The following is from Martha Brummett:
Your "Glossary of Lingua Franca" is the most informative site on Polari I have yet seen, particularly your essay on Occitan.
You may be interested to know that some words derived from L.F. were used as late as 1973 in Memphis and New Orleans. I was under the impression until about two years ago that they came from New Orleans French Creole, the small Italian population of Mississippi, and the various carnies who sometimes took jobs in barge transport on the river.
Polari-as I now know it to be-was spoken by a few older men. It was more intonation and turn of phrase than the relatively few words, but it did exist. You might want to note that New Orleans is a seaport, and that Memphis has a very large Navy base.
Also, you state, "It may be noted that for the numerals 7, 8, 9 an alternative occurs by placing together 6-1, 6-2, 6-3. It is unclear why this system is used." Here is a possible explanation: the relatively small Polari vocabulary did not always go intact to all areas-i.e., San Francisco might have words not known in New York, and vice versa. The six-based system is probably British, when the sixpenny piece was a common coin, and of relatively high value. Lacking a very pressing need for numerals higher than six, some areas did not have them, and thus when needed, this system could have been used…
The following interchange took place with Dr. Zdravko Batzarov of Sofia, Bulgaria.
Date: Mon, 12 Apr 1999
From: Alan D Corré
To: Zdravko Batzarov
Subject: Re: Lingua Franca
I have copied your esteemed letter below, (marked by ">") and will add my comments at intervals. [Note 2002: I have replaced this email convention with a heading for each interlocutor. I have also added some additional notes with my initials. ADC]
On Tue, 23 Mar 1999, Zdravko Batzarov wrote:
Your cybergraph on lingua franca was a very interesting discovery for me. Thank you.
I am a political scientist in the field of international relations, and the origin of this idiom has excited my interest for various reasons, that would be too long to describe now. I took anyway the liberty to send you this e-mail in order to share some opinions, as well as to ask you for some clarifications on the subject…
As far as I can understand Lingua Franca was not written in any standard form, if written at all, and I wonder would not it be better to use in your work of reconstruction a deliberately devised system of writing, which will permit the readers of the cybergraph to understand assuredly the pronunciation, of e.g. the word calceta as [kalcheta], [kaltseta] or [kaltheta]? Or maybe all the three pronunciations were in use? In other words, I would suggest that special attention be paid to phonetics. Moreover in this way the origin of the words will be more accurately traced back to the source language. On this matter I would make some remarks.
As you correctly note, LF was rarely written, being mainly used for practical, oral purposes. Other persons have drawn my attention to written materials, which in some cases I have already incorporated (as the strange operatic materials) and others I hope to include in a new edition I plan for next year. [The reference here is to the 2000 edition. ADC]
I am sensitive to the issue of phonetic accuracy. My training is in Linguistics-I wrote a doctoral dissertation on the structure of the Tamil language. There are two separate issues. One is that HTML, even in its extended character set, lacks many characters that would be useful for linguistically oriented works, and for this reason I devised my own ad hoc representation of Arabic sentences that I quote. This was not difficult to do, since I am essentially transliterating the texts originally written in a modified cursive Hebrew alphabet. It does make phonetic representations difficult. The other is the difference in this regard between pidgins and creoles. Creoles are full-blown languages - however difficult they may be to categorize as to their provenance - and can be subjected to careful phonetic analysis and thence to a phonemic simplification, so to say, that looks for distinctive elements in the language. It does not seem to me that this applies to pidgins. One can guess that a speaker of LF would import into his version of LF the phonemic structure of his native language, much as a French or Russian speaker who speaks English imperfectly will be perceived as having a "foreign accent" but nonetheless can be quite fluent and perfectly understood. As you say, LF did not have a standard form, and I do not think that we need work too hard to ensure a supposedly phonetically accurate transcription. In copying over the materials in the Marseilles vocabulary, I took the liberty of leaving aside the bizarre and inconsistent orthography there used which was meant simply for the convenience of French speakers. (What the Hugo dictionaries call an "imitated pronunciation.") I reckoned that those who wish to see the original spellings can get to see the original text. I used a xerox copy of the original of the Marseilles wordlist in the British Museum which is held by one of the American university libraries. However, I shall take note of your suggestion, and maybe various spellings should be noted.
