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The Difference between Pidgin and Lingua Franca


With the growth of civilization, man’s ingenuity has produced many marvels. He is the only creature to have the ability to mould the environment to suit his changing needs. Man is also the only living thing to have a created language to communicate to others from the same species. The numerous forms that this language takes is proof of the creativity of man. Every region has a specific language based on many factors like geographical boundaries and political affiliations and dominations. With movement of people around the world for trade, conquest and colonization, many new languages and forms of languages sprung up based on need and ease of communication. Let us discuss two of those need based language forms that took birth in the world – Pidgin and Lingua Franca.

What is a Lingua Franca?

A Lingua Franca is a created common language that enables people who have no common native language to communicate with each other. This common language is either created from different languages or it adopts a dominant language. It is basically a language of commerce where international boundaries are crossed. Lingua Franca, meaning free or open language in Italian, was first used in the medieval times by traders in Europe. Every country in Europe has its own national and regional language spoken by its native speakers. When they had to communicate with one another in the course of business and trade, they needed a common medium of communication and thus was born Lingua Franca. This was not limited by any borders or nationalities. It was a mix of Italian, Provencal, Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, French, Greek and Arabic. It enabled people in European countries to speak to each other in a language understood by all to do commerce. It was also a medium of communication used by slaves and their masters who otherwise did not have a common language.

Now Lingua Franca has come to mean any language that is used as a common language by speakers of different languages. It makes use of an existing language as lingua franca, where in a mother tongue of one country goes abroad and becomes the language of another country. The language that becomes Lingua Franca is usually of a dominant political country which holds sway over other countries. English is currently Lingua Franca in many parts of the world where English is not the native language. This has come to be because of the sway England had over the world the world through its colonization policy. India has Hindi as its national language, but English is the Lingua Franca there and is used as language of business, commerce and education throughout the country. Lingua Franca is also known as an international language, trade language, auxiliary language and a contact language.

What is Pidgin?

Pidgin is similar to Lingua Franca, but it has no native speakers. It is not spoken by any country as the only language. It is a creation based on necessity. When a group of people who have no common language come together and are forced to communicate, the speakers perchance use words they know, in a simplified form to make the others understand what they have to convey. It is a corrupted form of a language or a couple of languages framed for a specific reason, usually trade. It has a limited vocabulary and is a distorted form of the languages involved. Some pidgins become lingua francas, but not all lingua francas are pidgins. Since Pidgins are languages of convenience, they don’t lay much emphasis on grammar or linguistic elegance. Some pidgins are spoken over a period of time and become the native language of the next generation of speakers. They then are called Creoles. For example, Pidgin English is a combination of English and native language of the people of Papua New Guinea. One could say that Pidgins are hybridised languages.

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