On the Conceptual History of the Term Lingua Franca

  • Cyril Brosch
Keywords: Lingua Franca, Conceptual history, Pidgin language, Vehicular language, English as a lingua franca


This paper aims to give an outline of the development of the term “Lingua Franca”. Initially the proper name of an extinct pidgin, to “Lingua Franca”, the term has become a common noun, used with regard to language contact phenomena in general – at first specifically for pidgins and trade languages, but now for all vehicular languages. This broader usage is especially prominent in the field of research known as “English as a lingua franca” (ELF). Using ELF as an example, it is shown that the modern usage is partly inconsistent and can be misleading, as it connects a positive feature of the original Lingua Franca, viz linguistic equality, with a language with native speakers like English, which implies a totally different distribution of power in communicative situations and economic resources in language learning. Against the background of the etymological meaning of “lingua franca” and the competing, less ambiguous term “vehicular language”, a new classification system for interlingual contact is proposed. Within it it is argued that “lingua franca communication” should be confined to contexts where no native speakers of the vehicular language being used are involved – whenever the presence or absence can be stated.
Jan 27, 2015
How to Cite
Brosch, C. (2015). On the Conceptual History of the Term Lingua Franca. Apples - Journal of Applied Language Studies, 9(1), 71-85. https://doi.org/10.17011/apples/2015090104