You suppose that Occitan/Provençal (and I would dare to add Catalan) is attributable for some vocables in Lingua Franca, giving as an example the word manjar. Reading the dictionary that you have compiled, I am quite inclined to share your view, though in the case of manjar I am sure to discover a clear French origin. This is because only in French (precisely in the dialect of Ile de France) the original a was pronounced in a manner to produce the palatalization of the preceding c and g to [ch] and [dzh], thus transforming the Latin carrus into char and gaudere into jouir. So, Latin manducare develops into Romance *mangare (or mancare, as in Rumanian) and into French manger. The Italian mangiare, Spanish and Portuguese manjar, as also the Occitan manjar, are spelling adaptations of the French form. French, though originating in the northern part of France, was largely used in the Mediterranean (especially by the Crusaders) and was considered to be of great prestige, mainly in Italy, where Brunetto Latini proposed it as the official pan-Romance language…
Others have commented on my comments on manjar, and I will have to add some clarifications in the next edition. I have long been fascinated by the widespread effects of palatalization as a linguistic phenomenon. It is clearly of great importance in Slavic (I am only familiar with Russian, unfortunately) and turns up in all kinds of places; the Brazilian pronunciation of Portuguese palatalizes many words, and I have seen its effects in languages as different as Tamil and North African Arabic. [I was referring to t in Moroccan Arabic. Lameen Souag of Cambridge University has correctly pointed out that this is affrication, not palatalization. 2002] It seems to be a universal tendency for some reason.
On the other hand, looking at your list, I think the word caiena chain (< Rom. cadena, as in mod. Sp. < L. catena) is probably Occitan; it is peculiar to W. Romance to drop the intervocalic -d- (cf. Sp. ver, F. voir < L. videre) and to transform the intervocalic -t- into -d- (cf. Sp., Port. poder < Rom. poter < L. root pot-); it was peculiar to Gallo-Roman only (French and Occitan) to drop the intervocalic -d- that was developed from intervocalic -t- (cf. F. pouvoir with separating v to avoid hiatus < poder < Rom. poter); this is what happened with the form caiena, but the fact that we have no palatalization of ca- in cha- reveals it as truly Occitan, I think.
All these remarks seem very much on target. I have noticed that the Andalusian pronunciation of "pez espada" (swordfish) is peh ehpa where the slight aspiration replaces the sibilant and the intervocalic d vanishes entirely, as it does also in words such as "colorado" (the normal word for "red" in this part of the country.)
In the list I met the word cala hold, which is derived from the Greek verkhalao. Surely, there were to be found some other words of Greek origin in Lingua Franca (apart from papas, as you have mentioned), as in the Middle Ages Greek was still in use in some communities in Syria and Southern Italy.
Thank you. My Greek is weak.
Since Lingua Franca appeared as a business pidgin, is it not probable to suppose it was devised in the circles of the Jewish traders around the Mediterranean sea? As you have mentioned, the Western Romance languages were much closer in pronunciation in the Middle Ages than they are today, so their speakers could understand one another without any difficulty, every one speaking in his own tongue and thus preserving his own monolingualism. [I often see on a Chicago suburban bus two women who understand each other very well, one speaking Spanish, the other Portuguese. ADC] Unlike them, the Jews were, on their part, effectively multilingual; evidently, the Sepharads were using both Spanish and Arabic, and they created even their own variants of these languages, as Judeo-Arabic, which you speak about in your study, and Judezmo or Ladino, which is a variety of medieval Spanish. I think an environment like this is apt to stimulate by itself the development of new linguistic phenomena through confusion of forms and rules. The presence of some features, specific to Judezmo - like the pronunciation of j as [zh] and not [x] (as in Castilian), the complete softening of [b] to [v] etc. (features that made some people confound Judezmo with Portuguese), constitutes in Lingua Franca the bulk of this contribution.
The [x] of Castilian seems to be a rather recent development. The b/v question in Spanish seems complicated, and I have not researched it in detail. I have noticed that in Andalusian Spanish for "come here" people say indifferently "ven aqui" or "ben por aca", but do not interchange the ben and ven. It must have something to do with the influence of Standard Spanish on the local dialect.
The greater part of the Jews in my country, Bulgaria, came from Spain immediately after 1492 and persevered in the usage of their archaic Spanish idiom till the mid of 20th c. It seems probable that in their dealings with Italian, Greek and other traders on the Balkan markets, the Jewish merchants were naturally inclined to use Lingua Franca as a simplified version of their own home language. Consequently some words of Lingua Franca origin have penetrated into Bulgarian city slang, such as palavra (used mainly to designate cheat, lie, which assuredly testifies to its usage at the markets), gusto (used to express great approbation) etc. [Could palaver and gusto have a similar background in English? ADC] In this connection, I want to make clear that the change of the initial Spanish f into mute h had to take place before 1492, because as I have heard from our elder Sepharads they pronounce hijo [izho], hacer etc. and not fijo or facer. The name variants Fernando and Hernando (in use already in the 15th c.) also reflects the fact that this change has developed at least five centuries ago. [Personal names typically preserve archaic features, consider François in French, and the penultimate accent on many personal names in Modern Hebrew. Such names seem to resist broader sound change. ADC]
Finally, I would like to agree completely with your statement that the standard "family tree" model of language descent is fundamentally flawed, and surely the language I used to write you these lines is a remarkable example in support of your view.
