Difference Between Pidgin and Lingua Franca

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: September 16, 2023


Difference Between Pidgin and Lingua Franca

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In our day-to-day lives, languages play an important role in communication, whether in houses, schools, offices, or any other outdoor places. There is no shortage of languages throughout the world. Every corner of the world, country, state, town, and village has its significant languages. Languages are categorized in various forms- verbal, non-verbal, sign, computer languages, and many more. The two most common forms of language are Pidgin and Lingua Franca.

A pidgin is a form of language spoken between the categories of people who do not have a common language. It is usually spoken by a non-native speaker. Pidgin allows basic communication between groups of people. It has become extremely popular in many parts of the world.

On the other hand, Lingua Franca is a form of language spoken between people with varied native languages. The best example to understand Lingua Franca is the English language. English has become a Lingua Franca for communication in different areas and fields. Lingua Franca is a mixture of a variety of languages and is used for many social, political, and economic purposes.

Pidgin and Lingua Franca are sort of similar in many terms. Pidgin can be composed as Lingua Franca. But it is essential to study that not all Pidgins are Lingua Franca and not all Lingua Franca are Pidgins.

Pidgin vs. Lingua Franca

Pidgin and Lingua Franca are language forms different from each other based on the concepts, uses, features, history, and criticisms.

Pidgin is a language created from the combination of more than two languages. According to the studies, more than 75 million people speak Pidgin across different areas of the world. This language is mainly spoken in activities like trade, agriculture, and mining. Pidgin is a simplified language and has been developed gradually around the world. It proves beneficial for people who do not have a common native language and struggle to communicate with people. Some examples of Pidgin include- Labrador Inuit Pidgin French, Nigerian Pidgin, Algonquian-Basque Pidgin, and many more.

Whereas Lingua Franca is the language spoken as a medium of communication by people with different native languages. This language is also a mixture of languages and is also termed a contact language or trade language. The English language has become a Lingua Franca. According to the studies, 100 percent of students across Europe study English in their education. Lingua Franca is spoken by a large volume of people at the international level. Some examples of the languages are- Portuguese, Italian, Tok Pisin, English, etc.

Pidgin languages have different characteristics that make them vary from Lingua Franca. But sometimes, Pidgin serves as Lingua Franca in many cases. It is generally counted as an example in Lingua Franca.

Difference Between Pidgin and Lingua Franca in Tabular Form

Parameters of ComparisonPidginLingua Franca
MeaningPidgin is a language developed from two or three languages combined and is a medium of communication for people with no common language.Lingua Franca is a language used as a medium of communication for people who speak different languages.
FeaturesThere are no grammatical rules and limited vocabulary.It is a fully developed language with rules of grammar and vocabulary.
ExamplesSome examples of pidgin are- Sea Island Creole, Haitian Creole, and Louisiana Creole.Some examples of Lingua Franca are- English, Sogdian, French, and Tok Pisin.
Native LanguagePeople speaking Pidgin have no native language of their own.Lingua Franca-speaking people have their native language.
UsageIt is used as a second language.It is used as a third or fourth language.
SettingsThis language is spoken in informal settings.This language is spoken in formal settings.
Other NamesPidgin is also referred to as Auxiliary Language.Lingua Franca is also known as Trade Language, Contact Language, International Language, and Global Language.

What is Pidgin?

Created as a signified language, Pidgin was developed for Europeans and non-Europeans residing outside of Europe from the 16th century to the early 19th century. It functions as a mixture of different languages developed for people with no common language. These non-native speakers use Pidgin as a medium of communication usually during trade and agricultural-related contacts.

Also known as 'Auxiliary Language', Pidgin includes multiple languages like Nigerian Pidgin, Chinese Pidgin, Hawaiian Pidgin, and Bislama. It is spoken as a second language to facilitate communication. As RL Trask and Peter Stockwell stated in the book Language and Linguistics: The Key Concepts, 2007, “A Pidgin is nobody’s mother tongue, and it is not a real language at all; it has no elaborate grammar, it is very limited in what it can convey, and different people speak it differently. Still, for simple purpose it does work, and often everybody in the area learns to handle it.”

Pidgin fosters more connection in a Multilanguage setting with people from different backgrounds willing to communicate. About three and five million Nigerians use Pidgin as their first language and the rest of the seventy-five million use it as their second language. Students of various Nigerian institutions find it easier to communicate with Pidgin in an informal setting. Having simple grammatical rules, it also uses words from the local language instead of English. That is why Pidgin is often referred to as the unofficial language of the ‘uneducated’.

  Pidgin usually consists of many characteristics. Some of the notable features of the language are:-

  • Syllables in the Pidgin language are simple and often lack codas (concluding remarks or passages).
  • Pidgins have many regional and situational variations and are shaped by the needs of their speakers.
  • Pidgins borrow words from the source languages.
  • Pidgins exclude linguistic features like gender and numbers.
  • Pidgins are characterized by a high degree of phonological simplicity.
  • Some English Pidgins have their pages on popular websites like Wikipedia.
  • Pidgins have more limited functions than natural languages.

  Pidgin was found in Africa, Indonesia, parts of Asia, and the Caribbean. It is innovative and inventive. For example- in Nigerian Pidgin “ How bodi? How you Dey?” means How are you? In Tok Pisin ‘gras bilong het’ means ‘hair’. You too much means thank you or good job, and Dis food sweet well, well means this meal is delicious. In the 19th century, laborers from Japan, China, Portugal, Korea, and many other nations were brought to work in other parts which led to the development of the Pidgin language.

