi.


Wolof is a more widely spoken lingua franca of The Gambia and Senegal, although English and French, the official languages of The Gambia and Senegal, are the lingua francas of the urban areas of the two countries.


Yoruba language is widely spoken by the people of south westhern Nigeria, it has other variants in places like Benin Republic. It used to be the major lingua franca of the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria


Zulu is the most widely spoken home language in South Africa (24% of the population), but isn't as widely known as Afrikaans and English.

Amerindian languages

Chinook Jargon

The Jargon was originally constructed from a great variety of Amerind words of the Pacific Northwest, arising as an intra-indigenous contact language in a region marked by divisive geography and intense linguistic diversity. The participating peoples came from a number of very distinct language families, speaking dozens of individual languages.

After European contact, the Jargon also acquired English and French loans, as well as words brought by other European, Asian, and Polynesian groups. Some individuals from all these groups soon adopted the Jargon as a highly efficient and accessible form of communication. This use continued in some business sectors well into the 20th century and some of its words continue to feature in company and organization names as well as in the regional toponymy.

In the Diocese of Kamloops, British Columbia, hundreds of speakers also learned to read and write the Jargon using the Duployan Shorthand via the publication Kamloops Wawa. As a result, the Jargon also had the beginnings of its own literature, mostly translated scripture and classical works, and some local and episcopal news, community gossip and events, and diaries. Novelist and early Native American activist, Marah Ellis Ryan (1860?-1934) used Chinook words and phrases in her writing.

According to Nard Jones, Chinook Jargon was still in use in Seattle until roughly the eve of World War II, especially among the members of the Arctic Club, making Seattle the last city where the language was widely used. Writing in 1972, he remarked that at that later date "Only a few can speak it fully, men of ninety or a hundred years old, like Henry Broderick, the realtor, and Joshua Green, the banker."

Jones estimates that in pioneer times there were about 100,000 speakers of Chinook Jargon.

Classical Nahuatl

Classical Nahuatl was the lingua franca of the Aztec Empire in Mesoamerica prior to the Spanish invasion in the 16th century. An extensive corpus of the language as spoken exists. Like Latin and Hebrew (prior to the founding of Israel), Classical Nahuatl was more of a sociolect spoken among the elites (poets, priests, traders, teachers, bureaucrats) than a language spoken in any common family household.


Also known as Runa Simi, as the Inca empire rose to prominence in South America, this imperial language became the most widely spoken language in the western regions of the continent. Even among tribes that were not absorbed by the empire Quechua still became an important language for trade because of the empire's influence. Even after the Spanish conquest of Perumarker Quechua for a long time was the most common language. Today it is still widely spoken although it has given way to Spanish as the more common lingua franca. It is spoken by some 10 million people through much of South America (mostly in Peru, south-western and central Bolivia, southern Colombia and Ecuador, north-western Argentina and northern Chile).


The Tupi language served as the lingua franca of Brazil among speakers of the various indigenous languages, mainly in the coastal regions. Tupi as a lingua franca, and as recorded in colonial books, was in fact a creation of the Portuguese, who assembled it from the similarities between the coastal indigenous Tupi-guarani languages. The language served the Jesuit priests as a way to teach natives, and it was widely spoken by Europeans. It was the predominant language spoken in Brazil until 1758, when the Jesuits were expelled from Brazil by the Portuguese government and the use and teaching of Tupi was banned. Since then, Tupi as Lingua Franca was quickly replaced by Portuguese, although Tupi-guarani family languages are still spoken by small native groups in Brazil.

Pidgins and creoles

Various pidgin languages have been used in many locations and times as a common trade speech. They can be based on English, French, Chinese, or indeed any other language. A pidgin is defined by its use as a lingua franca, between populations speaking other mother tongues. When a pidgin becomes a population's first language, then it is called a creole language.

Guinea-Bissau Creole

Guinea-Bissau Creole is a Portuguese Creole used as a lingua franca of Guinea-Bissaumarker and Casamancemarker, Senegalmarker among people of different ethnic groups. It is also the mother tongue of many people in Guinea-Bissau.

Tok Pisin

Tok Pisin is largely spoken in Papua New Guineamarker as a lingua franca. It developed as an English-based creole with influences from local languages and to a smaller extent German or Unserdeutsch and Portuguese. Tok Pisin originated as a pidgin in the 19th century, hence the name 'Tok Pisin' from 'Talk Pidgin', but has now evolved into a modern language.

Also called Pidgin English, this Lingua Franca is also spoken in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The versions of Pidgin vary between PNG, the Solomons and Vanuatu, but all Pidgin speakers from these countries are able to communicate and often understand each others' language variations.

Pidgin English is derived from Australian English and its idioms, so an understanding of vernacular Australian English is often helpful in understanding the origins and application of Pidgin English.

See also


  1. Viacheslav A. Chirikba, "The problem of the Caucasian Sprachbund" in Pieter Muysken, ed., From Linguistic Areas to Areal Linguistics, 2008, p. 31. ISBN 9027231001
  3. Pieter Muysken, "Introduction: Conceptual and methodological issues in areal linguistics", in Pieter Muysken, From Linguistic Areas to Areal Linguistics, 2008 ISBN 9027231001, p. 30-31 [1]
  4. Viacheslav A. Chirikba, "The problem of the Caucasian Sprachbund" in Muysken, p. 74
  5. Lenore A. Grenoble, Language Policy in the Soviet Union, 2003 ISBN 1402012985,p. 131 [2]
  6. Nasledie Chingiskhana by Nikolai Trubetzkoy. Agraf, 1999; p. 478
  7. J. N. Postgate. Languages of Iraq. British School of Archaeology in Iraq, 2007; ISBN 090347221X; p. 164
  8. Dr Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Islam: Religion, History, and Civilization, HarperCollins,Published 2003
  9. Robert Famighetti, The World Almanac and Book of Facts, World Almanac Books, 1998, p. 582
  10. John Andrew Boyle, SOME THOUGHTS ON THE SOURCES FOR THE IL-KHANID PERIOD OF PERSIAN HISTORY, in Iran: Journal of the British Institute of Persian Studies, British Institute of Persian Studies, vol. 12 (1974), p. 175
  11. Arnold J. Toynbee, A Study of History,V, pp. 514-15
  12. ]
  13. "Abá nhe'enga oîebyr — Tradução: a língua dos índios está de volta", by Suzel Tunes essay in Portuguese.

Further reading

  • 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.
  • R. A. Hall, Jr. (1966). Pidgin and Creole Languages, Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-0173-9.
  • MELATTI, Julio Cezar (1983). Índios do Brasil. São Paulo:Hucitec Press, 48th edition

External links

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