Some years ago I published (in the Jewish Quarterly Review) a text of the prophetic reading for the fast of Av which in some Jewish communities (as in my own Sephardic community of London, England) is still read in Jewish Spanish. There are many seventeenth century prayer books from Amsterdam which still retain the initial f in the Spanish which is written in Hebrew characters. The situation is complicated by the fact that in many conservative orthographies (English is a good example as in words like knife, knight, knee etc.) a consonant will be written long after it has ceased to be sounded, as well as the fact that many Sepharadic Jews in Amsterdam were Portuguese speakers, who used Spanish for certain liturgical purposes, and also as a means of international communication. Their Spanish even had inflected infinitives, which is a typical Portuguese manifestation. (I published an article on the influence of Hebrew on Portuguese in a recent jubilee volume in honor of Professor Cyrus Gordon.)
The Creolist list published by Stockholm University in Sweden has recently had much discussion on this issue, provoked, I think, by plans to hold a meeting in Denmark dealing with the issue of language affiliations… [Unfortunately the Creolist list appears to have ceased to function, for reasons unknown to me. ADC]
From Zdravko Batzarov Fri May 7 1999
…You are quite right about palatalization. What I find specific in the case of manjar, however, is that it is produced before a - a feature observable in dialects of the Langue d'oil group (like Francien etc.) and not found, as far as I know, in the other Romance tongues. It is common to them to produce palatalizing effects on the consonants preceding [e] and [i] sounds, which reflects clearly the classical Latin triangular vocal scheme:
where [e] - [i] are anterior and [o] - [u] posterior vowels, the [a] sound being neutral. The French transformed this simple scheme to a much more complicated quadrangular one by differentiating anterior and posterior a, as in tache and tâche.
Palatalization seems really to be permanent process, going far beyond the pan-Romance development; for instance, in Rumanian, even the t and d in Slavic loan words were palatalized, cf. the pronunciation of bogati rich (in plural) as [bogats]; the palatalization in Brazilian (I suppose you mean the pronunciation of forte as [forch]) is another example in this direction. In all non-Langue d'oil examples, however, the palatalization is produced before [e] and [i] but not before [a], which can serve us as indicator of lexical influences.
What you have indicated about the disappearance of the intervocalic d in Andalusian, I think, is a common tendency in spoken Spanish, as also the voicing of the intervocalic [k], so we have estado [e'stao] and estomaco [e'stomago]. In this Spanish seems to follow trends French underwent already in the Middle ages.
Finally, I would ask explicitly your opinion on the fundamental
question about the genesis of Lingua Franca: do you believe to be
consistent the hypothesis that it appeared mainly in the
Judeo-Arabic commercial circles around the Mediterranean?...
[This sounds reasonable to me, but I do not see any distinct proof. ADC]
[A comment on Goldoni]
Date: Wed, 6 Oct 1999
From: Alan D Corré
To: Roberto Rossetti
…I am coming to the conclusion that Goldoni's LF is LF the way a speaker of a Romance language would speak it. The complex verb forms of the romance languages are simplified, but the speaker naturally uses gender concord which does not really present much difficulty to the non-romance speaker. There are some interesting theoretical questions arising here as to the nature of LF. If an Arabic speaking child of a wealthy family in Algiers constantly communicated with a Christian servant - caught by the pirates maybe - might he be said to be a native speaker of LF? When I visited Jamaica I met the secretary of the synagogue who was married to a blonde Englishwoman. Their child with his blue eyes and blond hair chattered busily with the neighbors in Jamaican creole.
[Discussing some details in the texts]
Date: Fri, 8 Oct 1999
From: Alan D Corré
To: Roberto Rossetti
Subject: Lupines and Smyrne
I had noticed that Smyrne is plural and wondered about it. Nevertheless I translate the phrase as from Smyrna rather than of Smyrna(s). City names often seem to be pluralized, and this requires investigation. I think it may be that the name marâkish in Arabic was interpreted as a plural with an s ending. Cf. Marruecos in Spanish, where the diphthong would be a later development. It is in fact a broken plural in Arabic (i.e. it is pluralized by vowel change rather than suffixation) and this may have caused "plurals" like Tangier(s) and Algier(s). Could this have spread to the names of some Turkish towns? I am speculating. Also, city names often have a definite article. In English we say The Hague, an abbreviation of the long Dutch name (De)s Graven Hage (=the count's garden.) And the French say La Haye, but also Le Caire, and we say in English Cairo, although the Arabic (al-qâhira) does indeed have the definite article. Could this lead to a plural Sm(y)(i)rna in Italian with the definite article? One needs a history of place names, maybe the web will help.