  Nigerian Pidgin English originated as a Lingua Franca for trade contacts among the merchants during the 17th century. Today, it is the most widely spoken language in Nigeria. Chinese Pidgin English originated as a Lingua Franca for trade purposes between the British and Cantonese-speaking Chinese people. In 1982, China declared English as the main foreign language in education. West African Pidgin originated as a Lingua Franca across Nigeria and was used for trade contacts with Europeans. Thus, in some ways, Pidgins serve as Lingua Franca.

Pidgin has also received a lot of criticism due to its ordinary usage. Pidgin indicates messiness and jumbled language, which results in a lot of confusion. These attitudes have made them inferior and unworthy of study.

What is Lingua Franca?

Lingua Franca is a language spoken as a medium of communication between people speaking different languages. It was used by traders and pirates in the Mediterranean region from the 11th through the 19th centuries. It is derived from the name of the language Sabir. Sabir was a Pidgin, but not all Lingua Francas are Pidgins. Lingua Franca is a global language spoken at an international level by a huge volume of people. A nation or region adopts a Lingua Franca when its residents or citizens speak multiple languages.

Lingua Franca is a mixture of Italian with French, Greek, Arabic, and Spanish. It plays a pivotal role throughout the world for commerce and trade. Lingua Franca is referred to as a bridge language and includes English as its most common form. English is spoken as a global means of inter-community communication. English as a Lingua Franca serves as a medium of teaching, learning, and means of communication. As quoted by G Asha Suhasini Raja, "English language is like enchanted with its nuances, only the one in love can enjoy its beauty. It can be used by anyone with or without any limitations. You can keep it as simple as you can or make it as sophisticated as your pen. The essence of this language can be enjoyed written and spoken because it is Lingua Franca." Lingua Franca is also used in India. There are two major Lingua Francas in India- Hindustani and English.

Lingua Franca helps people in communication related to technology, science, and the academy. It helps to improve efficiencies within a company with operations in many countries. Lingua Franca does not involve the learning of reading and writing. Hence, it does not require any fluency. It makes an excellent language of diplomacy because of its neutral nature. Lingua Franca is easier to learn than local languages if it has an easier and moderate level of vocabulary and grammar.

  Some of the characteristics of Lingua Franca are:

1. Lingua Franca adopts a native language by combining different elements of other languages.

2. English as a Lingua Franca uses that-clauses in place of infinitive constructions.

3. Lingua Franca is not a simplified language.

4. Conquest and empire-building resulted in the usage of Lingua Franca.

5. Lingua Franca’s grammar includes more explicitness.

6. Lingua Franca is flexible and is universally spoken.

7. Lingua Franca is recognized internationally.

Lingua Franca was developed in the 17th century. The term was first used during the Middle Ages to describe a language or jargon used around the eastern Mediterranean by traders. Lingua Franca was spoken a lot throughout the Renaissance period and the early 18th century. In Ghana, Akan is the main Lingua Franca. During the apartheid system, the South African government established Afrikaans as Lingua Franca in South Asia. During the rise of the Almoravids and Almohads dynasties, Berber served as Lingua Franca of Northwest Africa. Similarly, Bantu Botatwe is the Lingua Franca of Lusaka, and Ewondo is the Lingua Franca of Cameron's center region.

English as a Lingua Franca has been criticized by some critics. Critiques have highlighted that the term has been detached from its more mundane etymological origins. For example- most learners of English do not achieve the position of users because of racial and economic inequalities.

Main Differences Between Pidgin and Lingua Franca In Points

  • A Pidgin is a form of language created as a means of communication for non-native speakers. Lingua Franca is a form of language spoken by a group of people with different languages.
  • Pidgin is derived from the Chinese Pronunciation of the English word 'business'.  On the other hand, the Lingua Franca is derived from the Italian language 'Frankish Tongue'.
  • The term Pidgin was first recorded in English in 1807. In contrast, the term Lingua Franca was created during the 17th century.
  • Pidgin aims at creating a new language out of two existing languages. On the other hand, Lingua Franca is developed from a dominant language.
  • Pidgin emerged from the interaction of more than two groups. While Lingua Franca is an already existing language for people speaking different languages.
  • Pidgin is closely related to trade and agricultural-related purposes. On the other hand, Lingua Franca serves as a medium for teaching, learning, and academic purposes.
  • A pidgin language is not a mother tongue for the people. Lingua Franca, being an existing language, includes some of the languages that serve as the mother tongue of a community.
  • Pidgin is a simplified language. On the other hand, Lingua Franca is not a simplified language.


Pidgin and Lingua Franca are used throughout the world and are assumed similar by the users and the speakers. However, it is necessary to note that Pidgin deals with a group of people with no common language and provides them with a specific language combined with other languages to facilitate communication. On the other hand, Lingua Franca deals with people or communities with multiple languages and provides them with an easier medium of communication. Although both languages aim at serving the means of communication, sometimes Pidgins serve as Lingua Francas, but Lingua Francas are not Pidgins.


  • papertrell.com
  • thoughtco.com
  • britannica.com
  • sciencedirect.com


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"Difference Between Pidgin and Lingua Franca." Diffzy.com, 2024. Fri. 23 Feb. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-pidgin-and-lingua-franca>.

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