FAQ: Frequently Asked QuestionsIf this is Lingua Franca Nova, what was the original Lingua Franca?
Lingua Franca was a pidgin or trade language that flourished in the Mediterranean from perhaps as early as the 1300's until perhaps as late as the 1800's. It was a blend of Italian, Provençal (or Occitan, the language of southern France), and Catalan (the language of the east coast of Spain). It had as well hints of Spanish, Portuguese, Croatian, Greek, Turkish, and Arabic.
Its grammar was extremely reduced. There was no gender, no plural suffix, no person suffixes for verbs, no possessive or separate objective form for pronouns.... The only grammatical suffix that survived was "-to" for the past tense! We can see similar grammars in modern Pidgins and Creoles, such as Melanesian Pidgin English and Haitian French Creole.
To learn more, go to Alan Corré's page on Lingua Franca.
What is the relation between LFN and the original Lingua Franca?
Basically, it was a matter of inspiration. I started the process of creating Lingua Franca Nova in 1965. At that time, I had no access to information about Lingua Franca other than a few lines of Moliere. The original Lingua Franca was more analytic (i.e. like other Creoles and Pidgins, or like Chinese) than LFN, but only slightly. It was designed for quick and easy communications among sailors and merchants, not for the broader purpose of providing an international communications tool for the twenty-first century!
Because I selected a similar set of languages, and because I was also interested in developing a simple and consistent grammar, LFN and Lingua Franca often do overlap, especially in vocabulary. But that was not intentional.
What is so special about Creoles?
A Creole is a grass-roots language: It is a language descended from a Pidgin that has become the native language of a group of people. Study of Creole languages around the world has shown that they display remarkable similarities in grammar, possibly reflecting the universals in all languages. Most words in Creoles, for example, are unvarying, and the grammar tends to be indicated by simple particles and word order. It should be understood that Creole languages are not baby-talk versions of major languages. Kreyòl in Haiti, Papiamento in Aruba, or Tok Pisin in Papua-New Guinea are full-fledged languages, capable of expressing anything that can be expressed in French, Spanish, or English.
What languages did you use to create LFN?
LFN is based on French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Catalan. Other Romance languages were considered but omitted for various reasons, most often limited speaking populations and, in the case of Romanian, the strong influence of non-Romance neighbors. Catalan was included because of its centrality, both physically and linguistically, which made it a useful "tie-breaker" when word forms were split (as they often were) between a French-Italian version and a Spanish-Portuguese version.
Why not English or Latin or Greek?
I honestly did not feel they were necessary: Most of the international vocabulary of English comes from French or Latin, and the vocabulary of the Romance languages is itself derived from Latin.
Latin and Greek have, of course, supplied us with innumerable scientific words. LFN uses the Romance derivations of Latin words, plus phonetic versions of Greek technical terms and affixes, very much the way that Italian or Spanish do.
Isn't your language just a slightly modified form of some of the other "international languages" out there, like Esperanto or Interlingua?
No, in fact. I did not use any other constructed language as a guide for either the grammar or the vocabulary. To the extent that many of the other languages have a similar set of source languages and the goal of simple and regular grammar, of course there will be similarities.
But this was truly a separate undertaking -- a fresh start.
And what do you think makes your language any better than all the others?
Please understand that I admire all the attempts mentioned, and I hope that we someday adopt one -- it almost doesn't matter which! Of the languages mentioned, I believe mine is the strictest in regard to phonetic spelling, which I believe in very strongly. It is also far more regular than Interlingua, yet more "natural" than Esperanto.
Does being "natural" really mean anything?
Ultimately, no. Someday (perhaps), children will learn the international language in grammar school alongside their own, and think nothing of its naturalness or lack thereof. But along the way, it makes considerable difference: Many millions of adults will need and want to learn the language, and will resist what seems artificial to them. By basing LFN on the Romance languages, I am appealing to a very large number of people who either speak those languages or are familiar with them -- including most Europeans, North and South Americans, Australians, and many people in Africa and Asia.
But why not include, say, Chinese or Japanese or Hindi or Arab words and grammatical points?
Because by adding words and other things from many other unrelated languages, I add little to LFN's learnability for the people of China, etc., while reducing greatly the learnability for those familiar with the Romance languages.