Thank you for your identification of bagigi. I often sat at the table in Philadelphia of an old gentleman from Gibraltar who always served pickled lupines as a relish. So I have actually tasted them. They are much like haricot beans, but have never seen them on sale in this country, although he must have found them in some market in Philadelphia. I note that in the French versions of Goldoni's plays a Jewish pedlar selling lenses was substituted for an Armenian selling bagigi, apparently because the Armenian pedlar was unknown to the French audience…
From: Roberto Rossetti
Date: Mon, 11 Oct 99
The two poems [noted by Zago] are very interesting, in that to
an Italian native speaker they resemble the language used in
Lully/Moliere's Turkish scene (the year of production might have
something to do with that). I was unfortunately unable to print the
poems (as they come as a sub-paragraph my computer insists in
printing only the parent e-mail, weird because this was not the
case for the first instance of Renata Zago, and instead I was
unable to check the progress on this one.) [Such technical problems
try the patience sometimes, but one survives. ADC] This is because
I would have liked to translate straight the second poem for
you,but the first one is rendered admirably, except that Carbonchia
(from Lat. Carbunculus and OF Carboncle) would rather mean garnet
than ruby. The funny thing is that the Turk in Love mimics in an
astounding way a Portuguese lingua Franca poem , 'Chingly Nona' The
maid from Ceylon,published around l890 that I found on the web in
the Biblioteca Lusófona that I got through SIL with the
Infoseek search Engine, where I found your admirable site.
As for… Lupines & Smyrne: to me the only town entitled to a plural would be al Jazáir, meaning for some reason 'the islands' (perhaps referring to its Peñon) but 'Le Smirne' does seem unnatural even in a contemporary context. Jumping to another topic, I did notice lupins on sale in New York, it was strange because they are not so common (I never tasted them). Gibraltar would be a natural candidate for the western strain of Lingua Franca (the eastern being Smyrna) for England had it settled by Genoese merchants after l704. Besides its proximity to Morocco, I did notice that it shares with Malta, Cyprus and Alexandria the atmosphere I knew in Beirut, described in Durrel's novels…
Undoubtedly Goldoni's LF is a vernacular crafted specifically for the use and comprehension by a Romance language audience, and its relevance to further research lies specifically in its occasional use of strange words such as 'abaggigia' or 'zurina' (in Lully/Moliere). If the children of the Pasha had been raised by a European nanny, they could have spoken some Romance jargon as their first language. I know for a fact that the population of Tabarca included women, though their second generation slave children were raised, according to contemporary chronicles, speaking a Genoese dialect that still survives on San Pietro island off southern Sardinia (no doubt spiced with some Tunisian accretions.)
From: Jonathan Bellman 14 Jan 2000
Subject: madrigal comedies
Have you mined the repertoire of the seventeenth-century madrigal comedies for Lingua Franca? A favorite feature in this repertory is the satire (in speech and music) of foreign and local groups. The only one I have put my hands on has three giudei in a "fracasso," which is funny but not LF.
[Argumento:] Nel traghettar a Dolo (ò dolce spasso) Fan sinagoga insiem con un Bresciano Bethel e Samuel con gran fracasso.
Le trai nai nai nai nai nai nia nai nai
Sté sù a sentì ol noster Samuel
Che vol far sinagoga con Bethel
La trai nai nai nai nai nai nai nai nai
Oth zorocot Ballacott Assach mustac
Oga magoga hò hò hò hò hò hò hò
calla mallacott la baruccabà
La sinagoga la sinagoga
La trai [etc.]
I like the third line from the end; someone apparently had seen
a Jewish wedding.
During an earlier number, a drunken German (a common figure of fun in this repertory) sings in accompaniment to four Italians of different localities:
Mi star Tutesch, mi conter un bassott;
Mò prima foller far un trinc e sgott.
I see "star," but otherwise this is like the broken Teutono-Italian that Lassus satirized in "Matona mia cara." In case you're curious, the piece, the Barca di Venetia per Padova by Adriano Banchieri, may be found on Harmonia Mundi 901281. [star is indeed one of the commonest words in LF, not surprisingly, since it serves as a copula. ADC]
From Guido Cifoletti Mar 24 2000
J'ai trouvé sur Internet votre ouvrage sur la lingua franca, et j'ai lu aussi que "the current work represents a fulfilment of my intent declared there to publish Linguae Francae Relicta, a monograph in which would be gathered together all the fragments I could find of Lingua Franca." Mais peut-être vous ne savez pas que j'ai publié depuis 1989 un livre, "La lingua franca mediterranea", dans lequel j'ai recueilli tous les textes que j'avais trouvés à ce temps-là. Après, j'ai trouvé d'autres textes que j'ai publiés dans l'article "A proposito di lingua franca" dans la revue "Incontri Linguistici" 17 (1994); plus tard j'en ai trouvé encore d'autres, et je suis en train de faire une nouvelle edition de mon livre. J'ai trouvé très intéressante la lecture de vos oeuvres sur Internet, et j'espère qu'on pourra collaborer. Si vous voulez que je vous envoie mes oeuvres, il est suffisant que vous me repondez.
