If this is Lingua Franca Nova, what was the original Lingua
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
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 language that began as an effort at communication between two groups of people, and over time became a language in its own right. The 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
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 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
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
But this was truly a separate undertaking – a fresh start.
And what do you think makes your language any better than all the
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. In addition, it is the only one that
was specifically designed with esthetics in mind!
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 Arabic
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
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
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.
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 think of it as 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
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". [Note: "esa" was dropped, but sorely missed.
We later added "lo" as the pronoun for things.]
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
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
Addendum - 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:
The past tense went from the suffix -va to the particle ia;
The future tense went from -ra to the particle va;
The subject-object-possessive distinctions (e.g. io/me/ma...)
in the pronouns have disappeared.
Minor adjustments in the vocabulary were also made. On the
other hand, our attempts at doing without a plural suffix (using the
articles li and di instead) proved awkward, so the plural -s remains
as the very last vestige of grammatical affixation in LFN.
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!
Addendum - July 2008
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
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
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. [Note: Sadly, wikipedia nevertheless turned down
our application for our own version of wikipedia, despite originally saying
that the SIL acknowledgment was the only thing we needed.
Afterwards, there was a rather strong effort to remove even the articles
on created languages other than the most famous ones. But we persevered!]
Addendum - 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 added "lo" for the third person singular when refering
"Ce" is now used only to introduce noun clauses, and is
required rather than optional;
"Cual" now serves as "which" and "what", interrogative and
We encourage the use of "lo cual" and "el cual" when when no
noun is present before a relative clause;
"Per ce" is now "perce";
The suffix "-os" has been changed to "-osa" to avoid confusion
Taking the long view, it is interesting to see how some things
evolved. Lfn has become slightly less "creole-like" over time. For
example, the affixes have become far more general than originally
intended. Originally, -or was for tradespeople, but now is used for
almost any actor, instead of -nte; -eria has gone far beyond its
original use as a place of business, such as a shop; and -ador is
no longer only for tools. In the reverse, the use of broadly
defined prepositions has lessened. I suspect that these trends are
the effect of our natural languages and, probably, the extensive use
of affixes in esperanto, which is a second language to most of our
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 at the
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
Addendum - March, 2014
It would seem that there are to be no further grammatical changes,
changes in spelling or pronunciation, or changes in the use of
affixes. Everything works very well, as well as any natural or
artificial language can. We continue to add words to the dictionary,
and hope to add more definitions and additional languages to it as
well. There have been a few more articles and translations in the
past year, but activity has slowed. I myself would like to focus
mostly on the dictionary.
One bit of news is the creation of a new domain and "homepage" for
lfn - elefen.org. It contains a number of introductions and basic
learning materials, and we shall add to it as time goes by. The old
homepage (http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/lfn.html) is also linked to the new site. We
hope the new page will attract some attention.
Finally, as the homepage name shows, we decided to use the alternative name "elefen" for the language.
Many followers found "Lingua Franca Nova" cumbersome, and "LFN" boring.
So, "elefen" was born, and if it reminds you of elephants (a majestic and intelligent beast)
or of something out of "Lord of the Rings", so much the better!
Addendum - October, 2016
La lingua es ancora vivente! Nos ia continua ajunta parolas a la disionario, e ia defini tota radises e multe otra parolas. E aora la disionario ave multe imajes! Lo es multe bela!
Con multe, multe esita, me ia acorda con la plu de elefenistes cual partisipa en la discutes: Nos ave aora un colie de determinantes de posese cual difere de la pronomes personal relatada:
me - mea
nos - nosa
tu - tua
vos - vosa
el, lo, on, los - sua
Estas permete ce nos evita alga problemes peti cual ia irita nos per multe anios. Multe grasias a tota ci ia aida me en esta deside!