Previous page  
List of subjects |  Sources |  Feedback 

Share |

Discover in a free
daily email today's famous
history and birthdays

Enjoy the Famous Daily

Lingua franca

Aramaic is the first example of a lingua franca - a common second language, shared by people who are unable to communicate in their native tongues. Such languages, essential in the history of communication, are usually a by-product of empire.

Aramaic, used in the Persian empire, is gradually displaced by Greek in the vast area conquered by Alexander the Great. (Even so, three centuries after Alexander, Aramaic is still the everyday language of Palestine, spoken by Jesus Christ and his disciples). Latin becomes the linqua franca of most of Europe during the Roman empire, and strengthens its hold in the Middle Ages through the dominance of the Roman Catholic church.

In more modern times French is the western world's first lingua franca, owing to the prestige of France in the age of Louis XIV. During the 20th century its position is gradually usurped by English, as a result of the global spread of the British empire and the commercial dominance of the United States. English has by now penetrated more deeply as an international language than any of its predecessors, being widely used by tourists, shopkeepers, advertisers, pilots and scientists in addition to more traditional categories such as diplomats.

A lingua franca of a different and fascinating kind is the non-phonetic Chinese script.

Previous page