I should make a little political point: It is the European Union that is most likely to seek and adopt a constructed language, and it is the European Union that has the economic and cultural power to make it attractive enough for others all over the world to learn!
Doesn't English already serve as a de facto lingua franca?
To a considerable extent, yes.
But English has a couple of problems standing in its way: First, it has one of the worst spelling systems of any language using a western alphabet. Unless it were to dramatically alter its spelling system -- not a likely event -- it will continue to mystify those who learn it as a second language, not to mention its own native speakers!
Second, English has come to represent a specific cultural tradition. Although there are many differences among Brits, Yanks, Canadians, Australians, South Africans, New Zealanders, etc., they do share quite a bit of culture, including industrial society, commercialism, free-market orientation, individualism, media dominance, and unfortunate colonial histories. While not all these things are necessarily bad (and are in fact emulated), they are not appealing to everyone, especially countries who feel their cultural traditions slipping away under the bombardment of English language movies, radio, television, music, products, and now the internet.
How did you go about selecting specific versions of a word to include in your vocabulary?
When looking at a set of words with a common Latin root, I usually went with a conservative version -- i.e. one that retained as much of the Latin root as my phonetic principles allowed. This meant that, for example, consonants followed by l (as retained by French and Catalan) were more likely than the various simplifications found in Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. Likewise, simple vowels were more likely than the various on-glides (uo, ia, etc.).
On the other hand, phonetics decreed that, although some initial consonant clusters were retained for international recognition value, syllables could only end in a vowel, an unvoiced fricative (f, s, x), a nasal (m, n), or in l or r. This made for more final consonants and complex medial clusters than Italian permits, but fewer than French, Portuguese, or Spanish permit. While LFN may remind most of Spanish generally, it sometimes takes on an Italian flavor by avoiding medial clusters like ct or pt, or by not permiting final c, p, or t. It reminds me of Catalan, which also sounds like a cross between Spanish and Italian -- with a little French and Portuguese thrown in!
What about the masculine and feminine versions of various words?
There is, of course, no gender in LFN, so one issue was whether to take masculine or feminine forms of adjectives and other modifiers. In general, I have used feminine adjective forms, except where the word can end in a consonant. A is the most central of the LFN vowels (there being no schwa -- the uh sound in so many English words), so it seemed appropriate for the unstressed endings of adjectives, as well as the definite article, etc. The final vowels of verbs were simply the most common third person singulars of the present tense: a, e, or i.
Was this then a purely "scientific" process?
Part of the selection process was the consideration that short words are to be preferred over long ones, easy to pronounce words over difficult ones, internationally recognizable words over idiosyncratic ones. Avoiding homonyms was also a consideration. Upon occasion, simple esthetics made the choice between one form and another. I cannot pretend that this was anything other than an individual's creation. I consider it a minor work of art. But, unlike the Mona Lisa, it doesn't matter if others change it or add to it to fit their needs. Consider it an on-going creation!
What's with the noun forms taken unmodified from the adjective or verb?
Taking nouns from adjectives unchanged is common: bela (beautiful) becomes la belas (the beauties) in many languages. In English, the adjective used this way as a noun often takes the abstract sense -- as in good and the Good. In LFN, the Good would be la bonia, using the -ia that makes abstract nouns of all adjectives and nouns.
Taking nouns from verbs unchanged is also quite common: dansa (to dance) becomes la dansas (the dances). But beyond a limited set of these examples, there are many more that involve suffixes such as -ion and -tion (and others!) in most Romance languages, as well as in English.
To keep things simple, I used the "dansa" formula for all nouns derived from verbs to refer to a concretized sense of the verb (a specific act, the immediate results of the act, or the process of an act). In English, this is often conveyed by using -ing ("the dancing was wonderful"). In LFN, the corresponding suffix, -nte, is only used to make verbs into adjectives (and nouns, as in the previous paragraph!).
Why does LFN have only one third person singular pronoun?
Gender bias is a real problem in this world, and I believe that avoiding gender pronouns may just help a little. This way, when one talks about what "people" do, we don't subtly tell girls and women that "people" doesn't include them.
The only difficulty I can foresee is when a complex situation arises and we are discussing a girl and a boy and several things besides. First, we can refer to the girl as "la fia" and the boy as "la fio" in place of using pronouns. And we can use "esta," "esa," and "acel"(this here, this/that, and that there) to refer to various objects -- especially "esa," which I retained especially to use as an alternative for it.
