Lingua franca

Circulation promotes openness and defies control. You can’t control what you can’t seize. More flux, more open-source. Circulation leads to dissemination. Everything that moves tends to spread out in an open field.

Open languages have little control over standards and norms. Languages of establishment of limited international circulation tends towards standardisation and will develop ways and institutions of control. For these languages, grammar, vocabulary and style are subject to control to a far greater degree than those languages which extend over different cultures.

A lingua franca is a language in the public domain. It extends over several cultures without belonging to any of them.

A lingua franca is an open-source commodity. Owned by no-one, it belongs to everyone as long as it is being used and kept in circulation. It is non-proprietary, but susceptible to strong local inflections and international influences. With no forces keeping it around the centre-point, it develops forms beyond anyone’s ability to arrest or enhance them.

For language purists, a lingua franca is a nightmare come true. It is strictly a tool, a common denominator. It is free-floating. Anyone can learn it and use it. It can never become an inner language, intimate and caring. It hits the target on the surface and lacks the depth to engage with complexities. It is readily available, does its job, but a job is what it does.

There is nothing wrong with speaking a lingua franca, as long as there are intimate languages to fill the void which the former cannot occupy. The problem is that for many people, the lingua franca is the only available idiom – and these people are forced to wander the surface endlessly in search of communicable subjectivity.


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  1. A “Lingua franca” makes me wish Latin never died off, but It also went through so many changes and modifications over the years of its existence, I suspect ( but I am by no means an expert) that the Reformation (the one in the 1516) really disabled the concept of a shared cultural- grammar. like most cultural changes, It takes a while to become noticeable yet it is happening. Wether or not this Introduced or supressed communicable subjectivity Is Hard to analyze (but that would make a great thesis done in Esperanto!!!)

    see Sapir, E. 1929. “The status of linguistics as a science”. Language 5. 207-14. Reprinted in The selected writings of Edward Sapir in language, culture, and personality, ed. by D. G. Mandelbaum, 160-6. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Whorf, B. L. 1940. “Science and linguistics”. Technology Review 42: 227-31, 247-8.Reprinted in Language, thought, and reality: Selected writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf, ed. by J. B. Carroll, 207-19. Cambridge, MA: The Technology Press of MIT/New York: Wiley. 1956.



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