J'ai bien reçu votre bonne lettre, et je vous en remercie. En verité, comme on dit en anglais, les fous entrent avec impetuosité dans les endroits où les anges ont peur de poser le pied, et c'est là ma situation. J'ai avoué dans ma nouvelle introduction qu'il y avait beaucoup de textes et d'autres choses que j'ignorais auparavant, et je prie pardon pour cela. C'est vraiment une affaire beaucoup plus grande que je n'ai deviné au commencement de mon travail, lorsque j'ai entendu les numéros en LF dans la bouche de mon petit fils, qu'il avait reçus des enfants de Jérusalem, et j'ai trouvé aussi ces traces dans la littérature judéo-arabe. Vous verrez votre nom deux-trois fois dans la bibliographie de la troisième edition, dont vous trouverez un avis ci-joint, grâce aux informations que j'ai reçues de Mme. Zago. Bien sûr, on pourra collaborer. L'Internet a annulé les distances, et c'est une joie pour moi pouvoir discuter les choses d'intérêt mutuel avec les quatre coins du monde.
Date: Sun, 9 Apr 2000
From: Charles George Häberl
To: Alan D. Corré
I have followed the development of your archive of Lingua Franca material on the Internet for some time now, since the appearance of the first edition to the wonderfully informative third edition which you have recently given to the world.
Inspired by this material, I too have placed a small amount of information on the Internet. As part of a seminar on Historical Linguistics, I submitted a paper on the history of scholarship on the Lingua Franca. Subsequently I posted all this information on the web at
While it mirrors the information presented on your own site in many ways (especially now that the third addition is available), I do believe that it does complement your site in a small way. In addition to amplifying the history of scholarship on this language, I have included an archive of texts in Lingua Franca, including a few that you have not posted (in particular, the Zingana of Artemio Giancarli, which has tons of LF material embedded into the text).
Furthermore, I have posted Jean Richard's "Compte de 1423 en Langue Franque" on my site, with a photo, an edited version of the text from Richard's "Cypriote Archives," and a few short notes on the stenographic system used in the text. While I do not agree with Richard that this text is Lingua Franca, I thought that it might interest you, considering that it is quite possibly the only primary source on the Lingua Franca available on the Internet. You can reach that at
Naturally I have attributed sources to you wherever appropriate. I'm in the process of editing this latest paper to be more "net-friendly" and to include more references to works such as your own…
Date: Sun, 14 May 2000
From: Alan D Corré
To: Charles George Häberl
I have enjoyed looking at your materials. as I prepare edition 4, I should like to add a link to your texts in the text area of my site. I think they supplement one another nicely. [This has since been done.]
Re the text that you think is probably not LF. I think that as various Romance dialects came about while Latin was still the official and written standard, there probably emerged various items in these non-standard dialects. The form kreto in the Constantinople credo is a good example of a hypercorrection. The writer doubtless knew that there was a t in standard Latin where he used a d, and so he might well ignorantly write a t thinking that was correct. I am inclined to think that that text is also not LF. The situation with standard Arabic at the present time is comparable to Latin in medieval times. Political reasons maintain the stability of an artificial Arabic. I suspect that the Arabic of Morocco is not in any case a direct descendant of Arabic, but rather a related Semitic language. It is significant that Maltese regards itself as a separate language precisely because it is part of Christendom, and not the world of Islam.
[The following is a letter from Mr. Yann Vincent of Tokyo. The texts to which he refers will be integrated in the fourth edition of this website. ADC]
Date: Mon, 15 Jan 2001
From: Alan D Corré
To: Yann Vincent
Subject: Re: Fray Diego de Haedo
On Sun, 14 Jan 2001, Yann Vincent wrote:
I don't remember if I have already sent a msg to you previously to congratulate you for this magnificent homepage, and also to tell you that I found two more LF texts in a French linguistic book by Fray Diego de Haedo (who calls it 'el hablar franco') who visited Algiers around 1610. I can send them to you if you want.
Besides, le Chevalier d'Arvieux, who stayed in Tunis as plenipotentiary minister, may have been the actual author of the LF excerpt in 'le Bourgeois Gentilhomme'.
Regards, Yann VINCENT, Tokyo.
Thank you very much for your kind letter. Please do send me the materials you mention, I am putting materials together for an update of the site, and will be pleased to include them with an acknowledgement to you.