You have grammars and dictionaries -- anything else?
Admittedly, LFN does not yet have the popularity of an Esperanto or an Interlingua, or even an Ido, a Novial, or a Glosa! But we are beginning to get some notoriety, and we have translated a few texts, such as the Hemingway story Hills like White Elephants, the Buddhist scripture The Metta Sutta, a piece of the Gospel according to John, and a few other tidbits. We are just beginning!
Why should I learn LFN, a language which nobody speaks?
Well, "nobody" is not quite true. We are trying to establish a comunity of people speaking Lingua Franca Nova with our News-Group http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LinguaFrancaNova/
Beyond that, you'll find no simpler entrance into to the world of Latin-based languages. And beyond that, learning LFN is fun -- really! Try this: http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Lingua_Franca_Nova
Dec. 2003, June 2004
When I first introduced LFN on the internet, it garnered considerable attention. Bjorn Madsen developed a Yahoo group for it (which still exists, though it is considerably quieter now!) and many people had suggestions for improving LFN. Because of the many suggestions, we started a second group (with the name Europijin) for those interested in continued improvements in the direction of pidgins and creoles.
Over time, Bjorn and I and others of the two groups agreed that a number of these suggestions would indeed improve LFN, and we eventually adopted them. Here are the most notable:
Our major accomplishment was the development of translations of the Introduction for Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, German, Dutch, and Danish, and the 1700 word two-way dictionaries for each of those languages. These were ultimately combined into one nine-language dictionary. In the meantime, the reference dictionary (LFN-English) was expanded to its present length. My thanks go to everyone involved!
The latest effort comes from Stefan Fisahn, who has developed a "wiki" for LFN users to contribute translations, original writings, etc. He has also been a great help in further developing the LFN tutorial "Presenta LFN!" Most recently, he has developed a prototype searchable dictionary.
There is still much work to do. It would certainly be nice if we could reignite interest in actual conversation (as well as translation) in LFN itself on the Yahoo group. We are, of course, much fewer in numbers than Esperanto and Interlingua, but we have made an impact on the internet as the most creole-like "Euro-clone" around. We look forward to doing much more!
In the last year or so, Simon Davies has created a new LFN to English dictionary that is wonderful to use and lovely to look at. Simon and several other members have added 100s of words and phrases to the dictionary, and at this point it has nearly 10,000 LFN entries (and at least double that in terms of English words).
We have also gone on to refine the grammar of the language, not changing it at the roots, but looking at the small issues that we can repair to make LFN more consistent, easier to use, or more logical. The only major change, after endless discussion, was to introduce "car" and "afin" for "because" and "so that", respectively, as using "per ce" for these as well as for "why" was obviously confusing!
The interaction outside the dictionary has been sadly lacking, but occasional messages from old and new members keep us hopeful.
The most significant event of the last year is that we have received official recognition (and the all-important ISO-639 abbreviation - lfn, of course!) from SIL.
January, May 2013
It has been a few years since I last commented on the progress of our lfn project. Here's what's new for 2013:
Simon has once again done a great job of innovation regarding the dictionary, and it is beginning to include things like definitions and translations other than English.
Their are several new translations of stories (by Simon, Sunido, and Krzysztof), and a few new wiki articles. And Guido has continued adding his often amusing "thoughts for the day". Unfortunately, there is not as much activity as there used to be.
There have been many additions to the dictionary, almost entirely of derived words, as opposed to new roots, which is, of course, a good thing. We find that we can express most things quite well with the vocabulary we have.
There have been a few relatively small changes made to the grammar:
We have seen quite a few new translations at the wiki. Even more importantly, we have quite a collection of original poetry by Guido Crufio. The most exciting event of the past year was the publication of the very first book in lfn: Simon Davies' translation of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - La aventuras de Alisia en la pais de mervelias. A pdf version is available here.
I myself am taking less and less of a role in lfn, due to problems of concentration and memory. C'est la vie. I have no real idea how to make lfn more popular or even noticeable in the "real" world. I struggle to even keep lfn available on wikipedia, with repeated badgering from bureaucrats. I am hoping that someone with better "political" skills than I have will at some point come forward. We shall see.