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contact language



A marginal language (a type of lingua franca) used for purposes of basic communication by people with no common language.

English as lingua franca (ELF), says Alan Firth, is a "contact language between persons who share neither a common native tongue nor a common (national) culture, and for whom English is the chosen foreign language of communication" (1996).

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • "Ancient Greek around the Mediterranean basin, or later Latin throughout the Roman Empire, were both contact languages. They tend to vary in use in different local contexts, and there is often a great deal of local language interference. Latin, for example, later developed many local forms which eventually became French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and so on. The contact language usually dominates in situations in which the speakers of that language have military or economic power over other language users. . . .

    "When the contact between groups of people is prolonged, a hybrid language can develop known as a pidgin. These tend to occur in situations where one language dominates, and there are two or more other languages at hand."
    (Peter Stockwell, Sociolinguistics: A Resource Book for Students. Routledge, 2002)

  • "The most often cited example of a (bilingual) mixed system is Michif, a contact language that developed in Canada between French-speaking fur traders and their Cree-speaking wives."
    (Naomi Baron, Alphabet to Email: How Written English Evolved. Routledge, 2001)

  • "A very naive view of language contact would probably hold that speakers take bundles of formal and functional properties, semiotic signs so to speak, from the relevant contact language and insert them into their own language. . . . A probably more realistic view held in language contact research is that whatever kind of material is transferred in a situation of language contact, this material necessarily experiences some sort of modification through contact."
    (Peter Siemund, "Language Contact" in Language Contact and Contact Languages, ed. by P. Siemund and N. Kintana. John Benjamins, 2008)
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