Thank you again.
Alan D. Corré
[Information from the following interesting item has been
incorporated in the Glossary. The website quoted there now charges
for entry, but search engines turn up alternate
sources, and play the melody for you. That daring young man
inspired the name of William
Saroyan's first book of
stories (1934). ADC.]
Look what I just found! http://www.melodylane.net/trapeze.html "This young man by name was Signor Bona Slang...He'd fly through the air with the greatest of ease, That daring young man on the flying trapeze"
From: David Robertson
Date: Mon, 02 Apr 2001
Subject: <barlovento>, <sotavento>, & Lingua Franca
Your website has been richly rewarding to visit since a colleague pointed it out to me some months ago. Congratulations on a superb project!
An idea has been stimulated in my mind by exposure to the materials you've presented. At the risk of wasting your time with something that's elementary to you, please allow me to sketch it briefly.
Several of the latter-day Romance words for "leeward" and "windward" have long seemed to me to be aberrations from the regular phonological changes that the centuries have witnessed. In particular, Spanish barlovento and Portuguese barlavento, and in both languages sotavento, stand out in this sense.
I might expect the final element of both terms in Spanish now to be -viento, given the usual reflex of the long Latin /e/.
The element sota- seems decidedly un-Iberian, and barlo/a- has few obvious cognates that I have found in an admittedly limited (to the Web!) search. I'm fascinated that not even the ca. 3-century-old dictionary of the Real Academia Española, as shown in facsimile on that institution's website, has provided substantial leads.
And so, on reflection, I wonder whether these two terms, and quite possibly many more, especially in the semantic fields relating to seafaring, may have come directly from or been influenced by the Lingua Franca.
Because I'm primarily a scholar of the Chinook Jargon, I defer to and solicit your expert opinion.
Ikta mayka tEmtEm ('what do you think')?
From: Alan D Corré
To: David Robertson
Many thanks for your message. I am going to forward it to Professor Rossetti, because it seems to me he will find it of especial interest. I'll think about it too in the meantime.
To: Alan D Corré, David Robertson
From: Roberto Rossetti
Date: Fri, 6 Apr 2001 10:19:03 MET
Please take my answer just as a conversation piece, for I hate to look like a wise guy (and usually that's the feeling I give.) [That's because he is wise, not just a wise guy. ADC] I knew about that, the Windward and Leeward Islands of the Caribbean are called just like that all over South America where I lived for 3 years. As those islands had a fascinating history, changing hands many times, my explanation was that it came from a distortion of French which still now as a creole is prevalent throughout the region (though I know that in correct french you would say 'îles du vent') so it is possible that somehow it came from the Orient. The problem is that Romance languages are so similar in this respect that any Italian baby will start babbling in a Lingua Franca way, and to stress any link, I always try to look for a definite contact beforehand.
I did not find any in the Caribbean, but it might exist. (The Virgin Islands belonged to the Order of Saint John for a while.) Good luck, I found two good sites on Chinook on the web when I visited Canada, but my favourite is still Jack London's 'coureur des bois' slang! Kind regards, and do advise me if you find any positive leads (RR)
[RR continues a few days later:]
I kept pondering over this issue all the past week: undoubtedly Italian seems the primary candidate to explain the origin of 'sotavento' but that may be due to the fact that most of the early seafairing crews came from Italy (Columbus, Verrazzano, Pigafetta..) and, as Kahane & Tietze pointed out in an excellent research, many of the sea charts bear Italian notes.
However to me 'Lingua Franca' requires a Romance glossary (not exclusively Italian) grafted onto a simplified Semitic syntax: there are in South America other examples of mongrel Italian (Cocoliche, and the extinct 'Fazendeiro Paulista') that have no connection to LF other than an occasional similarity which is easily explained by the origin from the same parent language . This is a fascinating subject because one can never rule out a hypothetical link but, until that is proven, it will remain just a conjecture.
On Wed, 9 May 2001, Bernard Curvalle
I used a lot your work on Lingua Franca. This is because I am interested in the Berber stronghold in Provence (850-circa 970). I have the pleasure to inform you that an exhibition in the alcazar of Cordoba (Spain) offers presently some texts in Hebrew about the "commercial idioma" of the Mediterranean, assimilated to the "Ladino" spoken by the Jews expelled from Spain in the 16th century and living in Turkey. I cannot point out the differences between Lingua Franca and Ladino, but it seems they are not very important. I noted also a review specifically dedicated to these items: Aki Yerushalayim, Revista Kulturala djudeo espanyola, published by "Sefarad", an association directed by Moshe Shaul. [This is a publication by the Israel Broadcasting Service. ADC]
Anyway, thank you for your huge study about Lingua Franca. I am not a professional researcher (I was professor in business management), but I try to use my knowledge about information management for my own research on this period: there are very few documents, but I still try to find out something.
[Reply to M. Curvalle by ADC]
J'ai reçu votre bonne lettre avec plaisir, et je vous en remercie. Je suis content que vous avez employé les informations que vous avez trouvées chez nous. Merci bien encore une fois.
On Fri, 15 Jun 2001, Zachary Baker
I've just stumbled across your fascinating essay on Lingua Franca (a language with which I was completely unfamiliar). A couple of comments:
(1) "I have used this discovery principle of embedding in a more strictly linguistic context, i.e. finding the lost vocabulary of the Lingua Franca principally within colloquial Judeo-Arabic texts." By way of analogy to elements of Lingua Franca found in Judeo-Arabic, Rashi's commentaries have been combed for words in Old French. You have probably encountered dictionaries of these words.
[ADC] Yes, I am aware of Darmesteter and Blondheim's comprehensive studies in this area. The difference is that Rashi quoted the French words in order to gloss words. In Shay Lamora they formed an intrinsic part of their mode of speaking Arabic. Rashi's native language was French.
[ZB] (2) Have you read "In an Antique Land," by Amtiav Ghosh? In it he mentions his readings of Judeo-Arabic documents from the Cairo genizah, and comments on how their colloquial qualities rendered them much easier for him to read, than classical Arabic texts. (His knowledge of Arabic is largely based on the anthropological fieldwork that he conducted among Egyptian peasants during the 1980s.)
[ADC] I have not read this book but will look out for it. My experience was the reverse. I first studied Classical Arabic, and so I had to get used to reading the colloquial in Hebrew characters.
[ZB] (3) Cybergraph -- is that your coinage? Very felicitous!
[ADC] Yes. Another one is Diskionary which I used for my dictionary of Judeo Arabic on disk.
[ZB] (4) Not all of the hyperlinks in your article work properly. E.g., when I click on "Home Page" (at the bottom of the article) I am sent to the Glossary Index instead. You might want to test and adjust them accordingly.
[ADC] I would appreciate it if you would indicate where you found these, as I should like to correct them.
From Michel Bruniaux Tue Mar 12 2002:
Please note that if Polary is no longer used as a current slang, some words are still in use in gay slang ("drag", "cottage", "camp", "butch") or in general English ("naff", "drag" in "drag-queen"). I disagree with your origin of the Polari word "bijou". Both the spelling and the pronunciation (bee-'zhuu) induce me to think of the French word "bijou", meaning "jewel". Eventually, as you mention the Turkish Ceremony in Molière's Bourgeois Gentilhome, I am pleased to add that the word "sabir" is used in French to mean both Mediterranean pidgin - in scientific vocabulary, and poor and unintelligible language - in common use.
Bravo for your fantabulosa job.
From Lameen Souag.
I just came across a Lingua Franca expression that doesn't seem to be on your site. Thomas Shaw (1738) says in his Travels (through Algeria and Tunisia - to be precise, in his postscript's description of agriculture in the area) that:
…the common Apricot is very dangerous, occasioneth a variety of Fevers, and Dysenteries, and goeth in the Frank Language by the name of Matza Franka, the Killer of Christians.
There may well be more LF words in the book that I didn't
Anyway, congratulations on your amazing page! there's not much else up on the web for North African historical linguistics…
[ADC to LS Mar 19 2002]
Thinking about your find, do you have any idea how "matza" comes to mean "killer?"
Well, as I wrote that, I got the answer, which you probably have already. "matza" is Sp. "mata" with the palatalization of t, which occurs in N. African dialects of Arabic, and makes it sound like "tz" to the European ear.
[LS to ADC]
Good point! But it's not actually a palatalization so much as an affrication (which, of course, fits the bill even better!) Kabyle Berber also has the phenomenon, at least with doubled t's.
[ADC to LS]
Thanks for the correction. You are undoubtedly right. I first heard about this from a Jewish native of Oujda who told me that his father pronounced the name of the Jewish morning service shaHrit as "shaHrits". He found this odd, because he had a more up-to-date education. Palatalization is such a common phenomenon in dialects that I assumed this was what was involved, but clearly there is no necessity for such an intermediate step.
[LS to ADC]
It's supposedly a Berber substratum influence; it's rarer in the modern "koine" dialects, but apparently quite common in more conservative pre-Hilali dialects. Farafra in western Egypt also has this shift t > ts, or so I've read…
[ADC to LS Mar 27 2002]
I think I may have the explanation of the apricots. JAMA [Journal of the American Medical Association] mentions that there was an exotic form of murder in North Africa, which involves cutting a peach with a knife which on one side is smeared with a tasteless, odorless compound of arsenic. The murderer eats one side with impunity, while the victim swallows the other half. JAMA vol 287 No 12 p. 1500, quoting an older JAMA.
[LS to ADC]
Sounds good… Certainly the explanation Shaw gives is unlikely, given how much more likely, say, watermelons are to induce dysentery. But would that have been common enough to name the fruit after? And in that case, why Christians specifically?
This suggestion has now been included in the Glossary, with the alternative possibility that matza franka gets its name from the fact that Christian visitors might get stomach problems from local fruit contaminated with microbes to which visitors do not have antibodies.
For more on this subject see the additional note on apricots in the Glossary.
A final note. Professor Bellman first drew attention to LF in libretti. Professor Rossetti has sent me additional material he has collected in this regard, but I do not publish it here, as he is still working on it for publication in print or electronic media at a future time. A.D.C.
Date: Sun, 30 Mar 2003
From: Antonino Rallo
To: Alan D. Corré
Lingua Franca is not dead! A few years ago, while I was reading a novel dealing with Christians, Jews and Muslims in Tunis, I came across a French-Lingua Franca dictionary kept in the Biblioteca Marciana of Venice. In short, in Usanza di Mare, together with Italian and Sicilian dialogues, there are Lingua Franca ones!
See the URL:
Date: Wednesday, December 16, 2003
[Lameen Souag sent me some quotations which he had culled from his recent reading. These are interesting in that they show how Lingua Franca was degrading in its last stages. The advent of the French to Algeria in 1830, and their spreading influence across all of North Africa, gradually brought about the replacement of Lingua Franca by French, and the locals began to speak a broken French which still had many echoes of Lingua Franca. As I observed in Tunisia when I visited there around 1985 the older people still use "tu" exclusively in their French, even to complete strangers, to the exclusion of the polite "vous" form.]
From Revue Africaine, 1871, p. 163:
Cependant, après quelques instants de confusion, les Français ayant entendu que les Barbaresques criaient: Algériens! Algériens! non paoura (n'ayez pas de peur)! remontèrent sur le pont et reconnurent qu'ils avaient été poursuivis par un chebec d'Alger.
And from Diary of a Lady's Travels in Barbary, (London: Henry Colburn) 1850: (anonymous author: real name, Marie van Schwartz), vol. I:
I asked him by signs whether we could see the grave of Sidi-Mahomed-ben-Abderahman; and he answered my inquiry, by saying "toi mirar!" and some other words which I could not understand.
His language was a jargon composed of Italian, French, Spanish, and Arabic words jumbled together - a sort of Lingua Franca to me unintelligible. "Toi parla arabe, toi mirar, toi saber marabu, &c." were the only words I could distinguish among all those he articulated.
But p.58: (at a house in Algiers):
Zuleica, who converses very intelligibly, in what she calls the lingua franca (a jargon principally composed of French words,)…
…after a little hesitation, she replied, "Quand trouver mari."
Zuleica looked a little offended at this question, and answered proudly: "Mauresques jamais tenir ce que n'est pas vrai." [of some jewelry]
Zuleika must be quite an exception to her countrywomen in general, for she can read and write Arabic very correctly, and she even knows the French alphabet.
the elder sister replied in her broken French "Mauresques pas tener salons pas jolies [sic] comme toi Français;" by which she meant to say that their houses, or saloons, are not so fine as those of the Europeans; for they call all Europeans, indiscriminately, French.[Actually Europeans were referred to as "Franks." ADC.]
p. 132: (at a women's hammam):
In the anteroom I was met by a hideous-looking old Negress, who, laying her hand on my arm, seemed resolutely determined to arrest my further advance. I was about to withdraw, when, as if suddenly guessing that I wished merely to see the place, she exclaimed, in a sort of broken Spanish jargon: "No lavar, no lavar: mirar, si mirar?", meaning that I could not be permitted to bathe, but that I might look around me.
Date: Saturday, November 12, 2005
From: Emre Ozigci
To: Alan D. Corré
…I think that you will find interesting the following about some of the Turkish words which were mentioned in the "glossary".
Date: Thursday, March 30, 2006
From: Rémy Viredaz
To: Alan D. Corré
I fully agree with your Additional Note
I have myself always thought (I mean for thirty-odd years, since when I was about twenty) that "sabir" derived from "sabir lingua franca" = "do you know the Frankish/Crusaders'/Christians' language?".
However, your own account is more complete, and it adduces a real text as well.
Just before writing to you, I had the curiosity of looking into French etymological dictionaries, though I have only two at home. They are both content with saying that the name of the language is from Spanish saber 'to know', and this because of frequent phrases such as 'mi non sabir'. Obviously the first part of the explanation is inaccurate (the name of the language is not directly from the Spanish infinitive) and the second part is unsatisfying.